I have tried to avoid divisive topics, but events of the past few weeks, culminating in yesterday’s attempt at a display of power emulating dictators of lands that are not of the free make me feel I have to speak out. I hope it may inspire others to do the same and to find some comfort in feeling less isolated. This article was added Thursday, July 5, 2019.
THIS MONTH IN COFFEE TALK
July is hard to face this year. As I thought about our great patriotic holiday, I felt neither patriotic nor festive. The United States of America is in transition, and it has transitioned in some ways that make me cry, but on the personal level, I find much to be grateful for, and when I look beyond the personal level and beyond the headlines I see many small and large actions that give me reason to hope. I hope you enjoy what I have put together this month and that maybe you too will feel a little more hopeful. Happy Independence Day 2019!
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On this July 4, 2019, there is much to lament in our country. Kurt Vonnegut said that ten percent of the people are cruel, ten percent are merciful, and eighty percent can go either way. In spite of what we see in the news, which by nature focuses on the disruptive and dangerous, many people persist in helping fellow humans who need a hand or a home or a haircut or an encouraging smile. Here are a few of the merciful ten percent or maybe of the eighty percent who have chosen to do good, whether or not it’s in fashion.
…and many, many more, the essence of what has always made America great in spite of our failures, which many of us deeply regret. Happy Independence Day 2019.
LANGSTON HUGHES (1901-1967)
Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.
(America never was America to me.)
Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed–
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.
(It never was America to me.)
O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.
(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)
Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?
I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek–
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.
I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!
I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean–
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today–O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.
Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That’s made America the land it has become.
O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home–
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”
Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
And all the songs we’ve sung
And all the hopes we’ve held
And all the flags we’ve hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay–
Except the dream that’s almost dead today.
O, let America be America again–
The land that never has been yet–
And yet must be–the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine–the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME–
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.
Sure, call me any ugly name you choose–
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath–
America will be!
Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain–
All, all the stretch of these great green states–
And make America again!
I’m always humbled and amazed by a corps de ballet. Some of the dancers may long to be the prima ballerina, but most of them find satisfaction in creating beauty with discipline, sacrifice, teamwork, and very little individual recognition. You can rank a thousand dancers on any criteria–endurance en pointe, highest jump, most pirouettes. One of them will be first and one of them will be last, but the one who is last will be darn good, and the difference between the number one dancer and the thousandth will be small.
There is no limit to the ways that human beings can rate and rank each other, and from the time we are very young, we hear that we should always aspire to be number one. Maybe there’s nothing wrong with trying to be number one, but if you think you are a failure whenever you don’t make it, you set yourself up for a pretty sad life.
Being number one in some things, like wearing the most t-shirts at one time (Canadian Ted Hastings, 260, 2019), is just not that impressive and having the world’s longest fingernails (Ayanna Williams of Houston, Texas, combined length, 18 feet, 10.9 inches, 2017) is just gross.
I would be proud to be the parent of the “worst” dancer in the best corps. On the other hand, I would probably be a little embarrassed if an offspring of mine won the Guinness record for number of t-shirts on the body or longest fingernails in the world.
I’d rather be last among the best than first among the worst.
After much thought, some serious reading, and a few gross-out videos, I have decided to limit all animal-based products in my food intake. Vegan is not synonymous with tasteless. If you enjoy pizza, barbecue, curry, salsa, or any of the many flavors that distinguish different international dishes, they can be made without animal products and served over potatoes, cauliflower, portobello or other mushrooms, or just about anything you can think of.
Here is a recipe for vegan barbecue sauce. If you are a purist, look for organic ketchup, low sodium soy sauce, and vegan Worcestershire sauce.
Whisk together 1 c KETCHUP, 1 T MOLASSES, 1/8 c BROWN SUGAR, 1/8 c APPLE CIDER VINEGAR, 1 T SOY SAUCE, 1 T WORCESTERSHIRE SAUCE, 1 t SRIRACHA OR OTHER HOT SAUCE. Makes about 1 1/2 c. Double or triple as needed. Spoon over baked beans, tofu, portobello mushrooms, mashed potatoes, vegan meat substitutes.
There is overwhelming evidence that human beings are designed to be herbivores. Some experts say we are frugivores–fruit eaters. Our ability to adapt to environments that are less than suitable for our species has given us great advantages over other creatures, but there has been a price in health and longevity for that adaptability.
Some people go vegan fanatically, but I favor gentle transitions and a light touch. A Whataburger Junior once or twice a year will not kill me, but a daily diet of Whataburger ingredients will be a serious obstacle to more years of life and the health and energy to enjoy them.
Many plant foods are delicious with little or no enhancement. Ripe pineapples, bananas, mangos, guavas, peaches, pears, apples, watermelons, cantaloupes, and many other fruits call for minimum preparation and no other ingredients. The same is true for nuts and seeds like pecans, almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, cashews. Ripe avocados and tomatoes need a little salt for my taste but nothing more. I like my strawberries with a little extra sweetness, but ripe bananas and strawberries mixed together are delicious with nothing added.
The “balanced meal” of meat, starch such as potatoes, rice, or pasta, green or other brightly-colored vegetable like green beans or carrots, a leafy salad, bread, and a beverage is firmly embedded in my mind because that’s what I learned as a child, but it is not the healthiest way to eat.
An old story that circulates wherever translators gather goes like this.
A Mexican who knew a little English owned a bar in a pueblo near the border. As a rainstorm was approaching, a gringo tourist hustled into the bar. The barkeeper was happy because he knew just what to say.
“Between! Between!” he shouted enthusiastically. “Drink a chair! Here comes the water zero!” (“Entre! Entre! Tome una silla. Ahi viene el aguacero!”)
Once in awhile, a person will ask me for a word-for-word translation. There may be such a thing, as the hapless barkeeper demonstrated, but the results are often not conducive to effective communication. “Just tell me what it SAYS,” shouts an exasperated client as I try to explain a complex and ambiguous passage.
A translator’s work is to get meaning from the source language and convey the same meaning in a different language. Often, the distance is not great between the words of one language and another language, but sometimes the search for meaning leads to something that is quite different from the source.
Use online translators and bilingual dictionaries with caution, and preferably with adult supervision–someone with enough knowledge of source and target languages to warn you of snafus like these:
- “Enchufe de los Muebles del Hotel” (Hotel Furniture Outlet)
- “Meat in your juice” (Carnes en su jugo)
- “Foot of Lemon” (Pie de Limon)
- “Hecho en Pavo” (Made in Turkey)
- “Fresh picture” (Pintura fresca)
- “Hierro chulo” (Cool iron)
- “Pope with spicy Mexican sausage” (Papa con chorizo)
- “To Rome” (aroma)
And from the Chinese translators
- “Chicken rude and unreasonable” (Jerk chicken)
- “I can’t find on google but it’s delicious” (Menu item in Chinese)
*“WITHOUT TAILS” (SIN COLAS)
In Congress, July 4, 1776
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
- Button Gwinnett, Georgia
- Lyman Hall, Georgia
- George Walton, Georgia
- William Hooper, North Carolina
- Joseph Hewes, North Carolina
- John Penn, North Carolina
- Edward Rutledge, South Carolina
- Thomas Heyward, Jr., South Carolina
- Thomas Lynch, Jr., South Carolina
- Arthur Middleton, South Carolina
- John Hancock, Massachusetts
- Samuel Chase, Maryland
- William Paca, Maryland
- Thomas Stone, Maryland
- Charles Carroll of Carrollton, Maryland
- George Wythe, Virginia
- Richard Henry Lee, Virginia
- Thomas Jefferson, Virginia
- Benjamin Harrison, Virginia
- Thomas Nelson, Jr., Virginia
- Francis Lightfoot Lee, Virginia
- Carter Braxton, Virginia
- Robert Morris, Pennsylvania
- Benjamin Rush, Pennsylvania
- Benjamin Franklin, Pennsylvania
- John Morton, Pennsylvania
- George Clymer, Pennsylvania
- James Smith, Pennsylvania
- George Taylor, Pennsylvania
- James Wilson, Pennsylvania
- George Ross, Pennsylvania
- Caesar Rodney, Delaware
- George Read, Delaware
- Thomas McKean, Delaware
- William Floyd, New York
- Philip Livingston, New York
- Francis Lewis, New York
- Lewis Morris, New York
- Richard Stockton, New Jersey
- John Witherspoon, New Jersey
- Francis Hopkinson, New Jersey
- John Hart, New Jersey
- Abraham Clark, New Jersey
- Josiah Bartlett, New Hampshire
- William Whipple, New Hampshire
- Samuel Adams, Massachusetts
- John Adams, Massachusetts
- Robert Treat Paine, Massachusetts
- Elbridge Gerry, Massachusetts
- Stephen Hopkins, Rhode Island
- William Ellery, Rhode Island
- Roger Sherman, Connecticut
- Samuel Huntington, Connecticut
- William Williams, Connecticut
- Oliver Wolcott, Connecticut
- Matthew Thornton, New Hampshire
I’m going to tell you straight up what is driving me crazy. It is the very thought that Donald John Trump could be elected President of the United States of America AGAIN.
Many people innocently thought the seemingly harmless rich guy who played the role of Boss on a reality-TV show might be capable of solving some of our country’s problems. They were not much aware of his real-life past, or if they were, they optimistically told themselves and each other that he had grown up or maybe found Jesus. Three years ago, I didn’t know one-tenth of what I do now about Trump’s dubious morality, pathetic ignorance, failures at business, fiscal irresponsibility, pathological narcissism, tenuous grasp of reality, and lack of any qualification whatsoever for leadership, but I already knew enough to make me skeptical. I now have heard and seen terrible things from his own lips, gestures, tweets, and plea-bargaining lackeys, things that even People magazine could never have dreamed of. I don’t, however, blame those who three years ago said, “Let’s give it a shot.”
Throughout my life, I have disagreed with a lot of people on a lot of subjects, important and trivial, but we have shared a core of common perceptions about reality and the words we used to describe it. I have been lied to, and the lies have been denied, but when real-world events could no longer be denied, the lie was acknowledged, however grudgingly. Not all lies in my life have been uncovered, of course, but after all is said and done, there has been a working agreement with even the most despicable characters and scammers as to the difference between truth and untruth.
When a loved one, who was suffering from dementia, said she had never seen me before in her life, I could not agree or disagree with her. She was not lying, but neither was her statement true. Those of us who loved her had tried to argue with her about some small inconsistencies in things she said until finally we had to acknowledge that her realities did not match ours. She was trapped in a nightmare, and though she crossed back over occasionally into the world of the awake, we could not penetrate her nightmare reality when she was in it.
I am not disappointed in Trump. My expectations and hopes were extremely low, leaving little room for disappointment, but I have been surprised and shocked at the depth and breadth of his revealed and even bragged-about cruelty, sexual depravity, greed, ignorance, and–why not say it–mental illness. I AM, however, beyond disappointed by a shocking number of his co-dependents with whom I cannot agree or disagree in the same way that I could not agree or disagree with my loved one as she crossed over into a reality of her own that I couldn’t penetrate. I am beyond disappointed. I am disconcerted and alarmed, and I have no idea what to do. I feel as if I am in one of those nightmares where you scream and scream but no one hears you.
It is painful to face harsh realities, but there have been benefits and out-of-the-comfort-zone growth. Trump and his enablers have driven me from reading and believing hagiographies about the USA and its founders and leaders to researching and trying to grasp history, including those episodes that make my tribe look bad. They have made me doubt everything from democracy to capitalism to free enterprise to evangelical Christianity, where my roots ran deep. They have made me look beyond “good” words like liberty and homeland and “bad” words like socialism, beyond utopian IDEALS to practical IDEAS (regardless of their deserved or derisive labels) that might solve problems.
The religious among those co-dependent enablers who now embrace so many things they once despised and preached that I should despise, like adultery, lying, meanness, and naked Ladies, whether First or farther down the line, drove me to really study, with curiosity and an open mind, the Bible that I had professed to believe for so long and from which they were thumping out so many contradictory “truths.” They made me suspicious of any religious fellowship, leaving me to seek God on my own rather than cling to a community and trust members and leaders of that community to clarify right and wrong for me.
But there are times when I would like to be proven wrong, to wake up from this demented reality and find that it was just a nightmare.
God bless the people who are doing what they can to help. Shame on us all for allowing the USA to become the Land of the Free and the Home of the Homeless.
The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery. It should never be festooned, drawn back, nor up, in folds, but always allowed to fall free. Bunting of blue, white, and red, always arranged with the blue above, the white in the middle, and the red below, should be used for covering a speaker’s desk, draping the front of the platform, and for decoration in general.
The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever. It should not be embroidered on such articles as cushions or handkerchiefs and the like, printed or otherwise impressed on paper napkins or boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use and discard. Advertising signs should not be fastened to a staff or halyard from which the flag is flown.
No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform. However, a flag patch may be affixed to the uniform of military personnel, firemen, policemen, and members of patriotic organizations. The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing. Therefore, the lapel flag pin being a replica, should be worn on the left lapel near the heart.
A statue in front of the Public Library in Sharon, Massachusetts, honors Deborah Sampson Gannett (December 17, 1760 – April 29, 1827), who served 17 months in the Continental Army, disguising herself as a man and enlisting under the name of Robert Shirtliff. She was wounded in 1782 and was honorably discharged at West Point, New York, in 1783. MORE ABOUT DEBORAH SAMPSON GANNETT.