AMERICAN HOPE

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.

President Jimmy Carter, who at 94 still teaches Sunday School and works on projects for Habitat for Humanity, alongside his wife of 70 years, First Lady Rosalynn Carter.
Tony Adkins, the dancing doctor who brings joy to his young patients by dancing with them.

Mark Bustos, a hair stylist who gives free haircuts to the homeless during his off-work time.
Doctors Without Borders
Ordinary teachers all over the country giving it all they’ve got every single day.

…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.

LET AMERICA BE AMERICA AGAIN

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.”

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,
America!

O, yes,
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!

BEING #1 IS OVERRATED

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.

SOME THOUGHTS ON GOING PLANT-BASED AND A RECIPE FOR VEGAN BARBECUE SAUCE

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.

GOOGLE TRANSLATION: PROCEED WITH CAUTION

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)

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