Television

Roald Dahl (1916-1990)

The most important thing we’ve learned,
So far as children are concerned,
Is never, NEVER, NEVER let
Them near your television set —
Or better still, just don’t install
The idiotic thing at all.
In almost every house we’ve been,
We’ve watched them gaping at the screen.
They loll and slop and lounge about,
And stare until their eyes pop out.
(Last week in someone’s place we saw
A dozen eyeballs on the floor.)
They sit and stare and stare and sit
Until they’re hypnotised by it,
Until they’re absolutely drunk
With all that shocking ghastly junk.
Oh yes, we know it keeps them still,
They don’t climb out the window sill,
They never fight or kick or punch,
They leave you free to cook the lunch
And wash the dishes in the sink —
But did you ever stop to think,
To wonder just exactly what
This does to your beloved tot?
IT ROTS THE SENSE IN THE HEAD!
IT KILLS IMAGINATION DEAD!
IT CLOGS AND CLUTTERS UP THE MIND!
IT MAKES A CHILD SO DULL AND BLIND
HE CAN NO LONGER UNDERSTAND
A FANTASY, A FAIRYLAND!
HIS BRAIN BECOMES AS SOFT AS CHEESE!
HIS POWERS OF THINKING RUST AND FREEZE!
HE CANNOT THINK — HE ONLY SEES!
‘All right!’ you’ll cry. ‘All right!’ you’ll say,
‘But if we take the set away,
What shall we do to entertain
Our darling children? Please explain!’
We’ll answer this by asking you,
‘What used the darling ones to do?
‘How used they keep themselves contented
Before this monster was invented?’
Have you forgotten? Don’t you know?
We’ll say it very loud and slow:
THEY … USED … TO … READ! They’d READ and READ,
AND READ and READ, and then proceed
To READ some more. Great Scott! Gadzooks!
One half their lives was reading books!
The nursery shelves held books galore!
Books cluttered up the nursery floor!
And in the bedroom, by the bed,
More books were waiting to be read!
Such wondrous, fine, fantastic tales
Of dragons, gypsies, queens, and whales
And treasure isles, and distant shores
Where smugglers rowed with muffled oars,
And pirates wearing purple pants,
And sailing ships and elephants,
And cannibals crouching ’round the pot,
Stirring away at something hot.
(It smells so good, what can it be?
Good gracious, it’s Penelope.)
The younger ones had Beatrix Potter
With Mr. Tod, the dirty rotter,
And Squirrel Nutkin, Pigling Bland,
And Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle and-
Just How The Camel Got His Hump,
And How the Monkey Lost His Rump,
And Mr. Toad, and bless my soul,
There’s Mr. Rat and Mr. Mole-
Oh, books, what books they used to know,
Those children living long ago!
So please, oh please, we beg, we pray,
Go throw your TV set away,
And in its place you can install
A lovely bookshelf on the wall.
Then fill the shelves with lots of books,
Ignoring all the dirty looks,
The screams and yells, the bites and kicks,
And children hitting you with sticks-
Fear not, because we promise you
That, in about a week or two
Of having nothing else to do,
They’ll now begin to feel the need
Of having something to read.
And once they start — oh boy, oh boy!
You watch the slowly growing joy
That fills their hearts. They’ll grow so keen
They’ll wonder what they’d ever seen
In that ridiculous machine,
That nauseating, foul, unclean,
Repulsive television screen!
And later, each and every kid
Will love you more for what you did.

Roald Dahl was a British novelist, short story writer, poet, screenwriter, and fighter pilot. His books have sold more than 250 million copies worldwide. His Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is enjoyed all over the world.

INDUCED DEMENTIA: AN OPEN LETTER TO JUST ABOUT EVERYBODY

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.

MILITARY PARADE

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.

RESPECTING THE FLAG

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.

Battle of Bunker Hill. Engraving from painting by John Trumbull.

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.

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.

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