A Sampling of Craziness

So, a lot is going on here in Happy Meadows, and elsewhere in Atlanta, in Georgia, and around the world. Here is a sampling.

Yesterday was Juneteenth, which I suppose now everybody knows about, thanks to our fearless leader who said it is he who made it famous. He said that until he scheduled his rally in Tulsa for that date, nobody know about it. The nobody he referred to, specifically, was the few people he has left in the white House who advise him or assist him in his leaderly activities. But maybe he thinks this group is representative of the larger group of nobodies we have in this country, you and I included.  Remarkably, he says that he has done more for black people (not to mention black cats) than any other president, I suppose, excluding Abe Lincoln.

And speaking of Donald, John Bolton’s book has been reviewed by the press, and will be released next week. In the book he tells what are alleged to be more dirty secrets about life in the White House. And he criticized the Dems for not expanding their charges in the impeachment proceeding. Of course, he refused to testify, saying the Dems would have to subpoena him, which would have rendered the whole process moot due to the length of time it would have taken to get him to testify. What it seems he was doing was protecting the 2 million dollar income he will get for his book, a better deal for him than giving it to Congress for nothing. But maybe I am too cynical.

And speaking of Tulsa, where Trump’s rally occurs today, what a lot of people will learn about that was never taught in their US History classes is the massacre that occurred there in 1921, during which an entire black community was destroyed in a fire set by a white mob, and 300 people were murdered. Thank you Donald for exposing this ugly bit of real history. This event is not entirely unrelated to the remarkable revival of the Black Lives Matter movement, in that it addresses the failure of black people to experience protection of persons and property by local police. Hopefully, there will be enough momentum generated that real change will take place in achieving equality for all Americans. Michelle had some good exposure this week, both in an interview on Fox News, and her being quoted in an article published in Facing South written by Rolando Zenteno about monuments to Confederate leaders. Go you Michelle!

Mike ran across some figures that I will share. COVID-19 isn’t the only health problem people should be concerned about. People are avoiding going to the ER when they are ill, so that by the time they or a loved one call for help, it can be too late. In New York City between March 1 and April 25, 2020, there were 3989 instances in which a patient needed rescussitation from the EMTs on a 911 call. The number of cases for the same period the prior year, 2019, was 1336. This is an almost 300% increase. Furthermore, of the 3989 people only 10.6% were successfully revived, as opposed to 25.7% of the cases from the previous year. The logical conclusion to reach from this is that people are waiting too long to ask for help when they are sick, because they are afraid to go to the hospital. Actually a hospital is one of the safer places to go because of the infectious disease precautions they have put in place. Compare a hospital to a large public gathering, such as a protest march or a Trump rally, in which people are jammed together, and many or most people are not wearing masks. Mike thinks we are in for an increase in COVID-19 cases, not a decrease as many predicted and all have wished for.

And, do you remember all the talk about the opioid epidemic? Well, it seems to not have gone away. You may not know that heroin is rapidly being supplanted on the streets in many cities by fentanyl, which is cheaper to make and more potent and deadly. Well, look out fentanyl, you have competition. Those clever chemists from China have synthesized a new drug, isotonitazene (“iso”), which is now causing 40-50 overdose deaths per month in this country, as opposed to about 6 per month last summer. Since it is a new drug, it has yet to be listed by the DEA as illegal. It is a derivative of etionitazene, which is illegal. As long as there is no way of banning entire classes of drugs the government will never catch up with the chemists.  And here is another disturbing fact about opioid overdoses. Of all the patients who come to an emergency department with an accidental opioid overdose, and who are revived, 5 per cent will die within the following year. Most of the deaths are from another opioid overdose; and many occur within the next 2-3 days. Unfortunately, the treatment offered upon leaving the emergency department is often nothing more than a recommendation to seek help at a community health clinic, and to attend 12-step meetings. Without a direct and immediate institution of intensive treatment, including what is referred to as Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT), relapse is almost inevitable.

In the schizophrenic world in which we live two events have occurred within the past week. First, the US Supreme Court has ruled that an employer can’t fire a person solely on the basis of being gay or transgender. At almost the same time, the US Department of Health and Human Services Office of Civil Rights issued a rule that removed protections that had banned health care providers and health plans from discriminating against LGBTQ patients, women, and others. The American Medical Association’s new president, Dr. Susan Bailey, issued the following statement: “The federal government should never make it more difficult for individuals to access health care—during a pandemic or any other time.”

And, on another topic that nobody has ever heard of, did you know that esports is rapidly growing in popularity? Esports is watching other people play video games via a streaming platform, such as Twitch. The estimated worldwide audience in 2018 was 380 million people. Betting on esports is expected to reach 10 billion dollars this year. What?

So, I know I am a broken record, but it is another beautiful day here in Happy Meadows. I hope it is equally lovely wherever you are as well. Tomorrow is another Hallmark holiday, Father’s Day. Happy F.D., y’all. Michelle is coming over, and Judy is making chili and cornbread. The cats will get our usual kibble, and a wet food treat in the evening. It will be some kind of fish, no doubt. We were offered some beef and chicken pate this past week, which Shayna Maidel lapped up like mad, only to throw it up all over everything a few minutes later. The rest of us were only too glad to let her have it all, and after cleaning up after her, Mike put the rest of the can down the grinder. Luckily, Judy only bought the one can. We hope you are well, happy, and at peace. Stay safe, love your neighbor, and pray for world peace, por favor. We love you all.

The Prince of Wei

So, Mike has started a major reading project, going through his collection of books which rest quietly in his library, waiting to discharge their wisdom when called upon to do so. Yesterday he reread Thomas Merton’s “The Way of Chuang Tzu.”  (New Directions Publishing Corporation, New York, copyrighted by the Abbey of Gesthemani, 1965.) Chuang Tzu was a writer who lived about 2400 years ago, and is the primary source of information on Lao Tzu and Taoism. Merton took selected writings from translations and put his own imprint on them, making the material more accessible to the modern reader. Mike wants to share a couple of readings. The first is excerpted from “The Fasting of the Heart.”(page 50-51.) It relates a conversation between Confucius and his disciple, Yen Hui.

Yen Hui, the favorite disciple of Confucius, came to take leave of his master.

     ‘Where are you going?’ asked Confucius.

     ‘I am going to Wei.’

     ‘And what for?’

     ‘I have heard that the Prince of Wei is a lusty full-blooded fellow and is entirely self-willed. He takes no care of his people and refuses to see any fault in himself. He pays no attention to the fact that his subjects are dying right and left. Corpses lie all over the country like hay in a field. The people are desperate. But I have heard you, Master, say that one should leave the state that is well governed and go to that which is in disorder. At the door of the physician there are plenty of sick people. I want to take this opportunity to put into practice what I have learned from you and see if I can bring about some improvement in conditions there.’

     ‘Alas!’ said Confucius, ‘you do not realize what you are doing. You will bring disaster on yourself. Tao has no need of your eagerness, and you will only waste your energy in your misguided efforts………..This man is convinced that he alone is right. He may pretend outwardly to take an interest in an objective standard of justice, but do not be deceived by his expression. He is not accustomed to being opposed by anyone. His way is to reassure himself that he is right by trampling on other people. If he does this with mediocre men, he will all the more certainly do it to one who presents a threat by claiming to be a man of high qualities. He will cling stubbornly to his own way. He may pretend to be interested in your talk about what is objectively right, but interiorly he will not hear you, and there will be no change whatever. You will get nowhere with this.”  

It seems that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Here is another type of person, more to be admired, “The Kingly Man.” (page 72.)

“My Master said:

That which acts on all and meddles in none–is heaven…..

The Kingly Man realizes this, hides it in his heart,

Grows boundless, wide-minded, draws all to himself.

And so his lets the gold lie hidden in the mountain,

Leaves the pearl lying in the deep.

Goods and possessions are no gain in his eyes,

He stays far from wealth and honor.

Long life is no ground for joy, nor early death for sorrow.

Success is not for him to be proud of, failure is no shame.

Had he all the world’s power he would not hold it as his own.

If he conquered everything he would not take it to himself.

His glory is in knowing that all things come together in One

And life and death are equal.”

 

It is clear that beneath the Prince of Wei’s self-assurance is deeply rooted insecurity. This typically results from being unloved in early childhood by parents who are too preoccupied by their own lives. Often they have been unloved themselves, and have no love to offer.  Such people are interminably angry, and can become a bottomless pit of need for admiration and aggrandizement. It is a hole that no one can fill. But I wonder what would happen if all of the Prince of Wei’s subjects loved him. They wouldn’t necessarily tell him, having no platform for doing so. And they wouldn’t sing his praises either. They would just quietly love him in their hearts,  because they are good people and they know he is unloved. He was unloved at first because he was in the way as a child, and subsequently because his behavior has been more reflective of the terrible twos than that of a mature man. And the Prince’s subjects will pray for him. They will pray that all the things that they pray for for themselves will be granted to the Prince as well. It is a better way. God bless the Prince of Wei.

And what is it that the Kingly Man knows? He knows that in this world of opposites, of good and evil, black and white, sun and moon, male and female, rich and poor, dog and cat, and day and night, that impermanence and eternity can co-exist, and that the greatest reality is the Oneness of all existence.

So, it’s a beautiful, sunny day in Happy Meadows. I hope all of you have sunshine in your lives, and that you find peace in the storms that blow through your neighborhoods. Until next time, stay healthy, have fun, be kind to your neighbors, and take things one day at a time. We love you all.

“You Should Get a Microwave”

So, it has been another interesting week inside and outside of Happy Meadows. On the home front, the most newsworthy item was Michelle coming for a visit and coming inside the house, with permission of Dr. K.  The two-leggeds wore masks, and sat out in the screened porch about 6-8 feet apart. We four-leggeds all came out to explore, and Jackson ate an entire spider’s web. I can’t believe he ate the whole thing! And he didn’t even get sick. What a guy!

So, Mike might have been wrong about Spoiled Donald successfully using the “Law and Order” mantra to increase his popularity. He remains adored by people who are committed to his White Privilege and Nativist political point of view, but he doesn’t seem to be attracting many middle-of-the-roaders. Things have changed rapidly since he took office. When Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reed knelt for the national anthem to protest police brutality to African-Americans before the start of a football game in 2017 many people couldn’t see past the action to understand the symbolism behind it. Trump made a big deal out of it, saying that the owners should fire players who don’t stand and salute the flag during the playing of the national anthem. If Kaepernick and Reed didn’t love their country they wouldn’t have risked their careers and financial well-being to make a statement. The mostly white, mostly billionaire team owners knuckled under to Spoiled Donald’s threats to take away their tax breaks if they didn’t blackball the players and prevent further protests of this kind. Partly it was protecting their businesses, and partly they just didn’t know that blacks are routinely subjected to brutality by some police officers. Now, less than 4 years later Drew Brees says something understandable like he can’t support disrespecting the flag and thousands of people jump all over him. Someone explained to him that kneeling for the national anthem was a way of calling attention to a problem in our society that runs counter to what our country stands for: namely freedom and equality under the law. So he apologized and said he now understands it isn’t about the flag at all. From my standpoint as a black cat, he seems to be representative of millions of decent, freedom loving American white people who just haven’t known what black people (or black cats) live with on a daily basis, but thought that they have understood. Our country is reacting to the killing of black people by police officers like they never have before. Part of this is the exposure that the acts have had through video footage. It’s hard to watch a white police officer with a bored look on his face, kneeling so long on a handcuffed black man’s neck, a man who repeatedly says he can’t breathe, with 3 other officers standing there watching, until the black man stops breathing. Really hard to watch.

I have never seen anything like that happen in Happy Meadows, and neither has anyone else who lives here. We have the privilege of living in a peaceful community where nobody bothers us. We never have to wonder if we go out to run errands if a policeman is going to pull us over because we look suspicious, a crime known as driving a nice car while black. I say this, but there are black people who live in Happy Meadows, and they do put themselves at risk simply by leaving the neighborhood. But I haven’t heard of it happening here. Mike, being a white person, hasn’t had much of this discriminatory experience to deal with. I say not much, because there have been incidents. He has been called a dirty Jew by young male cowards as they drove by in their car while he was in his yard back in the late 1960’s in Wisconsin. He married an African-American woman in 1977, still in Wisconsin, and it didn’t seem to bother anyone as far as he could tell, excepting, of course, his family. The funny thing about this was that his brother didn’t care that she was black, but was outraged that she wasn’t Jewish. Mike and his brother were estranged for several years because of this. I will share a story Mike tells about a time when he, Penny, and Michelle were in Kansas City for a family Bar Mitzvah. Michelle was four years old at the time. They were staying at a Doubletree hotel, and the morning of the Bar Mitzvah they went to eat breakfast at the cafe in the hotel. They were seated, and their order taken, but the food never arrived. Everyone else around them was served, but they were not. When Mike asked about their order the server assured them it was on its way. After an hour it was time to go to the synagogue for the service, so they got up to leave. Mike and Penny discussed whether they were going to lodge a complaint with the management, but decided not to give them the satisfaction. However, as they were leaving the table but still inside the cafe, Michelle said in a loud voice, “You should get a microwave.”

There is a discussion going on in the White House about whether Spoiled Donald should address the nation about the issue of police brutality and protests that are going on in our country. It is being reported that some of his advisors are for an address, and some are against it. Both sides argue that adopting their position would result in increased popularity for the president. Nothing is being discussed, I suspect, about what the right thing to do would be. By the way, did you see that picture of our president holding up a bible? There was no writing on the front, so you couldn’t tell if he was holding it right-side up or upside-down. I doubt if he could tell the difference, at least based on his demonstrated total lack of empathy which is a requirement for living by the Golden Rule. What got me was the look on his face. He looked like a four-year-old whose mother was making him sit still in church. A lot of people are upset about the way he had people pepper-bombed out of the way for his photo-op. His popularity is slipping, but he demonstrates great resiliency, and a lot of things could happen between now and November to get him re-elected. Besides, if he loses you can count on him challenging the vote in court, and when it gets to the Supreme Court he could prevail, just like George W. Bush did in 2000. It should be interesting. By the way, I wrote a piece 3 years ago discussing where we are as a country after being challenged by someone on Facebook to respond to a post about our country needing to live by Christian values. I just reread it, and it is germane to what is happening right now. If you are interested you can find my post from June 25, 2017 entitled “A Serious Look at Pseudo-Patriotism.”

So once again I defied Mike’s request that I stay away from political topics. I’m sure he will get over it. After all, he gets it that I am a black cat, and I like to remind him that speaking out is important. He had a great sense of dread when Trump won the election, and says he never knew until that happened how much he loves his country, and the people who live in it. So, I will say whatever I need to, and I’m sure he will understand. And the truth is, I do have a lot more to say. Stay tuned, or if you prefer, try another station. Maybe you prefer Rush Limbaugh, who in 2006 when Michael J. Fox did a TV ad for candidate for Senator Claire McCaskill, said he was faking his Parkinson’s tremor. Nice. Decency goes a long way, I’m thinking. I hope you are all decent in every way today. Be safe, be well, pray for world peace, and be nice to your neighbor. I love you all. So long from Happy Meadows.

We Need a Fool in the White House

So, you would never know it from our vantage point in Happy Meadows, but things are not well. Things here in Happy Meadows are fine. We take walks every day. People are nice; birds sing; squirrels and chipmunks scurry around; dogs go for walks with their people; cats slink through bushes, snoop around, and sun themselves. But go inside and turn on the news, and it’s a different story. Mike doesn’t like it when I express political opinions, but Mike doesn’t always get what he wants, and this is one of those times. So, too bad, Mike.

You might recall that a few years ago I wrote about people being upset about the results of a selection (“Tis the Season,” 12/26/2016.) Since then I learned than the correct term is election. Silly me. Anyway, it seems that there will be another election this year in which Donald Trump, the president and current head of the Republican Party, will run against the Democrat Party candidate, presumably Joe Biden. Feelings in the country are strong on both sides. The main thing Trump had going for him was the economy, which was strong with very low unemployment. Trump, naturally, took credit for this just as Bill Clinton took credit for the strong economy when he was president; and he got re-elected in 1996 with no trouble. But early this year along came the coronavirus, and the economy went into the crapper overnight. Trump is such a polarizing person that most people had made their minds up already. They either loved or hated him. He has been the most unpopular president in the history of modern times, ever since presidential polls were a thing. He is the only president to never achieve 50% or more popularity. But the election is not a popularity contest. It is decided by the electoral college, (an arcane institution which was set up by our constitution,) and not by popular vote. That is how he won in the first place, as his opponent, Hilary Clinton, got around 3 million more votes than he did and still lost the election. This could happen for Trump again. But, it may be that the coronavirus has done for the Democrats what they could not do for themselves.

Now it seems that the Republicans may have had a stroke of luck, in the person of Derek Chauvin, a (now fired) policeman in Minneapolis who is at this moment sitting in jail accused of murdering a black man, George Floyd, who he had on the ground, handcuffed, and it seems, choked him to death. Since then there have been riots and firebombings in Minneapolis, Atlanta, and other cities, with the calling up of the National Guard to restore order, and cries of “Law and Order” coming from Trump and the Republicans. Mike recalls a similar period in the late 1960’s when the country was angry over Civil Rights and Viet Nam, and the cities burned. The 1968 Democratic political convention in Chicago was marked by protests in the streets and brutal reprisals by the Chicago police. (An investigation chaired by former Illinois Governor Otto Kerner, a Democrat, called it a “police riot.”) Hubert Humphrey was nominated and should have beaten Richard Nixon, but didn’t. Mike says there were 2 reasons that he lost. First, the voters reacted against all the violence with fear, and thought Nixon was a safer choice. “Law and Order,” and the “Silent Majority,” and all that. The other reason is that Humphrey didn’t speak out against the war, reluctant to oppose the sitting Democratic president, Lyndon Johnson. Mike liked Humphrey, and thought he would be a stabilizing influence in the country that we badly needed at that time. We have a similar situation now, where the Republicans who disagree with Trump’s actions are afraid to say anything for fear of angering him and losing their own power. So, Derek Chauvin may have done for the Republicans what they could not do for themselves. If we have another summer like 1968 the Democrats may be in trouble.

And speaking of people in power, Mike just ran through another reading of King Lear, one of Shakespeare’s great tragedies. Don’t ask me why. I’m sure most of you have read it, but maybe not since high school; so I will summarize it in part, preparatory to making a point. Lear was an absolute monarch who at the age of 80 decided to abdicate his throne and give power to his 3 daughters, Goneril, Regan, and Cordelia. This would have appeared to be a very dumb idea to almost anyone, but there you go. He held a big to-do where he invited each of them to flatter him and tell him how much they loved him. Goneril and Regan stepped up to the plate and laid it on thick in speeches disgusting in their obvious insincerity. Cordelia on the other hand wouldn’t play. She just said she loved him, and that was that. Nothing to make you want to puke. Lear got mad, banished her from the country, and she left with her boyfriend, the King of France, I think. The next thing you know, Lear is out on his butt, broke and undomiciled, having driven off the only friend he still had, the Earl of Kent. Now his only companion is the Fool, a character he calls “boy,” and who remains loyal. The Fool is a character who is like a court jester, and who is allowed by Lear to tell him the truth that he won’t listen to from anyone else. Not that it profits him. Lear descends into total madness, and after this happens the Fool disappears from the play. There are subplots and lots of people are murdered or commit suicide, but here is why I bring it up. Every hero of a tragedy has a “tragic flaw” which brings about their downfall. Usually it is hubris, false pride, a sense of infallibility. Lear has this in spades. Most people who have an inflated opinion of themselves really have a hidden sense of inadequacy lying underneath. Such people are what is called in AA an egomaniac with an inferiority complex. In the case of Lear, he wouldn’t listen to anyone until it was too late. He did listen to the Fool, but as I said, not until it was too late. But at least he listened, and acknowledged his mistakes as he was becoming totally insane. People like to watch tragedies because they see the thing unfold like a slow-moving train wreck. They imagine at some level that it could happen to them, but instead it is happening to the poor slob on stage.

Why do I bring this up? Why, of course, because we have a Lear-type character in the White House right now. We have a president who really believes that he knows more about everything than anyone else. He won’t listen to anyone, and frequently banishes people he becomes angry with from his Kingdom (so to speak.) I think we all would be better off if he had a Fool, someone who would play with him, joke around, be silly, but at the same time speak profound truths to him……truths that he would listen to, and take seriously. I’m not being critical specifically about his policies, although I could be. But people can have different points of view about things. I am more concerned about his belief that he can’t be wrong, and about the actions that he might take based solely on his own judgment. This is potentially a dangerous situation given the power of his office.

Here is an example. Just a couple of days ago he announced that he was withdrawing our country’s financial support for the World Health Organization (WHO). He is angry about the pandemic ruining our economy, and has to blame someone and act out. Mike thinks this action will have 4 direct effects: 1) it will severely handicap the WHO; 2) it will turn the agency over fully to the influence of China; 3) it will further undermine our country’s influence and position as leader of the free world; and 4) it will be a severe set-back to the world’s fight against the pandemic. Patrice Harris, President of the American Medical Association ( see “Progress and More Progress,” 6/14/2019) , had this to say about his action. “This senseless action will have a significant harmful repercussions now and far beyond this perilous moment, particularly as the WHO is leading the worldwide vaccine development and drug trials to combat the pandemic.” Truly, we need a Fool in the White House. I could say a lot more but don’t think I will. If I have offended anyone I could say I am sorry, but I am not. Certainly, you don’t have to agree with me. It’s nothing personal. We can, I hope, still love each other and be friends. God bless the United States of America.

In other news, I saw Mike at the side of the house with his pole saw trimming a branch away from the eave on the garage (no ladders involved.) So he must have been cleared by his doctor to start doing yard work. He will be off dietary restrictions in July. Maybe we can order sushi again. Wouldn’t that be the bomb! We have started zoom visiting with our far-flung family, a total delight. I hope you have been able to make the best of your restrictions. Something good can always come out of a tough situation. Nothing more to report from Happy Meadows today. Please be safe, wash your hands, be nice to your neighbors, pray for world peace, and pet your cats and dogs. They love you. Bye bye until next time!