Do I sound hysterical?

Here’s my latest missive to our local newspaper (LNP, lancasteronline.com). I welcome responses. If you share these sentiments, share the message. Maybe, just maybe, we can push past the tipping point and begin healing our nation.

In a collection of essays published in 2017, mental health professionals made the scientific case that Donald Trump is dangerously, mentally impaired and unfit to be president. (“The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump,” St. Martin’s Press) The experts saw deeply troubling signs of paranoia and malignant narcissism. In that same book, Tony Schwartz, the ghost writer who helped Trump create the successful businessman character he now pretends to be, tells us Trump did not value “the qualities that tend to emerge as people grow more secure…empathy, generosity, reflectiveness, the capacity to delay gratification, or, above all, a conscience, an inner sense of right and wrong.” Trump, Schwartz observes, was interested only in himself. Now, US justice officials are establishing the criminal case against Trump. It includes allegations of political payoffs (in 2016) to hide adulterous affairs, using elective office for personal enrichment, merging business and political objectives in a highly suspicious relationship with Russia, obstructing investigations, and lying to the American people about all of it. Some political observers believe Mr. Trump and his family, with their utter disregard and disdain for the moral values and laws on which our nation was built, have dragged our experiment in democracy to the edge of the precipice. If elected leaders, Republican and Democrat, along with the American people don’t unite to hold Donald Trump and his cohorts accountable, we face the very real risk of becoming a failed democracy. No one wants that. I pray that justice will prevail.

Pace.

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Can you find Yemen on the map?

The dire situation in Yemen isn’t just another case of journalists piling on a new story. This one’s been developing for some time, brought to you by the same country that sliced and diced one of their own countrymen in their embassy in Turkey. But back to the starving children. The New York Times Magazine had a devastating piece on Sunday, Nov. 4. It’s a tough read. Here’s what I found out ( while researching my book) about human rights violations  in Yemen, carried out by Saudi Arabia with help from its good friend, Don Trump. [see map below]

[from Appendix to Chapter 4 in This Mere Existence]:

4:00 AM (Eastern Standard Time) Yemen

Sometime before Noon (4:00 AM EST) on December 5, 2016, the Saudi Arabian air force was busy in Yemen. It’s not clear which came first, but in fairly quick succession, Saudi warplanes attacked a boat carrying Pakistani sailors off the coast of Yemen’s Ta’izz province, a residential building housing families with children in Sa’ada province to the east, and dropped more bombs in the Baqim district to the north near the Saudi border. When the scream of the jet planes had faded in the distance, six dead sailors floated in the water of the Red Sea, with another six feared lost; in Sa’ada, a child lay dead, near her injured father and two brothers, and three people—a dead woman and two wounded children—lay on the ground near the Saudi border. According to the statisticians, that brought the number of dead civilians to at least 11,400, since a Saudi-led coalition began attacking Yemen in March, 2015. The coalition agreed to wage war in Yemen, ostensibly, to drive out Houthi rebels (a Shia-led religious-political movement) and return the former government to power. In a little more than a year, the coalition had failed to accomplish its stated goal, but it had wrought considerable change in Yemen.

Most horrendous of the coalition accomplishments was, as in the December 5 attack, the slaughter of innocent children and other civilians. In August of 2016, military leaders sent fighter jets to attack a village school in Sa’ada. That time, ten children died, twenty eight more were wounded. Heart-rending social media postings flashed out to the world.

Hisham Al-Omeisy @omeisy

Smallest coffins are heaviest. Graphic images of children killed in Saudi airstrike on school in Sa’ada this morning. Speechless. #Yemen

7:00 AM – 13 Aug 2016

Reporters on the ground painted devastating pictures with words: “Photographs from the scene showed rows of small bodies lined up on tarpaulin. Other pictures showed wounded and bloodied children being treated in hospital. [Medecin Sans Frontieres said] all of the victims were between eight and 15 years old.”42

No less devastating were the other statistics produced by the coalition attacks. The UN estimated (in October, 2016) that at least 38,280 Yemeni civilians had been injured in more than twenty-one months of fighting, in addition to the more than 11,000 killed. The violence had displaced more than three million people, and 18.8 million Yemenis—nearly 70 percent of the population—needed humanitarian or protection assistance. The UN estimated that 14 million people were hungry, seven million were in danger of starving to death. An additional 180,000 Yemenis had fled their homeland.43

The grim situation grew darker by the hour until families found themselves facing decisions no human being should ever be forced to make. “Parents are forced to decide between saving their sick children and preventing healthier ones from following the same perilous route. Cemeteries in this desperately poor and rugged stretch of villages [in rural Yemen] in the northwest contain the bodies of children who have recently died of hunger and preventable diseases. Most are buried in unmarked graves, their deaths unreported.”44 The situation was made worse by the lack of aid agencies operating in remote areas of Yemen and by a Saudi air and naval blockade that prevented both food and medicine from reaching those who so desperately needed it.

Repeated calls from relief organizations, including the UN and Medecins Sans Frontieres, for a cessation of fighting and humanitarian aid for the Yemenis drew little response from Saudi Arabia or its principle coalition partners, the United Kingdom and the United States. But coalition partners stood ready to support the “peace” effort, as co-aggressor nation, the United Arab Emirates, described the fighting. The US provided ongoing military materiel, including cluster bombs (banned by most of the world’s countries, but not the US), and Britain promised to support the “peacemaking” efforts with a £3 billion ($3.6 million) defense fund dedicated to supplying warships, aircraft and military personnel to the Persian Gulf region (more than England spends on any other part of the world) over at least the next ten years. When pressed by activists on the issue of human rights, on December 5, 2016, the day of the triple attacks, British Prime Minister Theresa May said, “I think the UK has always had the position, and we continue to have the position, that where there are issues raised about human rights, where there are concerns, we will rightly raise those.”45 May responded to activists on her way to a meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council. Accounts of the meeting indicated she encouraged Gulf leaders to continue pursuing economic reforms, but voiced little challenge in the area of human rights. And war in Yemen and the hunger in Yemen raged on.

[If you want to know the citations for the information, you could always get a copy of the book :–) Map below

Pace.

yemen

Can’t we at least feed the children?

As the foolishness known as political discourse sluiced through the streets of our country in the run-up to 2018 midterm elections, it occurred to me that despite our anger and frustration over a Supreme Court nominee, and our president’s feigned fear of a ragged bunch of Central Americans seeking solace in the richest country in the world, and  no matter the outcome of this election, there are much more important, critical problems that must be addressed. One of them is poverty. I wrote about it at one point in my new book (warning: shameless self-promotion ahead!) This Mere Existence, which is all about how we should unite to restore human rights to all of humanity. Having food to eat is as basic as human rights can get. Here’s an excerpt from the book:

Children and poverty

As the light of day crept around the world on December 5, 2016, millions of sick and hungry children came into view. You could see them in the usual places, Africa and India, but the world community was just beginning to face the fact that children were also suffering from the effects of poverty and displacement in the developed world, the United Kingdom, in the back streets of London, and in cities across the United States. Humanitarian agencies labored to provide food, clothing, shelter, health care, and education, the most basic of human rights, but stunningly those efforts met with resistance and, in some cases, were actually thwarted by a growing phalanx of wealthy, conservative political leaders and conservative-minded citizens across the globe, who rejected the idea that the poor, even the very young, deserved any special attention or assistance. The gap between rich and poor grew steadily in the early 21st century, causing some observers, including the famous American horror novelist, Stephen King, to warn of an impending paupers’ revolt. [You’ll find some shocking facts and figures about hungry kids in the Appendix to Chapter 3 of This Mere Existence.]

So keep on doing what you can do to resist the ugly, hateful, racist team of Trump and the Trump Republican party, but think sacrificially in responding to the needs of the poor and starving across the globe.

Pace

If not now, When? Don’t flake out!

If you haven’t already done so, please urge every US Senator you know to reject Brett Kavanaugh’s bid for the Supreme Court. If you watched the hearings (9/27) you saw it for yourself. If you didn’t have time, I can sum it up fairly briefly: Dr. Ford (who accuses Kavanaugh of sexual assault in high school) was very persuasive in her testimony before the judiciary committee. Kavanaugh threw a tearful tantrum worthy of the great prevaricator himself. He refused to own up to the deviant behavior he and his buds engaged in during high school and college, apparently. My theory is that this is the very first time this child of privilege has ever been confronted about the indecent, immoral, depraved behavior rich kids get away with all the time and he’s really pissed off about it. Boo-hoo, Brett. You just don’t have what we expect in someone we elevate to the SCOTUS. If he isn’t put on the highest court, we should push to impeach him from the federal court where he now meets out his jaundiced brand of justice. Do what you can to stop this brat.

Pace.

Don’t do it! Brett Kavanaugh is not worthy

The allegations of sexual assault against SCOTUS nominee Brett Kavanaugh appear to be supported by what we’re learning about Kavanaugh and his fellow abuser, Mark Judge. Kavanaugh is apparently lying through his teeth when he denies boozed up behavior at a high school party. Judge, who is alleged to have been in the room (and may have piled on) when Kavanaugh allegedly attempted to rip the clothes off a high school girl and force himself on her, has written extensive, detailed confessions of his wild, alcohol and possibly cocaine fueled behavior in both high school and college. Add all of this to the reports that Kavanaugh has lied as many as five times in appearances before Congress, and there’s no way you can confirm him. You could debate whether Clarence Thomas’s crack to Anita Hill about the Coke can and the pubic hair was sufficient debasement to deny him the bench, but Kavanaugh, who hypocritically led the charge to impeach Bill Clinton over oral sex, strikes me as well below the character test threshhold that should exist for court nominees and anyone else seeking high public office. Any senator who votes to confirm this man in committee or in the full Senate vote, should be voted out as soon as possible. Republicans, your behavior begs repetition of the question asked of rabid, red-baiting Sen. Joseph McCarthy in the 50s: “Have you no sense of decency, [senators]?” Anyone with any real access to the senators who have the power to do the right thing  here should use it immediately. How much more of this do we have to withstand?

It’s Time to Turn Up the Heat

Below is my latest effort (via our local newspaper) to move the political needle in my oh-so-very conservative community at least a little more toward the center (or better yet, slightly left of center). We’ve seen some inspiring successes in special elections around the country this year…if we apply ourselves between now and November, maybe we can help chalk up a few more wins for decency and democracy:

About twenty years ago, through my reporting work, I met white supremacist militia groups in Michigan and upstate New York. They told me America’s laws and government were corrupt and they no longer recognized nor would they obey them. As we spoke, they told me the government planned to attack them with black helicopters. They showed me lots of guns and said they knew they could beat the National Guard. It made me sad to see such angry people, Americans who had given up on democracy. I saw them as dangerously unhinged fringe groups. Two decades later, to my great shock and surprise, a man who shares the militias’ racist views, vows to tear apart the fabric of our government and its laws, and is devoid of traditional moral values—President Donald Trump—sits in the White House. I am as saddened by the president’s thoughts and actions as I was by the militias, and I’m deeply troubled that our congressman, Lloyd Smucker, proudly stands with the president 94 percent of the time. I wish Smucker had shown more courage in his first term and stood up for decency and respect for the law.. But we don’t have to settle for a politician who endorses depraved, unhinged presidents. Jess King embodies the values we cherish and I believe she has the courage to speak out against immorality and criminality in Washington. What a message we could send—all of us together—if we vote for democracy, against politics as usual.

Speak up, shout it out, and take a carload of friends to the polls in November. It’s time to turn the ship of state around and sail back to calmer, kinder, more liberal waters.

Pace.

“I really do care” and I wrote a book about it

Just a brief word or two to introduce my new book: This Mere Existence: Motivation and Strategies for Restoring Human Rights. Here’s how it looks:

 

this mere existence cover photo

We met this very pleasant indigenous woman in a market in Ecuador. In her politically and economically unstable country, she has no doubt endured many abuses of her human rights. 

Here’s a blurb:

It’s time to admit that we, the people of this planet, have lost faith in conventional tactics for maintaining order in the world. The time-tattered trio-violence, war, and self-serving politicians-have only made things worse. More importantly, we’ve lost faith in ourselves and the essential goodness of human nature. This Mere Existence: Motivation and Strategies for Restoring Human Rights seeks to reaffirm our evolutionary inclination to empathy and reciprocal altruism, strives to motivate people for the fight by documenting the myriad ways immoral, powerful people have suppressed and denied human rights to this very day, and introduces strategies for engaging the powers that be in a nonviolent struggle to reclaim and restore the rights and freedoms we inherit at birth but have seldom been able to enjoy. This book is a celebration of the human potential to turn things around. If we reclaim our connection to each other, we can reclaim the rights we’ve been denied for so very long.

It’s priced as low as the publisher would allow me to go: $2.99 (Kindle), $12.25 (paperback). You can get it from Amazon Books. I plan to read some excerpts soon on my podcast, Nailing It Down (on SoundCloud).

I would be pleased and grateful if you checked it out. I welcome your thoughts.

Pace,

Mark