Showing posts with label World. Show all posts
Showing posts with label World. Show all posts

Monday, April 27, 2020

The World Pities Us

The Irish Times is a well respected daily newspaper. I'm just going to park this read right here without comment.
Irish Times
April 25, 2020
By Fintan O’Toole
Over more than two centuries, the United States has stirred a very wide range of feelings in the rest of the world: love and hatred, fear and hope, envy and contempt, awe and anger. But there is one emotion that has never been directed towards the US until now: pity.
However bad things are for most other rich democracies, it is hard not to feel sorry for Americans. Most of them did not vote for Donald Trump in 2016. Yet they are locked down with a malignant narcissist who, instead of protecting his people from Covid-19, has amplified its lethality. The country Trump promised to make great again has never in its history seemed so pitiful.
Will American prestige ever recover from this shameful episode? The US went into the coronavirus crisis with immense advantages: precious weeks of warning about what was coming, the world’s best concentration of medical and scientific expertise, effectively limitless financial resources, a military complex with stunning logistical capacity and most of the world’s leading technology corporations. Yet it managed to make itself the global epicentre of the pandemic.
As the American writer George Packer puts it in the current edition of the Atlantic, “The United States reacted ... like Pakistan or Belarus – like a country with shoddy infrastructure and a dysfunctional government whose leaders were too corrupt or stupid to head off mass suffering.”
It is one thing to be powerless in the face of a natural disaster, quite another to watch vast power being squandered in real time – wilfully, malevolently, vindictively. It is one thing for governments to fail (as, in one degree or another, most governments did), quite another to watch a ruler and his supporters actively spread a deadly virus. Trump, his party and Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News became vectors of the pestilence.
The grotesque spectacle of the president openly inciting people (some of them armed) to take to the streets to oppose the restrictions that save lives is the manifestation of a political death wish. What are supposed to be daily briefings on the crisis, demonstrative of national unity in the face of a shared challenge, have been used by Trump merely to sow confusion and division. They provide a recurring horror show in which all the neuroses that haunt the American subconscious dance naked on live TV.
If the plague is a test, its ruling political nexus ensured that the US would fail it at a terrible cost in human lives. In the process, the idea of the US as the world’s leading nation – an idea that has shaped the past century – has all but evaporated.
Other than the Trump impersonator Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, who is now looking to the US as the exemplar of anything other than what not to do? How many people in Düsseldorf or Dublin are wishing they lived in Detroit or Dallas?
It is hard to remember now but, even in 2017, when Trump took office, the conventional wisdom in the US was that the Republican Party and the broader framework of US political institutions would prevent him from doing too much damage. This was always a delusion, but the pandemic has exposed it in the most savage ways.
Abject surrender
What used to be called mainstream conservatism has not absorbed Trump – he has absorbed it. Almost the entire right-wing half of American politics has surrendered abjectly to him. It has sacrificed on the altar of wanton stupidity the most basic ideas of responsibility, care and even safety.
Thus, even at the very end of March, 15 Republican governors had failed to order people to stay at home or to close non-essential businesses. In Alabama, for example, it was not until April 3rd that governor Kay Ivey finally issued a stay-at-home order.
In Florida, the state with the highest concentration of elderly people with underlying conditions, governor Ron DeSantis, a Trump mini-me, kept the beach resorts open to students travelling from all over the US for spring break parties. Even on April 1st, when he issued restrictions, DeSantis exempted religious services and “recreational activities”.
Georgia governor Brian Kemp, when he finally issued a stay-at-home order on April 1st, explained: “We didn’t know that [the virus can be spread by people without symptoms] until the last 24 hours.”
This is not mere ignorance – it is deliberate and homicidal stupidity. There is, as the demonstrations this week in US cities have shown, plenty of political mileage in denying the reality of the pandemic. It is fuelled by Fox News and far-right internet sites, and it reaps for these politicians millions of dollars in donations, mostly (in an ugly irony) from older people who are most vulnerable to the coronavirus.
It draws on a concoction of conspiracy theories, hatred of science, paranoia about the “deep state” and religious providentialism (God will protect the good folks) that is now very deeply infused in the mindset of the American right.
Trump embodies and enacts this mindset, but he did not invent it. The US response to the coronavirus crisis has been paralysed by a contradiction that the Republicans have inserted into the heart of US democracy. On the one hand, they want to control all the levers of governmental power. On the other they have created a popular base by playing on the notion that government is innately evil and must not be trusted.
The contradiction was made manifest in two of Trump’s statements on the pandemic: on the one hand that he has “total authority”, and on the other that “I don’t take responsibility at all”. Caught between authoritarian and anarchic impulses, he is incapable of coherence.
Fertile ground
But this is not just Donald Trump. The crisis has shown definitively that Trump’s presidency is not an aberration. It has grown on soil long prepared to receive it. The monstrous blossoming of misrule has structure and purpose and strategy behind it.
There are very powerful interests who demand “freedom” in order to do as they like with the environment, society and the economy. They have infused a very large part of American culture with the belief that “freedom” is literally more important than life. My freedom to own assault weapons trumps your right not to get shot at school. Now, my freedom to go to the barber (“I Need a Haircut” read one banner this week in St Paul, Minnesota) trumps your need to avoid infection.
Usually when this kind of outlandish idiocy is displaying itself, there is the comforting thought that, if things were really serious, it would all stop. People would sober up. Instead, a large part of the US has hit the bottle even harder.
And the president, his party and their media allies keep supplying the drinks. There has been no moment of truth, no shock of realisation that the antics have to end. No one of any substance on the US right has stepped in to say: get a grip, people are dying here.
That is the mark of how deep the trouble is for the US – it is not just that Trump has treated the crisis merely as a way to feed tribal hatreds but that this behaviour has become normalised. When the freak show is live on TV every evening, and the star is boasting about his ratings, it is not really a freak show any more. For a very large and solid bloc of Americans, it is reality.
And this will get worse before it gets better. Trump has at least eight more months in power. In his inaugural address in 2017, he evoked “American carnage” and promised to make it stop. But now that the real carnage has arrived, he is revelling in it. He is in his element.
As things get worse, he will pump more hatred and falsehood, more death-wish defiance of reason and decency, into the groundwater. If a new administration succeeds him in 2021, it will have to clean up the toxic dump he leaves behind. If he is re-elected, toxicity will have become the lifeblood of American politics.
Either way, it will be a long time before the rest of the world can imagine America being great again.

Friday, April 03, 2020

For the Record

I took this from a Facebook post on The Atlantic page. I want to remember this, so I am posting it here.
Facts. For the record:
Dec 18th - House Impeaches Trump
Jan 8th - First CDC warning

Jan 9th - Trump campaign rally
Jan 14th - Trump campaign rally
Jan 16th - House sends impeachment articles to Senate
Jan 18th - Trump golfs
Jan 19th - Trump golfs
Jan 20th - first case of corona virus in the US, Washington State.
Jan 22nd - “We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China. It’s going to be just fine.”
Jan 28th - Trump campaign rally
Jan 30th - Trump campaign rally
Feb 1st - Trump golfs
Feb 2nd - “We pretty much shut it down coming in from China."
Feb 5th - Senate votes to acquit. Then takes a five-day weekend.
Feb 10th - Trump campaign rally
Feb 12th - Dow Jones closes at an all time high of 29,551.42
Feb 15h - Trump golfs
Feb 19th - Trump campaign rally
Feb 20th - Trump campaign rally
Feb 21st - Trump campaign rally
Feb 24th - “The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA… Stock Market starting to look very good to me!”
Feb 25h - “CDC and my Administration are doing a GREAT job of handling Coronavirus.”
Feb 25th - “I think that's a problem that’s going to go away… They have studied it. They know very much. In fact, we’re very close to a vaccine.”
Feb 26th - “The 15 (cases in the US) within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero.”
Feb 26th - “We're going very substantially down, not up.” Also "This is a flu. This is like a flu"; "Now, you treat this like a flu"; "It's a little like the regular flu that we have flu shots for. And we'll essentially have a flu shot for this in a fairly quick manner."
February 27th: “One day it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.”
Feb 28th - “We're ordering a lot of supplies. We're ordering a lot of, uh, elements that frankly we wouldn't be ordering unless it was something like this. But we're ordering a lot of different elements of medical.”
Feb 28th - Trump campaign rally
March 2nd - “You take a solid flu vaccine, you don't think that could have an impact, or much of an impact, on corona?”
March 2nd - “A lot of things are happening, a lot of very exciting things are happening and they’re happening very rapidly.”
March 4th: “If we have thousands or hundreds of thousands of people that get better just by, you know, sitting around and even going to work — some of them go to work, but they get better.”
March 5th - “I NEVER said people that are feeling sick should go to work.”
March 5th - “The United States… has, as of now, only 129 cases… and 11 deaths. We are working very hard to keep these numbers as low as possible!”
March 6th - “I think we’re doing a really good job in this country at keeping it down… a tremendous job at keeping it down.”
March 6th - “Anybody right now, and yesterday, anybody that needs a test gets a test. They’re there. And the tests are beautiful…. the tests are all perfect like the letter was perfect. The transcription was perfect. Right? This was not as perfect as that but pretty good.”
March 6th - “I like this stuff. I really get it. People are surprised that I understand it… Every one of these doctors said, ‘How do you know so much about this?’ Maybe I have a natural ability. Maybe I should have done that instead of running for president.”
March 6th - “I don't need to have the numbers double because of one ship that wasn't our fault.”
March 7th - Trump golfs
March 8th - Trump golfs
March 8th - “We have a perfectly coordinated and fine tuned plan at the White House for our attack on CoronaVirus.”
March 9th - “This blindsided the world.”
March 13th - [Declared state of emergency]
March 17th - “This is a pandemic,” Mr. Trump told reporters. “I felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic.”
March 18th - "It’s not racist at all. No. Not at all. It comes from China. That’s why. It comes from China. I want to be accurate."
March 23th- Dow Jones closes at 18,591.93
March 25th - 3.3 million Americans file for unemployment.
March 30th - Dow Jones closes at 21,917.16
April 2nd - 6.6 million Americans file for unemployment.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Pandemic 2020 - Day 18

It was a Friday the 13th when the United States stood still - and the toilet paper disappeared.

That day in March of 2020, the public realized that we aren't immune to things that affect the rest of the world, and the race to the grocery stores left everyone stunned and frightened.

Essential supplies vanished overnight.

Here at the ol' farm, I'd been stocking up a little bit at a time for about two months, picking up an extra can of soup and such here and there. We have always had plenty of toilet paper, a habit I apparently inherited from my grandmother. It's a staple we have always purchased in bulk and in multiples of that.

What I miss the most is the fresh food - and getting out of the house once a week or so for a tour around the grocery aisles. I have not been in a store since the 13th, as I have asthma and my husband believes that he has a stronger immune system than I do, even though he is older.

I've had a few Sunday drives with him, but mostly I've stayed home. It rained most of March, so the weather was dour and glum. This did nothing to help the situation. On warmer days I tried to get outside a little, wearing a dust mask because I am allergic to everything and the pollen has been high. I also was sick for two weeks with something - not Covid-19 - I had a little sore throat and laryngitis but ran no fever. It is another reason for my husband's insistence I stay home, though.

My hair is growing by leaps and bounds, and a week ago I took the scissors to my bangs. Unfortunately, I wear progressive lenses, and I can't see a thing without them, but I can't cut my hair with my specs on. The cut was too high and crooked, but the hair is out of my eyes for the time being. I discovered one needs a very sharp pair of scissors for hair cutting. Mine were incredibly dull. I thought about ordering a pair but apparently so has everyone else, as all but the very expensive hair cutting scissors were out of stock.

Oh well.

I still talk to my friends on the phone, and we text and email. Aside from my trips to the chiropractor and the grocery store, little has changed except for this general uneasiness that has gripped me. I've had vivid dreams and nightmares, and I've noticed it is difficult to concentrate. As much as I'd like to start a new project, I'm not sure now is the time to do it.

We did have one issue come up this weekend - the mattress on the bed has developed a failure on one side. The mattress is still under warranty but it will be some time before we can attend to this matter. For one thing, I don't want strange people in my home right now and for another I don't think any of the mattress stores are open.

Today, Governor Ralph Northam initiated executive order no. 55, which tells us to shelter-in-place. We are only to leave our homes for food, medicine, and fresh air/exercise.

That's a rather clinical assessment of the last 18 days, I think. Perhaps I will get more into the emotional toll at another time.

For now, I simply wanted to make a note of this strange and unprecedented time in my blog.

Be well, dear reader, and may the universe look after you.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Notre Dame in Paris

Yesterday I returned home from an errand to learn that Notre Dame in Paris was on fire.

The structure lost its spire and the roof but the stone parts remained mostly intact after a long night's work by firefighters. They saved the cathedral's main structure and two towers of the cathedral.

This structure is nearly 900 years old. Construction began un 1160 under Bishop Maurice de Sully and was largely complete by 1260. It was modified frequently throughout the centuries and it houses priceless artifacts and history. In 1804, the cathedral was the site of the Coronation of Napoleon I as Emperor of France, and witnessed the baptism of Henri, Count of Chambord in 1821 and the funerals of several presidents of the Third French Republic.

After Victor Hugo published The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, interest in the church renewed, and the building underwent major restorations between 1844 and 1864. During this time, the iconic spire, which collapsed during yesterday's fire, was added by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, who had supervised the restoration. Throughout the last two centuries the structure has undergone several renovation and cleaning projects.

Millions visit Notre Dame every year.

In 1978, I was one of those visitors. I have only two photos to show I was there, small polaroid's taken outside. At that time, cameras weren't allowed inside, if I remember right. Most historic places did not allow pictures to be taken inside. I have only vague memories of my visit there, conjured up as I watched images of the structure burning.

It is too an important event not to note it in my blog. History matters, and I have to wonder if mankind today is capable of constructing the kind of architecture that made Notre Dame so lovely and endearing. Has that kind of craftsmanship has gone the way of the telegraph machine?

May the rebuilding of Notre Dame be the beginning of something great, a phoenix rising from the ashes of what was, and may it prove my earlier statement wrong by bringing out the best of humanity in the restoration efforts.

My polaroid from 1978. This is the bell towers and main entrance. You can see the spire in the middle.

A little better shot of the bell tower and spire.

Firefighters putting out the fire last night.

The structure ablaze.

Friday, February 03, 2017

Down the Drain

This is a rant. Go away now if you are looking for cute pictures of niceties. You can come back tomorrow for that.

Most people who have been reading my blog for any length of time are probably aware that I am not happy with the current state of the nation.
Give it a year, and I think a lot of people are going to be really unhappy, but they will have to find it out for themselves. Some will never figure it out, and will blame somebody else. It's the nature of being human.
With all of this quick change going on, to me it feels like a chronic beating over the head. Unfortunately, every time Republicans are in charge of the government, I feel like I am being beaten. It is the verbal patronizing, the language, the authoritarianism, I suppose, that makes me feel like I have a boot over my face. Not only that, Republicans in Congress are just mean. And they really dislike women. Honestly, every mean person I know is a Republican. I know nice Republicans, too, but I can't think of a single mean Democrat. I probably know some, but I don't know who they are. I know that I know mean Republicans.
Anyway, since that is how I have been feeling, like a beaten down dog whimpering in a cage, it has been hard to blog. I try not to blog too much about political stuff here because that is not what I want on Blue Country Magic. But when it is all I can think about, and all that is in the news, and all that is eating at me, it is difficult to write about fawns and daylilies.
I am not writing on Facebook, either, even though I sometimes want to scream out responses to the things I see posted. But I am not very good at arguments. I can state my case and you can agree with it or not, but I don't want to argue with anyone about it. So I don't argue. If I do post something, if you don't agree, don't agree. I generally won't waste my time fighting about it. Usually I just hit "delete." It's the best key on the keyboard.

That type of thing, of course, pertains to opinion. Now, if I'm stating a fact, like, say, 4+4=8, or the ground is made of dirt and rocks and compost and dead things, and you don't want to agree with that, well, that just means you're ignorant. I might argue with you over a fact. A real fact, not an alternative fact.
A friend, a moderate Republican who occasionally shows glimpses of a soul when he talks to me, doesn't post a lot of political stuff on Facebook, either. I still have hope for him,  but yesterday he posted a video on Facebook but he made little comment about it except that it made him think (about what, I do not know). The video was by some dude who claimed to be in Iraq (no way to know for sure, he might have been in his basement in Mississippi). He said that he had been told that right now, with the [whatever name I decide to call the person leading the country]'s ban on immigration, the Iraqis are fired up. After all, we're supposed to be on their side but their nation was spelled out as being bad and their people couldn't come here, not even the ones that fought with us. This guy said if he went out on the town, the Iraqi people, not ISIL or Al Qaida, would kill him. Torture him, behead him. And is that the kind of people we want in the U.S.?
What I wanted to respond to this video was this:

Matthew Shepherd (December 1, 1976 – October 12, 1998), beaten, tortured, and left to die near Laramie, Wyoming on the night of October 6, 1998. Significant media coverage was given to the killing and what role Shepard's sexual orientation might have played as a motive in the perpetration of the crime.

Nine black church congregants were killed by a white shooter June 17, 2015 in Charleston, S.C.

The KKK and black lynchings.

Any newspaper reporting crime in any day in this country.

For further information, here's a report in the Washington Post on Hate Crime
And there is this graph here at the FBI site:

I just pulled out Virginia because that is where I live. In just those areas, which doesn't even include most of Southwest Virginia, there are over 160 murders. And look at all of those violent crimes.
And then I would have liked to have responded with this:
FBI Hate Crimes Statistics


  • In 2015, 14,997 law enforcement agencies participated in the Hate Crime Statistics Program. Of these agencies, 1,742 reported 5,850 hate crime incidents involving 6,885 offenses.
  •  There were 5,818 single-bias incidents that involved 6,837 offenses, 7,121 victims, and 5,475 known offenders.
  • The 32 multiple-bias incidents reported in 2015 involved 48 offenses, 52 victims, and 18 known offenders.

Single-bias incidents

Analysis of the 5,818 single-bias incidents reported in 2015 revealed that:
  • 56.9 percent were motivated by a race/ethnicity/ancestry bias.
  • 21.4 percent were prompted by religious bias.
  • 18.1 percent resulted from sexual-orientation bias.
  • 2.0 percent were motivated by gender-identity bias.
  • 1.3 percent were prompted by disability bias.
  • 0.4 percent (23 incidents) were motivated by a gender bias.
Because we're such a calm, non-violent society, after all. We worship our mammas and apple pie. We don't gang up on gays, or black people, or Muslims, or people of different faith.

What crap.

My point is, this weird view that Americans have that we're such a peaceful, tolerant and welcoming nation is bullshit, and the world is calling us on it. We are violent. We are mean. We are as bad, if not worse, than any other nation in this word. as far as violence and hatred and just plain vileness goes. Only we do it in the name of "Christianity" instead of some other religion, so somehow or another, because a bunch of people worship a really blatantly fucked-up version of "the Prince of Peace," that makes shooting one another and dropping drone bombs on people all right.

And to make this point even more strongly, here is this, from The American Bar Association:

In 2003, there were 30,136 firearm-related deaths in the United States; 16,907 (56%) suicides, 11,920 (40%) homicides (including 347 deaths due to legal intervention/war), and 962 (3%) undetermined/unintentional firearm deaths.
CDC/National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, WISQARS Injury Mortality Reports 1999-2003
  • The rate of death from firearms in the United States is eight times higher than that in its economic counterparts in other parts of the world. Kellermann AL and Waeckerle JF. Preventing Firearm Injuries. Ann Emerg Med July 1998; 32:77-79.

  • The overall firearm-related death rate among U.S. children younger than 15 years of age is nearly 12 times higher than among children in 25 other industrialized countries combined. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 1997;46:101-105.

  •  The United States has the highest rate of youth homicides and suicides among the 26 wealthiest nations. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
    Rates of homicide, suicide, and firearm-related death among children: 26 industrialized countries.MMWR. 1997;46:101-105.
    Krug EG, Dahlberg LL, Powell KE. Childhood homicide, suicide, and firearm deaths: an international comparison. World Health Stat Q. 1996;49:230-235.
Still think we're so nice? Let's see. How about the 2006 murders at Virginia Tech? The Sandy Hook murders in 2012? The Oklahoma bombings in 1995? How about the guy who beat another guy to death in the gas station about four miles from me, because he didn't like the way the other guy was driving? Or maybe the murders of a couple of young women near UVA? Or the shooting of a couple of journalists at a local TV station?

Or maybe the stabbings, gunshots, fights, and domestic violence runs that my husband's EMS/Fire crews see every single night in Roanoke would convince you, dear reader, that we are not a peaceful people?

We are the ONLY nation to have used an atomic weapon on real, live people. We have lynched people on the say-so of a single person. We are completely capable of ostracizing and being cruel to someone different than us. We do it every single day. Every. Single. Day.

And we're terrified of people who are thousands of miles away from us.

Frankly, I am as frightened of some of the people in my community as I am anybody else in the world.

We can keep fooling ourselves that we are better than others in the world, but we're not. That boat has sailed and is so far gone it is too late to wave bye-bye to it. The only thing we have is greed and a religion that worships money.

Some of us, though, want a better world.

We ain't gettin' it today.

Friday, July 29, 2016

An Historic Moment

Tears came to my eyes earlier in the week when Hillary Clinton received the nomination to be the first female candidate for president. When she showed up on that big screen, crashing through the glass ceiling, I cheered.

Last night, when she finally said these words, "And so it is with humility, determination and boundless confidence in America's promise, that I accept your nomination for President of the United States" - I cried.

"Tonight we've reached a milestone in our nation's march toward a more perfect union," she noted. "The first time that a major party has nominated a woman for President. Standing her as my mother's daughter and my daughter's mother, I'm so happy this day has come. . . . When any barrier falls in America, it clears the way for everyone. After all, when there are no ceilings, the sky's the limit."

I never thought I'd see the day.

Suffragettes have had my attention for some time, because the women's right to vote was a battle, a hard-fought battle that had women literally beaten, spit upon, belittled, and run down as less than. Always less than.

It was and still is something to fight against. The war's not yet won.

My county's own Mary Johnston fought for women's right to vote, along with Virgina's Ellen Glasgow and other notable women of the early 1900s. Johnston, in a prophetic moment, said this in a New York Times interview in 1911:

"I regard the fight for the franchise as a piece of roadbuilding. One and all of the women who are engaged in this piece of engineering are the servants of the woman who is to be—of a creature great and strong and wise and free and lovely—a woman magnificently beyond to-day's most wonderful dream. She may not come in the fullness of might and beauty for 500 years, but she could not come at all but for the road we are building to-day. She must come over that road. So we build in faith and in the service of that great woman and of the children she shall bear, and it is a work of great religious significance."

It did not take 500 years. But it took nearly 100. Women received the right to vote in the United States in 1920. Fortunately for Clinton, other women have moved mountains to give her a platform - nameless women who have raised children, created homes, and served as teachers. Women who have gone into the Armed Forces, become police officers and firefighters, writers, poets and environmental leaders. Women astronauts and engineers, scientists and doctors. Geraldine Ferro, first vice president nominee of a major party. Jill Stein, the nominee of a third party (the Green Party) and others who have knocked and beat on the bottoms of the shoes of the patriarchy until finally the men have fallen over with sore feet. It took a world of women, beating on that glass ceiling, so Clinton could break through.

I am 53 years old. I have always had the right to vote. It was a right my mother refused to exercise because of a silly notion that she might have to serve on a jury. Serving on a jury, to my mind, is another great right of a citizen, and a duty she shirked over some nebulous fear.

But perhaps that was because my mother thought, as she taught me, that she was less than. Women all around me have always been less than in the eyes of the patriarchy that forms America, and especially rural America - from my grandmothers to my mother, my aunts, and to myself. In Southwest Virginia, this Appalachian mountain land, women are currency, not humans.

I grew up knowing I was less than from the moment some male doctor pulled me from my mother's womb and spanked my bottom to make me breathe. I knew it when my father told me he was saving money for my brother's education, but not for mine (though I'm the one with the masters degree). I knew it when a male coworker tried to rape me in a back room before I married and when a friend of my father's grabbed me in a parking lot and felt me up. I knew it when every male doctor I saw for infertility looked at me not with compassion, but with pity and spite because I was, from then on, even less than all the other less than women who could carry a child.

Do you understand? This is not something I expect everyone to understand. Not even all women will understand, and they may not want to. Examining one's life can be painful, and I acknowledge that many do not take the time to do this. And many women are happy with their status.

That is their right.

I have never been happy being less than. In many instances, I am more than and I have always been equal to - as are all women - even when those around me refused to acknowledge it. I may not be physically strong, but there was a time when I was smarter than many men I knew.

I still am. We all bring something to the table, regardless of gender. We all have something to add to this world, and no contribution outshines another. If it does, it is only because some mind has made it so.

My husband, a kind and intelligent man, knows last night was important to me. He handed me a tissue last night when I burst into sobs, but I do not know if he understood the momentous occasion or the reason for the tears. I don't know if he understands the implications. I do not know if any man truly understands what it is to be a woman, any more than I can truly understand what it is to be a woman of color in this country.

Last night, women were no longer less than. Women can now be equal to and even if Mrs. Clinton losses this election (so get out and vote for her so this does not happen), that glass ceiling will have a truly large crack in it, one that may be repaired but never solely replaced.

At long last, Mary Johnston's vision from 105 years ago has come true.

And finally, after having female leaders around the world look at the United States in confusion, we are with them. Croatia has a female leader and has for some time. Canada, Chile, Germany, Great Britain, Denmark, Finland, Grenada, India, Ireland, Jamaica, Latvia, the Netherlands, Poland and on and on have female leaders in the 21st century (and many way before that - remember Cleopatra? Queen Victoria? Mary, Queen of Scots?).

And here we are now, the United States of America, after 240 years as an independent country, on the cusp of making a woman a leader of this nation.


This is no fantasy we are living in. Hillary Clinton is not Wonder Woman or Xena. She's no daughter of Zeus. She's a human being who has worked hard, solidly, for decades to better the world and to move herself up, fighting battles against men who would deny her the right to take that first gasp of air she needed when she was a wee baby if they could. Men who proclaim to love life, so long as that life serves them.

We are servants no longer. Take notice, men. You are no longer kings.

I'm with her.

I'm a Democrat.

I vote.

Monday, July 25, 2016

I'll Be the One in a Grave

The quote below is why I expect to not have a long life, given the current events of not only the U.S. but the world. In my opinion, which counts for absolutely nothing, a vote for Trump (who is coming to my area today) is a vote for my death. There will be, as always, those who think exactly the opposite. Not that it matters: I think World War III will come regardless of who holds the reins, though I think the Democrats might take me a small step closer to old age. A Green Party win would be even better, but that won't happen this year. But it will be politics and power that kill me and many others - the sick, the old, the unwell - not Mother Nature's advances upon my person.

Time will tell who is right, though I probably won't be around to see. But I will point out this: We all still have our guns in spite of President Obama. We have health care, if we want it (and I know and understand that you may not be able to pay for it). We can still go to the place of worship of our choosing. We can put our Christmas decorations up in our yard. We can fly the Confederate flag on our own property if we want. We haven't lost any of our Constitutional rights under a black Democratic president - not a single one, in spite of the fearmongering.

You may or may not have a job, but that is not a presidential problem or even a political party problem. That is a Congressional problem and a corporate problem created by a lack of empathy problem on the part of Congress, corporate owners, and stock holders. It is the direct result of the capitalistic system we worship over and above our god (we really do). However, I realize we cannot place the blame where it actually belongs, because that is to admit that we are slaves to the masters we think we don't have. Better to blame the black man in the White House, or the Latinos next door. Because we can't look inside and blame ourselves, because we don't know how to fix it.

We have to share our world with people we don't like - people who think differently, who look different, talk differently, worship differently, and we don't like it. So you or you or you will kill me, in the end, because I don't think like you do, or I am in your way. I get that and have mostly accepted it, though I can't say I like it. I had hoped for a long life, at least another 30 years or so. I've done nothing to deserve to die. But then again, neither have a lot of other people.

Humans are murderers. We kill one another without a thought. It's the animal brain (though I know many think we didn't evolve). But there it is. I have seen this coming since 9/11, this new World War - or maybe it will be an all-out Second American Civil War. Whatever. It is coming - maybe it is already here. All students of the world know this - even the people who don't really think about it know it subconsciously. We also know there is nothing we can do about it. As it says below, some of us are not capable of the violence that the general population can carry out. We end up being the recipients of it.

Go to the link at the bottom and read the whole article. It is worth the time.

"What can we do? Well, again, looking back, probably not much. The liberal intellectuals are always in the minority. See Clay Shirky’s Twitter Storm on this point. The people who see that open societies, being nice to other people, not being racist, not fighting wars, is a better way to live, they generally end up losing these fights. They don’t fight dirty. They are terrible at appealing to the populace. They are less violent, so end up in prisons, camps, and graves. We need to beware not to become divided (see: Labour party), we need to avoid getting lost in arguing through facts and logic, and counter the populist messages of passion and anger with our own similar messages. We need to understand and use social media. We need to harness a different fear. Fear of another World War nearly stopped World War 2, but didn’t. We need to avoid our own echo chambers. Trump and Putin supporters don’t read the Guardian, so writing there is just reassuring our friends. We need to find a way to bridge from our closed groups to other closed groups, try to cross the ever widening social divides."

From: History Tells Us What Will Happen Next with Brexit & Trump

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Men on the Chessboard

My local daily paper today is full of anger. It usually is. Americans are angry people these days. Fearful people tend to become angry people, because they feel they've lost control.

There is not usually so much local anger, though. But today we have Montgomery County angry over a Circuit Court Clerk's decision to fire half of her staff, Rockbridge County is upset over Botetourt's near-certain approval of 25 wind turbines on North Mountain, and people in Botetourt are upset because the supervisors want to tear down historic structures to build a big shell building.

The state of Virginia is upset because somebody rooked the Commerce and Trade Department out of $1.4 million.

Nationally, people are angry over polluted water in Michigan and Planned Parenthood (pro and con). Online, people are still talking about those men in Oregon who took over a federal facility and for some reason are still there, and I see as I write this there are reports of yet another mass shooting. Sad that those have become so commonplace one barely blinks at the headline anymore.

And this is all caused by those in power. Yes, we have class in America. We have people in power who don't know what they are doing, and we have people behind the people in power who probably know what they are doing, but what they are doing is not in the best interest of the rest of us. Power only serves power, and it most certainly does not share it with the likes of the little people, of which I am one.

I learned to play chess when I was about nine years old. I never was very good at it. But chess is an interesting way of looking things going on in the world.

You have the king, who can only move one square at time and who, in my opinion, is weaker even than a pawn, though the rules say otherwise.

The queen is the most powerful piece. She can whiz about the checkered board with impunity. She can knock off bishops and knights, destroy castles (rooks), and eat pawns for lunch.

The queen is the power behind the throne. I firmly believe that in the U.S. the power behind the throne is something - or a group of someones - that Americans are not even aware of. Maybe it is simply rich folk like the Koch brothers, using their lobbyists and money to bend our elected representatives to their collective will. Perhaps it is something more sinister, like in the movies, an evil coalition set about to destroy all that was once good in this world in a grab for more power.

Which means I believe our government is broken, and is more like the chess board tossed about by a two-year old than any sort of conventional play. No, we have a president who was unable to bring forth his vision for the country because of the can't do Congress and Senate, and they can't do because of that invisible power - the Queen - who really runs around the board and takes care of the business of the rich and the powerful.

This even plays out on the local level. I will use my own county as an example. We have five elected representatives, a few of whom appear to believe they must answer to the people who elected them. They have collectively assumed the role of queen, and tossed the pawns completely off the table. The king - I'm not sure who that might be - will step around his single square waiting for the Queen to offer permission.

As for the rest - the bishops, the rooks, the knights - they are all loyal subjects. Lower level administrators, maybe, and other county employees. They have a place on the local little chessboard (and no place on the bigger, state-sized one, and not a prayer of ever being on the national chessboard) but some, I suspect, aren't sure whether they are rooks or knights. They may even really be pawns and not realize it.

Every locality plays its own game of chess, even the tiny towns that lie within the boundaries of our county. We have three little towns and they have their own versions of king, queen, and supporting players. It happens everywhere, not just here.

The problem is always the queen, though. Who gets to be that power player? That's where the fighting and anger comes in. The public, who does the electing, thinks it is the queen - and rightly so. This is supposed to be a democracy, after all, so those who vote should be the ones to move around the board, overseeing this, looking at that, whispering in the ear of the king so he will move from front to side and back again.

But instead we have reversed power - we've given it all to those we elect, because we are now not even on the board. We're not pawns, we're watchers. We do not participate in the game at all. We're content to go to work, watch TV, eat a Milky Way, and go to bed.

About half of us aren't even aware that there is a game being played, and that whatever these kings, queens, and bishops do, it affects us in some fashion or another. The only time we look up to see the board is if the word "taxes" appears, blinking like a magic neon sign over the bar in which the chess game is played. Then, maybe, we speak up. But most of the time we simply go back to watching Netflix.

I wish citizens would be more active in their government, whether at the local level or at higher levels. Many times we have offices up for election and no one has opposition. This is wrong. People should always have a choice. I understand that it is a time commitment and the financial rewards can be limited, especially in local politics, but there is more to life than money.

My actions have been to vote in every election (I don't think I've missed a single one), to write letters to representatives and newspapers, and, when I was a working journalist, to report on topics as objectively as I could so that the citizenry could make an objective opinion on issues. I also served on an appointed board as a representative for my district (the local library board, which is not a major determiner of destiny, but I still served). I continue to write letters and monitor things and work on issues I care about. Others do too, of course, but so many do not.

If you have never written a representative about an issue, I encourage you to read up on something you have an interest in, and then express your opinion in a letter to the editor, or a letter to your representative. Email makes this easy (though a "real" letter tends to be held in higher esteem by some officials).

We can't "Make America Great Again" unless we all participate. If we're sitting back waiting on a sugar daddy to save us, we're going to slide right off that sucker and into a drainage ditch full of sewage. Is that really what we want for our selves and our children?

Take action today. It really is important.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Nothing to See Here

I consider myself fairly well-read and I did not hear about the bombings in Beirut (which happened Thursday before the Friday bombings in Paris) until Sunday. The media, which has become too narrowly focused, offers only the points of views of its owners now, points of views which I do not share. I love all of humanity, not just the ones I feel some cultural connection with. I should not have to read the newspapers in other countries to feel like I have a better, more well-rounded view of the world, but I do and I must.
To put this in perspective, when 32 people at Virginia Tech were murdered, it was a global story. When 43 people die by suicide bombings in Beirut, we hear nothing. Are we that immune to the suffering of others? Is it us or the media? Or both?
We are a world, not a nation. When will we realize that we are all connected? We are not islands unto ourselves. Even if we wanted to do it, corporations would not stand for closed borders and loss of trade. That's all bluster and buffoonery.
This world operates on many levels. I cannot do a thing about the powerful who control what goes on, but I can still open my mind, read, and learn. I can formulate my own opinions. My opinions, generally, are not the same as the ones who control things. It is as if the world operates on more than one axis, and I swirl around on one and others on another.
If I could tell people one thing, it would be to read and reach outside of their bubble of information. I read right-wing and liberal things. I wish everyone would.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Lost Generation

Sunday I read an article about how baby boomers who are my age really don't belong in that category.

I wholeheartedly agree. I have long called myself a member of a lost generation. We are too young to be baby boomers, and too old to be Generation X.

I did not come of age in the 1960s - I was born then. The hippie era was a blimp on my radar, something I saw from a distance but could not experience because I was too young. I admired go-go boots, tie-dyed t-shirts, and long hair on guys, but by the time I was old enough to make those decisions for myself, it was 1975. Tie-dye was out and preppy was in. Rock 'n roll was out, and disco was in. I grew up watching The Brady Bunch and Charlie's Angels, not Leave it to Beaver or Father Knows Best.

So I am quite happy to see someone confirming what I have known all along - I don't belong with the Baby Boomers. The US Census defines baby boomers as folks born from 1946 to 1964. I am 50 years old and someone who is 18 years older than I has little in common with me. We grew up in different eras.

I grew up reacting to the world someone who was 18 when I was born was making. I could only sit back and watch because I was but a child, and unable to do anything else.

My first national memory is watching a man walk on the moon when I was six years old. I don't remember when JFK was killed because I was only 5 months old. My first real political memory is of the Patty Hearst kidnapping, not the Vietnam War, even though that was going on while I was alive. But my awareness was that of a young girl growing up in a rural area, where we only received one TV station.

Patty Hearst was kidnapped in 1974, when I was 11 years old. The things a true Baby Boomer would have been horrified by - Kent State, the shooting of Bobby Kennedy - went over my head. I was vaguely aware but my goodness, Kent State happened in 1970. I was seven years old. I was playing with Barbie and in the second grade!

So to lump me, and all of us who were born from about 1960 - 1968, in the same era, just seems wrong. I imagine there are some older Generation Xers who feel like they are in the wrong generation, too. And they belong with me, in this lost generation.

A book that will be released in the next year calls us "Generation Jones," named after the term "jonesying" which apparently my lost generation coined. It is not a term I use or care for but Generation Jones works for me. We might just as well have been Generation Smith.

For we are a small legion that cannot move forward because of those before us. We were not able to get the good jobs, make the decent money, and be upwardly mobile. We did okay, but we did not do as well as our older true Baby Boomer counterparts. By the time I turned 18, Ronald Reagan was elected president. There was a recession. When we built our house in 1987, the interest rate on it was 13 percent. At the time the talking heads said, "Oh, it will never go lower again."

Shows what they know.

But I am not a Baby Boomer. The US Census can stick me in there if they want, but I have not been, nor ever will be, satisfied with that moniker. I am not sure I will like Generation Jones, but I will say, as I have for many years, that those who are around my age are really a lost generation.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Remembering the 343 on 9/11

Twelve years ago today, over 1,000 men and women, all of them dressed in 50 to 75 pounds of firefighting gear, faced the worst event of their careers.

An attack on the Twin Towers in New York City had the structures damaged and burning.

The first plane hit at 8:45 a.m., and the New York City Fire Department had its incident command center established by 8:50 a.m.

The fire department was on the scene within five minutes.

As business people hurried outside, firefighters raced inside to help.

They wanted to save lives, these firefighters. That is what they were trained to do.

What they loved to do.

What they would die doing.

As firefighters valiantly tried to reach people believed to be trapped on the upper floors, above the point of impact, the unthinkable happened. At 9:59 a.m. the first of the tallest towers of the World Trade Center collapsed.

As we all know, the tower fell without warning. The building was rubble and ash in a matter of seconds.

And 343 firefighters - heroes all - died, along with over 2,000 other people.

I am the wife of a firefighter. Every day could be the day that something goes wrong on the fire scene. This could be the day that a building explodes, a roof caves in, a car crashes into firefighters standing on the side of the road putting out a burning vehicle (something that happened in Roanoke in 1985, killing several firefighters).

Firefighters do a job that most people wouldn't dream of doing. They risk their lives every single time they go to work. When you are running away in fear, they are putting on their hats and heading off to face down whatever it is you are afraid of. Tornadoes, hurricanes, fire, flood, derecho winds, downed power lines or a terrorist attack do not halt these dedicated people. They go forward when the rest of us would hang back.

In 2011, there were 2,450 deaths in the United States as a result of 364,500 fires. There were 13,900 injuries in those fires, and the resulting damage from fires cost $6.6 billion. That same year, there were 80 deaths as a result of 85,400 fires in businesses. There were 1,100 injuries in those fires, and the resulting damage from the fires cost $2.4 billion.

Firefighters responded to over 30 million calls in 2011.

Like other public servants, emergency service workers have been attacked by various political sectors in recent years. How anyone can deny these brave men and women a livelihood in exchange for running into a burning structure is beyond me.

On this 12th anniversary of the attack on New York City, please remember the sacrifices of firefighters and other emergency services workers. They go where no one else dares to go.

You might want to say thank you to them, too. You never know when the life they save might be yours.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Religion and Gun Culture

Last night I attended a Christmas program at a local Baptist church. I had family members singing in the choir and had reason to be there. I went to support them.

The program was about 90 minutes long, and it included children singing, lots of hymns, a few carols, some scripture, a guest singer, an offering and prayer.

It was very upbeat and the hellfire and damnation was at a minimum. Overall it was a nice production, and I could tell a lot of work and effort had gone into it.

One section included a mini-play. A father and his two teenager sons sat around a table, and they were joined by a teenage sister.

The father said this year he wanted to talk about Christmas memories, and each told a memory they wanted to share.

One of the memories went like this:

The children were in the house and the father was napping. A noise occurred and the father, bleary and sleep-filled, jumped from the bed and grabbed his shotgun. He ran around the house in his underwear with his gun, finally opening the front door to point the loaded weapon at his wife, who was coming back from shopping. The father spent the next month sleeping on the couch.

I was appalled at this story. To have it been deemed an acceptable message in a church setting at any time is not acceptable to me, but to have it deemed acceptable less than 60 hours after a national tragedy where an unstable young man shot and killed 27 people in Connecticut was just horrid.

Did no one think about the implications of this story? You had several impressionable young people there, all of whom now think it is perfectly fine to hear a noise and grab a gun.

Why is this the first thought? If you are that fearful that grabbing a weapon is the immediate response to something that startles you, I feel sorry for you. You need help. You don't need to be lauded for that action. You need to go to jail or a mental health institution, if you want that story to have an acceptable moral. You don't go around pointing guns at people.

There are a million things someone could have remembered about Christmas. And this story that makes pointing a gun at someone an acceptable past time was what they came up with. Nearly shooting Mom, who, by the way, apparently died six months later from something unmentioned?

Later, someone pressed me as to why I did not attend this particular church. Exasperated, I told her it was too militant for me. She did not understand.

Obviously not.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

What Good Are Words

I feel like I should say something about the shooting in Connecticut yesterday, where little children were gunned down in yet another senseless act of violence in this country.

Yet I can't find the words. What do you say?

Do you say - why does this continue to happen?

Do you say - there must be something very wrong with our society, for this doesn't happen (at least not this frequently) in other countries?

What do you say?

Do you say - we need gun control, because we don't need assault weapons in the hands of the masses?

Do you say - we need better mental health support, nationwide, an entire network set up to catch the people who are most likely to take the lives of others?

Do you say - our entire society needs to be reviewed, from religion to education to media and beyond, so that we can understand why we've become a nation of murderers?

Do you say - we're one sick society, maybe the sickest in the world?

What do you say?

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Peace To the World

Several years ago I joined the Blog Blast for Peace. I took part in it for several years but I think last year I let it slip past me.

You can learn more about this movement, such as how it started and how many other people are blogging about peace on November 4, at this website.

The idea is to have a lot of people posting about peace in hopes that someone with authority will take heed and realize that peace is what the little people want.

It is not, of course, what the people in power want. They want more power. War is power. Killing and death is power. Living your life and being left alone is not power.

So what is peace, anyway? Is it no killing for an hour? A day? If we went a single hour, world-wide, and no one died, would that be peace?

Or is peace something a lot more dense, something more tangible, something we all have an idea about but seldom express? Is peace actually more about equality, the brotherhood of humanity, than it is about destroying one another with machine guns?

When I say I want peace, I mean I want all of humanity to be humane, kind, and rich of soul. But in order for that to happen, people would have to have their basic needs met. However, we cannot even agree on what basic needs are. Even that seems to be a reason to argue. I think if people had their basic needs met, they would not be hungry. They would not be cold. They would not be stealing from someone else because they need more. They would not be arguing over who has the better idea. They would be shaking hands, agreeing, and moving forward.

The other day a little video of a girl crying because she was tired of the political commercials made the viral rounds. In the United States, we've been abused by horrid commercials and wicked rhetoric coming from both sides. This political season, I have felt like a bride with two husbands, both of them duking it out in front of me in hopes that I would spread my legs and let the guy with the most testosterone have at it. The political process in this country has become abusive; the political system is abusive, our systems, social and economic, are abusive. We have become a nonpeaceful place, a land where the guy with the biggest is the winner, and the rest are losers. And they know it too, those losers. They know what has happened to them: they have been f**cked.

There is no peace when there is so much abuse, abuse that comes across the airwaves and seeps into the souls of crying children. That is not healthy. This country has been on a drinking binge filled with domestic violence ever since the new millennium. A single act of terror emasculated an entire nation, and the menfolk in particular have been acting out ever since. It was loss of face to the great patriarchy, and they have been taking it out on the country as a whole for over a decade now.

So my wish for peace includes more than war. It includes fair play, civility, equality, humanity, and manners. A little of that would go a long way toward bringing peace into the realm of possibility.

As it stands now, gentlemen may cry peace, peace, but there is no peace.* Is life so dear and peace - however you define it - so sweet, that it will be purchased at the price of poverty for the unemployed masses and wage-bound slavery for the rest?

Has it really only been just 236 years since this country was the next great experiment, the hope of the poor, the hammock for the tired? Where has the humanity gone? What have we done?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Remembering the 343

Eleven years ago today, over 1,000 men and women, all of them dressed in 50 to 75 pounds of firefighting gear, faced the worst event of their careers.

The Twin Towers in New York City had been attacked and were burning.

At 8:50 a.m., the New York City Fire Department had established its incident command center at the World Trade Centers. The first plane hit at 8:45 a.m.; the response was immediate. The fire department was on the scene within five minutes.

These brave firefighters hustled inside while everyone else was doing their best to get outside.

They were saving lives, these folks. They were doing what they were trained to do.

What they loved to do.

What they would die doing.

At 9:59 a.m., the first of the tallest towers of the World Trade Center collapsed. The firefighters who were valiantly trying to reach people believed to be trapped on upper floors, were unable to get out. As those of us who sat watching the events unfold on TV know, the collapse occurred without warning. The buildings were down before anyone could react.

And 343 firefighters died, along with over 2,000 other people.

As the wife of a firefighter, I know that every day could be the day that things go wrong on the fire scene. This could be the day that a building explodes, a roof caves in, a car crashes into firefighters standing on the side of the road putting out a burning vehicle (something that happened in Roanoke in 1985, killing several firefighters).

These people do a job that most people wouldn't dream of doing. They risk their lives every single time they go to work. When you are running away in fear, they are putting on their hats and heading off to face down whatever it is you are afraid of. Tornadoes, hurricanes, fire, flood, derecho winds, downed power lines or a terrorist attack do not halt these dedicated people. They go forward when the rest of us would hang back.

On this 11th anniversary of the attack on New York City, please remember the sacrifices of these brave men and women, the firefighters who go where no one dares to go.

You might want to say thank you to them, too. You never know when the life they save might be yours.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Definitions of the Day

It seems to me that a lot of folks, including the media, blogs and elsewhere, are using words and concepts without truly knowing the definition of what they are saying.

In the interest of clearing that up, at least in my mind, I thought I’d look up some things in my Shorter Oxford Dictionary.

torture - The infliction of severe physical or mental suffering; anguish, agony, torment; the infliction of severe bodily pain as a punishment or as a means of interrogation or persuasion; a form or instance of this.

socialism - a political and economic theory or policy of social organization which advocates that the community as a whole should own and control the means of production, capital, land, property, etc.

fascism - The principles and organization of the Italian Fascists, the Italian Fascist movement; a similar nationalist and authoritarian movement in another country; loosely, right-wing authoritarianism.

fascist - A member of a body of Italian nationalists which was organized in 1919 to oppose Communism in Italy and controlled the country from 1922 to 1943; a member of any similar nationalist and authoritarian organization in another country; loosely, any person with right-wing authoritarian political views.

authoritarian - favoring or characterized by obedience to (esp. political) authority as opp. to personal liberty; tyrannical, dictatorial

right-wing - Orig. those members of comparatively conservative opinions in a Continental legislature, by custom seated on the right of the president. Now the views and aims of any party or political group favouring conservative views. Also, the more conservative section of a philosophical, religious, etc., group.

conservative - characterized by a tendency to preserve or keep intact and unchanged; characterized by caution, moderation, or reluctance to make changes; avoiding extremes

nationalist - a person devoted to his or her nation

liberal - free in giving, generous, open-handed, unprejudiced, open-minded, esp. free from bigotry or unreasonable prejudice in favor of traditional opinions or established institutions, open to the reception of new ideas; holding opinions less traditional than those accepted as orthodox; favorable or respectful of individual rights and freedoms, esp. favoring free trade and gradual political and social reform that tends towards individual freedom or democracy.

left-wing - the radical or socialist section of a group or political party; the more liberal or progressive section of a right-wing or conservative group or political party.

oligarchy - a form of government by a small group of people

republic - the state in which supreme power is held by the people or their elected representatives as opp. to by a monarch, etc.; a commonwealth.

democracy - government by the people; a form of government in which the power resides in the people and is exercised by them either directly or by means of a elected representatives; a form of society which favours equal rights, the ignoring of hereditary class distinctions, and tolerance of minority views.