For a Friend…

Watercolor painting of lilies by Catharine English

Catharine, in her words and works, held that nature writes its book in boldface,
with its beauty as punctuation.

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Thoughts @ Large: 67

•  I have no desire to kiss an animal.  Zero.  I may pet a dog, nudge a frog, pat a horse, let a ladybug crawl to the top of my finger.  But that’s it.  No animal kissing — or (ugh) licking!

•  Speaking of… How lucky is it that humans do not have beaks!  “I would like to kiss you, but unfortunately I have a beak.”  What a downer that would be!  Though it would be offset to some extent by one’s proficiency with sunflower seeds.

•  Speaking of… Birds feed their babies and birds feed each other.  Given that, I think it is more than plausible that wild birds understand the idea of a bird-feeder, i.e., that a feeder is not just some prolific seed-bearing plant but a way for someone to feed them.  I am also convinced that squirrels know bird-feeders are meant to feed birds, not squirrels, and that squirrels know they’re getting away with something when they raid them.

•  The statute of limitations for issues between couples should be one week.  If a grievance isn’t urgent enough to mention in seven days, the aggrieved should forfeit his/her right to bring it up.  This dictum, when observed by both parties, has the early benefit of bringing to light issues that may bear on the happiness of a relationship, and the later benefit of keeping grudges and resentments from growing.  Not that my spouse and I ever formally agreed to this but we have evolved to something like it over the past 50 years.

•  Certain people think their mission in life is to extract money from other people’s wallets, cooking up business schemes to exploit cracks in the system and personal vulnerabilities.  These entreparasites (my coinage) are not only OK with their chosen role in the economic food chain but can’t fathom why anyone would pass up the chance for such easy money. 

We have encountered a few such operators here.  They present themselves well and speak impressively of their careers.  They tell you they are the CEO of this, or the founder of that, or the chief medical officer of some testing lab set up expressly to run gratuitous (that is,  expensive) tests ordered by their affiliated nontraditional medicine practice, of which this town has many.  Most scammers do not hail from Nigeria — they work and live among us and regard what they do as success.  Ain’t capitalism great?

•  My current primary care physician is wonderful, but some PCPs don’t seem to want to deliver primary care.  I hate getting triaged to specialists for things I know a PCP should be able to handle if they were willing to work with me.  It’s akin to going to your car mechanic and saying “My car won’t start” and the response is like, “OK, so we need to send you to a battery specialist.”

•  “We need a bio-molecular physiologist in here!  This man is dying!”  Hard to believe that this line could be said with a straight face by any actor, even one portraying a surgeon in a Star Trek: Next Generation episode.

•  Hypothesis: Humanity is becoming increasingly fractionated.  Sub-populations choose to divide themselves into smaller and smaller socio-political units, i.e., tribes.  This may (or may not) be due to deep-seated intolerance for diversity and an innate preference for being among “people like themselves.”  It also may (or may not) reflect an unwillingness of pluralities to share social and economic benefits with minorities.  The United States may (or may not) be exceptional in this regard.  Perhaps this report, “Hidden Tribes: A Study of America’s Polarized Landscape” (More In Common, 2018), will provide us some insight.

•  Here’s a public service announcement from The 100 Billionth Person Department of Mental and Spiritual Health.  It’s a serious one, so go ahead and send your kids/yourself out of the room if you feel like you need to do that.  Although many readers of this blog are grandparents, this message goes out to parents and grandparents alike.  Don’t give your children/grandchildren cute names for their private parts.  Later in life, they may recall such names at inopportune times and the remembrance will be unwelcome.  So just refer to their parts by anatomical names.  Also, refrain from giving your children/grandchildren pejorative nicknames related to their bathroom habits, smells, etc.  Trust me, that is not how anyone wants to remember you remembering them.  Thank you.

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On Healing the Nation

President John F. Kennedy, September 30, 1962, on the court-mandated admission of African-American student James Meredith to the University of Mississippi:

There is in short no reason why the books on this case cannot now be quickly and quietly closed in the manner directed by the court.  Let us preserve both the law and the peace and then, healing those wounds that are within, we can turn to the greater crises that are without and stand united as one people in our pledge to man’s freedom.

President Lyndon B. Johnson, July 27, 1967, addressing recent mass racial violence in Newark and Detroit:

I know there are millions of men and women tonight who are eager to heal the wounds that we have suffered; who want to get on with the job of teaching and working and building America.  In that spirit, at the conclusion of this address, I will sign a proclamation tonight calling for a day of prayer in our Nation throughout all of our States … to pray for order and reconciliation among men.

President Richard M. Nixon, August 8, 1974, announcing his resignation-in-disgrace and the challenges faced by his successor, as Nixon saw them:

As we look to the future, the first essential is to begin healing the wounds of this Nation, to put the bitterness and divisions of the recent past behind us, and to rediscover those shared ideals that lie at the heart of our strength and unity as a great and as a free people.

President Jimmy Carter, October 20, 1979, in remarks dedicating the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library:

From Vietnam to Cambodia, from Los Angeles to Memphis, from Kent State to Watergate, the American spirit suffered under one shock after another, and the confidence of our people was deeply shaken.  We’ve undertaken a solid commitment to heal those wounds, and at long last the darkness has begun to lift.  I believe that America is now ready to meet the challenges of the 1980’s with renewed confidence and with renewed spirit.

President Ronald Reagan, November 11, 1984, dedicating “The Three Soldiers” statue at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial:

The war in Vietnam threatened to tear our society apart, and the political and philosophical disagreements that animated each side continue to some extent.  It’s been said that these memorials reflect a hunger for healing.  Well, I do not know if perfect healing ever occurs, but …  I believe that in the decade since Vietnam the healing has begun, and I hope that before my days as Commander in Chief are over the process will be completed.

President George H. W. Bush, March 9, 1989, in remarks at The United Negro College Fund Dinner in New York:

Black and white, together — we know that America will not be a good place for any of us to live until it is a good place for all of us to live.  Most Americans, I’m convinced, believe that government can be an instrument of healing.  There are times when government must step in where others fear to tread.  My friends, I share those beliefs, and as President, I will act on them.

President Bill Clinton, September 11, 1998, making a public apology before an audience of over 100 clergy and religious leaders at the White House Prayer Breakfast, following the release of the “Starr Report”:

I will intensify my efforts to lead our country and the world toward peace and freedom, prosperity and harmony, in the hope that with a broken spirit and a still strong heart I can be used for greater good, for we have many blessings and many challenges and so much work to do.  In this, I ask for your prayers and for your help in healing our nation.  And though I cannot move beyond or forget this – indeed, I must always keep it as a caution light in my life – it is very important that our nation move forward.

President Gerald R. Ford, December 21, 1998, co-written with Jimmy Carter, calling for a measured, bipartisan approach to the impeachment of Bill Clinton:

It is the genius of our constitution that [it provides a] charter whose legal mechanisms permit the nation to heal itself, so long as the end result is both justice and grace.  Clearly, the American people expect and desire an outcome that is firm, fair and untainted by partisan advantage.

President-elect George W. Bush, December 14, 2000, to Vice President Al Gore, when Gore called Bush to concede the election:

I look forward to working with you to heal the nation.

President Barack Obama, January 12, 2011, at the Tuscon, Arizona, memorial service for the 6 people killed and 13 others wounded (including U.S. Representative Gabby Giffords) in the sixth mass-shooting of Obama’s presidency:

[At] a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized -– at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who happen to think differently than we do -– it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we’re talking with each other in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds.

President Donald J. Trump, May 18, 2020, answering questions following a Covid-19 roundtable with restaurant executives (the word “heals” is in here somewhere):

I happen to be taking it— hydroxychloroquine.  Right now, yeah.  A couple of weeks ago, I started taking it.  Because I think it’s good.  I’ve heard a lot of good stories.  And if it’s not good, I’ll tell you right — you know, I’m not going to get hurt by it.

• • • • • 

For a nation as brave, courageous and exceptional as our leaders say we are, it seems that we are always in need of healing.  I guess that’s because, if we aren’t busy bombing others, we can’t help but fight among ourselves.  There is thus a sad logic to this president’s lack of interest in healing the nation — being that such efforts by past presidents have been about as effective as, well, hydroxychloroquine.


Note:  The transcript of the roundtable meeting between Trump (and Mnuchin and Kushner and Ivanka) and big restaurant executives makes for a revealing read, if you can stomach it.  Frankly, I am surprised that the White House published it.  Trump’s number-one proposal for rescuing the restaurant industry?  Full tax-deductibility of food and entertainment expenses for corporate business meetings.
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