My Call Home

I celebrated my 19thbirthday in London. It was May 1966, the end of my freshman year at the University of Michigan. The end of the first year I had lived on my own, away from my family, friends and the lifestyle I had grown up with.

 

But I needed to go even further away. I bought a ticket on a flight chartered by the university, which left on May 15th, the day before my birthday. I didn’t have much money and had almost nothing planned, just a general idea of a route to follow, from London to Amsterdam, north to Denmark and Sweden. Then a flight south to Italy, hitchhike through southern France to Spain, and then back to France for a return flight from Paris. Almost four months of traveling with no travel partner, not even a room reserved to stay in while in London.

 

The world was different back then. Despite the assassination of President Kennedy almost three years earlier, the war in Vietnam and the burgeoning opposition to it, the civil rights and other movements, the culture and U. S. government seemed a little more stable then than it does now. The sense that something was off, or wrong, that big changes were needed both nationally and personally, was growing in so many of us, but we hadn’t yet realized what the growing pains meant.

 

All I knew was that my life felt set, predetermined by family and culture. It was a clear and linear progression from public school, to university, career and family, then old age and death. Death and vulnerability were walled away in time. Maybe today, in 2018, many students would be happy to feel their lives secure in such a progression, but all I wanted to do was break it. I wanted to feel free and to see the world outside the little space I already knew….

 

To read the whole story, please click on this link to Heart and Humanity magazine.

**The photo is of me with my brother and mother, in Ann Arbor, at the end of August, 1966, after returning from this trip. I didn’t hitch-hike with the duffel bag.

 

The President of Lies and Corruption Strikes Again

Did you listen to the President of lies and corruption last night? I couldn’t listen to him for even five minutes in a row. It just made me too angry. I heard the bulk of the speech this morning.

As Lawrence O’Donnell reported, this was a fundraiser for his re-election funded by the tv networks. Both before and after the speech, T sent out requests to his base for contributions to raise $500,000 in one day for a fund to secure the border. However, the checks were to be sent to T’s re-election campaign, to the Make America Great Again site. O’Donnell called it T’s first re-election speech. T says these funds will go to build a wall, when they have apparently been earmarked to pay for his re-election campaign.

As for other lies and deceptions: T called the border a humanitarian and security crisis. The humanitarian crisis is one created or worsened by T’s policies and those of other nations south of the border. As for security, he said “every week, 300 citizens are killed by heroin alone, 90% of it floods across the southern border.” As the New York Times fact-checked, most heroin comes through legal points of entry so a wall would do nothing to stop it.

As for the opioid crisis, this has little to do with Mexico, as most of the opioids come from China. And the crisis was not created by immigrants. It was created by policies internal to the US, by doctors over-prescription and such.

According to the Washington Post, apprehensions of people at the southern border peaked in the year 2000 at 1.6 million and have been in decline ever since. In 2017, Customs and Border Protection reported 303,916 apprehensions. There is no crisis except in who we have as president.

One of his biggest claims regarding security was that US officials have blocked nearly 4000 known or suspected terrorists from entering the country through the southern border. This, too, is false. T’s own government statistics show that almost all terrorists known to have entered the US recently did so through air flights. There can be no wall through the airwaves. There is no credible evidence of terrorists coming across this land border.

During the 2016 campaign, T said Mexico would pay for the wall. Now he says the US-Mexico-Canada trade agreement will pay for it. This, too, is deceptive. The trade agreement has not been ratified by Congress. Although T said he has already started building the wall, in fact only bollard fencing has been built, and this is from a bill passed in 2009.

So, this speech of T’s is more of the same thing. More statements lacking evidence, more racism, more corruption, more lack of respect for the rule of law, more putting himself before the well-being of most Americans. Please make calls, write letters, read the NYT and Washington Post fact-checks or watch the MSNBC, BBC or other reliable reports. T is, as many have said, holding us hostage, shutting down part of the government, trying to waste our tax money in order to save face with his base. We must do what we can to stop him.

For the New Year, Can We Have A Little More Fairness, Please! “Vice” and Speaking Out for the Fairness Doctrine

Last night, I went with my wife and two friends to see the movie Vice. The movie was about a Vice President, Dick Cheney, and also about one of the most destructive of vices, the lust for power.

The film was advertised as a comedy. And I did laugh, once. I snickered even more. And for most of the second half of the film, I wanted to rip apart the movie screen. It didn’t feel like a comedy.

The movie exposed many of the roots of our present political crisis in the Nixon, Reagan, and Cheney administrations. A few months ago, I wrote a blog exposing the economic underwear of the Trumpf GOP. I spoke about how wealth has been, since the 1980s, concentrated more and more into fewer and fewer hands, and how the role of the tax system in moderating the control by the rich of this nation was undermined.For example, in 2017, the top 1% owned 42.8% of the nation’s wealth. It has been increasing by 6% annually since the mid-2000s. America’s wealthiest 20 people now own more than the bottom half the population, own more than 152,000,000 people combined.

In that post, I also spoke about how Reagan, in 1987, ended the Fairness Doctrine. How many people today even remember that doctrine, which directed the behavior of broadcast media in this country for about 40 years? It was first spelled out by the FCC in 1949, during the Truman presidency. According to economist George Tyler in his book the Billionaire Democracy: The Hijacking of the American Political System,this doctrine obliged broadcasters to give equal and factual coverage to all sides of an issue and all candidates for office. It included a requirement that anyone victimized by an online attack be given equal time for a prompt response. It was ended by claims by the Reagan FCC that the Fairness Doctrine “restricts the journalistic freedom of broadcasters.” As if asking journalists to be honest and base their reporting on reliable and verifiable sources of information is an infringement of their freedom.

The book and movie described how, by ending the Fairness Doctrine, not only was Fox News created as the propaganda organ of the right wing rich, but the concentrated assault on truth that we now see daily was begun. …

To read the whole post, please go to The Good Men Project, which published it.

Relieving Student Apathy: Apathy Is A Symptom of Greater Societal Problems

Recently, I read a discussion on a FB page for educators and social action (the Bad Ass Teachers) that hit home for me. The discussion was about the omnipresence of student apathy and the expectation that teachers were responsible for entertaining and freeing students from this curse. I remembered this exact feeling from 20-30 years ago. Not only did I have to shape lessons to fit a wide variety of student ability levels and interests. I felt I had to be as clever and exciting as the tv or movies they were used to watching. (There were no or few cell phones then.)

The situation has become even worse today. One teacher-author, who had written a post about the situation, spoke about teachers being expected to “be all things to all people” and students have become “consumer learners.” She described a workshop where she was encouraged to design her teaching to be like a video game. How else could she expect to hold student attention? She questioned if a video game is the best model for how to shape a lesson. 

Teachers face a long list of problems every day the corporate and media attacks on public education, the detrimental effects of standardized testing, the tremendous inequality in school resources and funding, the poverty, homelessness and increasing anxiety and depressionexperienced both by young people and adults, etc..  And, of course, let’s add the addiction to drugs or digital devices. But should we also add apathy to this list?

Student apathy is not the main problem. It is but a symptom of all the problems listed above all of which can reach deeply into a child’s psyche. Many students can’t find the motivation to engage in their own education because they can’t find themselves. They don’t see themselves in their own lives or are afraid, or too traumatized, to do so.

They have been taught to think their emotions come from someone or somewhere else, not themselves. When they feel anger, they think the object of the anger is the cause of it. Or they experience love or jealousy and feel the object of their love is in control, not them. When they get bored, they think someone other than themselves is responsible. They do not understand how their emotions arise

Students feel apathy and boredom when a wall has been constructed between what they feel, think, or yearn to engage with and what is presented to them as the possibilities of their life and education. They have been conditioned to not let anything too real get too close¾or their lives have been too real and frightening, and they can’t or don’t know how to face it. This might help explain why one of the biggest concerns for young people in this nation today is safety….

To read the whole blog, click on this link to the Good Men Project.