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Category: USA Patriotism Page 1 of 15

This square image is dominated by a red rectangle showing a black, green, yellow, and red design flanked by the words, “The seven principles: Umoja: Unity. To maintain unity in Family, community, nation, and culture.”

Kwanzaa Begins with Unity

Kwanzaa begins with Unity. Is there any value that should resonate more with all of us? Today is the first day of Kwanzaa, a seven-day celebration of African American strengths and values. I’m not Black, so I can’t presume to speak for Black people (other than as an ally against racism).

But no American of any ethnic background can afford to spurn the idea that unity is a paramount value, and sadly lacking in the USA right now. In this historical moment, all of us could afford to learn a few things from our Black neighbors and friends.

I don’t believe I did justice to the first day of Kwanzaa, back in 2017 when I wrote my first post about it. I squeezed it in between two other “holiday thoughts,” about the day after Christmas and Boxing Day. Both have their place, but Kwanzaa deserves to stand alone.

This square image is dominated by a red rectangle showing a black, green, yellow, and red design flanked by the words, “The seven principles: Umoja: Unity. To maintain unity in Family, community, nation, and culture.”
Image by, and courtesy of, Jeffrey St. Clair. See Credits below.

Kwanzaa Begins with Unity and so Should We

If you think about it, unity is what brought us together as a nation in the first place: unity against outside tyranny. We were perpetuating our own egregious tyranny over the enslaved Africans whose labor our white ancestors stole to build a lot of the young country. But at the same time the founders (apparently unironically) set forth principles of equity and justice.

The very foundations of this country were uniquely well-adapted to building a multicultural nationality. Emphasizing freedom, equality, and justice for everyone under the law was radical stuff in the 18th Century.

And it’s still radical stuff today. We set ourselves up “from the get-go” for a lot of trying and falling short. We are a multicultural republic, stitched together both by force and by choice. And we are perpetually certain to come up against opposing views competing for space and dominance.

The background of this square image is a charcoal drawing of four hands and forearms in a roughly square alignment, where each hand grasps the wrist of the person to their right. Superimposed over the drawing, it says, “’Unity is Strength, Division is Weakness.’ – Swahili Proverb.”
Courtesy of United We Stand on Facebook. See Credits below.

But Beginning is Not Enough

If you look at the whole principle as outlined in Jeffrey St. Clair’s design, the idea is “to maintain unity in family, community, nation and culture.” That’s no small feat. And it’s definitely not something we can do alone. That takes commitment. It takes grit, it takes communication, and it takes a lot of hard work by a lot of dedicated, like-minded people.

Kwanza begins with Unity, but it continues with six other principles that ground and support and make unity happen. This holiday celebrates strong Black people living in a vibrant culture – but no single segment of our multicultural republic can flourish without a broader unity.

Here in the USA we’ve managed to let ourselves be drawn into warring camps, to the extent that we’re in serious danger of losing it all. Can the “democratic experiment” we started almost 250 years ago survive? Not without Umoja. And not without Black people, White people, Native people, immigrants from all different communities and everybody else in this country joining together in our own self-defense.

This is a dark red square image with a length of woven Kente cloth across the bottom. At the top it says “@SanCophaLeague,” Then “Black Unity is key. ‘Get organized and you will compel the world to respect you.’ -Marcus Garvey.” In the lower left, just above the cloth band, it says, “Facebook.com/SanCophaLeague.”
Courtesy of SanCophaLeague. See Credits below.

Kwanzaa Begins With Unity, but the Series Continues

I have spent a lot of time this week going back though my old series of Kwanzaa articles and updating them for today’s standards. 2017 was 6 years ago, which is an eon or so on the Internet. Now they’re ready for mobile devices, and I’ve tried to optimize them other ways, as well as expand them into fuller explorations of the topic. Along the way, I’ve also worked to improve the illustrations in both quality and relevance.

So please take a look at the rest of the series in their new format! Take them in order, or skip around if one or another takes your fancy: See Self-Determination on Day Two, followed by Working Together and Investing Wisely. From there, explore Empowerment through Purpose, and Creative Healing. Appropriately enough, on New Year’s Day Kwanzaa Ends with Faith to Take that Step . . . whatever you determine those steps should be in the coming year.

IMAGE CREDITS

Many thanks to Jeffrey St. Clair, via LinkedIn’s Slide Share for today’s Umoja: Unity design. I really loved the “Unity is Strength” quote-image from United We Stand on Facebook, and I also loved how the quote coordinated with my topic today. It was a little harder to track down the SanCophaLeague’s exact image, which I first found on Pinterest. I figure it’s got to come from them since their name is all over it, but even Tineye Reverse Image Search didn’t turn it up. In any case, Thank you!

“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.” — Franklin D. Roosevelt

Not in My Neighborhood

By Jan S. Gephardt

“Not in my neighborhood!” I’m sure you’ve heard this characteristic cry of property owners almost everywhere. It’s a near-universal protective reflex when anything new or even potentially threatening appears on the horizon.

And there are times when it’s thoroughly justifiable. After all, the vast majority of us are persons of limited means. If we don’t protect and steward the value of things we own, who will? If our property value goes down too much, our home or other property can turn into more of a liability than an asset.

So, for example, if we don’t raise a stink a rumor that someone wants to install a landfill near our local school, we could be in trouble. Pretty soon there’ll be a stink on our kids and on our spring breezes. If we don’t make some noise about a “party house” where they blare loud music all night, we might lose our sleep and our hearing in the resulting din. And in either case, our neighborhood will suffer.

“We must do more to protect our neighborhoods and give integrity to our community plans.” – Alan Autry
Many thanks to AZ Quotes.

“Not in My Neighborhood” and Inequality

But “not in my neighborhood” isn’t always possible. That’s because what it actually means is “somewhere else.” So, for all too many of us, it’s okay if someone else’s neighborhood is trashed, just as long as ours isn’t? My country – indeed, my own home city – offers many cases in point, both from history and in the present.

That’s because the power to say “not in my neighborhood” doesn’t belong to everyone. No matter how “equal” we try to convince ourselves we are. It never has. In the United States, as I write this, dramatic economic inequality colors every aspect of our lives and the way we live. “Not in my neighborhood” currently finds some of its expression in gated communities. Some of it comes with gentrification. And it often finds expression that results in environmental injustices.

Historically, “not in my neighborhood” is the very heart and soul of redlining. That’s a now-illegal lending and real estate practiced that very successfully segregated our cities. Its legacy lingers today. But it’s a concept our kids are unlikely to learn if we live in certain states that have restricted academic freedom and the First Amendment right to freedom of speech.

"If we wish to rebuild our cities, we must first rebuild our neighborhoods." -- Harvey Milk
Thanks again, AZ Quotes!

How “Not in My Neighborhood” can Cause Enduring Harm

Redlining by real estate developers such as J. C. Nichols in Kansas City created cascading results we still see today. By figuratively but quantifiably “walling off” parts of the metro area from each other, these practices guaranteed division. You can still see stark differences from one block to the next in my home town.

When they systematically invested money in some, while actively barring investment in others, they guaranteed harsh divisions between rich and poor areas. They chose to bless some with fertile ground to prosper, while they monetarily “salted the earth” in others to make sure they stayed poor. This not only impacted personal wealth – we also see it in schools, health outcomes, and many other compounding effects.

Income and racial disparities from redlining and similar practices left a mark. They made it possible for developers of the US interstate highway system to target Black and brown neighborhoods. Those “lower value” zones became the ones literally plowed under and paved over. The social chaos from that simple, cruel solution still haunts many cities today.

“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.” — Franklin D. Roosevelt
Many thanks to QuoteFancy.

Righting Old Wrongs

The statutes that enabled redlining have since been declared illegal and unconstitutional, but the disparities persist. Johnson County, KS was the “favored land” in the Nichols vision – read that white and Christian only. No Jews need apply, and certainly no Black people back then. Our local officials and state legislators are still trying to eradicate all of the old, racist language from housing covenants. Legally, that’s been a lot harder than it should be.

Rectifying historic wrongs will take a lot more than erasing old language, however. The harder work is fighting persistent biases and historic patterns. In my town there’s a common understanding about which are the “good” or “safe” neighborhoods, and which are the “bad parts of town.” Cultural memory persists. To this day, some of my neighbors actively fear going into “the wrong parts of town.”

Unfortunately, avoidance doesn’t usually breed either an appetite to do something about it, or the individual means to do so. And heaven forbid we should suggest anything as radical as reparations! Most of those selfsame neighbors are still stuck in the “that was then, this is now” mindset of people afraid of losing their historic advantages.

“Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life.” — Nelson Mandela
Many thanks to GoodGoodGood!

How “Not in My Neighborhood” Creates a Toxic Stew

Those disadvantaged, redlined communities also have borne the brunt of environmental injustice. Because they are poor (as well as often poorly-educated, hungry, over-scheduled by juggling multiple low-wage jobs, and ill), they don’t wield a lot of clout in municipal decisions. The working poor are almost never at the table when zoning changes that impact them are made.

Thus, we have situations such as the one in Brownsville, Texas, where Native Americans (another historically restricted and dispossessed group) have been fighting to preserve their heritage in the face of environmental destruction. We have activists from a Black neighborhood in South Charleston, WV, struggling for decades to contain the pollution from a Union Carbide plant. Or poor neighbors in Catawba, SC, fighting pollution from a paper mill. And don’t forget residents of the Wilmington Neighborhood in Los Angeles, struggling with pollution from oil refineries.

Where does it stop? How do we change and improve? Environmental destruction impacts poor neighborhoods first, but as the residents of East Palestine, OH have discovered, pollution can happen anywhere, anytime, with no warning. You also can ask people in Washington County, KS about that. Those folks all can attest that “not in my neighborhood” only goes so far.

Environmental injustice is a tangible, intolerable example of exhibited moral laxity and minimal concern for healthy standards by corporations and political structures based on the race, ethnicity, and class of those being impacted.” – Bernice King
Thanks again to GoodGoodGood!

Reconsidering “Not in My Neighborhood”

This post has been long on problems and short on practical solutions. That’s partly because few of the difficulties I’ve highlighted are easy-to-fix issues. Hidden danger lurks in only focusing on the “low-hanging fruit” – the easy fixes. Simple-minded solutions to complex issues aren’t solutions at all. They just defer the inevitable (and possibly attempt to shift blame).

If we habitually look at life as a zero-sum game where someone must by definition be a “loser,” we’ve not only taken a morally bankrupt approach. We’ve also set ourselves up for later grief. I write science fiction about an imaginary place far from earth. But through it I often try to re-imagine how solutions to clear and present problems might be solved – and what those solutions might look like.

Here in the present, our neighborhood is increasingly connected to everyone else’s neighborhood. All-or-nothing “solutions” are not helpful at all. It takes creativity to look at complex problems in new ways. It takes ingenuity and determination to craft new, better answers to the problems born of inequity, pollution, and systemic injustice.

In the final analysis, “Not in My Neighborhood” doesn’t truly fix anything. Not unless it transforms into “Not in Anybody’s Neighborhood.”

IMAGE CREDITS

As noted in the cutlines under the illustrations, for this post I’m grateful to AZ Quotes, QuoteFancy, and the wonderful post full of “Quotes about Justice to Inspire Positive Change” from GoodGoodGood.

Covers for Jan's three "Cops in Space" books, "The Other Side of Fear," "What's Bred in the Bone," and "A Bone to PIck."

What should police do?

By Jan S. Gephardt

We rarely think to ask a fundamental question: what should police do? What part should they play in a multicultural, representational democracy? The ubiquity of police forces around the world argues that many societies believe police do have a role in civilized life. But what – exactly – should it be?

As a novelist whose primary characters are science fictional detectives, I am in an unusual position, both to ask and to answer this question. But I believe it’s also a question everyone should ask. Especially every citizen in a representational, multicultural democracy.

Why should we ask? Isn’t the answer to that question obvious? Well, no. We’ve all grown up “pre-loaded” with conscious and unconscious attitudes and understandings of what police officers and police forces do, and why they exist. But clearly, those seldom-examined attitudes and understandings aren’t leading to very good outcomes. Not in much of the world. And certainly not here in the United States.

"Understand, our police officers put their lives on the line for us every single day. They've got a tough job to do to maintain public safety and hold accountable those who break the law." - Barack Obama.
Many thanks to BrainyQuote.

Asking as a Novelist

One of the best things science fiction does is hold up a mirror to society. If you think about it, all fiction does that in a certain way, because all fiction is a reflection of our experiences of life. I’ve written elsewhere about the role of the novelist in society. And yes, a fundamental aspect of our work is purely to produce entertainment.

But it’s not the only aspect. I would (and frequently do) argue that it may not even be the most important aspect, particularly in the realm of science fiction. That’s because science fiction is all about thought experiments.

When we start asking “what if?” a whole multiverse of possibilities opens up. What if a recent scientific discovery led to a new technological breakthrough? How would that change the world we live in? What if our society continues on its current course in this aspect, what might the future look like? How would our world change? How would we react?

So, as a novelist who writes about police in a future society, I must ask “What Should Police Do?”

"My role as a novelist is to explore ideas and imagination, and hopefully that will inspire people from my world to continue dreaming and to believe in dreams." - Alexis Wright.
Thanks again, BrainyQuote!

Asking as a Citizen

But I’m also a citizen: of the world, and also specifically of my country and community. I’m a taxpayer, a voter, a member of “the public.” I can be sliced and diced out and defined demographically, culturally, and any other way you choose. Mother. Wife. Daughter. Woman. Educated. Teacher (retired). Middle class. United Methodist. White. Senior citizen. Democrat. Science fiction fangirl. Creative person. Animal lover. Multiculturalist. I am all of those things and more.

And as that complex, multi-aspect creature, I bring all of my experiences, understandings, and biases into my role as a responsible adult in contemporary society. For me, that involves an active interest in news and politics. I have formed some rather strong opinions over the course of my life. Each day I refine them or adjust them or reinforce them as I receive and process information.

I see it as my right – indeed, my responsibility – as a citizen to ask if my government and community leaders are representing me and governing in a way I think is appropriate. Are they respecting and honoring values I share? If they’re not, then I have a right to question them, and to seek better representation. As do we all.

This means, as a citizen in contemporary society, I must ask “What Should Police Do?”

"Each day, millions of police officers do the selfless work of putting their lives on the line to protect civilians, frequently responding to or preventing crises completely with no recognition." - Letitia James
You’re now 3-0, BrainyQuote!

What Do We Ask Police To Do?

We currently ask police to fill a wide range of roles. “We’re asking cops to do too much in this country,” Dallas Police Chief David Brown said in a 2016 interview by the Washington Post. “We are. Every societal failure, we put it off on the cops to solve. Not enough mental health funding, let the cops handle it. … Here in Dallas we got a loose dog problem; let’s have the cops chase loose dogs. Schools fail, let’s give it to the cops. … That’s too much to ask. Policing was never meant to solve all those problems.”

I tend to agree with Chief Brown. As a teacher, I learned all too much about the many things our communities want to dump in the laps of their public servants. Usually while also underpaying them, restricting their operating budgets, and asking them to do work they never trained or signed up for. I get it, and I agree.

But what problems are the police meant to solve? Unlike some observers on the leftward end of the spectrum, I do believe there is a role for police in society. Unlike some observers on the rightward end of the spectrum, I don’t believe we will ever be well served by our current system. Certainly not when it’s focused on criminalizing poverty and mental illness. Not when it majors on crackdowns on minority populations and small offenders. And certainly not when it perpetuates the school-to-prison pipeline.

This graph charts United States crime clearance rates in 2020, the most recent year for which the statistics are available. “Murder and nonnegligent homicide:54.4%. Aggravated assault: 46.6%. Violent crime: 41.7%. Rape: 30.6%. Robbery: 28.8%. Arson: 21.5%. Larceny-theft: 15.1%. Property crime: 14.6%. Burglary: 14.%. Motor vehicle theft: 12.3%”
Graphic ©2023 by Statistia.

What Problems WERE Police Meant to Solve?

If you were to ask the average “person on the street” this question, they’d probably say “Solve crimes,” or maybe “keep public order,” or perhaps “enforce the law.” Fair enough. So, how well are they doing?

Let’s take that first one, “solve crimes.” A look at the crime clearance rates (percentages of crimes that are cleared in a given year) is downright discouraging. “Clearance rate,” by the way, does not mean the full Law & Order-style litany of captured, charged, tried, and convicted. No, “clearance” means at least one person has been arrested and charged, or it means the probable perpetrator(s) are identified, but outside circumstances make arresting and charging them impossible. For two examples, circumstances could include that they died. Or maybe they’re in another country from which we can’t extradite them. Stuff does happen sometimes.

Clearance rates vary by the type of crime. But according to Statistia.com the only type that gets solved more than half the time in the USA is “murder and non-negligent homicide.” The clearance rate for that is 54.4%.

Flunking Crime-Solving

Think about it. That’s only a bit better than a 50-50 chance that any given murder will be solved. If I were grading a test and my student made a 54.4% on it, their grade would be an F (On a normal grading scale, 0-60% = an F). And that’s the best they do! You want them to solve your burglary? Sorry to tell you, but you have only a 14% chance that the perpetrator will be caught and charged with the crime. Someone stole your truck? Oh, dear. You only have a 12.3% chance they’ll ever arrest the thief.

So, basically, police in the United States flunk at crime-solving. Why? Well, there are a lot of reasons, and many of them are tied up in the other answers to the question “What should police do?”

"When you have police officers who abuse citizens, you erode public confidence in law enforcement. That makes the job of good police officers unsafe." - Mary Frances Berry
Thanks yet again, BrainyQuote!

What Should Police Do to “Serve and Protect”?

What does “keep public order,” “enforce the law,” or “protect people” look like, when it’s happening? Does “keeping public order” mean bulldozing camps of unhoused persons? Or imposing a curfew on a small population’s free movement during a specific part of the day or in a specific place? Does it mean beating or injuring protesters? The words “keeping public order” have been used to justify all of those actions.

On the other hand, it also could mean directing traffic away from an accident. Maybe it means repelling a violent insurrection from the Capitol. And it could mean shielding a person who has not been convicted of any crime from a lynch mob that wants to kill them. It’s an umbrella phrase, broad and nonspecific enough to be both used and abused.

Standards Without Clarification

And in the end, it’s not a very helpful standard without further clarification. The seemingly obvious “protect people” brings the same host of issues when we try to apply it to specific cases. Which people are the police to protect? From whom or what? In a racist, sexist society (don’t kid yourself: that’s this one), how many ways could that go wrong?

“Enforce the law” is only deceptively “more specific.” Does that mean “enforce all the laws, all the time?” By that standard, most of us should be, or should have been, arrested at many points in our lives.

People are fallible. There are times when we’re sick and can’t cut the noxious weeds in our front yard. Or we’re forgetful and only notice later that our driver’s license has expired. Perhaps we’re tired or in a hurry, so we jaywalked when we saw an opening, instead of walking down to the corner and waiting for the lights to change. Minor traffic violations, legally carrying a gun, or simply walking down the street have resulted in citizens being killed by police in the name of “enforcing the law.”

"Accountability for police officers should be an expectation, not an aberration." - Alex Padilla
You rock, BrainyQuote!

Okay, so: What SHOULD Police Do?

As we’ve seen, that’s a really problematic question! But, both as a citizen and as a novelist, I want to find better answers to it. I cannot endorse a blanket approach such as “abolish the police.” I’m not a fan of “defund,” either. Neither of those represent where I think this conversation should go.

On the other hand, a thoroughgoing interrogation of that “what should police do?” question isn’t going to deal kindly with old-school “cop culture.” Not with many contemporary police training techniques and approaches, either. Nor even with a fair number of contemporary laws and standards.

Yes, dear reader, you’ve probably figured out by now that I’m cueing up a series of blog posts on this topic. I’m not sure how long it’ll be. Considering our upcoming publication schedule, it most definitely won’t be every single post for the next umpty-dozen times without a break!

But over the next few months, I propose to take up one aspect of “what should police do?” at a time. I’ll examine how it’s currently being handled in the USA, survey the critiques, and then explain “how we handle it on Rana Station” and why I think that might work better. I hope you’ll find the series interesting.

IMAGE CREDITS

Many thanks to BrainyQuote (what would I have done without you for this post?) and Statistia.

“Develop an attitude of gratitude, and give thanks for everything that happens to you, knowing that every step forward is a step toward achieving something bigger and better than your current situation.” — Brian Tracy

Gratitude isn’t only for one day

By Jan S. Gephardt

Here in the United States, we recently celebrated Thanksgiving. As I noted in my last post, it’s supposed to be a time to reflect upon the blessings in our lives and be grateful. My purpose today is to make the point that gratitude isn’t only for one day a year. It’s better understood as a lifestyle.

It’s my lived experience that when one looks at the world with gratefulness, it’s easier to see the blessings that fill our lives. Even when our lives are hard. Maybe especially when they’re hard. And yes, this marks me as an optimist by nature.

I recognize that pessimists have an important place in the grand scheme of things. They do seem naturally better-suited for some essential roles in society. But that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily fun or easy to go through life as one. And it doesn’t mean that the pessimists in the world don’t need us optimists around. If they’ll accept it, we can give them necessary balance when they start going totally sour on everything (as is their natural bent).

“Both optimists and pessimists contribute to society. The optimist invents the aeroplane, the pessimist the parachute.” — George Bernard Shaw
Balance in life and human society requires both! (Many thanks to Quotefancy).

Are We Wise Enough to See It?

An important part of bringing that balance into one’s perspective is a key awareness. NO human is a totally “self-made” person. That “self-made” poppycock is a self-aggrandizing fallacy. It flies in the face of human nature because we are a social species. Our primary survival mechanism is gathering into interdependent groups. All of us, no matter how independent-minded and  contrary, must depend on others in many ways and for many things.

Maybe our families bestowed riches, education, and advantage on us. Or maybe they did just the opposite. Whatever our history and personal level of success, we all have received favor and grace somewhere along the line from someone. From society’s basic infrastructure, if nothing else! If we are wise enough, we recognize that.

And if we recognize it, honesty demands that we be grateful for it. Gratitude isn’t a show of weakness – it’s an acknowledgement that our species’ greatest survival skill is active in our lives. That’s why I contend that gratitude isn’t only for one day (for instance, Thanksgiving. Or perhaps the day after Christmas. Or some moment when we can’t escape the obligation to write a thank-you note). Gratitude isn’t only for one season. It isn’t only for one year, or any other finite period. Properly understood, it’s perpetual.

"Be thankful for what you have; you'll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don't have, you will never, ever have enough” — Oprah Winfrey
Maybe not a law of nature, but certainly a law of human psychology. (Courtesy of Wow4u).

Seven Days of Gratitude

Back in 2017 I wrote a series of seven blog posts in a row. I posted one right after another on seven successive days. They were my response to a self-challenge to think about the things I was most grateful for. Now, as I just pointed out, if gratitude isn’t only for one day – and it isn’t only for seven.

But that exercise provided a learning experience. Several patterns of thought emerged. Had I pushed the experiment further, I’m sure I would have discovered more. But even though I clearly had lots more time to write blog posts back then, there were limits.

What themes did I choose for my Seven Days of Gratitude? They covered quite a range, from the personal to the broadly institutional. Considering them from that perspective, let’s take a quick look. Are these things you would have chosen?

“Develop an attitude of gratitude, and give thanks for everything that happens to you, knowing that every step forward is a step toward achieving something bigger and better than your current situation.” — Brian Tracy
Don’t just take my word for it. The lives of the grateful are richer in every way. (Thanks again, Quotefancy!)

Gratitude for Personal Things

As I said, some of the things I was (and am) thankful for were personal. Take for instance my family (that was Day Two’s topic). Cliché, much? Yes, “I’m grateful for my family” is basic elementary-school essay fodder, but that doesn’t rob it of validity for many of us. Some people’s families are real-life horror shows, but most of us regard our near kin more kindly. How do you feel about yours?

Another important point of gratitude for me was the companion animals in my life. In genuine ways they also are family. Pack is Family, after all! Even though I didn’t bring them up as a topic till Day Six, they are an active force that makes my life better. This blog is so pet-friendly, that won’t surprise you. Since pet-related posts often get more traffic, if you’re reading this post you probably feel much the same!

One “gratitude topic” that isn’t in the lineup of “usual suspect” clichés was another deeply personal one. I expressed gratitude for my callings. That is, for the things I do well and that give my life meaning and purpose. I believe that each of us comes into the world with a unique suite of abilities and predispositions. When we find ways to develop and express those “best things” in our lives, everyone in our lives benefits in some way. It is a supremely satisfying “fit,” even when it’s also a lot of work. What are your callings? How do you express them?

This montage consists of three quote-images. The one on the left says, “Gratitude: Today be thankful and think how rich you are. Your family is priceless. Your health is wealth. Your time is gold.” – One Bite Wisdom. The middle one reads, “I am thankful for my pets because they complete my family.” – Anonymous. The one on the right says, “Your talent is God’s gift to you. What you do with it is your gift back to God.” – Leo Buscaglia.
How do these things work in your life? Do you see them as blessings? (See credits below).

Gratitude for Broader-Based Gifts: Food Security

Gratitude isn’t only for one day, and it isn’t only for one “level” of blessings. When I looked beyond my personal existence, I found yet more things to be grateful for. I’m privileged to be able to claim some of them. Take food security, for instance!

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation reported in September that more than one in five Americans has experienced food insecurity this year. One in five! In the country that is the richest nation in the world! And speaking of “in the world,” we’ve got a global food crisis on our hands. So, if food insecurity is not one of your clear and pressing worries, you have a very great deal to be thankful for!

Those of us blessed with food security should lift up a hearty “thank you!” And then why not look into Charity Navigator’s excellent guide to giving opportunities that fight hunger? But for a few twists of fate, we could be among those on the “hungry” side of the line!

“Before you eat food or drink water, look at what you’re about to eat or drink and feel love and gratitude. Make sure your conversations are positive when you are sitting down to a meal.” — Rhonda Byrne
An excellent place to start! But don’t stop there. (Quotefancy comes through for me again!).

Yet more Societal Gifts: Peace

Number Three on my 2017 list was Peace. Yes, we’ve all seen the clichés and memes about “whirled peas” and beauty pageant candidates claiming they’re all in for world peace. But gratitude isn’t only for one day, and it isn’t only for my small part of the world. Anytime we feel blasé about peace, we need to remember what’s actually going on in the world.

What would Somali farmers say about peace in their part of the world? How would Palestinian or Syrian children (whether refugees or not) feel, if they could grow up in peaceful neighborhoods? Or schoolgirls in the Democratic Republic of Congo, or Pakistan, or Afghanistan? How would Rohingya refugees feel about the ability to live quietly in peace? Or, of course, the Ukrainian people spending this winter huddling in what’s left of their cold, dark homes?

And let us not forget violence in our own country. The murder rate in my hometown of Kansas City is nothing short of blood-drenched, although (for now) my little neighborhood is relatively quiet. We “only” hear gunfire once in a while (last night, for example), and usually a fair number of blocks away. No, I don’t take peace for granted at all, and neither should anybody! You bet I’m grateful!

“My holy of holies is the human body, health, intelligence, talent, inspiration, love, and absolute freedom – freedom from violence and falsehood, no matter how the last two manifest themselves.” — Anton Chekhov
Freedom from violence makes all our dreams more possible. (What would I do without you, Quotefancy?)

But Wait! There’s More!

The last two items on my “Grateful” list deserve at least one separate blog post, so I’ll mention them only as a preview of future (and a reminder of past) posts. Kind of an “alpha and omega” for my thank-you roundup, the very first item on my list was freedom of religion, a topic I’ve already written about several times, including in my 2020 series on the First Amendment, and in a 2019 post about violence against places of worship.

The “omega,” but far from the least important on my list? Gratitude for the arts. I’m a writer and artist. My career history includes work as an art and writing teacher, a graphic designer, a journalist, and an art agent, among other arts-related work. I come from an artistic family (for one, my sister and publishing partner is the Director of Concert Operations for The Dallas Winds, as followers of this blog may recall).

My whole LIFE has been about, and suffused with, the arts. They have not only sustained me as the source of my most meaningful work, however. The amazing thing about the arts is that they can touch any human life with a near-miraculous gift of grace. They have lifted our spirits in times of dire darkness, helped us find meaning, and opened untold wonder for untold numbers of people. So I’d be pretty darned ungrateful to leave them off of my list!

The quote on the left says, "Religious freedom should work two ways: we should be free to practice the religion of our choice, but we must also be free from having someone else's religion practiced on us." — John Irving. The one on the right says, "Art gives its vision to beauty not always recognized. And it surrenders freely -- whatever power it possesses to every sincere soul that seeks it. But above all else--it presents us with the gift of ourselves." — Aberjhani
Gratitude for these blessings brings richness and joy to our lives. (Double thanks to PictureQuotes; see credits below).

So, then. That’s my list. And while gratitude isn’t only for one day, it also isn’t only for one person’s list. What’s on yours? Can you find seven things to be grateful for? Share in the comments if you wish. But more important by far is to recognize them. Cherish them. And do your best to spread the gratitude you feel into the world around you.

IMAGE CREDITS

And now for more gratitude! First of all WOW, Quotefancy! This blog post wouldn’t be the same without my access to your trove of image-quotes. See the individual credit lines in the captions for the four different, but highly appropriate, quotations from this resource. Thank you very much! I also owe a double debt of gratitude to PictureQuotes for the two images used in the final montage. They provided both John Irving’s words on religious freedom and those of Aberjhani on art.

To the rest of my image sources, I also am grateful to you! Many thanks to Wow4u, for the Oprah Winfrey quote-image. And three hearty “thank you!” shout-outs to One Bite Wisdom on Pinterest, Quotesgram, and Biblereasons. I loved being able to find the component quotes that I used to build the three-part personal gratitude montage. I appreciate all of you!

“One of the great ironies of how democracies die is that the very defense of democracy is often used as a pretext for its subversion. Would-be autocrats often use economic crises, natural disasters, and especially security threats – wars, armed insurgencies, or terrorist attacks – to justify antidemocratic measures.” — Steven Levitsky

What Did We Decide?

By Jan S. Gephardt

Well? It’s Wednesday, so – what did we decide?

The disadvantage of writing a politically aware blog that posts on Wednesdays is that every so often one or the other of us (usually me) must write the post on an Election Day. Some results are likely to be clear by Wednesday morning (or even Tuesday night), but that’s too late for me as I write this. It has to already be written by then, if it’s to post on time.

This means I’m writing this in the Before-Times, back when all the polling was dead-even and everyone was kind of holding their breath and crossing their fingers. Kinda like back in August in Kansas, but I’m not allowing myself to hope for a countrywide result that big and favorable.

Fact is, as I write this I honestly do not yet know the answer to the title question. But there are some things I can legitimately say about it.

Under a photo of the character Yoda from the scene in the movie “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back” are the words “Difficult to see. Always in motion the future is.”
Many thanks to Amino Apps Star Wars page.

It’s Likely We Won’t Know Everything for a While

Odds are pretty good that we’ll know a lot of local – and some national – results by the time you read this post. How did we decide in those races? Individual results will vary, but trends will have emerged. Will we end up thanking our lucky stars, or will we rue the day? “Difficult to see. Always in motion the future is,” as Yoda put it (and who am I to argue with a fictional 900-year-old Jedi?).

But it’s also near-certain that we won’t know everything by Wednesday. Especially not in places like Georgia, where there’s been record advance voting, especially mail-in voting. They can’t even start counting those millions and millions of mailed-in votes until 7:00 p.m. on Election Day. There’s an almost-certain recount in the future if the vote shows a small enough margin. And if no candidate gets more than 50% of the vote, they must have a run-off election. They could plausibly keep us in suspense till almost Christmas. Happy Holidays, y’all!

Any delay is predestined to bring out the election-deniers in droves (predestined, as in: they planned for it). They’re pretty much counting on the tactic of declaring victory irrespective of the voters’ choices, and attempting to stop vote-counting if the results start to favor them at any point. Watch for them to also become angrily suspicious of any inconvenient results that come out of communities of color. These are the same folks who’ll swear they’re “not racist,” of course.

Printed over a photo of the Capitol Dome backed by storm clouds, the graphic reads, “291 GOP candidates for Congress and key state races have engaged in election denial. 63% of election deniers nominated for the U.S. House of Representatives are in safe districts.”
Thank you, Washington Post, for this infographic.

What Did We Decide About Our Widespread Discontent?

Pollsters have been asking “Is the country going in the right direction?” for months now. Large majorities keep replying, “NO!” This is invariably interpreted as a “bad sign” for the Democrats.

Well, maybe. But here’s what I see.

I see the country splitting ever more irrevocably along partisan lines. I see us hip-deep in guns but struggling to get or keep adequate health care (much less mental health care). I see women’s equality and autonomy dismissed by draconian anti-abortion laws. I see climate disasters multiplying throughout the world. I see hate speech on the rise and Asian grandfathers attacked in the street. Fentanyl overdoses unmet by available Naloxone. Severe worker shortages because our immigration system is impossibly broken. I see teachers leaving the profession in droves because of ever-greater danger from violence or virulent disease, low pay, and even less respect.

In light of all that and so much more, how can I honestly say I think the country is headed in the right direction? Quite simply, I can’t. But that doesn’t mean I voted for the people I see as causing most of that trouble!

That’s me. But what did we decide as a nation?

“One of the great ironies of how democracies die is that the very defense of democracy is often used as a pretext for its subversion. Would-be autocrats often use economic crises, natural disasters, and especially security threats – wars, armed insurgencies, or terrorist attacks – to justify antidemocratic measures.” — Steven Levitsky
Many thanks for this quote-image, Quotefancy!

What Did We Decide? And Where do We Go from Here?

Elections have consequences. Big, pivotal things change with each election – sometimes for better days. But all too often recently, it seems that many of the pivots have been away from things that make our lives better and our future brighter. What did we decide in this election?

Whatever awaits on tomorrow’s horizon, there will always be new decisions to make. New plans to make, new initiatives to take. If the country took a pivot toward a dystopian Hellscape of authoritarian dictatorship, it definitely will be harder to keep my hopes up.

But as I write this, I still hope for better than that. In my ideal world, the election-deniers, anti-democratic misogynist racists, and a certain would-be tin-pot dictator all would be banished from the field and never again heard from. Probability most likely zero, but a girl can dream (even if by now she’s an old lady).

What I think will happen is pretty much what the polls have already shown us: another dead-even partisan split, with roughly half ascendant on one side and half on the other. The balance in Congress might shift from one party to the other, but I don’t think it’ll shift by much. I guess we’ll see pretty soon how badly I got that wrong.

As a nation, what did we decide? Even more importantly, once our collective decisions all come home to roost, how will we move forward from there?

IMAGE CREDITS

This week’s image credits are pretty straightforward, and already spelled out in each cutline. We’d like to thank Amino Apps Star Wars page, the Washington Post, and the ever-providing Quotefancy folk, for this week’s illustrations.

Here are two illustrated quotes: first, “Bad officials are elected by good citizens who don’t vote.” – George Jean Nathan. Second, “If you don’t vote, you lose the right to complain.” – George Carlin.

We Get One More Chance

By Jan S. Gephardt

I almost didn’t post anything this week. Life events (my daughter’s health crisis and my father’s recent death) have just about sandbagged me. But, with a little encouragement from my Weird Sister (who’s also had her cataclysms this year), I concluded I did need to say something this week. Because things in my beloved country are rapidly running toward a collision point. And because in this season of advance voting, we get one more chance.

Anyone who’s followed this blog for long knows I am passionate about voting. I was among the first crop of 18-year-olds allowed to vote in the US, and from that day on I have never voluntarily missed an election. While this makes me pretty run-of-the-mill in my family, it makes me rather uncommon among the general US population.

I wish it wasn’t so. I wish everyone who was old enough and eligible understood how important it is to make an educated vote on the key matters of the day.

Here are two illustrated quotes: first, “We do not have government by the majority. We have government by the majority who participate.” – Thomas Jefferson. Second, “Someone struggled for your right to vote. Use it.” – Susan B. Anthony.
Voices from the past weigh in. I hope people consider their words. (See credits below).

Of Primary Importance

Here in Kansas, we proved just how wrong polls can be, and just how powerful women – especially young, angry women – can be in an election. Back then I posted, tweeted, and blogged for all I was worth about the incredible importance of voting in every election, not just the big, “sexy” ones in the fall. I am under no illusion that I made a measurable difference, but enough people did step up to create a rather amazing outcome.

Nobody thought young people would vote. Nobody expected angry young women to vote in such numbers. Everybody had kind of written Kansas off as “oh, well, they’re a red state.”

They’re doing that again this fall. Will the “sleeping giant” of angry young women go back to sleep, assuming they “fixed it all” in August? Well, the issues are less clear-cut in November, if you choose to look at it that way. They aren’t for me personally, but I vote anyway. I guess we’ll find out what others decide.

The cartoon shows two crowds, one of which is about double the size of the other. Everyone in the smaller crowd wears a T-shirt that says, “I voted.” The larger crowd wears blank shirts, and a word balloon above them reads, “We didn’t vote because it won’t make a difference.”
This cartoon image says it better than I ever could in words. As the picture makes clear, it WOULD have made a difference. Whatever you do, don’t sit this one out! (See credits below).

Don’t be Discouraged by the Polls

One thing I keep telling myself is that I can’t lose hope. If Kansas in August is anything to go by, the polling then showed a close race. It was anything but close, although one benighted idiot did demand – and pay for – a recount.

When was the last time you got a call from an unknown number and actually picked up? Pollsters do their best, I assume. But they’re at a disadvantage in an age when we have to jealously guard our time and our privacy against abuse. Recent polls have consistently skewed conservative, in large part because who has landlines these days? Who routinely answers phone calls? Older people who haven’t caught on to the pitfalls.

Other places, such as focus groups, public events (fairs, shopping centers, etc.) offer opinions from small populations who often self-select to at least a certain extent. Email polling is often partisan to the point of becoming an echo-chamber. I’ve come to the conclusion that polls are just “iffy” guesses (sometimes accurate, sometimes not) till the election happens. Kansas in August proved that to a more dramatic extent than we’ve seen in a while.

Here are two illustrated quotes: first, “Bad officials are elected by good citizens who don’t vote.” – George Jean Nathan. Second, “If you don’t vote, you lose the right to complain.” – George Carlin.
The two “Georges” have it right. Inform yourself and vote, if you haven’t! (See credits below).

In the General Election we get One More Chance.

The outcome still lies with us. We get one more chance. A lot of the candidates have bought into the “Big Lie” that previous elections were rigged. Note that none of that camp who DID get elected seem to worry that the vote was rigged in their case, however. We get one more chance to refrain from giving more power to that group.

In the name of “election integrity” state legislators already have instituted changes that inhibit many of the voters they deem to be skeevy (weirdly enough, they don’t seem to target old white conservatives, although those who need assistance to vote are out of luck). If some of the candidate-election commissioners, secretaries of state, and/or attorneys general are voted in, we’ll get more of that, plus legislatures with the power to reject results they don’t like.

Elections matter. We get one more chance in November.

IMAGE CREDITS:

Largely because (mentally and emotionally) my main reactor core has already melted down and I’m limping along on “impulse power” toward the nearest repair base, I used illustrations from my previous blog posts for this one. The two “vote-quote pairs” are both from my November 4, 2019 post, “Vote Tuesday! Will your voice be heard?” See that post for sources.

Similarly, the cartoon image by Nick Anderson of the Houston Chronicle came from my 2016 post, “Vote Like your Life Depends on It – Because it Just Might,” which used an image from The Coffee Party USA’s Facebook Page. Many thanks to all the original sources!

“The American Dream Game,” a 2014 David Horsey cartoon.

The Legend of the Undeserving Poor

By Jan S. Gephardt

A cluster of recent news articles have, to me, pointed to an older-than-America problem. I mean the recent water-quality issues in Jackson, MS, and the end of the universal free public school lunch program. A local infrastructure issue and a nationwide nutrition program might seem to have little in common, but under the surface they do. Both resulted, ultimately, because government officials bought into the Legend of the Undeserving Poor.

Now, before you get your feathers all ruffled about my obvious Bleeding-Heart-Liberal stripes showing, please hear me out. Certainly, there are unmotivated, indolent, and unwise individuals out there in the general population. They exist in all economic strata of society, from frivolous trust-fund babies on down. Users, grifters, and cheaters exist, and they certainly do their best to let the efforts of others “carry” them.

But years of studies, analysis, and personal experience should tell you that the growing ranks of the “Working Poor” in this country aren’t all (or even mostly) a bunch of so-called “Welfare Queens.” So where does this persistent legend of the undeserving poor come from, and why does it persist?

"Never let the truth get in the way of a good story." - Mark Twain
Some folks take this advice a bit too literally in public policy matters. (Statustown).

Tradition, Worldview, and Convenience

The legend of the undeserving poor is nothing new. It has the powerful forces of tradition, worldview, and convenience working in its support. Some historians say it dates back to the economic and social changes as the Plague waned in Europe. Wealthy people resented the growth of burgeoning “underclass” populations, with their desire for a better place in life than was comfortable for their “betters.”

My first inkling of how old (and unfair) the tradition might be while viewing Dutch art from the Reformation era (1500s-1600s). I was scandalized to see a mocking engraving that purported to illustrate disabled war veterans and other classes of the “undeserving poor.” How, I wondered, could anyone disabled while fighting for his country be considered “undeserving”? Of course, when you consider how the United States has treated 911 responders, as well as soldiers exposed to Agent Orange and burn pits, that outrage seems naïve at best. But then, it all makes me angry.

The legend of the undeserving poor has a long and ugly history. It offends anyone who values equity and social justice, and yet it persists. Why?

“Even climate action at home looks suspiciously like socialism to them; all the calls for high-density affordable housing and brand-new public transit are obviously just ways to give backdoor subsidies to the undeserving poor.” – Naomi Klein
Wouldn’t want to help the “undeserving,” of course! Not even if it helps to save the world. (Quotestats).

A Worldview Predicated on “Personal Responsibility

Did you choose to be born to, or adopted by, the parents who reared you? Were you personally responsible for choosing the color of your skin? Not if you’re a natural-born human being, you didn’t. Yet these involuntary conditions are massive predictors of how successfully you’ll be able to live your life.

But it seems clear that some people in our society think the situation into which you were born should make no difference to your outcomes in life. Somehow, despite all the evidence to the contrary, they believe we all start from the same point and compete equally. If you didn’t struggle sufficiently to be an economic success – regardless of your opening situation – then that’s on you. Somehow, you are simply a lesser human being. And in that case, they appear to think that you deserve to just suffer and die, already.

It’s a supremacist worldview. Weird, how often it’s held by people lucky enough to have been able to access opportunities and capitalize on them. You’ll often hear such folks describe themselves as “self-made” or having “pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps.” Never mind that the original definition for the latter phrase implied the completion of an impossible and unbelievable task. And if you somehow failed to do the impossible, well then, the legend of the undeserving poor is tolling the bell for you.

This cartoon shows what looks like a board game. One route, marked “Black” at the starting point, is long, winding, and includes lots of lost turns. Some of the sections say things like “Slavery, lose 100 turns,” or “Denial of Voting Rights, lose 10 turns.” The other route, marked “White” at the start is short, straight, and has sections that say “Free land from Indians, jump 2 spaces,” and (2 spaces later) “Free Labor from Slaves, take another turn.” A young White man near the end turns to his Black competitor and asks, “Are you just slow, or what?”
“The American Dream Game,” a 2014 David Horsey cartoon, is one of my favorite “pictures worth 1,000 words.” (LA Times, #142 of 200).

It is Inconvenient to Think Complex Thoughts

Thinking is hard. It actually uses energy and it can genuinely wear us out. That’s probably why some of us try to avoid doing it at all costs. Unfortunately, that attitude is kind of baked in to our culture. Americans (and, increasingly, supposedly-educated people everywhere) want clear-cut answers, they want them right now. Preferably in bullet-points that would fit on a bumper sticker. We’re already busy enough as it is. Our lives are already rife with complexity.

Unfortunately, our world faces a lot of complex problems, with multilayered causes. We need to solve them before they kill us. Climate change is one of those things that is complicated, famously inconvenient, and increasingly deadly. All the reasons why the legend of the undeserving poor is misleading and wrong are another.

But wait! If it’s so bogus, why does it persist, you might ask. It persists because it is convenient for those who don’t want to engage their empathy for the “poors.” Even more so, for those who don’t want to spend any extra tax money (“my hard-earned money!” whether it truly came hard or was inherited) to help others live a better life.

"Power from unearned privilege can look like strength when it is in fact permission to escape or to dominate." - Peggy McIntosh
The legend of the undeserving poor persists because it serves unearned privilege. (AZ Quotes).

This falsehood, this enduring legend of the undeserving poor, perversely persists. It endures for the same reason a deeply misleading – but catchy – meme persists. Because it suits the purposes of undeserved privilege.

IMAGE CREDITS

Author/producer Jan S. Gephardt is grateful to all the image sources credited in the cutlines above. She isn’t quite Taking a Sick Day (after all, there is a blog post for today), but let’s just say she’s had peppier, healthier moments.

“The Moon is the first milestone on the road to the stars.” — Arthur C. Clarke

To The Moon

By Jan S. Gephardt

As I write this, the Artemis 1 Mission is still “go for launch” next Monday, Aug. 29, 2022. A lot of us are excited about the prospect of a new Moon program. But other voices, from both left and right, question whether we should go back to the Moon at all. Indeed, from the very beginning there have been questions about the priority we should give to our reach into Space.

We haven’t been to the Moon since the last Apollo mission in 1972. A full 50 years. Half a century. Dating myself, here, for the sake of scale: that was the year I graduated from high school. I’m retirement-age now, so that’s a working lifetime ago.

Why not? We’ve launched other missions – why not go back to the Moon till now? In my research, I’ve discovered several reasons.

I think we're going to the moon because it's in the nature of the human being to face challenges. It's by the nature of his deep inner soul... we're required to do these things just as salmon swim upstream. – Neil Armstrong
That was then. Why haven’t we gone back for all these years? (Famous Quotes 123).

Politics

Consider the political landscape in the United States between 1972 and 2022. Control of the House, Senate, and White House has seesawed back and forth between Republicans and Democrats rather frequently, after two long periods of Democratic Party rule during the Roosevelt-Truman years and again during 1960s and the Kennedy-Johnson administrations.

This meant that each administration and Congressional majority got to make up their own rules. They felt free to set, re-set, abandon or continue the policies of their predecessors. As a result, there were never enduring, universally-established ideas about where, how, and even if, we might boldly go anywhere. Including to the Moon.

The last Apollo missions happened during the Nixon Administration, but while Nixon wasn’t exactly against space expansion, he was much more bullish on the idea of making space more affordable and accessible. The Space Shuttle project had its origins in the Nixon White House.

“Before another century is done it will be hard for people to imagine a time when humanity was confined to one world, and it will seem to them incredible that there was ever anybody who doubted the value of space and wanted to turn his or her back on the Universe.” — Isaac Asimov
Isaac would undoubtedly have been disappointed to know it would take us 50 years to refocus on the Moon. (Quotefancy).

Focus, Refocus, and Lack of Focus

Space programs take a long time to develop, and they require a lot of money. People in power haven’t always seen it as a high spending priority, especially in times of economic difficulty. Many early programs ran into cost overruns of the sort that saw Skylab B mothballed in the mid-70s, about the same time the Soviets canceled the Almaz (space platform) project, possibly for similar issues.

In the latter 1970s the Space Shuttle program remained in the development stages, but continued to move forward. The Ford and Carter administrations were preoccupied by inflation, an energy crisis, foreign threats, and social upheaval. Ford greenlit the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). Carter emphasized the need to self-defense in space, but didn’t take the idea very far. You’ll notice that none of these ideas got us anywhere closer to the Moon.

“All civilizations become either spacefaring or extinct.” — Carl Sagan
Sagan’s sample-size did nothing to lend power to his words at the time. He died in 1996, at a time when NASA’s Space Shuttle fleet had begun to show its age and limitations, but new space initiatives weren’t in fashion. (Quotefancy).

Space-Based Defense

Ronald Reagan took that space-based defense idea and majored on it. He proposed a massive Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). But vocal observers complained it was unrealistic for the technology of the period. They nicknamed it “Star Wars” and painted it as over-priced science-fictional wish-fulfillment. At the time, they weren’t entirely wrong, although the idea of space-based defense both predated, and ultimately outlived Reagan’s idea.

George H.W. Bush was a space-development booster. On the 20th anniversary of the our first Moon landing, he announced the Space Exploration Initiative (SEI), which included a space station called Freedom – but no plan to return to the Moon anytime soon. Congress couldn’t get past the idea of its $500 billion price tag, however. Not even if the spending was spread across 20-30 years.

Bill Clinton’s administration never brought “Freedom” to fruition, but did start construction on the International Space Station. He focused more interest on exploring the universe, and kept the door open on space-based weapons. Especially in his second term, however, divisions in the United States grew more extreme. The Republican-led Congress was unwilling to work with him on initiatives of most any sort.

“It is difficult to understand the universe if you only study one planet.” — Miyamoto Musashi
The Clinton Administration created the National Science and Technology Council. They backed exploration and the ISS, but had little interest in a return to the Moon. (Quotefancy).

Advance and Retreat

George W. Bush reshaped NASA policy yet again, refocusing on space exploration (Vision for Space Exploration, 2004). He reintroduced plans to return to the Moon (by 2020), retire the Space Shuttle program, and start preparations to send humans to Mars. But Bush became much more heavily focused on waging two wars that did not produce predicted easy victories, and the onset of the Great Recession at the end of his term.

His successor Barack Obama had little time or energy for space, and certainly not for the Moon. Not in the depths of the Great Recession. His political capital went for economic fixes and the ACA. Faced in his second term with an oppositional, Republican-led Congress, few initiatives prospered. But he did use his executive power – to kill most of “W’s” space initiatives, including a trip to the Moon.

Instead, he opened the door for more private investment in space and a focus on commercially-exploitable asteroids and Mars. SpaceX, Blue Origin, and other initiatives began their dramatic rise.

“In the coming era of manned space exploration by the private sector, market forces will spur development and yield new, low-cost space technologies. If the history of private aviation is any guide, private development efforts will be safer, too.” — Burt Rutan
The Clinton Administration created the National Science and Technology Council. They backed exploration and the ISS, but had little interest in a return to the Moon. (Quotefancy).

Taking the High Ground

I’ll refer you to my sister’s excellent essay on the Space Force for a look at the most recent iterations on the United States’ focus on space-based defenses. The Trump Administration further encouraged private space enterprise. They resurrected the National Space Council (continued under Biden and currently chaired by Vice President Kamala Harris). And they shifted the country’s efforts from the Obama-era focus on Mars back to the Moon.

The Biden Administration embraced and continued the internationally-supported Artemis project, which will (we hope) launch Artemis 1 on Monday. The long-delayed return to the Moon has finally begun in earnest.

Riding atop the Space Launch System (survivor of the “W” Bush-era Constellation project), the Orion spacecraft won’t carry humans this time (“Captain Moonikin Campos,” “Helga,” and “Zohar,” all varied types of sensor-equipped “manikins,” will ride in their place, along with NASA mascot Snoopy and ESA mascot Shaun the Sheep). Nor will it land on the Moon. but it will deploy CubeSats and orbit the Moon.

“If God wanted man to become a spacefaring species, he would have given man a moon.”
— Krafft Arnold Ehricke
Looks as if the Artemis Project might actually get us there after all. (Quotefancy).

Artemis 1, 2, 3, and Beyond

Monday’s launch of Artemis 1 is an essential test of equipment and systems. If all goes well, in mid-October NASA will retrieve it from the Pacific Ocean. At that point, teams of scientists will start feverishly poring over its data. They must apply everything they can learn from Artemis 1, to ensure the safety of the human crew on Artemis 2.

Artemis 2 is currently planned for a May 2024 launch date. It, too, will orbit the Moon, but won’t land. The crew has a whole laundry list of systems checks to perform, both in Earth orbit and during the lunar flyby. The Artemis 2 crew hasn’t yet been named, but they’ll all be North Americans: three from the USA, and one from Canada. Whoever they turn out to be, the latter will be the first Canadian ever to travel beyond low Earth orbit.

We’ll get to Artemis 3 sometime in 2025 . . . we hope. There have been numerous delays already. This first crewed Moon landing of the Artemis Project (first humans on the lunar surface since 1972) also will see the first use of the SpaceX-built Starship HLS. If all goes well, this will be a true return to the Moon.

Artemis 1 through 3 are the beginning, not an end-point. Artemis 4 starts building another international effort:  a space station called Lunar Gateway, designed to orbit the Moon. And you can guess from the name where things are headed from there. It all starts with a return to the Moon.

“The Moon is the first milestone on the road to the stars.” — Arthur C. Clarke
Sir Arthur might be right, after all. (Quotefancy).

IMAGE CREDITS

For once, this section doesn’t have much to add. All of the quotes are attributed in the captions. Nearly all came from the Quotefancy page “Space Quotes,” with one ringer from Famous Quotes 123. All quote images were selected by this post’s author.

Mt. Stromboli erupts spectacularly at night.

Angry Women

By Jan S. Gephardt

“Oh, now, honey, let’s not get hysterical.” If this phrase or its moral equivalent has never been directed at you, you probably aren’t female. Fact is, there are few things more socially unacceptable than angry women.

Even the word “hysterical” has women at its root. As far as I can tell, throughout the ages there have been angry women. And for just as long, there have been men and other women who were terrified and/or outraged by them. Take your pick: terror and outrage are often two sides of the same coin. But it  all adds up to this: society does everything it can to make angry women shut up. Even when they have every reason to be angry.

Two quotes here: “There is not a woman alive who does not understand that women’s anger is openly reviled.” by Soraya Chemaly, and "It's a very difficult thing for people to accept, seeing women act out anger on the screen. We're more accustomed to seeing men expressing rage and women crying." by Rebecca De Mornay.
Society discounts and looks away from angry women. (See credits below).

The Molten Core

If “Oh, now, honey, let’s not get hysterical” didn’t punch a few buttons and raise your blood pressure a bit, (1) you’re probably male and (2) but wait! There’s more. Millennia of patriarchy have piled on enough indignities, disrespect, and exploitation to fire up the molten core that seethes within most women. Consider the following to be a very small sampling.

Two more quotes: "Most women have no characters at all." - Alexander Pope. And "When a woman gets angry, she cannot speak reasonably." - anonymous (or possibly in hiding?)
Here are two examples of the sort of disrespect women deal with. (See credits below).

And let’s not forget the widespread illusion that there is no way for a man to understand “what a woman wants.” If angry women puzzle and confuse you, then you’re part of the problem.

Three quotes here: "Women are meant to be loved, not to be understood." - Oscar Wilde. "If a woman is upset, hold her and tell her how beautiful she is. If she starts to growl, retreat to a safe distance and throw chocolate at her." - Anonymous (and he'd be wise to remain that way). And, “Behind every angry Woman is a man who has Absolutely no idea what he did wrong.” – Again, by Anonymous (he spouts off a lot).
It’s an ancient trope that men don’t know what women want. Have they ever considered respect? Or listening? (See credits below).

For women, the whole business of navigating life has, for centuries, been one long steeplechase of often-unavoidable hazards. One scarcely has to look, before examples leap to mind (if you’ve been paying attention).

I’ll pull two from art history. Consider the treatment of Artemesia Gentileschi at her rape trial – an experience all too much like the experiences of contemporary women. Or the fact that the famous artist Rosa Bonheur had to get special permission from the police to be allowed to wear a smock and trousers when she went to a slaughterhouse to study animal anatomy (in order to do her life’s work).

Why talk about Angry Women?

I’ve been thinking a lot, lately, about women’s anger and the curious way it’s been ignored, overlooked, and otherwise disregarded by pundits and political analysts. Particularly, in the wake of the Dobbs decision that reversed Roe v. Wade.

It wasn’t only angry women who rose up on their hind legs last week to deliver a resounding “NO” to the “Value Them Both” referendum in Kansas. Men definitely participated in that result. But a lot of the momentum came from a sustained “ground game” by volunteers all over Kansas. Volunteers who included a lot of young, angry women. And the voters who responded in unprecedented numbers also included a lot of young, angry women.

Now, there are a lot of Libertarians-at-heart (of all genders) in Kansas. Their reaction to a threat of egregious government overreach also forms an important part of the “No to Value Them Both” story. And on the face of it,  it’s downright un-American to nakedly foist one narrow set of religious views on the general public. Especially while removing important rights to life and liberty in the process.

Here are three more quotes, of a higher caliber than the last batch: “No person is your friend (or kin) who demands your silence, or denies your right to grow.” - Alice Walker. “Life without liberty is like a body without spirit.” - Kahlil Gibran. And "Independence is a heady draft, and if you drink it in your youth, it can have the same effect on the brain as young wine does. It does not matter that its taste is not always appealing. It is addictive and with each drink you want more.” - Maya Angelou
Liberty with agency: wouldn’t you say it’s what everyone wants and deserves? (Country Living).

What’s wrong with this picture?

But most of the “experts” inside the Beltway and among the national media appear clueless about many aspects of this story. In underestimating rural people’s intelligence, they definitely blew it. There was a widespread fear before August 2 that the ignorant backwoods rubes would fall for the deceptive name, wording, and hype. But the underestimation is even greater when it comes to the angry women.

I used that metaphor of “the molten core that seethes within most women” earlier, for a reason. I think a lot of people are ignoring “seismic indicators” in the social realm. Volcano experts learned to predict when volcanic eruptions will happen soon. They’ve learned what to look for – the signs that indicate a given place is building up to an eruption. Pinning down exactly when it will happen is still difficult. But they can be pretty clear on it when an eruption seems imminent. They know they must monitor certain telltale indicators.

Mt. Stromboli erupts spectacularly at night.
Stromboli subtly inflates just before it explodes. (See credits below).

Angry Women Suppress their Emotions for a Long Time

By contrast, I believe a lot of political observers are consistently missing telltale indicators that we’ve been seeing in recent years. I think this is because our society consistently refuses to take women’s anger seriously. Women (and their families) have endured one provocative outrage after another in recent years. Seems to me  that inexorable drumbeat is eventually going to bring on a history-changing “eruption.”

The chances look good that a lot of so-called “experts” will be astonished when it happens. Just as they were blindsided by the referendum results in Kansas. That’s because it takes a lot of outrage and a long buildup, before angry women explode.

Two quotes here: "When a woman cries it's not usually over one thing. It's built up anger and emotions that she's been holding in for too long." – QuotesGate. And "So many women keep their anger inside and let it build until they explode and then people blow them off again." - Rosalind Wiseman.
Women are trained to hold their anger in. But that only lasts so long. And when people blow them off, that starts the cycle all over again. (See credits below).

Seismic Indicators

Let me offer a few items for consideration. Do you remember the Women’s March of 2017? It followed the election of a man who clearly had no respect at all for women.

"When you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the pussy . . . You can do anything." - Donald J. Trump
When challenged, he doubled down. Worse, he still won the election. (The Guardian via Twitter).

About that same time came the fall of Harvey Weinstein and the massive expansion of the #Me Too Movement. In early 2018 we learned about Larry Nassar and his protracted run as the chief sexual predator in residence for USA Gymnastics. Outrage piled on outrage until it was intolerable.

Most of us also remember the 2018 Mid-Term Elections, in which the Democrats re-took the House of Representatives and a record number of female representatives were elected. Observers noted that angry women had played a part, but after all – the sitting President’s party “always” loses ground in the mid-terms, right? How much role did women really play? It was easy to dismiss or overlook the angry women.

More Fuel to the Flames of Indignation

The botched handling of the Pandemic led to the needless “extra deaths” of thousands of elders and lower-income workers (read that predominantly Black, brown, and female, although men died in droves, too). Misogyny and racism reared their heads more nakedly than we’d seen them for a while.

Mass shootings do not only concern women, of course. But as the steady drumbeat of mass shootings also mounted, women-led groups grew. I’m talking about our local Kansas City Mothers in Charge, and on the national-level Grandmothers Against Gun Violence. Another group heavily threatened by gun violence is victims of domestic violence, who are disproportionately women. And yet, a lot of people overlooked how much of an active role women played in the pushback.

This huge crowd of protesters was one of millions who turned out worldwide.
The Black Lives Matter movement started with the initiative of three Black women (Safe Journalists).

The police killings of Black people such as Philando Castile, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd sent thousands into the streets in the summer of 2020. Angry women of all races and gender expressions joined angry men to voice their outrage. In 2020 voters kicked Trump out of the White House and gave Senate control back  to the Democrats. This country had ample reasons. It wasn’t only the work of angry women. But who spearheaded the Black Lives Matter movement, for example? Women (specifically, Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi).

Is Dobbs the Final Straw?

The proverbial camel could only take so much weight. Throughout history we’ve seen long-simmering resentments against injustice finally reach a tipping point. If it wasn’t possible to turn back systemic injustices and the denial of rights, there would have been no successful suffrage movement for women. No Civil Rights era could have occurred (although it seems we’re about ready for another chapter of that struggle). There would have been no end to Prohibition.

Let’s wrap up with three more quotes: "I am angry nearly every day of my life, but I have learned not to show it; and I still try to hope not to feel it, though it may take me another forty years to do it." [Character of Marmee in Little Women] - Louisa May Alcott. “Anger is not an accepted thing for women. And, you know, I do get angry. I feel it’s a very honest emotion.” – Rosamund Pike. Finally, a closing thought from Soraya Chemaly: “A society that does not respect women’s anger is one that does not respect women.”
Anger has been an ongoing challenge for women since at least the dawn of patriarchy. But it’s a real emotion we can’t help feeling. When will our society respect it? (See credits below).

Never doubt that the eruption is coming. Respect repeatedly denied demands redress. The repeal of long-established rights – and the threat to repeal more – isn’t something people (certainly not Americans) will just roll over and take. And life-destroying, unjust mandates, exacted by a small, ignorant, over-controlling and unrepresentative group (looking at you, wealthy, privileged elders without vaginas) won’t stand forever.

I can’t tell you exactly when the eruption will come. But when it does, angry women will fuel it.

IMAGE CREDITS

As ever, we have lots of people to thank for the photos and illustrated quotes that punctuate this post. The author, Jan S. Gephardt, selected and assembled all the montages. Many thanks to Quotefancy for Soraya Chemaly’s words, and to Quote HD for those of Rebecca De Mornay, in the first montage.

For the second, we’d like to thank Inspirational Stories for the Alexander Pope quote (although we’re not sure what it might inspire beyond anger or contempt). Status Mind contributed the incendiary “When a woman gets angry” quote/image. Though perhaps we’re being hysterical to call it that, despite the grass fire in the background?

For the third montage, we thank SaveDelete for the condescending Oscar Wilde quote. Funny All Women’s Talk brought us the (not so funny) “throw chocolate” quote. And thanks to Amazon for the “Behind Every Angry Woman” design (they put it on a notebook). In light of boneheadedness such as this, are angry women a surprise?

Liberty, News, and a Volcano

All three of the “Liberty” quotes in the fourth montage come courtesy of Country Living. Quanta Magazine provided Rainer Albiez’s dramatic photo of Mt. Stromboli erupting. The next montage combines a quote about women’s frustration from MEME with a wry observation from Rosalind Wiseman courtesy of Idle Hearts.

UK publication The Guardian posted The Infamous Trump Quote on its Twitter feed (many thanks!). It inspired more angry women than he would believe. And the unattributed photo of a Black Lives Matter protest in 2020 came courtesy of Safe Journalists. Read their accompanying article for an overview of outrageous attacks on well-identified members of the press during the 2020 protests.

The final montage consists of three more quotes about angry women. The Louisa May Alcott comment comes from All Author. Picture Quotes provided an observation on anger’s honesty from Rosamund Pike. And we wrap up as we started, with an appropriate thought from Soraya Chemaly. This one comes from Stacey Rosenfeld’s Mental Health Service Facebook Page and Gatewell Therapy Center. Many thanks to all!

"A vote is a prayer about the kind of world we want to live in." - Rev. Raphael Warnock

It’s Important to Vote

By Jan S. Gephardt

In Kansas and Missouri, we’re holding a primary election next week. And every time there’s a primary, some people question whether or not it’s important to vote in it. I’ve blogged about Primary Elections in other years. Longtime readers of my “Artdog Adventures” blog know very well that I feel it’s important to vote.

I realize some of my readers don’t live in the United States, and many others live in states hold their primaries earlier or later in the year than now. I was talking about this with my sister recently. She agrees with me on the importance of voting, although for her the primaries are so last March (she’s a Texan, as longtime blog-followers well know).

But in my neighborhood, the primaries are looming (August 2). It’s important to vote because elections are always a potential turning point of some sort. And that’s where life is informing my art rather a lot, recently.

“So long as I do not firmly and Irrevocably possess the right to vote I do not possess myself. I cannot make up my mind – it is made up for me. I cannot live as a democratic citizen, observing the laws I have helped to enact – I can only submit to the edict of others.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
(Image courtesy of Medium).

Life, Art, and Science Fiction

I’ve already blogged some about politics on Rana Station. Rana is the fictional, far-future space-station home of the XK9s and their favorite humans, the setting of my novels. Readers of my stories may recall mentions of elections for Premier that were held while the XK9s and their partners were still on Chayko. POV characters Pam and Charlie voted absentee, and talked with their XK9s about the elections. It’s unspoken but clear that both think it’s important to vote.

There are political undercurrents throughout the XK9 “Bones” Trilogy. On Rana, Boroughs are sort of a cross between a city and a state or province, politically. Readers saw the local Borough Council in a special session during What’s Bred in the Bone. In the second novel, A Bone to Pick, Ranan politics received less focus. But that realm returns in a big way –on a national level – in the third novel, Bone of Contention. As it happens, I’m writing some of that part now.

Of course, politics in science fiction is nothing new. I’ve been thinking about that a lot, recently.

"The job of speculative and science fiction is to envision future outcomes in accessible ways. It’s what we sf writers do: we create engaging thought-experiments about how things might be." – Jan S. Gephardt.
(See credits below).

Eroding Rights

Women who pay attention know our rights and freedoms are always under attack. Cases in point: horrifying recent stories about Mongolian schools that require “virginity checks.” Patriarchal cultures use force to suppress education for girls. Invading armies use rape as a means of terrorizing civilians. All across the world our freedom and bodily autonomy are at continual risk, and they always have been.

Even before the United States Supreme Court handed down the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health verdict that made it official, we in the USA saw the warning signs if we were paying attention. Remember “pussyhats” and the Women’s March on Washington in 2017?

As a science fiction reader and writer, I’m aware of many dystopian “futures.” It’s a time-honored science fiction tradition to base dystopias on contemporary trends taken to extremes.

And in nearly any dystopia ordinary people are powerless. They have no agency, no autonomy. Goes without saying they have no vote.

The cover of the book “The Handmaid’s Tale,” a page from a graphic novel adaptation of the book, and a background photo from the television show based on the book.
Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale has been adapted into a graphic novel and a television show. (See credits below).

Tales and Parables

One science fiction story that has resonated deeply with women – and in the wake of Dobbs feels even more relevant – is Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. In this dystopia, first released in 1985. Starting production in 2016 (imagine that), a television series by the same name, based on the novel, has been renewed for season after season.

But the science fiction that’s resonating most deeply for me this week is Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower. I’ve been re-acquainting myself with it. I remember when it first came out in 1994. Back then, I was a mother with young children and little time. I had difficulty reading it, probably because I wasn’t ready to contemplate a world like the one it depicted.

Now, in 2022 (the book starts in 2024, in a world both unfortunately like, but also different from our current situation), I’m finding the parallels interesting. Butler’s world, in fact, feels like an oddly familiar place. For one thing, there’s more than a small echo of the assumption I grew up with, that it was only a matter of time before disaster hit. At the age of Butler’s main character Lauren, I tried to learn canning and gardening, assuming I’d need such survival skills after the coming nuclear apocalypse. But there are other parallels, too.

Two book covers, one for the original novel by Octavia E. Butler, the other for a Hugo-winning graphic novel adaptation.
Octavia E. Butler’s book Parable of the Sower has been adapted into a graphic novel and optioned for a film. (See credits below).

A Different Apocalypse, But it “Rhymes”

The kind of apocalypse Californian Lauren Olamina faces in Parable of the Sower didn’t start with a bomb blast. Some reviewers call the novel “post-apocalyptic,” but that’s not correct. The slow-rolling apocalypse Lauren and her neighborhood face is protracted and actively ongoing. There is nothing “post” about it.

Its origin lies in steadily-chipped-away rights, a process that has disabled all government protections for ordinary people. This has led to savage economic disparity and inflamed racial division. Of course, those dynamics further cripple government. The power and importance of voting has been reduced to choices between bad and worse impotent politicians. But you can only vote if you can make it through the mean streets to the polls in one piece.

By the time of the novel, all the last safety nets of civilization have been stripped away. This dysfunctional dynamic empowers the rise of business behemoths that capitalize on the power vacuum to further entrench their own advantage. No surprise, there’s a massive and growing unhoused and dispossessed population that’s increasingly desperate and lawless.

"A vote is a prayer about the kind of world we want to live in." - Rev. Raphael Warnock
(See credits below).

The Antidote? It’s Important to Vote! (While we still can)

Does any of this sound familiar? If not in exact mirroring, it certainly takes little effort to recognize parallel dangers in contemporary gerrymandering and false claims of vote fraud that threaten to actually do the real thing. If it’s okay to declare that corporate “free speech” (AKA money) is protected, and that some people have no right to bodily autonomy, how far from slow-rolling apocalypse are we, truly?

All of this brings me back to the importance of voting. We’re not yet in full-blown apocalypse. We won’t be (barring unforeseen disasters) in 2024. But we’ve been flirting with it for longer than many people have noticed. And if more of us don’t wake up to the serious issues that threaten our freedom and our democracy, we’ll wander blindly into it.

Our rights are increasingly on the line. Our best defense is our vote, and here the advice is “use it or lose it.” That’s why it’s important to vote. Every time. In every election. Vote.

IMAGE CREDITS

The quote-image for Dr. King’s view of the importance of the vote came from Medium. The background for the quote from Jan is Nebula 2, ©2021 by Chaz Kemp, first published in the blog post “Looking for Hope.” Design by Jan.

Jan also assembled the two montage images built around two of the books mentioned in the post. The Handmaid’s Tale montage Includes several images. The cover for Margaret Atwood’s novel is courtesy of ThriftBooks. A page from a graphic novel adaptation by Renee Nault comes via Maclean’s. And a still from the television adaptation of the book is courtesy of Woman & Home.

The montage for Parable of the Sower features the cover of Octavia E. Butler’s book, courtesy of the North Carolina State University Libraries. Butler’s book also has been adapted by Damian Duffy into a graphic novel illustrated by John Jennings. No TV show yet, however it’s been optioned for a movie.

Jan first assembled the final quote-image in this post from a tweet by the Rev. Raphael Warnock (now US Senator Warnock) in November 2020. The background photo is originally from the Baltimore Sun, taken at the Maryland primary election, June 2, 2020 by the multitalented Karl Merton Ferron. Deepest appreciation to all of them!

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