Good people doing what?

triumph“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing” has got to be the best quote that no one actually ever said. That aside, most of us are looking at ourselves in the mirror these days and thinking that we are good people who are wondering what it is that we are supposed to be doing.

About what? Come on, you know. We all know what is happening out there. We just don’t want to think about it.

For one, the election is only about thirteen weeks away now and we sort of hope this will mostly go away after that. Some of us support Hillary with enthusiasm, other accept her as the best choice and think she will be okay. Most of us can’t imagine that she won’t win. After she does, this nonsense will stop, right?

Photo published for Protesters plan to build a wall to prevent Trump from speaking in DetroitAnd the people you know who support Trump say it is no big deal. Oh, come on, you do know some of them. Acquaintances, neighbors, relatives, probably nice people too. They don’t go to the rallies and scream obscenities at minorities, and they like other things about him that you kind of understand. He speaks his mind, he’s not slick. They say most of his supporters don’t focus on hate and that Trump himself doesn’t really feel that way. He won’t really act that way if he’s elected. The nonsense will stop then, right?

Will it? The Southern Poverty Law center calculates that the number of hate groups rose by 14% in 2015. Former KKK leader David Duke has announced that he is running for the open Senate seat in Louisiana to stop the “ethnic cleansing” of white people. The New York Times has just published a compilation of uncensored expressions of hate from Donald Trump supporters at his rallies. You can view it here.

Okay, so maybe we do have a teensie weensie bit of a growing hate problem in this country. What is is that good men (and good women) should be doing?

I’ve been struggling with this question for awhile. It seems to me that one good start is to seek out objective sources of information. Independent fact checkers do exist. In aggregate, they approach providing actual truth. Then, when we have real facts at our fingertips, we need to share the information. We all need to vote our consciences and help others get to the polls to do the same.

I think we need a zero tolerance policy for demeaning humor in general, and particularly for humor that targets those whom are forced to play the game of life on a more difficult setting. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about check out the link.) We need to remove name calling from our speech patterns. Check out the Southern Poverty Law Center’s website on teaching tolerance. (Of course, they’d love a donation from you while you are there.)

change2We need to take a few slow breathes and say “this is not the world I want.” Whatever our personal politics are,  surely we can agree that throwing rocks at each other is a bad idea. As Gandhi said, we need to be the change we wish to see.

In 1770 the Irish statesman and philosopher Edmund Burke did say “When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one.”

In 1867 the British philosopher and political theorist John Stuart Mill did say “Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.”

Okay, maybe neither one is quite as pithy as the fake quote at the beginning, but we all get the point.

 

 

 

Happy Honesty Day

Seriously. Would I lie about this?

book of liesToday is Honesty Day in the United States, thanks to author M. Hirsh Goldberg who created the holiday in the early 1990s while researching his The Book of Lies: Fibs, Tales, Schemes, Scams, Fakes, and Frauds That Have Changed The Course of History and Affect Our Daily Lives. Why April 30? According to Wikipedia, he intended it as a balance to April Fools day, and it is also the anniversary of the first inauguration of George Washington in 1789.

It is a shame it never really caught on, given that the lofty purpose of the day is to encourage honesty in politics, relationships, consumer relations and historical education. It was also intended to urge politicians to stay away from lies and tell the truth.

Good luck with that one. I would consider it an excellent start just to get politicians to not restate obvious lies which no one believes, not even their supporters. It’s this little dance they do, saying “oh no I never meant that” when even the people who like them are pretty sure that was exactly what they meant.

beautiful life4I recently became aware of one such historical example that really bothered me. Right after Ronald Reagan received the GOP nomination in 1980, he spoke at the Neshoba Country fair near Philadelphia, Mississippi where three civil right’s workers were murdered in 1964 and the ensuing cover-up by local authorities forced the federal government to intervene. Then-nominee Reagan devoted some of his 1980 speech to the importance of state’s rights and the evils of federal involvement in local issues. He never mentioned the murders or civil rights and columnist Bob Herbert of The New York Times wrote, “Everybody watching the 1980 campaign knew what Reagan was signaling at the fair.”

However, almost no one said so. “Oh no, he didn’t mean that,” was the a common response. Really?

Fast forward thirty-six years to now, when GOP candidate Donald Trump agreed to address the Suffolk County Republican Committee in Patchogue, a small village on Long Island which was the scene of a notorious hate crime eight years ago when a variety of incidents of escalating hostility towards immigrants culminated in an immigrant being stabbed to death.

Given the extent to which Trump’s campaign targets immigration, I don’t think anyone believed that his appearance at this out the way place was random.

TrumpThe day of the event, news sources reported that about a hundred people assembled before a small memorial to Marcelo Lucero, the murder victim, while anti-Trump protestors gathered at another spot. Trump gave his usual sort of speech, including his “Who’s going to build the wall?”  shtick that appears to delight his fans and makes the rest of us want to puke. Luckily the speech was short and everyone went on their way with no violence. Word was that it felt like police outnumbered attendees and protestors.

I was made aware of the similarity of these two incidents on the Rachel Maddox show. What struck me was the irony of how obvious the purpose of the choices were in both cases, and yet how easily the truth was denied when it was apparent to all. Have we gotten that used to lies in politics?

I thought maybe we had, and that set me off on an internet search with results that surprised me. Are you curious which politicians tell the biggest lies the most? It turns out that professional fact checkers can shed some light on that. Check out this article in The Rolling Stone.

What do you know…. The truism that all politicians lie equally turns out not to be the truth either.

Happy Honesty Day!

 

Is it an honor to be person of the year?

Watching a “year in review” news program, I was surprised to hear the comment that both Stalin and Hitler had once been named Time Magazine’s Man of the Year. No, I thought, they are making that up.

spirit science 5It turns out that they weren’t. What’s more, Stalin actually got the title twice (in 1939 and 1942). My problem was that, like a lot of people, I thought that being named “Man of the Year” was an honor. It isn’t, and these newscasters went on to have a serious conversation about how Donald Trump should probably have won for 2015. They had a point. You see, Time Magazine is clear that this designation is not an indication of merit or of contribution to the human race. Rather, it is bestowed on the person believed to have most affected the news of the past year.

Don’t believe me? This year’s list of eight contenders included Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, leader of ISIS, and Vladimir Putin, who already got to be person of the year back in 2007. Other past winners who raised my eyebrows included Nikita Khrushchev (1957), US commander in Vietnam William Westmoreland (1965) and Ayatollah Khomeini (1979).

And about that “Man of the Year” thing. In spite of the fact that it was called “Man of the Year” all the way up until 1999, three and half women received the designation including the woman who King Edward VIII abdicated his throne to marry (1936), Queen Elizabeth (1952), president of the Philippines Corazon Aquino (1986), and Soong Mei-ling who shared the honor in 1937 with her husband Chiang Kai-shek.

But not only didn’t you have to be a man to attain the designation, you didn’t even have to be a person. The first group to be selected was “The American Fighting Man” in 1950, referring to our men in uniform in Korea. Since then, Hungarian Freedom Fighters (1956), U.S. scientists (1960), Middle Americans (1969) and, interestingly enough, American Women (1975) have all been named “Man of the Year”. Recent years have seen a lot of groups selected, including protesters (2011), American soldiers (this time in Iraq in 2003), and whistle blowers (2002).

The oddest winners were certainly “You” (2006), “The Computer” (1982) and The Endangered Earth which was designated planet of the year in 1988. (Not a lot of good competition for that title.)

Time Magazine began this exercise in 1927 by dubbing Charles Lindbergh as the Man the Year. It surprised me that Franklin Roosevelt and every president after him (except for Gerald Ford) was named such at least once and most of them got the designation twice. (Roosevelt got it three times). Whether you think they deserved the recognition for their contributions, as opposed to just their influence on the news, depends of course on your politics.

On the other hand, winners such as Mahatma Gandhi (1930), Martin Luther King, Jr. (1963), The Apollo 8 astronauts (1968), Ebola fighters (2014) and possibly all three popes named for the title, seem worthy of the sort of honor I originally thought this was, as do the groups designated “The Peacemakers” (1993) and “The Good Samaritans” (2005).

Now it is called Person of the year, and in 2015 Angela Merkel became the first female to gain the title after it was given non-gender specific wording. She not only beat out the head of ISIS (who came in second) and Putin (who came in last), she bested Black Lives Matter activists, transgender woman Caitlyn Jenner, the president of Iran and the CEO of Uber, all of whom were either gracious or silent about the outcome.

She also beat out Donald Trump, who took third place, and responded with a childish tweet that read “I told you @TIME Magazine would never pick me as person of the year despite being the big favorite. They picked person who is ruining Germany.”

sungazing1Sounds like The Donald was also under the mistaken impression that the title Person of the Year is some sort of measure of worth. Then again, maybe not. Perhaps Donald Trump knows exactly what the honor is about. It is about who has gotten the most attention in the past year, and he might have been miffed that someone thought it wasn’t him. So he tweeted something nasty to get even more attention.

Do we really want a president who craves being noticed that much? I personally resolve to do my part to see that he receives even less attention in 2016.

For more year end fun see some of the oddest predictions for 2016, read about my best New Year’s resolution yet,  take a look at the top women of 2016 and catch 2016 plans for world peace.

And the Hate Goes On …

enhanced-buzz-wide-28244-1347483313-2It’s hard to be quiet after you turn on the news and listen to some of the surreal reactions to the terrorist attacks in Paris and Lebanon. For starters, members of the very same political party that once used the word treason to describe any one who disagreed with George Bush’s invasion of Iraq,  on the grounds that they were criticizing U.S. foreign policy at a crucial time, have now doubled down on criticizing the current president to the point of making his job unduly difficult. And they are doing this primarily to advance their own political careers. Hypocrisy only begins to describe the situation.

But what they are saying is even more disturbing.

Governors of some 30 states have now said they will not accept new refugees. Tennessee House GOP Caucus Chairman Glen Casada believes the time has come for the National Guard to round up any Syrian refugees who have recently settled in his state and to stop any additional ones from entering. His words: We need to activate the Tennessee National Guard and stop them from coming in to the state by whatever means we can.”

Roanoke Mayor David Bowers cited the use of internment camps for Japanese-Americans during World War II to justify suspending the relocation of Syrian refugees to his city in Virginia and requested that all Roanoke Valley agencies stop Syrian refugee assistance. His words: I’m reminded that President Franklin D. Roosevelt felt compelled to sequester Japanese foreign nationals after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and it appears that the threat of harm to America from Isis now is just as real and serious as that from our enemies then.

Let’s take a breath and look at the facts.

growing bolder 5Syrian and Iraqi refugees are already the most heavily vetted category of people to enter the U.S. Their screening already includes background checks by the FBI and DHS, and seven other federal agencies. Furthermore, the U.S. has taken in only about 2,200 Syrian refugees out of the more than 4 million fleeing the war-torn nation. In the Middle East, America’s ally Turkey has done three orders of magnitude better, taking in more than 2 million of its neighbors. Tiny Lebanon is trying to absorb more than 1 million Syrians, and Jordan has more than 650,000. And by the way, only 30 of those Syrian refugees settled in the nervous state of Tennessee.

President Obama has called for us to take in at least 10,000 more refugees over the next fiscal year, compared to Germany’s 800,000, and brave France’s commitment to accept another 30,000 even after the attacks. An embarrassingly wide array of our politicians are throwing public tantrums about allowing even this small amount of highly vetted and desperate people to come into our allegedly welcoming and compassionate country.

Do the American’s saying these things listen to themselves? Do they not realize that they sound like the villains in a barely believable movie?

My novel z2 contains a lot of information about the history of immigration law in the United States but no one story moved me as much as this:

In 1939, the United States denied entry to twenty-thousand Jewish children fleeing Nazi Germany, even though families had already been found here to care for each and every child. The reason for denying these children asylum? Admitting them would have forced us to exceed our set total quota for immigrants for that year, and the rationale in Congress, where the granting of the exception was refused, was that we couldn’t just go around bending the rules every time it was convenient.

walk talk 1Let’s stop this nonsense now. History does not have to repeat itself.

Apparently political philosopher Edmund Burke never actually said the words “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing,” although he expressed the sentiment in lengthier quotes. If you prefer a pithy summary of a call to action, listen to Plato. His words: The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men. Or Albert Einstein. His words: The world is in greater peril from those who tolerate or encourage evil than from those who actually commit it.

You and I need to speak up. Use social media like #stophatespeech and let your voice be heard. We are capable of being the good guys. Let’s start to act like it.

(For more on this subject see “I Live Here” on my “Face Painting for World Peace” blog.)

Being provocative is good…REALLY???

Thanks to the fine blog “The Culture Monk” for a great post on the dangers of closing an open mind — no matter what door you slam shut. Read the entire post here.

Culture Monk

New Image

By Kenneth Justice

~ “Dude, that’s one damn provocative question!” he said

One of the things I love about hanging out with my Arab American friends is that we can have serious dialogue and debate, asking each other really tough questions and at the end of the day shake hands and not hold grudges against each other.

Not having been to the Middle East I can’t say whether or not that is a cultural trait of Arabs throughout the world or merely an antidotal thing I’ve experienced with my Arab American friends who’ve migrated to the United States.

The older I get the more I’ve noticed that much of American culture gets really defensive when you ask questions or make generalizations aimed at stimulating conversation. My uncle Bob was fond of saying that defensiveness is often the first response whenever someone is proposed a premise that contradicts their…

View original post 570 more words

Sad fact is stranger than fiction.

I made up Early Gulch High School, where much of the novel z2 takes place. I did not make up confederate officer Jubal Early, for whom the school is named. He is a real person who founded the Lost Cause movement after the civil war. This is a group that to this day glorifies the Old South and down plays slavery as a benign institution. I made up the outrage of teachers and students once they discovered that their school was named after such a person, but I like to think that real people would respond with the same indignation.

These students deserve better

These students deserve better

A friend recently sent me one of those petitions anyone can start at change.org. This one, submitted by Omotayo Richmond of Jacksonville, Florida says “Jacksonville is home to Nathan Bedford Forrest High School, named in honor of a Confederate general who infamously slaughtered Black Union soldiers who’d already surrendered and who was a founding member of the original Ku Klux Klan. The school got its name in 1959, when white civic leaders wanted to protest a court decision that called for integrating public schools.”

Sadly, five years ago the local school board actually voted to keep this school’s name. Have things changed for better in those five years? I sure HOPE so.

View Omotayo’s petition and consider signing it here. I just did.

Time and hate

Z2 JH3 - CopyAfter you finish writing a book, you find yourself spending an amazing amount of time writing about what the book is about. This place wants a 500 word description.  That ad must be 80 words or less.  Nope, only 200 characters allowed here and spaces count.  It is an annoying process that results in sub-optimum word choices and bad phrasing.

But it has forced me to distill down to few words what each of my books truly concerns, and that is a worthwhile exercise. Just today a friend helped me realize that z2 is, more than anything, about time and hate, and about what time does to hate. (You can read her review of the book on Amazon.com here.)

Time can funnel hatred into a concentrate that is far more lethal than the original emotion, or time can allow hatred to evaporate into the vapor that it always was.  The first process is scary, the second is uplifting. Case in point.  According to PoliceOne.com, the police chief from Montgomery Alabama recently apologized to U.S. Representative John Lewis who was among the freedom riders in 1961 who were beaten during the civil rights movement while police did nothing to help them.

light clockUnlike the recent scandal in British Columbia wherein BC Premier Christy Clark’s staff cynically suggested that she could get some political quick wins by apologizing to previously wronged ethnic groups, presumably Police Chief Kevin Murphy had nothing to gain from his apology other than, in his own words, doing the the right thing.

z2 is also about hope. Hope that Kevin Murphy was sincere.  Hope that leaders in BC might one day apologize for past wrongs because it is the right thing to do.  Hope that we all will be a little better, with time.