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Rated: E · Book · Writing · #2044345
Writing about what I have been reading and encountering in the media.
For those of you who have been following, you will see that I moved my reading list into the body of the blog. I will be adding book commentary as new articles instead of listing. New entries will be the first thing you encounter. All book comments have BOOK in the title. The blog is organized chronologically. Please feel free to comment. I especially like challenging comments.

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August 9, 2015 at 3:46pm
August 9, 2015 at 3:46pm
This morning, I watched Fareed Zakaria interview President Obama. Afterward, he shared his article, to be found at, http://fareedzakaria.com/ about pessimism in post WWII US politics. The main topic of conversation with the President was the Iran peace agreement which can be found at http://www.us-iran.org/news/2015/7/14/full-text-of-the-Iran-nuclear-deal .

Two statements stuck in my mind: Fareed Zakaria said we have had 5 major periods of pessimism in the past 70 years and named them including Sputnik, and our fear that the Soviet Union would dominate us technologically; the Vietnam war; the influence of the Soviet Union in Latin America and Afghanistan; the rise of the Japanese economy; and the Middle East Oil Crisis. He discussed these issues and concluded that the optimists have consistently seen things more realistically. My experience is congruent with this. The optimists to whom I have paid most attention turned out to be right about how things would turn out much more often than the pessimists. The Soviet Union is gone. Russia is still doing what Russia has always done, but they are containable. The domino theory about the spread of Communism was way wrong. The Middle East oil interests and Japan have not dominated world interactions and decisions.

The other: President Obama said that he does not plan for failure; and he stated that he sees America’s power as much more rooted in many negotiated agreements than in military strength. I imagine he has said these things before, but I didn’t notice them until today. I was delighted to hear him articulate what appears to be truth to me. The many treaties and economic agreements that have been made in my lifetime seem to have been very powerful and important. This has always been true, when the US honored our own agreements. Taking our agreements seriously was not the hallmark of our first 125 years as a nation as you can see in the many broken treaties with the Native Americans. We do that better now, but not always. Witness the history of our behavior in the UN, and our flagrant violation of the Geneva Convention during the George W. Bush administration which continues in the form of Guantanamo prison. But generally, I think we have exerted influence much more effectively through negotiation than military power throughout my lifetime.

As for planning or not planning for failure, I see people who plan for success succeed more often, and handle failure much more effectively than people who already have, and publish, their plan for failure of their primary plan. If they see something that could lead to failure, optimists solve it in their primary plan and continue to work for success without giving up. In my mind, going to war is giving up on negotiation. It is plan B implemented before plan A has been tried. This is consistent with social science research that aversives have more negative than positive outcomes. It isn’t the destruction of Japanese power with the A bomb that led to a strong, peaceful Japan. It is the effectiveness of the recovery plan that made this happen. The same is true with post WWII Germany.

This is one more experience that clarifies and reinforces my basic idea that negotiation is the best approach to problem solving on all levels of human interaction. The President does not make a habit of planning for failure and I know this works. I have respect for people saying specifically what they see as weakness in any potential agreement. I disrespect people saying it won’t work before they read it. I disrespect people talking only about their fears without mentioning the strengths of a situation. I disrespect all-or-nothing thinking. I wish the Republican Party would find some optimism in their midst.

{image # 1445398}
August 3, 2015 at 1:20pm
August 3, 2015 at 1:20pm
Growing up, we had neighbors with large families who received public assistance. Other neighbors gossiped “they had all those kids so they could get more welfare money.” I knew those families were not profiting from welfare. I had been in their overcrowded homes and had seen the sparse furnishings, lack of decoration, and lack of privacy. I had way too much information to believe the gossip. In 1970, I moved to Connecticut. There, I noticed that the youngest child in my public welfare caseload was age 6, no matter how many children there were in the family. One day I asked one of those mothers how that could be. Her reply: “Birth control wasn’t legal here until 1964. Do you think I would have had all these children if I could have stopped it?”

I have been a member of Planned Parenthood since they provided health care that I could not otherwise afford in my early twenties. Later, they provided education about STD that my gynecologist did not provide: Unfortunately, too late to preserve my fertility. They provided unbiased counseling about my reproductive health choices about surgery because they wouldn’t profit from unnecessary surgery. Their medical care has made a significant contribution to bringing the AIDS epidemic under control. I have no idea how many pregnancies they have prevented. I have no way of knowing how many unplanned pregnancies I prevented in my life with their help.

I am greatly troubled by the attack on Planned Parenthood. They work to prevent abortion by preventing pregnancy. The largest number of requests for abortion come from peri-menopausal women whose families are grown, who are worried about the many challenges presented by a late pregnancy including much increased risk of birth defect and miscarriage. This is a difficult problem for a family, for a woman to face. They provide healthy support, help women think it through without pushing them one way or another, and continue to provide the care no matter what choice the woman makes.

This attack on Planned Parenthood is an attack on birth control, on prevention and treatment of Sexually Transmitted Disease, on appropriate reproductive health education for teens, and on other prevention and health care activities. The complaint is thinly cloaked as a problem with abortion. If people really cared about abortion, they would strengthen supports to families who experience unplanned pregnancy. No. There is a billboard I often pass that says “babies: God’s economic growth package.” This is the consumer economy gone wrong.

Think about this: your support of the attack on Planned Parenthood supports the kind of spying and twisted editing that results in creation of, and dissemination of inaccurate political “information” (propaganda). This could happen to you, to your interest groups. Is this how you want your Democracy to function?

Finally, Planned Parenthood is a private, not-for-profit organization. The effort to “de-fund” simply restricts options for health care of people who use Medicare and/or Medicaid. We pay lots more for pregnancy and raising of a child than for prevention of the pregnancy in the first place. We will spend much more for the care and treatment of each case of STD than to prevent it.

Please, everyone who agrees, make a donation to Planned Parenthood today. www.plannedparenthood.org Please write to your Congressional representative against de-funding of Planned Parenthood.
July 31, 2015 at 5:43pm
July 31, 2015 at 5:43pm
Today, I have been exploring my 6 volume Complete Works of James Whitcomb Riley, a very popular 19th century poet from Indiana who wrote in the vernacular of his community. The collection is copyright 1913, is leather bound, and has gold page edges, inherited from my grandmother’s generation. It is poetry of the sort she loved and memorized. In fact, it is much easier to memorize than modern verse as it filled a place in society similar to the role popular music has today. I remember my parents reading his work to us as young children. Some of it is funny, some honoring this or that, and though much is very idealistic, some has almost an element of social criticism. I read about a person confronting his Congressman in the barber shop about silver vs. paper currency. It was making fun of political arguments as neither side actually said anything of substance. Seems like how things are in the world today.

I ran across a poem that is so familiar I can almost type it from memory:
Little Orphant Annie
To all the little children;- the happy ones and sad ones;
The sober and the silent ones; the boisterous and glad ones;
The good ones, yes the good ones too; and
All the lovely bad ones.

Little Orphant Annie has come to our house to stay,
An’ wash the cups an’ saucers up an’ brush the crumbs away.
An’ shoo the chickens off the porch an’ dust the hearth an’ sweep’
An’ make the fire and bake the bread, an’ earn her board an’ keep;
An’ all us other children, when the supper-things is done’
We sit around the kitchen fire an’ has the mostest fun
A-lis’nin to the witch-tales ‘at Annie tells about,
An’ the Gobbel-uns ‘at gits you ef you Don’t Watch Out!

Wunst they wuz a little boy wouldn’t say his prayers,--
An when he went to bed at night; away up-stairs,
His Mommy heerd him holler, an’ his Daddy heerd him bawl,
An’ when they turn’t the kivvers down, he wazn’t there at all!
An’ they seeked him in the rafter-room, an’ cubby-hole, an’ press;
An’ seeked him up the chimbly-flue an’ ever’-wheres, I guess;
But all they ever found wuz thist his pants an’ roundabout;-
An’ the Gobbel-uns ‘ll git you Ef you Don’t Watch Out!

An’ one time a little girl ‘ud allus laugh an’ grin,
An’ make fun of ever’one, an’ all her blood an’ –kin;
An’ wunst, when they wuz “company,” an’ ole folks wuz there,
She mocked ‘em an’ shocked ‘em an’ said she didn’t care!
An’ thist as she kicked her heels, an’ turn’t to run an’ hide,
They wuz two big Black Things a-standin’ by her side,
An’ they snatched her through the ceilin’ ‘fore she knowd what she’s about!
An’ the Gobbel-uns ‘ll git you Ef you Don’t Watch Out!

An’ Little Orphant Annie says, when the blaze is blue,
An’ the lamp-wick sputters, an’ the wind goes woo-oo!
An’ you hear the crickets quIt, an’ the moon goes grey,
An’ the light-nin’ bugs in dew is all squenched away,-
You better mind your parents, an’ yer teachurs fond an’ dear,
An’ churish them ‘at loves you, an’ dry the orphant’s tear,
An’ help the pore an’ needy ones ‘at clusters all about,
Or the Gobbel-uns ‘ll git you Ef you Don’t Watch Out!

As a child, like the child in the poem, I was more interested in the “Gobble-uns” than in the content of the poem. It seems that a child, because she was orphaned, had to “earn her keep” by doing household tasks for a family with whom she lived. The children identified with her as another child, but also related to her as someone with different knowledge and gave her an elder sister status. There is no way to know if she was older. It is clear her life was different from theirs, and I suspect that, although they were in school, she was not.

We have a lot of politicians saying they want to revert to a time when welfare was handled by the church. This is a very clear, contemporary description of the life of the person left without a source of support. The child became the servant with no chance to learn reading and writing and arithmetic skills. This would doom her to a life of poverty, unless by some odd luck, she married well. She had no protection from exploitation. If she was raped and pregnant, she was shunned and left to starve. If she was of African descent, it was even worse.

I do not comprehend why anyone would prefer to go back to this. What more can I say?

July 29, 2015 at 1:18pm
July 29, 2015 at 1:18pm
Cecil, so easy to catch, you had to put an arrow in him to make him resist.

Dr. Walter J. Palmer, why does a Dentist have $50,000 to blow on a trip to Africa to poach a Grandfather, an Elder within an endangered species? How does someone with your level of “education” claim that level of ignorance? Don’t dentists have ethics? You have smeared your entire profession. You have smeared the schools where you were educated. You have smeared your family and community. You have smeared your nation. The news has spread world-wide. Your level of disrespect enrages humanity. Unfortunately, you are not endangered. You are a member of a species of people who are disengaged from the world that provides your basic sustenance. The earth and its inhabitants are strangers to your heart. Yours is the worst kind of insanity. The lion takes care of his family. He just lives his life the way lions live their lives. He did nothing to you or your family.

He is not food. I see on the inter-net lots of evidence of humanity loading their proverbial bows getting ready to make your life hell for a long time. My value system tells me to love my enemies. At this moment I am having a lot of trouble thinking of a way to do that. There are doctors replacing children’s hands. There are dentists helping people with many kinds of problems. There are dentists who are naturalists, who spend their time and wealth to support the well-being of their communities. There are little children who know better than to mistreat an animal. I have no idea how to understand who you are or what you have done.

I have heard no apology from you. I wonder, are you defending your behavior in your mind, or are you constructing a meaningful apology with a meaningful plan to make amends? Your responsibility right now is to look to the well-being of your soul. You cannot return Cecil to the living. You cannot save the cubs that will lose their lives because of what you have done. You are still capable of becoming healthy and compassionate. I hope this happens in you, for the well-being of us all.

Signed on behalf of Cecil,

Elizabeth Hykes

July 27, 2015 at 12:02pm
July 27, 2015 at 12:02pm
Shooters form like tornados
we can’t stop;
there is no warning system.

Heat and cold, un-mixed
erupt; “welcome to you,
but not to you.”
Warm hand, cold gun, raging bullet.
“He alone bares the blame” says the Times.
“It’s the situation” says the social scientist.
“It’s the Devil” says the preacher.
"We need sensible gun laws" says the politician.
"Protect the right to bear arms" says the gun fancier.
“He did this to me” says the victim.

Alone he has lived and
alone he has died.
“Atone alone, young shooter.
You are not one of us.”

Shooter says:
“That’s right. I am not one of you.
I cannot atone for what you have not done.”
July 25, 2015 at 3:54pm
July 25, 2015 at 3:54pm
Dear Sandra Bland,
I hear your sister, your family attorney, and some others interviewed on TV speaking carefully, with excellent reasoning, on your behalf. I hear the voices of the Texas people in the town where you arrived as a stranger claiming you were “mental,” using pot, and that you killed yourself. Some are saying a suicide could be the result of a drug reaction due to lack of a prescription drug. The talk goes on. Since your death, concern about what happened to you has been constant in the media. The video of your arrest is played over and over. Any resistance that I had to hurting over your pain is long gone.

Today, I remember being stopped a few months ago by a state police officer. When I asked why I was being stopped. The answer he gave was “a white SUV drove by me speeding. I thought it might have been you.” That did not sound reasonable to me. It frightened me. He looked at my license and insurance verification and let me go. The fear stayed with me. That fear is reaching out to your fear, identifying, changing my heart rate and respiration, and longing to give you back your heart beat, your respiration, and I can’t.

I can’t help you. I can’t protect you. I can’t protect your family, your friends. I can’t protect the people who were prepared to welcome you to your new job. I can’t protect your community. I know the difference between my stop and your stop is very small. I wish the outcome was equally small. This is a futile wish. I am lost in futility wishing to help you.

I hope there are many all over our nation feeling what I am feeling about you and those many, many others deep in the sadness of mistreatment and death related to injustice. I hope people all over joining their voices to speak up on your behalf will soon be heard and heeded.

I pray for peace to fill your soul. I pray the love being expressed for you by so many is filling your ears. They are playing “Strange Fruit” on your behalf. I hope you can hear as your voice is amplified and the effort to create justice is strengthened. Thank you for the gifts you gave.

With deepest respect,

Elizabeth Hykes
July 22, 2015 at 2:43pm
July 22, 2015 at 2:43pm
Yesterday, I taught a chapter about doing therapy from a Social Constructivist perspective. I don’t know how many of my readers know what Social Constructivism is, so I offer a brief definition: we construct meaning socially, through verbal communication. Because this perspective defines the origin of meaning as a present activity, meaning is seen as malleable, and connected directly to the social context that defined it. This perspective fascinates me. It seems very right and true as a result of conversations I have had in the past about it. Those conversations were not only with people, but also with books, and with myself. As I write this, I am conversing with myself and with an imaginary “you.” Of course, you know you are not imaginary, but my conversation is with the “you” in my head, and only becomes a conversation with the “you” made of matter when you read what I wrote. I don’t want to talk here about how these philosophical constructs relate to therapy. I want to apply them to the issue of the Confederate Flag.

As a nation, many, many people are having conversation about the meaning of the Confederate flag and the implications that meaning has for its display. This conversation is aimed at constructing a common meaning that we can all share. It has become salient that there does not now exist a common meaning. We share awareness of the origins of the flag in the secession from the Union by the states that organized themselves as the Confederacy. Until this conversation, I did not know the flag was a battle flag for Robert E. Lee’s regiment rather than the official flag of the Confederacy. I did not know the origins of the symbols as written by the flag’s creator. It appears to me that relatively few people knew any of this. Wisely, people looked it up and shared freely through electronic and print media. Since that sharing, other descriptions of the meaning of the flag have been circulated as freely. I don’t know the origin of these detailed accounts, but I do know that those circulating them seem to hold this as their meaning.

The discussion seems to have boiled down to the question: “Is this flag representing slavery and racial oppression, or is it representing dedication to Christian and patriotic intentions?” I have no information that suggests any impending resolution of the problem. I think people have a real opportunity to redefine the flag for themselves, but they can’t redefine it for someone else who already has another meaning. The resolution will come from the conversation. How long will that take? Well, so far, it has taken 150 years or so. The fact is, there are many meanings for this one symbol that are deeply held.

One of the characteristics of meaning, according to the Constructivist thinkers, is resistance to change. We certainly are seeing this in the current conversation. One of the many meanings contributing to the discussion is a widely held perspective that symbols have absolute meanings, and that there a thing called “absolute truth,” and an “absolute right.” These meanings are especially resistant to change. There is a kind of thinking behind these ideas that has been taught in American schools for a very long time called “scientific reasoning” or “the scientific method.” The constructivist view challenges some of the major meanings or beliefs of science. This is the depth of meaning involved in the discussion of the Confederate flag.

I see no end to the issue on the horizon. I wonder how long it will take to develop a common meaning. I wonder if it is even possible. However, another characteristic of meaning is that discomfort is necessary for change to take place. We seem to be having plenty of that, so perhaps, it can happen now. I guess we shall see. It is interesting to watch, and more interesting to participate. Speak your mind on the subject. Speak freely, as the other flag, that of the United States of America stands for freedom of speech. This is a viable meaning as speech is necessary for growth in response to change. Remember, listening and working at understanding matter at least as much, if not more than speaking in developing viable meaning.

July 20, 2015 at 12:16pm
July 20, 2015 at 12:16pm
Five people dead. The gun people say “they should have been armed.” The press says “one of the dead was armed.” As details are revealed, the press attributes the following information to the shooter’s family: the shooter was spiraling into a place of hopelessness and irresponsibility with a lethal combination of depression with suicidal ideation and substance abuse. In the past, some have said that pointing out mental illness is a way to excuse the behavior.

My thoughts on the subject focus first on the intense sadness I see in those directly affected by the tragedy. My heart goes out to the families of the victims and especially to the family of the shooter. None of those people had any power to change the course of events. Had the families of the victims armed their children, an unexpected shooter had the element of surprise and at least some would have been shot anyway. A gun is not armor. The family of the shooter had no legal control over an adult son who was falling apart. There is very limited legal support for healthy people who recognize the decline of a loved one to stop that decline. We are a country that values the right of the individual over the well-being of the many. We can see a shooter forming, but like a tornado, we can’t stop it, nor can we publicly warn people. This is how our laws are structured. The family of the shooter will live with the shame of his behavior, even though it is not their responsibility, and will have to work very hard at their own sanity to cope.

As a mental health professional, I can tell you that even the people who specialize in recognizing and helping people who find themselves in a “shooter cycle” have limited options. If the budding shooter denies thoughts of harm to self or others, no one can read his/her mind and know the intent is there. If the shooter is fighting the urge and admits to the problem, options remain limited. Witness the Colorado theater shooter found guilty last week of that shooting. The therapist did initiate a process to intervene, as I understand it, and that didn’t stop him. In addition, we are determined to function as if individual behavior occurs in isolation from, and is totally independent of, the larger social context.

As a professional Social Worker, I cannot think that way. I am too deeply aware of social context of human behavior to see individuals as solely responsible for tragic choices. This young man was a member of a small minority that has been vilified both officially and unofficially in the US: immigrant middle eastern Muslims. He didn’t put himself in that position. He is described as a devout, gentle person. In addition he could be described as a vulnerable young man receiving constant mixed messages about his value to his community, and mixed information about how to make sense of his own traditions. Who knows how many insults he experienced growing up in a nation at war with the society from which his family emigrated?

We live in a cyclonic social situation made up of many conflicts, in which vulnerable young people have trouble finding a safe place for their emotional and spiritual development. People are armed without restraint, and shooting is a highly valued skill with few “appropriate” ways to use the skill. We are teaching hunting skills where there is no prey, and teaching military skills to people who will never be in the military because they are not healthy enough. Our social attempts to combat racism and ethnic prejudice are feeble in many places and contradicted by other powerful forces. The problem is so complex it will take years to solve it. In addition, other problems that threaten our very existence draw energy and attention away from this one. I do believe that we could make significant headway by putting limits on gun ownership, and buying back guns that are not needed.
July 16, 2015 at 12:45pm
July 16, 2015 at 12:45pm
I have questions: Who says Texans fear this? Who started this incredible rumor? Who is believing the rumor is based on fact? In my work as a therapist, I learned that “the flip side to every fear is a wish.” This means our own wishes define our fears. So whose wish is behind this rumor and what is the wish? Then, what is the underlying wish of the people who believe the rumor? I suspect these are different wishes. I am as capable as the next person of creating a fantasy on this subject but that won’t help me understand what is really going on.

A friend suggests to me “it is kind of a combination of the Civil War and the Apocalypse. Maybe the Hispanic Texans have petitioned the US government to come and save them. Then, maybe not.” The one thing that is clear to me is the emotionality of the situation appears to not be informed by reason. It seems to me the media are publicizing this fear for their own reasons. One news source is laughing at their perception of absurdity in the story. Another news source reports this with obvious puzzlement. A third news source reports it as if there is really something to fear. No matter which perspective the media takes, it is and interesting story and distracts attention from real news about problems at the border and Texas reactions, official and unofficial. To those who are reading this, join in the fun with those who see this as absurd and please realize it is about racism and manipulation of the poorly educated and poorly informed. Then return your attention to the real problems we need to solve as voters.

{image # 1445398}
July 11, 2015 at 4:47pm
July 11, 2015 at 4:47pm
Thinking more about the ant research (please refer to yesterday's posting for background information): perhaps the ants only do that when they have paint on them. Maybe they would prefer t-shirts, or toupees. Yes, I think I will do a kickstarter project to raise money to give the little guys toupees, like Donald Trump! If that doesn't convert ants to the Democratic Party, I don't know what will.

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