Written July 4th, 2012
I have lived in the United States since 1984, but I am still a British subject, a fact which shocks many Americans who are convinced that the entire world wants to be American. This is not so. I have not taken out citizenship because, quite frankly, I do not want to be known as an American. I do not want to be a citizen of a country which is defined by greed and animosity. I do to want to be part of a system that allows 6 people (the heirs of Sam Walton) to control as much (unearned) wealth as the bottom 30% of the population.
The vast majority of Americans go along with the idea that the United States is the greatest country that has ever been. Please define greatness. To my mind, a great country is one where the people can live their lives free from bigotry and oppression; where they can earn a decent living doing the work they are most suited to; where they contribute as much as they can to the good of the country; and where they have the expectation that if things go very wrong for them, there is a safety net to help them recover. A country like New Zealand, or Denmark, where there is 100% literacy and virtually no poverty.
A great country does not have 15% of its population living in poverty and therefore hungry; a great country does not squander and destroy its natural resources in pursuit of profit; a great country does not assume that its ways are the best for everyone else as well; a great country does not throw its weight around just because it can; a great country does not destroy smaller nations in pursuit of an ideology. And socialism is not the end of life as we know it. Current policies may be.
A great country does not allow slander, mudslinging and venomous attacks against someone whose only fault is that they belong to a different political party. My political philosophy is definitely left of center, but I simply cannot espouse blind devotion to a party on the strength of name alone. I cannot support anyone for whom being elected and staying in power is more important than representing constituents. I cannot support anyone who sees elected office as a lucrative career rather than service to country.
On election day in November, I beg citizens and voters of the Southern Tier to look carefully at the candidates that affect us most – Tom Reed or Nate Shinagawa, President Obama or Mitt Romney. Don’t be swayed by publicity. Do some research and think for yourself.
Ask yourself two simple questions: Is he for us or for himself; if he is elected who stands to benefit most – him, or me.
(And I am happy to engage in further conversation along these lines: please contact me at email@example.com)
To the Editor
“Trump has been resentful, even furious, at what he views as the media’s failure to reflect the magnitude of his achievements,” The Washington Post reported this week, “and he feels demoralized that the public’s perception of his presidency so far does not necessarily align with his own sense of accomplishment.”
In fact the magnitude of his “achievements” is staggering: he has already put in place the mechanisms for dismantling every advance that environmentalists have made in the fight against the fossil fuel industry. This is truly American exceptionalism at work. What other country has elected a climate change denier and approved his climate change denying cabinet?
Those of us who care about clean air, clean water, enough water, and a generally healthy environment producing generally healthy food can no longer look to Washington for help. We must act locally.
“But what can I do?” I hear the voices of apathy whine. Plenty. Winston Churchill said "It is not enough that we do our best; sometimes we must do what is required." What is required is that we get involved, that we become informed ,and that we stand up to what is getting awfully close to tyranny.
[Aside: Mr Weeks, I understand that if the President commands that you appear in Washington, you turn up. I implore you to use your influence to mitigate the impact that some of the more outrageous ideas emanating from the White House will have on the people of the Southern Tier, among others]
Anyone wishing to get involved with protecting the environment is welcome to contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org). Or you can:
Join a local organization. The Sierra Club, Food and Water Watch, the League of Women Voters, Gas Free Seneca, We are Seneca Lake, NYPAN (New York Progressive action Network) and PHE (People for a Healthy Environment) are good places to start. I am most involved with PHE, a small group ready to tackle big problems. Learn more from our Facebook pages.
Engage with local representatives. Read their press releases/op-ed pieces. Get on their mailing lists. Be aware of what they are thinking and call them out if those ideas seem not to be in the public interest.
March, go to rallies, protest, write letters, start a petition
Approach your municipality. Ask them to pass a resolution defending the environment. One such resolution will not stop the new President from trying to overturn state laws (like banning fracking), but one hundred will make it very difficult.
Join my new Meetup group – Let’s Talk About It Corning. Trump supporters more than welcome.
Protecting the environment is the most important thing any of us can do for ourselves and our grandchildren. Remember, there is no planet B.
Letter to the Editor
Tom Mayo (The Leader, May 17, 2016) presented a seemingly airtight case for the prosecution in the people v. abortion. I would like to present the case for the defense.
Let me start by saying that I know of no one, no one, who is pro-abortion. It is not a pleasant procedure for anyone involved. But I argue that it is the lesser of two evils.
Mr Mayo presented a fanciful picture of an unborn child sad because “instead of sitting on mommy’s lap it soon would be sitting on God’s lap”. I don’t mean to be flippant, but isn’t that what Christians strive for? On a more serious note, as 90% of all abortions are performed before the 13th week of gestation, there are very few ‘children’ sensing that their impending birth is about to be terminated.
As for “What did I do wrong that suddenly I’m not wanted?” and the follow up that sadly in America it is legal to end an unwanted pregnancy. Thank God, I say (bearing in mind that I do not believe in God). Bringing up a child is difficult enough under great circumstances. Many times the circumstances are a long way short of great. Children do not thrive when they are not wanted.
Mr Mayo talks about the close to 58 million pregnancies that have been terminated since Roe v. Wade, and considers that stunning and shameful. I agree. With sufficient education and completely free access to birth control (including the morning after pill) one could reduce unwanted pregnancies to almost zero.
I have to ask what would have happened to those children had they been carried to term and born to parents who were, for one reason or another, not in a position to care for them? Adoption? Foster care? Wards of the State? Or just dragged up any old how? Is Mr Mayo actively contributing to a fund for unwanted children? In the words of a Catholic nun: I do not believe that just because you're opposed to abortion, that that makes you pro-life. She goes on to say that if you are really pro-life you work to provide for the un-aborted children that are born. But as she also says, the likes of Mr Mayo are mostly just pro-birth. They don’t care what happens after that.
Then Mr Mayo considers the ‘legal’ aspect, quoting the Declaration of Independence: endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. Two problems here: first, both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were drawn up by men who seriously questioned the existence of a creator, but as Darwin had not yet enlightened them, that was all they had to go on. As there is no proven Creator, there are no God-given rights. True, there are many rights that we humans should confer on other humans. To my mind that includes quality of life.
Second, I was not aware that the Declaration of Independence had any legal standing. “ Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” does not appear in the Constitution, which does.
I rest my case.
To the Editor, 2013
Last night I watched the Memorial Day Concert from Washington. And I wept. I wept during the National Anthem. I wept during the number from Les Mis. I wept at the story of the National Guard man who killed himself.
But mostly, I felt deep disgust.
This concert is, ostensibly, to honor the brave men and women who have fought and died so that this country can be free. Please tell me how more than 2200 dead Americans in Afghanistan (and no one knows how many Afghans); 55,000 dead Americans in Vietnam (and about 500,000 Vietnamese); 37,000 dead Americans in Korea (over half a million Koreans); and more than one million deaths in Iraq have made this country safer or freer.
Those numbers do not include the wounded. How many returned – or were left behind – with catastrophic brain injuries? How many returned –or were left behind - without limbs? By the way, they tell us that PTSD is a treatable disorder. But how many veterans are being treated?
This concert is nothing but a glorification of war. The more it is glorified, the longer war will continue. For some – Haliburton, the Pentagon and others – that is a good thing. But I ask, how dare a country entice its citizens (and non-citizens!!!!!: foreigners cannot vote in the US but they can die for it; 18 year-olds are not responsible and mature enough to have a beer with their buddies, but they can risk life or limb for their great country) to sacrifice themselves for a non-event of an ideal: “freedom”. The US is in no danger of invasion, no danger of a totalitarian take-over by foreigners, and no danger of subversive infiltration, which war wouldn’t prevent anyway.
The stories presented during this concert are horrible. The heroism depicted is incredible. But men and women should not be expected to be heroic to this extent. Those who volunteer for the armed forces may be misguided, but they know what they are getting into. It is their choice to go to war if called.
The National Guard, on the other hand, sign up to – well - guard the nation. They fully expect to be called to assist in natural disasters, civil unrest and other crises within our borders. They do not sign up to be sent for months at a time to God-forsaken places where they are shot at, maimed or killed – and come home to no job.
I expect a lot of outrage at this letter. I just hope that the outrage is as much against unnecessary war as it is against me.
To the Editor
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives reports that in 2010, 95% of 5,459,240 new firearms manufactured in the US were for the American market. More than 3 million others were imported. AFT also reported that there are 129,817 federally licensed firearms dealers in the United States. By comparison, there are less than 40,000 grocery stores. Talk about priorities!
Shocking as this last event in Newtown was, it will hardly make a difference to the overall statistics. The country is mourning with the families in Newtown, but what about the families of the individuals who are shot every day. The nation averages 87 gun deaths every day as a function of gun violence, plus an average of 183 injured, according to the University of Chicago Crime Lab and the Centers for Disease Control, at enormous cost to the country. (An estimated $100 billion annually.)
It will only stop when Americans take a long, hard look at what has created this culture of violence, and ask themselves if this is something to be proud of. It will only stop when Americans take a long hard look at the document that plays such an important role in their lives –the Constitution – and ask if it is still relevant in the 21st century. The time has come to rethink the Constitution, starting with the Second Amendment.