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Orlando

On Sunday our President addressed the nation for the 16th time in the wake of a horrible mass shooting. He has gone from offering sympathy, to struggling to hold back tears (Sandy Hook) to crying outright (Charleston) to speaking with a mixture of resignation and barely contained anger.

His words were measured, his delivery somber, but I heard him say quite clearly “For God’s sake America, how many times do I have to do this?”

He talked about an attack on any American being an attack on all Americans.  He talked about this being a reminder of how easy it is for someone to get their hands on a weapon that allows them to shoot fellow Americans in schools and churches and nightclubs.  Then in just 14 words, he expressed his frustration and despair and offered a challenge to the country:

We have to decide if this is the kind of country we want to be.

For a depressingly large number of people, apparently it is.

Fortunately there are many who have said no, it is not the country we want to be.

  • Chris Murphy who stood on the Senate floor for nearly 15 hours until Republicans agreed to bring gun control measures to a vote;
  • Samantha Bee who asked her producers if she could just scream for the next 7 minutes and then delivered a scathing indictment of the gun violence situation in the US (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t88X1pYQu-I) ending with a prayer for God to please send the NRA a plague of boils.
  • John Oliver who said “right now this just hurts…and the pain is so familiar (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t88X1pYQu-I) ending, “And now, please enjoy our stupid show”.  It must be really hard to be funny after an unspeakable tragedy.
  • Stephen Colbert (http://www.cbsnews.com/videos/stephen-colbert-i-was-sickened-by-news-of-orlando-attack/) who talks about how nothing ever changes except for the families of the victims for whom nothing will be the same again
  • Jimmy Fallon (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yl8Xg9FdPNc) who talks about how America was built on the idea that the US is a tolerant, free nation and we should be brave enough to accept that we are different.

And then there is Trevor Noah (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C93hqlwFhz4) who talks about how the country reacted to 9/11: we did something.  He ends with the question America should ask itself:

Do you want to be a country which takes reasonable measures to protect its citizens or shall we tell the President to prepare speech #17?

 

Chicken carcasses and Compost

This is supposed to be a blog about compost, and I have been a little distracted lately, so here is a piece about the core subject. (Drafted a little over a year ago!)

My composting has fallen into a routine which is regulated by how often we eat chicken (or sometimes duck, or occasionally rabbit, all from the Farmers’ Market).  Being just the two of us, one small animal provides us with at least two meals followed by a great soup made from stock from the carcass.
But then there is still the problem of what to do with the bones.  Ignoring the dire warnings against putting bones of any kind in the compost, but mindful of the fact that critters might be interested, and flies certainly are, I use a new set of bones for a ceremonial turning of the pile.
I have five pallets forming an E, or two bays.  I build the pile in one.  Then on burial day, the remains of the chicken or duck or rabbit are deposited in the empty bay, and the whole pile is  turned over on top of it.  This happens about once a week.  You have to believe me when I say that there is no trace of previous carcasses – nothing, nada, zilch.

I first noticed this phenomenon when I went down to the veggie garden and there was a dead possum lying near the compost piles.  So I dug it into the middle of the most active pile and went away.  About four days later I turned the pile and there was no sign of the possum.  Neither was there any sign of the pile having been disturbed. Nevertheless, I reckoned the possum must have been pretending and had woken up and wandered off.  Then I found  dead bird, and that vanished into the pile.  Now the chickens.

Three wonderful days in Chicago

Last week I went to Chicago to take part in the Climate Reality Leadership training. 1500 people packed the ballroom at the Convention Center and were inspired by Maggie Fox, representatives of the Truman National Security Project, Kim Wasserman, many Climate leadership mentors and of course, the leader of Leaders, Al Gore. It was – as they predicted – a life-changing experience. I am now committed to at least ten leadership events in the coming year, so expect to hear lots more on this subject.

Two letters from Alan De Wolfe

First:

Many thank to Elizabeth Whitehouse for that primer on how not to talk like an American.  In case anyone missed it it was on The Leader’s op-ed page one dy after out Independence Day celebrations.

Good timing Liz.

Intelligent Americans are painfully aware of our shortcomings, y’know, how we’re money grubbers, racially prejudiced, have glass ceilings, allow only a few people to be wealthy, etc., but the very person who wants most to come here. Why? Because there hs never been a country like this for opportunity and freedom. Is your own presence attibutabe to opportunity discovered here in dinky little Corning?

Referring to our opinion of ourselves, you said “Please define greatness.” As a British subject, you will recall from history that the early British Isles were light years from greatness until, through hardship and perseverance, greatness became a thing you could actually lay claim to.  Hurrah for you.  But what have you now? A governing body which comes to fist-fights regularly, a society sapped with skinhead (and other) hooligans because of shocking unemployment, and according to Professor Higgins, a native people who do their darndest to destroy their own language. (I seem to remember that he said something about “There even are places where English completely disappears – in America they haven’t spoken it for years).  Other things could be added by the bushel, but unlike you, I have not come to bury you, just to edify. The world knows, there is nothing as accurate or soothing as well-spoken American English, which is free from those totally weird British inflections which can cause serious misunderstandings.  And if you attended Eton (which I could not have even if I had wanted to) there’s no help for you at all.Fro the decks of the HMS Pinafore, Sir Joseph Porter would call those observations unanswerable. (Want to bet?)

Do e have problems? Oh gosh, yes.  Remember though, the United States is still called the great experiment, where the people of the world have assembled to form a more perfect society.  We don’t need you to tell us that is fails in many ways, but we overcome most of our own stupidity by letting cool head prevail.

Ad who is the world’s policeman? Picture a world without US.  You excellent Europeans would be speaking German now but for American sacrifice in the 1930s-40s.  You want us to be free from bigotry nd oppression, hunger, etc.  Wake up lady.  We are the human race.  Imperfection is what we do best. Utopia exists only in the minds of Ithaca liberals, and perhaps you.  All we can do is try.  as for the British pretense of civility, those maddening little flaws persist, don’t they?  The British and the US have the greatest alliance in history.

Don’t let  flapping mouth sink the ship.

I am flattered that Alan thinks that my comments in dinky little Corning could disrupt years of Anglo-American relations. I could, if I wanted to, demolish most of his arguments, but I won’t because he wrote a second letter which I took as something of an apology (with a sting in the tail):

Time for Mature Reflection

Regarding the matter of Mrs Whitehouse vs the United States, it’s time for mature reflection.

We know you mean well, Liz, but sometimes it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.  A better choice of words on your part, and those of the patriotic rabble, would have accomplished a more positive result.

It’s good to get riles up occasionally, that’s what op-ed is for.

Thanks for the painful introspection, Mrs. W.

Now cool your afterburner.

 

 

Two letters from Alan De Wolfe

First:

Many thank to Elizabeth Whitehouse for that primer on how not to talk like an American.  In case anyone missed it it was on The Leader’s op-ed page one dy after out Independence Day celebrations.

Good timing Liz.

Intelligent Americans are painfully aware of our shortcomings, y’know, how we’re money grubbers, racially prejudiced, have glass ceilings, allow only a few people to be wealthy, etc., but the very person who wants most to come here. Why? Because there hs never been a country like this for opportunity and freedom. Is your own presence attibutabe to opportunity discovered here in dinky little Corning?

Referring to our opinion of ourselves, you said “Please define greatness.” As a British subject, you will recall from history that the early British Isles were light years from greatness until, through hardship and perseverance, greatness became a thing you could actually lay claim to.  Hurrah for you.  But what have you now? A governing body which comes to fist-fights regularly, a society sapped with skinhead (and other) hooligans because of shocking unemployment, and according to Professor Higgins, a native people who do their darndest to destroy their own language. (I seem to remember that he said something about “There even are places where English completely disappears – in America they haven’t spoken it for years).  Other things could be added by the bushel, but unlike you, I have not come to bury you, just to edify. The world knows, there is nothing as accurate or soothing as well-spoken American English, which is free from those totally weird British inflections which can cause serious misunderstandings.  And if you attended Eton (which I could not have even if I had wanted to) there’s no help for you at all.Fro the decks of the HMS Pinafore, Sir Joseph Porter would call those observations unanswerable. (Want to bet?)

Do e have problems? Oh gosh, yes.  Remember though, the United States is still called the great experiment, where the people of the world have assembled to form a more perfect society.  We don’t need you to tell us that is fails in many ways, but we overcome most of our own stupidity by letting cool head prevail.

Ad who is the world’s policeman? Picture a world without US.  You excellent Europeans would be speaking German now but for American sacrifice in the 1930s-40s.  You want us to be free from bigotry nd oppression, hunger, etc.  Wake up lady.  We are the human race.  Imperfection is what we do best. Utopia exists only in the minds of Ithaca liberals, and perhaps you.  All we can do is try.  as for the British pretense of civility, those maddening little flaws persist, don’t they?  The British and the US have the greatest alliance in history.

Don’t let  flapping mouth sink the ship.

I am flattered that Alan thinks that my comments in dinky little Corning could disrupt years of Anglo-American relations. I could, if I wanted to, demolish most of his arguments, but I won’t because he wrote a second letter which I took as something of an apology (with a sting in the tail):

Time for Mature Reflection

Regarding the matter of Mrs Whitehouse vs the United States, it’s time for mature reflection.

We know you mean well, Liz, but sometimes it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.  A better choice of words on your part, and those of the patriotic rabble, would have accomplished a more positive result.

It’s good to get riles up occasionally, that’s what op-ed is for.

Thanks for the painful introspection, Mrs. W.

Now cool your afterburner.

 

 

At least one American is proud to be so:

Dear Mrs Whitehouse,

Thank you for pointing out to us the many deficiencies of our democratic society.  Having told us what a “great country” does not do, have, or allow, you then tell us what you “cannot support” in our electoral process.

Fortunately for you, Mrs Whitehouse, you will not be required to address any of these issues since you are adamantly “not an American” and therefore cannot vote.  As an alternative to voting Nov. 6, perhaps a trip back to England to clebrate Guy Fawkes night Nov. 5 would be a good choice.

I believe he was also anti-government,

(signed)

A Proud American,

Joyce Merletti
Corning

 

This letter appeared above my second letter explaining that I am not English.  I might also comment here that I have never voted.  Not once, not anywhere.

By chance I was out of South Africa for the two elections I was old enough to vote in and the Nationalist Party could have been the model for states like Florida which are so creative in limiting the number of people who can vote: South Africa did not allow absentee votes, knowing full well that anyone who had dared to travel abroad would vote against them and their policy of apartheid.

During the years we lived in Italy, neither my English husband nor I could vote – not for Italy because we were not Italian and not for the UK because we did not have a residence in that country.  For the same reasons we could not even vote for the European Parliament.

And you know about my position here.

Actually one vote every four years is not that significant. You can tell that because so few Americans even bother to vote.

Less positive response

Dear Ms. Whitehouse,

I hope you don’t mind the e-mail contact.  I got your address through Blaine Strimple, a friend of many years.  My name is xxxxxxx.  I am a retired Corning-Painted Post School District teacher.

I read with great interest your recent letter to The Leader.  I certainly agree with many of the points you make about conditions in the United States. There is, without doubt, a great disparity between the haves and have-nots, between the empowered and the powerless, and between the mighty and the weak.  In addition, the current political climate is a national shame.  We need to work together to solve many of our country’s pressing problems, but those in office seem more concerned about staying in power and in playing politics than serving the real needs of our citizens.

I would, however, have given more credence to your opinions if you had made some attempt at a balanced approach.  Perhaps something along the lines of noting the high standard of living you have been able to enjoy in your many years of living here, a recognition of the many, many good qualities of our nation (standing with allies in times of trouble [remember WWI and WWII?], quick to send aid in times of disaster or tragedy, etc., etc.), and an acknowledgement of the fact that you felt free to openly share your criticisms in a public forum that freely allows exchange of thoughts and ideas.  I’m sure that there are many nations where this would not be allowed.  You then could have followed this preface with your very valid points of criticism.

Yes, most Americans feel that this is a great country (poor, deluded us!).  I’m sure that the citizens of many other nations feel the same about their native lands.  We certainly are not perfect (unlike the nations of ?????, and ?????).  I feel that most Americans are open to looking at our faults and at discussing ways to correct them.  However, I noted that your letter was long on criticism but somewhat lacking in suggestions.

I know that there are many who will attack you, rather than confront the issues you have raised, but perhaps it is human nature to resent the criticisms of a guest who has enjoyed the benefits of our nation for so long (twenty-eight years?) but now seems to feel it necessary to call us to task.  I am sorry that your many years of living here have been unhappy and have left you feeling so negatively about us.  I am disappointed that we do not meet your standards and that you have no desire to become one of us, but I do so appreciate your insight into our self-delusions about our greatness.

Sincerely,

PS — I’m contacting you via e-mail, rather than sending a letter to the editor.  I wanted to share my thought on a personal level instead of becoming part of a public debate. (I have therefore not included his name). I do wish you well.

 

My reply:

Thank you for your letter.  You make some very valid points.
I would not say that the past 28 years have been unhappy.The US, and Corning in particular, have been very good to my husband and me, not so much so for our children: two have had serious financial difficulties because of the impossibility of getting affordable health insurance, one has an overwhelming student loan debt, and two are unable to get loans (one for business, one a mortgage) because the banks are so afraid of another financial meltdown.  In one family, we have the haves and the have-nots that you mentioned. Yet we all pay our taxes and abide by the laws of the land. The children, I might add, are all happily married to Americans and have American children and step children.  Not one of them is a citizen.
Of course, there are good things about the country, freedom of speech being one of them. However, this is hardly unique to the United States.  It is a basic tenet of the United Nations Charter, and the majority of countries abide by it. The US’s contribution to the World Wars is, I’m afraid, irrelevant to today’s situation.  As your friend Mr Strimple said, this is not the country that it once was, not the country he served. 
As far as my letter being short of suggestions  is concerned, that was quite deliberate.  I am not in a position to offer solutions.  (That is not to say that I do not have ideas.)  But my intention was to draw attention to some of the problems facing the country, and ask voters to think about them, come up with their own solutions, and then decide who among the people standing for election will best put those solutions into effect.
Incidentally, the title in The Leader “Proud not to be an American” was their choice, not mine.
I am very willing to take this discussion further with anyone who would like to, anywhere, any time.
Regards,