Showing posts with label essay. Show all posts
Showing posts with label essay. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Dan Rather: Shaken

This seems surreal. But it's all too real.  ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌

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This seems surreal. But it's all too real.

I am shaken. And I don't feel like I shake easily. 

Our nation. The president. A set of facts — damning testimony — that would have been beyond most of our abilities to imagine. But here we are. 

I have seen a lot over the course of my life, but I have never seen anything like this. I know I have said that a lot recently, but events keep escalating. And it continues, sadly, to be true.

This seems surreal. But it's all too real. This happened. What we learned today in the committee hearing is that the president of the United States knowingly fomented, and was eager to lead, an armed mob to attack the U.S. Capitol. 

The threat of violence was known far in advance. We now have eye and ear witness testimony plus other strong evidence of proof that the threat of bodily harm on a branch of government wasn't an unfortunate byproduct — it was a driving force. 

Sometimes fate shines a bright spotlight on people who have been far outside the public's consciousness. Before reporters last night identified today's star witness as Cassidy Hutchinson, an aide to White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, how many Americans had heard her name? Now she will forever occupy a place of import in American history. 

There are some who are dismissing Hutchinson's courage. They note that she was a loyal acolyte of the Trump White House. She kept these secrets until compelled under oath to testify. What choice did she have, the argument goes, but to speak? 

There is some merit to all of this, but I would not dismiss what it means to stand up and tell these truths to a global audience when we have seen such vindictiveness and threats leveraged from the former president and his enablers and henchmen. Hutchinson's story is beginning. We will see where she goes. And let us not overlook how stark her example stands in contrast to the cowardice of all who have remained silent — mostly senior men of privilege and power. 

There will be time for much more thoughtful analysis to put what we are learning now in real time into greater context. For now, however, we must remember how close we came to never learning the full story. 

If the Republicans had a majority in the House, there would be no committee. The majority of elected officials in that party are not only eager to sweep this insurrection under the rug, they still pay fealty to the would-be dictator who fomented it. We have had far too much silence. Far too much complicity. Far too many lies. 

And I have a sickening feeling that we will learn a lot more. I dearly hope we can purge this cancer from our body politic and that all who are responsible feel the full weight of justice.


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© 2022 Dan Rather
548 Market Street PMB 72296, San Francisco, CA 94104

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Monday, June 27, 2022

Celebrate with Pride - 2022 (photo essay)

Hundreds of folks strolled through the Town Common Sunday afternoon, checking out the vendor tents, organizational information available, lingering for the varied open mic, and musical entertainment.

The first Pride day was successful. The next one is already being planned for. Hold the date for June 25, 2023.

A sampling of my photos follows. The full album can be found here

Jake Jacobson graciously shares some of the photos he took of the event in this album

the art wall
the art wall helped frame this view

First Universalist Society of Franklin provided info at their tent
First Universalist Society of Franklin provided info at their tent

the Franklin LGBTQ+ Alliance tent was centrally located and busy all day
the Franklin LGBTQ+ Alliance tent was centrally located and busy all day

PFLAG Attleboro, just one of many neighboring communities represented
PFLAG Attleboro, just one of many neighboring communities represented

Escape into Fiction was there with books
Escape into Fiction was there with books

Sioo MC'd the open mic portion and performed a few of her songs
Sioo MC'd the open mic portion and performed a few of her songs

group photo L-R yours truly, Melanie Hamblen, Jeff Roy, and Sarah Mabardy
group photo L-R yours truly, Melanie Hamblen, Jeff Roy, and Sarah Mabardy

Singer Krisanthi Pappas and Bass Player Steve Skop
Singer Krisanthi Pappas and Bass Player Steve Skop closed out the day with their performance

Monday, June 13, 2022

Senior Story Hour: Episode 042 - Uvalde, Cribbage, Visiting The Neighborhood, Amazon and More (audio)

"In this episode, the Franklin Senior Center writer's group share stories, poems, writings and more about the tragedy Uvalde, Cribbage and a String of Pearls, Revisiting old neighborhoods, Amazon deliveries and more!

This episode aired on Franklin Radio for June 2022."

Audio file ->

Senior Story Hour: Episode 042
Senior Story Hour: Episode 042

The writer's group meets weekly on Wednesday's at 1 PM either in person at the Senior Center or virtually via Zoom. Once a month we meet at the Franklin TV studio to record this session for radio and podcast.

If you would like to join the writer's group contact the Senior Center or send me an email (shersteve @ and we'll get you on the mailing list.

Monday, December 20, 2021

Feeling Vulnerable by Dan Rather and Elliot Kirschner

It is impossible to remove all of our vulnerabilities; they are intrinsic to life. But we can lessen them for ourselves, and especially for others.  ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌

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Feeling Vulnerable
Photo by Maren Winter
As another year winds down...  As we look to the future... and ponder a perilous time in this nation's history...  As we contend with global challenges...  ... with our environment...  ... our health...  ... our systems and notions of justice ...

There is no shortage of adjectives to apply to our times - dire, dangerous, and demoralizing, to name a few (and that's just for the letter D). Today, however, we wanted to explore one closer to the end of the alphabet - vulnerable

Perhaps it is another looming wave of Covid, perhaps it is the multiple threats we face to our democracy, perhaps it is a season when we reflect on the past, perhaps it is the feeling of instability that comes with aging, but a feeling of vulnerability has been a major theme in conversations we have been having with family and friends.

Vulnerability is part of the human condition, no matter the era. On a personal level, we are all vulnerable and we can see the vulnerability of those around us. Youth provides, to some, a false shield of invincibility, but life often knocks that down pretty quickly. The months I spent bed-ridden with rheumatic fever as a child is a personal reminder I carry with me. 

When we look back, however, we can likely think of times when the general state of vulnerability in our communities, and the nation and world as a whole, felt far less present than it does today. 

Perhaps there is something in our minds that makes us more attuned to the more immediate vulnerabilities of the present than in rememberances of the past. During the height of the Cold War, for example, there was a very real and present fear that the world could end with the push of a button. That's a lot of vulnerability to carry around with you.  

Any consideration of vulnerability must also recognize that it strikes communities unevenly, depending on how they are constructed. During Jim Crow, the chasm of vulnerability Black Americans felt as opposed to their White neighbors was wide and deep. The legacies of racial hatred still remain in America and they shape vulnerabilities people feel in their daily lives. 

Many of the vulnerabilities of today are such that even wealth and privilege do not feel like they are protective. The pandemic, the climate crisis, the assaults on our government are all of a nature that they put everyone and everything into a state of danger. At the same time, however, we must recognize that those on the margins of society will be most vulnerable to these changing realities. 

Recently, my daughter shared an article with me that captures a major vulnerability many Americans feel today. Originally published a year ago in The Atlantic, the piece by Dani Alexis Ryskamp is entitled The Life in The Simpsons Is No Longer Attainable. Ms. Ryskamp considered the lifestyle of the titular family of the animated television series which premiered more than 30 years ago!  She concluded, "The most famous dysfunctional family of 1990s television enjoyed, by today's standards, an almost dreamily secure existence that now seems out of reach for all too many Americans." 

Ms. Ryskamp not only reports on the data around such things as housing and medical costs, but considers her own precarious career as a freelance writer. She didn't use the word vulnerability but it hovers over the entire piece. "For many, a life of constant economic uncertainty—in which some of us are one emergency away from losing everything, no matter how much we work—is normal," she wrote. 

It is impossible to remove all of our vulnerabilities; they are intrinsic to life. But we can lessen them for ourselves, and especially for others. This is a major role of government. We can provide more safety nets for those who falter. We can reduce our damage to the environment. We can introduce measures to improve our public health. We can build systems that are more just. 

Combatting vulnerability, however, is not something that can be purely accomplished on an individual level. It requires community. It requires a sense that we are in this together. It means getting vaccinated to help others, as well as yourself. It means embracing more housing, even if it's in your backyard. It means recognizing that we need to change the way we consume energy. It means paying a fair share of taxes. It means being open to the stories of people who are different from you. 

In the aftermath of the recent deadly tornadoes which ripped through several states, many noted how Kentucky Senator Rand Paul asked for federal aid after years of opposing aid to other communities in need after natural disasters. In this anecdote of rank hypocrisy, we can find an important lesson. We are all vulnerable. Some of us are vulnerable in ways we feel each and every day. Others of us are more vulnerable to something we cannot predict, a sudden illness, accident, or other such calamities, like a natural disaster. At a point when our feelings of vulnerability are at a high level, perhaps we can recognize the vulnerability being felt by others. 

When President Biden went to view the devastation in Kentucky, he headed to a part of the country that voted overwhelmingly for President Trump. The Washington Post wrote an article from this perspective and spoke to local residents who were appreciative of Biden't visit, even if they still didn't support him politically. Many were eager for federal help. That's okay. One doesn't have to support a politician to support the office of the Presidency or recognize the role of the government to provide aid. But the only way this works is if it goes both ways. Will these people in Trump country who are now feeling so vulnerable also support efforts to decrease the vulnerability in communities very different from theirs? 

President Biden knows firsthand how vulnerable we all are to the tragic twists of fate. His life is testimony to that. In the legislation he is pushing in Congress, from infrastructure, to climate, to child tax credits, to voting rights, he is trying to address the vulnerabilities he sees in American life. His bet is that ultimately a shared sense of vulnerability can bridge our divisions. A counter-narrative to this hope is the pandemic, which has shown how a deep and pervasive vulnerability can be politicized to further drive us apart around things like vaccines, which used to be uniting. But perhaps that is because the lies people have heard about the virus have provided them with a false sense of invulnerability. 

I do not know where these times will eventually lead. I do not see a quick end to the worries and vulnerabilities so many feel. But I do believe that recognizing our vulnerabilities and seeing the vulnerabilities in others can be an important part of recognizing our own humanity. And that, in turn, can be a step to building a future that feels less vulnerable.

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Sunday, November 28, 2021

A mother's song (essay, video)

Via  Dan Rather, Elliot Kirschner, and Steady Team:

"‘Tis the season to gather with family.

The notion of family is a complicated one. We are born into families, but we also make them and choose them. We join new families through our life partners. And families can grow, with new births, and as siblings, children, and other relatives bring in their own partners and have their own children. Families also shrink and fracture, with death and through trauma and miscommunication.

But at the most elemental level, family is often created and centered around one of the strongest bonds of nature, that between mother and child."
Continue reading the article online (subscription may be required)

Direct link to YouTube video =>

Monday, September 27, 2021

Dan Rather: We Need a New Vocabulary For Our Politics...

Terminology is always key. I have told a story that grass is green, Your grass maybe greener than mine or vice versa, but we both know 'green grass'. When it comes to ordering a particular shade of green, the color match becomes critical and the terminology plays more of a role. Emerald green, lime green, dark green... You get the point. 

The conservation of the terms we use for politics distorts how quickly our politics can and has changed.  ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌
Dan Rather: We Need a New Vocabulary For Our Politics...

Why have I started this post with a picture of an old telephone? Because I've been thinking a lot lately that what we call a "phone" today is nothing like what we used to call a phone. 

I know this is no great revelation, but bear with me for a moment, because I believe there is a strong parallel to be made between this observation and what we are seeing in our current political world, and how we talk about it. 

Simply put, we use vocabulary from the past to talk about the present in a way that can, if we are not careful, be very distorting. Much like the powerful computer/camera/reader/flashlight/alarm clock/tracking device we carry around in our purses or pockets has only a tangential relation to traditional notions of the telephone, the nomenclature we use to reference political parties, the courts, and the other institutions of our civic life is equally tenuous. 

Democrats, Republicans, moderates, liberals, conservatives - we use these terms as if they are rooted and unchanging in their definitions, like, say, mountains, oceans, or apples. But there is a big difference between the words we use to describe the constructions of human society and those we use for nature. When it comes to how we live and interact, we are agents of increasingly rapid change. We use words to try to create common understandings and tie the present to the past. But broad terms cover up the diversity of the human experience, and how things change over time. People live in "homes" all over the world. But a "house" in one place can be very different from a "house" somewhere else. And certainly our homes today are similar but also very different from the houses of the past. 

The conservation of the terms we use for politics distorts how quickly our politics can and has changed. We must remember we are a very young country. Only 245 years (a little over three average modern American lifespans) separates our current time from the Declaration of Independence. For me, at least, that fact never ceases to shock. It resonates how much we have changed, and how quickly. 

We need to really think hard about how antiquated some of our descriptions for our current state of affairs have become. Let's start with who makes up the citizenship of our country. It is nothing like what it was, even in the not-too-distant past. We are much more diverse, by any metric you could think of. We are also more urban, more educated, and more mobile. And yet there is a strong bias to think of "average Americans" as those who would be conjured up in decades past. Proof of this can be found in the seeming obsession by the political press to hunker down for interviews with voters in rural diners. These Americans are asked their opinion about the direction of the country a lot more than a young immigrant in the Bronx. 

Because political parties are tied to voters, the changes noted above have also led to tremendous change around what it means to be a Democrat and Republican. When I was younger, we talked of the "solid South," which referred to the lock the Democrats had on the Southern states - a legacy of the Civil War. Looking at present political maps, the red-blue divide looks very different. The South is Republican, which again has a lot to do with race and the legacy of the Civil War, except that the affiliation of the political parties has changed.

In 2020, however, Biden won two Southern states - Virginia (which has become an increasingly blue state) and also Georgia. That's because states change as well. Both of those states increasingly have become places that draw an educated workforce to cities and suburbs, and this cohort has become more reliably Democratic voters. So yes we can talk about Georgia and Virginia as part of the South, or even part of the original 13 colonies, but what that means for today is different from what it meant in the past. In a counter example, West Virginia was once one of the most Democratic states in the union and now it is one of the most Republican. 

Once one acknowledges all this churn it brings into question some of the other descriptive terminology we tend to use. What really is a conservative, a liberal, a moderate? How can you be a conservative and care nothing about conserving the planet? How can you be called a moderate and do nothing to moderate the greatest assault on democracy in generations? Is it a liberal value to adhere to the science of vaccines? 

This idea of conservative and liberal becomes even more strained when we try to apply it to the courts, particularly the current Supreme Court. We talk about the "conservative" justices, as if they are holding back the mobs to protect the sanctity of the Constitution. In reality they are laying waste to settled Constitutional rights and condoning attacks on our democratic process. Doesn't seem very conservative to me. 

I would humbly suggest that journalists in particular pay attention to these questions of semantics. Because what you call something matters. It shapes how the public sees reality. The term "liberal" might suggest a movement that is unrestrained, whereas "conservative" might suggest a movement that is secure and grounded. Is that really an accurate portrayal of Democrats and Republicans today? Even the idea of two equal political parties simply vying for votes, Democrats this and Republicans that, is a mischaracterization of what each of these parties has become and how they function. Political parties in our history have had leaders, but they have not been cults of personality. The terminology of a "party" suggests a core set of beliefs, a platform on which candidates run, even if they do not agree on all the issues. But today's Republicans are less a party than a mass movement with fealty to a would-be authoritarian. They didn't even try to produce a platform for the 2020 campaign. Instead, their voters, in a party that long championed "family values," embraced a man who was morally bankrupt. This included a vast majority of white, evangelical voters. Similarly, the party that piously lectured on fiscal responsibility when Democrats wanted to spend money, eagerly opened the checkbook to a grifter. 

It is understandable that we seek to hold on to familiar terms to try to make sense of the present. That's how language works. We need some common points of comprehension. And languages do evolve. But it takes time. Right now, we don't have time to sit back and wait. We need to develop the words that accurately describe the dangers we are seeing. We can't let comfortable euphemisms and terminology cloud out the truths of our moment. To try to come up with new ways to describe our politics is not an easy undertaking, but it is a necessary one. If we hope to accurately diagnose what ails us and find solutions rooted in the current reality, we must let go of the definitions of the past.

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