Spanish Broom

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Just starting to poke its blossoms out through chilly raindrops. Seems a mite early but maybe it will work out. These are pretty sturdy.

Cee’s Flower of the day.

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Random Reflection on Power

What, after all, is liberty?

I have been feeling very powerless lately. So have others. There have been several posts about liberty lately, as it was a prompt for the “just jot it” challenge within the past few days.

In spite of our connected world there is no way for a regular sort to get the ears of people in power. Extremists organize marches, burn things, and run people over with cars. They fill social media with pithy knee-jerk phrases, memes and trolls. More moderate sorts can’t get a word in edgewise; we’re too polite, waiting for people who never stop talking to shut up and listen, then think before responding to complex, nuanced discussions.

Since people like me can’t get any message through to those in power the dominant voices are those of extremist nut jobs and special interests, some of them hostile foreign powers. I sometimes think that the divisiveness we are being told so much about is a result of reasonable people being cut out of the communication loop. Maybe if there was a way for moderates to get some serious press we’d find that things aren’t so polarized. But that wouldn’t make for good copy, just good living and good government. Sex scandals, wars and other conflicts sell and “that’s what it’s all about!” (welcome to the Hokey Pokey world).

It isn’t supposed to be this way. Our forefathers (mostly not mothers, although there were some pretty strong ones and they may have had more influence than we think) didn’t intend for our government to end up this way: with DC lobbyists, big corporations and the KKK having more input and influence than tax paying citizens.

“Taxation without representation” was the rallying battle cry of the revolution. It wasn’t that the leaders then didn’t see the need to provide for “the common defense and promote the general welfare”; those are front and center as the goals for the constitution.  They saw the need for things like roads, schools, and military, but that need wasn’t being met by a far away government making decisions based on what was best for the United Kingdom using the colonies primarily as a source of resources for the good life back home, or by a loosey-goosey every body do whatever they wanted to confederation.

Liberty, as seen generally at that time, was really about having a say, freedom of speech and religion were very important. In the old country libel meant you were saying something the lord of the manor or bishop didn’t like, even if it was the truth, a key difference in the United States is that it isn’t libel if it is true!!!! Accountability and individual responsibility was important also, the reason why we have tort laws. People were not to be trod on, they had rights.

Having a government that was looking out for the people being governed, not people far away, was key to having both the needed provisions for common life and liberty. It wasn’t so much the my-way-or-the-highway attitude you see today. It was recognized that balance was necessary. The checks and balances system was created. It was intended to slow things down and make debate over major changes necessary so that a simple majority couldn’t roll over everyone else leaving 49% of people dissatisfied. Ideas had to be good enough to stand up to scrutiny.

Of course those times were somewhat different: the population was much lower, as was the number of states, so there were fewer voices to balance. There was less ethnic, racial and cultural diversity as well. However, there were a lot of the same types of tension we are seeing today. Examples include: agriculture versus industrial economies in different states, densely populated areas versus sparsely populated ones, different religious traditions in different areas (in those days it was mostly different Christian sects, but they were quite different in both values and lifestyle. Some of the worst violence ever has been between different groups calling themselves Christians.).

So back to “liberty”. How about the people who are affected by Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (a.k.a., DACA)? How free are they?

In this morning’s paper David Brooks was dissing the Democratic Party pretty badly. Normally I find a lot of points of wisdom and commonality in his op-ed pieces (he writes for the New York Times and a few days later the pieces show up in the Seattle Times, which is where I see them). Today I was disturbed because he was all about politics. I was perturbed a bit for a few reasons, but the one that bugged me most was this: what the Democrats did Friday was exercise one of the checks and balances built into the constitution. I think it is an important tool, all-be-it one that should be used with surgical precision.

However, given the complete lack of trustworthiness and responsible behavior demonstrated by the Republicans in congress, and the fact that 689,000 people are basically being held hostage to that dishonest irresponsibility, this was a case where one can argue reasonably that surgical precision was warranted.

We disagree with the use for the purpose, and, for what it is worth, I agree with Mr. Brooks that there’s a very good chance the Democrats botched it. In my view, however, the thing they did wrong was cave too soon for too little. They played too nice.

The deal they should have made: A one week spending bill with an up/down roll call vote on DACA exactly as it existed one year ago scheduled for Friday at 9 am in both houses simultaneously.

No wheeling and dealing with people’s lives. If the administration wants added border stuff they can figure out how to do it rationally (say within the 2018 budget that should have already been passed, and which should have been a higher priority than a tax bill nobody fully understands that guts the financial stability of our nation) without holding a bunch of innocent people hostage. That Republicans are stooping to this makes me think they don’t have a rational plan, it’s all just extremist hot air, and hostage taking is all they know.

 

Sound of Silence

Normally my posts are photographs, however, more than one of the posts for the Daily Post Photo Challenge this week included the song “Sounds of Silence” by Simon and Garfunkel. That got me thinking about social media.

When I heard the words “people talking without speaking, people hearing without listening” my mind was filled with an image of a room full of people looking at their cell phones. Last Sunday’s newspaper mentioned “phubbing” which is snubbing the person you are with by paying attention to your cell phone instead of them.

It has existed way longer than the current smart phone craze. People answering the phone in the middle of a conversation has gone on since phones were invented. When calls were rare and most people only made them for something important that made some sense. Now most calls are telemarketers and more than three quarters of the bleeps and buzzes mean someone posted a twit or shared a cute cat video (Don’t get me wrong: I like cute cats, although my own Empress is more elegant than cute).

I never developed the habit of talking for a long time on the phone. When I was a kid we had a party line and we weren’t allowed to just chit chat. By the time I was a teen we had a private line, but we moved to a place where I didn’t know anyone to talk to when I was 14. In those days the long distance phone rates were high so I couldn’t talk to my old friends, we wrote letters and sent them in the mail. I still have some of them. Communication was more special, it took more effort and you could save it. Even though one can save email will we? when the next technology comes out will you convert? I doubt I will. I don’t even download most of my email anymore.

The other part of the song that made me think about the internet was “the words of the prophets are written on the subway walls, and tenement halls, and whispered in the sounds of silence”. What are Twitter and Facebook? Seems like they might be today’s subway walls and tenement halls.

I ask this because we have had hostile foreign powers controlling what people see as “the words of the prophets”. But those walls are also covered with cute cat videos and memes.

I was never the Facebook-iest person, but wound up silenced earlier this year. It is a venue for people to talk about their trip to Hawaii, their child’s beautiful wedding, cute pet stuff, etc. A place to share the good life.

Social media isn’t the place for you when what is going on in your life is an elderly relative falling, having to confront that person about not being able to go back into an apartment, clearing out the apartment and dealing with the angst and depression that go with it, and the semi-infinite challenges of government paperwork so that person doesn’t wind up on the street. It’s not that my life isn’t good, but it’s complicated, and intricate, nuanced communication is not what Facebook is about.

It is also a venue for outrage. The Russian, and other, trolls are doing a lot with this. I’m as outraged as any, perhaps more than many who are more vocal, but social media isn’t the place for this, no discussion, no resolution. Cute memes are just that, they might, briefly, relieve feelings but are not wisdom or balanced discourse. You might say that in some ways they are just another form of silence.

Alas: I have no answers, just questions. But it doesn’t matter, looking back I’ll be able to say “my words like silent raindrops fell, and echoed in the wells of silence.”

I know I should wordsmith this post more, but I don’t want to be tardy with this post. It was mostly inspired by the “Silence” daily post photo prompt but this isn’t a photograph. My response to the photo prompt is A Pall Hung Over Us.

A pall hung over us

Last summer we had an unusual situation, a significant amount of smoke from wildfires in British Columbia came down into the area and there was no wind to blow it off. The silence during the smoky hot spell felt eerie.

The reflections are an indication of the very low winds. In the evenings in summer the water is often fairly choppy instead of the light ripple. In the morning it is usually calmer but not the mirror like stillness. The sunsets are often lovely but at that time the sun just faded out through the thick atmosphere.

Strategic Planning

As I mentioned at some point: I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. I do, however, make plans that force me to do the things I would and should do if I made resolutions.

For example: I plan travel that forces me to keep in reasonable shape. Just being in shape  for its own sake does not motivate me. But taking a trip where I need to be able to walk 10 miles a day does. My son still remembers my going up and down the (not very quiet) stairs with a pack on over and over and over again, to prepare for the walking trip we took to France in 2001. (The weather here is often bad I have to train in the house.)

Since I have known him (we’ve been married for over 31 years now), my husband has mentioned walking Hadrian’s wall. After getting home from China last fall, and finally recovering from the fall I took a few days before I had to travel home; I suggested that we might want to do it this year if we are going to.  I didn’t hurt myself that much, but it was hard to recover (it took over a month for whatever I did to the bones, ligaments and or muscles between my back and front about six inches under my armpit to stop hurting when I twisted in any way…do you know how much you twist?) and I realized how fragile my toughness is.

We are now scheduled to walk the wall this summer. I found a company that arranges accommodation and transports your luggage from one stop to the next so we won’t be roughing it at all (I think those days are well past for me).  In addition to having our luggage transported and scheduling the longest time available (10 days of walking, the wall walk is 84 miles so it comes to an average of 9 or so per day), we added in two rest days so we can dawdle at the Roman Forts along the way. While my spouse is in much better shape than I, and might well relish a more vigorous approach, at least I’m game. I’ve set myself up to succeed and expect to enjoy every mile of it.

Not only that, but now I’m motivated to stay fit. I can do the 11.5 mile maximum day now, so all I have to do is keep at it.

Strategy

Somewhere out there

I live in a bowl, an often cloudy bowl at that, and rarely see a true horizon. I never really thought about that much but a friend who moved to this area from the prairies of Colorado complained that she sometimes feels claustrophobic because she can’t see to the distance. I may be the other way: I noticed that I rarely take a picture of just the horizon. Here are a few, all taken far from home.

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A sunset somewhere off the coast of Australia.
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Looking out to the ocean from Four Mile Beach, Port Douglas, Australia.
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A land horizon at Masai Mara National Park in Kenya.
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The Rio de la Plata in Buenos Aires, Argentina is so wide you see the horizon not the other side.
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A sunset in the south Atlantic ocean.
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Full moon over the south Atlantic Ocean.

Forbidden Crowds

Nancy Merril’s Picture a Week Theme is Crowds. I don’t like them so I don’t have lots of pictures of them: I get flustered and try to haul myself out never thinking to record the experience.

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I think the biggest crowd experience I may have ever had was on my first visit to the Forbidden City, it was also my first visit to China and I think it was a weekend or minor holiday (possibly Qing Ming), so there were a lot of Chinese people out to see the Forbidden City the same day that we were there. I think of these pictures as being representative of China, or at least Beijing.

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