Natalia J. Garland
Today is the first day of autumn. In my section the desert, that
means the temperature goes down to a cool 80 degrees in the early
morning and increases only to 103 degrees by 11:00 a.m. In
the scorching heat of mid-summer, it is not unusual for the
temperature to reach 132 degrees. There will not be total relief
from the heat until November when, happily, I will need a cozy
sweatshirt to keep me warm. Until then, I have jotted down some
notes from the air-conditioned cocoon of my living room.
A recent campaign tactic has been to
criticize Senator John McCain for not knowing how to use a
computer. I heard on a couple of T.V. news programs that McCain's
war injuries prevent him from typing. Whether or not this is the
reason, I doubt the opposition was aware of the extent of McCain's
physical limitations. The intent of the criticism seemed to be
to portray McCain as old, feeble, and out of touch with reality.
My reaction is that the criticism is an example of ageism:
unfairness toward senior citizens. In other words, modernity
rather than a lifetime of experience is what matters when
should not be the standard for evaluating an individual's ability
to understand and relate to the world. There are probably many
senior citizens who do not use computers, or who use them only to
send e-mail. The library in my area is filled with senior
citizens using the computers for one purpose: to send e-mail to
family. They have managed their entire lives without computers,
but they have learned to appreciate the convenience of e-mail
communication. Many of those e-mails probably go to grandchildren
who have grown up with e-mail and never written a letter on paper.
There are various
reasons, outside the job, that people use computers. Students
need to do research and type reports. Some people shop on the
internet because they can find products without fighting the mall
traffic, and sometimes there are special internet-only deals. And,
some of us seem to be gatherers and organizers. We enjoy reading
worldwide newspapers and magazines without paying for
subscriptions (which we cannot afford), as well as finding
citizen journalists who have something worthwhile to say and who
would otherwise remain unknown. We can create our own reference
files of trusted 'outsiders' who are sometimes more impartial and
perceptive than some professional writers.
thing for a presidential candidate is not whether he uses a
computer, but whether he acquires knowledge--books, newspapers,
and magazines are just fine for that purpose. What was the last
book McCain read? How many books does he read per year? How
many magazine subscriptions does he have (this is more important
than how many houses)? These questions should be asked of both
candidates: because the more time you spend on the internet, the
less time you have to read.
Only 43 days
until the 44th president
President Obama? President
McCain? In another four years, one of those men's presidency will
possibly be scrutinized more closely than any other president's
term in office. There is much at stake, and much history yet to
be written. Will the Iraq War be brought to an end, with
democracy established? Will America produce more high school
graduates? Will the U.S.-Mexico border be secured? Will we have
begun offshore drilling? Or will we be struggling with the same
issues in 2012?
(1) This has been an exciting political year.
I watched the national conventions on T.V., listening to the
speeches and news commentary. And, I delighted in the visual
aspect of funny hats and dances. Although it may appear to be
silliness, that energy motivates people to embrace another four
years of the difficult tasks of government. Our national
conventions give people a sense of renewed pride and belonging.
Political themes are constructed from the work that needs to be
done, and the world is prepared to meet the next U.S. President.
Although some attendees probably use the conventions for corrupt
dealings, I believe others are hardworking and dedicated.
(2) There are only
a few shows on T.V. that I watch with any interest, including the
reruns from years ago when the stories were better written and the
actors were more talented. Lately, however, I have been watching
Animal Cops and with mixed feelings about it. Generally,
I am fascinated by what other people do to make a living. And, I
think it is important to prevent cruelty to animals, to rescue
animals from those conditions, and accordingly to educate or
prosecute the people responsible. I am glad the animal rescuers
are there to do a job for which I would be unsuited.
surfaces when I see some animals--dogs and cats, maybe even a
duck--provided with expensive surgery or other medical procedures.
You probably already know what I am going to say next. There are
people who need medical care in the U.S. and throughout the world,
and who do not have access to the same care which is given to dogs
and cats. But, I suppose people need to do what they feel called
to do. Some people are gifted to care for sick and injured
animals. Insofar as animal shelters are funded through donations,
they are certainly within their rights to try to save as many
animals as possible. It is an indication of affluence when a
society can give medical care to pets and strays.
Occasionally, I like to browse the sale racks
at a local bookstore. I found a new copy of An Even Better
Place for $2.99, reduced from its original price of $25.00.
It was written by Richard Gephardt in 1999. Gephardt ran for
president in 1988 and 2004. He is an old-school liberal of the
Democratic Party. While reading his book, a pre-9/11 publication,
I formed a retrospective awareness of how the Democratic Party
converted to its current hardcore-liberal base and then used the
Iraq War as its official rallying point. By the time Barack Obama
arrived on the presidential scene, the Democrats were open to a
2008 reproduction of its golden Kennedy era and a faux
This is probably
why men like Richard Gephardt and Joe Lieberman were left behind
in favor of Al Gore, Howard Dean, John Kerry, and Barack Obama.
The old Democratic Party, the one that I grew up with, no longer
exists. I understand more clearly now, why in the mid-1980's, I
began to identify as a Conservative Democrat. As of 2008, the
opinions of a Conservative Democrat carry the same importance as
Gephardt's $2.99 book. So, I can no longer avoid changing my
Party registration. In terms of a political or group identity,
this is a painful decision.
Some of Gephardt's
words are still true today. He wrote, "Ultimately, it's up
to every man and woman in the nation to sustain our democracy. To
do this, we must reassume the full mantle of citizenship--as
active participants, supporters, reformers, and creators, not just
of government but of all our institutions--of our neighborhoods,
of our schools, of our health system, and of our businesses."
(p. 16.) It is too bad these goals were not accomplished before
9/11. Now, Bush's management of the Iraq War is enmeshed with
America's other unresolved problems of education, healthcare, and
the economy. But, unlike in 1999, it is no longer a matter of
sustainment or reform of government, but of post-9/11 national
By the way, if you
have difficulty understanding N.A.F.T.A., start reading on p. 89
of Gephardt's book, "Fair Play and the Rights of American
Workers." His viewpoint is worth consideration.
women I admire
Here are a few names that come to mind
when thinking about some of the men and women who are trying to
make the world a better place. Ladies first.
BRIDGETTE GABRIEL: Born in Lebanon, she is a Christian who hid in
an underground bomb-shelter for seven years while Lebanon was being
attacked by Muslims (beginning in 1975). She was wounded in the
attack, and her youth was lost to Muslim invasion. She moved to
America in 1989 and tries to inform and warn Americans of the very
real threat of terrorism, especially after the attack of 9/11. She
is the author of two books on Islamic terrorism, Because They
Hate and They Must Be Stopped. She also speaks four
languages: English, French, Hebrew, and Arabic.
MANJI: Born in Uganda, her parents were of Egyptian and
Indian (Gujarati) descent. As a child in Islamic religion school,
she was expelled because she asked too many questions. She moved
to Canada in 1972, and she wrote The Trouble with Islam
Today which has been translated into 30 languages. She
advocates for Islamic reform and has received death threats as a
HIRSI ALI: Born in Somalia, she sought political asylum in
the Netherlands in 1992 in order to escape an arranged marriage.
She was elected to Dutch Parliament, but resigned due to political
circumstances which put her at risk of losing her Dutch
citizenship. After 9/11, Ali renounced Islam for atheism. She
made a movie, critical of Muslim fanaticism, with Theo Van Gogh who
was killed for his views. Ali is an advocate for women and speaks
against genital cutting. She wrote an autobiography,
Infidel, although she currently lives hiding.
MAM: Born in Cambodia, she spent her teen years (from the
age of 12) as a sex slave, having been sold by her grandfather.
She survived rape and torture. She advocates for the women and
children throughout Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, and Laos who are
forced into prostitution. She currently lives in Cambodia and
France. She wrote The Road of Lost Innocence.
Here are a few men
whom I especially respect.
REV. JESSE LEE PETERSON: Born is Alabama, he now lives in Los
Angeles and has worked as a talk-radio host. He promotes
responsible fatherhood among black Americans, and he has spoken
against illegal immigration. As a political conservative, he
has often experienced harsh criticism from other blacks. He
wrote How Black Leadership Exploits Black America.
SINISE: Born in Illinois, he is an accomplished actor on
stage, in films, and on T.V. In 2004, he founded Operation Iraqi
Children which has donated more than 200,000 school supply kits.
These kits are given out to the children by America's military
men and women. He also created the Lieutenant Dan Band which
entertains America's military.
COMPEAN and IGNACIO RAMOS: They have been called America's
first political prisoners. After an incident involving the
shooting and wounding of a Mexican man who had illegally crossed
the border, Compean was sentenced to 12 years in prison and
Ramos to 11 years. They thought the Mexican man had a gun. The
man had abandoned a van containing approximately 800 pounds of
marijuana. There is ongoing controversy over how the prosecution
conducted their investigation and presented 'evidence' to the
GRAHAM: He preached a simple message of salvation for many
years, and there was never any scandal in his life. In 1957,
Martin Luther King, Jr. preached with him in a revival tour. In
the 1960's, he bailed King out of jail. Graham preached in places
such as communist Soviet Union and North Korea. He also refused
to become a part of Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority, preferring
only to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Among his publications
he wrote an autobiography, Just As I Am.
Fashion can be cruel, or fashion can be
liberating. We tend to judge others by how they dress, because
clothing can be a form of self-expression as well as an indication
of financial status. Nowadays, fashion is becoming more
democratic and individualistic. Various types of clothing are
acceptable, and different regions--beyond New York or London or
Paris--can produce their own designers and create their own
particular look. Some classic styles are always considered
appropriate, perhaps with a little updated modification. Fashion
has also become more affordable to the average person, with some
designers contracting with department or discount stores.
Why is fashion
important? Foremost, fashion should represent beauty. This
might vary culturally, but we all have a vision of what is
beautiful, pretty, lovely, chic. Why should this matter? The
opposite of fashion or beauty, in my opinion, would be the
enforcement of the head-to-toe burqua. Oppression. When women
are completely covered in unattractive garb, they lose personality
and being. This may sound extreme, but depriving women of fashion
is somewhat akin to depriving them of education. Both are forms
of oppression and reduce women to functionary, dependent,
No, I would never
pay $400 for a blouse or $800 for a pair of ripped jeans, even if
I could afford it. It is a matter of principle. What other
people do with their money is up to them. I would spend $50 on a
blouse and donate $350 to charity. Or, maybe I would spend $350
on seven blouses at $50 each. In reality, I would make a car
insurance payment. Anyway, I think an important aspect of an open
society is creativity, ingenuity, and choices. Some people design
clothing, some rescue dogs and cats, some protect children from
slavery, and some write essays on the internet. We do what we can
to make life fairer, safer, more beautiful, and more loving.
Until we meet