A Leica for Losers by George Merrill

Have you had days when you feel you don’t do anything right? I have. Then I’m sure I’m a loser. I feel like the man who once complained, “Even when I’m eating canned grapefruit I squirt myself in the eye.”

As a boy, a friend and I went with my uncle to the New Jersey countryside. We were going on a painting outing. My uncle was French and an accomplished artist. His paintings were stunning. He provided the materials. We left home and arrived at a lovely meadow. A red barn stood in the field surrounded by cattle, a rustic fence, with a farmhouse nearby – the lovely ambience typical of rural America. We soon got down to our task. I noticed how my uncle and my friend were rendering charming images with ease. My colors were lusterless, the perspectives stilted and my painting began looking more like a chemical spill than a country scene. My uncle and my friend were kind and encouraging but I burned with humiliation. I felt like a loser. I wanted so badly to paint like my uncle.

There’s good news for those of us who have ever felt like losers. As of June 7th this year, we can now rejoice that being a “loser” has not only lost its insulting connotations, but ‘losers’ have earned a distinguished place in one of the world’s unique modern museums. In the town of Helsenborg, Sweden, The Museum of Failure officially opened. Admission is 100 Swedish Kroner, about eleven dollars, a small price for those of us who may feel like losers and are sorely in need of a morale boost. The museum, by its exhibits, showcases an enlightened understanding of the realities governing human affairs.

Forty-three year old clinical psychologist, Samuel West, conceived the idea while on a holiday and quickly purchased the Internet domain name. In applying, West accidentally misspelled “museum,” a sure sign, he believed, that the project would, well, succeed.

One journalist writing about the museum called the exhibit “Top of the Flops.” Catchy and descriptive. The museum is a commentary on life as a primarily dynamic, fluid, and ongoing process rather than a patchwork of static and unrelated incidents, such as a winner/loser paradigm suggests. Nicolai de Gier, professor at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts commented on West’s museum: “It’s like the other part of trying is failing, so it’s just a very natural thing and a very important thing.”

Some flops were nonetheless imaginative. The motorcycle giant, Harley Davidson tried its hand at marketing cologne for men. It was an elitist excursion into the macho world of bikers. The cologne was packaged and labeled with the Harley logo, identified delicately as “Eau de Toilette.” It was promoted as having a “leathery smell” and was called “Hot Road.” Plucky concept, but real bikers apparently don’t do cologne. The product failed.

The mouthwash and toothpaste empire Colgate, tried offering packaged frozen beef lasagna to the public. I’m not sure why except perhaps that it was an attempt to take over more of the household market via the kitchen as it had successfully done with the bathroom. It didn’t work.

The Edsel was touted to be the car of the future – an attempt to make Ford great again. The car was a disaster, but Ford learned from its mistakes and landed on its feet. Today Ford is one of our country’s automotive giants.

Failure is a familiar story in the American experience, indeed, in the human experience. Innovative attempts and high hopes from long standing industries fail regularly: McDonald’s Arch Deluxe, Pepsi’s Crystal Clear and Caffeine Free, Coors Rocky Mountain Sparkling Water and Frito Lays WOW, all went bust. The companies today, wiser for their failures, still thrive. In one sense, there are few if any winners who did not first endure the humiliation of failure to get there.

I felt badly about my painting failure since I had an innate desire to create visual images, but developed no skills to render them. It was like having all the letters, but not knowing how to arrange them into words. As it turned out, that same uncle liked photography. He owned one of the classic Leica cameras of the day. I’d watch him at family gatherings as he took candid shots of relatives. The Leica intrigued me, in the way that little boys find gadgetry alluring. I asked him one day if I might use it and take pictures. I went through a roll of film. He processed the negatives for me, printed them and later showed me what I’d captured on film.

As you might expect the pictures were hardly museum quality fine art photographs. The fact that I selected this one particular scene or that one specific person to photograph, and through the medium of the camera actually created acceptable images, exhilarated me. A year later, in 1948, I found an old camera, took pictures with it, processed the negatives and printed positives. I discovered myself in a place I never thought I belonged. There was something of the artist in me and I needed to try and fail until I could find the means to express my yearning.

Via a hurtful failure as a painter, I found my way to photography. Photography has given me sixty-nine years of pleasure in picture taking, of presenting photographic exhibits and seeing my images published in various publications.

I suspect we need to first be losers in life to win, the way some of us must face our mistakes in internships in order to become professionally competent.

Of the thirty-six frames on the film in the Leica, only twelve came out. One was a portrait of my dog. My lifetime journey of a thousand photographs began with these first twelve.

Columnist George Merrill is an Episcopal Church priest and pastoral psychotherapist.  A writer and photographer, he’s authored two books on spirituality: Reflections: Psychological and Spiritual Images of the Heart and The Bay of the Mother of God: A Yankee Discovers the Chesapeake Bay. He is a native New Yorker, previously directing counseling services in Hartford, Connecticut, and in Baltimore. George’s essays, some award winning, have appeared in regional magazines and are broadcast twice monthly on Delmarva Public Radio.

Letter to the Editor: Special Thanks to Shore Health Volunteers

As Chairman of the Board of Directors for University of Maryland Shore Regional Health, I am writing to express our gratitude for the men and women who volunteer in our three hospital auxiliaries — Chester River Hospital Center Auxiliary, Dorchester General Hospital Auxiliary and Auxiliary of Memorial Hospital at Easton. Members of these three volunteer organizations donate their valuable time to support health care services within their local communities, assisting with daily operations at many of our facilities and raising funds for programs, services, equipment and patient care throughout the region.

In the past year, the auxiliaries have earned a combined $500,000 in proceeds through their special event sales, hospital gift shops and their auxiliary-managed thrift shops – the Nearly New Shop in Chestertown, the Robin Hood Shop in Cambridge and The Bazaar at 121 Federal Street in Easton. The auxiliaries rely heavily on their gift and thrift shop sales to be able to provide the funding for each of the hospitals and offsite locations to which they contribute.

In addition to the funds they provide, volunteers assist with services such as wheelchair and patient escorts, blood pressure screenings, front desk and surgical service reception and many other areas. In total, volunteers donated 60,000 hours between the auxiliaries across the region, saving the organization valuable dollars that can then be used to further patient care efforts. Our team members, medical staff and patients value and appreciate the work of all auxiliary volunteers.

We encourage community members who have available time and would like to become more engaged with their community to reach out and learn more about volunteer opportunities with our three auxiliaries. Becoming a volunteer in a healthcare setting enables you to meet people from all walks of life while making a real difference in our communities

University of Maryland Shore Regional Health thanks the auxiliaries for their commitment to accessible, innovative health care, close to home. These are three fantastic organizations!

Thank you.

John Dillon, Chairman
Board of Directors
University of Maryland Shore Regional Health

Shouting Across the Atlantic: Is There a Leader Out There? By Al Sikes

Politicians on the winning side of elections inevitably quip: “elections matter.” And so they do, but let me be more pointed.

The most important elections in the last twelve months, with apologies to the British, occurred in America and France.

Americans, intensely frustrated, elected an entirely unconventional candidate. The opposition Party has chosen a path of nullification—Democrats want to void the election any way they can. Poor strategy for their Country and Party.

In our Revolutionary War, America’s most important ally was France. Today the French, who recently elected a new president, are shouting at us across the Atlantic. In France, the most significant conventional Parties (Socialists, Republicans) and the populist one, The National Front, lost. The winner, En Marche!.

Jean-Michel Frederic Macron’s Party, En Marche!, didn’t exist until April of 2016, yet, he was elected President. Macron’s newly emerged Party has just won an overwhelming majority in parliamentary elections. Macron left the Socialist party, and it barely retains a presence in the French parliament.

Macron defeated the right and left and the populist, Marine Le Pen. He called for a “democratic revolution” and has advocated “a collective solidarity.” Macron led a citizen movement.

Is a citizen movement possible in United States politics? Can enough talent and energy be organized to overcome the structural obstacles that protect the Republican and Democrat parties? They certainly no longer merit protection.

If a true citizen movement is possible, the central political question must be re-framed. If the core inquiry is which ideological script should prevail, the energy is with the ideologues. But, as poll after poll confirms, a majority of voters are eager for leaders who are willing to lead from the center.

Leading from the center requires thinking. It requires leaders who look for government intervention or restraint informed by realities. If you listen to left and right politicians today, you quickly realize they are mostly unmoored from thinking as they recite their talking points.

I am not talking about a centrism that splits the difference. What we need are centrist leaders who are acutely aware of what has worked or failed in our federal system. We need leaders who can utilize the extraordinary power of 21st Century technology to achieve efficiencies and successes. We need leaders who can capitalize on America’s diversity rather than using it to divide and conquer.

The latest Gallup political survey summary shows that 42% of voters identify as Independents. In 2014 and 2015 polling, Gallup noted that the most frequent cited reason for being an independent was “frustration with party gridlock in the federal government.”

The election of President Trump was telling. He was certainly not the choice of the right. And it is increasingly clear that the Republican Party is struggling to become a governing party as the hard right pursues its view of “perfection” at the expense of leadership.

On the left, the offer is a new list of free services all to be paid for by a “tax on the wealthy” and debt. At present, the United States is only able to finance existing private and public credit appetites because of our international monetary strength. This strength is not ordained in the natural order of things, and if we do not pivot, the central government balance sheet will look like Illinois.

Vladimir Putin, whose nationalistic appeal protects him from a poor Russian economy, doesn’t need to intervene in our elections. We are in the midst of self-destruction.

There is literally a wall of laws that protect the major parties and incumbents will not, as President Reagan once demanded in Berlin, “tear down that wall.” If a centrist coalition is to succeed, work needs to begin immediately, and the movement should organize for the 2020 presidential election. The critical mass of support needed will come from Independents and success in the 2020 election should quickly be followed by organizing at the State and Local levels.

What is needed now is a farsighted leader who will devote himself or herself to a historic cause. It will be hard work, but saving the Republic will never be easy.

Al Sikes is the former Chair of the Federal Communications Commission under George H.W. Bush. Al recently published Culture Leads Leaders Follow published by Koehler Books. 

Out and About (Sort of): A Community with History Driven by Tumult by Howard Freedlander

For nearly 41 years I have driven across the Miles River Bridge through the small African-American community of Unionville and never understood until recently its significance not only in Talbot County and the Eastern Shore but also in our nation.

I just didn’t “get it.”

Surrounded by waterfront estates and expensive homes, Unionville seemed oddly placed. The modest homes and well-kept church gained scant attention through my car window. I have since learned that I should have delved more deeply; I should have opened my eyes and mind to a community tied not only to the Civil War but to a Quaker landowner who despised slavery.

Thanks to an exhibit at the Talbot Historical Society and specifically Larry Denton, its dynamic executive director, I learned that the 150-year-old Unionville exists only through the generosity of Ezekiel Cowgill, a Quaker abolitionist who leased lots to 18 soldiers–former slaves and free blacks who fought for the Union in the Civil War Many of their descendants, including Harriette Lowery, still live in Unionville. Her ancestor was Benjamin Demby.

A Delaware native, Ezekiel Cowgill bought Lombardy, a dilapidated Miles River Neck farm, in 1856. He employed only free blacks. Most of the land on Miles River Neck belonged to the Lloyd family; the owner of the Wye House plantation at the time was Colonel Edwin Lloyd VI, whose bustling enterprise included hundreds of slaves. According to the Maryland State Archives, “Ezekiel Cowgill was affected by his slaveholding neighbors and expressed surprise to find himself living as a neighbor to slaveholders.”

It’s not surprising that Cowgill was one of two votes in Talbot County for Abraham Lincoln during the 1860 presidential election. I wonder how this principled man coped with being a lonely voice in Talbot County politics.

His Quaker roots go back to Delaware, where he served as State Treasurer and the trustee of a fund used to establish a school for free blacks under the auspices of the Preparative Quaker Meeting of Little Creek. After moving to Maryland, he became a “well-respected and influential member of the Quaker community in Talbot County” as a member of the Third Haven Meeting in Easton, according to the Maryland State Archives.

I have spent four paragraphs writing about Ezekiel Cowgill because I suspect that his story as a Quaker abolitionist who treated blacks fairly and humanely is one duplicated elsewhere in the United States. His leasing of land, however, for $1 a month to Civil War veterans who served with colored regiments—11 of the returning soldiers had previously been slaves on the Lloyd plantation—was an incredible and notable act embodying generosity both of spirit and material support. Though the leases generally extended 30 years, one granted to Isaac Copper spanned 99 years.

When I think about the 150th anniversary of Unionville exhibit at the Talbot Historical Society and the recent event sponsored by the Frederick Douglass Honor Society at Wye House on May 21, 2017, I feel pleased that blacks and whites are acknowledging together the county’s history—good, bad and ugly. I hope that other communities above and below the Mason-Dixon Line are facing the past equally as honestly and forthrightly.

As I’ve written before, grace comes in different forms.

Ezekiel Cowgill’s move to Talbot County changed the social order of the Miles River Neck. The establishment of Unionville paid visible tribute to Civil War veterans who escaped slavery and degradation to fight in a conflict that changed our country. The current actions by the Frederick Douglass Honor Society and the Talbot Historical Society represent a form of grace in the united efforts of well-intended individuals to give visibility (“transparency” in current vernacular) to periods of history that often displayed despicable human behavior.

Now, as I drive through Unionville, my eyes are wide open.
I see a community founded on the goodness of Ezekiel Cowgill and populated initially by resilient former slaves who fought in a horribly divisive and destructive Civil War. I see descendants of the Lloyd family, such as Richard Tilghman and his wife Beverly, and a descendant of an original Unionville resident, Harriette Lowery, working in unison to build ties that will last another 150 years.

Our county and the Eastern Shore are rife with history. We all benefit from examining it.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland. Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer. In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

A Glimmer of Hope by George Merrill

In a book I’ve been reading about Christianity and its “struggle for new beginnings,” I saw a passing reference to God as the creator of humanity. It quoted a fourteenth century English mystic, Julian of Norwich, who stated that we are made, not “by God,” but “of God.” I found the switching of the usual preposition “by” with “of,” striking. That God might have made us – the typical religious teaching – suggests an important connection but a discrete difference like the sculptor who fashions his sculpture from marble while he remains a creature of flesh and blood.

Being made of God offers a different thought; that we are fashioned from the same substance as the creator, one manifestation of the very stuff from which God is composed. To be human then, and being made of God – and not to be impious – I’d say is simply affirming that we’re all chips off the old block.

The way things are going today you’d hardly ever guess it. But then there are those transformational moments that offer us glimmers of hope…

Religion today, like politics, gets the public interest not when it acts sublimely, but when it behaves badly. Ears go right to the ground when the muck is being raked. But every so often something of essential goodness transpires and I, for one, find myself moved to tears. In those moments, circumstances conspire such that I become more conscious of my “of-ness,” and our “of-ness.”

One such moment occurred recently on June 14th following the shooting at the congressional baseball practice in D.C. At this writing, Republican Congressman Steve Scalise is in critical condition. Four others were wounded. The shooter was killed. His motives were vague political discontents.

Given the kind of political posturing that usually follows these tragic moments, things took a very different turn and in my judgment, a hopeful one. The spirit of the moment became one of claiming our national as well as our human solidarity rather than vilifying the perpetrator and swearing he will be caught and punished. In one sense our “of-ness” was the issue not someone’s “other-ness,”

Paul Ryan addressed the House shortly following the incident. He said: “An attack on one of us, is an attack on all of us.” He went further to state passionately that, “…there is one image that this house should keep. And it is a photo (as shown above) I saw of our Democratic colleagues gathered in prayer this morning after the news.”

He added that “We are a family…these are our brothers and sisters.” Finally he pleaded with the House: “I ask each of you to join me in resolving to come together…to lift each other up…and show the country – show the world – that we are one House.”

I felt moved. I didn’t see this kind of response coming.

The next evening on PBS, Judy Woodruff interviewed House Representatives Joe Barton, R-Texas and Mike Doyle, D-Pa. The interview took a remarkable turn. They had been long-term friends in the Congress. During the incident Doyle was at the field with his Republican colleagues while Barton practiced with the Democrats. In reiterating the frightening experience of the shooting and also speaking of his friendship with Barton, Doyle was clearly on the verge of tears. At that point, Barton placed his hand on Doyle’s arm in a spontaneous gesture of affection. There was no mistaking its authenticity. The gesture was the kind of human softness that exhibits our greatest strengths, that is, our capacity to care for others.

As I watched the interview, Isaiah’s visionary statement of a world reconciled to God came to mind: “The wolf and the lamb will graze together, and the lion will eat straw with the ox – they will do no evil or harm in all My Holy Mountain.”

Imagine, if one day the elephant and the donkey might have drinks and dinner together after work, and would dwell and graze together and do no evil in “all My Holy Mountain.” If that isn’t the slam dunk formula for making America Great, and I don’t mean great again, but greater than ever, then I can’t imagine what is.

In the interview on PBS, Doyle made what I would call a visionary statement – not a policy statement, but a visionary one, the kind that we rarely see or hear today.

Speaking of Congress he says, ”We may have differences politically, but they’re our friends, and we care about them very much. And I think all of us are reflecting on how each one of us individually can set an example for the country, too, because when people see their leaders being uncivil towards one another then you start to see the public being uncivil towards one another and towards their leaders.”

He also speaks to that prurient part of all of us that delights in hearing sleaze and scandal. In referring to congressional mud slinging he notes, “Oftentimes the media’s interested in interviewing the two that are throwing the swords at each other…the news media, too, can reflect a little bit on that and show some of the positive things that take place down there.”

Religion struggles today, as politics does, for “new beginnings,” relevance, and integrity in a world in which we see little of either over the din of the sectarian and party claims. In power struggles, the common denominator of our “of-ness,” our mutual humanity gets easily excised, in the way soldiers trained for combat learn to dehumanize their adversaries in order to destroy them.

A columnist for CNN seemed to see in the recent event, glimmers of hope. He put it this way in his column, “There’s a lot of awfulness in Washington today…but out of the awfulness (almost) always comes some good.”

Columnist George Merrill is an Episcopal Church priest and pastoral psychotherapist.  A writer and photographer, he’s authored two books on spirituality: Reflections: Psychological and Spiritual Images of the Heart and The Bay of the Mother of God: A Yankee Discovers the Chesapeake Bay. He is a native New Yorker, previously directing counseling services in Hartford, Connecticut, and in Baltimore. George’s essays, some award winning, have appeared in regional magazines and are broadcast twice monthly on Delmarva Public Radio.

Why? By David Montgomery

Are the Left’s persistent and vituperative attacks on Donald Trump and his supporters based on misunderstanding, emotion, or strategy? I have been convinced at various times that one or another of the three motivations was behind some particular attack, and my responses have been intended to deal with the specific motivation I inferred.

Now that the Left’s violent and unrestrained rhetoric has achieved its predictable outcome of homicidal attacks on Republican Members of Congress, it is even more important to find an effective way to neutralize that rhetoric. And the first step, for me, is to reflect longer on what motivates the Left in this campaign.

Leading up to the shooting of Representative Scalise and his colleagues, the incitement of violence from the Left became more and more explicit. As soon as Inauguration Day, we had Madonna saying “I have thought an awful lot about blowing up the White House.”

Then we have the constant dehumanizing of President Trump and his family by the talk-show hosts and comedians showcased by the media opposed to him. It is impossible to watch the most popular late night talk show without seeing and hearing caricatures of the President and tasteless jokes about every aspect of his appearance, family and character.

This shades over into the substitution of speculation about Trump’s motives and prejudices for substantive debates about the merits of his actions and policy proposals. Thus his eminently sensible efforts to screen out potential terrorists from entry into the USA are evaluated by the media and activist judges based on campaign statements and attributions of religious bias rather than on their merits. His efforts to reform ObamaCare are described as willingness to let people die without healthcare rather than debated as approaches to saving an obviously failed system. His well-reasoned efforts to extricate us from an overly-burdensome agreement on climate change illegally ratified by his predecessor are attacked by claiming that the President does not believe in climate change, as if it were the secular version of the Immaculate Conception, rather than debating the legality of bypassing Senatorial ratification of treaties. He is accused of obstruction of justice by the same Democrats who demanded the FBI Director be fired for the very reasons given by President Trump.

Democrats in Congress, failed candidates whose message on public policy has narrowed down to a single word “Resist,” and an activist Attorney General contribute to the demeaning of the President and his advisors with accusations of personal malfeasance based on sheer speculation and frivolous lawsuits.

The personal attacks escalated recently with Kathy Griffin’s foul display of the severed and bloody head of the President, and even worse with the performance of Julius Caesar portraying the Roman Emperor as Donald Trump and celebrating his assassination. Though some sponsors acted properly to drop the offenders, they were endorsed by fellow-celebrities for their courageous efforts to influence public perceptions. I didn’t realize it took courage to attack Donald Trump in Manhattan and Hollywood.

The rhetoric spilled over into overt physical violence against anyone who would defend the President or express conservative views in public. Demonstrators from “Resist” and other Leftist organizations rioted to prevent their appearance at Berkeley and other universities that once defended free speech, and assaulted students who indicated their support for the speakers or the President.

And then this verbal and sometimes physical violence culminated in the attempted assassination of Republican members of Congress by a gunman radicalized by the Left.

How can this be dealt with? If the hostility toward all things Republican were based simply on misunderstanding of the actual content and consequences of our policy proposals, the response would be easy. Many of us are decent writers and have the requisite expertise in climate and environmental science, environmental economics, regulatory economics, tax policy, financial regulation, labor issues, healthcare, international relations, national security and other disciplines to explain the problems that our policies address and their likely consequences. To the extent that we think the slogans and arguments of the Left are based on misrepresentations and falsehoods, the challenge of correcting those errors should be our first priority. Then, we could hope, with better understanding the fear and anger could abate.

But the way in which blatant and easily refuted misrepresentations are continually resurrected and repeated, and the unwillingness of those shouting them to listen to contrary points of view, suggest that correctable ignorance is not the primary reason for attacks on the President and his policies. The nation seems to be too committed to choosing sides on policies based on the perceived character, appearance, mental state or biases of political players ever to pay attention to the real good or bad consequences of policy proposals.

That suggests that emotion or strategy or both, not simple misunderstanding of his policies, are the drivers of current agitation against the President.

It is easy to make the case that emotion is the driver. Generations younger than mine have been taught from childhood that their feelings are all that matters. When your parents, teachers and college professors encourage you to believe that how you feel is more important than what is true or right, that everyone is entitled to his or her own facts, and that there is no such thing as objective truth or moral absolutes, then nothing does matter except the emotions that a politician or policy evokes. When you are as stupid, self-centered, and publicity-seeking as most entertainers and celebrities, the notion that some people actually think about things probably never entered your atrophied brain. And President Trump can present himself in a manner that is repulsive even to those who, like me, are convinced that by and large his policies are the right ones for our country.

If some or all of these reasons for unrestrained emotional responses were the primary drivers of the current malaise, we would be right to reiterate the need for civility in politics as our primary response. We could hope that the shooting of Representative Scalise and his slow and painful recovery would be a corrective shock bringing a majority back to their right minds.

So that leaves us with the likelihood that there is a strategy behind the incitement of hatred and violence that we have seen. According to Rusty Reno, editor of the journal First Things, there is such a strategy, designed and directed by the wealthy, largely white elite that runs the Democratic Party. Disconnected from the middle and working class voters necessary for the party to win, those elites can only hold onto voters by inventing new forms of discrimination for them to fear. Until the election of Donald Trump, they generated that fear by pushing an agenda so radical that it was guaranteed to generate resistance, and then labeling anyone who objected to that agenda as a bigot, a homophobe, a misogynist or a white supremacist.

How else, Reno asks, can we explain a President facing ISIS, Russian aggression, North Korean nuclear weapons, an expansionist China and the slowest recovery from recession on record making transgender bathrooms his highest priority? Most of us probably thought that election of the first black President would be the end of race-baiting, yet during his term we experienced repeated assassinations of police officers in the name of “Black Lives Matter” and banners proclaiming that “Republican Hate Kills.”

According to Reno, the Democratic Party came back from its defeats as the party of segregation during the civil rights era by promising to “promote and protect those who feel ‘excluded’ or ‘marginalized.’” But those promises to African-Americans, women and other minorities have been fulfilled. We have made immense progress over the past 50 years in eliminating discrimination based on race, sex, religion and other differences.

Once real discrimination ended, Democrat leaders and their sycophants in movies and the news media had to invent claims of discrimination to keep their coalition together. They found a new group they could label as marginalized in lesbian and gay activists. Then after winning on issues like gay marriage, they needed to invent discrimination against even more obscure sexual orientations. In the process, Democrats wrapped an activist agenda centered on LGBTQ privileges that have no direct appeal to most voters in a narrative of discrimination that they expect African-American and Hispanic voters – not to mention wealthy whites — to accept automatically.

To make that narrative work politically, there has to be a villain. To create a villain, the demands have to be so extreme that they will provoke opposition. Since political correctness has by now intimidated most of those outraged by this social agenda into silence, it becomes easy to claim that all those willing to take a public stand are bigots. Transgender bathrooms were a perfect ploy. The demand is so contrary to any sensible view of human nature that it generates widespread outrage, and all those who express that view can be labeled “haters.” Then the mostly rich, white liberals who run the party can sustain their power by promising even more protections from these symbols of oppression.

Now there is someone else to hate – Donald Trump. Someone the same elites can label racist and sexist based on his own statements. The vehemence of the blogosphere and the unanimity of sicko comedians makes it clear that many of them can’t imagine any reason to stop, not even boredom at repeating themselves and certainly not escalating violence. That their strategy and that of the liberal elites is to create a new symbol of oppression in order to maintain their hold on power is a very compelling explanation.

It is also a strategy to continue the intimidation of voters who voted for Trump in order to express how fed up they are with the radical program and condescending attitudes of the liberal elites. What better way to demonize the deplorable racists, sexists and homophobes who voted for Trump than by harping continuously on his gaffes and impetuous actions? We Trump voters might eventually get fed up with being accused of being white supremacists or worse and vote out those who condemn us unjustly, but we can be put down over and over again by making our choice for President out to be a boob or a monster.

I don’t disagree that Donald Trump has shown a talent for turning victory into defeat nearly as great as his talent for turning defeat into victory in the election. Just as he shows his chops as a negotiator by getting health care reform through the House of Representatives, he surrounds himself with a firestorm of criticism for firing the FBI Director. It would be a great help to take away his tablet and restrain his willingness to validate every criticism by responding to it. But if it were not for Trump, the strategy behind the rising storm of hatred would be diverted to creating some other symbols of oppression against which the elites running the Democratic Party can pretend to stand.

In response, those of us who are appalled by these developments must continue trying to explain clearly and objectively the basis for the policies we favor. We must also practice and encourage civility rather than emotional rants about policies and politicians (though I think celebrities, entertainers and opponents of free speech are still fair game).

That will not be enough. Continued engagement in electoral politics to keep the coalition of hard-working, faithful, family-oriented, financially stressed and totally ignored voters who elected President Trump together is the only antidote to the strategy of demonization pursued by the elites who think they own the Democratic Party.

David Montgomery was formerly Senior Vice President of NERA Economic Consulting. He also served as assistant director of the US Congressional Budget Office and deputy assistant secretary for policy in the US Department of Energy. He taught economics at the California Institute of Technology and Stanford University and was a senior fellow at Resources for the Future.

Another Juneteenth – A Sestina by Robert Earl Price

Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States.  June 19th  is the day in 1865 when Union soldiers landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free.

The order read, “The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and free laborer.”

What became known as general order number 3 was delivered two and a half years after president Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation; this late arrival of the order to end slavery caused cynics in the newly emancipated community to create the term “Juneteenth.”: which meant something extremely late or likely never to arrive.

General Order number 3 is the only known emancipation notice ever given to Negroes.  Imagine the transition from slave to African American without recompense or consideration of citizenship, without a thank you for 250 years of free labor and no share of the massive economy built on your back.

This place a nugget of gold in a sea of clay

Today we stand on precious ground

A stoned arch bridging many an uncertain day

A monument for shoulder-to-the-grindstone will

We come to bear witness and to bare our hearts

Here where the past is buried in the marrow of bones

 

We are the wind chimed clank and clang of dry bones

A chalice of wisdom from fired clay

Reverent music poured into open hearts

Many colors carpet this hallowed ground

This is a cornerstone of will

The founders’ foresight promised us this day

 

Raise the pennants and praise the day

The drummer lives in incus bones

Trees planted by the waters of will

A joyful insistence encrypted in this clay

Let hurrahs and hallelujahs shake the ground

And stir the longing in our hearts

 

Ella scatting an anthem for our hearts

Spirit movers, seekers of a breaking day

The visionary’s broom sweeping this ground

This monument to long buried bones

Tread carefully over this layered clay

Built by communal warriors of one will

 

On the road to glory by grace and will

The boon of freedom glowing in our hearts

Moisten the yard and tamp down the clay

Fry the fish and fixings to celebrate the day

And set the legends sifting through our bones

Our dancing DNA moonwalking on sacred ground

 

Today a tower of tolerance stands on hard won ground

Today we acknowledge the power of a righteous will

Today we refresh dreams and replenish the legacy of bones

Today our heroes rest in the shelter of our hearts

Today a day like no other day

Today we patina the world in a crust of clay

 

Praise to this persistent will, that seized this day

Protect this swirling ground and blood mottled clay

Place the merit bones of our past safe in the trove of our hearts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Real Men and Father’s Day by Al Sikes

“You feel like superman”, the young addict says. The Economist
“Does God exist?” “Not yet,” Question and answer in panel discussion on transhumanism.
“For the prostitute reduces you to a loaf of bread.” Proverbs 6:26

Let me briefly serve as a bridge, an intergenerational one.

My Dad, in acute recognition of my needs, was unhesitating. He insisted that nothing good in the life of a teenager happened after midnight—thus a curfew. It made no difference that other parents did not impose one—he seemed unbothered by peer pressure. Much to my discomfort.

Dad insisted that I needed to understand the options of life—my summers were spent working in a grain elevator. When just out of college, I announced an intent to get married; he was apoplectic, and said: “you can’t afford a wife.” Fortunately for me, my wife, Marty, worked while I went to law school.

There was nobody around to write down Dad’s insistent insights. Had he been a direct descendent of King Solomon, the world would have received a 20th Century update of Proverbs.

My Dad would have told the young addict that Superman is a fantasy, that if you are searching for transcendence go to church.

And to the transhumanist searching for perpetual life, he would have suggested spiritual counsel, not chemicals.

To finish the bridge, let me retreat to King Solomon’s version of Proverbs, the one that is blessed by the Bible. The King didn’t lack a keen insight or a sense of humor.

Culturally, our time is devoted to ascendance. Or, as the dictionaries report: “a position of dominance.” My Dad, not inclined to deal in the abstract, would have paired the word with fool. He knew, and probably most humans know, that dominance is fleeting. When we feel dominant, something else is likely to be dominating us.

My faith is inspired by a horrific death on a crucifixion cross—its form–simple and wooden. The narrative surrounding this piece of wood promises transcendence through love and humility.

Regardless of which faith story we find compelling, none of them suggest material wealth or dominance as the pathways to transcendence.

Reflecting on America, it needs a culture that pushes us beyond self. The vulnerable need more than jails and yet another educational initiative that explains for the millionth time what every sentient human knows: drugs are harmful. Millions of people seem to have yielded to nihilism, believing that existence is pointless or alternatively, too heavy a burden to carry. Pharmacological escape and its risks do not weigh heavily on their minds.

America needs insistence voices informed by an overarching morality. My Dad’s rules carried the bite of right or wrong. Simply stated, we (all of us) need to look beyond ourselves. Not to the pop psychology of victimhood. Nor to the ceaseless marketing messages that compare our lives with some glorious alternative.

Today volumes are written about sources of moral principles and their legitimacy. Likewise, volumes are written about how our weaknesses often eclipse our internal powers of discipline. At some point in this narrative stream, right or wrong became a depreciating asset.

Parents, schools, churches, and Synagogues need to start young. They need to recapture the insistence I experienced as a teenager. And while the message needs to be motivated by love, the words need authority, a 21st Century Solomon who understands the earlier one.

Retreating to the last century, I recall a movie with an intergenerational story.

A 1963 movie, Hud, starring Paul Newman, Patricia O’Neal, and Melvyn Douglas, was set on a cattle ranch in Texas that was just hanging on when it was hit by an outbreak of hoof and mouth disease.

The movie pitted a hard drinking, unprincipled son, Hud, (played by Paul Newman) against his father, Homer (played by Melvyn Douglas), who was the patriarch owner of the ranch. The two men often argued in front of an impressionable and idealistic young man, Lon (played by Brandon de Wilde), who was grandson to Homer and nephew to Hud.

In one memorable scene, Homer said to Lon after a furious argument with Hud: “Little by little the look of the country changes because of the men we admire….You’re just going to have to make up your own mind one day about what’s right and wrong.”

Today the word “men” tends to be loaded; but as Fathers Day is only days away, I recall my father as a real man.

Al Sikes is the former Chair of the Federal Communications Commission under George H.W. Bush. Al recently published Culture Leads Leaders Follow published by Koehler Books. 

Out and About (Sort of): You Can “Go Home” With Some Retrospection by Howard Freedlander

It’s often said, you can’t go home, you can’t recapture or repeat an idyllic time in childhood or youth.

The past Saturday when my wife and I watched our 12-year-old granddaughter play softball at Route 18 Park outside Centreville, I had flashbacks to another fun-producing time when her mother and aunt played softball on the Eastern Shore.

I was a parent heavily invested in a daughter’s athletic performance, possibly too much so. I didn’t sit on my emotions. I had played sports throughout college. I expected my daughters to do well. If their performance were lackluster on a particular day, I expected exhaustive effort. At the same time, I tried to be positive about their prowess, even if I felt otherwise. Sometimes I said nothing after a game. I’m not sure my behavior was constructive.

It was so different that past Saturday. I watched with little or no emotional investment. I was there to provide some grandparent support; the results were less important than they were 30-35 years ago.

In days of yore, I often was an obnoxious parent. I can’t deny it. I yelled and screamed, mostly at the umpires. I tried to encourage my daughters, even when it hurt. I tried ever so hard to be a patient parent, able to forgive my daughters should their performance fail to measure up to my too-high expectations.

It’s far easier being a grandparent. Your sportsmanship is much more admirable than it was at another time, when victories were of utmost importance. Your attitude is healthier. You’re just there, because being a more mellow spectator seems important to your daughter and granddaughter. Your daughter is empowered to shout and moan, though I rarely have witnessed that. Her demeanor is far more mature than her father exhibited so many years ago.

As a grandparent, you’re just a kindly accessory. You’re treated as “old” people, as we were Saturday as two team parents moved a canopy to enshroud us in shade and improve our experience at the ballfield. Is it respect or sympathy that motivates this generosity of spirit? Does it matter?

Aging has some advantages, though not many. Sometimes, your pride has to take a backseat to nice, benevolent gestures of friendship. Sometimes, you accept the extra effort of kindness without reservation or embarrassment.

As I watched my granddaughter work hard to hit the ball and contribute to her team, I was reminded of the intrinsic value of sports. While it does matter if you win or lose, if you hustle or hold back, if you focus or daydream, the opportunity to be part of a team is invaluable.

Though I periodically decry the predominance of sports in American society, often to the exclusion of cultural pursuits, I feel thrilled that women’s sports have gained more attention and respect and public support. No longer is a woman, driven to succeed in amateur or professional sports, stigmatized by athletic excellence. It’s perfectly acceptable to seek to succeed in a competitive sports venue and know that the American public honors your abilities and prowess—while at the same time appreciates your human qualities.

As a parent of two daughters, I unabashedly encouraged athletic participation. And, yes, I might have been too pushy for top-flight performance. I also understood, however, that learning to win, participating in endless practices and melding your talents with others were life lessons that should be and in fact are available to male and female athletes alike.

Maybe, just maybe, women’s sports have opened up other opportunities in other fields, such as business, the law, academia, medicine, science, government, and non-profits. I’m realistic enough to know that women still face discrimination in the work world in terms of salary and upward mobility. Change comes slowly, glacially so.

America is still the land of opportunity. Women can advance from playing softball on a well-kept field at Route 18 Park outside Centreville to leadership in a major corporation or university. Being on a team can provide valuable life lessons.

A grandparent can be hopeful about a grandchild’s future. We can even mentor benignly. The ultimate responsibility, of course, lies with a parent and a child.

As it should be. Grandparents have had their turn at bat.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland.  Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He  also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer.  In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

At the Still Point by George Merrill

From my studio window I enjoy a limited view of Broad Creek. Locals call it Saddler’s Cove. It’s a preferred landing site for birds – ducks and geese occasionally, but mostly herons. The shallow water in the cove provides them easy access to minnows and an occasional water snake. Of course, the cove is also home to aquatic creatures like fish, crabs and oysters. At first glance you think it’s a still and sleepy place, vintage tidewater ambience. However, there are times when nature gets busier than traffic does on Rt. 50 on a summer weekend. It’s a still spot, but at the same time there can be all kinds of goings on.

My mobility of late has been temporarily limited due to an injured knee. Now I spend more time in the studio just sitting and gazing out the window. The studio has become the center of my world, the still point of my universe. Too bad it takes a bum knee to settle down and be still long enough to be aware of what’s going on around me.

Looking out the window one day, not focused on anything in particular, my view was dimmed by a large shadow cast by something flying high above. At first I saw only the shadow. Then a Great Blue Heron came into full view. He was circling and preparing to land in the cove. He made a lazy pass over the site as if he were waiting for clearance from flight control. Getting the go ahead, he began his final approach. Near touchdown he arched backward, throwing his legs forward the way a broad jumper does before he hits the dirt. The heron landed effortlessly in about two inches of water.

I watched the Heron with awe. Just before touchdown, the Heron flapped his wings strategically, allowing him to substantially break the velocity of his descent. He practically parachuted to earth, legs bent forward to absorb any shock he might make upon contact.

I winced when I thought of my own knees bending backwards like that. One knee of mine feels as though it had.

What with physical therapy, two visits to an orthopedist and finally owning that I had done a number on my knee, I’ve become conscious of life’s appetite for movement in general, and my own mobility in particular.

Life is always on the move. All God’s creatures want to get up and go. They like to fly, soar, jump, swing, roll, dig, flip, or dive for the sheer joy of it. Some divide themselves into halves like amoebas or regrow a lost limb like starfish, but I suspect that’s out of functional necessity. They’re not doing it just for fun.

Recently I saw a little girl busy at the end of dock – checking crab traps I guess. When she completed her task, she began skipping along the dock and back to the land. I was mesmerized watching her. Her movements seemed inspired, a moment of pure abandon and playful lightheartedness that seizes all of us at one time or another. We just can’t resist it. Jumping for joy is a popular way of putting it. I could not remember for the life of me how I once skipped. I remember the joy I felt, though.

Amusement parks capitalize on the thrill that various forms of mobility can excite. As a boy, I remember riding the parachute jump at Coney Island.

Standing on the boardwalk, my view of the world was narrowly circumscribed by a limited horizon, the usual view for anyone who is earthbound. The world grows larger on the parachute jump.
Secured safely we began the ascent. Gradually my world opened up and I gained a bird’s eye view of New York City, Long Island, Staten Island and parts of New Jersey. The ascension is titillating, but the high point of the adventure is when we drop.

I’m secured in a canvas seat with another boy. Suddenly I feel as if it’s falling out from under us – I scream – everyone screams – some for terror, some in delight, most screaming for both. We plummet downward, delivered at the last minute by the restraining jolt of the tether attached to the tower’s crown.

Movement is the essence of cosmic energy. What about creatures that have no means for their own locomotion? Nature lands a helping hand. Consider the milkweed seed. It takes nothing more than a breath of fresh air to set these diaphanous threads aloft and soaring. Milkweed seeds need do nothing except to lie back and enjoy the friendly skies until the threads are flown to their final destination. Safely delivered with their tiny package intact, like the legendary stork, they bring to wherever they light a brand new life.

Years ago in Manhattan I entered the subway to catch the train uptown. I boarded and got seated. Across the platform, I saw another train. It, too, was stopped waiting for passengers going downtown.

In a few minutes, looking out the window I felt distinctly we were moving. But, I was unsure. Was my train moving or the other? I was disoriented. Just who was on the move. Entering a tunnel I could see then that my train was moving. I recognized the motion as mine only when I had reference to a still point.

We live in both a material and spiritual world. In the material world, motion and busyness easily become addictive. We’re on the move all the time, hurrying here and there, and fidgeting with this and that. But until we gain some access to the still point deep within us around which everything spins, it can be for us like it was for me that day in the subway, when I couldn’t be sure at all just who was moving and who was at rest.

Columnist George Merrill is an Episcopal Church priest and pastoral psychotherapist. A writer and photographer, he’s authored two books on spirituality: Reflections: Psychological and Spiritual Images of the Heart and The Bay of the Mother of God: A Yankee Discovers the Chesapeake Bay. He is a native New Yorker, previously directing counseling services in Hartford, Connecticut, and in Baltimore. George’s essays, some award winning, have appeared in regional magazines and are broadcast twice monthly on Delmarva Public Radio.