Letter to the Editor: Thoughts on the Democratic Primary

Amid all the acrimony and tribalism, we should take a moment to celebrate our democracy. Five candidates vied for the chance to unseat Andy Harris. How extraordinary that Jesse Colvin won that right.

When Jesse entered the race he probably did not know a hundred people in the First District. He was newly married and expecting his first child. He had no personal money to finance a Congressional campaign. What he did have were leadership skills honed from his Army Ranger experience, conviction that the First District was poorly represented by a Freedom Caucus member, and tremendous energy for the contest.

Jesse won by running toward the problem, driving up and down our expansive First District for six months and speaking softly, but with conviction, to hundreds of small groups of citizens. Time and again I witnessed people listen to him and then enlist in his cause.

What a great country where a young citizen without prior political experience or buckets of money, can by the force of his character, good humor and effort win a Congressional primary. This alone is worth celebrating. And now Republicans and Independents will have the opportunity to meet Jesse Colvin.

Andy Harris should be concerned.

Warren Davis
Oxford

Handwriting On The Wall by George Merrill

I liked taking photographs of old, dilapidated buildings and rusting farm machinery lying in fallow fields; or drift wood that’s stripped bare by the sea and bleached in the sun.

Graveyards also fascinated me, especially colonial sites on the island where I grew up and here on the Shore. On their weathered and crumbling headstones, I’d read tributes to, or lamentations for, the deceased. Whatever else, the headstone epitaphs affirm one’s existence –wanting passersbys to know they had once been – along with a synopsis of how the deceased or someone who knew him or her felt about their life and their death.

When I look around in old cemeteries, I wonder what these brief headstone testimonies mean and what the deceased persons once thought. There are few places on earth, other than a cemetery, where our mortality is declared so definitively. The markers identify not who’s there now, but who isn’t any more. The silence and emptiness of a cemetery’s terrain has a paradoxical effect on me, and, as I’ve learned since, on many others. Even while being in the midst of so many absences, I have a strong feeling of a presence while standing above those who’ve long gone. Among the old stones I stand waiting, as if for a revelation. It’s a haunting feeling, not as though I expected ghosts, but in the stillness of the space, some primal feeling in me is being called forth for which I had no name.

This feeling I’ve come to understand as yearning or longing, not for death, but from a desire to have a more complete story to which the brief epitaphs on the headstones allude. I wanted to reach my hand across the divide of time and experience the world as these people had once known it. I longed to hear their stories, see the landscape through their eyes. It was perhaps as I understand it now, my yearning to feel more deeply connected to the others through whose history, I too, had been shaped.

I long for connection.

Years ago, I read an essay by Bruce Mills titled. “An Archeology of Yearning.”

Mill’s story was about exploring the delicate terrain of the mind; the space deep within and surrounding us, and the symbols each of us use to travel in and out of one another’s terrain. Mills had written a moving account of the years he struggled to find ways to communicate with his autistic son, Jacob.

He seemed to be speaking about something I knew about intimately, but how, since I knew little about autism?

Living with Jacob’s autism, Mills tries to interpret his son’s inner space. Since there is little common language that parents, teachers, or playmates can share with Jacob, he lives in a lonely world. So, do his parents. They are woven tightly together by family bonds, but don’t have a common language. It’s painful being close and yet so far away, like standing next to a headstone that has a story, but no one to tell it.

Jacob drew pictures with the skill of a professional’s hand. He sketched perfect replicas of TV characters from the scenes in the children’s shows he watched on TV – like Sesame Street and various Disney movies. He constructed his inner vocabulary from these images. He mastered drawing perspective and depth perceptions of a much older child.

Jacob thought in pictures, not words, while imputing emotional significances to particular characters and certain colors. Through his art, he developed a visual language to give meaning to his inner space, to reach out to others. It was, however, a pictorial language and his father could not be sure that the pictures meant the same to him as they did his son. Often, they didn’t.

In general, when children pose the question to parents, “Where did I came from?”, I believe inherent in the question is a lot more than curiosity about the mechanics of sexuality. I suspect that in the question lies an eternal yearning to know the continuum of life beyond our own. How is who we are today connected to others who had been there long before? Who were they and what’s our connection to them?

While working with his son, Mills begins to describe his situation with a beautiful metaphor. In the relationship to his son, Mills sees the same mystery that archeologists experienced when first entering the ancient Chauvet Cave at Vallon-Pont d’e Arc in southern France. The images of animals on the cave’s wall witness to a story some tribesmen wished to tell. For the discoverers, in the silence of the cave which they found inscrutable and dazzling, they also felt a deep yearning to know more. What did these images mean?

Like Jacob’s, the images that the Paleolithic inhabitants drew on the cave’s wall were exquisitely crafted. There was the wondering about why this particular cave, and what the paintings themselves signified about the mind-set of the artists who painted them, the culture in which the artists lived and the significance of the particular subjects they elected to paint.

Art is a way of knowing. Art expresses what we feel about the world in which we live. Art is not confined to any one medium. It’s born of the primal human urge to create, to weave the strands of experience into the whole cloth of a vision. For years photography had been my artistic expression. How I ultimately became skilled in photography may not have been that different than the way Jacob became proficient in drawing: he wasn’t able to express his interior space in conventional ways, and so he naturally gravitated to another. It was important for him to create.

When I was a boy, my uncle took me to the countryside to paint. He was was a natural. As I watched him paint the rolling hills and farm houses, I felt lost, helpless. I could not sketch a landscape so that anyone might recognize it. I had no feel for rendering perspective. I wanted to be a part of my uncle’s world, to be creative in the way the way he was, but I had no aptitude for it. I had only a vague sense of color. After a while I’d find reasons not to go with him. I gave up.

That is, until I discovered photography.

It was apparent early on that I had “an eye.” I took quickly to the tools of photography that equipped me to render pleasing and imaginative photographs. As the saying goes, I found my voice, or more to the point, my eye.

In today’s world, the teaching of various forms of art is regarded as “soft” next to serious courses like business or science. Art education, in budget squeezes, is the first to be cut. I think this reflects a spiritual vacuum that exists in our consumerist culture. We have marvelous tools by which to serve our outer needs, while the tools to nurture our inner lives, to feed our souls, languishes.

It does not bode well for society when its young have no visions of possibility nor can its elders dream dreams.

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.

Poodlenomics by Carl Widell

What has happened to our champion of free trade, Andy Harris? He and his beloved Americans for Prosperity have long supported free trade and low tariffs. But now that President Trump is leveling tariffs against everyone under the sun, even Canada, Andy Harris has rolled over. “Anything you say, Mr. President.” Principles forgotten, Harris has become Trump’s poodle. Welcome to ‘Poodlenomics.’

When President Trump announced tariffs against our largest trading partner, the European Union, Andy Harris did not object. When Trump proposed steel and aluminum tariffs against our allies, Harris let out not a whimper. Even when Trump introduced tariffs against Canada, which makes no sense whatsoever (we have a trade surplus with Canada), Harris didn’t even bark.

It’s not that others are not speaking out. Every other Congressman in the Maryland delegation has spoken out against Trump’s trade policies. Other Republicans, such as John McCain and Jeff Flake, have spoken out. The ultra-conservative Americans for Prosperity, of which Harris is a member, which has long maintained that free trade is the path to American economic success, has spoken out. It has called upon President Trump too, “ lift recent tariffs on aluminum and steel imports as well as the proposed tariffs on other imports from China,” (see Freedom Partner webpage: https://freedompartners.org).

Even the US Chamber of Congress, which Harris has long supported, has spoken out. On its website, the Chamber quotes Martin Feldstein, President Reagan’s chair of the Council of Economic Advisors, who argues that “foreign import barriers (i.e., tariffs) … are not the reason for the U.S. trade deficit. The real reason is that Americans are spending more than they produce…. The policies of foreign governments affect only how that deficit is divided among America’s trading partners.” (See https://www.uschamber.com/series/above-the-fold/trade-deficit-truths.)

Congressman Harris must know the basics of foreign trade accounting, but he chooses to go along with President Trump’s ill-conceived policies. Party over principle – that’s Poodlenomics.

What we need is a Congressman with backbone, with common sense policies, willing to reach across the aisle, who has served in Afghanistan four times and is willing to stand up to the President when necessary. Someone who is not a poodle. Have you looked at Jesse Colvin lately?

Carl Widell Widell is the chief financial officer and a director of Network Technologies International. He also served on the Talbot County Board of Education in 2008. 

An Open Letter to Representative Andy Harris on Immigration Policy

Dear Dr. Harris,

On the evening of Thursday, June 21, groups of your constituents gathered at your branch offices in Chester, Salisbury, and Bel Air to protest the Trump administration’s policies on immigration.

Seventy-five of us came together at your office in Chester. As concerned citizens of the United States, we are deeply troubled by the treatment toward peaceful asylum seekers that has been perpetrated by the President and his administration and condoned by members of Congress. We ask that, as our representative in the Maryland’s First Congressional District, you represent instead our values and the founding values of our nation, which owes it strength to the ingenuity and hard work of generations of immigrants.

As a physician, you swore the Hippocratic Oath, which begins with the statement, “First, do no harm.” Yet, the immigration policies you and the President support unquestionably cause harm. To respect your oath, you must ensure the following:

First, that the children and parents separated at the border be reunited immediately.
Second, that you investigate and punish those who perpetrated this policy of family separation and child abuse.
Third, that you work to reverse the inhumane so-called “zero tolerance” policies of the current administration. These policies have led to the current crisis and do not represent an acceptable and humane path forward.
Fourth, that you censure the President’s racist and xenophobic rhetoric about immigrants. Such rhetoric leads our country down a dangerous path by dehumanizing human beings in need.
Fifth, that you fight for a reversal of the new H-2B visa lottery system which has led to the current crisis in the crabbing industry on the Eastern Shore.

Thus far, our concerns have been unanswered. Your staff has been unable to answer our queries about how you plan to act on this issue, and one staff member even suggested that the media’s reporting of family separation was inaccurate and that constituents are overreacting when we call to express our horror at seeing children torn from their parents.

What’s more, your public response to the family separation crisis, a statement that more detention centers should be created to hold families together, is no solution. Asylum seekers should not be treated as criminals, and families should not be held indefinitely in internment camps while the U.S. government tries to figure out how to implement its own ineffective and cruel policies.

We are watching and waiting. We sincerely hope that you will act immediately to solve the humanitarian crisis created by this administration in a way that privileges tolerance and respect for human life over cruelty and small-mindedness.

Sincerely,

Kitty Maynard, Administrative Team member, Kent and Queen Anne’s Indivisible
Dorotheann Sandusky, President, Democratic Club of Queen Anne’s County
Denice Lombard, Co-chair, Talbot Rising

On behalf of 75 concerned constituents

Denice Lombard
Tilghman Island

 

Thank You Talbot County

Thank you, Talbot County

It takes a lot of work to make democracy work, and everyone who participated in Tuesday’s primary election deserves our thanks.

So here’s a shout out to the Talbot County Election Board members and staff, the election judges and all of the others who spent a very long day making it possible for voters to vote. And let’s not forget the folks who safely and securely stored the equipment and then transported it to and from a dozen polling places located all over the county. Or to the churches, schools and firehouses that opened their doors to us.

And here’s to every candidate in every race, regardless of party. It’s hard work to run for office. It takes perseverance and stamina as well as a thick skin and stout heart. You have my respect and gratitude for stepping forward.

Let’s not forget all of the campaign volunteers who make phone calls, place signs, manage data, go door-to-door, staff offices, lick envelopes, and set up for and clean up from events, and so much more. They deserve our gratitude no matter which campaign or party they support.

And last but not least, the biggest shout out of all to the voters! You came early, and you came late. You came with kids in tow and in wheelchairs. You came in work trucks and sports cars, on bicycles and on foot. You showed up when so many others stayed home, and you deserve our thanks for your commitment to democracy.

I’ve worked the polls in many roles over the years, and I am always deeply moved by the process. Casting a vote—or making it possible for others to safely cast an informed vote—is profoundly important to our community and our country.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you for showing up.

Naomi Hyman
Easton

Letter to the Editor: The Poodle

Andy Harris has become a poodle. Unlike all other members of Maryland’s Congressional delegation, he refuses to take up his Constitutional duty to supervise the executive branch. He will not call out the Trump Administration when it goes astray.

There was no need for the family separation crises on our southern border. It was entirely fabricated by President Trump. He created the crises and ended the crises with the stroke of his pen. Trump was alone responsible for separating children from their parents; not the Democrats, not Hillary Clinton, not the Republicans in Congress, not Barak Obama. One wonders whether this entire charade was to whip up his base for the midterms.

But Andy Harris blames Barak Obama. He wrongly maintains that the Obama policy of releasing asylum seekers with ankle bracelets meant that “most never showed” for their court hearings. This is false. In fact, 99% of the asylum seekers did attend for their hearings under the Obama policy. In his statement, Mr. Harris doesn’t mention the ankle bracelets. He also doesn’t say that the Trump Administration followed the same procedure without causing family separations for 18 months. The ankle bracelets were not only effective, but they meant that there was no need for housing; asylum seekers were released on their own recognizance.

Harris is clearly afraid to call out Trump for this entire charade. He attempts to duck the issue by falsely blaming Barak Obama. Show some courage, Andy! Stand up when you see something is wrong. Don’t roll over and beg for a bone from Mr. Trump. Your constituents need you to speak out when the executive branch is out of line. Don’t act like a poodle.

Carl Widell
St. Michaels

Democracy Failing by Al Sikes

Mara Liasson, the National Political Correspondent for National Public Radio and often a co-panelist with Charles Krauthammer on Fox News, called him a “gift to the world” and characterized his death as “a huge loss for conservatives.” Liasson and Krauthammer didn’t always agree, yet were friends who respected each other’s opinion. Friends, how quaint that seems in the pit bull politics of today.

Charles Krauthammer’s evolution from liberal (he was a speechwriter for Walter Mondale) to conservative was expressed in terms first defined by Irving Kristol: “a liberal mugged by reality”.

In the last few months I have been sent links to a purported column written by Krauthammer expressing support for Donald Trump. In the parlance of today: “fake news”; Krauthammer’s intellect and reputation were not on offer. We live in a swirl of pretenders and their pretensions. We just lost an important voice for clarity, objectivity and respect.

Instead we have a President, now a lame duck one, who continues to choose outrage over leadership. Attacking ones adversaries is not the first stage of a successful negotiation. And we have a Congress incapable of performing its constitutional duties.

President Trump’s remaining strength over domestic issues goes with the Office. But, as Barack Obama learned, governing by executive orders means the next person in line can undo the orders.

In a few months we elect a new Congress. But, regardless of which Party prevails, it is highly unlikely that either Party will have a large enough caucus of Members to govern without some level of bi-partisanship. The power of partisanship is often hollow.

Power is often misunderstood. Trump is certainly in charge of depthless power. His image and words are omnipresent. Since media coverage tends to confer importance, Trump is very important. And in Washington importance, as conferred by rank or media attention, is often thought to be power and held onto tightly.

Real power is set out in the United States Constitution and most especially in Article 1, Section 8. Simply stated, this section gives Congress the power to make laws, tax and spend. In just over three months real power will be conferred again. Will the winners be just another contingent who elevate self or Party over nation?

In many ways the most important question to be asked of each candidate is what they will do to make the most important branch of government work. It only works when there is some level of bi-partisanship. The existing power vacuum has elevated executive orders and attack politics. Present day realities have nullified the Congress.

But lest I understate the magnetism of President Trump to his followers, let me return to his power.

The one thing most can agree on is that Trump rather brilliantly used “Make America Great Again” to brand his candidacy and presidency. Many, of course, would quickly reject “Again” believing that America’s health is just fine. I am not in that number. On the other hand, retreating to the past to find greatness inevitably leads to this question: if America was so great, in say the 1950s, why was racial discrimination so ubiquitous? Certainly our views and laws about equality have improved dramatically.

At news conferences, interviews, town hall meetings and the like I would like to see each candidate be given the opportunity to compare and contrast. What, the question might be, would you propose we do to Make America Great? In short, require candidates to think beyond slogans.

Candidates should be asked what they think about our country’s financial health. If they believe it weakens the country, extract a pledge of action. One of the more successful political pledges was the “no tax” pledge. Fiscal hawks should craft a pledge to fix our nation’s balance sheet. And younger voters should insist that candidates tell them how the entitlement programs, which are actuarially bankrupt, will fulfill the promises made.

What about roads, bridges, airports, mass transit, waste treatment facilities, public water supplies? If the central government should play a role, what should it be? The recent Supreme Court decision requiring on-line sellers to collect State sales tax is likely to raise State tax revenues significantly. This might be a particularly fertile moment for the central government, with a modest contribution (it cannot afford more), to stimulate needed infrastructure work.

One final question: ask each candidate whether they pledge to return home after they no longer serve. Retirement from Congress often results in lucrative lobbying jobs aimed at protecting government conferred advantage.

When the Congress is failing, democracy is failing. And when the Congress allows a power vacuum to exist the occupant of the White House is empowered, well beyond constitutional intentions.

I want to leave the last thought for Charles Krauthammer who in a C-Span interview said he grew up attuned to the “tragic element in history”. “It tempers your optimism and your idealism. And it gives you a vision of the world which I think is more restrained, conservative, if you like. You don’t expect that much out of human nature. And you are prepared for the worst.” We are not going to change human nature, but voters have the power to change Congress.

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): The Patient is Recovering by Howard Freedlander

News continues to be encouraging about the Chesapeake Bay, with one minor blip recently. Yes, the patient is recovering, its arteries are less clogged, and its breathing has improved through increased submerged aquatic vegetation.

As a sign of better health, dolphins are returning in notable numbers. Sightings are running in the 400-500s. According to a Baltimore Sun article written by Scott Dance in mid-May, “Now researchers are exploring whether more dolphins are swimming up the bay, possibly invited by clearer water, abundant submerged greases and rebounding fisheries.”

This same article stated that bottlenose dolphins, “popular for their perceived humanlike intelligence and personalities, are common throughout the world’s oceans and in many estuaries.” Apparently, about 11,000 of these personable dolphins travel along the Atlantic coast from the Carolinas to Long Island.

As I wrote the previous few sentences, I was smiling. I never would have thought that evidence of more dolphins in the Chesapeake Bay would indicate a healthier Bay. They follow the food, which is now more abundant in our favorite estuary. I trust they are not eating blue crabs.

Another good sign that I wrote about in recent months is that human users and observers of the Bay, such as watermen and scientists, have established a consensus-driven process to get along and improve the oyster population by agreeing on the management of the iconic oysters. These bivalves represent the health and soul of the Chesapeake Bay and seem to rule the public perception of the health of the country’s largest estuary.

One might say that the health of human dialogue about oysters and its economic value has improved markedly. We have to be pleased that the future of oysters is not a subject of discussion in the halls of Congress.

The prognosis for this still ailing patient is favorable. Continued improvement and scrutiny of the resilient but fragile patient remain a chronic priority.

I am not ignoring the news of the increased growth of dead zones. Not good news—how encouraging could it be with the word “dead?” However, it appears as if Mother Nature, ever so unpredictable, is responsible for washing increased nitrogen into the Bay from the Susquehanna River. Blame it on Pennsylvania?

Not to put a damper on the good news emanating from the increased health of the Bay, I remain angry that the uncertain visa program has doomed the crab-picking business of three Hoppers Island crab processing plants. I wrote about this issue in May, disappointed that Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen and Rep. Andy Harris have failed to follow in Sen. Mikukski’s feisty footsteps in ensuring that sufficient visas were available to draw a number of Mexican crab-pickers necessary to keep all the crab-picking operations in business.

Rep.Harris got involved, so I’ve read, but the result was piecemeal. A visa lottery aimed to help landscapers and other businesses throughout the country, assisted one of four struggling plants in Dorchester County. This is shameful.

If this is a workforce development dilemma, I wonder about the dearth of creative solutions. For example, crab processing owners have said repeatedly that Americans do not want to pick crabmeat, a tedious undertaking. While I don’t question this assertion, I wonder why bright minds have not developed incentives to draw local workers.

The summer is upon us. Our bay continues to get better; there seems to be no retrogression, except for the weather-caused “dead zones.” The emergency seems to be less urgent. Life support is no longer necessary. But laser-like attention is still necessary.

Complacency would be injurious to the health of the Bay and the happiness of the region’s residents.

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.

The Hidden World of Despair by George Merrill

From the outside looking in, I find it almost impossible to spot someone who’s despairing of life sufficiently to want to end it. The recent suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain illustrated this dramatically. To all appearances, they were living the American Dream: successful, creative, wealthy, icons in the public eye, attractive and decent people. Only after the fact, do people try reading signs for motive, but any conclusions are guesses at best. Only years after the suicide of my father did I feel safe enough inside of myself to try piecing things together.

When incidents of suicide increased with the returning combat veterans from Afghanistan and Iraq I began to put together a credible theory. During WWII, the non-physical wounds of war were treated dismissively as either shell-shock or battle fatigue. My father, returning from the war, was clearly troubled. Then, there was also a tacit implication of moral failure associated with the condition. Despair and despondency carried the additional burden of shame, and implications of cowardice. Those suffering from what we now recognize as PTSD, had no place to turn. ‘Be a man’ was about the best counsel veterans got in those days. They were trapped with their nightmares and directed their fear, their sense of failure and despondency onto themselves. There’s always the wound that those surviving the suicide of a loved one, suffer. It’s living with the unanswered question: was there anything I could have done to change things?

Among the relationships we must manage in life, none gets more complicated than the one we have with ourselves. This is the relationship only we know about, if we are aware of it at all. The relationship to self involves nuanced values and proclivities that are uniquely our own, like our fingerprints. They are formed mostly unconsciously through family myths, societal values, personal temperament, circumstances, aversions and attractions. Some people are aware of this inner life because they’ve learned of its existence and found tools to nurture it. Others are not curious about it at all and dismiss it as ‘touchy-feely.’ Even out of our awareness, this inner relationship to ourselves can be as volatile as it is invisible. Self-hate is malignant and undetected it can grow like cancer. If it doesn’t kill someone else, it can kill you.

If we could ever know just what drove Bourdain and Spade to despair enough to take their lives, I’m sure, most of us would not see in their conflicts necessary reasons for despair. We ultimately value ourselves through our own judgements, and as our own critics, we can be merciless.

There is a difference between the ego and the soul. The ego governs life when we’re dealing with immediate challenges like making a living, choosing a spouse, raising children, making friends, or being successful in life. Important, of course. The soul, on the other hand, imputes a sense of ultimate meaning to what we do and who we are; souls are often referred to as our spirit, our essence. Some have an inkling of it, some have no idea.

To gain the whole world and lose one’s soul is a timeless cautionary tale. It’s easy to do in a consumerist culture that has little time for matters of the soul. A soul’s needs are not marketable, but advertisers give it a go; I’ve seen the word love invoked by advertisers in promoting toilet tissue and cars.

In Brisbane Australia, Professor David Tacey once addressed a Conference titled “Spirituality and the Prevention of Suicide.” His concern was that strategies for suicide prevention did not include a serious investigation of the role spirituality might play in preventing suicide.

Tacey is convinced that in the western world, there is little attention given to developing an inner life, encouraging the fundamental skills to help people develop meditative and/or prayerful skills that allow us access to our deeper selves while sensitizing us to the wonder of being alive. He believes this leaves us vulnerable to despair since the only values left for us to hold in dark moments are the social skills that the ego practices. Substantive values offer staying power for the soul and spirit and they are timeless. Consumerist values are all about buying and selling. People are commodities, targeted audiences, valued for their capacity to purchase. Making a bundle or being a celebrity has been likened to Chinese carry out; after you’ve had all you can eat, you’re hungry all over again.

Professor Tacey grew up in Central Australia, Aborigine country. He says “This need for spiritual experience and its therapeutic effect on the troubled soul, should become a major priority for all religions interested in their social relevance and their future existence.”

Lives can be deepened. Tacey cites an example.

Aborigines actively cultivate a spiritual life. It’s cultural, a part of their way of life. They know they possess a deeper self, called “churinga.” The word means one’s own hidden body. Youths are introduced to their churinga or “second life” by engaging in rites of passage. Tribal elders initiate the youth into his or her “churinga” with the words, “Here is your body, here is your second life.” The initiate is expected to live life from this spiritual core, and not allow the surface self to dominate because it leads to illusions and falsehood.

It’s worth noting that Buddhists also teach that the ego creates the illusions that mislead us, cause needless suffering, the kind of illusions that encourage the falsehoods that plague our personal, political and social lives. Meditative practices that characterize Buddhism are concrete methods proven to access the hope and calm, and I would add, sanity, that lies within us underneath the layers of the sand castles that our egos constructed.

I lived and worked in Baltimore for many years. I loved the city. It is a dangerous city, once called the ‘murder capital of the world.’ Not to despair. There are flowers blooming in the urban desert.

The Robert W. Colman is a public school in a hardscrabble neighborhood in West Baltimore. I take this quote from the Washington Post that reported on the school:

“A boy who tussled with a classmate one recent morning instead found his way to a quiet room that smelled of lemongrass, where he could breathe and meditate. The focus at Robert W. Coleman Elementary is not on punishment, but on mindfulness — a mantra of daily life at an unusual urban school that has moved away from detention and suspension to something educators hope is more effective. Here, students are referred to the Mindful Moment Room when they misstep or need calming. In a space decorated with bright curtains, lavender cushions and beanbags, program staff members coax students to explain what happened, to talk about their feelings, to breathe deeply. The third-grader who scuffled with a classmate broke into tears. Staff member Oriana Copeland held his hand as they talked. There were no harsh words. He came around slowly.”

Urban decay is one of America’s worst breeding grounds for violence and despair, violence perpetrated against self and on others. I am profoundly grateful to the people of the Robert W. Coleman school for giving as a vision of hope and possibility in an increasingly despondent world.

The long journey toward inward discovery begins with that first step, taken by the people who care.

Letter to the Editor: Where is Andy Harris on the Border Crisis?

This has gone on long enough. The Trump Administration has been separating parents from their children because they have chosen to criminally prosecute refugees who are applying for asylum.  This policy has created outrage from all living former first ladies, including Mrs. Bush, Mrs. Carter, and Mrs. Clinton.  Even Melania Trump has spoken and advocates for “a country that governs with heart.”  It violates U.S. and International law. Numerous Congressmen, Republicans and Democrats alike, protest a policy which can cause young children serious psychological damage. This is in sharp contrast to Secretary of Homeland Security Nielsen, who claims the children are “well taken care of.” Listening to tapes of children crying, “Mommy, Mommy,” contradicts Nielsen’s glib comments.

According to Steve Miller, senior advisor to the President, this policy is designed to put pressure on members of Congress reluctant to grant the Administration a legislative victory on immigration. It’s also hoped it will deter refugees from seeking asylum, although this has not worked in the past. The Administration just does not consider the harm being done to the children in the name of political leverage.

This is all so unnecessary. Both the Bush and the Obama Administrations provided facilities for families seeking asylum. Applying for asylum is not a criminal act, and in the past families were not prosecuted when they turned themselves into the Border Patrol.  Because they were not viewed as criminals, families were allowed to stay together. Under the Trump Administration, families seeking asylum are criminally prosecuted, giving the Administration a legal excuse to separate families. As a result, over 2,300 children have been separated from their parents during April and May, many times more than in either the Obama or Bush administrations.

Amid the cries of outrage at Trump’s shameful policy, our very own Congressman Andy Harris has said –  nothing.  By telephone, his office said they were not qualified to answer a question on a complex issue such as immigration and referred me to Harris’ website.  The website is silent on the subject of children being taken from their mothers. It is clear that Harris, along with many Republicans in Congress, simply does not have the guts to stand up to an immoral President. Please contact Harris and let him know what you think.  I hope we can replace Harris with someone with more backbone in November.

Carl Widell
St. Michaels