The Destruction of the Supreme Court by Al Sikes

Politics and the Supreme Court, intentionally, have a tense relationship. Indeed Franklin Roosevelt, when President, attempted to expand its membership so it would find more of his programs constitutional. The Court has the final say and its jurists enjoy lifetime tenure.

Beyond the structural differences, I can recall arguments in my constitutional law classes regarding the extent to which popular opinion influenced decision-making. Purists preferred to think the Court, being supreme, sits well to the north of the grubby fights about the legal way forward. Most know, however, that politics play a role in the appointments, confirmations and even considerations. Most Americans hope, however, that lifetime tenure invites wisdom.

But, let me leave the classroom and turn to the court’s complicity in what are fraught times.

I believe Roe v. Wade (the decision that discovered a constitutional right for abortion) was wrongly decided but decided it was and that occurred in 1973 on a 7 to 2 vote. The opinion was written by Justice Harry Blackman, an appointee of President Richard Nixon; the Chief Justice was Warren Burger, also appointed by Nixon. Both identified as Republicans. One of the dissenting justices, a Democrat, Byron White, was appointed by President John F Kennedy. Politics is inevitably part of the court’s history.

But, when politics seems to overwhelm the court’s deliberations, its authoritative position deteriorates. Indeed it has led the current Chief Justice, John Roberts, to give multiple speeches on the need to elevate Supreme Court decision-making.

The Boston Globe reported that “Roberts has been on a mission to convince the public that if the court is ideologically split, it is about law, not politics.

‘‘We do not sit on opposite sides of an aisle, we do not caucus in separate rooms, we do not serve one party or one interest, we serve one nation,’’ Roberts told an audience at the University of Minnesota in October.”

Today political parties divide along sharper edges than in 1973. Presidential and U.S. Senate campaigns often turn on Supreme Court appointments or issues. And today’s socio-political divisions often turn on the Roe decision.

We need clarity, if the Supreme Court wishes to step back from the raw edge of politics. It needs to hear a case on abortion restrictions that will result in a decision that answers rather than raises questions. It should not choose a case that leads to a minimalist decision that ducks the core issue. America needs to know when a woman’s right to an abortion is protected and when the States are allowed to restrict that right.

I say “when the right to an abortion” is legally protected because conservative jurisprudence honors precedence and the Roe decision was decided 46 years ago and the decision was not a partisan one decided by the slimmest of majorities.  

Yet, my concern is not so much the jurisprudence, but the social and political unrest that persists because the Court has chosen not to settle the constitutional issue. The failure to define the scope of the 1973 decision has led to toxic battles in State after State.

Also, the Supreme Court seems increasingly tethered to Presidential elections. The President will always appoint, but this power should not be the pivotal influence in voting decisions. If Justice Roberts wants to return the Court to a revered institution, he should guide it toward resolving the abortion issue. Indeed, now seems to be just the right time because the Court is still closely divided and the Chief Justice has both stated and shown an interest in decoupling the Court from the overwrought politics of the day.

Law students for generations will study and debate the Roe V. Wade decision. But, the health of our Supreme Court must be restored. Justice Roberts has diagnosed the problem. Only decisive action by a largely unified court will re-elevate the judicial seats each jurist occupy.

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): Shamelessly Ignored by Howard Freedlander

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin’s decision to delay the placement of Harriet Tubman–an American hero and Dorchester County native who led hundreds of slaves to safety through the Underground Railroad–on the $20 bill represents a shameless decision by the Trump Administration to disregard a courageous woman and African-American icon.

Mnuchin claimed it was more important to redesign the $10 and $50 bills first for security reasons, to prevent counterfeiting. The Tubman redesign, already moving toward completion, according to news accounts, was slated to appear in 2020, the 100th anniversary of suffrage. Her image was to replace President Andrew Jackson’s.

Tubman would have become the first woman on American paper currency.

Combating what he considers “political correctness” has become the battle cry for Trump. It underscores the president’s reluctance to condemn the white supremacists who protested in Charlottesville VA in August 2017, leaving one woman, a bystander, dead in the confrontation.

While some may argue that an image on a $1 or $5 or $10 or $20 or $50 bill makes no difference when you’re reaching into your wallet to buy groceries or a beverage in a convenience store, I believe that symbolism is important. It projects not only an image of a hero or a nation-founder–but highlights what we Americans consider as cherished values we wish to honor.

For example, the image of Abraham Lincoln on the well-used $5 bill reflects what he meant in preserving our united country when it was falling apart and fracturing itself over slavery and state’s rights during a disastrous Civil War. His political resilience and strong resolve enabled him to withstand personal attacks, Union defeats early-on and an unconscionable war on our own turf.

Gracing our ubiquitous $1 bill, George Washington represented our young nation’s character and gumption in rebelling against British rule and establishing a country free to determine its own future. He embodied integrity and common sense.

Harriet Tubman should be on the $20 bill. Now.

The decision to delay a redesign to 2026 or 2028 once his boss is out of office—assuming he wins reelection in 2020—smacks of cynical decision-making. He wanted to avoid a temper tantrum by his boss in the White House. He wanted to deflect criticism by Trump’s conservative base against what it might consider undue political correctness.

Trump’s fondness for the populist Jackson is well-known. A slave owner, Jackson was responsible too for the 1830 Indian Removal Act, which pushed more than 60,000 Native Americans from their lands and onto the infamous Trail of Tears.

Tubman continually risked her life to lead slaves to freedom, to shake the yoke of oppression. She freed herself in 1849. Over 11 years she helped hundreds gain their independence from bondage.

During the Civil War, she was a Union spy whose most notable achievement was the liberation of 756 people in one day in a raid on the Combahee River in South Carolina that destroyed four of the Confederacy’s most successful plantations and resulted in recruiting more than 200 black men into the army.

Though we have become accustomed to Trump’s decisions that forsake decency and compassion, I find the delay for seven to nine years of placement of Tubman’s image on the $20 bill an appalling insult to women and the African-American community.

Slavery is an indelible stain on our national legacy. Recognition of Harriet Tubman, who freed herself and then hundreds of others from the physical and mental imprisonment of slavery on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, would place an uneducated, determined black woman in the pantheon of American heroes. She belongs there.

Mnuchin’s decision was disgraceful. Unfortunately, it wasn’t surprising.

Embrace of our “better angels” is an elusive quality in the Trump Administration.

 

Glory in the Details by Jamie Kirkpatrick

 

“Think big,” they told us. “The bigger, the better,” they said. “See the big picture,” they advised. Well, maybe…

But we all know better. That big picture they would have us see is made up of a million little pixels. Glory is in the details.

I’m certain this is not news—fake or otherwise—to any of you. The sums of our lives are the minute-by-minute totals of our daily routines. The details matter; they create depth, texture, color. They make us authentic. Unique. Even Ernest Hemingway, our safari guide to the art of living large and living macho, knew this: “Every man’s life ends the same way. It is only the details of how he lived and how he died that distinguishes one man from another.” Hardly profound, Papa, just rarely observed.

It takes practice to appreciate detail. It’s so easy to gloss over things (I know because I do it all the time), but if we can just slow down for a moment and take that (dare I say it?) big, deep breath, we might actually smell all the aromas in that crimson rose that hangs over my neighbor’s white picket fence. Forget the forest, forget the trees; look for the vein pattern in each leaf and you just might find the secret to curing cancer.

But there is also a curse to living in the zone of detail. My wife’s palate is absurdly sophisticated. Her taste buds are always on high alert; I can’t slip anything by her. Who knew that ketchup can only made by Herr Heinz or that mayonnaise must only come in a Hellman’s jar? Don’t even think about substituting a pat of margarine for butter, or adding even a pinch of tarragon to the spice mix. She may be a good Catholic girl, but her salt better be kosher. The other day I made a vinaigrette salad dressing and added the tiniest drop of honey mustard to the recipe. A touch of sweetness, or so I thought. She tasted, sniffed, and put down her fork. “Did you put honey mustard in this?” she asked. “No,” I lied. “Don’t you like it?” “No (pause), it’s fine. It’s just a little sweeter than usual.” She proceeded to eat the salad—most of it, anyway.

But I won’t be deterred. I’ll still practice the ancient alchemy of distilling the water of my life from the purest of streams, using only the finest barley. I’ll toast the mash over a fire with just a hint of peat and age it in oak casks finished with rum and port. I’ll call the finished product whisky—no “e.” I am, after all, a Scot!

And if, by chance, I take a wee dram or two of my elixir and begin to see this seemingly drab, grey world through rose-colored spectacles, I’ll try to savor each precious moment as if it were my last, which (God forbid!) it won’t be because after all is said and done…

I’ll be right back.

Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer with homes in Chestertown and Bethesda. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy magazine. “A Place to Stand,” a book of photographs and essays about Landon School, was published by the Chester River Press in 2015.  A collection of his essays titled “Musing Right Along” was published in May 2017; a second volume of Musings entitled “I’ll Be Right Back” was released in June 2018.  Jamie’s website is www.musingjamie.com

Remembering Son of the Eastern Shore Clayton Mitchell by Steve Meehan

Former Maryland Speaker of the House and Kent County political scion Roy Clayton Mitchell, Jr. died June 13, 2019 at his home in Kentmore Park. Clay Mitchell was a son of Kent County through and through. Born and raised on his family farm, he never strayed far from home. The Mitchells were leaders in Kent’s agribusiness economy and residential development throughout the 20th Century. The site of the R.C. Mitchell & Son still sits along the rail line in Kennedyville. It was logical for him to enter Kent County politics.

Mitchell was part of the last generation of that faded halcyon period of Maryland politics when the Eastern Shore still voted for Democrats and their representatives could advance to leadership in the Legislature.  By the 1986 Election, he was Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee and eyeing the Speakership. The 1986 Democratic Primary was contentious. Baltimore Mayor William Donald Schaefer beat Maryland Attorney General Stephen Sachs.  The outcome ushered in a new generation of statewide leaders who supported Schaefer and drove public policy for the next decade, including Mitchell who was elected Speaker in 1987.

For Kent County and for me, it was fortuitous.

Kent County had a triumvirate of political leaders who had backed Schaefer and delivered access to the Governor: Mitchell, along with the late County Commissioner Wallace D. Miller and Elmer E. Horsey, then-Chestertown Mayor, Schaefer confidant and campaign treasurer of most of his statewide races.  

Teel and Clayton Mitchell

At the time, I was a student at Washington College and had recently been fired as a reporter by then-Kent County News editor Hurtt Derringer to make way for a journalism school graduate.  Fortuitously, I bumped into former colleague Joyce Willis, then-Social Editor of the Kent County News, at the old Chestertown Bank, both of us entertaining the prospect of creating a two-newspaper town.  We emerged an hour later from a borrowed conference room and The Pilot newspaper was born.

Joyce Willis was the dean of the Kent County press corps to the extent that could exist in a one-paper town.  She started at the Kent County News in the 1960s when Bill Usilton, the publisher, ran the Kent County News and Harry Russell, the editor, ran Kent County.  The paper had its operations at Cross and Cannon Streets, now the site of the Sultana Center. By 1986, Joyce had over 25 years of reporting under her belt and unfettered access to the local political elite, of whom none were more powerful than Mitchell, Miller and Horsey.  

Over the next two years, I took a total immersion course in the art of The Scoop that opened up the fascinating world of Maryland politics to me.   

Clay Mitchell was a generous subject. He had an open door policy for the Pilot staff.  Mitchell liked to get out front of stories. Dee Cockey, his gatekeeper, would add me to The Speaker’s call back list whenever a local story was brewing so he could come off the rostrum and deal with it.  The greatest insight came when invited to Great Oak Landing on Friday nights to hear war stories. These sessions reinforced my impression that Mitchell possessed that rare quality of anticipating the needs of politicians and their constituencies to forge consensus without bloodletting amidst the swirl of angst, anxiety and egomania of the legislative session. Calm and controlled, if the man had a temper he buried it deep: never angry or mean words, but great insight on political motivations.

Mitchell left politics early enough to enjoy his retirement.  He and his wife Teel, a Belle of Kent County, were positive, creative people who enjoyed life, good humor and independence.  That life view rubbed off on their sons, Clay, Chris, and Mike, and the next generation of Mitchells.

Rest in peace, Clay.  Your time here was well spent. Your legacy is ensured.

Steve Meehan is an attorney practicing in Chestertown, Maryland.  He was publisher and editor of The Pilot Newspaper, Chestertown, Maryland, from 1986-1988.

Women’s Rights are Human Rights

Missouri. Georgia. Alabama. Arkansas. Kentucky. Mississippi. Louisiana. Ohio. Utah. These are all states that have made news recently for passage or enactment of extreme abortion legislation.

It is important to understand that even in those states where such bills have been passed and signed into law, such as Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Ohio, those laws have not yet gone into effect. They will be challenged in court, and will likely be struck down, as recent attempts at such restrictive abortion laws have been in other states, including North Dakota and Iowa. The legality of abortion, as constitutionally guaranteed by Roe v. Wade since 1973, will not change… yet. Accessibility and affordability of safe and legal reproductive health care are other matters, but these laws will not be enforceable until and unless the Supreme Court decides to take one of them up.

What is more worrying right now is the hostility and hypocrisy of the purportedly “pro-life” legislators who have written, defended, and voted for these bills. There is no way to understand the abortion debate without recognizing that supporting these policies is exactly the opposite of life-affirming or life-supporting. When abortion is illegal or inaccessible, more women die. That’s it. More women die. This is a known fact, and has been for decades, and any legislator who writes or supports these laws, and any governor who signs them, is signaling as clearly as possible his or her belief that women’s health—women’s lives—are not worth protecting.

Restricting access to legal abortion has only a minimal effect on abortion rates. When they are denied access to reproductive care, including safe and legal abortion, women and girls are driven in desperation to ingesting toxic substances, self-inflicted abdominal trauma, other attempts at self-induced abortion by horrific means. They turn to unregulated “back alley” practitioners who may or may not have training, experience, or knowledge, who may or may not practice proper hygiene, who may or may not have benevolent motives, and who in all cases are unsupported and disincentivized to seek qualified medical support should something go wrong. So, more women and girls are injured, sometimes permanently. More women and girls die.

The Guttmacher Institute, one of the most widely respected and cited research organizations in the area of reproductive health and rights, reports that abortion rates remain about the same regardless of legality, concluding that “restrictions simply make the abortions that do occur more likely to be unsafe.” This reality is worth restating: restricting legal abortion does not appreciably lower abortion rates. It only increases rates of injury, illness, and death in women. Supporting restrictive abortion laws is not a pro-life position.

Debates rage in this country about basic issues concerning the well-being of children and parents, including maternity leave, subsidized child care, public preschool, and so many others. Policies that force women to give birth against their will are doubly cruel because they strip women of their rights to self-determination and bodily autonomy and then abandon mothers and babies to a system that is currently without strong social safety nets.  

The unfortunate conclusion to be drawn from this contradiction is that these anti-abortion policies do not arise from “pro-life” beliefs at all, but instead from a wish to control women’s lives through their bodies. Were this not the case, there would be far fewer examples of so-called “pro-life” politicians who have insisted on and paid for abortions for women in their lives—indeed in some cases, when the women did not want to terminate the pregnancy. Nor would legislation be written or enacted that forces women to carry to term fetuses that can never survive outside the womb.

There are many examples of laws and social standards that recognize the right of humans to protect their own lives when competing interests exist. We require prior permission or consent from immediate family to use the healthy organs of people who have passed away, even when people’s lives depend on those livers, hearts, and kidneys. We do not require bystanders to risk their own lives by entering a burning building to save others’. It is commonly accepted, even a cliché, to put on our own oxygen mask before helping someone else. Women need no less protection for their bodily safety and autonomy and their physical, economic, and social resources, and no less acknowledgement and respect for their inherent human rights.

Maria Wood returned to academic life in 2014, after a two-decade career in the music business, earning a BA in American Studies and a Certificate in Ethnomusicology from Smith College in 2018. Most recently, she served as Deputy Campaign Manager for Jesse Colvin for Congress.

Two Friends Talking: Resilience

Editor’s Note: Welcome to the Spy’s most recent effort in using the podcast model as one of our many tools in telling stories. While we welcome our readers to watch these broadcasts, they have been created with listening in mind, without significant editing, and to be enjoyed as a long-form presentation.

And that is undoubtedly our intention here as the Spy starts a new series entitled “Two Friends Talking.” Knowing of the joy, humor, and a good bit of wisdom that comes when two close friends sit over coffee and chat about a serious subject, the Spy was eager to find some way to share the remarkably educational moments that come with that exchange. Beyond the hard talk of local politics or neighborhood chatter, these conversations can unexpectedly drift from the mundane to the intellectually-demanding task of understanding the meaning of words like faith, compassion, death, kindness or forgiveness.

While many nationally-broadcast programs bring well-known personalities together for such dialogues, the Spy wanted to bring this kind of exchange to the local level; respectfully listening to, and learning from, the heart-to-heart talks of those in Talbot County known in the community as being both wise and candidly self-aware.

Two of those that truly fit that bill are Amy Haines (founder and owner of Easton’s Out of the Fire) and her friend of many years, Mid-Shore artist and educator, Sue Stockman. And with the Spy’s eternal gratitude, these fearless two have agreed to be part of this experiment.

Once a month, Amy and Sue will randomly select a word out of a large bowl filled with dozens of words that the two agreed in advance on as worthy of a conversation. All of which was to take place one Sunday every month in Amy’s cozy basement.

Beginning each program with the aromatherapeutic benefit of burning a bit of palo santo, Amy and Sue plop down on the sofa with that one word for thirty minutes for thought-provoking, humorous, and sometimes touching moments of reflection.

This month: Resilience (part one)

This video is approximately twenty-five minutes in length.

 

Of Geese and Golden Eggs by George Merrill

Early spring this year, we put in a new lawn. It lies between the porch and the creek. One morning, from the porch I saw two geese standing on the lawn just by the shoreline. They looked furtive, eyeing me sideways, like shoplifters.

I went to shoo them off. They didn’t retreat an inch, but viewed me with sidelong glances of suspicion, as if to ask just who did I think I was. They honked intermittently, their tones hushed, as if they were grumbling. Then, shamelessly, they began feeding on the grass.

Enough!

Even as I chased them, they’d move slowly, waddling away with an air of defiance. It was the way pedestrians, who like to stick it to drivers, saunter at a snail’s pace making street crossings.

Geese have no business here. If they were behaving properly like Canada geese should, they’d be long gone along with their kin, off to northern climes. Instead, these two settled for the land of pleasant living, where the green grass grows all around, offering succulent fare to sate their insatiable appetites. Incidentally, this amounts to putting away a staggering 10 percent of their body weight in grass daily. And then, too, when compared to goose poop, human waste smells like Chanel. A muddy field chock full of goose droppings is the stuff of nightmares and even Rotor- Rooter, no stranger to unsavory challenges, wouldn’t touch the stuff with a ten-foot pole.

With regard to a goose’s characteristic ‘honking,’ seasonal changes and numbers can affect their repertoire. In the summer, the population is sparse and so we have mostly solos, a few duets, and occasionally, but rarely, small ensembles. There aren’t that many choristers around. In fall and winter the populations swell so we hear choral extravaganzas, geese performing in casts of hundreds. Just who is on key and who’s off is hard to tell. Individually geese sound binary – as though there were only two tones in their vocal range; a preliminary warm up and then a sort of vocal crescendo, as if successfully expunging a hairball, or in this case, a feather ball. They repeat it over and over again. It’s hardly melodic. Some Shore hunters, even if they can’t hold a tune, may grow remarkably proficient in imitating the ‘honk,’ even snookering some geese into thinking he’s the real McCoy.

Honking is distinctive if not alluring. Oddly, the phenomenon of honking earned recognition as an expression of piety some years ago. I began seeing bumper stickers that read, “Honk if you love Jesus.” This was a strategy of identifying the faithful while driving cars. In the absence of any other identifiable qualities like faith, love, patience, kindness, long suffering, forgiveness and the like, by just leaning on their car’s horn, believers could proclaim their faith. If one driver’s horn became too insistent, his piety could be misconstrued as road rage. Whether for man or beast, a honk is more than just a honk.

But to return to the two geese feeding on my new lawn . . .

The geese presented a moral dilemma for me, a challenge to my core beliefs. I say I believe in the sanctity of the natural world and all its creatures, whether I like them or not. I like to believe I do unto others as I would expect from them and offer hospitality to the stranger. I have helped others in trouble, and, at least on a few occasions loved others as I knew I was loved.

No matter what I tried with the geese, nothing worked; they might waddle off after I fussed at them, but only to return a few hours later and eat the grass. I was furious. My wife and I erected dowel sticks and stretched strings along the shoreline – surely the string would prohibit their huge bodies getting through. They simply flew over it.

I knew of a man in the neighborhood who loves guns. We call him Rambo because he relishes shooting at whatever moves . . . or doesn’t. One day in a snit about the intransigent geese, I caught myself engaged in an imaginary conversation with Rambo about dispatching these geese. I really got onto it; How much per goose? What about the carcasses? What about DNR’s legal restrictions? What if a neighbor saw it? What about anonymity? In this imaginary conversation, not once did I feel shame.

In a moment of truth, my imagination exposed me to the superficiality of my own moral pretentions; an imaginary gun had stripped me of any moral pretensions, and it was still smoking. I was settling for cheap grace, by practicing a morality of my convenience.

I want to make a point: morality is not a sound bite. It’s an inner conviction of value, an innate understanding of what is worthwhile. It’s like a GPS; it shows the way but I still have to make the choice.

Sure, I could contract with Rambo at 100 dollars per goose. If the geese could not be persuaded otherwise, and if I decided to go with Rambo to solve the problem, I’d dodge the expense of planting a new lawn – a formidable sum – for the cost of roughly two hundred dollars.
It is not on earth as it is in heaven. On earth two-hundred dollars is good deal, but in heaven’s exchange, the sum is valued only at thirty pieces of silver.

Making boundary violations for birds and animals an offence punishable by death, is morally bankrupt. It betrays what I ultimately value, the truths I wish live by. It also betrays a failure of imagination. Belief and action aren’t necessarily the same. The exercise of moral courage is never convenient. It’s not popular because when seriously practiced, it comes with personal cost.

Circumstances, not moral courage, got me off the hook. I was not forced to make a decision about the trespassing geese. They had stopped showing up and so I never had to contend directly with my darker side.

Moral concerns like these, in far greater magnitude, are being savaged in today’s political climate. The Environmental Protection Agency has been put in the service of Mammon, not the environment for which it was founded. The agenda is being driven by power and profit and few seem to exhibit shame, and worse yet, even care. ‘Losers’ (the vulnerable, like the environment and its inhabitants) don’t have a voice. I know this will sound naïve, but imagine if we (I) could consider matters of our mutual life together with greater imagination. Imagine we could explore boundaries as ways to include and not alienate or get rid of. Imagine that we could explore gender differences with humility without fear and retribution, all with the ultimate objective of understanding and acting wisely as members of a shared creation.

One of America’s great environmental visionaries, Aldo Leopold, once wrote: “Like winds and sunsets, wild things were taken for granted until progress began to do away with them. Now we face the question whether a still higher ‘standard of living’ is worth its cost in things natural, wild and free.”

In the human story, our fatal flaws keep haunting us; we manage to kill the geese that lay the golden eggs.

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.

Our Time by Angela Rieck

Our Time

 

It is disheartening to see the current presidential landscape. Both the Republican and Democratic front runners are senior citizens.  As a fellow senior citizen, I am disappointed.

In negotiating this thing called retirement, one of the hardest adjustments for me was giving up power.  Working gave me a financial reward, a social incentive, and, often, a major ego boost. As an executive and a board president, I found that frankly, just my showing up in a room was cause for celebration.  People listened to me, some admired me, but all respected me. I’ll admit, it was intoxicating. But throughout this time, I tried to remember that it was the position that was being respected and not necessarily the person.

Retirement, on the other hand, has proven to be a difficult adjustment, probably because it was unexpected and unplanned. (I retired to care for my late husband.) I had enjoyed my career; I couldn’t envision not having one.

I remember Bill Clinton’s lament after leaving office that his phone had stopped ringing. Retirement offers no harried schedule, no one to meet, no business trip to travel to, no conference to attend, no speech to give, no one to manage my daily activities and, no one to boss around.  

In retirement, our worth is not measured by a salary or adulation. It is measured by our ability to appreciate all that we have been given.

I believe it is critical that we retire and relinquish power to the next generation; to take time to reflect, to savor the things that we never had time to enjoy.  It is an opportunity to appreciate life, relationships and cherish them before they are taken away.

More importantly, it is our duty to give the next generation a chance to determine the world that they will live in.  They, not us, will live in a world with climate change, population growth, declining fossil fuel reserves and scarcer water resources.  They will fund social security and Medicare. They will suffer the consequences of civil and women’s rights being chipped away. And they will have to shoulder the burden of the rapidly accelerating national debt.

Our generation has the wealth, the connections, the privileges and the resources to remain in power.  But it is nobler for us to give this up, to let the next generation govern.

It is time to check our egos, step down and let the next generation determine its own fate.

Angela Rieck, a Caroline County native, received her PhD in Mathematical Psychology from the University of Maryland and worked as a scientist at Bell Labs, and other high-tech companies in New Jersey before retiring as a corporate executive. Angela and her dogs divide their time between St Michaels and Key West Florida. Her daughter lives and works in New York City.

Identity Politics by Al Sikes

Identity politics! Let’s see, I am pro-choice or pro-life and therefore a Democrat or Republican. Unstated: I am willing to suspend disbelief as long as I identify with a candidate or a Party on a visceral level. And today, there is nothing more visceral than the legal boundaries of abortion law.

Political parties respond. Data lists are accumulated, rationalized and then the separation occurs. Data becomes real people and they are targeted. Hot buttons are lit up.

Identities: Evangelicals, LBGTQ, Ethnicity, Rural, Urban, Degreed, and on and on. Can an evangelical vote for somebody who is in the LBGTQ community? What if the two persons share points of view on most issues?

What does United mean? What does E Pluribus Unum (Out of Many One) mean? Our nation’s founding was inspired by unitedness. The politics of the day are defined by division. Can you define by division and then act unitedly?

Is there room, in the 21st Century, when communication is often instantaneous, targeted, emotional, and commercial, for quiet, patient relationships and decisions? Is it possible to step back from our political identity groups?

I have a lot of questions about our attempts at successful self-government. And, by nature, I am not reluctant to offer answers, by way of opinions. But, I must admit that I am stumped. While it is relatively easy to look ahead to medical breakthroughs, transformations in travel, and the like, it is maddeningly difficult to anticipate uniting answers. It is even increasingly difficult to follow facts where they take you. Failing this, how is good policy created?

Here is what I do know. Politics is attracting fewer and fewer idealists and/or realists and more and more manipulators. While idealists can get it wrong, manipulators work against the grain of unity—wrong defines their work. The Russians were able to use outlandish claims in Facebook ads because it fit a pre-existing pattern. Political parties and candidates are busily targeting their opponents with half-truths or worse. The Russians joined in.

Indeed half-truths now, largely inform politics. Candidates call for balanced budget amendments to our Constitution, but vote regularly for unbalanced budgets. Candidates and Advocates fly here and there to give speeches on freeing the atmosphere of carbon. Hypocrisy is not new, but a “take no prisoners” approach to identity politics makes it more egregious—cynicism sure to follow. And as regular politicians, those who come from more conventional backgrounds, attack Trump for his irregularity, it makes his base support even stronger.

A path-breaking journalist died on May 15, her name: Georgie Anne Geyer. A Wall Street Journal reflection on her career noted, “In the beginning she “operated in a virtually all-male world.”  She became a columnist after more than a decade on the road. After the Cold War, she watched with distress as the U.S. descended into identity politics. “The grievance activists,” she wrote, “create sovereignties that compete with the sovereignty of the nation.” In one of her last articles, she argued that America needed to “develop a renewed sense of common purpose.”

Sovereignty. Have we yielded our own sovereignty? Have we become actors in emotionalized morality plays directed by the manipulators? I gave to a candidate recently and now get almost daily emotional appeals to give more. I can recall many years ago a campaign in which the candidate I worked for rejected a pro-life ad that featured a fetus in a bottle of formaldehyde. How many today reject incendiary ads?

We are now in a long, long campaign period as 24 Democrats campaign against each other and Trump. The actual election of a new President will not occur for about seventeen months. And, most assuredly, in the age of Trump, this will be a demolition derby. The car, or should I say survivor, will not look pretty.

My closing thought recalls the words of the sergeant from Hill Street Blues, a 1980s TV show. Each morning, he urged the police officers to “be careful out there.” Only careful voters will insist on truth. Only truth will restore our great experiment (yes, experiment) in self-governance. And, to those who should feel honored to be called journalists, truth should be your North Star.

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. 

Delmarva Review: Saudade by Luther Jett

Delmarva Review Editor’s note: The meaning of “saudade” is from the Portuguese and not easily translated into English, though it imports a feeling of longing, melancholy, or nostalgia. Poet Luther Jett explains that Portuguese “saudade” songs are ballads of intense poignancy, often incorporating images of the sea and of cities. He was intrigued by the concept and composed this poem.

Delmarva Review: Saudade
By Luther Jett

While the river overruns its banks,
I sit by an open window — The light
breeze carries salt and a memory
of tar, of small boats bobbing on the tide.

The cities we have left behind, the towns
we’ll likely never know, turn up their lamps
when twilight drifts across the green
as sighs of dying lilacs scent the air.

You were my first, my last, my neverending
road escaping over nameless hills,
my flight of arrows, my cascade of spears,
my brown wren weeping under the clematis.

Seas that have parted and seas which roar
between us, stars whose names no voice
will ever sing — These are the gifts I leave
behind with nothing in my pockets but my hands.

If you listen in the morning to the dew-
fall, you will hear the footsteps of my melody,
and in the evening the sky will burn red —
My blood is on fire for wanting you.
__________
W. Luther Jett’s poetry has been published in Delmarva Review, The GW Review, Beltway, Innisfree, Potomac Review, and Little Patuxent Review as well as several anthologies. His chapbook, Not Quite: Poems Written in search of My Father, was released by Finishing Line press in 2015. He is a retired special educator from Montgomery County, Maryland.

Delmarva Review is a literary journal of national scope, with regional roots. The nonprofit review publishes compelling new poetry, fiction, and nonfiction from authors within the region and beyond. It is supported by individual contributions and a grant from the Talbot County Arts Council with funds from the Maryland State Arts Council. Visit the website: DelmarvaReview.org. Obtain the paperback edition from Mystery Loves Company, in Oxford, and Amazon.com. An electronic edition is also available from Amazon.

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