Archive for January, 2013

This is Swampyank's copy of "The Jury&quo...

This is Swampyank’s copy of “The Jury” by John Morgan, painted in 1861, and now in the Bucks County Museum in England. More information about the painting can be found here: [http://www.buckscc.gov.uk/bcc/museum/ea_The_Jury.page|inline= (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Imagine not being able to work for the next three weeks. Imagine putting everything in your life on hold: appointments, vacation, kids; and if you are self-employed, like me, imagine three weeks without an income.

On Monday I was a member of a group of eighty citizens selected to form a jury pool for a trial scheduled to last three weeks. For two days we sat on hard benches in the hallway waiting in turn to be called into the court room, one by one, for interviews by the attorneys and judge. The larger group was divided into three smaller groups, and scheduled arrival times were delayed on the second day which eased the situation a little bit. Still, there was the drive downtown through traffic, the parking, the walk, the security checkpoint, the elevators, and the crowds.

As we waited in the hallway, we got to know each other. We weren’t permitted to talk about the case or the questions put to us in the interviews, so the conversations centered on casual topics. One theme common to all conversations was how a three week trial would interrupt our personal lives. Imagine!

“If I am selected, then I won’t be able to …” was on everyone’s mind. And everyone had an excuse – a reason¬ why serving on the jury would impose a hardship. Those who knew they would get paid while they were on jury duty looked forward to having a break from work. But most people worked for employers that would not pay them for the time they were away from work.

One man was a high school coach. There are five games left in the season: he would miss the next three. A young lady had to borrow money from a friend to afford the train fare to the courthouse. Another woman had to ask a friend to watch her children after school. Very few people waited comfortably, without concern. Most wore expressions of worry, regret, and concern. Three weeks! It’s hard to imagine.

Twelve jurors and two alternates were selected yesterday at 5:00. The rest of us were sent home. The judge thanked us for our public service. In fact, he thanked us several times during the process. But as I reviewed the definitions of the words he used: duty, obligation, service, I had to reconcile his use of the word “service” with my own understanding. I had not volunteered to serve. I was summoned to a courthouse against my will. This was not service: it was servitude.

Jury duty sucks. The clear and obvious reason that we are summoned to the court is because people would not volunteer to serve on a jury otherwise. In addition to being inconvenient, jury duty thrusts each juror into either a criminal or civil argument between two or more parties. That can be very stressful and emotionally exhausting, especially when the trial is held over for days, even weeks. Who among us desires to listen to the retelling of someone else’s misery?

The jury was drawn from a pool of citizens living in the county. The demographics of the county are very diverse. While most of us choose to live in communities or towns that tend to isolate us from the diversity evident in a county-wide area, jury service places you in the same room as people you would probably never want to meet. It is a small crowd of strangers.

Usually jury service lasts only one day. You are selected in the morning and the court case is held in the afternoon. On this occasion, I sat with others for two days. You can get to know people in two days. Some people are more open about their personal lives, but in two days, even the most private people will reveal things they would not tell a stranger.

For some reason, people like to tell me the most intimate details of their lives. Within a half-hour of listening, I might learn of a person’s complete background, family history, names and ages of children, number of times divorced, and every detail of their immediate activities, schedules and responsibilities to others. People are friendly and open.

Moments before the sheriff would read off the names of the fourteen who were chosen to serve, we were drenched in dread as we sat quietly in the hallway. Within moments we would learn our fate. Our lives would be returned to us, or we would be selected to remain – for three weeks. I felt like I was waiting for the results of a medical examination that might reveal if I had a contagious disease. The heavy sigh of relief which visits those who escape a vile consequence does not belie the mountain of tension which builds up inside. Knuckles turn white, stomachs are lashed into knots, and muscles ache.

The door opens. The names are read. It is the lottery. Who will the next victim be? As each name is read, someone’s shoulders slump in submission as a breath of disbelief and regret – even disdain – slips over dry lips. Feet trudge forward carrying a heavy burden and an unwilling mind. The person slips into the courtroom and another name is read and acknowledged again. “Mary Williams…Todd Jenkins….Naomi Clark….”, one by one they emerge from the semi-circle of bodies huddled submissively around the sheriff outside the courtroom. And then we hear, “That is all. The rest of you come back into the courtroom so the judge can dismiss you.” It was surreal.

This morning as I type, I am mindful of those who are sitting in a courtroom listening to pre-trial directions, opening statements and the words of the first called witness. It truly is a service they are performing – a tremendous sacrifice necessary to ensure one of our greatest rights: the right to a trial witnessed and decided by our peers.

One crime committed is like a rock tossed into the quiet water of a lake. The concentric ripples reach out and touch everyone in our society – some more than others. Jurors are drawn from the distance edges of the lake, where the ripples are faint and unnoticeable – drawn closer to the center near the source of the disruption. If not for the single action of the crime committed, no peace officer would be put at risk, no lawyer would be called, no fee paid, no research would be done, no administrator would be needed, no form would be filed, no court date would be scheduled, and no heart would ache. No mother would cry.

On Monday I was drawn to the center. I was afraid. I have lived for too long away from the diversity. I have lived in peace, far from the chaotic noise of the city, or its traffic, or its crimes, or its garbage. I was afraid that I would not be able to perform the task if called upon. The attorneys and judge were wise. They sent me home. Those who remained – you could tell by looking upon them, they were more capable.

But now I am in reflection. I am humbled by what I experienced. I thought I knew so much, and yet, in the isolation of my chosen, distant corner of the lake, I have denied myself access to the knowledge and experiences that define and guide the lives of so many others. What I enjoy as a free citizen bears an obligation of service. Freedom has a cost, and although we are most often located far from the perils of our society, the cost must be paid. I only hope that had I been chosen to serve, I would have reconciled my feelings and accepted the task put to me. As I now think about those who were selected, I am certain they have reconciled their feelings and have accepted their responsibilities and the charge put to them.

I visited with many of them during the past two days. They are good people. Justice will be done.

(Edit: The trial was decided February 19, 2013. Read the story here.)

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The long shot of the produce area in Market Street grocery store in Coppell, Texas

The long shot of the produce area in Market Street grocery store in Coppell, Texas

Republican leaders in Texas continue to fuel the fires of dissent over gun control, blaming President Obama for everything and anything. It was only three months ago that the Republicans appealed to a national audience to replace the Democrats. They lost.

Faced with the news that they must change if they want to win the Presidency, they have so far shown they are unwilling to change, unwilling to work for a good transition in government, unwilling to be anything other than the Republicans we sent packing in November.  Something must be done!

So I went shopping. I went shopping at a Republican grocery store. You know the type. It is a store where you go when you don’t care how much you spend on food.  Ordinarily you’ll find me in the aisles of  Walmart. Over the years, the greedy people in town (aka Republicans) developed our local community of 45,000 into a very expensive community. Property rates increased dramatically. Rents went up, the cheaper grocery stores moved out, until today a percentage of the population must buy groceries somewhere other than our quaint little small town.

There is plenty of wine at the Republican grocery store.

There is plenty of wine at the Republican grocery store.

January Sales in the Tank

Thought I would share some pics while I write about pianos. January marks the worst month for my piano service business I have had in the last seven years. Could it be due to Christmas over-spending? Perhaps. I think part of the problem is that people are upset by the news, the politics, the continual barrage of anti-American sentiment coming from Republican leaders. January is never a great month, but when it gets really bad, like it did this year, it usually means people are living on tight budgets.

Maybe that is why there are so many bottles of wine on the shelves at the local grocery store. The photo doesn’t do the display justice.  The wine area would require a wide angle lens.

The Tea Party is Mad

Let me explain who the Tea Party is. Back in 2000, when George W. Bush won the Presidency, Democrats naturally were advising Americans not to make that choice. We were severely stung by Clinton’s indiscretions and the persistent hate-campaign of Ken Starr.  By September of 2000, the economy was promising to pick up. We were doing pretty good. The GOP won handily and then 9/11 happened. The Tea Party gang did not exist yet.  The Republicans put us back into debt and tried to create a patriotic America by invading Iraq. It became apparent to more and more people that we were headed in the wrong direction.  In 2004 Bush was re-elected and the damage continued. Keep in mind, that was twelve years ago.  People who are now 50 and nearing early retirement (or lay-offs) were 38. Republicans who were 20 in 2000 turned 32 years of age in 2012.

Wow! That's a lot of shrimp. Great for cholesterol watch parties.

Wow! That’s a lot of shrimp. Great for cholesterol watch parties.

So while Democrats in 2000 and 2004 were prophetically screaming that corporations were destroying our economy, the Tea Party gang didn’t exist. They didn’t exist because the economy had not hurt them yet. When it did, they woke up. And when they started shouting, it became obvious that 1. they were mad and 2. they were really stupid about politics.   It doesn’t matter where you live: if the economy is bad, people get angry.

The Tea Party entered politics with all the pomp of mid-life Republicans who thought they knew everything and could fix things quickly.  In 2012, they lost – and they will continue to lose because people know now that they are just angry people. If anger was shrimp, we would need a shrimp boat in my town. Fortunately, we have plenty of shrimp at the grocery store. We have some angry people here too.

Seymour Lipset

There is a book you can read which explains everything we are going through in politics.  Seymour Lipset wrote it.  He is the foremost authority on the history of Right Wing politics. I recommend The Politics of Unreason: Right Wing Extremism in America. There is an online version of his book  you can peruse. I’ll save you some time: Right Wing politics is the politics of despair. A good economy ends despair. When the economy improves, the despair will end and the Tea Party will disappear. When the economy improves, the protests will end. Everything depends on the economy.  Anger is the worst motivator for politics. It will destroy you. One of the features of protest that you learn as an activist is that people cannot sustain the energy that is required for a long-term campaign.  If people are not successful in politics, they become cynical. This is what will happen to the biggest part of the Tea Party members. There is one tiny detail they lost sight of.

America has One of the Best Governments in the World

Ale must be gaining in popularity. This store dedicated some serious shelf space to ales from every part of the world.

Ale must be gaining in popularity. This store dedicated some serious shelf space to ales from every part of the world.

Although you may think otherwise, America has a pretty incredible government. While people are killing their brothers and sisters in Africa and the Middle East, our stores are stocked. We are open for business. Our government is paying its debts, working on solutions, managing foreign and domestic affairs, and the greater number of us are safe from harm each night when we climb into our warm and snugglies. We aren’t living in Mexico thinking about the hazards of crossing the border to a better life. We aren’t trapped in North Korea with a lunatic dictator, and we aren’t being censored by a communist government in Beijing. Get the picture?

We have Freedom, but Little Humility

Americans have opinions. It is quite incredible to me how much the ordinary American thinks he knows. The typical American male will spent months and months learning about politics, and then reveal in ten seconds that he is a complete idiot.  There is a good reason for that though. We each carry a view of reality with us at all times in order to survive. It is part of our  self-preservation instincts. Life doesn’t care if we are humble. Life is out there every day ready to kick you in the butt if you are not prepared. Americans don’t know much, but we know enough about the important stuff to keep from getting our butts kicked. One of the marvelous features of a democracy is that after the vote is counted, the best person usually wins. Bill Clinton proved to be a very incredible statesman, truly devoted to our country, his family, and his understanding. Former president George Bush’s star will rise again when he stands on his own feet before the American people. The majority turns out to be pretty intelligent, for all the idiots that comprise it.

Protest is a Way of Life, but Only if You Choose that Life

The economy is still in the tank. It will be for some time. It will improve for a while, then have a setback. In the long run, it will be strong again. Two things about the economy to consider: it is tied to the world economy, and it has a life of its own. There are thousands of economists who will tell you otherwise, but for the most part, there isn’t a thing we can do about the economy. It is too big, and we are just insignificant consumers reacting to change.   The economy of the past will never return. That is one of the reasons that conservatives and Tea Party members are angry, and why they lost. America has changed, and our competitiveness in a growing world market will require us to adjust to take advantage of emerging opportunities. The proof of that statement is found in thinking about this: If we knew what we needed to do in order to fix the economy, we would have already done it. The economy will reveal its opportunities in its own time.

How to Conquer the Economy

If you can work and make money, you have conquered the economy.  Many Americans bought into a lie long ago. They were told that if they worked hard, they would reap the benefits. We all know a few people who have lost their 401K accounts, were laid-off or forced into early retirement. We know people who have lost their homes, relocated to parts unknown, or had to make difficult life decisions in order to adjust to a changing world.  All of that was in the small print of the lie they embraced. Many people dedicated their lives to work, with all its personal sacrifices, only to learn that the bargain they hoped to get cost more than they were led to believe. Many made their money, but found that the price of life increased dramatically.

How to Conquer Your Anger

Politics never sleeps. You have to choose your battles carefully. Always have an exit plan. People forget that part. They get involved in politics and they think there will be a point where they succeed and can go back to their old life, complete with its own level of ignorant bliss. Politics doesn’t work like that. If you walk away from your victories, the ones you beat will erase everything you accomplished. You need to trust that others will continue your work. If your work was good, they will.

The hardest part about politics is when you stop. No one talks about that too much. You have to ignore every invitation to become involved again. You have to stop watching the news, especially your favorite station. Turn off the radio.  Go fishing.  Learn to paint. Meet new people. Learn to say no to politics. In time, the anger goes away. You learn to forget. For everything there is a season. Maybe you won your battle. Maybe you didn’t. I believe that anyone who dares to make a difference is a winner. A long time ago I learned that the only reward you gain from community service is personal growth. You might have lost your battle, but as a person, you gained much more than your anger will let you know.  Get rid of the anger, the hurt, the passionate indignation, so the wisdom you have gained can emerge. Get to know the new person you have become.

Look to the Future

There is a future, after you recover from your involvement in politics, when you will see others protesting for their cause. You will look into their eyes, feel their pain, and remember how you once felt. And if you recover from your chapter in politics, you will want to let them know that there is a peace they can each recapture. You will want them to know how hard it will be to recover innocence lost. Moreover, you will understand why it was important for you to be involved when you were involved, and why it is more important now that you not become involved in their battle. Or maybe you will be like me – able to get involved, but not be guided in your actions by anger. It is your future. If you are reading this, I need to tell you there is only one person who can make you feel better about what you did, who you are, and what your future will bring. You can’t enjoy all your tomorrows if you are always thinking about your yesterdays. Let them go. Others will take up the fight.

Protesters outside the White House call for gun control measures. January 2013. Politics in America never ends.

Protesters in Washington D.C. call for gun control measures. January 2013. Politics in America never ends. Source

After President Obama revealed his proposals for gun control last week, GOP leaders in Texas ran press releases stating that nothing in the proposals would have stopped the Newtown shooting. That reaction had to be orchestrated by national GOP leaders. There is no way that so many GOP Congressmen would have answered so quickly with the same argument against the proposals.

Such an answer however cannot be taken at face value. It was a strategic statement.  It was not a good answer, but if you understand the strategy, then you might agree that the GOP was clever.

The strategy would be to completely disarm the Democrats. The thinking goes like this, “We are discussing gun control because of the Newtown shooting. If the proposals would not have prevented the Newtown shooting, there is no reason to talk about gun control.”

Focus on the GOP constituency. They are motivated to embrace any argument against gun control. GOP leaders merely offered an argument for their consumption. It wasn’t a good argument, but that doesn’t matter. The GOP constituency isn’t going to listen to anyone other than GOP leaders. If you argue with GOP leaders, you still aren’t convincing their constituents.

If we can reduce the adverse consequences inherent in our reserved right to bear arms, then it is my view that we bear a moral obligation to submit to a reasonable review.

Democratic leaders have now created their own strategic answer to the GOP rebuttal. We aren’t talking about “gun control”.  The proposals address “crime control”.  The thinking here is, “A crime was committed in Newtown. Proposals to reduce crime may decrease crime committed with guns.  There are many good reasons to talk about crime control, as it might pertain to the need to control gun ownership and use.”

Of course, that thinking isn’t going to reach the GOP constituency easily.  So when I wrote a blog about what my representative (Congressman Kenny Marchant) published in his press release, you can see that he isn’t really sharing his unique opinion. He is not conveying the opinions of his constituents. He is simply repeating what GOP leaders recommended. That begs the question: “Does Kenny Marchant represent his constituents, or is he just a minion of the GOP?

We are not too far into the debate on gun control that we can see how a wide division in national opinion is created. Let me review how this is done. It involves the manipulation of language.

Democrat: “The tragedy at Newtown necessitates a review of gun laws. Proposals are needed.”

Republican: “No proposal would prevent an incident like Newtown from occurring again. There is no reason to talk about gun control.

Democrat: “We are focused on reducing crimes with guns in general, not only the Newtown tragedy. We are talking about crime control.

The Elephant in the Room

Politics frustrates a good many people. Part of the problem is the public language of politics: it is often strategic, not literal. Seldom is it cooperative.  The cooperative side of politics is not done in the open. Compromises and deals are done in private. A private conversation permits leaders the opportunity to restrict access to the unpleasant facts that guide decision making.

The Unpleasant Fact

The unpleasant fact about the Second Amendment (the Elephant in the room), is that we, as a nation, have already accepted the consequences of gun ownership. That debate took place a long time ago.  Step into my time machine so you can eavesdrop on that discussion.

Whirrrrrrrrrrrrrr. (Sound of time machine).

Leader: “So what you are saying is, you want to reserve the right to bear arms?”

Citizen: “Yes.  We want to reserve the right to protect our property and life as might be required by those who would certainly not be inclined to abide by rules prohibiting gun ownership for citizens.”

Leader: “Okay, let me just jot that down here…. Now then, you do realize that some citizens will misuse their firearms. People will shoot each other. There will be accidental shootings, violent crime, and in some cases, many people could be killed by a single actor.”

Citizen: “Yes, I believe we are aware of that.”

Leader: “And you consider that probable outcome to be acceptable?”

Citizen: “No, it is not acceptable when it is considered by itself.  If you compare that outcome with the alternative, then it becomes the better choice.”

Leader: “To what alternative do you refer?”

Citizen: “If people were not permitted to bear arms, we would be completely defenseless against armed criminals. In addition, and as it might one day be relevant, our very government might bear arms against the citizenry if we should protest too fervently against policies the people deemed to be tyrannical…”

Leader: … “Let me interrupt please: It isn’t likely that the government would bear arms against its citizenry.”

Citizen: “It has happened before, and it has happened in other parts of the world by other governments.”

Leader: “I see your point. But you do realize that an armed citizenry is no match for a fully-armed government.” [Laughs]

Citizen: “Again, that isn’t the point. When the people reserve a right to bear arms as a deterrent to the possibility of tyranny, it is not a guarantee that the citizenry would prevail against a tyrannous government.”

Leader: “Oh?”

Citizen: “It only means that we reserve the right to try to defend ourselves.  An unarmed citizenry has no chance at all. No matter that we would have little chance if we were armed. It is our choice, and we do earnestly seek to reserve our right to bear arms.”

Leader:” And you are willing to accept the adverse consequences as previously noted?”

Citizen: “Yes. Realizing that far more people would suffer if we did not reserve this right, we must accept that an armed society will not always be a peaceful one. We acknowledge that some people will misuse their right and cause harm to others. We further acknowledge that on occasion, some abuses will be miserably hideous.”

Leader: “But the consequences of not being able to bear arms would be far worse?”

Citizen: “That is our view. Yes.”

Whrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr (Sound of time machine).

So you see, the Elephant in the room is that we have already accepted that a tragedy like Newtown was going to occur, and will likely occur again. The alternative however is far worse. If the citizenry was not armed, it was foretold that the consequences would be far worse. Without an armed citizenry, there would be more tragedies than there are now.

No politician is going to raise this point, as it applies to Newtown, publicly.  It would be insensitive, impersonal and callous to make such a statement in public. Parents of the Newtown victims would not be able to accept that their tragedy was an acceptable outcome, by virtue of being the lesser of two consequences.  The points I have raised here will instead be discussed privately by our leaders as they debate the merits of the president’s proposals.

The language of gun control (or crime control) is strategic. It is intended to contain the public debate in order to secure the support of a constituency.  The real decisions will be made in private. The public is not so inclined to delve into a philosophical inquiry about the deeper meaning inherent in the Second Amendment. On most matters, a common understanding is all that is required. That is part of the beauty and genius of the American Constitution: it bears up under academic critical review, but remains clearly understood by the common citizenry.

Can We Improve the Consequences?

This is all the president is really saying. “We must try.” There is no harm done in having a public debate about gun/crime control. If we can implement solutions that will reduce the adverse consequences inherent in the Second Amendment, we are morally obligated to try – not because it might reduce the likelihood of the re-occurrence of the tragedy of Newtown; rather, out of respect for the victims of Newtown.

What is important to note here is that a people who reserves the right to bear arms also takes on the moral obligation to submit to a timely and periodic peer review of the consequences that right creates for others.  President Obama has publicly suggested that “we must try”. My representative, Congressman Kenny Marchant, did not join the president in this reasonable appeal. The GOP did not join the president.

If we can reduce the adverse consequences inherent in our reserved right to bear arms, then it is my view that we bear a moral obligation to submit to a reasonable review. Congressman Kenny Marchant does not yet adequately represent my view in this matter. I so enjoin him to do so.

Whrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

Leader: “Earlier you said that “we reserve the right to try to defend ourselves,” against a tyrannous government, even if the chances of prevailing were slim.

Citizen: “Yes. It is better to try and lose than not to try at all.”

Leader: “So it would seem. I take it then that it would be better to try to improve the ill consequences inherent in gun ownership, even if the chances of doing so were slim?”

Citizen: “I cannot disagree.”

Leader: “And when might be the best time to conduct such a review?”

Citizen: “When the abuses of the accepted consequence are too difficult to bear.”

Leader: “So it would seem. By your word then, “It is better to try, than not try at all.” Let us hope that future generations see the wisdom in your reasonable concession.”

1963 – 2013

I was in fifth grade when President John Kennedy was assassinated.  The year was 1963; the 23rd day of November.  I remember no moment which preceded the sound of the public address speaker interrupting the quiet of the classroom. “President Kennedy has been shot…”

It took a few seconds to understand what was occurring. It was at first unusual that an announcement would be made during the class period. It was highly unusual that the voice on the box would be any other than our principal’s. In this case, it was a male voice – unknown to my ear – and the voice came with no introduction. In the next seconds, I recognized the voice as that of a radio personality, a news reporter.  Our teacher started to cry. The girls in the class soon followed. The boys did not cry, except for one on the front row. The significance of the event was wasted on me, a young boy that had just turned ten years of age.  The window of my memory ends there.

“The star that guides us…” On this day, as I write, President Obama is giving his inaugural speech.  The year is 2013; the 21st day of January.  He is our captain. Our progressive voices lead the nation and the world.  As Beyoncé now sings our National Anthem at the close of the Inauguration, I feel fortunate to have lived in the most wonderful of times.  Hopefully we all have miles to go before we sleep.

Today I will write of the 1960s for members of a younger generation who might have an interest in the lifestyles of that decade. I did not protest in the 60s. I did not do drugs; write editorials or pen letters to my elected officials. I was but a child. At 12 I learned to roller skate backwards in the basement of my parent’s small suburban home. A 45 rpm record, set upon the spindle of a small suitcase of a record player, played “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” by the Beatles. It was the age of my innocence.

I was fifteen when Robert Kennedy was assassinated.  The year was 1968; the 6th day of June.  I had no understanding of the events which preceded his death. The killing of leaders was all too commonplace in my youth.  My reactions were never as emotional as the reactions of adults. Martin Luther King Jr. fell to an assassin’s bullet months earlier; the 4th day of the 4th month. Prior to his death, I had never heard his name. There were warnings from my suburban neighbors which cautioned us to prepare for attacks from rioting Blacks in the inner-city far away. I remember thinking, “Why would they attack us?”

The music of the age carried the messages that silently shaped my cultural understanding. By 1969, during my high school years, I became aware of the hypocrisies of the age. The concert was given, but I granted no significance to the words that were being sung.  The reports and photos of the Woodstock concert revealed to me a very strange population of people, a few years older than me, who were said to be the cause of the entire calamity in politics. The year was 1969; the 15th day of August. Four months and two weeks later, the 60s ended. The influences of the sixties lived on, and for many, continue to impact our lives this day as we witnessed the inauguration of Barack Obama.  In my memory I once saw black Americans with picket signs outside a restaurant where admittance was only granted to white people. I saw water fountains and bathrooms labeled as “White and Negro”.  I saw hundreds of episodes of racial bigotry and white supremacy. In the 70s, I started the process of reconciling what I had experienced as a child. I embraced many of the new values created in the sixties, and have endeavored to retain them and build upon them all these long years hence.

The attitudes of the sixties are best described as liberating. There was a shared desire to be free from the shackles of intellectual slavery.  During the 60s we, the younger brothers and sisters, were influenced by the ideals of the age, without having to suffer the perils that preceded their emergence. By this account, we entered the 70s without the pain and cynicism that bruised the souls of so many activists. Instead, we were inspired by the victories and permissions that were gained. I was among that generation that followed; the second rank that stepped up to replace those who had fallen. In 1972 I enlisted into the Air Force. For the next four years, until I was honorably discharged, I reconciled the innocence of my youth while serving within the ranks of an institution that was reconciling the lunacy of the Vietnam War. It was during this time that I shaped and refined my values; values that would guide me for the rest of my life.

Capturing the attitude of the sixties seems to me to be no great difficulty. Some of the actions might be difficult to embrace – many were unreasonable. Experimenting with drugs is certainly not recommended or required to gain enlightenment. Burning the flag is now illegal: you do not need to break the law to rekindle the attitudes of the sixties.  There is little need to burn a bra or a military draft card. Many gestures were only symbolic. The clothes, hairstyles, language, and icons were only outward signs of internalized beliefs, hopes and frustrations.

If you align with any of today’s moderate and radical members of the Republican Party, I would think it would be most difficult to understand the 60s. Conservatives want to be acknowledged for the goodness of their ideology (and I do acknowledge the good parts of it), but like members of any group, they are quick to defend ideas that are no longer tolerable to those who are affected by them.

It was the unacceptable ideas inherent in the conservatism of the 60s that was the cause for the protests and reforms. While the lessons of the sixties have endured, the resistance to the ideology persists among today’s conservatives, although I must add that many of today’s conservatives are more liberal than those who lived in the 50s and 60s.  However, racism, sexism, and bigotry are just as prevalent today as they were in the 60s. These are more often driven from public view, but the forces of limited understanding remain an influence in every age.

I cannot do the decade justice in a blog. I think it might be best to isolate several themes that were driving the thinking of the 60s. Let me just list a few ideas that were dominant.

Love and Understanding – With oppression comes denial. People all share a desire to be loved and understood.  The themes of the 60s often called for more love and understanding since certain people were denied respect and dignity.

Religion – In general, there was a call for the many churches to become more open to new ideas and religious expressions. Religious organizations were typically viewed as being too dogmatic. Reforms included the rise of evangelical denominations and a notable change in the kind of music that was played in church. For instance, in the 60s, the use of a guitar to play pop music during a service was usually forbidden. There was a chapel on the Lackland Air Force Base. I was told that I was the first person ever to play a guitar during the service.

Freedom – Intellectual oppression – the suppression of ideas, limits opportunities in business. The conservatism of the 50s was so oppressive; and so few career opportunities existed for the college graduates of the early 60s, that the spirit of complete defeat gave rise to the directive to “Drop out and turn on.”  I understand that to mean, “If society doesn’t want me, then I won’t try, and I will just have as much fun as I can.” Society (aka “The Establishment”, “The Man”) held a narrow definition of what was considered proper and right.

Information – It may seem hard to understand, but there was a great effort to suppress information in colleges across the nation. Reading lists omitted Black authors, female authors, emerging writers, and literature of the day. College students marked this limitation as indoctrination, and protested accordingly.

Sexual Revolution – Every significant Cultural Revolution includes a sexual revolution.  In general, the rules which governed sexual activity were contested and revised.  Concerned women led this protest. Women sought to be liberated from the tired and oppressive definitions which limited their activities. Women wanted equal treatment and pay in the workplace. Divorce laws favored the interests of men.  Sexism was rampant in the workplace.

World Peace – Although it sounds trivial to mention, the ideals that drive moral liberalism are based in a desire to further goodwill for all men and women.  It is inescapable that peace is achievable and sustainable. It is not often apparent how to accomplish that goal. For all its difficulties, it remains as true today as it did in the 60s that we need only “Give Peace a Chance.”

The Return of Conservatism

Roads must be built, nations must defend their people and interests, the wildness of youth must defer to practical limitations that adulthood requires. In time, the liberals of the 60s started to build on their new foundations.  Today, many of those wild 60s liberals are the moderate conservatives and independents of today. There have been liberals and conservatives in every age, so I do not want to insist that one ideology is better than the other. It seems that – as the saying goes – for everything, there is a season. The pendulum swings both ways: the momentum seeks to attend to the forces apparent.  Left on its own, a pendulum would eventually submit to gravity and remain at rest, so I like to think of a pendulum as having a spring attached, one which ensures perpetual motion which keeps that pendulum swinging forward (liberalism) and back again (conservatism) as society pushes forward as needed, and relaxes, reconciles and recuperates as other forces require.

That is enough about pendulums and bad analogies.  The political unrest of the 60s occurred because an aging post-WWII generation was unwilling to pass the baton to a new generation without constraint.

How to Adopt the Attitudes of the 60s– You do not need to use time travel to enjoy the 60s. You can adopt certain attitudes that will provide similar experiences. Each person can create and experience his or her own revolution.  (It’s more fun with others, but that is for each person to decide.)

Review and question your own beliefs, attitudes and ideas. Do you feel oppressed? Are there influences that are keeping you from expressing yourself, or becoming who you really want to be? Sometimes a revolution can occur simply by getting out of town for a weekend, or breaking an old habit.  If you want to add some zest to your life, listen to that other voice in your head – the one that tells you that your dreams are possible.

That is probably what was unique about the 60s. A new generation had dreams, and they wanted to see if they could be fulfilled. Others tried to stop them. Young people were willing to do whatever was necessary to see those dreams come true. That is all you have to do: make your dreams come true. Abandon the security of your lifestyle if it is oppressive. Abandon those who are not supportive of what you want in life. Listen to your own idealism and build a foundation for your life on your own terms. If you can realize your dreams in a peaceful way, then it is all the better. If not, clench your fist and raise it high into the air and say, “I will not be denied.”

If you want to experience the 60s, start a revolution in yourself. It is your life. Live it the way you want it to be lived.

(Try not to get arrested, and call if you are going to be late for dinner.)

Guaranteed to interest very few, a blog on philosophy reminds people of their worst headache.

Why didn’t Lance Armstrong think.

Oh sure, easy to condemn a man who told a few lies. Let’s condemn him instead because he didn’t think.

It takes time to think. Philosophy is thinking. Philosophy is slow. That isn’t why it gives people a headache. Thinking is difficult! It requires practice.

People who like to think; (people who like philosophy), practice a lot. Philosophy isn’t slow then; it is a way of life.

If stupidity is the barometer for normalcy, then being normal isn’t a desired state of mind.

Think about this: for all the claptrap, mainstream, media news you were exposed to last week, what good did it do you? Did you learn something — anything — that made your head hurt? Were you challenged to review a basic belief, or did you screen out the information that took too long to understand?

What exactly is the meaning of life?

If the Republicans are wrong, and the liberals are wrong, is there a version of truth out there that is eluding everyone who thinks they know?

Q: Why do people who like philosophy study questions that do not have answers?

A: Because you develop thinking skills that make it easier to learn the answers that can be known.

What is the purpose of life? vs. Should I use enhancement drugs to improve my performance? The second question seems easier to answer. Not so much for Lance though, was it?

The purpose of life. Let’s give this question a whirl. Let’s separate what we know for certain, and what we think we know.

Good thinking takes time. Pace yourself.

 

We exist. (I do at least; not so sure about you.) Okay, I exist. There, that is philosophy. I just exposed a flaw in my thinking, and I corrected it. I know I exist because I think. I cannot know that you exist using the same evidence. In fact, I have no evidence at all that you exist. I assume you exist. I believe you exist. But I do not need to rely on assumptions or belief to know that I exist. Apples and oranges.

If you are normal, you will think this is stupid. What is stupidity? Better check that. It might not be stupid at all.  Stupidity is maladaptive learning. We alter new information to conform to a preexisting belief. That is what Lance Armstrong did. New Information: “We think you used drugs.” Lance believed no one would find out. Now this new information comes along and he has to  account for it. Options: 1. Confess, 2. Alter the information to conform to a preexisting belief. The preexisting belief was “I won’t get caught.”

Lance didn’t think. He didn’t tell the truth. He was stupid. He made assumptions and acted on a set of beliefs. Rather than adjust his thinking based on the falsity of his notions, he altered the truth of the matter and persisted in a false reality.

Armstrong fooled himself. But we first thought the statement “we exist” is true, so we both need to be careful. Best to think things through. If stupidity is the barometer for normalcy, then being normal isn’t a desired state of mind. We can do better.

We might both exist. From my perspective, it is only highly probable that you exist.  I know I exist because I am experiencing my existence. I am not experiencing your existence, so I must rely on some other criteria to make my determination. The probability that you exist is high, but I cannot know for sure.  High probability still accounts for the possibility that you might not exist. From your perspective, you cannot say with certainty that I exist. This blog entry may have been generated by a computer program, or another author.

And so it goes. Philosophy is as slow as Lance Armstrong is stupid.

If you find yourself in a difficulty – if you need to think through some things that are tough, know that it takes time to find the right answer. Work on your philosophy every day, a little at a time. Don’t rush your thinking. Good thinking takes time. Pace yourself. The answers that come quickly often aren’t the right ones.

Most often we find the wrong answer because we asked the wrong question. Ask the question a different way.

Why is there war in the world? That is a tough one. No good answer to that. Ask instead, “Am I safe?”

I hope you are. I hope that Lance Armstrong’s story is nothing more than entertainment for you. I hope there is no war where you are. I hope the trivial nonsense that passes for “news” today is not keeping you from enjoying this life.

I believe you exist, but if information to the contrary emerges, I am reserving the option of changing my mind. I would be stupid not to.

When (This) Man Cooks

Posted: January 19, 2013 in Cooking
The ingredients for Anadama bread are ready to be turned out and kneaded.

The ingredients for Anadama bread are ready to be turned out and kneaded.

I was going to go with “When Men Cook” as the title, but it occurred to me that I might seem presumptuous to women, and to those men who do not cook the way I do, so I’ll just limit this to my own interests. :)

Cooking.  I was in my late 20s, surviving on MacDonald’s and other fast food garbage when I decided to learn how to cook. I bought some pans and utensils, a Betty Crocker Cookbook (or I should say The Betty Crocker Cookbook because it is the staple cookbook for so many suburban cooks.) I just noticed at that link there is a new edition. Wahoo!

That book has all the basics you need when you are culinarily challenged. (Culinarily is now a word.)  Cooking is easy unless you have to mix something, then it becomes science. You can burn any meat in a pan, throw some potato fries onto a baking pan, open a can of vegetables and prepare a healthier meal than is offered at most fast-food restaurants. Survival is guaranteed. But if you start adding spice to that meat, or cheese to those fries, or combine vegetables to make a stew — if you are this cook — you start making charts, or looking for them.

The Betty Crocker Cookbook has a chart of the common herbs and spices and their common purpose. Great! That was easy. Next is the combination of flour, butter and water – and that is where I got stuck.

Hot bread from the oven speaks to me. It says, "BUTTER!"

Hot bread from the oven speaks to me. It says, “BUTTER!”

The King Arthur Cookbook came to my rescue.  it isn’t enough to know how to bake bread — not for this cook anyway. You have to know the history of each bread, where it came from, and why it is made the way it is made. The King Arthur book has that info.

With meat, fries, veggies, spices, herbs and stews conquered, and with some experience making fresh bread, you rank high among the order of male suburban cooks. You can do better though.

Cooking as Science

When (this) man cooks, he takes photos of his work. Not because I am bragging. No! Recording your data is part of the scientific process. Cooking goes beyond art when you try to understand pastry. It becomes a science.

Making pastry is particularly difficult because I dislike following recipes. Recipes are for people who cannot figure it out on their own. That thinking, (as I have learned on many occasions) is the recipe for disaster.

A Chart! What I need, and have not yet found, is a chart of the relationship between flour, butter and water. You probably know that these ingredients can make a cake or a scone, a biscuit or bread. There is a relationship between the elemental ingredients of the bread family that eludes me. I imagine the only way to work with these ingredients (without relying on recipes) is to gain a keen understanding of how they work together to produce breads.  So far, I have not acquired that understanding.

This knish pastry, filled with mashed potatoes with cheese and sauteed onions, was crisp and light.

This knish pastry, filled with mashed potatoes with cheese and sauteed onions, was crisp and light.

Add this! You see – take butter and water, add a little flour and you have a biscuit. Add a little more and you have a scone. Add a little more and you have — I’m not sure. Add yeast, you have bread – add oil, and you have better bread. Add cornmeal, you get more nutritious bread. Add salt… add milk, add this and that. Then the insanity sets in. You realize you have no idea what you are doing.

When this cook gets confused, he makes charts. A chart can identify where you got lost in the learning process. It maps out all known knowledge, and marks the uncharted territory.

Pastry lies in the uncharted area.

The Baker! I am known as the “baker” in my home. This is odd because my wife cooks 360 days a year. I cook a few times and earn an honored reputation for it. Doesn’t seem fair. Still, I’m not afraid of the mess of flour, and I remain intrigued by the science of cooking. I am convinced that with a bit more practice, I will be a master suburban cook. (I’d have to learn ice sculpting to become a chef).

There were a few disasters as I gained fame. The four-layer cake was renamed “The Leaning Cake of Pisa”. I considered using my first batch of biscuits to repair a paved garden path.  If you use dill as a spice, it tends to get stronger after the food is refrigerated.  No one likes chili as hot as I like it.   The fifteen-bean soup I made a few years ago might better have been used to patch plaster.

If it is through failure that success is gained, I have much to look forward to! The concoctions I make have an experimental quality which leaves me wondering each time what exactly will emerge from the oven.  Most often, and of late, the results have been rewarding and delicious.

Anadama Bread (corn meal & molasses) made from the King Arthur Cookbook recipe.

Anadama Bread (corn meal & molasses) made from the King Arthur Cookbook recipe.

My Best Tools. Recently I acquired a few tools and machines. (Women call them utensils and appliances.) My favorite is the Master Ninja Blender. I have a strong dislike for food processors (and bread machines for that matter) because of their lack of portability in the kitchen (and storage requirements).  The Ninja, however, has its place on the counter, and is perfect for making smoothies for those times when you need a carb boost from procrastinating a visit to the gym.

I have an anti-Teflon attitude. I prefer cast iron and wooden spoons. I’ll use metal to strain, scoop or ladle, but if it is to be stirred or mixed, it’s either hands or wood. It’s a “guy” thing. It has something to do with the primordial longing to cook over an open fire far from the noise of civilization.  The best tools then are the ones that pre-date the Roman Empire.

The Reward. After the oven door shuts, the magic of heat begins. I marvel that you can slop a few things together, roll them into a ball, flatten it out, curl it, sculpt it, throw it into a pan, and after you apply heat to it, you get something that resembles food. In fact, it is food!  Let it cool, wrap it in foil, and give it to a friend and you will find there is no greater gift.   Bourbon balls are particularly popular during the holiday season! [vid]

Kentucky Bourbon Balls

Kentucky Bourbon Balls

English: , member of the United States House o...

Kenny Marchant, member of the United States House of Representatives, (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As expected, Texas Congressional Republican Representatives have issued press releases indicating strong opposition to President Obama and Vice President Biden’s heartfelt and compassionate proposals for gun control.  Their words convict them as obstructionists in this hour when we need reasonable reforms which make it more difficult for criminals and the mentally unfit to acquire assault weapons intended to be used only by military personnel.

What is most appalling is the absence of any Republican comment of thanks extended to Vice President Joe Biden for his work compiling the input he received from over 200 groups, including the NRA, in an effort to make sure we are doing all we can to make our schools and communities safe from predators.

If we follow the lead of Texas Republicans, criminals will retain a tremendous advantage in their singular efforts to commit crimes and murder more innocent victims. Since the tragedy at Sandy Hook, 900 gun related deaths have occurred across the United States, according to President Barack Obama.  During his speech he anticipated strong resistance but he isolated on a compelling truth which we must all address: “We have to try.”

Texas Representatives do not want to try. Their thoughtless reactions show their true colors. You can find your Texas representative’s website link here.   You will find, as did I, that the responses are very similar.

My representative’s press release appears below. (Links open in new window.) My notes appear in brackets.

Marchant Responds to Administration’s Gun Control Proposals

Washington, Jan 16 – Congressman Kenny Marchant (TX-24) issued the following statement in response to President Obama’s gun control proposals.

“Little, if anything, the President announced today that would have prevented the tragedy at Sandy Hook. That’s the problem. [Ed: No, that is the symptom, not the problem.] We must not parade window-dressing proposals around as actual solutions. Trampling on the 2nd Amendment by effectively disarming law-abiding citizens who are seeking to protect themselves, their families, and their property does nothing to prevent another Newtown. [You do not need an AK-47 to protect your family!]

“Ultimately, I believe our states, cities, and local school boards are in the best position to implement solutions that could help prevent some of these tragedies in the future. [Untrue. We need Federal standards to enforce our Federal Constitution.] I do not believe the federal government is best equipped to address the issue at hand. In the coming weeks, House and Senate committees will hold hearings on the twenty-three Executive Actions announced today as well as legislative proposals. I will oppose any efforts by the Administration or those in Congress to abridge the 2nd Amendment rights of law-abiding Americans to keep and bear arms.”

****

Additional press releases can be found at the U.S. Congressional site listing the names and districts of all of our Texas Representatives in Congress. Of note are the comments made by Rep. Stockton [This new “green-horn” member of Congress threatened Obama with impeachment (before the speech was given) and softened his view afterwards.] and Senator Ted Cruz[The Tea Party radical]. 

Rep Kenny Marchant has been a benefactor of Republican cronyism for years. He is not one of the shakers and movers of the party. He tows the Republican line, keeps a low profile, and just votes like he is told to vote.  He regularly canvasses voters in the district in the spirit of representative government. He is a follower, not a leader. A leader assesses the views of his or her constituents and acts to create solutions, which always contain an element of compromise.

Marchant’s comments do not begin to address the issues raised by our President. You can review an interactive of the major points of the President’s proposals here. The transcript of the President’s speech can be found here. My personal views on gun control can be found in previous blogs entitled Finding the Common Good in Gun Control and Is Gun Control in the Hands of Weekend Mountain Men? respectively.

The Major Points in President’s Proposal

Background checks

88 percent of Americans support background checks on people buying guns at gun shows.

I addressed why universal background checks are necessary in my first blog linked above. America agrees. Representative Kenny Marchant did not address this point specifically.

Military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines

58 percent of Americans support a nationwide ban on the sale of assault weapons.

I agree with that wisdom. A nationwide ban on assault weapons will not prevent Americans from defending their families.

Gun Violence Research

Nothing about this proposal infringes on the Second Amendment.  Marchant wants to keep us ignorant as to the causes and solutions to gun violence.

Gun Safety

Is Representative Kenny Marchant opposed to gun safety? President Obama proposes that we “Launch a national campaign to promote common-sense safety measures.” How exactly does that infringe on the second amendment? I agree with the President.

School Safety

55 percent of Americans support placing an armed guard in every school.  President Obama proposes that we “Provide incentives for police departments to hire school resource officers through COPS hiring grants.”

We must not require teachers to carry handguns. It is insane to assign that level of responsibility to our teachers.

Mental Health

56 percent of Americans think inadequate treatment of mentally ill people contributes a great deal to gun violence. President Obama proposes that we “Provide $55 million for new initiative (Project AWARE) to make sure students get treatment for mental health issues.”

Republicans who take an absolutist position on this issue are doing our nation a great disservice. Contact your Congressman and let him or her know that you support our President.

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"Let a new piano indicate your real sentiment."

“Let a new piano indicate your real sentiment.”

Sentiment naturally clings to any possession cherished by one we love. Something spiritual seems to invest material things, especially after the death of those near to us. We used to know of an old, old man, who kept a little rag doll in his trunk — a rag doll moistened now and then with tears, for over eighty years — “ever since little Ellen passed on.”

In many a home today there is a revered piano — revered because it was mother’s piano. It has become a monument of sentiment. Sentiment is one of the finest of all human traits. The individual without sentiment is usually not a very desirable member of society. Many of the strong men we have known — men who have had a reputation for being “hard-boiled” — have merely been exhibiting an armor which they have donned over their  human sentimentalism.

"Sentiment, however, is often misplaced. 'Mother's Piano' is properly a symbol for mother's love for music."

“Sentiment, however, is often misplaced. ‘Mother’s Piano’ is properly a symbol for mother’s love for music.”

Sentiment, however, is often misplaced. “Mother’s Piano” is properly a symbol for mother’s love for music. In one family, where the mother was a great music lover, the instrument was arbitrarily closed by father for two years after the passing of mother – “out of respect.” This was a very queer way of showing respect for mother’s love for music. Meanwhile the children of that home went without the music lessons and practice that mother was so anxious that they should have.

How much more properly and reverently could that father have paid tribute to his wife’s memory, if he had but taken up and carried on her instinctive wisdom in caring for her “babies,” by devoting as large a sum as possible to the higher perpetuation of her ideals. Even if this meant discarding the old piano and buying a finer and newer instrument, it would have been a far nobler symbol of a real sentimental regard for the dear lady who had brought so much joy and beauty to the home through music. Instead, he put a small fortune into a mausoleum in the cemetery which he visits twice a year, A mausoleum may be a fine way of remembering the dead. Isn’t it a far more reverent and beautiful duty to remember the living with a living instrument representing the ideals of one who has passed?’

There are many disgracefully old and dilapidated pianos in homes in all parts of the country, kept there by a false sentiment. Let a new piano indicate your real sentiment. How proud mother would be to see that piano in daily, happy, productive use! ~ The Etude, February 1935

etude.feb.1935.cover

English: Rocky Mountains Trapper

English: Rocky Mountains Trapper (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The broad spectrum of opinions on gun control/gun rights is confusing. I think I have found an accurate description of one type of gun enthusiast, found in this video entitled “The Mountain Man.”  Excerpts follow.

0.00:01 “They are the men who hear the call of the wild the loudest.”

0.00:22 “They come for a life of high adventure and wanderlust.”

The Mountain men were the first adventurous pioneers to advance into the newly acquired Louisiana Purchase during 1810-1830, drawn by the promise of the trapping industry.

00:04:25 “…a lifestyle that guaranteed independence and practically no authority and lots of excitement.”

00.06.29 “We’re dealing with three sets of qualities. The first is personal: strength, courage, endurance, fortitude, dexterity of mind and body, the temperament to live a wild and dangerous life in the Rocky Mountains.

00:06:45 “A second set of skills is specialized. They include such things as beaver trapping, game hunting, mountain climbing and various forms of bodily combat.”

00:07:02 “And finally, you have what we call “wilderness skill”. The head of the list here is sign-reading, because the wilderness was full of signs. They were audible signs. They were visible signs. They were olfactory signs.”

00:08:05 “All of these skills are combined with a trapper’s instincts. The ones with the most reliable instincts were the ones most likely to survive. For around every corner lurks a life-threatening situation.”

The 21st Century Mountain Man

Who will deny that these words resemble the descriptions of some gun enthusiasts? From this point of view, screened through the lens of this archetypal temperament, we learn of the arguments for retaining unrestrained access to guns. It must seem natural to men of this cut to see arming teachers as the proper solution to the threat of school shootings. Mother Jones has published a good story showing that armed innocents do not fare well in gun battles. They are most often wounded or killed.  Sometimes the good guys win. The media rushes to tell us about the shooters, but not as much is said about the victims.

 

The flintlock pistol; the preferred weapon of the 18th Century reserved to thwart tyranny

The flintlock pistol; the preferred weapon of the 18th Century reserved to thwart tyranny

wrote previously, we are no longer living in the time of the 18th century, but the temperament of the Mountain Man remains evident in many people living today. One point to consider though.  The survival rate of weekend “Mountain Men” is much higher today.  There are many men who are drawn to dangerous adventures, who think they possess the qualities of “strength, courage, endurance, fortitude, and dexterity of mind and body”, but the securities of today’s society have more to do with the higher survival rate than the adequate possession of these survivalists traits.

I do not want to take guns away from these guys. I want to take guns away from the nutcases. There is much that can be done to make gun ownership safe and reasonable.  But as I listen to the same sound bites from politicians that you hear, I wonder … are we listening to reasonable men, or just weekend warriors who hear the call of the wild?

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St. Augustine writing, revising, and re-writin...

Use photo captions to tell your entire story if you want to attract a male readership.


You can increase readership of your blog if you follow a few simple rules. These rules were created by people, like yourself, who wanted to increase readership of their writing. A blog is nothing more than an editorial.  It is your opinion about a topic.

We tend to think from the general to the specific. We might start with a question, build a supportive argument and then conclude with the answer.  Most readers won’t be willing to read your impressive arguments. They want to know what you are talking about quickly.

The first rule then is to reveal what your opinion is in the opening paragraph.  The first paragraph is the executive summary of the rest of your blog. This increases your readership because it communicates your idea quickly to those who prefer to scan rather than read. If the first paragraph expresses your opinion adequately, you might entice a few “scanners” to continue reading. If not, at least they received the main point of your writing: they know your opinion, and that is primarily what you wanted to accomplish.

The second rule is to create and follow an outline. The typical editorial outline follows:

  1. State your opinion in the opening paragraph.
  2. Provide support for your opinion. (3 arguments.)
  3. Anticipate and answer the probable rebuttal.
  4. Restate your opinion.
  5. Call for action.

Use the correct headline. The headline should be honest. It should relate to the topic of the writing. If your writing isn’t strong enough to hold a reader’s attention, a splendid, (but misleading), headline isn’t going to help you.

A picture says a thousand words, so add one or two to reinforce your message. If your blog editor permits, change the caption of the photo to reveal a major point conveyed in your writing. Men like to read captions.  Use photo captions to tell your entire story if you want to attract a male readership.

“Be brief, be bright, be done,” is a motto I used for many years in editorial writing. Your writing is competing with every other distraction that keep readers from giving you the attention you want.  Over the years I have broken that rule more than any other.

Use words people understand. Audiences vary. You can use technical jargon if your audience is familiar with that vocabulary.  Just remember to use language that your target audience uses. Also, try to use correct grammar.

Listen to your editor. Of course, you don’t have an editor so you have to listen to that other voice in your head that is telling you that your writing is too long, too disorganized, too wordy or incorrect. We all have that voice in our head. Learn to listen to the wisdom of your second voice.

Use Paragraphs and Sub-headlines

What reaction do you seek from the audience? Ask for that reaction. Why share your opinion if you do not want others to take an action? “Write your Congressman,” “sign our petition,” “meditate each morning.” Remember to ask people to do what you think they should be doing.

Review some of your older writing. Where in the writing does your main point appear? Is it buried in the body of the writing? Is it plainly stated in the first paragraph?

When you review your older writings, do you grimace at the quality of your work? Do you get the impression that your could have said as much using fewer words? Are you proud of your work? Good!

You can increase readership by following a few rules.  If you are new to writing, follow the advise of others until you gain some experience and confidence.  Seasoned writers will set their own rules, as they should, as their writing skill develops. In time you can become a better writer; even a famous writer, but all writers start as beginners. Learn the rules of good writing as you develop your skills.

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