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Trying to live a life of respect and joy

This is my latest column for the local newspaper. It appeared today.

A Facebook friend and I have been discussing America’s future in light of the tone of our times.

It’s easy to predict nothing but gloom. Washington lacks leaders who can unite and inspire us. Instead, politicians divide us. Because of this leadership vacuum, people worry about their futures.

It’s not as bad as it seems.

For some perspective, watch the CNN series "The Sixties" on Netflix. Anxiety hangs over us, but 55 years ago, a turbulent decade started with the Cuban Missile Crisis—a confrontation over nuclear weapons between the United States and Russia. We stood at the brink of apocalypse.

During the 1960s, our nation faced upheaval—often violent—related to civil rights, racism, the war in Vietnam, and the slaughter of leaders such as John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Democracy itself was threatened in 1968 by thuggish police brutality at the Democratic National Convention.

And the Cold War loomed over all of it.

Yet we endured—not without bruises, but nonetheless, we endured.

Today, with polarization roiling the land, Americans are wondering about the future of hope. What can we as individuals do to restore it?

It begins with small acts of individual kindness. When I taught at St. Bonaventure, I learned about the university’s Franciscan values. To me, the most important one is to recognize the dignity and worth of every person.

This value transcends religion. It can be part of all of our lives.

How can we put this value to work? By saying hello to strangers. Smiling. Lingering to hold doors open for the people behind us. Paying compliments. Listening, instead of waiting for our turns to talk. And by reacting to life with joy—another Franciscan value.

We can each hope for a miracle that results in our bringing about sweeping, positive change. But it’s more realistic to believe each of us is a sandbag, working together to protect society from a flood of turmoil.

As the Sixties showed, democracy is tumultuous. It’s more clamorous today because everybody has a megaphone, thanks to social media, and social media grants anonymity to cowardly expressions of hate.

But in the ‘60s, Americans made society better—not perfect, yet better.

We are in bruising times again, yet we will endure—again.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 8th, 2017 03:56 am (UTC)
there is no joy in Mudville, nor in this land at all,
Chaos and dysfunction rule at every turn and call,
But somewhere the sun is shining as vodka glasses clink,
the Moscow nine has intervened as the Donald slowly sinks
Great stuff...I now know all of the words to Oh! Canada
Mar. 8th, 2017 04:50 pm (UTC)
"Oh Canada" is a much easier song to sing. The next time the Chicago Blackhawks are playing at home and are on TV, tune in at the beginning to hear their singer's version of it. He's got a voice that belongs in Valhalla. Best rendition ever.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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March 2017

Wish I'd Said It

Nota bene: “Fear has governed my life, if I think about it. ... I always feel like I’m not good enough for some reason. I wish that wasn’t the case, but left to my own devices, that voice starts speaking up.” – Trent Reznor

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"The path's not yours till you've gone it alone a time." – William Carlos Williams

“Filling this empty space constitutes my identity.” – Twyla Tharp

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"The wreckage of the sky serves to confirm us in delicious error." – John Ashbery

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"For my part, I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of stars makes me dream." – Vincent van Gogh

"It is only with the heart that one can see right; what is essential is invisible to the eye." — Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

"Forget about being a perfectionist, because entropy always wins out in the end." – Darren Kaufman.

"Impermanence. Impermanence. Impermanence." – Garry Shandling

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"There is no realm wherein we have the truth." – Gordon Lish

"Actual life is full of false clues and sign-posts that lead nowhere." – E.M. Forster

“Some scientists claim that hydrogen, because it is so plentiful, is the basic building block of the universe. I dispute that. I say there is more stupidity than hydrogen, and that is the basic building block of the universe." – Frank Zappa

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