Archive for Ethics

America: Listen to Your Poets…

I have not so much emulated the birds that musically sing,

I have abandoned myself to flights, broad circles.

The hawk, the seagull, have far more possess’d me than the canary or mockingbird.

I have not felt to warble and trill however sweetly,

I have felt to soar in freedom and in the fullness of power, joy, volition.

Walt Whitman, Old Age Echoes from Leaves of Grass

At end of each year the winter solstice and family birthdays remind me we’re at the end of something and the beginning of something else – a convergence of old and new – things to celebrate and things to ponder. Time to review the passing year and reset for the what’s coming. read more

Anti-Semitic Fever Dream

The two 4-inch square brass plaques in the photo below are stolpersteine (“stumbling stones” in German). They are embedded in the sidewalk in front of my former apartment at 14 Ruhlaerstrasse in Berlin. Edith and Willy Lindenberg lived there until November 11, 1941 when they were deported to a concentration camp in Minsk (Belarus) and murdered simply because they were Juden (Jewish). The plaques are part of the stolpersteine project created in 1992 by German artist Gunter Deming.

The plaques are to commemorate the victims and remind all who “stumble” across them of the Nazi’s “final solution”– to obliterate all “racially inferior” non-Aryans. They are placed in front of the last known residences of those deported and murdered during the Holocaust. As of 2019 there were more than 75,000 stolpersteine in 1200 locations in Western Europe. read more

Safe and Secure in Idaho…

You might recognize her as a type: a neatly dressed, polite, older woman but tentative and out of place in her role as a restaurant server. It may not be fair, but I often slot these women–mostly widows and/or single women–into a category that supplements its limited Social Security by working entry level service jobs. Last night, one served us at the restaurant next door to our Best Western hotel in rural Idaho.

Bonnie, not her real name, might fit this description generally, but our encounter revealed a more disturbing story. This awkward but friendly woman in white jeans and starched pinstripe shirt with glasses hanging from a lanyard started the conversation while busing our outside table overlooking the Snake River. With only a few post-Labor Day stragglers in the restaurant she felt comfortable pausing to talk. read more

Fiction or Non-Fiction?

I’ve forgotten what M was reading, but years ago, when we were newly together, I asked her whether she preferred fiction or non-fiction. The answer came quickly, “No question,” she said, “I don’t have time for fiction.” Just the facts, Jack. Since then our tastes and preferences have evolved, but at the time it signaled a startling difference between us.

We were both early readers, but I didn’t hit my stride until I encountered John Steinbeck in high school. M, on the other hand, was a voracious young reader. So were her parents, and they encouraged her. Anything with pages was OK. Kids books, Book of the Month Club selections, historical novels…especially those with a little romance. She was a late bloomer and hid in books. When she did bloom, she used them to hide from me and all the other bloom-snatching high school predators. read more

Supreme Madness…

The Supreme Court is all over the headlines these days. Last Friday was the end of its 2021 term, when the few remaining unpublished opinions of the year’s term were announced. This was unlike any other. The new 6-3 conservative majority, untethered and free-ranging, gave us a whole new playbook.

But… it’s not entirely new. Antonin Scalia, the deceased Justice, replaced by Justice Gorsuch, started the train down this track when he described his jurisprudential approach as originalism. The term had been in use since the 1980s but Scalia was the first Supreme Court Justice to embrace it. An originalist, he believed, should base each constitutional decision “on what reasonable persons living at the time of the Constitution’s adoption would have understood the ordinary meaning of the text to be.” It was a radical approach when presented and regarded as unconventional by most constitutional law scholars. read more