Aging Together

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How do you explain aging to a 30-year-old? It is, after all, something you have to experience.

On the other hand, you could learn from an “old” or, as I like to call it, an “aging” person.  Most of us –see what I did there?– are more than willing to share what we have discovered. (Caution: If you start us talking, it is tricky, in most cases, to get us to stop)

I pondered this quite a bit earlier this year as we saw our wonderful Eeyore-we called him Sorske most of the time- come to the end of his feline life journey. I often compared us, he struggling to breathe and I walking with arthritis pain.

We both used tried and true survival instincts, mostly unconscious, such as moving around, eating, checking out the weather on our iPhone. (I made up that last one. Sorske never got the smart phone concept)

I learned a lot from him because he kept doing the cat things like sitting in front of my recliner waiting for me to pick him up or finding some very hidden place to curl up for a nap.

On one of his very last days he did a very familiar thing, a poignant moment for me

Sorske helping

He came over while we were putting together an IKEA cabinet, walked out on the box and “offered to help.” I grabbed my phone to make sure I got the shot above.

It may sound cliché, but aging is not easy. Things that got us here like exercise, weight control, keeping humor intact, are harder and harder. One way I do it is to remember the last 6.2 miles of every marathon I ever ran. It was a lot more fun before I hit that wall but the race is a race. 20 miles isn’t the end so I didn’t stop.

Does all this help to understand, young people?

 

…goblin, hobgoblin, gnome, halfling, demon, monster, bugaboo, ogre…

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TROLL: a mythical, cave-dwelling being depicted in folklore as either a giant or a dwarf, typically having a very ugly appearance.

INTERNET TROLL: a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting quarrels or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages…with the intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal, on-topic discussion, often for the troll’s amusement.

CONCERN TROLL: a false flag pseudonym created by a user whose actual point of view is opposed to the one that the troll claims to hold.

 

OK, enough with the definitions! I find Wikipedia addictive and keep following links from one article to the other, sometimes learning but more often getting lost in my curiosity. The above “troll” explanations are a good example of this. I already knew what an Internet troll is but I discovered that “it ain’t as simple as that”.

I went looking because I continue to be startled at how vicious these anonymous ogres can be. What I discovered is that seeing a stupid, mean comment is only the proverbial tip of the iceberg.

For example, a million troll bots that work automatically can skew any topic and confuse even the sharpest social media user.  Then there is the bullying of young people, which has been documented to have caused suicides. And what about the Russian interference in our last Presidential election?

One solution is not to read any comments at all. But everybody likes to be affirmed so, wow, look somebody said “Great post. Keep them coming.”  Which in turn keeps us scrolling down until a troll destroys the good feeling.

There is no final answer to how anyone can stop this beyond-absurd online behavior. Awareness may be the first step to dealing with it personally but it is like kudzu, ugly and unstoppable without using toxic chemicals. So, we live with it for now, with vigilance and maybe some humor if possible.

 

Fake News

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Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.   -1st Amendment-Constitution of the United States America 1789

“…The “pharma bro” Shkreli within a two-day period this week offered $5,000 bounties for people who plucked some of Hillary Clinton’s hair from her head and gave it to him,…”   -Dan Mangan CNBC

So this guy was arrested by the Secret Service and put back in jail (He was out on bond). I guess he didn’t consider there are limits to the freedom of speech and press. On the other hand, why would he when fake news is everywhere and you find millions of trolls who post worse than that?

We are overwhelmed these days by inaccurate media. Newspapers and television lead the way in distorted reporting.  Take a look at this pre-election graphic from verrit:HRC vs T in media

And this only the “old fashioned” media. The Internet is worse. There is fake news all over the Web. Difficult to trust a site. Some become reputable. Slate and HuffPost are a couple. Others so biased that hardly anyone in there right mind would believe them. Breitbart News, for example.

Ahmed Baba, Co-Founder & COO/Editor-in-Chief — @RanttNews, describes the distorted reporting in “The Blind Hatred of Hillary Clinton”.  He points out that Hillary “has won the “Most Admired Woman” Gallup poll for the last 15 years straight, adding up to a total of 21 times.” And yet she is portrayed as a pariah and even her own party worries about her coming to their state on  her book tour.

I could go and on but I am sure you get my point. Find the most accurate and truthful reporting. Read it and ignore all other junk out there. If you can.

 

 

Giant of the Senate

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My daughter, Matrika, always gives me wonderful birthday gifts. In 2010, she surprised me with tickets to see the Minnesota Twins in their new Target Field.  There was my first iPod, inscribed “Happy 70th Birthday, Dad”. My North Face winter jacket saves me every time I am dumb enough to venture out in a Minnesota winter. I could go on and on but won’t. You get the idea

True to form, this year she sent me AL FRANKEN GIANT of the SENATE. I haven’t finished it yet, but probably will today.

With chapters such as “The Year of the Bean Feeds” and “The DeHumorizer™” the book is very easy to read. I found out many things about our State and Al’s real concern for its people. He even danced with Ojibway at a Red Lake pow wow.

I think I will make a rare printout of this photo Matrika took of us in 2007 at the Minnesota State Fair to tape inside the cover of my new book. I treasure this picture. I am very proud of this Minnesotan.

IMG_4544

Franken was (is) a great comedian. He was a founder of Saturday Night Live. He and his partner, Tom Davis, whom he met in high school at Blake, became a hit team around the country. He has written some very funny books, too.  I found myself laughing out loud reading this one

I don’t mean to brag–wait, I do–we have two of Congress’ best Senators. Amy Klobuchar , our Senior Senator, must have jumped for joy when Al joined her in the Senate.

Read this book. You can get it on your Kindle. Go to the library. Remember hardcovers? Unless you are a talk radio listener, you will love it! I promise.

I will die? Wait, what?

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Do you remember the first time you realized that you would die? It happened to me when I was in my 20’s. Why? I don’t know but it caused such a rush of adrenaline that I spent the next few minutes in panic mode.

Facing this ultimate, unchangeable fact is an emotional and spiritual challenge to say the least. For most of us, we experience it differently at various times in our life.

I haven’t had that overwhelming shock now for as long as I can remember. I have however been shaken by the death of others. The feelings that come then are as close to death for me as I can imagine.

In the winter of 2004-05, my very close friend, Dudley Weider, died suddenly while out cross country skiing. For weeks and weeks, I couldn’t seem to get away from pain of loss and the fact of my own mortality.

I was glad that I worked in a huge research and teaching medical complex because it enabled me to quickly and smoothly get an appointment with a counselor. I sat down with this insightful psychiatrist and told her I was afraid to die. And she asked “What specifically are you afraid of?”

I am not sure why it took what it took but it was such a relief to answer that I really wasn’t afraid of death itself but I hated the thought of how that would affect those I love most dearly.

A dreamless sleep without awareness is not so daunting for me now. The agony for my spouse and children, however, is the thing I would so like to avoid. That of course is just as impossible as living forever.

What can one do? One simple thing is talk to them, hoping they understand. I think of Ira Byock’s book, Four Things That Matter Most.  “Please forgive me,” “I forgive you,” “Thank you,” and “I love you” which carry great power to heal and to mend relationships. They can also help one feel some resolution at the end of days when said to those closest to you.

From there, I guess we are on our own, in most ways but not right now. So, maybe the best bet is to stop thinking about it for now.

How pervasive was White Supremacy?

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Yesterday when I researched my father’s work with the International Association of Machinists, I found a couple of troubling facts. I feel proud of his work as a union employee but it should come as no surprise that the IAM was a severely flawed organization.

First of all, the “IAM is regarded as one of the most corrupted unions in the country!” This bold declaration comes from IAM Exposed which is loaded with documented facts. Remember Jimmy Hoffa? That was Teamsters but it should give us a clue. After all, as Lord Acton once said, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

My Dad died all too early at 56 years old in 1968. So, I guess today’s bloated and dishonest IAM leadership does not directly apply. But, undoubtedly it was part of his experience. Maybe that is why he got out when did. Two steps ahead of the FEDS? May be.

The second and much more troubling discovery was the White Only stance of the IAM.  Once again, I should not be surprised. I lived in Jacksonville, Florida and experienced plain, old racism and bigotry on a daily basis. Read this from the history of the IAM in Wikipedia:

“In 1892, IAM signed a contract with the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, establishing the first organized shop at a railroad in the United States. Because IAM had a color bar, the American Federation of Labor (AFL) did not accept IAM right away.After IAM finally did join the AFL, AFL President Samuel Gompers urged IAM to drop its whites-only rule. But IAM maintained racial segregation, arguing that it needed to retain southern members. IAM chief Talbot’s wanted the union to be “a fraternity of white men born in the United States who possessed good moral character.”

It wasn’t until my father had moved out of the IAM that in 1948 it finally opened itself to all regardless of color. I suspect it was a bit like major league sports. Workers of  color were needed in the unions just like Jackie Robinson was great baseball player.

One big reminder: We are not just talking the 1940’s and 50’s. Those days just continued the heritage of the European occupation of North America and the new settlers securing African slaves to work for them. Though White Supremacy pervaded my father’s life and times it was certainly not new and was still completely acceptable to those around us.

But worst of all: White Supremacy lives on in our days. Heaven only knows, if the our federal government promotes it, then how can anyone deny it is still present.

As for me, I continue to listen and try to understand. One the other hand, my two sisters sadly continue to think just like the white population of Dad’s days. What about you and yours?

 

 

Why I support unions

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When I was a toddler in Miami during World War II, my father was a machinist at ** Consolidated Vultee Aircraft (Convair), ranked fourth among United States corporations by value of wartime production contracts, higher than the giants like Douglas Aircraft, Boeing, and Lockheed.

Dad was in a labor union, today named The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. By the time I was in elementary school he was actually employed by the union, at that time called the IAM. He was a Grand Lodge Representative, one of the full-time staff of the IAM responsible for contract negotiations, organizing, arbitrating grievances, and representing the IAM before the National Labor Relations Board.

In 1948, National Airlines, based in Jacksonville, Florida, locked out striking IAM workers. Those men armed themselves and threatened scab workers who dared cross the picket line. So Dad went there to represent the IAM and negotiate with the likes of George T. “Ted” Baker, National Airlines President, who was notorious for his anti-union stance. And we moved to Jax because it was a very long struggle.

That job in general and the National Airlines strike in particular was tough.  It will come as no surprise, then, that by 1950 he had quit to go work as a wholesale meat distributor in Jacksonville. But the union was in his bones. The union is also in my DNA. So, even never having been a member of one, I am an 100% union supporter.

There are about 14.5 million union members in the United States. Guess what, though. The highest unionization rates in 2016 were in education, training, and library occupations (34.6 percent). Huh. Who knew?

We think of Labor Day as the official end of Summer. Most of us don’t celebrate the unions. Some of us will remember, however, what they have done for workers everywhere. And, as we should, be thankful.

 

**I have always thought it ironic that the plane my father built was the PBY Catalina flying boat because after he died my mother married an ex-Navy guy who served aboard that aircraft during the War.

 

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