Photos for January Stones and April PAD 2012 property of M J Dills (exception 1/16)

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Don’t Kid Yourself

If you don’t think it’s about race, then you’re kidding yourself. Our nation is currently in the middle of a verbal civil war and some citizens who don’t believe spitting is enough would be happy to see that escalate. At last count there were fifteen documented hate groups in the state of Washington, 926 in America. A hate group is defined by its beliefs and activities. They’re in the practice of not simply twisting truth, but coming up with complete fabrications. Robert L. Shulz, the leader of WTP (We The People), famed for his anti income tax stance, has broadly propagated the birther theory, FEMA camps, and socialist theories, along with other well thought out inventions.

My conservative cousin told me the other day she doesn’t believe in socialism. Well, dang, neither do I. I’m not interested in starting a family feud, so let it go, but I later asked someone else of the same persuasion: “What do you consider a socialist country?”

“Canada,” was the immediate response.

This is what people in America have had put in their heads. It’s no wonder parents home-school.

“Canada,” I said, “is a Constitutional Monarchy and they have socialized medicine, just like the United States. We have this thing called Medicare; it’s been around for over four decades. Name another socialist country.”

“Mexico,” was the answer and then quickly, with a lot of confidence, “France. England.”

I explained that Mexico is also a Republic, with a president and a congress, just like the United States, as is France (who by the way is globally number one in health care with a universal health care system. ) England is also a Conservative Monarchy and far, far from a socialist government.

Russia and China are socialist counties. Cuba, North Korea.

“Do your homework instead of letting Glenn Beck do it for you,” was my parting comment and it didn’t get me any smiles. Sorry.

Last year Mr. Beck talked about FEMA camps for three consecutive shows before finally admitting on the fourth broadcast that it was a myth. In the meantime, close to three million people, over the course of three days, heard differently.

And the Republican Party? Where do they stand on these garbled assaults on the intelligence of the average citizen? No where. They don’t take a stand, and that’s very alarming considering what is taking place in public forums. There simply is no condemnation for horrific remarks and speeches while certain Americans are led to believe a very twisted analysis.

Where was the Republican Party when former Congressman Tom Tancredo of Colorado spoke at the Tea Party Convention in Nashville and made openly racist remarks pointed at President Obama? Or when Congressman Steve King (R- Iowa) commented after the health care reform vote: “If I could start a country with a bunch of people, they'd be the folks who were standing with us the last few days. Let's hope we don't have to do that. Let's beat that other side to a pulp. Let's take them out. Let's chase them down. There's going to be a reckoning.”

That’s more than rhetoric. That’s inciting. And the GOP has stood by, without a word of censure or disapproval.

Last weekend a black congressman, Emmanuel Cleaver (D – Mo), while walking up the steps of the Capitol, was spit on by a member of the Tea Party. Sean Hannity of Fox News claimed the congressman was exaggerating and there was no evidence, despite a very available video of the event. The video is not a secret but it was not shown on FOX or other conservative venues. You make up your own mind.

Citizens who are interested in the truth can certainly find it with very little research, but listening to the Gallaghers, Limbaughs, O’Reillys , etc will give them one point of view and it is a narrow, uneducated, slanted, distorted one.

Last summer I attended a health care rally on Mercer Island, at the behest of a friend. Some of the protestors were local, elderly, wealthy people. A petite, diamond bedecked, gray haired lady held a placard that claimed “Our Health Care is Number One in the World” and in smaller print “and we want to stay that way.” I asked her did she really believe that? And she curtly bobbed her head up and down, and said “You bet I do.” Chances are she not only didn’t realize that the United States stands 37th in ranking with the World Health Organization, but she also had no idea she was surrounded by organizers of WTP and other radical groups who were there to incite the crowds. They handed out misleading information, shouted insults and slurs and inserted themselves into conversations. The uninformed senior citizen, Mrs. Mercer Island, who was probably dragged to the rally along with her bridge group, waving her sign to all passersby, did not know she was amidst neo-Nazis, anti-Semites, and those who believe in a non government authorized American militia. These are the people who are the loudest and most influential in the United States of America right now.

On April 19th a 2nd Amendment March is planned to take place in the capitol. Never mind that the Obama administration has not addressed gun control nor has any plans in that arena. It is an absurdly significant date for such a demonstration and organizers are encouraging participants to arm themselves as much as the can do so legally.
This is way beyond tempest in a teapot.
And they’re not kidding.

Thank you for reading.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Lew Sanders

Today is the fifth and final day of the NAIWE challenge, five daily blogs written in succession, following a prompt from the brilliant staffers at NAIWE (National Association of Independent Writers and Editors.)

What person in your life helped you understand the importance of choosing words carefully? What would you say to them if you met them today?

Lew Sanders

Lew was my creative writing professor, freshman year, Clark College, 1967-68. He was a bit of a radical, introducing me and a handful of other select students to anti-war protests on the other side of the river (Vancouver, Washington/Portland, Oregon), questioning our level of racial tolerance and forcing us to shed a lot of pre-conceived notions we had brought from our well-meaning, moral Christian homes.

Lew had a knack for discovering the sharp kids, the ones with an edge, rebels like himself. He threw them together and leaned against his desk with crossed arms to listen to their voices rise by decibels, with an amused air, while his students nearly came to blows. Lew Sanders loved a rousing debate, even if the participants hadn’t the faintest idea how ignorant they proved themselves.

Lew gave me the best failing grade of my life on a paper I didn’t write. I had been studying for an Associate’s Degree in hooka-loading the previous weekend and totally spaced a Monday morning in-class essay I needed to bone up on. Instead of delivering the required material, I wrote an eloquent composition on what becomes of students who don’t pay attention. He gave me an F, marked in large red ink and told me it was the finest piece of bullshit he had ever read by a freshman. I was a true writer, he said, and possibly a future politician.

Lew taught me how important it is to create for the reader the senses of smell, sight, touch, sound and taste. One poem I wrote about walking the streets of Portland on a rainy evening is forever lost, but I will always remember how moved my teacher was as he read it. I had captured the sense of raindrops landing in the dusty street and how they reflected in the lamp light. It was my words that affected him and the promise of things to come.

What would I say to Mr. Sanders if I met him today? Besides thanks? I would tell him I’m sorry I haven’t lived up to his expectations. I would say that like that failed essay, I have lived my life in a disguise of who I really am. I have not written the great American novel. I am a cheap article author, who knows there is a truly brilliant writer hiding inside. I have lived a life rich with experience, thrills, agonies, bitterness, joy, holiness, gloom, challenges and triumphs. I mean to get some of it on paper, if I can only live long enough and find a way to pay the bills in the meantime.

Thank you for reading.

And thank you to NAIWE for the opportunity to achieve a little of what Lew Sanders expected of me.

Thursday, March 4, 2010


Today’s prompt from NAIWE is:

“If you had to eliminate one word or phrase from the English language, what would it be? Why?”


What’s the one thing I hate to say? Goodbye. The times in the past I have said goodbye on both sides of the border blend into a mix of waving arms, blown kisses, tears, laughter, hugs and kisses, ending in a barrage of hellos.
Goodbye quite often results in hello, with an interlude between. I prefer hello.

When I left Mexico permanently, after more than ten years, a series of farewell parties that lasted over a month’s time saw me off. They began with a surprise birthday party
in a gorgeous cliff-side villa, celebrating with nearly thirty friends. Only one person realized it was a swan song party: me. It was a tough evening, bringing me back to the location I’d begun so many years ago. I was surrounded by loving friends and family, all whom I realized with each greeting, I’d have to tell I was leaving. I’d misplaced my glasses that evening and couldn't see well, which added to an imbedded angst that would simmer within me for weeks: the knowledge that I was truly saying goodbye. (Spanish says it so much better…Adios…with God.) There is rarely anything good about goodbye.

Over the weeks, as I prepared my move, I was cast into a role of comforting others who cried at the thought of my departure. Party following party stretched the agony of leaving in a manner not unlike bloodletting; little by little, a few drops at a time.

The week before I flew away, like a bird migrating in the wrong direction, not looking back, I attended seven dinners, six lunches, a breakfast, three parties and on the final day, a coffee klatch. I must have said well over a hundred goodbyes. One last trip up the coast to bid farewell to my old lover, my ranchero, my melancholy Mexican sealed the omen that I was now finished and this was, indeed, the last goodbye. I would never again linger in the mind of hellos with this man, who was the essence of Mexico for me, the fountain of my youth.

My daughter doesn’t like to say goodbye and sometimes refuses to, disappearing at the last moment. “It’s just so final,” she says, as she verbalizes what I feel, declines hugs, turns a sad face. She has inherited my aversion for goodbyes along with my distaste for spiders. When I was a child, I hid under tables and bushes, depending on the season, when it was time for friends and family to depart. My daughter shared this habit and I see her daughter developing the same manner.

Maybe we can be like the fish that live on the bottom of the ocean who no longer have eyes because for so many generations they didn’t use them, so their eyes ceased to exist. If we just stop saying goodbye, perhaps we can stop thinking of it, too, and survive without it.

Thank you for reading.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Magic Ingredient of a Book

I continue to engage myself in the NAIWE challenge this week. Lord knows, I love challenges; I’m up to my ears in them.

A bit about NAIWE (National Association of Independent Writers and Editors): An association devoted to writers and editors, who are committed to earning a living by doing what they love. Online classes, vital information for writers/editors and great benefits are included in the membership.

The prompt today from NAIWE is “Writers are people who take isolated words and craft them into memorable phrases, stories, poems and plays. Who are the writers who make your heart sing? What is the magic ingredient?”

Lately I’ve been reading a lot of non-fiction and I do believe those writers have the more daunting job. To make history and current events hold a readers attention like a novel is an ambitious undertaking. But I digress…

I recently read Paul Auster’s Moon Palace. I’d heard him read and speak at the Opera House in Oaxaca in November ’08 and was fascinated by his prose, however it took more than a year for me to jump into one of his novels. When I finally did, I nearly ate it. Moon Palace makes you care SO much for the main character and his cast. MS Fogg has been securely implanted in my memory banks and, I suspect, will remain for some time to come. In the first paragraph of Moon Palace, the reader is exposed to every basic element of the entire book, yet not one surprise is spoiled. MS reveals how he was born the summer that men first walked on the moon, nearly perished, walked the breadth of a desert, lost all his money, fell in love with Kitty Wu (who saved him), discovered his father and took an unlikely job. And then strange things began to happen.

A fundamental element in capturing the reader’s imagination is to have him know and care for the character/s. The earlier the introduction, the better... and a writer should not be afraid of revealing too much. Given Auster’s example, it’s really okay to let the reader in on the plot. It will entice him to go further. Auster’s moon tie-ins are also inspiring: the man on the moon, the Moon Palace Bar and Grill with its neon sign, and the references to the actual heavenly body all figure heavily in the story.

Auster’s imagery is stunning and leaves the reader with descriptions and emotions that linger. Less than two weeks after I concluded Moon Palace, I read The Man in the Dark, a tale in two dimensions that leaves one breathless to move back and forth. August Brill’s dream-world gives the reader a glimpse of possible realities, while at the same time, reflects the chaos of his imagination. Political in nature, it is Brill who the reader focuses on, regardless of opinion or bias. It only really matters what happens to him, the man in the dark, and how he embraces his little family of daughter and granddaughter.

To make the reader care, wonder and rejoice or commiserate; this is the magic ingredient.

Thank you for reading.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


In honor of Words Matter Week, I am prompted to write about the following: "Communication breaks down when words are misused. What is the funniest, most interesting, or worst break-down you’ve ever observed?"

Years Ago.
We finished dining at China First on University Way and were driving down 45th Street, when I was sure I heard my daughter say “Do you have any chopsticks?”
I thought it was a very peculiar request and said “No, I do not.”
“Are you sure?” she asked.
“Of course I’m sure,” I said and went on to explain we had plenty at home in a drawer that Grandma had given us, some very old ones and a lot of new ones, too. “Why would I?”
“Because you always have some in your purse.” She was staring at me as if I had lost my mind.
I shook my head in disbelief. And turned to look at her.
“I always have some in my purse?” I was incredulous. "Did you take yours?"
“Mom,” she said. “What do you think I said?”
“You asked if I had any chopsticks.”
“I asked you if you had any chapstick,” she said with eyes wide, a gaping mouth and a slow shake of the head.
We both fell into a spell of laughter that forced me to pull to the side of the road.
Chapstick,” I sputtered, tears streaking down my face.
Chopsticks,” she said, wiping her eyes, launching into another round of guffaws.
Chopsticks/Chaptick turned into a family mini-legend. We try to have a sense of humor about the misery of hereditary hearing loss. Rarely does an episode pass, when one of us “mis-hears” that chopsticks aren’t mentioned.
Thank you for reading.


Believe is a word from childhood that might strike fear or give hope. “Please, believe me” and “I believe you” are two of the strongest statements a child can share with a parent. “I know it’s hard to believe, but…” will always make a listener lean a bit closer and “If you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you…” gives one person an arrogant power over another.
THIS I BELIEVE is an NPR program of essays written by over 70,000 believers, a series started by Edward R. Murrow in the 1960’s that has spawned some of the most inspiring words ever written.
Believe is tied very closely to hope and faith, but it is more than both of these concepts. “If I do not believe, I will lose hope.” “I must have faith in what I believe in.”
What we believe is what we are indoctrinated with, what we experience from birth to death and what we find in the search and discovery process of life. What we believe is our very own truth: convoluted, perfect, perverse, ideal, twisted, principled, dark…completely individual and personalized.
Believe, used in political campaigns and sermons from pulpits, or as a message to those in peril or in preparation for battle is a very potent word, standing alone.
We begin early in life to believe in fairies, elves, bunnies who hide eggs and a fat bearded man who delivers gifts, which we believe have been carted down chimneys, while a group of flying reindeer paw the roof. We are instructed to believe in virgin mothers and men living for hundreds of years. We are expected to believe in a holy supreme being, given a variety of names and further projected to be the only one of his/her/its kind. And we better believe it.
Some of us believe in miracles. Others believe in coincidence, or science. You may believe in ghosts, good and evil, reincarnation, the 5th Dimension. Some cannot bring themselves to believe in love.
I believe in myself. I have been tested over time enough to realize that the most important concept in my entire life is that I believe. I believe in a manner that is positive, willing and optimistic. I believe in can and do and have and be. I will believe. I must believe. I can believe. I believe.

Thank you for reading.