. . . Quiet minds cannot be perplexed or frightened, but go on in fortune and misfortune at their own private pace, like a clock during a thunderstorm . . .—Robert Louis Stevenson

29 January 2017


"The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: 'If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?' But… the good Samaritan reversed the question: 'If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?' "—MLK

Gary is downstairs listening to Joni Mitchell's "River" and I have turned off the stock I was simmering on the stove. I caramelized two onions for an hour with some red wine gifted to us by friends. Later this afternoon I will use the stock to make soup with carrots and mushrooms and leeks and potatoes. Those onions will go into it.

I have scored four papers from my college class this morning—regardless of my intentions, setting work aside for the weekend is uncomfortable. I like to be busy, but my eyes are old so I must pace myself, reading a few at a time.

Yesterday we went to Portland and ate tamales at the Farmers' Market and shopped for the leeks and carrots and mushrooms for today's soup. We went to Cargo where I bought a scarf someone will eventually receive as a gift, three bells, and notecards I will give to my students in June. 

When we got home from our trip, I edited an application essay for a former student who is applying to graduate school. We watched television and went to bed early. 

We walked on sand yesterday and this morning. The dog has been playful, and that is good because she had a couple of bad days. 

I share all of this because my life is good, even blessed. I am a most fortunate woman.

Please understand that my political posts are motivated by my hope that all people will enjoy such blessings. I do not think I was singled out for such goodness. I do not think I was entitled. My life was not entirely earned. I think I worked hard and I was very, very lucky.

Life is hard for many people in our country and throughout the world, much harder than it needs to be. Our political system is supposed to make our lives safe and comfortable, to open doors and make possible the good fortune I enjoy . . . for everyone. 

I am not one of those people who believe "there will always be poverty and war." The people who say such things believe what they say. They are sincere, but I think it is a cop-out, a way to excuse inaction. I choose to have hope.

Someone was trying to stir anger the other day on FB about "illegals voting and receiving welfare" and I wanted to pat his hand and tell him to relax. I know he is genuinely upset, but like so many of these angry memes, it is based on lies intended to divert attention from genuine problems. I see so many angry posts, so many people angry at one group or another.

There are also the posts by former students who have family at risk, who have loved ones in the military they hope will not be sent unnecessarily into danger. I have granddaughters who deserve their chance at fair treatment, who need to grow up knowing that "locker room talk" is not how all men speak about women, that their bodies are their own, and no one should deny them. I live on the very edge of this continent and every morning I find thousands of bits of plastic on the sand, but I also see eagles fly where there were no eagles for decades because DDT was in use. I dream of my home flooding due to global warming and climate change. I worry about my future if the Social Security and Medicare system I have paid for since I was fifteen is allowed to go under. I worry about the clerk at a local store who has been so harassed for wearing a headscarf that store security had to stand beside her one day. She only honors her faith and modesty. She wants the best for her children too. 

But even if I were without dependence on Social Security and soon on Medicare, even if I had no grandchildren or former students afraid of how they will be treated, even if I did not know that clerk's name and she did not know mine, I would still want the world to be kinder to all of us. 

A very old friend disagreed with a post I put on Facebook and other friends, who do not know him, argued vigorously with him. He responded with courtesy. We disagree on many things, I am sure, but he is a reminder that when people are upset and addressing someone they do not know, they sometimes speak out of turn with rudeness and perhaps false assumptions. He reminds me that this is not necessary. No political persuasion has the monopoly on rudeness. I make my mistakes, but I value courtesy because while it might mask private disregard, courtesy is at the base of what I most value. It is the beginning of conversation, and Facebook is not a conversation nor a source of reliable news. 

To be kind and courteous to someone who has not earned it is a great accomplishment.

Understand that politics can not merely be something we endure every four years, and are grateful for when it is over. We are political animals—we live in community and must find our way in a collective and so we have always been—and our republic demands our participation and concern. If we want our government to represent us properly, we must make clear to those who represent us what we consider proper. 

Surely we can imagine behavior that we do not consider proper. And just as surely we know what we want: the innocent protected, the hard working rewarded, the damaged healed, the lost to be found. These are not merely my values, but values at the heart of every world religion and philosophy. We survive in community and we thrive when we are willing to concern ourselves with the general health of community, those concerns beyond our own. 

Compassion and empathy, careful study of the facts and a look at the long term implications of our actions, evaluation of what is truth and what merely seems appealing—these concern me. This is what I consider proper. And soup. Soup to feed us all.