Saturday, November 17, 2012

Equality: For Whom and At What Price?

Equality is defined as the quality or state of being equal.  That is a notion that all Americans seem to revere and cherish as a quality particularly unique to us, as a people.  Now, I grant you that it is nice to think of it as a part of our fabric that is universally shared by all who claim to be “American,” whatever that means.  Contrary to the popular conception that we are one people, I view us as a collection of special interests, each with a different persuasion and a different agenda relative to our ethnicity and our economic, social and political interests.  Our history supports and gives credence to that fact, regardless of how much we may want to believe otherwise.

Before venturing further into this treatise, let me acknowledge the power and influence of religion on our perceptions of what equality means to each of us.  After all, the roots of what we perceive to be the America of today were first planted on the shores of this nation with the arrival of European settlers seeking a new life free from religious persecution.   I respect the religious beliefs of everyone, but I do not subscribe to the notion that religion is anything more than a system of beliefs.  None can empirically prove the existence of the Deity.  Each is what it is, predicated on a simple set of beliefs.  I do not believe, no matter how fervent one may choose to profess otherwise, that God does not talk to any of us nor do any of us enjoy favored status with a heavenly being.  At best, we can only ascribe to our concept of God what we would like to think are our own individual and collective virtues.  I reject out of hand any admonition that anything one may purport to be absolute is anything more than a simple belief.  The sheer brilliance of our Founding Fathers is reflected in the fact that they chose to establish this nation on a system of laws, not divine beliefs.  It is the rule of law that is supreme, a fact of our existence we should not lose sight of. 

I was born and raised in the State of Wyoming, coincidentally the motto of which is “The Equality State.”  The ideals embodied in that motto versus what I experienced growing up in that State clearly relegates the motto to an ideal, not necessarily a way of life.

My earliest recollection of what were the beginning of my life’s experiences are rooted in the foothills around Hart Mountain, Wyoming where my Dad was working as a laborer on the construction of an internment camp for Japanese Americans at the beginning of World War II.  That was my introduction to one of many definitions of what “equality” meant.  Later in life, when I was a university student, I was dating a Japanese American girl.  Rather suddenly, she was called home, causing us to break a date for the movies.  When she returned, she told me that her family had forbidden her to see me again.  I was stunned, but I later found out that her grandfather once owned a large truck farm in the Imperial Valley of California.  At the beginning of World War II, he and his family were removed from that farm and transferred to one of the internment camps for Japanese Americans.  As a result of that twist of fate, he lost his entire farm to a “real” American and never recovered from the loss.  His bitterness was firmly woven into the fabric of his family and the innocence of my intrusion into their family, I am sure, must have bordered on treason.  I never saw Nobuko again.  Their meaning of “equality” did not square with mine. 

During World War II, Mexican laborers migrated from Mexico to the sugar beet fields in the Big Horn Basin of Wyoming.  They were referred to as “Spics,” receiving a paltry wage for their back-breaking labor, isolated from the local social structure, and consigned to a rudimentary housing camp on the banks of the Big Horn River.  I often wonder what “equality” meant to them. 

Later and early in my adolescence, we lived in the small town of Thermopolis where I went to school and worked as a soda jerk in my Uncle’s drug store.  It was there that I first witnessed the station to which the Native Americans of the Arapahoe and Shoshone Tribes were consigned.  In those days, it was a federal offense to sell liquor to the “Indians.”  The only time we saw them in numbers was during the annual rodeo.  They would gather on the streets of town, many of whom would spend the entire time in a stuporous state induced by the consumption of bay rum, shaving lotion or vanilla extract.  I wonder what “equality” meant to them. 

There were two blacks living in that town with a population of around 2,500.  One was “Nigger Nate” who shined shoes at the local barber shop, and “Bob” who was the janitor at the local bank.  On one occasion I invited Bob to have lunch with me.  He reluctantly accepted, but it was difficult for him to accompany me into the cafĂ©.  Once seated, he told me he could not stay.  I insisted that he remain, we had a nice lunch and became fast friends.  I often wonder what “equality,” meant to both of those men.    

Throughout our history, equality must have had a vastly different meaning to all of those who occupied a specific place in the pecking order of these United States of America.  I wonder what equality meant to the Chinese laborers who worked in the gold fields of California and were hunted for sport on weekends by the sourdoughs mining for the riches they hoped would emancipate them from their station in life.

The infamous expulsion of the Cherokees from the South and their “trail of tears” to the Oklahoma territories must have surely given new meaning to what equality meant for them. 

Then there are all of the Native Americans consigned to some of the poorest real estate in the nation, living at or below the subsistence level and relegated to obscurity from main stream America.  As they were brutally murdered, had their lands stolen from them, and died from starvation and exposure to the elements in the cold and brutal winters on the plains and in the mountains, I wonder what equality meant to them.  Their station in life hasn’t changed much over the years, and I still regard them as the real “forgotten” Americans among us.  The blatant failure of the U.S. Indian Service to invoke and uphold “equality” on their behalf has always and still remains a national disgrace.

There has been wave after wave of immigrants to the shores of this country.  Each came here seeking a better life free of poverty, and ethnic and religious persecution.  They started at the bottom, and through determination and hard work; most of them progressed up the social and economic ladder to take their places as full members of all this country had to offer.  Most of them were absorbed into the mainstream of this country, some later rather than sooner.  It was not all that long ago that the much coveted vote of the Latinos in this last election belonged to an almost invisible group of “bra ceros or wetbacks” who labored in the fields so we, mainstream America, could enjoy the luxury of cheap produce to grace our dinner tables.

I find it difficult to reconcile the concept of a nation founded on a dubious claim that God intended for them to reclaim and settle a “promised land,” by disenfranchising and brutalizing an entire population that had lived on and farmed that land for centuries.  As the land was reclaimed on the basis of divine will, the rightful inhabitants were marginalized and relegated to the status of second-class citizens.  Since then, there has been a relentless move to annex lands that were rightfully taken from Palestinians for the sake of a greater Israel, a nation that claims to be our closest and staunchest ally, yet has a history of spying on the United States, attacking a United States Naval vessel, the USS Liberty, in international waters and sapping vast economic resources from the people of the United States in order to subsidize their existence and to provide them with a defense establishment that is second to none in the Middle East.  Where is the notion of equality in all this?

We have an enclave of Cuban exiles living in the United States that exert tremendous financial and political influence in order to keep Cuba isolated from fully participating as an equal among nations.  It is yet another example of keeping the specter of phony subversion of another “boogey man” from undermining this nation.  Our politicians pander to that minority for the sake of shoring up their own political ambitions.  The rest of us fall for the ruse and look the other way.  As a matter of fact, through the courage and leadership of John F. Kennedy in dealing with the Cuban Missile Crisis, Cuba and Fidel Castro ceased to be a threat to the United States long ago.  However, the contrived threat to our sovereignty has kept the people of Cuba economically and politically marginalized as a full partner in the international community for over forty years!  What still remains their reality today should have been relegated to history a long time ago, their sovereignty should be recognized and they should be full trading partners with the United States and, indeed, the world.  I think the people of Cuba have been punished long enough for supporting Fidel Castro, today a frail and aged man.  He may have been the dragon of yesterday, but there is no fire coming from his nostrils today.  Had we embarked on a mature and enlightened relationship with Cuba, who knows how quickly they might have made the transition to a democratic form of government?  But, the money and politics of an enclave of nationalistic zealots have managed to trump common sense.  Where is the notion of equality in all this? 

Taking this dichotomy a step further and focusing on the economic reality of the United States, why is there such a vast disparity in the recognition and power of organized labor versus what is enjoyed by big business, international corporations and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce?  Hasn’t the time come to level the playing field so everyone has an equal place at the table?  Isn’t it time for us to infuse the concept of equality into the equation? 

Hasn’t the time come for this country to adopt a mature stance and think in terms of equality for everyone rather than pander to fragmented special interests and the agendas of an influential and powerful few?

It’s about time the tail stopped wagging the dog. 

Cowboy Bob
The Sagebrush Philosopher
November 17, 2012                

Thursday, November 15, 2012

“If Not Now, When?”

Now that the dust is beginning to settle on Election 2012, we are beginning to see the real agenda of those in political power and the yet-to-see evidence that the reality of it all is beginning to settle into the minds of the American people. Our Commander-in-Chief is already touting his greatest stock in trade, Compromise, and what will surely be a continuation of his agenda to seduce the people who voted for him and to pander to those who sought to unseat him. I was moved to tears when he indicated that he is willing to “wash John Boehner’s car,” and “walk Mitch McConnell’s dog” if it will bring his much coveted “compromise” and “bi-partisanship” to the table. Distilled to its most basic denominator, it translates into “grab the petroleum jelly,” for his eternal quest for change is being renewed and cutbacks to government spending and entitlements will soon be upon us. He didn’t really mean all that stuff about working for the people who put him in office. He was just “funning y’all.” The progressives are ecstatic and corporate news media are in a complete state of rapture that their much coveted place of privilege and power with government, big money and corporate America is guaranteed.

I honestly believe that the good and decent people of this country want to see a massive assault on every conceivable form of self-indulgence and graft on the part of big money, big business and big government. The sheer magnitude of the problem is, however, so overwhelming that it is difficult to get a handle on how big and complicated the problems are. Moreover, to grasp what it will take to define what we face and develop a plan of action to combat it is, in and of itself, almost beyond comprehension. The agendas of the rich and powerful are further reinforced by the skills of big business, the entertainment industries and the image makers. They literally create and feed our appetites in order to grow and prosper at our expense.

I applauded the rise and success of the Occupy Wall Street movement, but it seems to have sputtered and stalled. The purity of what they stand for and the means for addressing it are noble and admirable. However, ideals and dreams are, at best, illusory. It is only when they become reality with a life of their own do they become forces with which to be reckoned. I just don’t see how the movement, or any other like it, can become a force for meaningful change and social justice without a strategy that is codified and a plan of action that becomes a clarion call to inspire people into action that is both effective and lasting.

So long as we are content to remain compliant and placid against those who seek to reduce us to serfdom and a lifetime of poverty, we play into their hands. It is from that they derive their strength and power. Those who are identified as the “working class,” the “working poor,” and the “impoverished:” live at their mercy. This land and all of its resources belong to all of us. We may contribute in different ways, but what we have, collectively, is all we have and it cannot be co-opted by a very few at the expense and suffering of the many.

We cannot rely on what those who are our adversaries choose to tell us, we must insist that they show us and prove to us that they are credible and share a common concern for all the people of this nation. They cannot rightfully claim a disproportionate share of our resources and expect the rest of us to be content with a pittance.

We can no longer sit around and hope that things will get better. We must see a real concerted effort to make our dreams a reality. We must have all classes striving for the same results, and a government that works for all of us. There are massive numbers of informed, well-intentioned people who share a deep and abiding concern about how to fix the many facets of our political, social and economic systems in order to restore them to robust health which will serve us with a commitment to a fundamental sense of decency and fairness that will apply to all of us. That storehouse of knowledge should not be allowed to remain dormant. We are not the proverbial “Chicken Little” going around in circles warning that “the sky is falling.” We are not locked in fear to the point that we have to tolerate and humor a system that is totally dysfunctional. But, for all that talent among us, we have yet to figure out how to approach an effective and meaningful way to redefine who and what we are, and to restore all that this democracy promised and should be. Difficult though that may seem, can we not look at the cup and see it half full rather than half empty? Can we not mine the human resources that exist among us and ask them to take up the challenge and put this country back on a path of hope for all of us? I think we can.

I see the following as just a few of the many examples of some of the major challenges to making ours a better system, rooted in forces that seem to exert a disproportionate influence and danger on why we cannot continue on the path we have chosen for ourselves in the last half century.

1. A dysfunctional and corrupt system of government.
2. A bankrupt and self-serving social system.
3. A massively corrupt and ominous financial system that serves the few at the expense of the many.
4. The influence of massive amounts of money in our national and local politics.
5. The restrictive and corrupting influence of a “two-party” system. By whose authority and wisdom are we limited to only two? Why should there be any restriction on the number at all?
6. The shroud of secrecy that envelopes every branch of our government and the work they profess to do on our behalf.
7. The rules and regulations adopted and exercised by every branch of government, ostensibly for the general welfare of the electorate but, in reality, are more self-serving of the privileged class they have become.
8. A “politically” dominated Supreme Court rather than one that ties current actions of government back to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights through objective and impartial judicial review.
9. The out-of-control defense and intelligence agencies that, again, are shrouded in secrecy, consume gargantuan sums of money and are obscenely self-serving in their relationships to private contractors and the political power that enables them.
10. A “free and unfettered press” that was intended to be independently owned and operated to ensure that government and its agencies would serve the citizens of this country, not corporate or absentee ownership.
11. A system of laws and regulations that would ensure a government that served the needs of the people, not special interests and the appetites of massive wealth.

The sheer genius of the Founding Fathers as set forth in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights put this nation on a course that would be the envy of the rest of the world. All that is codified in those documents should remain sacrosanct and serve as the bedrock for governing this nation for all time to come.

I just don’t see how we can continue much longer on the path where we find ourselves. That the system is broken is clearly apparent. That it no longer works for the common good is evident all around us. The only way to fix it is to embark on some kind of an assessment tied to what was intended vs. what we have today. We have the talent to do that. They are to be found in our universities and colleges among the academicians and students who are immersed in the study and knowledge of all the key disciplines that impinge on how government functions. There is no shortage of legal scholars, economists, social scientists and other disciplines tangential to carrying out such an audit.

We need to start by setting up an organization of academic minds in a non-partisan commission, the work of which should be tied to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights as the basis for such an undertaking. Moreover, those should be the guiding principles by which to evaluate what it would take to restore what we now have in place to what was originally conceived by our Founding Fathers. They would have the knowledge and experience to establish and organize the work of such a commission, and put in place the means for informing the citizens of progress on their work. Their fiduciary responsibility would be to the electorate, free of any encumbrances from outside influences or special interests.

I cannot believe that there are not a few millionaires and billionaires among us who are imbued with a sense of altruism and who would possess a sense of social responsibility and personal generosity sufficient to financially underwrite such an endeavor. Of course, they would have to maintain an arms length and impartial relationship to the Commission.

Obviously, as work progressed, it would become apparent that there would be dichotomies between what was seen as appropriate at the time of the founding of this republic vs. what may be required in order to be appropriate to the world of today, and how to effectively resolve those conflicts within the framework of the law.

I rather suspect that there is as much need to simply clean up the mess that we have inherited as to make dramatic changes. But, a good physician would never render a diagnosis and prescribe a regimen without weighing all the possible contributing factors. I wouldn’t pretend to have the background and skills to make any of this happen. But I do know that I share the same concern and a sense of helplessness and hopelessness that seems to be permanently woven into the fabric of this country. At some point, we simply have to stop wringing our hands and gnashing our teeth, and begin the job of turning this ship of state around. I just don’t see how we can keep it on the back burner much longer.  At some point we have to overcome the malaise that keeps us in the passive state, hoping that something can and will be done.

The sheer energy generated by the Occupy Wall Street movement and all those who have lamented the gargantuan difference between the wealth and power held by the top one percent and the rest of us has to be harnessed and translated into a plan of action to put us back on the course that was envisioned by a few visionaries over two hundred years ago. Words never acted upon eventually ring hollow and die with the wind. What those brave souls started is much too precious to end with a whimper and to simply die a slow, agonizing death. Time is simply no longer on our side.

If not now, when?

Cowboy Bob
The Sagebrush Philosopher
November 15, 2012

Monday, November 12, 2012

REPOST: “How Will I Betray Thee? Let Me Count The Ways.”

Given what is coming out about our newly "re-elected" President and what he is up to in terms of "deals" and "compromises" with Republicans and the power elite in our society, I think it is only approprite for me to re-post this blog, originally posted on October 4, 2012.  The mere fact that he would say, "I will wash John Boehner's car" or "Walk Mitch McConnell's dog if necessary" says it all.  Is that the posturing of a real leader and one who has just been handed a mandate by the American Electorate?  Is that the posturing of a leader who stands firmly with and in defense of the American people and those most disenfranchised from society?  I think not. 

At the end of the day, I am even more convinced that he is not a man of the people.  He is not one of us.  If anything, the "Grand Bargain" will prove to be another gift to "wealth, power and privilege" that will come at the expense of all those who supported him in this most recent election and are destined to suffer the most when it gets traction.

If this doesn't raise serious questions about the hammer-lock our so-called "Two Party System" has on our electoral process and, ultimately, every branch of government, I don't know what does.  We need and have a God-given right to hear from all contenders for public office.    

It is time to get serious, folks.  "Trust, like the soul, never returns once it is gone."


“How Will I Betray Thee? Let Me Count The Ways.”

The dust is settling on the first of a long-awaited series of presidential debates, preparatory to the national elections in November. Were there any surprises? Not really.

It was, at best, an exercise in mental gymnastics by the political elite who have been ordained as the only acceptable candidates for the highest office in the land.

The moderator, Jim Lehrer distinguished himself as consummate journalistic milquetoast. Retirement would seem to fit him better than returning for a cameo appearance in the real world of television news.

Mitt Romney wasted no time in re-affirming himself as an accomplished plutocratic whore of privilege who harbors nothing but disdain for those less fortunate than he and his silver-spooned upbringing. He impressed us all, once again, by his ability to lie with impunity and still expect anyone with a modicum of intelligence to swallow it all hook, line and sinker. At the end of the day he is as transparent as a window pane and hasn’t the sense to realize it. The absence of any semblance to a human soul is palpable. But, we can expect those who labor under the burden of an attempt at human thought, largely comprised of all the religious zealots of one persuasion or another, to savor his every word.

Then there was the sterling performance of our President-in-residence. He removed any residual confusion there might have been regarding a clear-cut example of oratory vs. debating skills. But, think about it. What can one reasonably expect from an amalgam of a background rooted in law, community organizing and politics? Seems like a recipe for failure to all progressives who were hoping to see him ride in on a white horse and immediately charm the nation. Didn’t happen, did it?

Let’s be honest about this. We, as a nation, have been royally seduced by the so-called “two-party” system that dominates our local and national politics. Who said we, the electorate, are to be limited to a choice between those calling themselves “Democrats” and “Republicans?” Where were the rest of those seeking a shot at the highest elected office in the land? I, for one, feel if there should be an opportunity for all those who have the qualifications and the organization to set their sights on the White House; they should be at the presidential debates. Didn’t happen. By whose edict? It is tough not to conclude that the system is rigged against us, the people. It is difficult to place much stock in a system that so blatantly determines our priorities for us. Jill Stein, the presidential candidate for the Green Party and Rocky Anderson, presidential candidate for the Justice Party had every right to be there, and to be given equal time and opportunity accorded all the others. They are as well qualified as either of those who monopolized the stage in Denver. Every person in the United States who is qualified to exercise the power of his/her vote should not be denied that choice. Anything less is a gross affront by those harboring a mindset of perceived superior wisdom, the fallacy of which speaks to us every day.

Until last night, I thought President Obama had the election in the bag. After his lack-luster performance, I am not so sure. On the other hand, if lying works, we can all shudder at the prospect of Romney succeeding him. Either one will, at best, be more of the same and an ongoing national disaster. About all we can do is to wait out the next few weeks to see the final outcome of this charade.

Presuming Obama is re-elected, what can we expect from him in the next four years? Let’s begin by accepting the fact that he is no leader. He is a compromiser, an appeaser, a shill for power and money. Consensus is his game; courage is not. The result will always be mediocrity at our individual and collective peril.

Because of the only choice we have, I will vote for Obama simply because I see him as the lesser of two evils. But, make no mistake I have no reason to expect anything earth-shattering. So, what do I envision? Following are a few of the issues that have stuck in my craw.

• The Cabinet is likely to be stacked with more holdovers from the Clinton Administration.

• A strong influence by the scions of Wall Street and other power brokers in the field of banking and finance.

• A continued reliance on corporate capitalists for advice and counsel on the economy, both nationally and internationally, not the least of which will be the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

• Total disregard for the knowledge and experience among our group of some of the best economic and scientific minds in the world.

• Pandering to influential interests in health care, energy, trade, defense, intelligence, and other special interests.

• Secret meetings and trade deals with international interests seeking free trade agreements at the expense of American enterprise and the workers who make it all happen.

• The resurrection of the Simpson-Bowles Commission, engaging in compromises at the expense of long-established and successful programs comprising the nation’s social safety net, which the President has vowed to defend.

• Continuation of the tacit agreement between the White House and the Justice Department not to indict, prosecute or punish those guilty of crimes against the country and our national interests.

• Continued support for the military/industrial complex.

• Continued support for the persecution of those who dare to challenge the way our government does business without the advice and consent of the American people. I am thinking of those well-intentioned people who wear the badge of “whistleblower” with pride and dare to question the omnipotence of the institutions of government and business.

• The unilateral authority of the Executive Branch to order the assassination of those deemed to be a threat to national security.

• Minimal support for organized labor as an equal with the owners of business and commerce.

I had high hopes for President Obama, but it soon became apparent to me that those hopes would be proven illusory. The inspiration that infected thousands at Grant Park in Chicago proved to be rather fleeting. There has been too much secrecy in the way he does business. There has been a tendency to place far too much reliance on people of influence and prominence, but lacking in the integrity and commitment of the man to whom they are beholden.

President Obama simply has to come to terms with the fact that he has no equal; not on Wall Street, not in the halls of corporations, not in the Pentagon, not in Congress or the Supreme Court. He has been given the baton and sits at the pinnacle of power, a solemn gift bestowed on him by none other than the American people.

He seems to have never understood or simply lost sight of the fact that his job, as President of the United States, is unequivocally one of pure leadership. With leadership comes the ability and the will to take responsibility, listen to his advisors and then embolden himself to take charge and lead. The baton belongs to him and it is up to him to have the courage to lead with authority, conviction and inspiration. He has not done that. It is time he realized his own destiny and to fulfill that mission during the coming four years of his second term in office.

As I reflect back on history, I cannot imagine Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower or John F. Kennedy having to even so much as reflect on that fundamental fact of being President of the United States of America. Behaving as a compromising appeaser, seeking not decisive action, but consensus, is not what it is all about. This country is in dire straights and is begging for courage and the mettle to do what is right, with strength, determination and fortitude. He owes it to us, the American people, to do what he was elected to do. To hell with cronies carried over from the Clinton Administration. They are flawed merchandise. To hell with the criminals on Wall Street, the corporate capitalists, the super rich and the bellicose posturing of warmongers. He is duty bound to be a role model for all of us, manifesting the very best within us and knowing that we will take up his cause and follow him to the ends of the earth if that is what is required to save the spirit of this great nation. Popularity contests are the stuff of narcissistic fools; taking command and charge of the greatest office in the world has no equal. That, Mr. President, is what it is all about. Get used to it and, for God’s sake, take charge. You DO have what it takes if you will but recognize that very special gift and act accordingly.

Bow to no man, but never hesitate to take the hand of a man in need.

Cowboy Bob
The Sagebrush Philosopher
October 4, 2012

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

“From Tragedy May Come Opportunity"

Hurricane Sandy has come ashore with a force rarely imagined or seen by those living in and around the environs of New York and New Jersey. The sobering effect of nature’s wrath has reminded us of our immortality and insignificance in the face of the power of Nature. It has shaken the foundation of our very being and, hopefully, will wake us from the stupor of denying the reality of global warming and climate change, and expose the demonic influence of unlimited greed and the massive deception perpetrated against civilized people to which we have succumbed. Surely, it will open our eyes to the reality of what we have been a party to by allowing those who have no souls to pillage and plunder the finite resources of the planet, and to reduce human beings to an expendable resource that serve as sustenance for appetites than can never be satiated.

Perhaps this tragedy bears the truth of wisdom that can only come from learned minds and a common concern for all people, and the earth to which we all belong. Maybe we will, finally, defer to the truth of scientific knowledge and see the folly of those who discredit that which they know in their hearts to be the truth.

As the evidence and the suffering that has been unveiled for all to see becomes accepted fact, we will unite as one people to deal with what has brought this misfortune upon us and to harness the best within us to minimize the possibility of it happening again. Sad to say, it may prove to be a blessing in disguise.

The very nature of the world we live in and our penchant for accepting the products of those who seek to numb our minds in the interest of appealing to some of our basest instincts; we have become too much the conformist and too little the innovator. The pain and discomfort that often comes with the courage to be original or different from the pack is what the image makers and the appetite creators peddle so we will become the pliant consumers they work to create. To the extent we take the bait, they win. To the extent we dare to stand strong on our beliefs and values that contradict their onslaught to our senses, they are the losers. I think it has become glaringly apparent that the time has come for us to take control of our common destiny, their rapaciousness be damned.

We can no longer deny the truth of what we have been doing to the environment, for much too long, and our dependence on respecting nature and making it work for all of us; not just the gluttonous few. That will require us to assert not only our independence, but to acknowledge and accept our mutual dependence. The resource of all this planet holds belongs to all of us. It is up to us to respect that fact and to make it work for the common good. It is time to think outside the box. It is time to revisit and honor the famous words of George Bernard Shaw and made famous by Robert F. Kennedy: “There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why? I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?

We are going to have to set ourselves to the task of rethinking many aspects of the environment in which we live. Environmentally friendly forms of energy will have to assume front and center. Fossil fuels will have to be branded with the responsibility they rightfully bear for the evolution that has brought us to this perilous point in our history. The transportation systems that we rely on have to be rethought and may have to give way to means we never imagined. Architecture will take different forms than those we have traditionally accepted as the norm and that have shaped the towns and cities in which we live. Elevated trains may prove to be a better alternative than the subways that serve our large cities, but are more vulnerable to the crippling effects of massive storms. We may just have to adjust to a totally different perception of the world around us and embrace that which appeals less to our aesthetic tastes and more to the dictates of a new reality.

The massive rebuilding of towns and villages where most of the people live in the path of Hurricane Sandy may give us pause to rethink the shape and form structures will have to take in order to be less vulnerable to destruction and devastation but, perhaps, less aesthetically pleasing than that to which we have become accustomed.

The infamous Hurricane Andrew that hit the South Florida coast some time ago left not only massive devastation, but some clues as to how we might address the power of its force in the future. The structures that most withstood the force of that massive storm were not conventional homes built of flat vertical planes that challenged the strength and the force of winds, but were geodesic domes that permitted the wind to flow over the structures without succumbing to its power and force. The dome structures are not only less susceptible to the force of wind, but are much more energy efficient with the potential to have a much more pronounced effect on its consumption.

People who have had the courage to venture out of conventional homes and into dome homes have, admittedly, had a period of adjustment. But, for the most part, they have grown accustomed to the new style, comfort and cost of owning a dome.

Domes come in wood structures and concrete structures. Both are “futuristic,” compared to conventional homes. They are more energy-efficient and spacious than conventional homes. However, because of the more limited demand for those kinds of homes, the market has been less robust. I do not think those who produce these homes have necessarily focused on their potential as much as they have on their marketability. A significant increase in demand may well change that dynamic, as it should. A more stable market may produce more innovation in terms of style than we have seen to date.

Dome structures lend themselves very well to solar and wind power, both of which should enjoy resurgence in the wake of the super storms that we have recently seen and are likely to see in the future.

The tragedy of Sandy has already demonstrated a sense of urgency for government agencies to focus on the potential of the marked changes that will be required in order to respond to the power of nature we are likely to face in the future, and to minimize the havoc they bring down upon us.

The manufacturers of domes need to devote more time and effort on the appearance of what they have to offer. Brown as the universal color does not necessarily have a broad base of appeal, nor do buildings that are asymmetrical and look more like strange creatures than an attractive place to live. Being outrageous may be attractive to the eccentric with a desire to challenge convention, but I would hazard a guess that those tastes will be less in demand than will a rendition of what can be more attractive and appealing to a broader range of tastes. I would hope the industry would not only seize this opportunity but demonstrate more creativity in the face of this challenge.

I believe the government should step to the forefront and demonstrate a sense of urgency in addressing the massive destruction of homes in the path of Sandy. A task force of those involved in new and innovative architecture and building materials should be asked to address the new demands that have resulted from this natural disaster. The blend of architecture with solar and wind energy seems like a natural marriage.

The government should seriously consider the merits of subsidized loans for those who opt for more functional forms of architecture and energy than we have seen in conventional homes. Government must serve as the catalyst for innovation that focuses on what most effectively serves the needs of people, but addresses environmental concerns as well. That kind of thinking has served us in the past and it surely can do so in the future.

From what has been a brutal act of nature could well hold the potential for improving our relationship to the environment and to the economy. I think this is a golden opportunity to breathe new life into banks and other locally owned financial institutions. The vultures of Wall Street and “too-big-to-fail” have reaped more than a fair share of the nation’s wealth by playing to and controlling our political establishment. The people deserve more and, frankly, I have much greater trust in local institutions and the people who live and work there than I do in some remote behemoth laying in wait to suck more of the life-blood out of our economy in order to satisfy their insatiable greed. The time has come to reign in their excesses and to become more responsive to the nation as a whole.

In the wake of this terrible tragedy may well lay a new beginning that will better serve us all in the future. The power and creativity of one, united people can and should dwarf the evil of all those who sit in high places and sap the vitality from those who play by the rules and believe in a system that serves us all.

The national elections have clearly shown what a sham the entire political process is. Big money, corporate power and corrupt politics have carried the day. I sense that the nation has had enough of the lying, deceptive advertising and mud-slinging to last a life time. We have every right to claim the government and the political process as an asset that belongs to the people and is not up for sale to the highest bidder. I would like to think that the sobering effect of Sandy will throw light on this issue, as well.

All political parties have a right and an obligation to stand on local and national stages during elections and tell the people what they stand for, free of the enslaving effects of massive amounts of money, legislative largesse and a Supreme Court that should hang its collective head in shame for the way they have sullied the highest court in the land.

The time has come for the nation to take back what is rightfully ours – an honest political process and the resultant clean government that logically follows. By the same token, fad must give way to practicality and compatibility with the limitations of this planet. The time has come to recognize and give legitimacy to the inescapable fact that we can no longer afford to have it “my way,” and yield to the reality that it now, of necessity, must be “our way.” A concomitant requirement is that we must learn to live with less and respect the realities of what life on this planet demands of each of us. A good start may be to adopt a new “convention” as a fundamental tenet to the way we live.

The lesson of Sandy may well be to “think differently, live differently and behave differently” for our common welfare, and let the image makers and the creators of our national tastes go fly a kite. There is a sense of urgency to this tragedy, but the bigger concern to us all should be how our political, social and economic systems serve us.

Whoever is elected to the Presidency, he must be absolutely transparent in every aspect of his administration. No more secret meetings. No more backroom deals. No more pandering to wealth and privilege as a means to remain in office. We, the people of the United States of America, have had quite enough.

Barack Obama may be the lesser of two evils, but any trust I may have in the man is on hold until I see whether or not he will continue his appeasement of the opposition and his pandering to big money, at the expense of all those to whom he has held out the promise of “change.” His words ring hollow and his notion of what “change” means is becoming a bit shopworn.

Cowboy Bob
The Sagebrush Philosopher
November 6, 2012