US Healthcare

If you have been following the news lately you’ve heard of the disappointments that have bedeviled the Republican Party as they have continually failed to repeal the ACA in any form. Now Republicans have claimed for the last 7 and a half year that they needed to get rid of Obamacare but when time had come for them to do anything with it nothing happened and they had no plan to replace it. Bernie Sanders is once again pushing for a universal health plan.  It is pretty crazy that so much anger has been expressed on a topic that we can all agree on everyone should have some type of health care plan so that we all can live a full and productive live. Sanders isn’t the only one who is trying to push some new sort of health care there is even a bipartisan plan for a panel to be held at which they would discuss how to stabilize and strengthen the individual insurance market. These markets are the problem part with health care and if they can figure out something to do with them it would be a step in the right direction. It would help if Democrats and Republicans could put aside their party differences and recognize that they are all citizens of the United States and we need to have better health care.

Theatre and Politics

These are two things that go together and have been since the beginnings. The Ancient Greeks had The Trojan Women and Lysistrata which were commentaries on events that the Greeks faced during the Peloponnesian War. Shakespeare did a great job at working politics into his works as well. This was transformed by the Soviets into Agitprop (Agitation propaganda). Politics have always been an influence to playwrights and still inspires directors today.

So when the news that the New York City’s Public Theatre’s Shakespeare in the Park production of Julius Caesar was using Donald Trump as a model for their Julius Caesar. I didn’t think it was out of line over the year many a President has been taken as a way for the audience to relate with the story. As Michael Kahn, Director of the Shakespeare Theatre Company in DC, notes in a Time article it is pretty hard to avoid mixing contemporary politics and Shakespeare together. It was a lens for us to look at the story and society has been doing it since at least a 1937 Orson Welles production where Caesar has fascist overtones, and over the years he’s been interpreted into just about every major political figure. Julius Caesar isn’t about the assassination or saying it is a good thing, Caesar even dies halfway through the play making Brutus perhaps the main character in the play.

Now we need to be able to live in a world where we are not walking on egg shells all the time and this seems to be what is happening in the world today. Everyone is on edge and ready to snap at the smallest problem. Yet if we look at other shows and even movies we can get to similar interpretation like how the upcoming film Geostorm, a film coming out this October, is a response to Trump withdrawal from the Paris Agreement.

World News

As the US seems content to delve into every word Former FBI Director Comey made during his hearing yesterday in Washington DC. However there are a couple of interesting stories in the world that seem more important. First off over in the United Kingdom they held their Parliamentary elections which has set up a hung parliament. It looks like some type of coalition government is going to happen and perhaps we will see Theresa May step down or not. This is a more intriguing news item.

The other big story is that Japan has passed a one-off bill that will allow Emperor Akihito to abdicate. Last year he addressed the people of Japan saying that he was beginning to feel the constraints of his age which were making it hard for him to do his duties. Rumors have been that this might happen 31 December 2018 or 1 January 2019. This will be a huge event and hopefully CNN and every one of those news networks go to cover it if and when it happen as Naruhito become Emperor. Sure the last time this happened was almost 30 years ago and I was not as interested in Japan back then.

The Handmaid’s Tale

With all the hype around Atwood’s novel I decided to read it again. Now I “read” it for school back in over a decade ago, so it was a rushed job and I skipped around in the second half of the book reading the important chapters that we were discussing in class and whatnot. We analyzed that book up and down so my first go around wasn’t that enjoyable. So with the Trump Presidency, this has become one of the turn to dystopian books that has gotten a remarkable boost in readership. There is also the Hulu series which is going to have a second season. Now the book and television show are two completely different things, this is about the book.

The book which it all was inspired by is a decent read and if you haven’t had the chance to read it or were forced to read it in school perhaps now is the time to re-read it and give it a second look. The book is the recollections of a Handmaid- Offred living in a theocratic military dictatorship in the Republic of Gilead, although the book is set in and around Cambridge, Massachusetts. She is the Handmaid of The Commander, Fred and his wife Serena Joy. Offred is there to have children and that’s her role in the society. It is an interesting exploration of how people just go along like sheep, and not want to rock the boat. So when the Republic of Gilead was formed all women were fired from their jobs and all their assets were frozen and they were placed in one of four groups, Wives
(wore blue)/ and daughters (white), Marthas (green), Handmaids (red), and Econowives (all colors). Reading and writing for women was forbidden. These are extreme laws but it isn’t that far from some of the extreme laws that lawmakers already want. The book is a cautionary tale just like the film Idiocracy, so we need to care about women’s rights as well as work for the common good.

 

Catholic Epistles Part 2: Letters of Peter

Last week we looked at the first General or catholic letter from James. Now we turn to Peter who wrote two letters. Well these most likely were not written by Peter directly either by a secretary or more likely a disciple of Peter writing in his name after Peter died. The whole authorship debate is pretty crazy and don’t really want to get into it. The first letter was most likely written after the letters of Paul were a thing, the second letter might have been the last book written for the Bible as it references other letters as scripture and it uses the Letter of Jude. A rough dating of the letters are between 70-90 for the first while the second ranges between 80-130 or so.

As for the content of the letters they vary widely between the two. In the first letter it is addressed to the exiles of the dispersion, and pin points the location of the people to Asia Minor. The letter begins by talking up the Christian people as they are “God’s own people” it goes on to echo the words of the Lord from Exodus “Be holy because I am Holy” and the idea of girding the loins of your mind, now this is like getting your mind from the gutter.  The general idea is that the Christians are special people but Peter tells them to behave themselves amongst the gentiles (pagans). This simply is be both a good Christian and a good citizen. The topic changes and Peter talks about the harassment of the Christians by their pagan neighbors, sure but Peter reminds them that it is only through suffering that glory can come, and he was there at the death of Jesus. Sure more suffering could come but then the glory will be better. One interesting point in this letter is that it talks about Christ after he died proclaimed to spirits in prison, some early theologian see this are a reference to the descent into the dead/Hell where Jesus preached the Gospel to those in Limbo.

The second letter is addressed to “those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with our in the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.” It begins by saying that followers should “become partakers in the divine nature” and that there are things that can supplement our faith with virtues and virtues with knowledge and knowledge with self control and self control with steadfastness and steadfastness with godliness and godliness with brotherly affection and brotherly affection with love. It goes on to condemn false teachers and that the second coming isn’t going to be coming tomorrow for to the eyes of the Lord a thousand year are but a day. This waiting also is a time for repentance  therefore all Christians “Peter” suggests should look to scripture and his last letter. Christians need to live in holiness and gird the loins of ones mind.

It is interesting to read these early writings of the Church as see that some topics are still what we are struggling with. The whole be a good Christian but also be a good citizen is where many people face problems today as they are more concerned with being a good citizen no matter how it makes them look as a “Christian” just look at what’s been going on in Washington do we consider any one there is acting “Christianly” to one another the Democrats and Republican have been at each other for years slowly becoming more entrenched in their own ideologies and refusing anything else.

Next week we will be looking at the three letters of John as well as Jude’s letter.

Late Night Talk shows and Saturday Night Live news

First off with Trump being President Saturday Night Live is going through a mini Renaissance. As it is this current season is having it’s highest ratings in 22 years. All thanks to Trump there are even talks about reviving the half hour Weekend Update in the fall, that last aired back in the fall of 2008. This would give another time to lambast the President and his administration, since there aren’t enough late night shows doing this already. However, this goes Trump has been a blessing for everyone in Political comedy as it has been only the two or three weeks that he’s been President, but it seems like every day they do something stupid, Like the way Betsy DeVos became the Secretary of Education, by making donations to Republicans and having the Vice President cast the tie breaking vote for her confirmation.

Women’s March

One of the images from this past Saturday’s Women’s March across the nation and around the world that caught my eye was a group of ladies dressed like suffragettes with a sign reading “Same Shit Different Century”, sure a lot has changed in the world but women’s rights are still dragging behind those of men in the United States. Who would have thought that a century after Alice Paul and the other participants of the Woman suffrage parade of 1913 in Washington DC, that we wouldn’t have really gotten that far from what they were fighting for sure Women can vote and even be elected to public office but they haven’t gotten much since. Women are still earning less than a man for the same amount of work and any semblance of the Equal Right Act still hasn’t been passed and approved by the states. However, this seems unlikely to be passed right now with the Republican held Congress, and perhaps the ERA needs to be revived to include all those LGBTQ as well. Let us all work towards bringing this to a reality as we need to become more active citizens by participating in local elections and learning what candidates stand for rather than how much noise they can make.

This march brought up the musical Ragtime set in the early part of the 20th century and tells the stories of three groups of people the Upper-class Whites in New Rochelle, the African Americans in Harlem, and the Eastern European Immigrants.  It is a period piece for today, as all these groups still exist today in different forms The musical touches on race, disparities of class, police violence, immigration, equality and justice for women and minorities.  If you have some time take a listen to the musical or I’m sure you can find some high school production on Youtube. The stand out songs are the from two different points in the show one at the end of Act One “Till We Reach That Day” and the other just before the end of Act Two “Make Them Hear You”. In the Act One Finale we have an unjust murder by the police, which still is relevant today. The song before the Act Two finale “Make Them Hear You” is an anthem for Justice through non-violence.  We hear that “Your sword can be a sermon, or the power of the pen. Teach every child to raise his voice and then, my brothers, then will justice be demanded by ten million righteous men make them hear you.” This is our vehicle for change in the world, and hopefully tomorrow there will be more of us working for the cause where someday gender and race won’t matter when it comes to politics and life in general.

Inauguration Day

In the United States today is the peaceful turnover of power that has happened since 1797, when John Adams became president. This will be the 58th Inauguration and is bound to be similar to all the rest of them.  At about 11 am the festivities begin as the former Presidents (Carter, Clinton, Bush and Obama) will enter and take their places. There will be prayers and musical interludes and perhaps a poem. Around noon on January 20th the Vice President and President will both take the oath of office. The Vice President first will be swore in by Associate Justice Clarence Thomas followed by four ruffles and fluorishes and Hail Columbia, the Vice President’s song will be preformed by the Marine Band. The President comes next and will be swore in by the Chief Justice John Roberts followed by four ruffles and flourishes and Hail to the Chief with a 21-gun salute. This is typically followed by the Inaugural address. After the address Congress convenes for lunch and after lunch there is the Parade starting around 3pm or so. Then there are a couple of Inaugural balls in the evening. After the Oath of Office Trump will become the 45h President of the United States.

I hope that all Americans will give Trump at least a chance to be President before they judge him, He will be giving a major address where he will outline his agenda or something. Let’s just hope that it involves less tweeting.

Presidential Farewell Addresses

One of the unique aspect of the American system is the Farewell Address, it began with George Washington in 1789, when he “taught us how to say goodbye”, with the help of Alexander Hamilton it became a iconic speech where he looked back over his presidency and offered some advice for the future of the nation. Washington himself warns of the dangers of sectionalism and factionalism, the divisions based on party politics that even then were growing more and more bitter within the new nation’s government and among its people. It ends with a brilliant section which made it’s way into Hamilton:

“Though, in reviewing the incidents of my administration, I am unconscious of intentional error, I am nevertheless too sensible of my defects not to think it probable that I may have committed many errors. Whatever they may be, I fervently beseech the Almighty to avert or mitigate the evils to which they may tend. I shall also carry with me the hope that my country will never cease to view them with indulgence; and that, after forty five years of my life dedicated to its service with an upright zeal, the faults of incompetent abilities will be consigned to oblivion, as myself must soon be to the mansions of rest. Relying on its kindness in this as in other things, and actuated by that fervent love towards it, which is so natural to a man who views in it the native soil of himself and his progenitors for several generations, I anticipate with pleasing expectation that retreat in which I promise myself to realize, without alloy, the sweet enjoyment of partaking, in the midst of my fellow-citizens, the benign influence of good laws under a free government, the ever-favorite object of my heart, and the happy reward, as I trust, of our mutual cares, labors, and dangers.”

Washington was such an enormous figure that it wasn’t until Andrew Jackson that a President made an official Farewell Address. Jackson himself also warns of the dangers of sectionalism and the shadowy nature of the banking institutions, as they threaten the liberty of the regular citizen. Jackson also brought forth the idea that “eternal vigilance by the people is the price of liberty.” The next big Farewell address came with Truman, the invention of radio and television had made the President closer to the populace as speeches could be broadcast throughout the nation. Turman’s address includes a great line with is important in these days. “Regardless of your politics, whether you are Republican or Democrat, your fate is tied up with what is done here in this room. The President is President of the whole country. We must give him our support as citizens of the United States. He will have mine, and I want you to give him yours.”

Then we come to Ike’s farewell Address which has seemed to be the direction that the nation has headed. In Eisenhower’s speech he warned about deficit spending, the potential for corruption in the Military Industrial Complex and that science would be relegated to the scientific elites and federal funded. This is one of the big farewell addresses in the 20th century. Bill Clinton in his farewell address urged that the nation treat its diverse population with “fairness and dignity, regardless of their race, religion, gender or sexual orientation and regardless of when they arrived in our country, always moving toward the more perfect union of our founders’ dreams.” George W. Bush in his echoed some of the sentiments of Truman saying that “You may not agree with some of the tough decisions I have made. But I hope you can agree that I was willing to make the tough decisions.” They had to make tough decisions and did what they thought was best for the nation.

Obama’s farewell comes at a unique time and his emphasis was on the average citizen, We are the people that make up this democracy in America. If we are tired of the partisan divide that seems entrenched we should not retreat into our safe communities of like minded people but go out and try as Atticus Finch says “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” This is for all of us the middle class white guy should try to understand where minority groups are coming from and they in turn should do the same.  So many of us only care about the our (party) but need to focus on the We. Obama touched upon this idea in his speech in Selma, “America is not the project of any one person. Because the single most powerful word in our democracy is the word ‘We.’ ‘We The People.’ ‘We Shall Overcome.’ ‘Yes, We Can.’”

Politics: Trump’s Cabinet nominees

Sure it’s a topic that no one is a huge fan of but I would like to make a point sure Donald Trump has been naming Billionaire after Billionaire to his Cabinet, but none of these positions have been approved yet and as of today the Electoral College hasn’t even voted yet to determine if Trump is going to be the President. Although it seems unlikely that Trump doesn’t win there is a very slim possibility that it could happen. Even if the Electoral College does by chance some how not certify the Trump Presidency it would go to congress for debate where the Republican hold the advantage in both houses so it seems like Trump Pence are here to stay. However this doesn’t mean that Trump Cabinet would be approved since some of these name are pretty bad. I mean Ben Carson himself said that he was a poor choice to be a Secretary of whatever as he’s never run a federal agency. What ever comes of it there will be a bunch of white males and at least a couple of women like Linda McMahon and Nikki Haley in his Cabinet.  Hopefully this will only be a single term in office and we can have some reasonable debate/ civil discourse in the upcoming years that is my biggest hope for the future