Thursday, November 27, 2014

This Thanksgiving is Different, like all the Others

It's the 'day of,' so not much time to write, although turkey is in the oven covectioning slowly at 300 degrees, with bacon strips on top and legs, homemade stuffing inside with large with-peel orange slices near the opening, and tied with turkey string around the legs. Turner Classic Movies is playing the 1949 version, my favorite, of "Little Women," irreplaceable (though I thought the 1994 movie version was excellent.) Jo still pursues her writing and learns more about not copying what is in vogue at the time.

Our family is spread out today, with three of us at home in MD, at least seven in NC, a grandson and cousins in TN, two families together in CT-one from MA, one family in FL, and relatives in AR. I bet a lot of families have the same story today, including those having 'Thanksgiving Alone' for the first time. Older brother's sons and extended family in NC, one recently married, and I wonder where the newlyweds are this Thanksgiving, when you decide to be on your own or find you may have to choose between one family or the other this year.

I remember being a 22-year-old newly-wed in Syracuse, NY, unable to go home at Thanksgiving to visit family in NC or my husband's clan in TN. We went to Rochester, NY, thankfully, at the invitation of a college friend whose graduate school mentor/professor and his wife included us with other young people far from home.

The week before, my dad had sent to me an envelope-clad postcard where he had typed the entire poem he always recited at Thanksgiving:

"Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day," said Mary to Little Sue. "There're cookies to make 
and pies to bake and ever so much to do...."

Have you heard that one? His sending it to me, typed by himself, helped me somehow "hear" his voice saying it, as he had done spontaneously every year that I could remember.

Our non-American friends around the world are at work this day, as usual, or sending kids off to school, going shopping, likely unaware of American Thanksgiving today, until one of us emails.

Back to "Little Women": now Jo March/June Allyson is learning that Beth/Margaret O'Brien is not well. Jo has moved to New York, the center of book publishing. Her sister Amy is giving Jo a hug before Amy heads off for Europe with their wealthy aunt. Jo and Professor Baer, also a boarder at their fancy rooming house in NY, have been to an opera together, and as her first such artistic exposure, the opera transfixed Jo's attention. A few days later and after Amy's visit, the professor answers Jo's questions about her latest fictional story, unaware of her low point, and he tells her that her story has disappointed him, for it is full of artificiality and overly-contrived characters.

Jo begins to cry because "everything happens at once," and Laurie, her male friend and neighbor, did not visit her in NY when he was there recently. Also, she really wishes she could go to Europe, too, for that had previously been the plan. And now, the professor's comments. He apologizes for his ill-expressed critique of her writing and she says, "If I can't stand the truth, I'm not worth anything." Nevertheless, he tells her he could have spoken more gently, and he believes she has talent and encourages her to write genuine things from her heart.

I remember with a smile the time my grown-up daughters took me to see a newer version of "Little Women," putting me in the middle and calling me "Marmie" in whispers now and then. We smiled, laughed, and cried, and then grinned at the happy ending. Together. And we laughed later, remembering when they were very young and the dressed our overactive Cockerpoo dog "Rascal" in a calico head scarf and told him to lie down, which he amazingly did, on the sofa, playing Beth to their "little girls"  re-enactments of part of their "Little Women" scene in our family room. 

I wish to each reader a wonderful Thanksgiving and maybe if you are alone you can find a really good movie that uplifts and holds your attention no matter how old it or you may be.

Oh, the family March is together again, after Amy and Laurie return from their honeymoon, and it looks like Thanksgiving to me! But, look, there's more. A lone figure walks in the rain and asks forThey "Miss March, Miss Josephine March." He hears Jo calling Laurie's name and turns away. Sadness. Lost opportunity. He assumes that Jo has finally found happiness with "her Laurie."

But wait! Jo opens a gift handed to her by Laurie. It is her manuscript in published book form! She dashes out of the house and into the pouring rain, calling, "Professor Baer! Professor Baer!" He stops and she reaches where he stands, waiting. From under the large black umbrella he tells her that her book has much "simple beauty."

Now, as the movie closes, they return together to the March house, after she assured the professor that she accepts his "empty hands" (which he called them, due to his lack of wealth to offer) and rainbow arcs  in the darkened, moonlit sky above the March house.

And I, too, must close. I have potatoes and green beans and other goodies awaiting the process of being put together in their dishes. They will come together with visions of rainbow in my head.

All the best to you, wherever you are, alone or with many! I hope you make it a simply beautiful day,  even if you think that you have "empty hands" like the professor's actually being-filled ones, even if this Thanksgiving is different, like all the others.

Friday, November 21, 2014

"Let Your Heart Be Your Guide"? - Thoughts on an Impassioned Immigration Speech

What is among the best of America is our compassion that applies to strangers in need. However, we are at our worst when we let emotion trump what is right. To justify emotionally-charged actions, the heart can get embroiled in anger or revenge. That can lead to murder, as police records show increasingly.  Or,  the heart can get caught up in fear or hate and make other very bad decisions.

In listening to President Obama tonight on the topic of immigration reforms I heard his moving examples of compassion and, to a point, of reason. However, what stopped me from buying into the stand he would like me to accept is that the good plans--and I agree, in principle so far, with what he proposed--are not backed by good-enough strategy or reason. The strategy to go around the law does not convince me, because I've learned that presidential actions such as the one taken tonight must be attached to existing law as an extension of it. What the president proposed falls short of that standard.

The heart can get caught up in humanitarian love and lead to breaking immigration law, as this personal story shows: 

I once investigated sponsoring someone from another country from a poor background. She wanted to come to the U.S. to study. I had this idea that she could live with our family, perhaps have a part time job, and pursue what she had told me was her main goal, to become a pharmacist and return to her home country.

My feelings got caught up in how such a move to the U.S. might change her life for the better, for she was struggling. But I had to stop there and explain why she could not do that, when I learned that she could not legally study and work on any visa. She would have to come claiming to do one or the other for a limited time. Even with a guaranteed place to live and a job, helping in our home or outside, immigration law for a visa would not allow her to come if she also took college courses. To do so would be to break the law.

We might have been able to go around the law. It happens all the time. But we knew we had to honor and obey the law as unhelpful as it was, for what we wanted to do for the young woman. That was that. I think our president should do no less and not try an end run, as I was for some seconds tempted to try in this young woman's case.

Apparently, the president could have raised or lifted one or more caps on immigration numbers in special categories, such as certain skills. Why, I wonder, did he not do that and bring in more legally sponsored immigrants right away?

I think that the president's focus is his deal with illegal workers in the U. S. Yet, he introduced the wrong approach, in my view, by ignoring more rounds of congressional talks. Surely no president lacks confidence in the proven skills of influence,the making of convincing arguments. That's why I am not pleased that the president chose an easier way, to "create" new terms unattached to any law, and to do it by fiat, the stroke of that famous yet limited pen of the Office of the President. 

Every president should solemnly and with awe do what he or she swears solemnly to do, to uphold the laws of the land, to be faithful to them, including those that irritate or may take decades to change. Every legal fight for solemn opportunities has been costly in frustration as well as work. Every important thing must be tested, put through the fires, so to speak. But when they do pass the tests, how sweet and lasting is the victory. It is worth waiting for if it is good. Not easy, but worth it.

We definitely need immigration reform now, is my view. I hope members of congress will not get caught up in chasing the president because they do not agree with him, his actions, or his proposals. I hope they will pay attention to the need for reform now. I hope they will forgive when threats or something else uncomfortable leads them into finally doing something. I hope they will let the law, above their emotions and desire to help, be their main guide as they work it out. The way it is done must be as defensible as the end goal that is achieved. That's my take on it.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Are You Getting the Facts or the Truth?

'What's the difference between fact and truth?' I wondered, about a lawyer's advice to his clients:
Always think 'tell the truth' rather than 'tell the facts' when appearing in court.

I puzzled over the words and later realized: I can know only some of the facts to relate to a person, a situation, or a report. But I always know the whole truth of my conscious thoughts or feelings, or how I experienced something, how it affected me. Truth has no 'spin' on it, and first I must know it for myself. True things are first-hand, up close, and personal. Truth encompasses fact, whereas fact cannot encompass truth.

Telling the truth is tricky for some. Lies have been their modus operandi for so long that they often seem true to the teller. There are also mountains of gossip along with weird news claims going around in print, on video, audio, and yodiyo, and it is very hard, nay, impossible to know all or even some of the facts or the truth. Sometimes claims of 'fact' are clever inventions. The truth, well, that can be hidden for a while, too. Who wants to believe what is shown, written, or said--without thinking, questioning, and testing, or without considering the source? I think of the professional magician's tricks, seeming so real to the untrained eye.
This is a little window on how I think of these things. Maybe it connects for you. It is as true for me as home and love.

Ever wonder if you getting the facts or the truth these days? How can anyone tell the difference? 'Am I  using my brain to test much of the chatter of news, business, and the offers and requests that come my way?,' I wonder. I know I don't know the public people announcing 'facts, news, information, or opportunity.'  

Those are some of my thoughts these days. And, by the way, we've noticed how winter's arrived and spills  snow over many parts of the country. That's a fact. Soon the southern flights of birds will be heard over the houses, most likely, as our winged friends squawk to each other. We are layering up here. I hope you're staying warm if it's colder in your part of this world.  

Thursday, November 06, 2014

The Privilege to Vote!

This past Tuesday, November 4, was another big voting day in the United States. I did not vote for members of the county school board, because I did not find enough information with which to make my decisions. On other offices, I cast my votes. I voted for two Democrats and the rest are Republicans. I tried to vote on the basis of record and ability, as far as I could discern by reading and listening. 

Voting is a terrific privilege. American women have been voting since my grandmothers' days, so I have no quarrel about women's right to vote. African American men have been voting for generations, undergoing resistance in certain states, a wrong that was righted by the 1965 Voting Rights Act in the U.S.. These days, I hear no objection to the fact that all registered voters that are American citizens aged 21 and older have the right to vote that is protected by law. I am not against voter ID, since we need IDs for almost everything important in this age.

Many countries now have voting as a new institution and one very much valued. Some have risked their lives around the world to go to voting polls, to be identified as someone casting votes, and to hope for better days. I admire them immensely.

An "I voted" sticker was given to me after I voted in my neighborhood, and I wore mine all day, noticing that other voters wore theirs too. Camaraderie went all around, regardless of political parties. I enjoyed a couple of conversations outside the voting area, and one man influenced one of my votes for Orphan's Court judge.  He made a convincing argument for a Democratic candidate seeking a return to that seat.

I always think especially of my parents on voting days. They set a good example for me when I was growing up. This is what I noticed: (1) they voted in every local, state, and federal election, (2) they never "bashed" anyone running for office of any party, although they did occasionally mention their preferences, and (3) they were happy to express their preferences through their votes. I get that same refreshed feeling after I vote.

 I am grateful for the British Magna Carta, which began the development of constitutional law and voting rights in their historic infancy. That document made a vitally important beginning  almost 900 years ago (1215 AD/CE)!

The residents of a local retirement center put up with all of us who are assigned their building as our voting place, second floor, right turn. In return, I detect that many voters try to be respectful of the residents' space. I enjoy seeing some of the wise elders reading in an open sitting area or leaving the building with friends or family. After voting, I hope! Smile.