Finally a milestone

Hello, everyone,

Well, it hasn’t been very long since the previous post to this list, but there’s a milestone worth sharing — a walk completely around Lake Chabot in Castro Valley (9.5 miles or 15.5. kilometers). It’s a fairly easy walk, though there are a few hills.  And those familiar with the route will detect from the pictures which direction I took. And don’t forget – clicking on a picture brings up a larger version which contains the details for which the picture was taken in the first place.

But it’s not the walk itself that’s so important, but the fact that, for the first time in well over a decade, it was not accompanied by stabbing foot pains in the middle of my left foot after the first few miles. Indeed, even last year when, a few times, I walked 3 miles with an old student,  that was pretty much the limit before the pains started.

The current milestone emerged from almost a year of physical therapy and traditional Chinese medicine aimed at untwisting my right hip and getting the femur back into it at the correct angle, thereby allowing both feet to hit the ground at the correct angle.  Not only was the walk pain free (except for the blister that I got), my stride was quicker, too, since the bones were finally close to the proper position. And walking downhill went quicker, too, since the bone position didn’t force my body to the side with each step.

This is a big deal. And I’m especially glad that I didn’t heed the podiatrist’s advice ten years ago to escape the pain by killing the nerve, even though it took ten years to discover the proper cause.

In fact, I waited until today to send this out because yesterday I circled the lake in the opposite direction, wearing different shoes, just to make sure the first time wasn’t just a fluke. A blister started on the opposite foot! But otherwise there was very little stabbing pain. I’m not out of the woods yet, and there are other problems to work on next, but it’s tremendously encouraging that some progress has been made in something. Thanks to all those who have been remembering me at this time.

While walking, I had time to think and remember. When I lived in Tianjin, one of our teaching colleagues was a European who cared a lot about air pollution.  He commonly wore a mask with a long nose that resembled vintage gas masks from World War I. In fact, many people habitually donned face masks while outdoors.

Since then, China has made notable progress in mitigating this blight, but back then, pea-soup smog loomed over everything, as seen in this night-time picture from those days which interrupts Lake Chabot gallery.

This European’s teaching status was higher than many of us, so he once finagled an interview with the mayor of Tianjin himself to discuss the problem.  The interview was short. The mayor graciously welcomed him, and assured him that pollution was not a problem. Neither he nor anybody else need worry about it.  Apparently the mayor hadn’t the nose or eyes to perceive what was obvious to the rest of the populace.

I recently heard that this mayor presently sits in jail, presumably for corruption, perhaps in connection with the 2015 port explosions? Perhaps someone in China knows more about this than I do and can provide correction?  Well, if it’s true, then that’s some small comfort, I suppose. But I’ve often  thought to myself, how could somebody lie so brazenly about something so obvious to all? Nobody in my own country would be so shamelessly dishonest. How naive I was.

My hiking thoughts summoned up this Tianjin mayor because not only does the present American head of state surpass him in lying, he lies more prolifically and glibly than anybody I’ve ever known personally, or even heard about. (Not only that, he still hasn’t reunited all the children separated from their parents at the southern border which I’ve previously written about).

Yet, in some ways, the  appearance of such cruelty is refreshing, because the pretense is gone.  He truly embodies the direction that the Republican party has been taking for quite some time. It’s not the same organization as it was when I was boy. While I was in China, my Chinese colleagues sometimes asked what was wrong with it. I usually replied that a sickness had slowly settled into it. Well, now it’s on brilliant display.

Again, it’s not always been that way. The transformation got going with the Lewis Powell Memo. Next came key figures like like  Grover Norquist, or Lee Atwater or Frank Luntz.  These people are not evil (well, except maybe for Atwater), and they don’t hide in corners.   Neither do organizations like ALEC. These should be front and center in any discussion about it, yet they’re often neglected.

With time, Republicans have been forced to increasingly depend upon lies, even more than most politicians. It’s easy to see why, as most citizens don’t support their actual positions. So it’s almost comical that the same people who tried more than fifty times (and almost succeeded last year) to eliminate health insurance protections for those who’ve already been seriously ill, now claim to support such protections even while they’re currently suing the government to eliminate them.  That’s Chutzpah.

But those issues aren’t the leadership’s principle concern. Rather, the current Republican leadership (though not all members) has long worked to elevate artificial persons (such as international corporations) above natural persons (such as actual human beings). Anything more is just smoke and mirrors.

Most Americans don’t support these positions, so if you’re qualified to take part in next month’s vote, please do so. In years to come, you don’t want to be that someone who neglected this duty. Not this time. On my dining room table, where I can’t ignore it, sits my mail-in ballot for next month’s election (California makes voting easy), which will get posted during the next couple days

I really do feel that this is one of the most important elections of our lifetime. Meantime, it’s strange to sometimes hear more traditional Republicans such as this guy or this guy or this guy advocating that people vote for the other side, not because they agree with it, but because it may force the Republicans to rehabilitate themselves.

So how come Republicans keep winning elections, even though most people don’t agree with them? It’s not simply through misrepresenting their positions but also through  massive and sophisticated voter suppression, once they hold the reins of power.

Take, for example, Dodge City. Long after the days of Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson, most of the city consists of working class Spanish speakers who usually vote for the other party. So they moved the only voting place outside the city, a mile beyond the reach of public transportation, yet still mailed out cards that directed people to the old voting location that would no longer be used.

In South Dakota, they realized that Indians usually support the other party, so they required all voters to have an identification card with a street address, knowing that most Indians live where the streets don’t have addresses. You have to admit, they really can be clever.  There are many such examples.

Our situation in California is instructive. Once in power here, a few decades ago, they instituted a system of voter suppression called Gerrymandering. (to be fair, they aren’t the only ones who have done this).  Under their entrenched power, though, not much got done, and in fact, they threw the state billions of dollars into debt, something which I had never before thought was even legal.

Well, about ten years ago, the voters passed a law that eliminated Gerrymandering, no matter who might try it.  Without the suppression, the Republicans were almost thoroughly ejected.  California’s debts were paid (we now have a surplus) and California went from being the world’s tenth largest economy to the fifth. Even the roads are finally getting repaired.

Anyway, please everybody vote, so we can finally put in some checks on this disaster. My most immediate concern, obviously, is to maintain my access to health care, since just last week, the Republican leader in the Senate stated that he wants to cut medical care and retirements in order to pay for last December’s giveaway to the rich.

But overriding my own concerns is the preservation of our country’s traditional multicultural nature.  Believe me, people from California, Georgia, New England and  Wisconsin live in different cultures.  And that’s a strength. Furthermore, this country has large numbers of people from just about every other location on earth, something that most countries simply don’t deal with, at least not in large numbers.

I’m reminded of China, with its 56 ethnic minorities who all together make up only 7 or 8 percent of the population. I sometimes wonder what would happen if over half the citizens suddenly weren’t even Asian.

Something similar happened in California a while back.  The group of cultures called “white” was not comfortable that it would soon be just one minority among many. They passed laws to restrict bilingual education, among other things.  Now that it’s all over, life goes on.  Bilingual education returned.

Now, the Country as a whole is now about to enter that phase.  But instead of helping people to see that they’re not actually threatened by their neighbors, our chief of state stokes ethnic divisions for his own petty political gains. Divide and conquer, and above all, make his supporters feel like victims.  As I’ve long maintained, a leader who can make his followers feel like victims can lead them almost anywhere.  At least, by calling himself a “nationalist,” he’s clarified his game.

Interestingly, comedian Trevor Noah, has discovered the same point about victimhood that I have.

Meanwhile, the constant hatred, mocking, division, and violent sentiments coming from the chief executive is working its natural effect on some mentally unstable individuals, inspiring them to bomb and murder.  For all this, my hope and expectation is that we will get through this, though like an escape through fire, as St. Paul put it.  The chief executive will eventually join those whose names became nouns to conceptualize particular instructive elements– people like McCarthy, Quisling, Benedict Arnold, and, yes, Gerry.

Well, I’d meant to write no more than a thousand words, but after observing these events developing over the past thirty years, it’s hard to stop at a thousand, as there’s a lot more to be said. But by offering such an abbreviation, my points are not thoroughly proven.  Maybe it would have been better not to write at all.

But indeed, the discernment of truth, which becomes increasingly difficult in this age of the “the big lie,” is more essential than ever.  I can’t change anybody’s mind by what I’ve written, if indeed anybody would even read this far.  It’s just that I love this country.  <sigh>

But if anybody did read to here, I would like to recommend another musical selection, from the Tiny Desk concerts. It’s jazz singer Cécile McLorin Salvant, though, to tell the truth, it’s the pianist in this performance, Sullivan Fortner, who really caught my attention. How thrilling that jazz music continues to develop in this twenty-first century! Hopefully the link will work even in China.

And if anybody ever makes it here, there are lots of boats that we can rent at Lake Chabot.

Don’t forget to vote!