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2016 Election, Air Pollution, & My Mental Health

My Rosy Outlook is being disrupted by the 2016 Election.

women over 50

stockimages/freedigitalphotos.net

Breathe, Peggy, just breathe…

I’m having a grouchy day today. To be more accurate, I should add that I’ve also had a grouchy week. And probably 15 months of grouchiness. How long can this damn 2016 Election last?

I have no personal reason to be grouchy. My life right now (and I emphasize right now because experience tells me that it could change tomorrow) is pretty great.

I live in a nice-enough apartment with a comfortable bed, food, water, and heat & cooling. I am well-clothed. I have good health; my cholesterol and glucose are well within the normal limits. My grandchildren live within easy visiting distance.

I am pursuing one of my life’s idealistic dreams of serving in Americorps/VISTA. I work with people I like and respect and I am proud to be a part of that enterprise that serves my country.

I exercise daily and take my anti-depressants and vitamins religiously. I meditate and pray and count my blessings. I laugh and smile A LOT. I tell jokes. I hug people…even the 20 second hug that is supposed to be life-changing and affirming.

And yet…I can’t shake this underlying vague anger and anxiety that’s bothered me now for a week or longer.

The only thing I can blame this grouchy demeanor on is this: election fatigue.

The 2016 Election has gone on way too long.

I know we’re all tired of hearing about this election and  all the ugliness that is hurled outwardly through the media by sparring campaigners.

  • The accusing rhetoric
  • The threats
  • The Rebel flags
  • The white hoods
  • The racism
  • The out and out lies
  • FBI, Russia, email hacks

I am having trouble breathing with all this BS floating around in the air.

All of it is toxic air pollution, as deadly as any smog, smoke, exhaust fumes, or burning coal could ever be. It makes it hard for me to breathe and I seriously need to breathe…in with the good…out with the bad. In with the happy…out with the grouchy.

It feels too late to ask people to talk about the issues. I’m pretty sure that all the real issues of this campaign have been forsaken to make the point that America is not great, that America is in the shitter, that America…Land That I Love…is doomed. Doomed, I say.

I am disappointed that all these ugly accusations have clouded the real issues of this campaign. I am incredibly disappointed that we have sunk so low that we resort to fear-mongering and name-calling. And I am immeasurably disappointed that so many people seem to have such little grasp of history.

I am so tired. I can’t wait until November 9…I plan to sleep late and I pray the pollution will have cleared when I awake.

I need to breathe again. And I’d really like to lose the grouchy attitude and anger and anxiety.

 

Trump’s American Vision vs. Peggy’s American Vision

Trump’s American Vision Sucks

by Peggy Browning

Trump's American Vision

Trump’s American Vision: Scorched Earth and Fear

Trump’s American Vision leaves me cold. And kind of pissed off.

Of course, everyone who knows me knows that I would never vote for Trump for a seat on the local school board or city council much less for President of the United States of America. Trump’s American Vision is in direct opposition of my own American Vision.

I get it…I know he was the star of a “reality” TV show. He also seems to be a legend in his own mind. He seems unhinged and out of touch with the real world. He is projecting his version of horror-filled scenarios on to the rest of us.

Trump’s American Vision is made of fear. It is based on exclusion, xenophobia, homophobia, economic disaster, racial unrest, terrorism, war, trade inequalities, and dwindling power of the white American male. Have I left out anything that he thinks we should be afraid of?

He’s trying to scare and manipulate the rest of us so we will see America through his fearful crazy-goggles.

I’m not afraid. I never have been. I don’t think I ever will be.

I don’t rely on National Enquirer for my information. And I have no respect for the opinion of someone who does. I have no respect for conspiracy theories and rumors. I don’t base my opinions on what someone else spouts off. I like to investigate and learn the truth on my own. I like to see for myself just what is happening.

Trump’s American Vision is to “make America great again.”

Donnie and I obviously don’t live in the same America. I like mine best. I think Trump should get out more…you know…see the real America.

My vision is that America is already great and that it will continue to be great if we do not give in to fear of change. America is in a period of change and growth right now. I believe we will come out of this period stronger and better than ever before.

My vision is based upon experience and knowledge from the past.  My confidence is based upon what I have observed this spring and summer.

Blue Skies

My American Vision: Blue Skies, Verdant Fields, and Confidence.

 

I’ve been watching the Oklahoma legislature during the second session of 2015-2016. The Oklahoma state budget was in a shambles (and still is). Deep cuts were made to essential services that improve the lives of Oklahoma citizens. Education, state parks, human services, medical care, disability payments…all these vital services were cut to the bone. The shortfall in money was not due to the falling oil prices or to lack of stewardship by the various agencies. It was due to the short-sighted partisanship of the governing body.

So what happened? Exactly what you would expect would happen in an America that is great. People said…No, this is not right and we will change this. Record numbers of new candidates filed for offices in the Oklahoma State House of Representatives and Senate. They spoke up about the unfair distribution of ad valorem taxes for school districts. They went to the State Capitol and talked to their congressmen and they successfully passed bills that had been on the books for years…like autism insurance reform. They stopped bills that discriminated against the LGBT community.

No riots or other hub-bub occurred. But change is coming to Oklahoma and it’s coming through the use of our consciences and our votes. That’s exactly how it’s supposed to be done.

America is already great.

This summer I worked as an Americorps/VISTA volunteer for the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma. I had the privilege to travel all over western Oklahoma monitoring summer feeding programs for children ages infant – 18 years old.

And you know what I saw as I traveled from small town to small town? I saw dedicated, caring people who were concerned and DOING SOMETHING for their communities. They weren’t merely feeding children. They were feeding their spirits as well.

I saw people working together to make sure their children were provided for and that their futures were secure. I saw kindness and generosity everywhere I went.

I saw that the system…and the people…are working and keeping America great.

And yes, I saw blue spacious skies and golden fields of wheat. I saw the red Gloss Mountains and the Little Sahara sand dunes.  But mostly I saw that America is great…that America is working…that America is beautiful.

I believe that my American Vision…in direct contrast to Trump’s American Vision… is the correct one. I believe that our home of the free and the brave is still great and we have nothing to fear.

(Unless, of course, Trump is elected without my vote. If that happens, I will be afraid, very very afraid.)

 

Appreciate What Our Tax Money Buys

What our Tax Money buys

by Peggy Browning

our tax money

Federal Courthouses. That’s just one of the things our tax money is used to support.

What Our Tax Money Buys…it buys some pretty great stuff, you know.

Lots of people (possibly every single one of us) complain and moan about having to pay taxes. We wonder what our tax money buys. And how the government uses our tax money. And why we have to shell out our tax money each year.

Here’s what our tax money buys:

  • A free and appropriate public education. If you think education is expensive, try ignorance
  • Funding for colleges. Yes, in addition to tuition, colleges get funding from state and federal governments.
  • Roads. How would you like to see the USA in your Chevrolet without interstate highways?
  • Power infrastructure. Ever hear of the Tennessee Valley Authority?
  • FEMA. Yes, I know FEMA is highly criticized. But if we have a F5 tornado that wipes out our city or a big ol’ hurricane that floods the whole coast…who do we call? FEMA, of course.
  • Hospitals. Ask the people of Bowie, Texas if they would like to pay an extra tax if $120 per year to support their hospital now that their hospital is closed.
  • Police departments. Fire departments. Ambulance services. Again…who you gonna call? When my house caught on fire in 1992, I called the fire department. I didn’t rely on the guy across the street and his water hose.  When I had a car wreck in 1989, I didn’t walk to the hospital. I rode two miles in an ambulance.
  • Businesses. You know that new company that just moved into town and is going to provide 100 new jobs for the population? They got a tax incentive to do that.
  • Sewers and  clean water. If you like water to run from your tap into your sink and your toilet water to run into underground pipes that take the dirty water to a water treatment plant instead of having standing doo-doo water in your backyard, you can thank your city sewer and water department that are paid for by your taxes.

There are so many more services that I haven’t mentioned here because, guess what? I take all these wonderful conveniences of modern life for granted.

our tax money

Libraries! How could I forget libraries! One of the great things our taxes support.

I like all these things, don’t you?  I can’t … and neither can you…provide all these wonder things for myself.

We are all in this together. Our taxes make our communal lives livable. When I get my proverbial ox in a ditch, I expect one of our government and tax provided services to pull it out for me. Plus I like to take long walks on the nice walkway at the tax-created public park. And I know you do too. Especially when you get your ox in a ditch.

We have until Monday to pay federal income taxes! Let’s do this!

No bitchin’ allowed.

Let’s see what our tax money buys this year.

 

 

 

Trump, Manipulation, and Situationism

Trump, Manipulation, and Situationism*.

by Peggy Browning

I find it hard to believe that I'm seeing live experiments on human behavior when I watch the news. stockimages/freedigitalphotos.net

I find it hard to believe that I’m seeing live experiments on human behavior when I watch the news.
stockimages/freedigitalphotos.net

Trump, manipulation, and situationism. Months ago I swore I would not watch anything associated with Donald Trump again. I would eschew all cable news and watch only PBS news with Judy Woodruff and Gwen Ifill. I would hear all the other things that were happening in the world besides an over-grown bully polluting the air with his 4th grade level taunts.
But…Friday evening I was at my news-watching, MSNBC loving friend’s house and she was watching the 6:00 p.m. edition of all things Trump. We ate pizza and watched as Chris Matthews narrated the debacle at the University of Illinois in Chicago.
My friend saw a “riot” created by D. Trump. I saw the beginning of the consequences of a long experiment in social psychology that could have been conducted by Stanley Milgram or Philip Zimbardo.
Trump could easily be using the transcripts from Milgram’s or Zimbardo’s experiments. He is using the techniques administered during their experiments.
I hope all the people who were used as guineas pigs in Trump’s mass manipulation of human response were properly debriefed after the big experiment was conducted on them. Milgram’s and Zimbardo’s participants were de-briefed, and even then they suffered some lingering effects from professionally monitored experiments.
Trump probably never intended to have a rally in Chicago. He was merely performing another experiment in how to make a Good American. He had lots of willing subjects. He used them stage his own little private coup d’etat.

Manipulation and Situationism*

Here’s how the manipulation works:

Make people afraid.
• the world is a terrible place,
• there has never been unemployment this high
• we are assaulted by terrorists on every side.

Make other people scapegoats. Belittle and demonize everyone and everything not attached to you.
• the Latinos are taking our jobs,
• the blacks are lazy,
• the Muslims hate us and will kill us,
• the gay people will kill marriage as we know it,
• the women will expect equal pay.
Create cognitive dissonance.
• I am a good person.
• I fear Latinos, blacks, Muslims, gays, and women.
• Therefore there must be something wrong with them or else I would not fear them.
• I’m OK; they’re NOT OK.
Put value on allegiance to the proposed program or person. Research shows that anything we give up something for, we place a higher value on.
• Call people, programs, political parties winners and losers.
• Claim to be a winner.
• Cultivate a culture where only the people who agree with you are winners.
• Issue more tickets to a rally than the venue holds; make people wait hours to get in; have them pledge support to the candidate to get in.
• When someone actually gets in to a rally, that makes them one of the “lucky ones, a winner”.

Put people in a situation where they gave up something to be there.
• Maybe they waited in line for hours, scored a seat in the over-crowded auditorium, traveled a long distance to attend.
• Pretend to have a problem in the highly controlled environment.
• Allow some people from the scapegoat category to come in.
• Create an atmosphere of “situationism.”

Make yourself appear even more valuable and wise so followers identify with you and

Dump Trump and Cable News

Image: ikpro/freedigitalphotos.net

build allegiance to you.
• Cancel the rally due to concerns of safety. Lie about your contact with city officials.
• Say “go in peace.”
• Accuse the demonstrators you allowed in of being paid agitators.
• Encourage people who want to be “winners” to go ahead and beat the shit out of anyone they think are “losers.”
• Say “I don’t know what happened. I like people. These people must be bad and they have something against me. I don’t know why they don’t like me, I am just a successful billionaire trying to make America great again.”
Apply technique and repeat.

Each time, more good people follow blindly along, believing they are right and others are wrong, denying their wrong-doing and wrong-thinking, and proving they are “winners.”
That’s how good Germans, good soldiers at Abu Ghraib, good Isis suicide bombers and “good Americans” are made.

*Situationism: Though the term didn’t exist at the time, Milgram was a proponent of what today’s social psychologists call situationism: the idea that people’s behavior is determined largely by what’s happening around them. “They’re not psychopaths, and they’re not hostile, and they’re not aggressive or deranged. They’re just people, like you and me,” Miller said. “If you put us in certain situations, we’re more likely to be racist or sexist, or we may lie, or we may cheat. There are studies that show this, thousands and thousands of studies that document the many unsavory aspects of most people.”
But continued to its logical extreme, situationism “has an exonerating effect,” he said. “In the minds of a lot of people, it tends to excuse the bad behavior … it’s not the person’s fault for doing the bad thing, it’s the situation they were put in.” Milgram’s studies were famous because their implications were also devastating: If the Nazis were just following orders, then he had proved that anyone at all could be a Nazi. If the guards at Abu Ghraib were just following orders, then anyone was capable of torture.
The latter, Reicher said, is part of why interest in Milgram’s work has seen a resurgence in recent years. “If you look at acts of human atrocity, they’ve hardly diminished over time,” he said, and news of the abuse at Abu Ghraib was surfacing around the same time that Yale’s archival material was digitized, a perfect storm of encouragement for scholars to turn their attention once again to the question of what causes evil.

https://erikbuys.wordpress.com/tag/stanley-milgram-obedience-study/
http://www.simplypsychology.org/milgram.html

http://www.jcouncil.org/site/DocServer/YHS_Program_POST_PROGRAM.pdf?docID=10421

https://www.ted.com/speakers/philip_zimbardo

Dump Trump and Cable News

Dump Trump & Cable News

by Peggy Browning

 

Dump Trump and Cable News

Image: ikpro/freedigitalphotos.net

I am so sick of hearing about Donald Trump that I could spew green vomit and twist my head around a full 360 degrees.  It’s time to dump Trump. I have to dump cable news coverage too.

I never supported this obnoxious, dangerous fool, but I admit I did listen because it was appalling that he just kept on being more and more outrageous. I suspect that is why cable news shows continue to report on his god-awful stunts…because they have high ratings from people watching and saying…”Oh, dear god. What will he come up with next?”

But no more for me. I’m done. I can’t do this for another eleven months. Or even three months until Super Tuesday.

I am a news junkie. I watched Walter Cronkite on the CBS Evening News when I was just a little girl. I remember when Dan Rather reported from battlegrounds in Vietnam.  I respect real news and ethical news reporting.  I wrote my own first news article about Walt Disney’s death when I was in the 5th grade, for Pete’s sake.

Last night I went to sleep with MSNBC still on the air. I dozed off while listening to Rachel Maddow and even though I roused a few times in the night, I couldn’t get it together enough to click the remote and change to re-runs of Law & Order.

I woke up this morning with my bedroom air all afoul with news people talking about that orange-haired buffoon and all the ugly things he says about everybody and everything. This was NOT how I wanted to start my day.

So I DID click the remote until I found Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. Then I sang the Hot-Diggity-Dog song and danced the Hot-Diggity-Dog dance. That is a very good way to start the day.

So here is what I have decided… I am no longer watching anything that allows orange haired obnoxious people to spout mean words and aggravate the hell out of me and everybody else. I had enough of that stuff when I was in junior high and Joe Don Scroggins picked at me and all the other kids.

I don’t hang out with obnoxious people. I don’t invite obnoxious people to visit in my home. I have even quit jobs because I couldn’t stand to work with the obnoxious people I was supposed to work with. So why should I allow them in my bedroom via TV?

On this day, January 14, 2016, I hereby dump Trump and all “news” related to him. I dump all cable TV news shows. I will watch only PBS nightly news to get my information from Judy Woodruff and Gwen Ifill because they actually report news and they do it in a sane, calm manner. I will watch Tavis Smiley and Charlie Rose to hear commentary and interviews. I will continue to watch the Late Show with Stephen Colbert because I like Stephen Colbert and he has some very interesting people on his show. Plus he is on CBS, not 24 hour cable TV.

I would give anything to hear Eric Sevareid  give just one more news commentary about any subject.

But no more of this bull hockey from cable news. I’m done. When they start doing a better job of reporting actual news, I will consider coming back to the fold.  If they should ever dump Trump and stop reporting gossip and BS, I could watch them again.

But for now, not even Anderson Cooper can entice me to watch.

Watch Don Lemon interview Tavis Smiley. 

 

 

Safe With Me … A Teacher’s Story

You are safe with me.

by Peggy Browning

You are safe with me. I am your teacher and you should always be safe with me.

You are supposed to be safe with me. Image by Paul Gooddy/freedigitalphotos.net

You are supposed to be safe with me.
Image by Paul Gooddy/freedigitalphotos.net

In 2004 I was employed as a third grade teacher at a Catholic school. It was five years after Columbine. It was eight years prior to Sandy Hook. Safety concerns had changed in the twenty-three years since I started teaching; they had changed before I opened my classroom door at Notre Dame Elementary School.

When I started teaching in 1981, I was concerned about my students boarding the school bus safely, climbing the stairs on the slide safely, and using blunt ended scissors correctly.

But twenty-three years and murderers with assault weapons and bombs changed our ideas of safe-keeping.

In 2004 we had protocols for locking doors, hiding under desks, checking each child’s presence on a list in the event of a school shooting* . We had a special bell signal that notified us if there was a shooter in the building.

“What will happen if a man with a gun comes to our school, Ms. Browning?”

They were eight-years old and they felt compelled to ask me "What if a man with a gun comes here to hurt us?" image by imagerymajestic/freedigitalphotos.net

They were eight-years old and they felt compelled to ask me “What if a man with a gun comes here to hurt us?”
image by imagerymajestic/freedigitalphotos.net

They were eight –years-old. They were in the 3rd grade. And they felt compelled to ask me what we would do if someone came in to the school to kill us.

“You are safe with me,” I said.

“I will lock the door to the hallway. I will lock the door to the playground. You will get under your desks. Or we will all sit beside the bookshelves that house your crayons and markers and glue and we will hunker down and wait.”

I had a plan…the school had a plan.

“But you are safe with me,” I said.

“But what if he comes in the door? What if he comes in our room? What if he tries to hurt us?”

“I will not let that happen,” I said. “I will save you.”

Then I demonstrated my karate chops and my swift leg kicks and we laughed and they said, “Ms. Browning will not let anyone hurt us.”

It would not happen to us.

And I thought…any gun-wielding mother fucker that tried to hurt my students…my  27 eight-year-old babies who were learning their roles for the Thanksgiving play, singing songs of praise for God’s blessing, doing the readings of the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the Gospel  at mass on Fridays, practicing their multiplication tables and cursive writing… I thought…Any motherfucker that comes here will have to get through me…not just past me, but through me…to get to you. And I will not let that happen, even if I have to sacrifice myself.

But it did happen. It did happen. Not to me and my student babies. But it did happen at Sandy Hook. And the motherfucker did have to go through the teachers and kill them first to get to twenty of their babies.

And we mourned and we prayed and we kept everyone in our thoughts…but we haven’t done a god-bless-ed thing about it.

It is three years after Sandy Hook. And we haven’t done a thing.

What are we going to do about this? Karate chops and well-placed kicks don’t match an assault rifle.

AK47 image by anankkml/freedigitalphotos.net

AK47
image by anankkml/freedigitalphotos.net

Concealed handguns on teachers don’t work…it’s awkward to hug a little kid while wearing a gun. And a good guy with a gun…even a good teacher with a gun…is not a match for an assault rifle.

Something has to be done. Let’s have the courage to do it.

May all teachers be able to say…You are safe with me.  God damn it, you are safe with me.

Donate to Sandy Hook Promise. 

Contribute to making our children safe in 2016. 

*school shooting is a misnomer. The schools are not shot, killed, maimed, murdered. It is the people in them that are slaughtered. It is the children.

In Light of Paris and the World

In Light of Paris and the World

by Peggy Browning

 

In light of Paris and the World

Where does it hurt?
Everywhere, everywhere, everywhere. ___Warsan Shire
image by kanate/freedigitalphotos.net

In light of Paris and the World, I have no words of my own that will suffice. I, along with the rest of the World, am heartsick.

And I am weary. I am weary of murder and death and starvation and slavery and famine and torture and imprisonment and terror. I am weary of the use of these things in the name of religion or the proclamation of being “right…chosen…correct…closer to God.”

That is surely taking God’s name in vain to use it as such.

 

 

 

In light of Paris and the World, I have nothing to say that is good enough. I am sharing the clear and profound words of others today, because I have no wisdom or truth or words that can make this better.

 

what they did yesterday afternoon

they set my aunts house on fire

i cried the way women on tv do

folding at the middle

like a five pound note.

i called the boy who use to love me

tried to ‘okay’ my voice

i said hello

he said ‘Warsan, what’s wrong, what’s happened?

 

i’ve been praying

and these are what my prayers look like;

dear god

i come from two countries

one is thirsty

the other is on fire

both need water.

 

later that night

i held an atlas in my lap

ran my fingers across the whole world

and whispered

where does it hurt?

 

it answered

everywhere

everywhere

everywhere.

_____Somali poet, Warsan Shire

 

 

 

In my view, now is the time for developing a serious and effective approach to destroy ISIS. Now is not the time for taking cheap political advantage of this tragedy. Now is the time – as President Obama is trying to do – to unite the world in an organized campaign against ISIS that will eliminate the stain of ISIS from this world.

But let me also say that now is not the time for demagoguery and fear mongering. What terrorism is about is trying to instill terror and fear into the hearts of people. And we will not let that happen. We will not be terrorized or live in fear. During these difficult times, we will not succumb to Islamophobia. We will not turn our backs on the refugees who are fleeing Syria and Afghanistan. We will do what we do best and that is be Americans – fighting racism, fighting xenophobia, fighting fear. _____U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders