Letter to the Editor: Special Thanks to Shore Health Volunteers

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As Chairman of the Board of Directors for University of Maryland Shore Regional Health, I am writing to express our gratitude for the men and women who volunteer in our three hospital auxiliaries — Chester River Hospital Center Auxiliary, Dorchester General Hospital Auxiliary and Auxiliary of Memorial Hospital at Easton. Members of these three volunteer organizations donate their valuable time to support health care services within their local communities, assisting with daily operations at many of our facilities and raising funds for programs, services, equipment and patient care throughout the region.

In the past year, the auxiliaries have earned a combined $500,000 in proceeds through their special event sales, hospital gift shops and their auxiliary-managed thrift shops – the Nearly New Shop in Chestertown, the Robin Hood Shop in Cambridge and The Bazaar at 121 Federal Street in Easton. The auxiliaries rely heavily on their gift and thrift shop sales to be able to provide the funding for each of the hospitals and offsite locations to which they contribute.

In addition to the funds they provide, volunteers assist with services such as wheelchair and patient escorts, blood pressure screenings, front desk and surgical service reception and many other areas. In total, volunteers donated 60,000 hours between the auxiliaries across the region, saving the organization valuable dollars that can then be used to further patient care efforts. Our team members, medical staff and patients value and appreciate the work of all auxiliary volunteers.

We encourage community members who have available time and would like to become more engaged with their community to reach out and learn more about volunteer opportunities with our three auxiliaries. Becoming a volunteer in a healthcare setting enables you to meet people from all walks of life while making a real difference in our communities

University of Maryland Shore Regional Health thanks the auxiliaries for their commitment to accessible, innovative health care, close to home. These are three fantastic organizations!

Thank you.

John Dillon, Chairman
Board of Directors
University of Maryland Shore Regional Health

Summer Solstice and Thoughts About Birds by Nancy Mugele

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Welcoming Summer on my porch today watching the red-winged blackbird dine on my finally-filled bird feeder. The longest day of the year just might find me sitting on this porch all day long – lazy ceiling fans above match my mood. I am on a much needed staycation this week in my new hometown and I am really trying to resist email, social media and happenings at my school. I am not doing such a good job as I have already been there once to finish reading report cards and sign Honor Roll certificates. In my spare time I am reading from a stack of novels that have been on my coffee table since spring break, notating in some new educational texts, savoring Jamie Kirkpatrick’s Musing Right Along and doing some writing.  

My husband is in Baltimore today so the house is mine. I am not usually home alone during the week. My neighbors are at work or out of town and the quiet is a blessing – except for all of the birds chattering away in my yard. I am not a bird lover. Too many viewings of Hitchcock’s movie and living with pigeons in NYC as a young twenty-something fueled my dislike. Truth be told birds really scared me. 

When we found the red roof inn there was an osprey nest in the Chester by our dock. Instead of immediate disgust, I, strangely, felt a sense of calm. I knew it was an omen as Kent School’s mascot is the Osprey but I did not know at the time that it would completely ease my irrational fear of birds. Our two osprey – fondly named Olive and Oscar – sit stoically upon their roost. They arrived as predicted in April and we were so happy to welcome them to our family. We watched in awe as they built their love nest of wild branches. The first baby osprey sighting was on Mothers’ Day and we were thrilled by its existence. We mourned its loss days later when we realized it had simply disappeared. No explanation. The osprey talk loudly all day (like our family when we are all together) yet I wonder how sad they must be. I have grown very attached.

We also inherited a bird motel on a high rusted pole near the water’s edge. We need to take it down as it leans precariously towards the house, but it has no vacancies at the moment. So I sit, transfixed by all of the comings and goings of our birds. Funny thing, quiet, because it never really is. The birds’ calls to each other signaling new seeds or new flowers interrupt my solitude yet I feel like I have friends visiting my porch. Friends with huge appetites as the food I offered this morning has been devoured by day’s end. A lonely blue jay searches for the last remnants. There are a few morsels left but don’t get me started on the squirrels. 

Nancy Mugele is the Head of School at the Kent School in Chestertown

Shouting Across the Atlantic: Is There a Leader Out There? By Al Sikes

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Politicians on the winning side of elections inevitably quip: “elections matter.” And so they do, but let me be more pointed.

The most important elections in the last twelve months, with apologies to the British, occurred in America and France.

Americans, intensely frustrated, elected an entirely unconventional candidate. The opposition Party has chosen a path of nullification—Democrats want to void the election any way they can. Poor strategy for their Country and Party.

In our Revolutionary War, America’s most important ally was France. Today the French, who recently elected a new president, are shouting at us across the Atlantic. In France, the most significant conventional Parties (Socialists, Republicans) and the populist one, The National Front, lost. The winner, En Marche!.

Jean-Michel Frederic Macron’s Party, En Marche!, didn’t exist until April of 2016, yet, he was elected President. Macron’s newly emerged Party has just won an overwhelming majority in parliamentary elections. Macron left the Socialist party, and it barely retains a presence in the French parliament.

Macron defeated the right and left and the populist, Marine Le Pen. He called for a “democratic revolution” and has advocated “a collective solidarity.” Macron led a citizen movement.

Is a citizen movement possible in United States politics? Can enough talent and energy be organized to overcome the structural obstacles that protect the Republican and Democrat parties? They certainly no longer merit protection.

If a true citizen movement is possible, the central political question must be re-framed. If the core inquiry is which ideological script should prevail, the energy is with the ideologues. But, as poll after poll confirms, a majority of voters are eager for leaders who are willing to lead from the center.

Leading from the center requires thinking. It requires leaders who look for government intervention or restraint informed by realities. If you listen to left and right politicians today, you quickly realize they are mostly unmoored from thinking as they recite their talking points.

I am not talking about a centrism that splits the difference. What we need are centrist leaders who are acutely aware of what has worked or failed in our federal system. We need leaders who can utilize the extraordinary power of 21st Century technology to achieve efficiencies and successes. We need leaders who can capitalize on America’s diversity rather than using it to divide and conquer.

The latest Gallup political survey summary shows that 42% of voters identify as Independents. In 2014 and 2015 polling, Gallup noted that the most frequent cited reason for being an independent was “frustration with party gridlock in the federal government.”

The election of President Trump was telling. He was certainly not the choice of the right. And it is increasingly clear that the Republican Party is struggling to become a governing party as the hard right pursues its view of “perfection” at the expense of leadership.

On the left, the offer is a new list of free services all to be paid for by a “tax on the wealthy” and debt. At present, the United States is only able to finance existing private and public credit appetites because of our international monetary strength. This strength is not ordained in the natural order of things, and if we do not pivot, the central government balance sheet will look like Illinois.

Vladimir Putin, whose nationalistic appeal protects him from a poor Russian economy, doesn’t need to intervene in our elections. We are in the midst of self-destruction.

There is literally a wall of laws that protect the major parties and incumbents will not, as President Reagan once demanded in Berlin, “tear down that wall.” If a centrist coalition is to succeed, work needs to begin immediately, and the movement should organize for the 2020 presidential election. The critical mass of support needed will come from Independents and success in the 2020 election should quickly be followed by organizing at the State and Local levels.

What is needed now is a farsighted leader who will devote himself or herself to a historic cause. It will be hard work, but saving the Republic will never be easy.

Al Sikes is the former Chair of the Federal Communications Commission under George H.W. Bush. Al recently published Culture Leads Leaders Follow published by Koehler Books. 

Letter to Editor: In Reversal, Shore Health Wants to Maintain Inpatient Care in Chestertown Beyond 2022

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The effort to “Save the Hospital” in Chestertown—to ensure that there will be inpatient care here long beyond 2022—is on a fast-moving train that appears increasingly headed for success.

There are debates on the tracks ahead, but with the leadership of our doctors and our General Assembly delegation, and with the support of Washington College, Dixon Valve, Chestertown’s Mayor and Town Council, and the citizens of Kent and northern Queen Anne’s counties, we have apparently won the battle to keep our hospital whole.

In a reversal of their stance in early 2016, the Shore Regional Health System board and University of Maryland Medical System now favor maintaining inpatient services at our hospital in Chestertown indefinitely.  They’ve said so in writing, in a “White Paper” written in response to a request by Deborah Mizeur and Dr. Joseph Ciotola, co-chairs of the Rural Healthcare Delivery Plan Workgroup.

The White Paper hasn’t been made public, but Shore Health President and CEO Ken Kozel described it to me in detail.  The White Paper isn’t only about Chestertown’s hospital.  It lists facilities that Shore Health believes should be maintained in each of the five Mid-Shore counties, and calls for state support to ensure an economically sustainable system.  The Workgroup will consider the White Paper and other recommendations as it writes the Rural Healthcare Delivery Plan that must be finalized by October and presented to the General Assembly.

The White Paper, with a cover letter signed by Mr. Kozel and UMMS President and CEO Bob Chrencik, has been delivered to Ms. Mizeur and Dr. Ciotola, and to Sen. Thomas “Mac” Middleton, Chair of the Senate Finance Committee (which handles healthcare legislation) and Dennis Schaffer, Secretary of Health and Mental Hygiene.  In the coming weeks, Mr. Kozel will discuss the document with District 36 and 37 legislators, including Sen. Steve Hershey, and delegates Jay Jacobs, Steve Arentz, and Jeff Ghrist.  All are engaged and appear headed in the same direction, though there are issues to be resolved.

The White Paper recommends only 15 inpatient beds in Chestertown after 2022, a drop in capacity that concerns our doctors.  Though Mr. Kozel says Shore could maintain up to 25 beds, our doctors say it’s already too common for inpatients to stay in the ER for up to 48 hours when there are no available beds.  Inpatients belong in nursing units, the doctors say; reducing the bed count will exacerbate the situation.

Our doctors are also concerned that the White Paper recommends closing Chestertown’s Intensive Care Unit after 2022.  The ICU, they say, is a hospital’s safety net when med-surg (medical and surgical nursing floor) patients take a turn for the worse.

Save the Hospital will continue to fight for quality care, but we are heartened that our hospital’s future is brighter than it was a year ago.  We appreciate the willingness of Shore Health’s leadership to change course in response to the community’s needs.

In the fall, after the Workgroup has finalized its plan, attention will shift to Annapolis and to Sen. Middleton’s Finance Committee.  The senator told me he’s “very enthusiastic” about Shore Health’s White Paper and though designing and passing needed legislation “won’t be easy,” he is committed to producing a robust healthcare system for the Mid-Shore’s five counties.

A farmer from Charles County, “Mac” Middleton said he remembers when his community couldn’t afford a hospital, when his mother had to go to Washington to have a baby.  “My dad told me,” he said, “I should never forget my roots.”

Margie Elsberg

Volunteer Communications Coordinator for “Save the Hospital”

Board member, Chester River Health Foundation

 

Save The Meadow! by Jamie Kirkpatrick

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A year after mother died, we gathered to scatter her ashes in the meadow. The place was no longer ours; we had deeded the house and the land to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, a remarriage of sorts, a gift thankfully returned. High Meadow would now become a central part of Fallingwater’s residential educational program, a facility that would help to foster an appreciation of America’s architectural heritage and of environmental responsibility.

It was the right thing to do. None of my generation lived close enough to enjoy the house or tend the land the way my parents had. Nor did we want to sell the property; it was originally a part of the Kaufman’s preserve on Bear Run and to restore the property to its original configuration was to honor it. The trust that managed Fallingwater was willing to maintain the meadows in perpetuity and would renovate the house to accommodate guests, students, teachers, interns or even artists-in-residence. Maybe it was our way of embracing the land; to paraphrase Robert Frost, High Meadow was no longer our land but we would still be her people. After all, mother was now one with her wildflowers.

We became occasional visitors. The Conservancy was gracious to allow us to return for a weekend every now and then to walk the meadow and the woods and to remember. The renovation of the house had turned out well, all-the-more-so because it still smelled the same and even some of the furnishings held familiar shapes. The morning dew, the afternoon breeze, the evening stillness: all these things carried on as before.

Then came a day in the spring of 2010 when we learned that the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy was working discretely on plans to build six new structures at High Meadow. Described as a “cave-like community pavilion complete with a fire-pit,” the structures were to be built into the ground—troglodyte-style—and would be constructed essentially out of steel culverts. They would be innovative, futuristic, creative, and environmentally sensitive; they would be used for educational purposes or to house potential donors who might advance the Conservancy’s ambitious programs. The only problem, as we saw it, was that the dwellings would be at cross purposes with my parents’ desire to preserve the meadow’s pristine beauty. Now there would be electric and sewer lines; storm runoff and waste water management issues; removal of indigenous plants and grasses. To us, as marginally intrusive as these “pods” might be, they would forever alter the fragile ecological balance of the meadow that my parents had hoped to maintain in perpetuity. We politely objected.

The discourse was civil, even enlightening. There were thoughtful and reasonable arguments on both sides. We reviewed the Conservancy’s plans and the Conservancy listened to our concerns. They hoped to expand and enhance educational programming and to attract new sources of funding. We hoped they would honor donor intent and suggested they renovate existing structures on other WPC properties to achieve their goals. That strategy—making better use of existing structures instead of constructing new ones on or under High Meadow—seemed (to us anyway) more in line with a conservation organization’s mission of protecting and conserving natural resources.

There were more meetings; letters; a FaceBook page; an OpEd article in a Pittsburgh newspaper. To make what has already become a long story a few words shorter, we saved the meadow. The structures will be built elsewhere, or not at all.

So now, here we are at the last panel of the High Meadow triptych. The meadow is as it has always been: a place of peaceful and undisturbed beauty, changing with the tide of the seasons, full of wildflowers and song birds, welcoming summer hikers or winter cross-country skiers. Our old Sears catalog house has had another facelift but it still looks out on the meadow and the mists that rise like memories from the hollows in the fields below.

Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer with homes in Chestertown and Bethesda. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy magazine. “A Place to Stand,” a book of photographs and essays about Landon School, was published by the Chester River Press in 2015.  A collection of his essays titled “Musing Right Along” was released in May and is already in its second printing. Jamie’s website is www.musingjamie.com.

Letter to the Editor: Democracy in Action?

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To the editor,

DEMOCRACY IN ACTION? The Senate—well, half the Senate—is preparing its new health care bill. Where the ACA took over a year of research, debate, and bickering, this bill (AHCA) takes just a couple of weeks, in secret, no debate. Even Republicans have been kept in the dark on what’s in this bill. This is NOT democracy in action.

MEDICAID. Did your aging parents “sell down” the family home to be eligible for nursing-home care? Clear out a room at home, because Mom and Pop will be out on the street. The working poor—health care workers, teachers, construction workers, fast-food workers, retail workers, laborers—who work part-time and/or who have no employer-provided health care has expanded since the 2008 crash, as employers changed hiring and benefits policies.  The Medicaid pie is divided as follows: 50% to the elderly, 20% to disabled, 20% to working households (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities).

FAMILY. Maternity care MAY NOT be covered in your state! Delivery can cost $10,000 to $20,000, more for a C-section, more for prenatal care. Birth control—pills, IUDs, diaphragms—whether they treat reproductive conditions like endometriosis, or simply good family planning—Gone. You are on your own (according to the Kaiser Family Foundation).

JOBS. In the next ten years, after a brief rise in employment to start, some 924,000 jobs will be lost, three-quarters of them in the health care industry, accompanied by an economic loss in the range of $148 billion (according to the Commonwealth Fund).

Pre-existing conditions, psychological and psychiatric care, treatment for opioid and alcohol addictions, no yearly and lifetime caps on coverage —gone, gone, gone. And of course, the 23 million folks who finally got coverage and will now lose it.

This is madness. It’s morally unacceptable. It’s economically disastrous. The wealthy will be wealthier and healthier. Will you?

Contact Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, and Congressman Andy Harris, to fight this bill—if for no other reason than for the sunshine of democracy. Get this bill into the daylight.

Marion Grier

Church Hill, MD

A Glimmer of Hope by George Merrill

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In a book I’ve been reading about Christianity and its “struggle for new beginnings,” I saw a passing reference to God as the creator of humanity. It quoted a fourteenth century English mystic, Julian of Norwich, who stated that we are made, not “by God,” but “of God.” I found the switching of the usual preposition “by” with “of,” striking. That God might have made us – the typical religious teaching – suggests an important connection but a discrete difference like the sculptor who fashions his sculpture from marble while he remains a creature of flesh and blood.

Being made of God offers a different thought; that we are fashioned from the same substance as the creator, one manifestation of the very stuff from which God is composed. To be human then, and being made of God – and not to be impious – I’d say is simply affirming that we’re all chips off the old block.

The way things are going today you’d hardly ever guess it. But then there are those transformational moments that offer us glimmers of hope…

Religion today, like politics, gets the public interest not when it acts sublimely, but when it behaves badly. Ears go right to the ground when the muck is being raked. But every so often something of essential goodness transpires and I, for one, find myself moved to tears. In those moments, circumstances conspire such that I become more conscious of my “of-ness,” and our “of-ness.”

One such moment occurred recently on June 14th following the shooting at the congressional baseball practice in D.C. At this writing, Republican Congressman Steve Scalise is in critical condition. Four others were wounded. The shooter was killed. His motives were vague political discontents.

Given the kind of political posturing that usually follows these tragic moments, things took a very different turn and in my judgment, a hopeful one. The spirit of the moment became one of claiming our national as well as our human solidarity rather than vilifying the perpetrator and swearing he will be caught and punished. In one sense our “of-ness” was the issue not someone’s “other-ness,”

Paul Ryan addressed the House shortly following the incident. He said: “An attack on one of us, is an attack on all of us.” He went further to state passionately that, “…there is one image that this house should keep. And it is a photo (as shown above) I saw of our Democratic colleagues gathered in prayer this morning after the news.”

He added that “We are a family…these are our brothers and sisters.” Finally he pleaded with the House: “I ask each of you to join me in resolving to come together…to lift each other up…and show the country – show the world – that we are one House.”

I felt moved. I didn’t see this kind of response coming.

The next evening on PBS, Judy Woodruff interviewed House Representatives Joe Barton, R-Texas and Mike Doyle, D-Pa. The interview took a remarkable turn. They had been long-term friends in the Congress. During the incident Doyle was at the field with his Republican colleagues while Barton practiced with the Democrats. In reiterating the frightening experience of the shooting and also speaking of his friendship with Barton, Doyle was clearly on the verge of tears. At that point, Barton placed his hand on Doyle’s arm in a spontaneous gesture of affection. There was no mistaking its authenticity. The gesture was the kind of human softness that exhibits our greatest strengths, that is, our capacity to care for others.

As I watched the interview, Isaiah’s visionary statement of a world reconciled to God came to mind: “The wolf and the lamb will graze together, and the lion will eat straw with the ox – they will do no evil or harm in all My Holy Mountain.”

Imagine, if one day the elephant and the donkey might have drinks and dinner together after work, and would dwell and graze together and do no evil in “all My Holy Mountain.” If that isn’t the slam dunk formula for making America Great, and I don’t mean great again, but greater than ever, then I can’t imagine what is.

In the interview on PBS, Doyle made what I would call a visionary statement – not a policy statement, but a visionary one, the kind that we rarely see or hear today.

Speaking of Congress he says, ”We may have differences politically, but they’re our friends, and we care about them very much. And I think all of us are reflecting on how each one of us individually can set an example for the country, too, because when people see their leaders being uncivil towards one another then you start to see the public being uncivil towards one another and towards their leaders.”

He also speaks to that prurient part of all of us that delights in hearing sleaze and scandal. In referring to congressional mud slinging he notes, “Oftentimes the media’s interested in interviewing the two that are throwing the swords at each other…the news media, too, can reflect a little bit on that and show some of the positive things that take place down there.”

Religion struggles today, as politics does, for “new beginnings,” relevance, and integrity in a world in which we see little of either over the din of the sectarian and party claims. In power struggles, the common denominator of our “of-ness,” our mutual humanity gets easily excised, in the way soldiers trained for combat learn to dehumanize their adversaries in order to destroy them.

A columnist for CNN seemed to see in the recent event, glimmers of hope. He put it this way in his column, “There’s a lot of awfulness in Washington today…but out of the awfulness (almost) always comes some good.”

Columnist George Merrill is an Episcopal Church priest and pastoral psychotherapist.  A writer and photographer, he’s authored two books on spirituality: Reflections: Psychological and Spiritual Images of the Heart and The Bay of the Mother of God: A Yankee Discovers the Chesapeake Bay. He is a native New Yorker, previously directing counseling services in Hartford, Connecticut, and in Baltimore. George’s essays, some award winning, have appeared in regional magazines and are broadcast twice monthly on Delmarva Public Radio.

Why? By David Montgomery

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Are the Left’s persistent and vituperative attacks on Donald Trump and his supporters based on misunderstanding, emotion, or strategy? I have been convinced at various times that one or another of the three motivations was behind some particular attack, and my responses have been intended to deal with the specific motivation I inferred.

Now that the Left’s violent and unrestrained rhetoric has achieved its predictable outcome of homicidal attacks on Republican Members of Congress, it is even more important to find an effective way to neutralize that rhetoric. And the first step, for me, is to reflect longer on what motivates the Left in this campaign.

Leading up to the shooting of Representative Scalise and his colleagues, the incitement of violence from the Left became more and more explicit. As soon as Inauguration Day, we had Madonna saying “I have thought an awful lot about blowing up the White House.”

Then we have the constant dehumanizing of President Trump and his family by the talk-show hosts and comedians showcased by the media opposed to him. It is impossible to watch the most popular late night talk show without seeing and hearing caricatures of the President and tasteless jokes about every aspect of his appearance, family and character.

This shades over into the substitution of speculation about Trump’s motives and prejudices for substantive debates about the merits of his actions and policy proposals. Thus his eminently sensible efforts to screen out potential terrorists from entry into the USA are evaluated by the media and activist judges based on campaign statements and attributions of religious bias rather than on their merits. His efforts to reform ObamaCare are described as willingness to let people die without healthcare rather than debated as approaches to saving an obviously failed system. His well-reasoned efforts to extricate us from an overly-burdensome agreement on climate change illegally ratified by his predecessor are attacked by claiming that the President does not believe in climate change, as if it were the secular version of the Immaculate Conception, rather than debating the legality of bypassing Senatorial ratification of treaties. He is accused of obstruction of justice by the same Democrats who demanded the FBI Director be fired for the very reasons given by President Trump.

Democrats in Congress, failed candidates whose message on public policy has narrowed down to a single word “Resist,” and an activist Attorney General contribute to the demeaning of the President and his advisors with accusations of personal malfeasance based on sheer speculation and frivolous lawsuits.

The personal attacks escalated recently with Kathy Griffin’s foul display of the severed and bloody head of the President, and even worse with the performance of Julius Caesar portraying the Roman Emperor as Donald Trump and celebrating his assassination. Though some sponsors acted properly to drop the offenders, they were endorsed by fellow-celebrities for their courageous efforts to influence public perceptions. I didn’t realize it took courage to attack Donald Trump in Manhattan and Hollywood.

The rhetoric spilled over into overt physical violence against anyone who would defend the President or express conservative views in public. Demonstrators from “Resist” and other Leftist organizations rioted to prevent their appearance at Berkeley and other universities that once defended free speech, and assaulted students who indicated their support for the speakers or the President.

And then this verbal and sometimes physical violence culminated in the attempted assassination of Republican members of Congress by a gunman radicalized by the Left.

How can this be dealt with? If the hostility toward all things Republican were based simply on misunderstanding of the actual content and consequences of our policy proposals, the response would be easy. Many of us are decent writers and have the requisite expertise in climate and environmental science, environmental economics, regulatory economics, tax policy, financial regulation, labor issues, healthcare, international relations, national security and other disciplines to explain the problems that our policies address and their likely consequences. To the extent that we think the slogans and arguments of the Left are based on misrepresentations and falsehoods, the challenge of correcting those errors should be our first priority. Then, we could hope, with better understanding the fear and anger could abate.

But the way in which blatant and easily refuted misrepresentations are continually resurrected and repeated, and the unwillingness of those shouting them to listen to contrary points of view, suggest that correctable ignorance is not the primary reason for attacks on the President and his policies. The nation seems to be too committed to choosing sides on policies based on the perceived character, appearance, mental state or biases of political players ever to pay attention to the real good or bad consequences of policy proposals.

That suggests that emotion or strategy or both, not simple misunderstanding of his policies, are the drivers of current agitation against the President.

It is easy to make the case that emotion is the driver. Generations younger than mine have been taught from childhood that their feelings are all that matters. When your parents, teachers and college professors encourage you to believe that how you feel is more important than what is true or right, that everyone is entitled to his or her own facts, and that there is no such thing as objective truth or moral absolutes, then nothing does matter except the emotions that a politician or policy evokes. When you are as stupid, self-centered, and publicity-seeking as most entertainers and celebrities, the notion that some people actually think about things probably never entered your atrophied brain. And President Trump can present himself in a manner that is repulsive even to those who, like me, are convinced that by and large his policies are the right ones for our country.

If some or all of these reasons for unrestrained emotional responses were the primary drivers of the current malaise, we would be right to reiterate the need for civility in politics as our primary response. We could hope that the shooting of Representative Scalise and his slow and painful recovery would be a corrective shock bringing a majority back to their right minds.

So that leaves us with the likelihood that there is a strategy behind the incitement of hatred and violence that we have seen. According to Rusty Reno, editor of the journal First Things, there is such a strategy, designed and directed by the wealthy, largely white elite that runs the Democratic Party. Disconnected from the middle and working class voters necessary for the party to win, those elites can only hold onto voters by inventing new forms of discrimination for them to fear. Until the election of Donald Trump, they generated that fear by pushing an agenda so radical that it was guaranteed to generate resistance, and then labeling anyone who objected to that agenda as a bigot, a homophobe, a misogynist or a white supremacist.

How else, Reno asks, can we explain a President facing ISIS, Russian aggression, North Korean nuclear weapons, an expansionist China and the slowest recovery from recession on record making transgender bathrooms his highest priority? Most of us probably thought that election of the first black President would be the end of race-baiting, yet during his term we experienced repeated assassinations of police officers in the name of “Black Lives Matter” and banners proclaiming that “Republican Hate Kills.”

According to Reno, the Democratic Party came back from its defeats as the party of segregation during the civil rights era by promising to “promote and protect those who feel ‘excluded’ or ‘marginalized.’” But those promises to African-Americans, women and other minorities have been fulfilled. We have made immense progress over the past 50 years in eliminating discrimination based on race, sex, religion and other differences.

Once real discrimination ended, Democrat leaders and their sycophants in movies and the news media had to invent claims of discrimination to keep their coalition together. They found a new group they could label as marginalized in lesbian and gay activists. Then after winning on issues like gay marriage, they needed to invent discrimination against even more obscure sexual orientations. In the process, Democrats wrapped an activist agenda centered on LGBTQ privileges that have no direct appeal to most voters in a narrative of discrimination that they expect African-American and Hispanic voters – not to mention wealthy whites — to accept automatically.

To make that narrative work politically, there has to be a villain. To create a villain, the demands have to be so extreme that they will provoke opposition. Since political correctness has by now intimidated most of those outraged by this social agenda into silence, it becomes easy to claim that all those willing to take a public stand are bigots. Transgender bathrooms were a perfect ploy. The demand is so contrary to any sensible view of human nature that it generates widespread outrage, and all those who express that view can be labeled “haters.” Then the mostly rich, white liberals who run the party can sustain their power by promising even more protections from these symbols of oppression.

Now there is someone else to hate – Donald Trump. Someone the same elites can label racist and sexist based on his own statements. The vehemence of the blogosphere and the unanimity of sicko comedians makes it clear that many of them can’t imagine any reason to stop, not even boredom at repeating themselves and certainly not escalating violence. That their strategy and that of the liberal elites is to create a new symbol of oppression in order to maintain their hold on power is a very compelling explanation.

It is also a strategy to continue the intimidation of voters who voted for Trump in order to express how fed up they are with the radical program and condescending attitudes of the liberal elites. What better way to demonize the deplorable racists, sexists and homophobes who voted for Trump than by harping continuously on his gaffes and impetuous actions? We Trump voters might eventually get fed up with being accused of being white supremacists or worse and vote out those who condemn us unjustly, but we can be put down over and over again by making our choice for President out to be a boob or a monster.

I don’t disagree that Donald Trump has shown a talent for turning victory into defeat nearly as great as his talent for turning defeat into victory in the election. Just as he shows his chops as a negotiator by getting health care reform through the House of Representatives, he surrounds himself with a firestorm of criticism for firing the FBI Director. It would be a great help to take away his tablet and restrain his willingness to validate every criticism by responding to it. But if it were not for Trump, the strategy behind the rising storm of hatred would be diverted to creating some other symbols of oppression against which the elites running the Democratic Party can pretend to stand.

In response, those of us who are appalled by these developments must continue trying to explain clearly and objectively the basis for the policies we favor. We must also practice and encourage civility rather than emotional rants about policies and politicians (though I think celebrities, entertainers and opponents of free speech are still fair game).

That will not be enough. Continued engagement in electoral politics to keep the coalition of hard-working, faithful, family-oriented, financially stressed and totally ignored voters who elected President Trump together is the only antidote to the strategy of demonization pursued by the elites who think they own the Democratic Party.

David Montgomery was formerly Senior Vice President of NERA Economic Consulting. He also served as assistant director of the US Congressional Budget Office and deputy assistant secretary for policy in the US Department of Energy. He taught economics at the California Institute of Technology and Stanford University and was a senior fellow at Resources for the Future.

Another Juneteenth — A Sestina by Robert Earl Price

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Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States.  June 19th  is the day in 1865 when Union soldiers landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free.

The order read, “The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and free laborer.”

What became known as general order number 3 was delivered two and a half years after president Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation; this late arrival of the order to end slavery caused cynics in the newly emancipated community to create the term “Juneteenth.”: which meant something extremely late or likely never to arrive.

General Order number 3 is the only known emancipation notice ever given to Negroes.  Imagine the transition from slave to African American without recompense or consideration of citizenship, without a thank you for 250 years of free labor and no share of the massive economy built on your back.

This place a nugget of gold in a sea of clay

Today we stand on precious ground

A stoned arch bridging many an uncertain day

A monument for shoulder-to-the-grindstone will

We come to bear witness and to bare our hearts

Here where the past is buried in the marrow of bones

 

We are the wind chimed clank and clang of dry bones

A chalice of wisdom from fired clay

Reverent music poured into open hearts

Many colors carpet this hallowed ground

This is a cornerstone of will

The founders’ foresight promised us this day

 

Raise the pennants and praise the day

The drummer lives in incus bones

Trees planted by the waters of will

A joyful insistence encrypted in this clay

Let hurrahs and hallelujahs shake the ground

And stir the longing in our hearts

 

Ella scatting an anthem for our hearts

Spirit movers, seekers of a breaking day

The visionary’s broom sweeping this ground

This monument to long buried bones

Tread carefully over this layered clay

Built by communal warriors of one will

 

On the road to glory by grace and will

The boon of freedom glowing in our hearts

Moisten the yard and tamp down the clay

Fry the fish and fixings to celebrate the day

And set the legends sifting through our bones

Our dancing DNA moonwalking on sacred ground

 

Today a tower of tolerance stands on hard won ground

Today we acknowledge the power of a righteous will

Today we refresh dreams and replenish the legacy of bones

Today our heroes rest in the shelter of our hearts

Today a day like no other day

Today we patina the world in a crust of clay

 

Praise to this persistent will, that seized this day

Protect this swirling ground and blood mottled clay

Place the merit bones of our past safe in the trove of our hearts