Never Interrupt When They are Making a Mistake by David Montgomery

Share

President Trump needs to start following the rule: “Never interrupt your enemies when they are making a mistake.” So many lost opportunities to be the winner by just being silent.

That is one of the reasons I have not been writing about the antics of Democrats trying to elbow their way into the crowd at the far left of their party. It is why this column will be short, depending on how many amusing examples I encounter. I sympathize with the President, because I cannot resist listing some of the larger holes into which I hope the Democrats will continue digging themselves.

Beto forgetting to tell Nancy Pelosi’s 16-year-old voters, who I think he believes have never had a civics lesson with content beyond “white privilege,” that the electoral college is mandated in the Constitution. They might just think he was wasting their time if they ever realize that the chances of an amendment abolishing the electoral college being approved by the same states that benefit from it are, well, nil.

Somehow the publicity that Beto gets for this and other ridiculous promises is biting him where it hurts. The more publicity Beto gets, the more we are also learning about his children’s books advocating mass murder and his history of drunk driving and hacking. Keep it up.

Joe Biden announcing that he is the most progressive candidate, when everyone else knows that the only appeal he ever had was as a bumbling, sometimes amusing, good old Irish boy.

AOC for every word that has come out of her mouth, not to mention chicanery about her actual residence and campaign finance. And a shout-out for the media who are promoting her as the leader of the new Democratic party and making sure everyone gets the idea that voting Democrat is voting AOC.

Her media admirers seem unconcerned that their constant coverage is allowing just about everyone to observe how young, pretty and utterly uninformed about any matter of substance she is.

The others are much less amusing. Ms. Omar’s outspoken and gratuitous anti-Semitism is even putting off her own Somali constituency in Minnesota, with the high point being her “all about the Benjamins” tweet concerning AIPAC and donations. Ms. Tlaib accused Senate supporters of Israel of having “dual loyalties.” The two are working hard to reveal the underlying anti-Semitism of the entire “Boycott, Divest, Sanctions” movement.

It is almost as if some Islamophobes got together to invent the first two Muslim women to be elected to Congress, so as to imprint a caricature on the minds of voters the next time a Moslem runs for office.

The governor of Virginia, whose endorsement of the idea that parents and doctors can decide whether to kill a living baby after its birth turned into the best boost the pro-Life cause has had since the Planned Parenthood videos.

But he is second to Governor Cuomo in the sheer outrageousness of his glee at making it legal to kill babies born alive, and in provoking some Catholic bishops to point out that he has excommunicated himself under canon law.

We must not forget packing the Supreme Court. Beto and his imitators want to appoint 6 more Justices when one of them is elected President. Short of a ruling by that Court that the Constitution confers a previously unrecognized right on the sitting Democrat to occupy the White House forever, the next Republican will realize that appointing 12 new justices will restore the textualist majority. After a few years there will be more Supreme Court justices than basketball playoff games and we will have “Washington Madness” all year.

The Democrat party is living in Dreamland. If they spend the next two years trying to prove that Mueller missed something in his investigation, promoting the ridiculous Green New Deal and promising the wishful Medicare for All, voters are going to start recognizing that all they are hearing is a beep-beep-beep from outer space.

I know you don’t read my column, so keep it up Democrats. I would hate to interrupt your self-destruction.

David Montgomery is retired from a career of teaching, government service and consulting, during which he became internationally recognized as an expert on energy, environmental and climate policy.  He has a PhD in economics from Harvard University and also studied economics at Cambridge University and theology at the Catholic University of America,   David and his wife Esther live in St Michaels, and he now spends his time in front of the computer writing about economic, political and religious topics and the rest of the day outdoors engaged in politically incorrect activities.

Mixed Neighborhoods by George Merrill

Share

I presented a reading the other day in Easton. A number of Shore writers were celebrating the eleventh anniversary of The Delmarva Review. The day before I had learned of the shooting at the Mosque in Christ Church, New Zealand. The occasion became an eerie confluence of events.

The essay I read had originally appeared in 2008. I wrote about hospitality, the ancient custom of offering sanctuary to the stranger, and the divine imperative of making space for others. The story, however, was not as abstruse as it might sound. It revolved around a specific incident when I shot a blacksnake in my yard. Why? Snakes scare me. I shot it because it creeped me out. In the essay, I wrote: “Killing is remarkably easy; all we need is a motive, some legitimacy and a weapon. The rest is duck soup.”

As I read my essay, the subject of hospitality and xenophobia, its inhospitable opposite, had been dramatized the day before by the shooting tragedy that took place half a world away. A man feared that sinister foreigners were encroaching upon his white world. He had a motive, he legitimized it, he found weapons and the rest was a nightmare.

In the essay, I had used the snake as a metaphor for those “others” whom we either fear or loathe, but who do us no harm nor do they intend to. They are simply one other part of our human experience and its ecological realities. Sharing space is the name of the game.

Where I live on the Shore I share space with a bewildering array of living beings; foxes, deer, buzzards, groundhogs and, of course, snakes, to mention a few. Whether we reside in cities or rural areas, one thing is sure; we’re living in mixed neighborhoods.

The prevalence of social media has turned our world from pockets of insularity into a mixed neighborhood. In our increasingly electronically connected world, if we didn’t know it before, we know it now; everyone is your neighbor and for good or ill, we can learn instantly much of what his or her business is about.

Mixed neighborhoods trouble some people. They prefer being “with their own kind.” As hard as many are trying, there is no way we’re going back to the days of tribal identities, racial purity or ethnic superiority and national supremacy. Hitler put a formidable military and political machine behind his attempt to make Germany racially pure. Fascism had touted a thousand-year Reich. In its grandiose attempt to be great again, Hitler’s Germany went down in flames in only six years.

It’s heartbreaking to be hearing again the familiar fascist slogans in today’s public discourse. Some are subtle, others blatant. It’s still the same organized and systematic brutality: the lies, deceptions, the institutionalizing of hate, the manipulation and the messianic grandiosity that characterizes the racist mind – the kind we saw in Italy and Germany during WWII. What’s happening to us?
One thing I know is that we are awash in information but with little or no skills in discernment. Discernment involves possessing a set of substantive values to guide judgements. Right now, they are in short supply.

An unflinching look at the human condition reveals this unpleasant reality. At heart, we are both hyena and lamb. We are just as capable of the heinous acts we decry as the ones of generosity and kindness we applaud. Our behavior will depend on which critter we have been feeding. Here’s a graphic instance of what happens when the hyena gets overfed. According a New York Times account, the shooter in Christchurch “. . . walked up to a wounded woman dressed in black who lay on the pavement crying ‘help me, help me’ and shot her twice more.”

Social media today has become the trough of easy access from which malignant ideologies are nourished, perpetuated and proliferated.

This electronic neighborhood it’s created has become supercharged and overcrowded. In overcrowded communities, diseases spread. We are inundated with disturbing happenings and virulent ideologies as millions of people worldwide walk around indiscriminately ingesting data with phones. A demagogue can gain more global visibility on Twitter or Facebook than he ever could at a rally. Available space limits the audience at rallies. With social media, the sky’s the limit. You can even make visual documentaries to inform the world as you insult, kill and maim your enemies. Insidiously, hatred is becoming a form of entertainment. Violence already has.

One of the most chilling aspects of the Christchurch tragedy was how the perpetrator presented the carnage on line with sublime detachment. He created a reality show, a form of entertainment. He turned what was gross amorality into a playful show along with a manifesto to legitimize it.

When racists work to keep the neighborhood “pure,” you can be sure the whole neighborhood will go.

Humanity began as family groups (after we graduated from our time as pond scum.) We organized as tribes, settled in villages and then became citizens of nations. We organized around color and religion. Each new stage in our evolution created a particular challenge. How can we be good neighbors in a global community with all its bewildering variations? How do we regulate our differences and make space for others? How can we be hospitable?

Get to know the neighbors is a start.

I have six grandchildren who have already, or will be having, educational opportunities abroad. The countries include South Africa, Spain, Scotland, Costa Rica, Belgium, Italy and Panama. One other grandson is in the Air Force and will soon be deployed to Okinawa. These children enjoy the privilege that makes such opportunities possible. There are growing numbers who will also study abroad. And therein I find hope.

Children who are so positioned in life to be influential can, in their formative years, develop a broader view of who we are as a global family. My hope is that these young people will have an experience of being amazed and energized by differences and not be afraid or critical of them. They will make acquaintances and perhaps even friends from worlds and cultures distinct from their own; they will see people with differing habits.

I believe today’s frenetic tide of chauvinism flows contrary to the set our future’s current is taking. The world is a big place. Regulating differences requires a compassionate understanding of our place in it.

My hope is in our children who may become the voices of sanity in an ‘adult’ world that’s lost its way.

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.

Dressing Barbie by Nancy Mugele

Share

Some of my fondest childhood memories include Barbie. I know that is not something you might expect to hear from a self-proclaimed feminist, but it is true. Barbie celebrated 60 years on March 9 and I recently read Dressing Barbie by Carol Spencer. The author designed thousands of outfits for Barbie over her 35 year career at Mattel. In a perfect coincidence, last week when I flew to Florida to meet with Kent School alumni over spring break, I read an article on the 86-year-old Spencer in People magazine (my favorite airplane reading material, but that is another story).

The iconic (and sometimes controversial) Barbie doll was invented by Ruth Handler, co-founder of Mattel with her husband Elliott, whose daughter was named Barbara. Barbie was introduced as a teenage fashion model in 1959 at the American Toy Fair in New York City. Barbie originally came as a blonde or brunette, and I had the brunette version as a young girl. I loved my Barbie doll collection, but, most importantly, I loved her clothes. Barbie always dressed in the most current and exciting fashions of the day, and because it took two years for a design to become available in stores, Carol Spencer always had to be forward-thinking. Girls would certainly know if Barbie’s clothes were dated and out of fashion.

I was most definitely inspired by the fashions Barbie was sold with, but I had a secret weapon. My Nana. She was a seamstress by trade who specialized in creating custom bridal dresses in the 1960s and 1970s. She had a huge basement workshop in her home in Boston which served as her sewing room, complete with a large cutting table that my grandfather made for her of knotty pine. She had several sewing machines that were operated by foot pedals, and spools and spools of vibrantly colored thread hanging neatly in rows. I loved her sewing room and spent long hours watching her meticulous work. I witnessed many bridal party fittings, and was so proud of my grandmother’s handiwork. She was a designer and a perfectionist.

When Nana began to outfit my Barbies I knew I was the luckiest girl around. She made dresses, coats, skirts and slacks for my Barbie in the latest fabrics and fashions. Sometimes she made me and my Barbie matching outfits! My friends may have had more Barbie accessories – like the car, boat and dreamhouse, but I had the most clothes by far! When I saw the title of Carol Spencer’s book, Dressing Barbie, I immediately thought of my Nana in her sewing room. She dressed Barbie for many years as well.

Barbie does get a bad rap sometimes, especially as it relates to body image, with her height and her busty, small-waisted build – not to mention her feet, pre-formed to fit into high heels. Spencer realized the times had changed by the 90s and she wrote: I don’t think she was so out of proportion – people don’t understand doll scale. And, she’s a doll!

Spencer helped create many different career Barbies over the years and is proud of her work. She wrote: During the women’s movement all of us designers belonged to the National Organization for Women, but we didn’t flaunt it. It was this quiet goal to start promoting women. I wanted more choices for Barbie. I wanted more choices for myself.

Today, an estimated 100 Barbies are sold per minute. My favorite, and Mattel’s best-selling Barbie, was the Totally Hair Barbie sold in the 1990s. She wore a Pucci-esque mini dress designed by Spencer. Hair drama and high fashion in one doll.

Happy 60th Birthday, Barbie. Thank you, Carol Spencer, for your vision and fashion sense. And thank you, Nana, for making my Barbies the best-dressed dolls anywhere!

Nancy Mugele is the Head of School at Kent School in Chestertown, a member of the Board of Horizons of Kent and Queen Anne’s, a member of the Board of Chesapeake Charities, and a member of the Education Committee of Sultana Education Foundation.

Remembering Harry Hughes by Rob Etgen

Share

Harry Roe Hughes, two term Maryland Governor from the Eastern Shore, foremost champion of saving the Chesapeake Bay, and long-time Chairman of Eastern Shore Land Conservancy (ESLC), passed away comfortably at home last week after a long and very full life. Harry was a true statesman who had an incredible impact on Maryland, the Chesapeake Bay, the Eastern Shore, and all of us here at ESLC.

Just after Harry left the State House and his leadership role in stimulating the multi-state Bay cleanup, he was recruited to ESLC by his high school physics teacher – Howard Wood – one of ESLC’s Founders. Once on our Board Harry jumped right in and quickly started presiding at meetings, raising funds and shepherding me around the halls of government in Annapolis. Harry stayed active with ESLC in various roles even through his later years. During 2005, Harry and John Frece used the ESLC offices for the drafting of his autobiography, My Unexpected Journey.

Harry often loosened up ESLC crowds with stories of baseball and growing up in Denton when you could ramble unhindered across field and forest throughout Caroline County. He also took pride in his mischievous streak often telling about pushing his parent’s car out of the driveway and down the road before starting it to conceal nighttime joy rides. Many of his stories were prefaced by Harry saying he was killing time to avoid leading everyone in the ESLC fight song – “Don’t Bring In Sprawl” – which he hated singing.

My favorite Harry memory was in 1995 when he recruited the USDA Secretary to speak at ESLC’s annual gala in celebration of our proposed Security Corridor of protected farmland on the Eastern Shore. The morning of the sold out event at the Tidewater Inn the USDA Secretary was called out of the Country, and when I called Harry with the terrifying news, he simply said, “Let me see what I can do.” By that evening Harry had choreographed a speech by Maryland Agriculture and Natural Resources Secretaries and with Governor Glendenning on speakerphone that announced a major new State effort to protect our Corridor – and our crowd cheered! Now known as Maryland’s “Rural Legacy Program,” this initiative that Harry started that evening has now protected 920,694 acres of beautiful farmland and habitat. A nice day’s work!

Harry would often tell a joke about how someone in an elevator once asked him, “Didn’t you used to be Harry Hughes?” And his punch line was “Still am!” Truthfully, that joke is not that good, but when Harry told it, people roared with laughter. That was just Harry’s way – low key, comfortable, and lighthearted. We could use more of that today in our leaders.

Rob Etgen is the president of the East Shore Land Conservancy

White Nationalism by David Montgomery

Share

“White nationalism” is now the catchphrase of the day for the Left to use in maligning President Trump. In response to a question about the New Zealand killings, the President gave the perfectly reasonable reply that he did not see white nationalism as a rising threat. For this, he was immediately attacked by the self-appointed censors of political discourse. As the former president of Harvard University, Larry Summers, learned a number of years ago, questioning the dogmas of the left will bring down wrath but not constructive debate.

There are four reasons why skepticism about the threat of white nationalism is justified: numbers, vagueness, motivation and organization.

By the numbers, white nationalism clearly does not compare to Islamic terrorism. In 2017 alone, Islamic terrorists murdered 18,753 innocent men, women and children who would not submit to one form of radical Islam or another, and 236,000 in the past decade. The names of the organizations are a litany of terror: Al Quaeda, ISIS, Al Shabab, Boko Haram, the Moslem Brotherhood, the Taliban. In comparison, there were just 158 deaths from attacks by far right extremists in Europe and North America between 2002 and 2017. The left tries hard to conceal this simple fact by talking about increasing trends and percentages while obscuring the huge disproportion in actual attacks.

The label “white nationalist” has been applied to so many different people that it has become virtually meaningless except as a signifier of dislike. The label used to be “alt-right,” a term whose lack of specificity was obvious, but “white nationalist” sounds so much scarier. Most of those who are now labelled white nationalists by the social justice warriors abhor physical violence. Publicly opposing illegal entry by Hispanics crossing the southern border frequently earns the label. Opposing admission of economic refugees from Middle Eastern countries does the same. Even comparing the accomplishments of Western Civilization with failed states in Africa will earn the label, and wearing a MAGA hat will certainly do so. None of these actions have any connection to murderous attacks. With this vague and expansive use of the term “white nationalist,” any question about the topic is an invitation to be misinterpreted.

The murderers who have been labeled white nationalists were all loners and nuts. None were found to have any direct encouragement to act from a white nationalist organization. Their actions stemmed from a deep psychopathology, and while racist leanings may have affected their choice of targets, the violence came from within.

This should be obvious to those who apply the label “white nationalists” to such a large percentage of the American population. If most Trump supporters are white nationalists, then the likelihood of a white nationalist becoming a deranged killer cannot be significantly greater than the likelihood of a member of any other group, or the general population, becoming one. Normal people have not been made into killers by the political propaganda of extreme white nationalists, any more than they have become mass murderers of other types.

There does seem to be some evidence that the number of incidents in which sociopaths have murdered Jews or people of color has increased. Incidents in which disturbed students attacked a school or angry individuals shot up a workplace have also increased. But these incidents of deranged behavior are very different from the motivation of Islamic terrorists and Jihadis. There is an entire belief system behind Islamic jihad, dating back to Mohammed’s decision to convert Jews to Islam by force when they rejected his incoherent preaching in Mecca. This makes the pool of potential murderers much larger than the pool of racist sociopaths.

Granted that many perpetrators of suicide attacks have been forced to wear their suicide vests. Yet the core and leadership of jihad appear to be following the very clear precepts and instructions of the Koran. Even the lone wolf terrorists of recent years were converts to this belief, and not the deranged loners who carried out “white nationalist” attacks. Pope Benedict ignited a firestorm of criticism when he repeated the question that a Christian king asked a Moslem cleric about how Islam could justify use of violence to further religious ends. But Pope Benedict received no reasoned answer, just threats of bodily harm for insulting Islam. Point made.

The threat to Christians in Africa, to Moslems of different sects in Southeast Asia, and increasingly to Europeans from Islamic jihad is not only derived from the teaching of a religion that aspires to be universal. It reveals itself in well-organized terror attacks, establishment of territorial domination under Islamic rule, and continuing disruption of civil society. In Egypt, for example, the Moslem brotherhood has wiped out a large part of the Coptic Church, and ISIS has virtually driven Christianity out of Iraq. Boko Haram maintains control over large areas of Africa where it terrorizes the Christian population.

When I try to see the world through the eyes of a leader whose first responsibility is to safeguard the wellbeing of his country’s citizens, I see that in comparison to the threat of Islamic jihad on a global scale, the threat of attacks by deranged killers who espouse racist beliefs is “not that large.” Based on the numbers, specificity, motivation and organization, the threat of white nationalism pales in significance compared to Islamic jihad.

Every taking of an innocent human life is gravely immoral, whether it be in the form of abortion, euthanasia, gang violence, drug wars, Islamic terrorism or racist ideology. Traditional moral teaching does not measure evil by comparing how many are killed – each intentional killing of an innocent is as evil as the total of such murders. President Trump never questioned this moral principle, and no matter what CNN says, he condemned the killings in New Zealand explicitly and forcefully.

The President has different responsibilities as the Commander-in Chief, at least in the eyes of those with a realist view of international affairs. He is responsible for the security and domestic tranquility of the United States, and must rank threats not morally but in order of the damage they are likely to do if left unchecked. Constructive thinking and disagreement with his priorities is legitimate and useful but knee-jerk condemnation of his every statement is not. When the President states priorities that have a legitimate factual basis, he deserves a logical and reasoned response from those who disagree, not the shrieks of offended children who had their safe spaces violated.

David Montgomery is retired from a career of teaching, government service and consulting, during which he became internationally recognized as an expert on energy, environmental and climate policy.  He has a PhD in economics from Harvard University and also studied economics at Cambridge University and theology at the Catholic University of America,   David and his wife Esther live in St Michaels, and he now spends his time in front of the computer writing about economic, political and religious topics and the rest of the day outdoors engaged in politically incorrect activities.

Out and About (Sort of): Academic Scam and Shame by Howard Freedlander

Share

A week ago at a pleasant lunch in Washington, DC with a college friend, I learned from him about the breaking news regarding admissions bribery at some of our nation’s top universities. Included in this revelation was rampant cheating in college entrance exams and professional help in essay-writing.

My initial reaction was denial, followed by disgust.

Then, last Thursday, a participant at a meeting expressed a decided lack of surprise about the allegations concerning admissions and counseling misbehavior. I was flabbergasted at this response, characterizing it as blatantly cynical.

Another friend ascribed the bribery and manipulation of the admission process to cultural decay pervading our country. Discussion of this analysis warrants another column. It’s worth mentioning, however.

I suspect my two reactions wreaked of naivety. I’ve been living under a rock, I guess. Perhaps I’ve ignored the power of money and influence. That’s not entirely true, however, as I’ve chided and defended myself in the same paragraph.

Here’s what I’ve learned about this shameful episode now besmirching elite schools such as Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Georgetown and University of Southern California. An unscrupulous college adviser in Boston, capitalizing on the incessant ambition of parents and their children to gain admission to prestigious universities and the perpetual fundraising by nearly all institutions of higher learning, gamed the system to his economic advantage. Now he faces a possible jail sentence.

What I’ve learned over the years as a volunteer fundraiser and friend-raiser for my university is the transactional attitude of many, but certainly not all well-heeled alumni and parents.

The faulty, unsavory logic goes like this: if colleges and universities are constantly seeking incredibly large amounts of money to preserve their fiscal stability, then it only seems reasonable to engage in a quid pro quo. So this errant thinking then prompts parents and alumni to offer huge sums of money for a child’s admission, as we learned the past week.

I despise this mindset. My alma mater will not accept a contribution from a parent whose child is amidst the application process; if this parent is an alumnus and large donor, the school will not accept a donation until the admissions process is completed.

Stories are legendary about longtime givers ceasing their generosity when their child is rejected. I can provide chapter and verse about this common response. I have listened to my share of anger. While I understand that rejection of a child (for anything) is searingly painful for a loving parent, I sympathize only to a small degree.

In the current controversy, the unethical college counselor arranged for someone to take exams for his clients’ children. I’m not sure how that’s done, but I won’t quibble, He arranged for young people to be placed on an athletic coach’s preferred list of applicants—even when the young person didn’t play that sport. The former tennis coach at Georgetown University allegedly engaged in this sordid behavior; his compensation was exceedingly ample.

This mess is abhorrent. No one wins.

Parents able to afford bribes, a college guidance counselor and athletic coaches willing to accept huge sums of money and the young person accepted on false premises—they all have lost their moral compass. I wonder, however, if the participants would agree. They might just bemoan the fact they got caught and say to themselves that they were simply playing the game affordable to them.

While my ire and revulsion are evident, I must admit some reluctance to accept the prevalent condemnation of wealthy people who have provided extraordinary educational and travel opportunities to their children– therefore giving them a distinct advantage over low-income applicants having had exposure to subjects embedded in entrance exams questions and in being fortunate to have impressive resumes.

I have yet to meet parents, regardless of their socioeconomic status, who haven’t extended themselves to a reasonable degree to pay for enrichment opportunities for their children. It’s human nature.

At the university that I attended, 13 percent of recent freshman classes have comprised first-generation, low-income individuals whose parents, I presume, pushed them to apply to this highly regarded school. I would hazard to say that parents of legacy applicants (children of alumni) are screaming at this new reality and possibly withdrawing their financial support.

I wanted to write another column this week. But I couldn’t ignore the crisis of conscience enveloping several major universities. It’s repugnant. It’s an example of money-driven misbehavior that engenders distrust of long-admired schools of higher learning.

Meanwhile, cynicism continues to grow. A transactional approach to college admissions seems distastefully pervasive. Integrity appears elusive.

Maybe it’s beneficial that the college guidance and admission process undergoes examination. My guess is that admission offices and standards of behavior—along with stricter oversight of college guidance advisers—will face intense scrutiny.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland. Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer. In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

 

Getting In Shape by George Merrill

Share

Sometimes a waterspout is more than just a waterspout.

Years ago, I saw a waterspout. I’d not seen one before. I was on a sailboat on Long Island Sound. I watched until the waterspout was finally spent. The sight was mesmerizing.

I’d been sailing on the Connecticut side of the Sound; the waterspout appeared near the Long Island shore. The cloud hung low above the horizon. Below the cloud, the spout undulated as hoses will when first filled with water. It slowly and deliberately moved this way and that until finally it stabilized. The display lasted about three minutes. The spout was gradually assumed into the cloud.

Vortices, whether tornadoes, water spouts, dust devils or the whirlpools of descending water, have always excited the human imagination. The fascination may be associated with something as sublime as God speaking to Job in a whirlwind or Jacob’s ladder that’s often pictured as a spiral staircase.

Witnessing vortex action can be a negative one, like the commonplace fear that the whirlpools from a draining bathtub or toilet often produce in children. These childish fears were regarded universal enough that Mr. Rogers, in one of his neighborhood series, addressed the issue and reassured children that they would always be safe from harm and never be drawn down and away with waste water. Perhaps the fear is inspired by the power a whirlpool demonstrates. It has the capacity to suck anything down and make it irretrievable – not unlike the tornado that adults fear can flatten and then draw almost anything up and toss it away.

The fascination with the activity of vortexes is found in documents dating from ancient times among the Aztecs, the Greeks and Romans, the Arab and Asian cultures and into the twenty-first century here in the west. The nature of various kinds of vortexes was understood to reveal the basic structure and function of the universe. They were frequently regarded as divine manifestations. The character of the vortex appeals to something deep and primal in the human soul.

Eliot Weinberger, in his book, An Elemental Thing, explores the cultural myths that have appeared at different times and places worldwide. What is striking in his research is how he discovers close similarities in the vortex images that appear in widely disparate mythic creation traditions. They may represent creation, destruction, divine activity or the workings of our minds.

Some historic instances include:

In 500 BC, the Taoist tradition held that the “the universe produced ‘chi,’ the life-giving breath, and it was like a whirlpool” Another example; the Buddhists describe their concept of Nirvana as “eternal peace in the vortex of evolution.”

In 203 AD Plotinus, a Roman general believed; “the enlightened soul returns to its origin, which is a whirlpool,” and in 1920, poet T.S. Eliot wrote more ominously about vortices: “Vortex is the end of time.”

It seems that images portraying vortices occupy a place in our primitive consciousness; what Carl Jung described as our “archetypal consciousness.” These are archaic patterns and images that derive from our collective unconscious by virtue of our being members of the same human race.

I unwittingly discovered I carried similar archaic patterns in my own unconscious. It revealed itself as I was trying to give a shape to formlessness.

Some years ago, I presented a photographic exhibit at the Academy Art Museum in Easton. The theme was the Genesis epic of creation. I produced photographs to illustrate selected texts describing various acts of creation. The first image presented me with a significant challenge.

“Now the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.”

Something without shape and void does not lend itself to being photographed. What could I do with that?

I decided to fabricate my own negative. I did this by putting printer’s ink on a glass plate. I let my imagination go wild and made fanciful finger paintings, hoping that something would take a shape that would in some metaphoric way suggest the shapeless and barren universe that preceded the first act of creation.

The glass plate would serve as my negative which I would then place in an enlarger to make positive prints from it.

The last time I’d done anything like this was finger painting with my children when we were stuck indoors on a rainy day. We’d put blobs of paint on paper and then just let ‘er rip, smearing colors everywhere, guided only by high spirits and atavistic impulses. Actually, it was great fun for all of us, real play without any rules or limits except being careful not to get any paint on the rug. The table was big enough to accommodate that constraint.

My children were not of an age to artistically render recognizable objects or figures of any kind. What they produced were pure abstractions, some of which were delightful albeit inscrutable. The pleasure they felt I would guess was as much tactile as it was aesthetic, and the surprise that their five fingers could indeed create something out of nothing excited their imaginations.

In creating glass negatives, I followed my instincts, as much as my adult needs for control would allow me, and came up with some bizarre and goofy looking messes. Still, as much as I was having fun with this, I had an agenda to finally to come up with some kind of image – a paradoxical one in the sense that a black and white image would suggest its very opposite, no image, no shape, no form. I was trying to give shape to the shapeless.

I had my work cut out for me.

Finally, I came up with a glass negative that printed the image accompanying this essay. It was after many attempts. I thought I saw in this image, something (almost) of what I was reaching for, something that was just shy of taking form.

Only a few weeks ago, after I’d read Eliot Weinberger’s essay on the vortex, I was surprised to find that the image I had settled on as the ‘void,’ was in fact the shape of a primal vortex similar to those appearing in so many cultural creation myths. The character of vortices in these cultures is that they represented beginnings and endings, life and death.

What a marvelous thought to ponder; that buried deep within my unconscious – in yours and mine both – lies hidden the blueprint of our very beginnings.

Letter to Editor: Tragedy Of The Soft Shell And Razor Clam

Share

I read Tragedy of the Commons many times in my undergraduate career. We are all familiar with the premise: overuse of a common resource for personal benefit ultimately eliminates that resource, spoiling it for everyone. To ensure that our common resources do not become depleted in Maryland or the Chesapeake Bay, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) works to “preserve, protect, restore, and enhance our environment for this and future generations.” Specifically, DNR strives to create balance between our economy and our environment, which we at ShoreRivers commend and support.

Consider the eastern oyster, for example, a filter feeder that improves water quality and habitat, and is an iconic menu item for locals and tourists alike. A DNR Fishery Management Plan is needed for this species to ensure that we continue to see both ecological and economic benefits for generations to come. This is an example of a state agency regulating a natural resource so that all can benefit.

Two lesser known bivalve species in the Bay provide similar ecological value. Soft shell clams and razor clams filter the same volume of gallons in one day as the oyster. Numerous studies have found that these species once played an integral role in the Chesapeake’s food web, as a primary food source for multiple predators. Unfortunately, also similar to the eastern oyster, these clam species are on the brink of extinction in the Chesapeake Bay.

The soft shell clam fishery has been “boom and bust” since the invention of the hydraulic dredge in the 1950’s. “Boom” times with high harvest rates and high numbers of clamming licenses are followed by “bust” times with significant drops in clam populations, which result in lower harvest rates and fewer licenses.

Considering the high ecological value these species provide and their current low populations, ShoreRivers believes they are in need of conservation. Without a DNR Fishery Management Plan, there is currently no balance between the economic and ecological value of these clams. To ensure this balance is established and that there are clams in our Maryland waterways in the future, ShoreRivers fought for a Fishery Management Plan for the clam fishery during the 2019 Maryland Legislative General Assembly. This bill would have initiated relatively low-cost studies of current clam populations and habitats, impacts to the population from climate change, and economic and ecological values of clams.

Unfortunately, the Department of Natural Resources was not supportive of this bill and was unwilling to compromise. DNR’s main argument was that these species are too transient and difficult to study. However, considering that there have been studies of these species in the past (although none that inform regulation), and the fact that these species continue to be harvested, we feel that this decision clearly states that DNR is supportive of the economic value of these species, more so than the ecological value. If we are unable to study a species, consider the ecological value, or make regulation recommendations that promote sustainability, then we should not have that commercial fishery.

Yes, we are all familiar with the Tragedy of the Commons, but it seems as though our current administration is choosing to ignore the warning signs of resource depletion. To be clear, I am in support of sustainable fisheries – fisheries that provide economic value, support our local watermen, and ensure that species continue to provide ecological benefits to our ecosystems.

However, if, according to DNR, it is not possible to find balance between economy and ecology, then which side should we choose? What repercussions might we see if we lose the soft shell and razor clams? As Miles-Wye Riverkeeper, I have the privilege of giving a voice to the river; I have no doubt the river would choose the side of ecological benefits.

Elle Bassett
Miles-Wye Riverkeeper
ShoreRivers

Letter to Editor: Sen. Hershey’s Chestertown Hospital Bill is just what the Doctor Ordered

Share

Whether you’re convinced that our community will win or lose the fight to Save Our Hospital, we have great news.

Sen. Steve Hershey, the state senator who represents our district, has introduced a bill designed to put the state in the driver’s seat of the Chestertown hospital.  

If the bill becomes law, UM Shore Medical Center at Chestertown will become a Maryland Department of Health rural Pilot Program on October 1 of this year, with as many as 25 inpatient beds and lots of state attention, expertise and resources.    

The bill that could transform our hospital has an un-catchy name, clearly the handiwork of lawyers instead of poets:  The Chestertown Rural Health Care Delivery Innovations Pilot Program. The bill number is SB 1018.

UMMS’ Shore Regional Health System will, the bill makes it clear, likely continue to own and operate the hospital under state direction, so Shore would receive state funding and resources for physician recruitment and expanded services.  

It is, in many ways, exactly what Shore Health President and CEO Ken Kozel has said he would welcome.  

The bill says the purpose of the Department of Health Pilot Project is to find innovative solutions for sustaining inpatient hospital care in Maryland’s rural communities, and it appears against the backdrop of a national crisis.  Since 2010, 98 rural hospitals have closed in the U.S., and in Chestertown, where the community depends on the hospital for economic stability as well as medical care, Shore Regional Health has been cutting services since 2015.

If SB 1018 dies in Annapolis, Shore Health will almost certainly convert the hospital into a “Freestanding Medical Facility” after March of 2022.  It will have an Emergency Room, diagnostics (MRI, CT-Scan, X-Ray, Mammogram equipment, for instance), as well as outpatient surgery, lab, chemotherapy and rehab facilities.  Without inpatient beds, it will no longer be a hospital, and patients who need inpatient care will be transferred to Easton or hospitals that are an hour or more away.

If Sen. Hershey’s bill becomes law, however, the state Pilot Program will operate our hospital for two five-year periods; the Department of Health could open a Center of Excellence at the hospital during the second five-year period, perhaps for the study of rural health or gerontology, or some other medical concern that’s relevant in this area.  

And after 10 years, the bill decrees, the Maryland Department of Health will recommend whether the Pilot Program should become a “permanent program.”  

Permanent!  What a beautiful word.

You’re welcome to come to a Save the Hospital meeting tonight—7:30 on the second floor of Chestertown’s Town Hall–when we set out plans for our campaign to win passage of SB 1018.  If you can’t attend the meeting, watch for more media articles, and follow my posts on Facebook’s Chestertown Life page.

The General Assembly session is moving fast, so plan to get on board.  

Margie Elsburg
Communications Coordinator for “Save the Hospital”

×
We're glad you're enjoying The Chestertown Spy.

Sign up for the the free email blast to see what's new in the Spy. It's delivered right to your inbox at 3PM sharp.

Sign up here.