Most Friday evenings I make sure I watch Shields and Brooks on the PBS News Hour.
I know, my life is pathetic.
I love these two guys–A Democrat and a Republican discussing the issues of the day in a respectful, intelligent fashion! Say it isn’t so.
Even when they disagree, it’s done with the utmost regard for the other person and their perspective.
I don’t remember everything that they discuss every time, but I always come away with something valuable to turn over in my mind.
A few weeks ago, Mark Shields commented on how the Democratic party did a good job of representing our rights as Americans, but failed to balance that position by representing equally our responsibilities to our country. He quoted the famous words spoken by JFK: …ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.
Shields continued by saying that he supported the idea of some kind of national service program for all citizens. Basically a requirement of our young people that says you need to spend some time in service to your country when you reach a certain age. Serving others–what a concept. I’ve heard support for this idea from both progressives and conservatives and I am intrigued by it.
There are myriad civil society service corps that could use the help. Peace Corps, Job Corps, Americorps, and military organizations are just a scant few. The possibilities for development of new programs to address our societies needs are endless–conservation, senior care, child care and education, literacy, parks and recreation, etc. etc.
Every community in this country has needs. Participants could hook up with local schools, churches, libraries, arts organizations, social services, first responders, law enforcement, museums, manufacturing facilities, state and local parks and municipalities, etc., to serve, and in return gain valuable experience and training in specific skills and environments.
And there could be travelling corps to address labor needs for infrastructure in our national parks and monuments and urban areas across the country. Think of the accomplishments of FDR’s Civilian Conservation Corps–over three billion trees planted as well as the construction of road and trail systems, dam and erosion control projects and the building of park structures that are still in use today in our National and State Parks systems.
Think of the opportunities for personal growth and the broader perspective this could provide to young people who are increasingly isolated from social interaction outside their own carefully curated cliques.
I agree with Mark Shields. We need to balance our rights as citizens of a civil society with our responsibilities to that society in order to truly thrive. This is one way to approach that model with boots on the ground and give it legs.
Maybe next week, when I am not exhausted and heart sick from another gun massacre of innocents, we can discuss the same concept in regards to gun ownership rights vs. responsibilities. I’ve spent the last four days dealing with raw emotions and trying to wrap my head around the realty that is the new norm in my country, without much success.
Please feel free to comment and let me know what you think.
©2018 by Ilona Elliott
In another trying week for America, where the news is filled with stories about corruption and apathy and intolerance and the senseless death of yet more children, it would be easy to retreat into diatribes of anger and despair. I understand the impulse, and see the utility of joining in on the outrage. But I […]
I’ve been reading “When You Are Engulfed in Flames” by David Sedaris. I love how he makes me laugh out loud.
I wish he was my friend and I could call him up and just listen to his witty little observations of the world and his exaggerated stories of the people he runs into. We could laugh at our crazy selves and at the absurdities of the world around us.
I could use a friend like that these days. Of course it would be expensive to speak to him, all the way from the U.S. I guess I’ll have to make do with my brother Phil. He makes me laugh out loud too, and he’s just on the East Coast. He doesn’t answer his phone much though, so I have to wait for him to call me. I’m waiting Phil! It’s been, like, for-ever.
Apparently, Sedaris lives in Normandy, or did when he wrote the book. I wonder what it’s like to live in Normandy? Are the people serious and depressed because of the history of the place? Are the French serious and depressed in general? Is that why they drink so much wine? What’s it like having a real President?
I hear conflicting stories about the French from people who travel to France.
My brother Joe worked in France a few times and loved the French attitude of “If we don’t get it done today, there is always tomorrow”. I like the lassez-faire attitude also. Don’t sweat it. Life is too short for deadlines. Let’s go get drunk.
My niece just came back from a week in Paris, and reported that the people were very friendly and helpful. I can’t imagine not being a lovely person living in a city with such beautiful pastries and so much art.
But other people claim that the French are haughty, especially to Americans. My response is- who could blame them? I’m sure they are thinking “Anyone who is happy scarfing down a Big Mac and feeding their kids Chicken McNuggets must be an idiot.” I couldn’t argue with that. Especially if they are gobbling that fast food in Europe.
When I was in Italy, I was very happy. Exhausted, constipated, dehydrated, and always looking for a public restroom, but happy.
Every morning I drank a couple of perfect macchiatos and ate one or two sfogliatelle–light and fluffy yet somehow crispy pastries filled with vanilla or chocolate pastry cream. It made the stewed prunes so much more tolerable.
In the afternoons I usually had a gelato or a cannoli, sometimes both! The food was dreamy. It made up for the deprivations of drinkable tap water, free public restrooms, and regularity.
Granted, there were a few mediocre meals, usually grabbed as I was heading out to a sight I wanted to see and ducked into some nondescript side-street shop. I was hugely disappointed a time or two. Italy’s version of fast food convinced me that fast food is an oxymoron. If it’s not good in Italy, then obviously it just sucks overall.
But then there was the winery near Montepulciano that served a chick pea soup drizzled with olive oil that was so unctuous, who knew chick peas could be so delicious? And the wood fired Pizza Margarita in Perugia, recommended by our guide. The thin crust was smoky, and crispy on the bottom, but still had a soft bite beneath the judiciously applied sauce, mozarella and basil, topped with that ubiquitous and perfect drizzle of quality olive oil. And the absolute melt in your mouth roasted pork dinner in Florence or it’s sister Porchetta sandwich I ate standing in the doorway of a trattoria in Pisa, pushed up against tourists and locals huddling together under the awning during a serious cloud burst. One of the best sandwiches I ever ate. And I don’t even like meat that much.
I also noticed there weren’t a lot of obese people in Italy, even though the food portions were not skimpy, and everyone eats well. Perhaps it’s all the walking people tend to do. I certainly ate enough to gain a few pounds. But didn’t. In spite of the irregularity. Am I being too repetitive?
All in all, I think the Italians and the French have the right idea about things. Life is too short to eat bad food. Food is not something to be scarfed. It’s something to be savored.
As is good wine. And incredible art. As is life. Time is not of the essence peeps. Living is.
©2018 by Ilona Elliott
harness; helmet; gloves; and oh, first things first, your pad, My Lady.
Here at the edge of the world
Where the enchanted woods
Hug the crumbling cliffs
Doing the soft slide together
Down onto the beach…
Each visit brings a new landscape.
But the eagle’s roost still stands:
Two white heads
Four yellow eyes.
And vision that pierces
As we pass by
On clumsy feet
Aware of the constraints.
Anchored to the earth
We abdicate the heavens
To our lofty companions,
And humbly move on.
Longing for things
That will never be…
©2018 by Ilona Elliott
I tried to write a 2017 retrospective blog post and failed. Which was fitting, since 2017 in a nutshell equals: Sucked. Big Suck.
Lately, since November at least, I am too mentally exhausted to write anything more than a few sentences at a time. And the paltry words I do manage to tack together into barely intelligible syntax are usually such pitifully lame excuses for social commentary, they are virtually unfit for any social media platform of any consequence.
So they all end up on my Facebook page. Along with pretty photographs taken by someone with a better camera and photography skills than me, transposed with inspirational words written by someone with a better attitude than mine–usually someone long dead who is not trapped in the national nightmare that is my country right now. And adorable doggy videos of course.
Now some folks are obviously stimulated by controversy and absolutely seem to love the Reality TV/Talk Radio/Tabloid TV model of governing our new POTUS has invented, but personally, I find it exhausting.
Who needs all that drama? Oh right…the twenty four hour news cycle. I almost forgot about them.
I used to shake my head at the Gaddafi’s, Amin’s and Ahmadinejad’s of the world and thank my lucky stars that here in America, we elect reasonable, intelligent, principaled men as president. Oh how awful it must be, I thought, to have a terrorist, a despot or a fool in charge of your country. Who could imagine a fool in charge of America? I know– unimaginable!
I am so in awe of my blogger friends who are still bopping along out there in spite of it all, writing blog posts worth publishing, their wits and writing skills intact, their ambition unrelinquished. Sometimes after spending time on my Word Press Reader browsing my favorite sites and reading my favorite bloggers’ posts, I feel so energized! I’m inspired to write my own post. Until I do.
My mind is a burned out cinder. My heart is a cold lump of clay. My fingers are wooden, no longer flesh and blood, incapable of transmuting my feelings into any worthwhile little anecdotes, let alone seven hundred and fifty words of easily digestible prose.
I sit with my fingers poised over the keyboard, type a few lines, back space, delete, back space, back space, delete, blah-blah-blah bullshit, bullshit, WAAAA WAAAA WAAAAAA! is about all I can write these days. So I end up either staring at my foggy reflection in the office nook window, critiquing my bad haircut, or with my head in my hands slouched in front of the laptop like a boiled shrimp, feeling lousy…critiquing my WTF was I thinking? ugly Poindexter glasses. YEESH.
AND my posture is atrocious.
So I think I’ll go do some yoga poses while comtemplating my choice of haircuts and glasses. Then, on to the doggy videos.
Happy 2018 All!
If you react to certain kinds of music with goosebumps, you have a unique brain. You may have a wider, richer range of emotions. Those who get chills from music have structural differences in the brain, namely “a higher volume of fibers that connect their auditory cortex to the areas associated with emotional processing, which […]
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I read a Wall Street Journal article today about Fascist and radical nationalists marching in Polands’ Independence Day Celebrations yesterday. Tens of thousands attended the march.
On the same day here in America, we celebrated Veterans Day. In ceremonies, words and pictures, and silent thoughts and prayers, we considered the sacrifices of our Veterans.
I wonder how many veterans of the second world war are still alive in the world? I wonder what they think of the youth marching in Poland? Or of the marches our own home grown Nazi sympathizing youth have made recently, proudly wearing their swastika arm bands and reciting anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim epithets.
According to the National World War II Museum, 416,800 American Military lost their lives fighting Fascism during the war. Poland lost Five and a half MILLION people, 240,000 of them soldiers. Three million Polish Jews were exterminated. Nearly two million non-Jewish Polish civilians were also killed by the German Reich. The Nazi goal during WWII was to exterminate the Polish people and cleanse the country of it’s Polish culture. They very nearly succeeded.¹ Our fathers and grandfathers fought and died in the European theater, on foreign soil, to see that Hitler did NOT succeed.
And now we have young Polish citizens hungry to cleanse Poland of Jews and Muslims, homosexuals, and, it doesn’t take much imagination to conclude, any other group they find objectionable. They seem to confuse their bigotry with patriotism, much as our own young nationalists do. Ironically, their slogan in Poland, borrowed from a speech US President Donald Trump made there in July is “We Want God”.
A young Polish man, part of the counter-protest Saturday, is quoted as saying “It’s getting more vicious…We are Polish Jews…We are really in fear.” The Polish Police were standing by to protect them.
I’ve been sickened by the wave of white nationalist and pro-Nazi sympathy that has washed over my own country recently. You can read about my thoughts on that here.
But I would have hoped that in a country so completely devastated by Hitler and the Nazis, a country that still bears the scars of it’s seven WWII era concentration camps² and cemeteries full of the WWII dead, a country whose soil still clings to the DNA of it’s war dead, that the youth would be more enlightened to the dangers of Fascism. And yet, they are embracing it. In large numbers. And, they believe, in the name of God.
My father was a veteran of WWII. And my father-in-law. And several of my uncles. And male friends of the family. Sadly, they are all gone now. They cannot give voice to the atrocities of that war and when they were here, they rarely spoke of it. It was not in vogue to talk of such things. They were rarely called upon to bear witness. And that is to our loss. History is never so compelling as when it is shared by those who lived it.
The sacrifices of our parents and grand parents are being taken for granted by our youth. We need strong and reproachful voices from people who know war, who can speak against the proliferation of hateful ideology and who understand the grief quotient of war.
We especially need War Veterans Voices.
But we also need your voice. Speak up against the things your father or grandfather or great grandfather fought against. It’s not a Right or Left thing. It’s the right thing.
Too many of our young men are slipping into sentimentality for things they really know nothing of. They believe in militancy and heavy fire power and have no appetite for community, civil discourse or diversity. They believe in race as a defining character and in the superiority of one race over another. They want to divide our country and they have found an ally in their President who, wittingly or unwittingly, drives us further and further from the unity that is the namesake of our country.
I’m worried about the direction things are headed–not just here but globally. So many young men seem to believe that ethnic cleansing is the cure all for all socio-economic woes. And they believe that their ideology is pure and Godly, which is dangerous.
I’d like to think that they don’t really know what Fascism is or what it has wrought in the past, but I’m afraid that their ignorance is willful and that their understanding is more complete than I give them credit for and that I’m just being naive.
I’m interested to know what you think. Let me know in the comments.
©2017 Ilona Elliott
Two weeks after my father passed away I opened his closet to start sorting through his clothes. The shelf above the closet rod where his clothes hung was crowded with numerous heavy, bulging plastic bags. I pulled one down and looked inside. It was packed full of greeting cards. I pulled another one down. Same thing. I removed all the bags and spread them out on the hide-a-bed and floor of the den of my parents house, and began looking through them.
It didn’t take long for me to realize that although the bags were in Dad’s closets, they were put there by my Mother. It seemed like she had saved every card they had ever received throughout the course of their fifty years together.
Since my fathers death I had been steeped in nostalgia and living in a memory box of my family’s life, so it was perfectly natural that I sat there and read card after card after card.
There were pretty birthday cards and frilly valentines from Dad to Mom, some silly and some very romantic–the sweetest ones dating back to the early years of their marriage. They often included a memorable inscription. When it counted, Dad had a nice way with words.
There were hoards of get-well cards for Dad, with personal notes from close friends and relatives. Reading them reminded me of the long, up and down road he had traveled battling disease. There were get-well wishes for Mom too, dating back to 1977 when she had her stroke. I read the one from her best friend, Hattie Pillo, with tears in my eyes.
There were sympathy cards for Mom: “On the Loss of Your Sister”; and for Dad: “On the Loss of Your Brother”. Some had mass cards tucked inside them with images of Jesus, Mary or one of the saints, and were inscribed with Catholic prayers for the dearly departed: Jean, Helen, Joseph, Pauline, Mary, George.
There were multitudes of cards from my five siblings and I to Mom and Dad. They varied from gaudy to simple, from humorous to seriously sentimental. The progression of our lives became evident in the way the cards were signed over time–from wonky one word scrawls to scripted signatures. The tone and timbre of the inscriptions changed over time as well, from child talk to adolescent reticence to meaningful and coherently adult expressions of love, gratitude and appreciation.
As I read, I traveled back and forth through the years and relived the lives of my father, who was gone, and my mother, who was in the other room. Some of the card’s senders were gone too, but their written words brought them back to me and reminded me of how closely their lives had been intertwined with ours. It was bittersweet, and at times difficult, but I was compelled to continue reading through the pile to the conclusion. I was reading a deeply personal and moving story. The story of a man and his wife and their six children. It was a memoir, a biography, an illustrated work of historical non-fiction. It was instructive and at times auto-biographical.
Initially, I was a little shocked at the sheer numbers of cards my Mother had saved. There were hundreds of cards. Bags and bags of them. But as I sat and read through them, I realized that they were so much more than bags of old greeting cards. They were the stories of our lives and the history of our family. Contained within them were death and life, birth and tragedy, sickness and health, happy occasions and sad. They were the documentation of one family’s good times and bad. They were the edifice of my mother’s infrangible connection to her loved ones and to the life we all lived.
I sat there reading for a long time beside a box of tissues, and when I was done, I packed the cards back into their bags and put them on the shelf again. I closed the closet door and went to see what Mom was up to.
The day would come, after she was gone, when I would sit in my dining room and read through them once more, culling the most important ones from the stacks and stacks and stacks of them and discarding the rest. Sorting through the stories of our lives one more time and saving the choicest, most meaningful moments for myself, I managed to reduce the pile down into just three bags. Then I put those three bags into a bin, on a shelf, along with my own growing collection of postcards, cards and letters, spanning numerous years, from so many loved ones, some gone now, but none forgotten, and I closed the door of my closet, until another day.
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©2017 by Ilona Elliott
Nobody likes paying high taxes, but I don’t mind. Maybe that’s a luxury, but I don’t need to hire some hotshot to spend 12 hours a day figuring out how to chisel the government out of an extra few thousand dollars. If getting that extra money means a lot of phone calls and talking to […]