Monday, August 24, 2009


‘No one will ever tell me what I can say or not say or what I can think or not think. I still live in a free country!’ Those had been his words only a few weeks before today. But today he had been to the pharmacy. They could not—would not—fill his prescription for blood pressure medicine. When he had objected that he was paying cash for his medicine instead of using the state program for older persons, he had been told that no medications could be dispensed outside of the guidelines of the program. In other words, he had to subscribe to the state’s program or do without.

He had known the pharmacist for years at this store, but his friend no longer worked in the pharmacy. He had been retired a few weeks earlier because he had objected to the guidelines for dispensing medications. One of the pharmacy clerks caught up with Johnson as he left the store and quickly whispered that his friend the pharmacist had taken some of the final solution. The clerk expressed her disbelief in his acquiescence to its administration. Johnson would not find any information in the state run newspapers since obituaries were no longer permitted.

A few days later, even though his head was pounding, Johnson had decided that he had to go to his favorite all-in-one-stop store to buy a few groceries. This store had the motto ‘As Joe’s Goes, So Goes the Nation.’ Today he would have to walk or ride a bicycle to the store. He could no longer buy fuel for his small vehicle since the state had declared a moratorium on unnecessary travel and fuel consumption due to a sudden loss of markets overseas. Johnson would be able to buy only what he could carry the five miles back to his home.

No vehicles had been in the enormous parking lot at Joe’s. A few bicycles had littered the grass near the islands that floated on the sea of asphalt. A sign on the door of Joe’s had declared that its doors would reopen from 10 a.m. until 12 p.m. on even days. It had been Wednesday at 2 p.m. when he had arrived, exhausted but proud of his vigor at his age. Then he had attempted to look inside the glass doors to see if he could find anyone to talk to him. Only total darkness within the building had convinced him that his trip had been futile. This had been his only hope for food since all other local stores had been closed.

The grass along the highways had not been mown in some time. Somehow Johnson had remembered that his mother had pointed out the salsify plants that had bloomed and produced tiny helicopters when the seed pods were ripe. The roots of the plants were supposed to be edible. Johnson had begun to look for blooms or even the thick stalks that would give away the location of the roots. It had not been the right season.

When Johnson had returned to his home, he had found several new occupants. He had already begun to accept the new ‘Fairness Act’ that provided each individual with one room within the new government housing projects, but he had been totally unaware that ALL homes had been declared part of each area’s projects. Private ownership had been declared unfair to everyone who had not been able to acquire the means for affordable housing. Johnson’s home of 50 years no longer belonged to him. He had been assigned an area to share with another older man.

Johnson’s death had been expected. The mediations he had been taking had been gradually adjusted by the manufacturers so that the older generation had been easy to remove from the government rolls. Nothing he had owned remained, and his ashes had been among the many that had been mixed into a new organic compound used for pavement patches. Now he would truly support his country.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Diogenes Today

Recently some companies decided that they were not being properly represented in the marketplace by sponsoring a nationally syndicated talk show. The host managed to comment in a censorious manner upon the ultimate authorities in America, the President and Congress. He cast aspersions upon what he considered to be corrupt, suspect, or at least unworthy intentions as demonstrated by forthcoming legislation and contradictory utterances that seemed to make a mockery of truth and forthrightness.

His remarks bring to mind—at least to my mind—two questions: What is racist and in what possible contexts can the term be properly used? Race is defined—other than by genetic characteristics—as those united by common history, language, or cultural traits. Racial is defined as pertaining to or characteristic of one race or the races of humankind; or between races: the terms are racial harmony and racial relations. Racism is defined thus: a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one’s own race is superior; or a policy, system of government, etc., based on such a doctrine; hatred or intolerance of another race or other races. One assumes that the racist would be anyone who makes a remark or otherwise indicates that he or she holds the beliefs of racism.

Do any of our countrymen consider themselves superior to John Q. Public or Janice Q. Jones of Jonesville?

The television and the Internet provide a wonderful window on America. How realistic the view might be is another question. But the definition may have to be stretched across the screen or compared to the sites found on the Web: racism is a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement. The teachers who discovered that their students WOULD learn if the expectation was given to them have proven that individual achievement has nothing to do with race. So much for that idea!

Television has presented the entire world with the extreme contrasts between those who have much and those who have little to nothing. Whether it is the ‘star’ of some soap opera, an athlete, or someone who has inherited an insane amount of wealth, the lives of those who have something make a couple of things obvious: wealth can make a difference in the manner one eats and in the manner one goes to jail.

Does the wealthy person fit the definition of racist? Does wealth cause hatred or intolerance of others? It is more likely that the wealthy person never considers those who have no wealth. Of course, no overall judgment can be made about any people: wealthy, healthy, wise, talented, or fumbling. The importance of knowing those who consider themselves above anyone else is the effect on the rest of us. So who makes the laws we must follow? Who consider themselves above those same laws? Who are the racists?

Does Diogenes still speak?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


No intelligent person is without an opinion, or a viewpoint, however warped or skewed either might be. Intelligence has no immunity from stupidity or egotism. But generally the intelligent person has something in common with his fellow man—a sense of right and wrong. Today some of the leaders of our nation have told us that THEY hold the hallmarks or standards of right and wrong—that they alone have the intelligence and common sense understanding to guide the rest of the nation in the best path for the common good.

When a standard applies to ALL, it is truly a standard. When some exempt themselves from the same standard that applies to others, it no longer can be called a standard. Government can be called a standard for those governed, but it MUST apply to all equally. In America, this concept goes back to that one statement with which most are familiar: “all men are created equal.”

Apparently, if what is shown on television and seen or read on the Internet can be considered any indication of the concept of ‘equality,’ NOT every American has been created equal. The average American equals a source of income or self-aggrandizement for those who have bought a position in ‘government.’ Those in government positions are not now, nor conceivably ever have been considered ‘equal’ to the rest of Americans. They are ABOVE the rules and regulations that apply to Joe and Jane Citizen.

Joe and Jane Citizen may or may not have a bank account, a home, a means of transportation, and decent food that must be prepared daily by one of the household members. Of all the ‘things’ that appeal to them as desirable, they generally understand the difference between a desire and a necessity and are willing to forego the pleasure of more ‘things’ until the family budget can accommodate such a purchase. Either one or both of these family members work diligently to fulfill the desires of the rest of the family, sacrificing individual desires for the good of the entire family.

Joe and Jane also have hopes for the future and compassion for those who seem less fortunate than themselves. Joe works and Jane volunteers her time to help build a home or to volunteer in some capacity to serve the community. Neither take for granted that life will give them what they need or desire simply because they exist; they understand that effort is required for whatever they earn. But they are willing to do whatever is necessary to provide for their family and to secure their future as they conceive it.

The ‘government’—those in charge of determining the value applied to the lives of all the Joes and Janes of America—have their own standard of compassion and their own set of hopes for the future. No concept of earning respect or serving exists in the standards of those involved in ‘government’ unless the person has already proven himself or herself to be a servant of those governed. One wonders how many servants currently exist in government. Can a few servants offset the entrenched attitudes of self-importance among those who have come to feel superior to all the Joes and Janes?

What made America great from the very beginning? The servants who were willing to work for the good of all and who realized that they were, indeed, servants made the difference. Individuals were willing to set aside whatever could have created personal comfort to assist in creating security and comfort for all. It was not the ‘government’ they created that made America what it should be; it was the individual who was willing to sacrifice self for others. How much of that sacrifice is left in our government today?