Friday, May 28, 2021


 These days I’m hesitant to admit that I was a member of the Young Republicans in college. In fact, I was one of the officers of our group. I listened religiously to Paul Harvey on the radio. He was the Rush Limbaugh of an earlier generation; just that he told the truth more often, as most people used to do. My hope was to have him as our commencement speaker at graduation. But even as student body president my senior year I couldn’t make that happen.

Then I went to one of those liberal Christian seminaries on the east coast and discovered Jesus didn’t care as much about what I believed as what I did. In three short years, living, studying and working in a racially diverse community, I became one of those “radical leftists” present day Republicans are always targeting and blaming, often because we care deeply about racial equality. Racial discrimination and structural racism became clear to me in that urban environment. People of color were equal in humanity but structurally burdened. It was only there I began to understand the same situation prevailed in my home state of South Dakota. Racial injustice was just easier to hide, as with fewer people and vast spaces you could ignore the original inhabitants better.

For the Trump wing of the Republican Party today, it’s all about race. That means it’s also about democracy. You don’t turn some people away from the polls and pretend they are represented in the democratic process. The plethora of bills to limit access to the ballot in states with Republican heavy legislatures, is startling. When one looks closely, those places most likely to suffer from ballot limiting efforts are areas with large numbers of voters who are people of color.

You can start back in 2016. Without a shred of evidence, Trump told us there were busloads of voters from Massachusetts voting in New Hampshire and that’s why he lost the state. Instead of encouraging the electorate to trust a secure electoral system that represents the will of the people, as every President in history has done, Trump does the opposite with Stop the Steal and his continuing support of ways to overturn certified votes. All of this when his own election official claims 2020 was the most secure election in history and as fellow republicans with integrity refuse his efforts to change votes.

The new recount of the 2020 election in Arizona is a farce. It is being done by a private company, run by a QAnon conspiracy theorist, with no experience in election recounts. In December, he retweeted a post that claimed Trump may have gotten 200,000 more votes in Maricopa County, thereby giving him the Arizona election. Cyber Ninjas (honestly, that’s their name), were not allowing journalists or election officials to observe their “recount” until forced to by the Republican senate that hired them. Now one journalist at a time sits far up in the hall. No one knows what training counters received, if any, or why they are using UV light on the ballots. Just one small detail, Cyber Ninjas didn’t require counters to use red pens in the work area, but they started working with black and blue ink that could be used to change ballot marks, until someone called them on it. Election officials all around the country are aghast.

This Arizona count is just for Maricopa County, the largest and most racially diverse in the state with 2.1 million population. If you look where all the previous challenges to the election took place, in Michigan, in Georgia, in Wisconsin, etc., there are always large communities of color. God forbid, for Trump Republicans, that black and brown and yellow and red people should vote. The Trump wing of the Republican Party has become the new confederacy and those remaining Republicans with any sense of decency and integrity are leaving or sidelined. (I actually saw Mitt Romney clapping at something President Biden said the other evening, in his 100 days speech to Congress). Many, like our own Congressmen, are lacking the courage to respond to Stop the Steal, preferring the halls of power to the risk of potential political poverty.

So we move into the future encouraging the young not to vote. It doesn’t make any difference. Elections are corrupt.

We move into the future preparing for election chaos as more and more states make voting more difficult and more partisan. In 20 states, there are 40 bills to expand powers of partisan poll watchers. Texas will allow videotaping those receiving help from an election official. Florida will allow unlimited challenges of ballots.

And Georgia allows any resident unlimited challenges of the qualifications of other voters. Teamed up with the Texas group True the Vote, 360,000 Georgians were challenged before the runoff election in 2020.

There’s an effort in Congress to protect the vote for every citizen and stop the manipulation of voting districts by gerrymandering. It deserves the support of everyone of us who still believes in the overriding ideal of democracy, even when we are in the political minority.

Carl Kline


Friday, May 21, 2021

"Arise, All Women Who Have Hearts"


 May I make a confession? While I love my mother, and I love being a mother myself, I don’t particularly love observing Mother’s Day. To me, the second Sunday of May feels like another “Hallmark holiday,” meant to hook us into buying greeting cards and chocolates and flowers. Last year, the average person spent more than $200 on Mother’s Day, for a total of nearly $25 billion. Over the past five years, average Mother’s Day spending has surged by almost 19%.

“Why,” I’ve always wondered, “do we need a special day to celebrate mothering (or likewise fathering, on Father’s Day)? Isn’t it enough to love our mothers the best we can, every day of the year? Isn’t it enough, if we have children, to be the best mothers we can be?”

When May rolls around, I always strike a compromise. On the one hand, I find ways to celebrate Mother’s Day with my mom. I know that she appreciates the tradition, and I’d never want her to feel forgotten or snubbed. On the other hand, I remind my guys that I’ll be just fine if they ignore the calendar. I already know that they love and care about me; they already know that I love and care about them. That’s enough. No need for flowers. Or candy. Or cards.

Go ahead, call me a Mother’s Day grinch. I can take it. (Smile.)

And yet …

At its roots, Mother’s Day is far from a Hallmark holiday. I wish that more people in this country were aware of how it originated—especially these days, when we’re so bitterly divided. That’s because this holiday can be traced to the initiatives of two women trying desperately to build peace, during and after the Civil War.

The first of these women was Anna Reeves Jarvis (1832-1905). She lived in Taylor County, West Virginia. In 1858, she launched “Mothers Work Day” and a network of “Mothers Day Work Clubs” to encourage sanitation in the homes of local families, hoping to reduce high infant mortality.

When the Civil War erupted, Anna’s county was hotly contested. Troops from both North and South were a constant presence. So, expanding on her earlier work, she started “Women’s Friendship Day.” She rallied area mothers to join forces in treating soldiers on both sides with concern and fairness. The women ventured into military camps, both Gray and Blue, to tend the wounded and teach all the men the importance of hygiene and disinfection. Regardless of uniform, countless numbers were dying due to disease brought on by unsanitary living conditions.

After the war ended, local leaders invited Anna and her allies to help reconcile Union and Confederate veterans and neighbors. Some members of the public feared violence. Yet, thanks to the women’s efforts, Blues and Grays were soon shaking hands and weeping together.

The example of Anna Jarvis inspired the abolitionist Julia Ward Howe (1819-1910). Dismayed first by the Civil War and then by the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, she issued a “Mother’s Day Proclamation” in Boston, that same year. She summoned women of all nationalities to promote the “amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of peace.” It was, she argued, the “sacred right” of mothers to protect the lives of their sons (i.e., future soldiers) as well as “the great human family.”

Arise, all women who have hearts!… Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience. We, the women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.

This was a radical pronouncement. Howe was urging women to organize and exercise political power in an era when, by law, they had little, if any, to wield. 

Julia furthermore urged the creation of a “Mother’s Peace Day,” to be held annually on June 2. According to Katharine Antolini, author of Memorializing Motherhood: Anna Jarvis and the Struggle for Control of Mother's Day, it would be a day “when women gathered in parlors, churches, or social halls, to listen to sermons, present essays, sing hymns or pray, if they wished—all in the name of promoting peace.” Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago were among the cities to hold such annual Mothers’ Day services until, well … the holiday got tamed. Ironically, that happened right around the time it became an official holiday.

You see, after Anna Reeves Jarvis died in 1905, her daughter (also named Anna) began to crusade for a national Mother’s Day. She had no children herself, but she wished to honor her late mother’s call for a day commemorating all mothers for “the matchless service [they] render to humanity in every field of life.”

The younger Jarvis rejoiced when, in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson officially designated the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day. But her joy quickly soured as the holiday became highly commercialized and turned into an occasion for fundraising. In her view, the original spirit had been lost. She actually went broke, fighting those she called “the money schemers,” and died penniless in a sanitorium at age 84.

So there you have it, the real story behind Mother’s Day. Might we imbue our celebrations with just an ounce of its founders’ intentions?

In case you’re still inclined to give flowers, this Mother’s Day, you might take some inspiration from the younger Jarvis. As she explained in an interview in 1927, carnations were her mother’s favorite. “The carnation does not drop its petals, but hugs them to its heart as it dies, and so, too, mothers hug their children to their hearts, their mother love never dying."

Love you, Mom, and I’ll be giving you a real big hug, really soon.

Phyllis Cole Dai

Friday, May 14, 2021


 I forget how old I was but I was still riding a tricycle. My older sister had some of her girl friends over at our house and I can still see them playing out in the front yard. I was riding my trike down the side walk, fast, trying to impress them. Something happened. I crashed and hit my head on the concrete. I hit hard enough to leave a scar.

Then there was the time my sister wanted me to play Robin Hood with her. She had made a bow and arrow from scratch and, as the story goes, needed me to put the apple on my head. She would shoot it off. Unfortunately, she missed, and the scar is just an inch from my left eye.

These days surgical scars are less visible, given the surgical instruments that are used. The scars from my gall bladder removal are hardly noticeable, not that you would likely see them, or want to.

But I’m thinking more about internal scars today. Two friends have posted messages on the internet inviting people to sign on to their availability if someone needs to talk. If so, are you available? Is your phone on, your door open, your time theirs? Are you willing to sit and listen over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine? If you are willing, you sign on!

Whereas external scars become less visible with the passage of time, the internal scars may sit in silence for a long while and then all of a sudden erupt into the light of day. Trauma sometimes simmers for years. Internal cuts and bruises can build over decades to a full blown concussion. Unseen, internal scars can shape our destiny, often without our knowledge or acknowledgment.
The pandemic is scarring us inside and out. We seem to live in a fantasy world in this country, thinking that if only we can get 80 percent of the population vaccinated, things can begin to return to normal. As usual, we will work hard to alleviate the symptoms without searching deeper for the cause, and fixing it.

Does it make a difference if the virus originated in a “wet market,” a modern day demonstration of our broken relationship with the natural world? Or what if it originated in our broken relationship with each other, escaped from a Wuhan lab that likely does biological warfare research, (for defensive purposes, of course)? If one of these is the cause, shouldn’t we correct it?

This is a “global” pandemic! We won’t stop this scarring, inside and out, without a global effort. Apparently, vaccine makers are reluctant to lose their patents so more can be made and shared. The World Health organization warns how wealthy countries are using available vaccine supplies as the poor receive the ravages. The Southern Hemisphere is vaccine starved! Certain countries are hoarding.

The U.S. has finally been surpassed for the most positive covid cases in one day. On April 24, India posted almost 350,000 cases. A friend in India wrote: “There is a scarcity of vaccine all across the country. In some states it is acute. With the present wave, which is a super spreader, people have became panicky and there is overcrowding in vaccination centers. The most distressing experience is that patients are dying due to lack of oxygen in critical care centers, a little over a hundred by now. The central and state governments have failed utterly in this. Anger and resentment are burning in the minds of people but due to Covid restrictions people can't protest openly. The burial of the dead is far more distressing than anything else. There are long queues of  dead bodies outside burial grounds. There are cases of three to five bodies cremated in a single pyre.”

Friends in African and Latin American countries relate sad statistics. Less than 1% of the population vaccinated; critical care facilities in difficulty.

It’s amazing how we mobilized in this country to fight two world wars, and we continue to spend half of our wealth on preparation for present and future wars. But for a global war against an invisible but known adversary, we can’t even seem to mobilize our own country to fight our own battle, let alone come to the aid of our fellow human beings.

“Freedom isn’t free” is an American idiom. Who and what will we sacrifice in this global pandemic to protect our “freedoms”? What scars to the body politic will result and fester from politicizing the wearing of masks? What scars will take root as people stand hours in line to get a vaccine that isn’t there? What trauma comes from cremating a loved one in a parking lot or leaving their wrapped body outside the cemetery? What will be the future for a world where humans have forgotten their integral relationship to creation and each other?

Are you and I available to talk and heal and change?


Carl Kline

Friday, May 7, 2021

Morning On the Beach

 We walked on a pristine beach this morning-my granddaughter and I.  She is recently home from college in Canada, having completed her college career.  No ceremonies so far, although a remote graduation ceremony is being contemplated by her university. Her Honors Research Essay is titled "Futuring Human Rights In The Pan-Canadian Framework"- a formidable examination of Canada's political engagement with climate change and how climate policies take into account (or ignore) the human rights of indigenous peoples.

As we walked the broad beach at the edge of a glittering ocean, a young seal kept bobbing up out of the water about 50 yards off shore, as though wanting to accompany us at a safe distance.  A small flock of bright orange-billed oyster catchers skittered along ahead of us while a half dozen or so sandpipers delighted us with their comical movements at the water's edge.  We marveled at how the landscape of the beach has change over the last few years due to severe ocean storms.  Dunes that once obscured the water view have disappeared.  The ocean is now visible from the road that leads to the beach.

We've been reading Octavia Butler's dystopic novels, Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents.

The novels were originally published in 1998 and, as the blurb on the back cover states, they are "shockingly prescient."  Spanning the years from 2024 -2090, Butler's America is divided and dangerous.  An ultra-conservative president who wants to "make America great" through "Christian" terror and oppression reigns through the second novel.  Dramatic climate change, forest fires, sea level rise and the resulting population movement has made the west coast treacherous.  Any semblance of a social contract has disappeared.  Police sell out to the highest bidder. Human trafficking, slavery, hunger, and automatic weapons dominate the days of the main characters as they try to maintain their humanity.  Fear governs all aspects of life.

This all made for heavy conversation on a glorious, heaven sent morning at the ocean's edge.  

Later in the day, our Torah study group read portions of Leviticus that deal with the care of the land, the notion of a Jubilee Year when all land reverts to its original owners, when the land is permitted to rest without planting or harvesting for a full year.  There are admonitions about how to treat people who fall into debt.  Limits are set on the number of years that a person might be indentured.  A certain trust is evoked as the tribes are commanded to let the land go fallow and eat only what the land produces of its own accord without planting and cultivation.

Somewhere between the aspirational principles of a Jubilee Year on the one hand and the utter dysfunction and devastation depicted in Butler's dystopia lies the profound call for human responsiblity.

Much of Butler's sci-fi writing portrays humankind being bailed out somehow by intelligent forces from beyond the planet, but the 2 novels we are reading now shift the responsibilities, the hope, and the future, directly onto humans here on earth.  Through her characters she affirms that we have the brains and ingenuity and creativity and resilience to cope with dramatic change and to, indeed, shape the change in a positive way if we embrace the courage to do so in the face of seemingly unconquerable forces -both environmental and political.


Butler's novels are profoundly disturbing.  Her dystopic future is unsettlingly near.  But then there is this beautiful young woman walking by my side on the beach - - grappling with political affairs and policy management in a profoundly intelligent and compassionate way.  And I find myself in better balance between despair and hope as I listen to her envisioning her future work - wherever it may lead her. 
For many years, I have had a bumper sticker on a bookshelf in my library.  It states very simply "Listen To Children."  I bought it when my grandchildren were very young.  They are adults now - and I am still listening.

Vicky Hanjian

Saturday, May 1, 2021

The Turning Hinge

 When your big, slender hand slips into mine, joy spills through me.  I soak it up like a new sponge, resisting the urge to squeeze.  You're a young man of eighteen, soon to graduate high school, bright-eyed with college dreams.  Few fellows your age are comfortable showing affection to the mothers in public; even fewer are apt to initiate it.  But here we are, mother and son, striding hand in hand across th epark after a human rights rally.  Friends and strangers are all around us.

Please don't let go.

Together we sidestep the soggiest grass, the ground squishy from late-winter snow melt.  We angle across a parking lot.  Your legs are so long.  I have trouble keeping up.

You're still holding on.

I want to tell you how glad I am that you took my hand, and how happy I am that you continue to clasp it.  But I don't.  Any acknowledgement from me might break the spell, and make you self conscious.  It might cause your hand to fall away from mine.

I listen to your rambling reflections about the rally.  You're trying to assemble a puzzle whose pieces, from your perspective, just don't fit.   Where, you wonder, do ignorance and prejudice and hate belong in the jigsaw of this world?

We tiptoe across another sodden span of grass.  We jaywalk across a street.

Earlier, I'd walked to the park alone.  After finishing your sign for the rally, you followed by car.  NOw that the demonstration is over, I'm hitching a ride home.  You're leading me to where you parked.

Still holding on.

I draw a deep breath and sigh.  This magical moment is a hinge on which so much meets and turns.  On one side is everything between us that has gone before: the dreams I had of you before your birth, the nursings in the old wooden rocker, the silly dances that spun us dizzy, the first days of school, the crowds in which I almost lost you, the time you almost died...a precious history of your hand tucked into mine.

On the other side of the hinge is everything between us that is yet to be.  An image rises up of me in old age.  You're holding my hand to support me - keeping me company, and upright.  Whatever the two of us  might look like then, I can see the strength and steadfastness, still there in our joined hands.  The trust.  The bond that doesn't confine or cling.

The hinge between our shared past and future swings wide within me.  I marvel to feel it,  unable to contain it.  By what miracle are my legs still moving?

We approach another parking lot.  A massive pile of snow looms on the lot's edge, stubbornly resisting the sun, shoved there by a plow after the last storm. 

"Car's just beyond it," you say, nodding toward the pile.

Nimble feet have worn a narrow, slick path throught the softening middle of the snow.  I know that's the way you will go, right through the heart of it - just as you know that, to be safe, I'll circle around.

I feel you hesitate.  The hinge stops on its pivot.

"Go on," I say, releasing your hand.  "I'll meet you on the other side."

* * * 

Three hundred and sixty-five days ago, the World Health Organization declared Covid-19 a pandemic.  What's happened since?  Here in the United States, with a population of around 330 million, more than 29 million have been infected. More than 529,000 have died.  About 10 million have lost their jobs.

Just like my son and I did after the rally, you and I are walking the soaking ground of spring, our hands clasped in friendship.  Every step we take, every moment we share, is a living hinge between What Has Been and What Will Be. 

So much meets and turns here.  We're relieved to feel hope about the future.  We celebrate the widening distribution of vaccines; the development of promising medicines; the cautious re-opening of schools and businesses; the economic relief flowing into communities; the jubilant reunions and the return of hugs.

But along with our hope and happiness remains our grief.  We've lost so much, and so many.  That's the other side of the hinge.  If we pretend the grief isn't there, the hinge will creak and groan, begging for the oil of our attention.

The hinge between the past and future swings wide within us.  Sometimes it causes us to marvel, but it can also daze.  What shall we do then - when we feel that we'll fall apart, unable to contain our emotions, almost out of our bodies?

We breathe.  We sigh. We feel each other's hand clasped in our own, and we cherish it for being there.  One way or another, we help each other make it to the other side.

Deep peace, 

Phyllis Cole-Dai