Join Mastodon

I joined Fosstodon in 2019 at the recommendation of a fellow writer. I really didn’t know what to do, didn’t ask a lot of questions and left the account open but unused for nearly three years. Lately the flux of Facebook and most recently Twitter had left me looking for connection to folks with similar interests without the annoyance of advertisements for products I wasn’t interested in. I’m happy to report that I’ve been excited by what I found on Fosstodon and now Mastodon.online and Scholar.Social which are other Mastodon instances. The discourse and exposure to new ideas with folks who share common interests has been just what I was looking for. The absence of advertising is the best. Civility reigns! If you’re someone who longs for social platforms that are social and informative then I suggest you check join Mastodon. You won’t be dissapointed.

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Why?

Today I attended Mass at St. Benedict’s Catholic Church on Main Street in Amherst, New York. The church was packed and the service was lovely. For much of this week I have had the recurring thought of the mission of Jesus or maybe the omission of Jesus.

The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
 because he has anointed me
 to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
 and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

Luke 4:18-19

Jesus provides the mission statement for his ministry and throughout the rest of the gospels regardless of the author there is one instance after another where Jesus does exactly what is spelled out in Luke. In Matthew 4:19 he says, “Come, follow me.” In Matthew 25:35-36 he says, “For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you took Me in, I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you looked after Me, I was in prison and you visited Me.’

Jesus provides loads of examples of what kinds of behavior he expects of his followers. Nonetheless his whole impact of Western Christianity is reduced to the crucifixion and resurrection. He was crucified because he welcomed the stranger, he reached out to those on the margins. If you ask most Christians about Jesus they will say, “He died for our sins.” They mention nothing of the kind of life he lived nor what he expected of his followers.

This stems from the doctrine of original sin which was never mentioned by Jesus. St. Augustine was the first to use the term original sin. St. Augustine was also the author of the “just war” theory. Jesus said, “I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”

I guess it is just easier to say he died for your sins and then you don’t have to be one of his followers which is much more difficult.

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Thank you Joe Biden

Spring has sprung and so have our lives. A couple of years ago we were pinned down by the Covid-19 pandemic. It’s not over yet but we’re coming through it okay. There is a fourth recommended shot of the vaccine if you’re over fifty years old. The economy is rebounding. More Americans are working. The United States added 1.7 million new jobs in the past two months. Inflation in the United States is up too. It’s the highest it has been in the past forty years but that’s true around the world. Gasoline prices are up too but again that’s not a purely American problem. The average price of a gallon of gasoline in the United States last week was $4.63 which is huge increase from where prices were in April 2020 when they were at $1.78 per gallon. Demand was low when we were all locked down in our homes.

In the United States the Republican party and their allies are blaming President Biden and the Democrats. Joe Biden is not president in Canada where gasoline is $5.91 per gallon (adjusted for US gallons and dollars). Gasoline is $5.83 per US gallon in Poland. The prices in Ireland are $7.64 and Hong Kong is the most expensive gas prices in the world at $10.89 per gallon.

The reason our economy is booming is the American Rescue Plan which received almost no Republican support. Yesterday in the House of Representatives one-hundred-ninety-three Republicans voted against lowering the price of insulin from it’s current $332 a vial to something more affordable to average Americans. That’s consistent with Republican ideals, “favor the rich and soak the middle class and the poor.” The GOP claims to be conservative but conserves nothing. The current administration has lowered our national debt which is an accomplishment that only occurs in Democratic administrations.

President Harry Truman called the GOP out over seventy years ago when he wrote,

“Republicans approve of the American farmer, but they are willing to help him go broke. They stand four-square for the American home–but not for housing. They are strong for labor–but they are stronger for restricting labor’s rights. They favor minimum wage–the smaller the minimum wage the better. They endorse educational opportunity for all–but they won’t spend money for teachers or for schools. They think modern medical care and hospitals are fine–for people who can afford them. They consider electrical power a great blessing–but only when the private power companies get their rake-off. They think American standard of living is a fine thing–so long as it doesn’t spread to all the people. And they admire of Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it.” –

Harry S. Truman, October 13, 1948, St. Paul, Minnesota, Radio Broadcast via WikiQuote
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Time to man up

Yesterday on Vietnam Veterans Day I had the privilege of listening to a lecture from a guy who’s pissed that Joe Biden is president and that gas prices are high. In the spring of 1972 I registered for classes that coming fall. I went home like all the other kids expecting to see them in August or September. When I got home there was a notice of pre induction physical for the draft. There was no sophomore year nor junior and senior year either. In August when my former classmates were slapping each other on the back and shaking hands I was in recruit training at Great Lakes, Illinois. 

I don’t regret my naval service. I’m proud to have served this country. I still have my dress blues even though they don’t fit. There was a time I prayed that my brother and later my son wouldn’t have to serve in the armed forces but I’ve come to believe compulsory national service would be a good thing. A recent poll of Americans revealed that only 55 percent would come to the aid of the country if we were invaded. 

We’ve spawned several generations of folks who think they’re entitled to life on their own terms no matter what. On the world stage we’re witnessing the brave people of Ukraine fend off invaders and the disruption of life as they knew it by a bunch of lawless thugs led by the man who tried to subvert our democracy. I’m sure they’d be willing to endure high energy prices for some peace and freedom. 

Freedom isn’t free. Doing what you want when you want how you want with no regard for others isn’t citizenship. It’s lawless and childish. If you’re still driving a gas guzzler 50 years after the energy crunch we lived through in the 1970s then you’re not too bright. End of rant.

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Time for change

Gasoline is $1.53 a liter in Ontario adjusted for US dollars and Joe Biden isn’t president either. Gasoline has historically cost more in Canada and the rest of the world. According to my brother gasoline is $8.88 a gallon in Zurich Switzerland. It’s long past time to find other modes of transportation. If you aren’t a farmer or a construction worker you don’t need a 1/2 or 3/4 ton pickup truck with all wheel drive. That’s ego and it will always cost more. My parents lived through WWII when gas was rationed. In 1974 after the Yom Kippur War gas prices doubled and tripled. I had to plan my leave and liberty around the calendar because in NYS you could only buy gas on even or odd days based on your license plate numbers. The national speed limit was set to 55 mph. In the past 40 plus years we’ve listened to politicians and others who convinced us we could drive like maniacs,own SUVs and Humvees that got atrocious mileage and live large otherwise. It just isn’t realistic. Electric cars and sustainable fuels are the future. Don’t let politicians and pundits bullshit you into believing it’s not possible. We won WWII. We put people on the moon because we believed we could. It’s time to reimagine our world and worldview.

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Radical mercy

The Whole Language: The Power of Extravagant Tenderness by Gregory Boyle

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This book gets to the heart of the Jesus message which is not about piety but about radical mercy and compassion. This book is a collection of stories that are told or in my case read by the author in a light but powerful manner. I look forward to meeting Gregory Boyle when he comes to St. Bonaventure University later this year.



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I served in the United State Navy

Today marks the 47th anniversary of my release from active duty in the United States Navy. January 17, 1975 attired in my dress blues drove to the Naval Submarine Medical Center in Groton CT where I was stationed. I said goodbye to the folks I had gotten to know in the past year of service at the medical center and then walked through the clinic area to the main desk of the naval hospital. I saluted the officer of the deck on duty and received my orders and the manila folder with my service records. I don’t remember how I got to Bradley International Airport but from there I flew home to Buffalo New York on Allegany Airlines. My mother and grandmother were waiting for me at the Buffalo airport and drove me home to Arcade, New York. I was on active duty for two years three months and ten days. I was released a month and half early from my original rotation date to attend college at Community College of the Finger Lakes. 

A month later I reported to the Naval Reserve Training Center in Buffalo New York where I became part of CV1703 which was the reserve unit I was assigned for the balance of my time in the active reserve. I have lots of memories of those days and this 17th day of January will always be with me. I was drafted in the spring of 1972 after completing the freshman year at SUNY Oswego. I enlisted in the USNR on June 21 and went to recruit training on August 23. I can’t remember the day or the details of my high school graduation nor the first or last day of college at Oswego but I will never forget my time in the United States Navy. I’m proud of my record of service to the country. I was blessed with great duty assignments and great comrades in arms. I still have my uniforms though it’s been years since I was able to fit into them. My one regret after all these years is that I didn’t stay in touch with all those folks with whom I served. The words of John F. Kennedy summarize my thoughts well. 

I can imagine no more rewarding a career. And any man who may be asked in this century what he did to make his life worthwhile, I think can respond with a good deal of pride and satisfaction: ‘I served in the United States Navy.

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A story that needs telling

I’ve been reading The 1619 Project. It’s an enlightening book. The author describes plantations as work camps. I’ve never thought of Monticello, Mount Vernon and the like in the same light as Ravensbruck and Birkenau but they were. Enslaved African Americans were forced to work, brutally treated and in many cases killed to keep them towing the line. They were bred like livestock and treated the same or worse.

I learned in school that Lincoln freed the slaves with the Emancipation Proclamation but it took the Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendment to codify that into United States law. A new era emerged after the Civil War until the the end of the Reconstruction era when federal troops were withdrawn from the southern states. Then all hell broke loose as vigilante rule took over and Blacks and other people of color were systematically subjugated. Voter suppression and intimidation was the norm. Four thousand blacks were lynched between 1880 and 1940. Teenage Emmet Till was brutally murdered in 1955 for smiling at a white woman. People of color really weren’t free until the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1965.

Native Americans were forced off their lands and put on reservations. Schools were created to forcibly destroy their culture and they the original owners of the Americas were not granted the right to vote in the United States until 1925. Following World War 2 white American servicemen and women qualified for the GI Bill which helped many including my father to attend college and pursue professional lives. The GI Bill was denied to soldiers of color. There is so much that is not understood by whites about people of color and how our society is not color blind at all. Our lives as white people is skewed to benefit us while disenfranchising our brothers and sisters who are darker.

I don’t like the term racist as there is no such thing as race. It is a social construct that was created to justify the repression of people of color. We are all the same race, the human race. Paradoxically we are all prejudiced. It is normal and natural to feel more at home with those that look like us.

I know I’m prejudiced. I don’t want to be prejudiced but I am. I work to overcome that on a daily basis. What’s most distressing in this country is that we have systemic prejudice that many fail to recognize and accept. Many of our presidents owned slaves. When our founding documents were written in the 18th century Black people were enslaved, Native Americans had their land stolen and were routinely murdered.

We have a lot of work ahead of us to truly become the United States of America.

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Soft and Supple

Acceptance is the key to life. Those who cannot change cannot survive. Those who can wear masks and get vaccinated are likely to flourish in our new environment. As I sat watching a basketball game at St. Bonaventure University’s Reilly Center I was surrounded by people. Young and old alike. Some wore masks as requested by the university to keep us all safe while others were wearing chin straps or at least that’s what they looked like. Last week parents in Franklinville had an impromptu protest in front of the school that was anti-mask.

Everyday we read the news of angry folks decrying mask and vaccine requests and mandates. We read too of those whose inflexible reaction has cost them their health and in some cases their lives. Wearing a mask is annoying especially when one has hearing aids and glasses too. I’ve been contemplating a response and today I’m reminded of the wisdom of the Tao that was written twenty-five-hundred years ago.

The living are soft and supple;the dead are rigid and stiff.In life, plants are flexible and tender;in death, they are brittle and dry.Stiffness is thus a companion of death;flexibility a companion of life.An army that cannot yield will be defeated.A tree that cannot bend will crack in the wind.The hard and stiff will be broken.The soft and supple will prevail.

Chapter 76 Tao te Ching

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Thank you for your service

Today is Veterans Day! It started out as Armistice Day. The holiday started from a decree from Woodrow Wilson in 1919. It was the day to celebrate the end of World War I, the war to end all wars. Veterans Day day began in 1954 by an act of Congress as a way to honor all veterans.

I’m a veteran. I had two uncles a number of cousins and my father who served during World War II. My service was during the Vietnam Era. I have a nephew, niece and another niece’s husband who are more recent veterans. I’m grateful that I got a chance to serve. I was a reluctant draftee during the Vietnam war. I was frightened. War can be fatal. I had thought of being a conscientious objector. Some in my generation fled to Canada. That option wasn’t realistic for me. I didn’t want to risk never seeing my family again.

National service in the United States Navy was an important part of my development as person. I served as a Hospital Corpsman. I earned 13 college credits which were later applied to a bachelors degree. I met wonderful people in recruit training, hospital corps school and the numerous duty stations where I served. I abhor war and do what I can to prevent future wars by writing our elected representatives to encourage them to find peaceful solutions to problems.

I am a proponent of compulsory national service. I think it would be a great idea if our country’s leaders initiated a program of service. We need more teachers, firemen, policemen, nurses, doctors and others who could serve for a couple of years to benefit our country. I believe that being part of group like I was in the Navy helped me to have a much wider world view. That would be beneficial.

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