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Monday, July 4, 2011


the cockpit

Heard Jacob Needleman on the radio today, interviewed by Krista Tippet on the show On Being. She's a good interviewer and she has interesting people on the show. It comes on WFDD  88.5FM out of Winston-Salem at 4 on Sundays. Also today I listened to the whole hour of The Splendid Table, Lynn Rosetta Casper talking with chefs and people with questions regarding cuisine. The tastes of the people talking on the show and Lynn Rosetta herself seem to be subtle and exquisite. I enjoy hearing a chef talk about foraging for herbs, etc, in the woods, in marshes, on river banks. I enjoy hearing someone talk who knows a given field inside out, who can tell me things I've never heard of. I like interviews with almost anybody. I think of a line from a Bob Dylan song back in the time we remembered Barry Goldwater running against Lyndon Johnson. Johnson won and fulfilled all Goldwater's campaign promises that he ran against. Goldwater was coming from the Southern California / Arizona right wing of Charlton Heston and Ronald Reagan. Johnson was from the Texas oil right wing. Dylan's line,
                If you think I'd let Barry Goldwater
                move in next door to me and marry my daughter,
                you must think I'm crazy.  

This was in the time of civil rights zeal when the Democrats stood for the black people and the Republicans stood for the racist white. This was all over the country, not just the South. It's still that way. It appears from here like Democrats look to the well-being of American people of all races and economic circumstances. I know this isn't wholly true. Like Republicans, they have no use for the working poor. But it's more true to say of Democrats. Republicans consistently, adamantly and furiously oppose any benefit to the American people in return for the working man's taxes the Republicans use to enrich given corporations with ongoing war our taxes fund. The corporations have off-shore bank accounts and don't pay taxes. They reap from the taxes we work to pay. I'm trusting this is Capitalism at its most self-destructive extreme. The Reagan doctrine of cutting loose greed to have its way without regulation evolved to where we the American people are now, on a downhill run we the people have no say in. Self-interest from the top down extends no hand to the peasants. Trickle-down, if it ever happened, stopped short of reaching the peasants. The joke, of course, was on us. It turned out to be trickle-up at an alarming rate. More like gallop up. 

Jacob Needleman talked at length about Fredrick Douglas. He sounded like the real deal, the American Idea embodied in one man, who happened to be a black ex-slave who escaped and made it. It's kind of like Obama, who also happens to be another example of the American Idea, despite what the white people thought. White people elected him, so he must not have been too bad in the eyes of at least half the people. Southern white people. Even then, not everybody was as racist in the South as is believed outside the South. Everybody in the South gets the blame for racism when it is not but a percentage, I don't know the percentage, wouldn't know how to figure it, of people of tremendous variety. The people who are not racist don't mind what the flatlanders believe about us. I don't care at all whether or not someone is racist. I can only take care of myself. Secret: black people are racist too. How's that for politically incorrect? Don't tell anybody. 

He caught my ear almost to feeling the urge to take notes when he was talking about conscience. Conscience has been on my mind quite a lot over the last month or so, running around in the back of the mind, mice in the storeroom. More specifically, I've been wondering which is better to go with, living by conscience or go by the code between men, which is powerful. I continue to dwell on the role of the conscience. When a friend lied me into committing fraud against his own mother to take her nestegg toward old age for himself, my conscience drew the line. Seeing her hesitate and tears well up in her eyes, I knew I'd been taken. It was too late to stop the process. I said to myself as a vow that I would do whatever I could do to help her get it back if a chance ever arose. There came a time she challenged his fraud in court, and I supported her as a witness. She was my friend too.  

By then, I'd lost respect for my friend, who was no longer my friend, because in my book, a friend does not lie a friend into committing fraud for him. When he did that, he cut me loose as a friend. Friends like that, nobody needs or wants. The legal part of the fraud I don't mind nearly as much as lying me into helping him rip off his mother in the most vulnerable time of her life. My conscience could not allow me to separate myself that far from basic decency. I was about to say from my humanity, but now that we know more about humanity than in the 19th Century, humanity is a difficult word to use where identity with any values are concerned. It's hard for me to give "humanity" the benefit of the doubt. I tend to think: give it the benefit of the doubt and watch out. Every individual is humanity. Some are this, some are that. I can't control who is what and how somebody thinks. The decision for the conscience to make was not a difficult one at all. Whether or not to go with the conscience is the next question. Conscience is an important word in the American Ideal. A once friend wants to see me at my funeral because of a decision to go with my conscience. No problem. I prefer to live with my conscience than against it. As an American, it is a solemn right to make decisions according to conscience, unless your conscience says you don't want to be a soldier. Then yer in trouble. You do have a problem.  


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