Bob Schwartz

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Peyote Pilgrims

“Imaginatione and historie are a fine paire.”
Made up old-fashioned quote

Some believe that the accounts of the first Thanksgiving feast in 1621 have been sanitized to leave out an extraordinary detail. Somehow, it is thought by some, the Native Americans at Plymouth had traded for peyote from Southwestern tribes and shared it with the colonists at that famous three-day meal.

First, here’s the version we have, from Edward Winslow in Mourt’s Relation, published in 1622:

Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruits of our labor. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which we brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.

The omitted mention of psychedelics explains much. For example, the outlandish hats and clothing we associate with the pilgrims in fact did not exist in that community. Instead, it is possible that those in the midst of an experience began sketching the ridiculous fashions they thought they saw. “Tall hats with buckles,” William Bradford said. “Oh wow, such hats reflect our reaching to heaven.” “Awesome!” the others who were still capable of speaking might have exclaimed.

Happy Thanksgiving (yes, we all still call the holiday that).

Dawn, again

Dawn, again

The first sip of light
can be so sweet
wonder waiting
untold possibility
once more
no promises
not even a seen sun
just a slip of blue gray
unnamed day

© Bob Schwartz

America is a nuclear plant in meltdown

Chernobyl control room

Nuclear plants are immeasurably powerful and potentially dangerous. To run properly and safely they require strict systems and conscientious people. When the systems or people fail, the power is set chaotically free. Disaster follows.

America is right at that point, though we are assured, and assure ourselves, that this is a ridiculously exaggerated metaphor, and concern should not proceed to panic. We have no historical precedent for the worst, at least not here. We believe that the Constitution, the laws, and the essential goodness and wisdom of people in power and citizens make a meltdown impossible.

What if our optimism is wrong? What if our confidence in systems and people is tragically misplaced? What, if anything, can and should we do?

You are already minimal

Your life is filled with stuff, outside and inside yourself. Minimalism is popular. You are told and believe that reducing the amount of that stuff, outside and inside, has its benefits. It does.

But there is another face to this. However much too much is in your house or inside in your busy buzzing mind, the minimal is already there, without discarding and disposing of a single unkempt pile or thought. The ultimate is to remain surrounded and filled with stuff and to realize that you are not.

Trump: Snitches Get Stitches

Talking today about the trouble he is in because of a whistleblower, Trump might have said:

“Snitches get stitches.”

Or he might have said:

“Rats need to be exterminated.”

This is what he actually said:

“I want to know who’s the person who gave the whistleblower the information because that’s close to a spy. You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart with spies and treason, right? We used to handle it a little differently than we do now.”

Yes sir, you yourself should be glad these aren’t “the old days,” so now even traitors can escape the ultimate punishment. Of course, some traitors may try to pardon themselves.

Why Republicans Don’t Care About What History Thinks of Them: “History Is Bunk”

“History is more or less bunk. It’s tradition. We don’t want tradition. We want to live in the present, and the only history that is worth a tinker’s damn is the history that we make today.”
Henry Ford

Republicans today don’t believe in history, any more than they believe in government or journalism. They don’t believe in historians, any more than they believe in civil servants and journalists. And they are confident that much of the electorate doesn’t believe in these either.

That’s why suggesting to Republicans that history will judge them harshly makes no difference to them, falling on deaf ears. They continue to subvert conventional regard for institutions such as government, education and journalism. Convincing people that history and historians can’t be trusted and have little to offer doesn’t seem that hard to them.

Republicans are probably not right about the whole of the citizenry. Historians are already quick-reviewing the current era in an unflattering light, and numbers of people are paying attention. But if Republicans are right about a substantial portion of the citizenry, that people are ignorant and skeptical of history, and don’t really care what historians say, that unflattering light may get much darker.

The White House is the civic car crash we can’t take our eyes off of

There are many who say the occupant of the White House is incompetent, ignorant, corrupt and crazy, at the least. Yet when we try to stop thinking and talking about him, many of us utterly fail.

It is a cliché to say that people often can’t take their eyes off a car crash, particularly a gruesome one. Clichéd and true.

For better or worse, American civic life is centered on the White House. The situation there can be described as a horrible and chronic car crash. The fire department never arrives to put the fire out. The tow truck never arrives to haul the wreck. The ambulance never arrives to carry the sick and injured away.

We keep calling 911, but no one answers. So we just keep gawking.

Assault rifles are personal weapons of mass destruction (#PWMD)

Personal Weapons of Mass Destruction (PWMD)

Assault rifles are personal weapons of mass destruction (#PWMD). America fought a war in Iraq to eliminate imaginary WMDs. These WMDs are very real (250 American mass shootings so far in 2019).

That millions of Americans are supportive of and motivated by social hate—Americans from the president on down—is a difficult problem that won’t be easily fixed. Reducing the availability of assault rifle PWMDs is easier:

Assault Weapons Ban of 2019
S.66 — 116th Congress (2019-2020)
Introduced in Senate (01/09/2019)

This bill makes it a crime to knowingly import, sell, manufacture, transfer, or possess a semiautomatic assault weapon (SAW) or large capacity ammunition feeding device (LCAFD).

The prohibition does not apply to a firearm that is (1) manually operated by bolt, pump, lever, or slide action; (2) permanently inoperable; (3) an antique; or (4) a rifle or shotgun specifically identified by make and model.

The bill also exempts from the prohibition the following, with respect to a SAW or LCAFD:

importation, sale, manufacture, transfer, or possession related to certain law enforcement efforts, or authorized tests or experiments;
importation, sale, transfer, or possession related to securing nuclear materials; and
possession by a retired law enforcement officer.

The bill permits continued possession, sale, or transfer of a grandfathered SAW, which must be securely stored. A licensed gun dealer must conduct a background check prior to the sale or transfer of a grandfathered SAW between private parties.

The bill permits continued possession of, but prohibits sale or transfer of, a grandfathered LCAFD.

Trump Couldn’t Get Hired to Manage a McDonald’s (Though He’d Love It)

For so many reasons, starting but not ending with incompetence, and including his reputation as a sex offender, Trump could not get hired to manage any public or private enterprise of any size. This includes managing a McDonald’s, which is in many ways his dream job (he doesn’t realize that managers don’t get free food).

And yet he is nominally Chief Executive Officer of the United States, the biggest enterprise in the world.

Leaders everywhere, the “beautiful” dictators who should be our enemies and the less “beautiful” allies who should be our friends, all know this. Aliens from other planets, if they are watching, know this. More than half of all Americans know this.

Years from now, in the unsettled and uncertain future, Trump’s “management” of America will be the stuff of hundreds of business school case studies. Even at Wharton, which he claims without proof as his alma mater, MBA students will have to read the story and be asked by their management professors, “What’s wrong with this picture?”

The right answer is: everything.

Scenes from a Wedding

Note: Some of this happened, some of it only seems to have happened. Initials are used for the cast of characters. Some characters share the same initial (so many Ks!) that it will be impossible to tell who is who and which is which.

1. The wedding ceremony between T and B is perfect. The summer wind and birds play and sing along in approval.

2. The reception is perfect. Many, many happy people, including especially T and B.

3. Late in the reception, C and K suggest that B join them at the fire pit outside. But in the confusion of a wave of guests leaving, C and K disappear. B unsuccessfully searches for them.

4. The wave of guests is heading for a bar at a local resort. But when B and K arrive at the resort, they find dozens of guests not at a bar but gathered outside the front entrance, like children with noses pressed against a toy store window. Someone has brought two portable coolers filled with beer and a canned drink containing sparkling water, fruit flavoring and some kind of alcohol.

5. An official from the resort comes by to say that the people and drinking are fine, but that the coolers must leave the public space and go to a room.

6. K picks up a cooler and takes it inside. K eventually returns and announces that the situation is greased. It turns out that K has set the cooler down in the back of the lobby, next to an ATM.

7. K, C and B overhear a complicated and hard to-follow-conversation between J and N. They are discussing how best to whiten a christening gown. Looking back, it appears this may have been a theological debate, though it didn’t seem so at the time. The final word is that Oxi-Clean is better than bleach.

8. B suggests to C that they steal the guest cart parked next to them at the front entrance. Despite many opportunities, this scheme fails to materialize.

9. K, C and B explore the parking lot. B tells a subtle and philosophical joke about a farmer and a pig (punchline: “What’s time to a pig?”). After they are finished laughing, K and C abandon B, who returns to the resort entrance. No one is left there, however, because the remainder of the guests are inside at the actual bar.

10. B and K drive back to their hotel. K is hungry and wants to eat a Filet-O-Fish sandwich at the McDonald’s next door to the hotel. They walk over to it, where the inside counter is closed but drive-thru is open. They determine that walking through the drive-thru is impractical, so they walk back to get the car. They want to stop by their room first, but discover they have both forgotten their keys. They must first go to the front desk for replacements, and then drive to McDonald’s. K drives the wrong way into the drive thru, but eventually turns around and lands in front of the display menu. K and B study the menu for five minutes, but discover no Filet-O-Fish sandwich. They drive back to their hotel, disappointed.