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GONE MAIL: DECIDING WHAT’S WORTH A READ

Keys are clean - not so for the tray that holds them - alas

Another morning and I am in deep conversation with my computer – my e-mail to be specific.  Before I finish my coffee I have invented new swear words to fling at those who’ve invaded my e-space with demands traveling under guise of information. And maybe I am just a crank leftover from the ‘70s – I am told crankiness is a condition to be expected after so many years of watching the world retreat from its ’70’s promise of peace, love and happiness. Below I present a small sample of the items that litter my e-mail inbox along with my running commentary on the barrage of cultural spam. (I’ll try to limit expletives for the sensitive but please know there are times when no other word will suffice).  gdf

 

FROM: LinkedIn Updates : 

 I retired almost 7 years ago and now I get tons of info regarding up and coming linked-in professionals (friends and former students) — my message to them:   save your money and retire early. If you can’t – then never, ever work at a job that saps your soul of all compassion. Better yet, never work at a job that you absolutely can not flip-off when they ask you to do the unthinkable. Fight devolution and ignorance — everyday!

FROM: info@twitter.com subject: “Venezuela, Malaysia, Angola,New Zealand win U.N. Council seats; Apple Pay Will Launch October 20″

 Good for Angola, New Zealand and Malaysia; Apple pay? — riiiight  – apple pays for nothing not even taxes. If you don’t believe me follow the link -> How to make $30 billion and pay no corporate income tax, the …  http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/ 2013/05/20/how…

FROM: campaigns@dailykos.com subject: ” DEMOCRATIC DOOM 

Democrats are doomed because democrats don’t vote (Not enough anyway).

FROM: Republican catastrophe : Campaigns@dailykos.com

We can only hope

FROM:  messages-noreply@linkedin.com subject: “Congratulate Deborah S.  

           Another Compton alumnus done good… congrats Deborah

FROM:  info@dscc.org subject: “NOT asking for money: (sign this!)”

Don’t believe it! There’s a request in there somewhere – this is politics after all. And how about the dscc paying ME for my signature!?

FROM: battleground-update@dscc.org

A battleground? Tell me something I don’t know

FROMNOT asking for money: (sign this!)

You again!

FROMe-activist@aft.org subject: “Fighting Ebola” 

I find this frightening – (I read The Hot Zone twice) as our “congressional leaders” will turn this catastrophe into the old “blame game” blaming the president for everything – obfuscating the truth of lock-step disapproval of anything the African-American president suggests e.g. surgeon general candidates. Our president is not perfect but I cannot lay this at his doorstep. Texas – yeah! let’s blame Texas.

FROM: Candice Owley, AFT e-activist@aft.org

American Federation of Teachers? I’m a retired activist but I won’t open this because I know what you’ll tell me – vote. I will.

FROM: Fighting Ebola

Shopping in Ithaca, NY and the hand sanitizer dispenser is empty – I fight the urge to clean the shopping cart handle with my spit. Thought the lady in front of me was going to faint when I spoke my intentions out loud. Hey, if you can’t trust your own spit – what can you trust? (I did find sanitizer though – get a grip).

FROM:  mail@faithfulamerica.org subject: “Right-wing bishops attack Pope Francis “betrayal”

Ah – the faithful — as a very fallen-away Catholic I should not be surprised (but I am) that God has been politicized like everything else.

 FROM: Michael Sherrard, Faithful America

Not a week goes by that I don’t feel some sense of gratitude that my beloved, devout Catholic grandmother is not alive to witness the deterioration of her faith – in the unseen, nature, karma, cosmos, and above all the decency in the human spirit. Sorry Gram.

FROM: Rite Aid Online Store riteaid@email.riteaid.com

I’m sure I need meds but crankiness pills are labeled a schedule 2 – drug not to be purchased on-line – Damn!

FROMinfo@barackobama.com subject: “A tipping point” 

My dear Mr. President I danced at your election – both of them – and I think you want to do the right thing but I do believe the office of the president is controlled by the plutocrats and the military industrial complex – and they are bigger and stronger than you. I am so sad to have to say this. You are not a man to receive his machismo at the end of a weapon and yet you continue in the business of war. You are far too smart not to know the outcome. I wonder if there are times you regret the office. Is this job sapping you (by way of ugly concessions) of all compassion for the victims of war, poverty, and big business? I have reached my tipping point. I’ve been tipped so far into anger at the politics that force the hand of decency to pound the weak. Sign me: Disappointed Democrat

 FROM: WordPress.com News comment-reply@wordpress.com

I have a blog at wordpress and lately I’ve been getting a lot of spam – people telling me they can help me with my writing and enlarge my media influence – Riiiight. If one wants to feel like a fly on the cultural windshield just try blogging. And I pay for this too!

FROM: nomorerack.com

nomorerack.com – who are you and what makes you think I want to buy anything from you? I am retired – I can stay in P.J.s all day if I wish.

FROM:a new message from dccc@dccc.org subject: “Gwen we’re BEGGING” 

Right – you want me to chip in $25 dollars. I like the term “chip in” as if I can just open my wallet and pull out a couple of unwanted tens and a five. But, I won’t. Consider my actions just a by-product of being an educated & reasonable member of the electorate who compares facts before allowing the knee to jerk upwards causing brain damage due to constant concussion.   

FROM: members@dccc.oGwen we’re BEGGING

Still? Beg all you want but when you can provide more jobs for people with no money – maybe I’ll consider donating again. Not now.

FROM:  @coursera.org subject: ” – The Fiction of Relationship” 

I’ve signed up for this lit course just for the title “The Fiction of Relationship” — says so much on so many levels

 FROM: Revolt! 5 Biographies of American Upstarts, R…

R-e-v-o-l-t – six letters guaranteed to warm the necrotic edges of a 70’s cranky old heart

FROM: info@dscc.org subject: “Michelle Obama video: (add your name)” 

I add my name because I adore you Michelle – a real first-lady – Obama. I truly hope you are not too bitter once your family leaves the white house. But then again, you wouldn’t be bitter – real women don’t indulge in bitterness.

 FROM: Guy Cecil, DSCC info@dscc.org

Go away

FROM: dccc@dccc.org subject: “FW: All Hope is Lost”

Yes it is – more than you’ll ever know

 FROM: Daily Kos “Unreal: Rick Scott refuses to debate Charlie Crist 

It used to be just the cream rose to the top but lately every manner of excrement can rise to the level of “newsworthy” – shame.

 FROM: info@wendydavistexas.com subject: “Why you should give $5” 

Wendy, I love your spirit and your last name but the DSCC needs to put up, shut-up and fully fund you. My $5 is nothing compared to the BIG BUCKS your future colleagues in congress have – hit them up for money.

 FROM: Jo-Ann Fabrics “20% off Your Total Purchase In-Store & Online!”

You have the wrong woman here – it was my mother who was the family seamstress. I’ll forward this e-mail to her. “But Gwen, your mother is dead.”   Oh.  I’ll forward it anyway – Google can find her 

 FROM:policymic.com subject: “The Student Protests Barely Anyone Is Talking About”

Protests!?  About damn time!

 FROM: Walmart newsletters@walmart.com subject: Friendly prices.”

Oh don’t get me started! I have not stepped across the threshold of this store in 20 + years. I consider them ground-zero in our capitalism run amok. “friendly prices” indeed! You are the largest employer in the country TRY PAYING YOUR EMPLOYEES A LIVING WAGE – like you do with WM workers in Germany.

FROM: dccc@dccc.org subject: “STUNNING Comeback” 

Yeah! And all without my $25

 FROM:campaigns@dailykos.com  “Woo-hoo!! Supreme Court in state with key Senate race kills voter ID law”

Does this mean I can go down to the courthouse and find justice rather than “Just Us”?

FROM: RealAge by Sharecare health@realage-mail.com

Know my real age? I fell down a flight of stairs a month ago – quite frightening to know just how old I am. I’ve walked 50 miles since.

FROMHow much sleep is too much?

No such thing as too much sleep…

FROM:members@dccc.org  PLEADING

Stop – you’re embarrassing yourself

FROM:  dccc@dccc.org subject: “we. fell. short. (14820)”

In more ways than you’ll ever know. I am one of the three democrats living in this zip code —  P.S. the other two are related to me

FROM:message from moveon.org “VOTE: Corruption in 30 Seconds”

I’m not surprised. This is the wealthiest congress in the history of the republic. Candidates who don’t get rich UNTIL after they are elected – makes one wonder (not really) just how much a congressperson’s soul is worth.

FROM: Republican catastrophe  campaigns@dailykos.com

Like I said – we can only hope

FROM:e-activist@aft.org subject: “Fighting Ebola”, AFT

As if teachers don’t have enough to fight! Hmm…let’s see – administrators, ebola, administrators, ebola… – so many viruses so little time

From Watts to Ferguson

New York Times photo - 8/14/14
New York Times photo – 8/14/14

And this is what becomes of youth

Arm and arm with desire

Standing staunch facing abuse

Before a funeral pyre

 

Youth inbred with courage and past

Arm and arm with desire

Stand before weapons en masse

Falcons in loosening gyre

 

To see faces so young and unlined

Witness new history unfold

Is to know the past as so unkind

Lessons unlearned, agony untold

 

This is what becomes of a youth

Where bondage is original sin

Buried with denial at its root

As if the crime had never been

 

Not as if one turns a page

To find a new, happy ending

Black skin will always pre-sent rage

Some unfailing and unbending

 

And so our youths confront it all;

Our transgressions of the past

Those shot will scream and fall

As we parse a truce that failed to last

 

 

                                                 ~ Gwen Davis-Feldman

                                                    August 14, 2014

SUFFER THE LITTLE CHILDREN…

cropped-hurricane-sandy-meets-lady-liberty.jpg

Go home,” the mighty Christians say

from their soapbox of indignities

our taxes too high we need to slay

those who’d deny our vanities

~

Embarrassing ignorance

happily displayed

hatred in torrents

intelligence delayed

~

Maybe it’s the distance

from Emma’s creed

begetting an entranced

and ugly breed

~

“Your tired, your hungry” sentenced to crawl

back to Central America; “Mexico”

while goodness & ignorance resort to brawl

to kindergarten a few will go

~

They will go to your schools

learn your lessons well

they’ll know all  enemy’s rules

that armies were  sent to quell

~

And lo many, many years hence

you’ll stare from old window blind

having forgotten hate’s energy spent

begging beautiful leaders, “please be kind”

~

 Meanwhile:

 The New York Times’

headlines scream

Armies of children

Armed only with dreams

 

gdf 7/17/14

 

 

 

TO THE BLACK MAN CONFRONTED BY THE CRAZY (RACIST) WHITE WOMAN

Link to video:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CtS-8LUdmXE

She can tell by the color of

Your skin that

You are armed and dangerous:
Armed with your camera and
Dangerous in your ability to

Reveal her to the world

And you scare her
As she tries to scare you

She can’t – that catalyst is dead
The epithet weaponized with
Her vehemence and jealousy

Yes, better to be caught racist than
Wanting what you have
And what she has (so obviously) lost

Control

No longer can she lynch you
Verbally or otherwise

All the power in Jim Crow
Could not kill you
Someone should tell her
In her pitiable
Ignorance

Parading
White privilege indeed

link:

MAYA ANGELOU

MAYA ANGELOU FROM : NEW YORK TIMES, 5/29/14
MAYA ANGELOU
FROM : NEW YORK TIMES, 5/29/14

The mid-70s:

You misunderstood me
Even so – I had not lived long
Enough to be that cynical
Smart-assed insecurity

Youth is so ignorant of skin and time

My regret came too late

You would have none of it
Lightly touching my fingers telling me
“Be well”

Well

I continued my life
A life of wanting
a bit of your light,
respect, and talent

I spread your words in
My classes
Adorning my walls
With your presence
Assigning your life

I remember taking students
To see you
Afterwards waiting
Covered in cowardice
Courage
Shrunken & hiding
Amid my own ego

I have thrown down that
Heavy cross of want
Pitched my emotional tent

Against 3rd world needs of mankind
My needs, in spite of sorrows,
Remain of the first

 
Suffering – true suffering has moved over me
You knew that
The minute I opened my mouth

And now
Your life sails
Dip against the sunset
And the world is suddenly plunged
Dark mourning.
Powerful, phenomenal woman you

Leaving us one last gift:
Knowledge there will be
A dawn of your possession

In a world where lives can be
Lessons or blessings
Yours was both

Be Well — Ms. Angelou

Freedom from Bondage and FEAR

 Intelligence favors the truth

                                                         

Below is a piece written by writer and editor Hamden Rice  HamdenRice – Daily Kos.  Because I aspire to write with such passion and presence I do not want to let Rice’s post get too far away from me. He depicts, with pinpoint accuracy, my beliefs after my first year of college (and my cursory reading of Hailey’s The Autobiography of Malcolm X) when I too came home believing I had it all figured out; what it meant to be black in 1970 and just what we had to do to achieve the personal manifest destiny of which we were so brutally robbed. I reprint Rice’s post as it appeared in the Daily Kos  (as many have done before me) in its entirety for my WordPress followers.  –  gdf

                                    ∞∞∞∞

 

Most of you have no idea what Martin Luther King actually did

– Hamden Rice

 

This will be a very short diary. It will not contain any links or any scholarly references. It is about a very narrow topic, from a very personal, subjective perspective.

The topic at hand is what Martin Luther King actually did, what it was that he actually accomplished.

What most people who reference Dr. King seem not to know is how Dr. King actually changed the subjective experience of life in the United States for African Americans. And yeah, I said for African Americans, not for Americans, because his main impact was his effect on the lives of African Americans, not on Americans in general. His main impact was not to make white people nicer or fairer. That’s why some of us who are African Americans get a bit possessive about his legacy. Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy, despite what our civil religion tells us, is not color blind.

Head below the fold to read about what Martin Luther King, Jr. actually did.

I remember that many years ago, when I was a smartass home from first year of college, I was standing in the kitchen arguing with my father. My head was full of newly discovered political ideologies and Black Nationalism, and I had just read the Autobiography of Malcolm X, probably for the second time.

A bit of context. My father was from a background, which if we were talking about Europe or Latin America, we would call, “peasant” origin, although he had risen solidly into the working-middle class. He was from rural Virginia and his parents had been tobacco farmers. I spent two weeks or so every summer on the farm of my grandmother and step-grandfather. They had no running water, no gas, a wood burning stove, no bathtubs or toilets but an outhouse, potbelly stoves for heat in the winter, a giant wood pile, a smoke house where hams and bacon hung, chickens, pigs, semi wild housecats that lived outdoors, no tractor or car, but an old plow horse and plows and other horse drawn implements, and electricity only after I was about 8 years old. The area did not have high schools for blacks and my father went as far as the seventh grade in a one-room schoolhouse. All four of his grandparents, whom he had known as a child, had been born slaves. It was mainly because of World War II and urbanization that my father left that life.  They lived in a valley or hollow or “holler” in which all the landowners and tenants were black. In the morning if you wanted to talk to cousin Taft, you would walk down to behind the outhouse and yell across the valley, “Heeeyyyy Taaaaft,” and you could see him far, far in the distance, come out of his cabin and yell back.

On the one hand, this was a pleasant situation because they lived in isolation from white people. On the other hand, they did have to leave the valley to go to town where all the rigid rules of Jim Crow applied. By the time I was little, my people had been in this country for six generations (going back, according to oral rendering of our genealogy, to Africa Jones and Mama Suki), much more under slavery than under freedom, and all of it under some form of racial terrorism, which had inculcated many humiliating behavior patterns.

Anyway, that’s background. I think we were kind of typical as African Americans in the pre-civil rights era went.

So anyway, I was having this argument with my father about Martin Luther King and how his message was too conservative compared to Malcolm X’s message. My father got really angry at me. It wasn’t that he disliked Malcolm X, but his point was that Malcolm X hadn’t accomplished anything as Dr. King had.

I was kind of sarcastic and asked something like, so what did Martin Luther King accomplish other than giving his “I have a dream speech.”

Before I tell you what my father told me, I want to digress. Because at this point in our amnesiac national existence, my question pretty much reflects the national civic religion view of what Dr. King accomplished. He gave this great speech. Or some people say, “he marched.” I was so angry at Mrs. Clinton during the primaries when she said that Dr. King marched, but it was LBJ who delivered the Civil Rights Act.

At this point, I would like to remind everyone exactly what Martin Luther King did, and it wasn’t that he “marched” or gave a great speech.

My father told me with a sort of cold fury, “Dr. King ended the terror of living in the south.”

Please let this sink in and take my word and the word of my late father on this. If you are a white person who has always lived in the U.S. and never under a brutal dictatorship, you probably don’t know what my father was talking about.

But this is what the great Dr. Martin Luther King accomplished. Not that he marched, nor that he gave speeches.

He ended the terror of living as a black person, especially in the south.

I’m guessing that most of you, especially those having come fresh from seeing The Help, may not understand what this was all about. But living in the south (and in parts of the Midwest and in many ghettos of the north) was living under terrorism.

It wasn’t that black people had to use a separate drinking fountain or couldn’t sit at lunch counters, or had to sit in the back of the bus.

You really must disabuse yourself of this idea. Lunch counters and buses were crucial symbolic planes of struggle that the civil rights movement used to dramatize the issue, but the main suffering in the south did not come from our inability to drink from the same fountain, ride in the front of the bus or eat lunch at Woolworth’s.

It was that white people, mostly white men, occasionally went berserk, and grabbed random black people, usually men, and lynched them. You all know about lynching. But you may forget or not know that white people also randomly beat black people, and the black people could not fight back, for fear of even worse punishment.

This constant low-level dread of atavistic violence is what kept the system running. It made life miserable, stressful and terrifying for black people.

White people also occasionally tried black people, especially black men, for crimes for which they could not conceivably be guilty. With the willing participation of white women, they often accused black men of “assault,” which could be anything from rape to not taking off one’s hat, to “reckless eyeballing.”

This is going to sound awful and perhaps a stain on my late father’s memory, but when I was little, before the civil rights movement, my father taught me many, many humiliating practices in order to prevent the random, terroristic, berserk behavior of white people. The one I remember most is that when walking down the street in New York City side by side, hand in hand with my hero-father, if a white woman approached on the same sidewalk, I was to take off my hat and walk behind my father, because he had been taught in the south that black males for some reason were supposed to walk single file in the presence of any white lady.

This was just one of many humiliating practices we were taught to prevent white people from going berserk.

I remember a huge family reunion one August with my aunts and uncles and cousins gathered around my grandparents’ vast breakfast table laden with food from the farm, and the state troopers drove up to the house with a car full of rifles and shotguns, and everyone went kind of weirdly blank. They put on the masks that black people used back then to not provoke white berserkness. My strong, valiant, self-educated, articulate uncles, whom I adored, became shuffling, Step-N-Fetchits to avoid provoking the white men. Fortunately the troopers were only looking for an escaped convict. Afterward, the women, my aunts, were furious at the humiliating performance of the men, and said so, something that even a child could understand.

This is the climate of fear that Dr. King ended.

If you didn’t get taught such things, let alone experience them, I caution you against invoking the memory of Dr. King as though he belongs exclusively to you and not primarily to African Americans.

The question is, how did Dr. King do this—and of course, he didn’t do it alone.

(Of all the other civil rights leaders who helped Dr. King end this reign of terror, I think the most under appreciated is James Farmer, who founded the Congress of Racial Equality and was a leader of nonviolent resistance, and taught the practices of nonviolent resistance.)

So what did they do?

They told us: Whatever you are most afraid of doing vis-a-vis white people, go do it. Go ahead down to city hall and try to register to vote, even if they say no, even if they take your name down.

Go ahead sit at that lunch counter. Sue the local school board. All things that most black people would have said back then, without exaggeration, were stark raving insane and would get you killed.

If we do it all together, we’ll be okay.

They made black people experience the worst of the worst, collectively, that white people could dish out, and discover that it wasn’t that bad. They taught black people how to take a beating—from the southern cops, from police dogs, from fire department hoses. They actually coached young people how to crouch, cover their heads with their arms and take the beating. They taught people how to go to jail, which terrified most decent people.

And you know what? The worst of the worst, wasn’t that bad.

Once people had been beaten, had dogs sicced on them, had fire hoses sprayed on them, and been thrown in jail, you know what happened?

These magnificent young black people began singing freedom songs in jail.

That, my friends, is what ended the terrorism of the south. Confronting your worst fears, living through it, and breaking out in a deep-throated freedom song. The jailers knew they had lost when they beat the crap out of these young Negroes and the jailed, beaten young people began to sing joyously, first in one town then in another. This is what the writer, James Baldwin, captured like no other writer of the era.

Please let this sink in. It wasn’t marches or speeches. It was taking a severe beating, surviving and realizing that our fears were mostly illusory and that we were free.

So yes, Dr. King had many other goals, many other more transcendent, non-racial, policy goals, goals that apply to white people too, like ending poverty, reducing the war-like aspects of our foreign policy, promoting the New Deal goal of universal employment, and so on. But his main accomplishment was ending 200 years of racial terrorism, by getting black people to confront their fears. So please don’t tell me that Martin Luther King’s dream has not been achieved, unless you knew what racial terrorism was like back then and can make a convincing case you still feel it today. If you did not go through that transition, you’re not qualified to say that the dream was not accomplished.

That is what Dr. King did—not march, not give good speeches. He crisscrossed the south organizing people, helping them not be afraid, and encouraging them, like Gandhi did in India, to take the beating that they had been trying to avoid all their lives.

Once the beating was over, we were free.

It wasn’t the Civil Rights Act, or the Voting Rights Act or the Fair Housing Act that freed us. It was taking the beating and thereafter not being afraid. So, sorry Mrs. Clinton, as much as I admire you, you were wrong on this one. Our people freed ourselves and those Acts, as important as they were, were only white people officially recognizing what we had done.

ORIGINALLY POSTED TO HAMDENRICE ON MON AUG 29, 2011 AT 08:24 AM PDT.

HamdenRice

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Writing in Key West

Slide1

Creativity comes when

There is no one you know

At the Parrot Bar

It springs from a

Third ring of loneliness

When the last call

For diversion comes

At 2 a.m.

Leaving you to

Stagger among

Hemingway

Wannabes

To your musty

Garret room

From which you

Hope to issue

The next

Fresh

Masterpiece

FaceBook: Rules That (should) Apply

I would like to give those people who send me friend requests  on FB a  disclaimer of sorts. Seriously, whenever I click that friend icon  I find myself wondering just how long before I post something that this person will find offensive or I wonder how long before this new ‘friend’ posts something I will find shameful or most unfriendly. So, I am providing a list that describes the kind of person that I am – thereby giving potential friends the option to friend me or not to friend me (that is the question). – No, it isn’t.  Remember – choice is good.

 gwen   group'

What describes me:

 

1.  I am a liberal: By liberal I mean that if I were to find myself in a lifeboat (I would like to think) I would attempt to get as many people safe in the boat with me rather than follow the “sink-or-swim” ideology. And, if in my democrat/socialist zeal, I post items you find offensive – feel free to block or unfriend me. I’m okay with that.

 2.  I am an African-American: Just know that I will see you for the potential bigot you are when you tell me some of your “best friends” are, black, Negro, or colored (I know, sounds crazy in 2013 but…). The ethnicity of your friends does not matter to me.  You are either a decent person or you are not and, in my mind, the ethnic make-up or your friends bears no relationship to your decency. Also, please don’t use me as the token African -American friend to show others just how diverse your friendship pool is.  Oh, before I forget,  I am a light-skinned African-American so don’t tell me I am different. I am human – no different from you or any other human being.

 3.  I am a teacher: Right now I teach at the local community college after retiring from  22 years at the high school level.  So, if you happen to come across my picture or a post of mine that brings back fond memories of me as your teacher – just know that I tried my best to see the potential for goodness in all my students – that includes you. My approach to teaching was always that I wanted to be the kind of teacher that I would want for my own son.  I am kind. I am generous and compassionate. If you, for whatever reason, feel compelled to post mean-spirited posts making fun of: poor people or people on public assistance, Planned Parenthood, Hispanics, Native Americans, and/or blacks, just know that, as your former teacher, I will feel a sense shame and embarrassment just before I unfriend you in a most unceremonious fashion.   Please understand there are those who were not born with luck or providence on their side.   And if you can’t help someone then, please, don’t hurt them or their image in a post that  may appear on my page.  I will not stand silently by and let more crap be heaped upon those less fortunate.

And if you never saw any of the above personality traits  as part of my personality in the years that you’ve known me, then I’ve done something wrong.  Yet another reason  NOT to send a friend request.

 

 

 

 

Technology: Be Good or Be Gone!

ReadingGiantBook

I know by writing this essay I will have allayed any suspicion that I am a happy, practicing member of this new electronic age.  I am not.  But neither am I a hard-core Luddite – running away from any decent potential that new technology may harbor. My first foray onto the electronic highway (more like the median strip) was in 1982 when I became the proud owner of an Apple II computer.  It was Halloween when we set up the computer. We suddenly became the first place for parents to look for their tardy offspring. The (real floppy) floppy disk containing the game Falcons was better than candy as more than one child sat down in front of the black screen to take their turn at shooting green dots that turned all sparkly as they fell to the ground. I realized that owning a computer made us almost as popular as the 10 puppies our dog had given birth to the spring before.  But, from this communal camaraderie, we have come to a cultural crossroad with one direction leading straight to this zombie producing nation of kids plugged in and plugged up as they walk along busy streets with the ubiquitous dangling side-locks of the earpieces.  I cringe when I see young people today, staring glossy or vacant eyed waiting and thumb typing the time away.  These young people seem to measure their lives not in coffee spoons, but in text messages and Facebook tags and likes. They walk along busy streets, seemingly, emotionally blind to their surroundings, blind to any beauty and (sadly) any potential danger lurking unnoticed.  Also, I am uncomfortable with the idea that young children have to be entertained all the time. As a culture we put this canard front and center in our capitalist zeal to sell. Witness the car commercial in which a high angle camera shot follows a luxury SUV traveling through some of the most beautiful landscape this country has to offer – U.S. Coast Highway 1. Once the camera moves inside the car we see all the external beauty going to waste, unrecognized as the faces of the young occupants in the rear seats are cast in the sickly blue light of the video being run on the latest, built-in technological baby-sitter. Looking back, I’ve always been at odds with new technology in way or another. I was living in L.A. when the first rumblings of pay T.V. started shaking the cultural ground. Yes, I too gave the derisive sneer along with, “Please – who is going to pay for television?”  I was obviously blind to the concept of Home Box Office  – the great and lucrative idea of showing movies on television.  Once we moved to rural western New York I did not have to consider paying for television.  Our one-hundred and forty-year-old farmhouse sported the latest in aerial technology – meaning the antennae was easy to reach when we wanted to change the channels and get better reception with less snow. It wasn’t until 1986  – when my beloved Mets were on the fast track to a world-series championship – that I relented and agreed to a satellite dish. I was a reading teacher, at the time and fully aware of the message given by the huge, in your face, aluminum mesh dish in my orchard.

 As a writer, technology, for the most part, has been my friend giving me any number of innovations to improve the look and content of my writing. But I always left the computer store fearing that by the end of the two-hour drive home my new acquisition would be obsolete. But obsolescence, I know now, was not planned.  Those inventors, in their rush to figure out ways to push information faster and further seemingly, gladly, never slept in order to be on to the next new thing that would help us improve our ways to communicate important news and information. But what now? We can pass information around the world in nanoseconds, we can explain, detain, and maim in social networking environments with some restricting the makeup of our word-based weaponry to 140 characters. And innovation makes all of this good?

 My fear is that while we may be on the cutting edge of electronic expertise, that technological Damoclean sword will certainly cut just as deeply on the backswing.  Nothing pushes my point home better than the television commercial for Google Nexus 7 in which a middle-school boy asks the meaning of the word glossophobia. Does he ask an older brother or sister? No. Does he ask mom, who is sitting right beside him? No. Does he ask dad, who is nowhere in the picture (but that’s another rant for another day)? No. He goes to his beautiful android-tablet device for the answer. And the viewer is taken in with a sweet historical vignette in which the young boy learns about another “ordinary” individual (King George VI) who suffered from the same fear of public speaking. And yes, it ends well – he gives the speech of his young life and gets the girl of his dreams. In all fairness, there is another longer online version of this commercial in which FDR is featured telling us what it is we should fear. And in this longer version the mother uses the reminder app to wish her son luck on speech day. Cool technology meets warms and fuzzy. But, for me, the warmth did not last long as I fully expected the boy to get up and go find dad and ask him how to ask a girl out – you know, like handing down gender tips from one generation to the next. The boy does not seek any help from his parental units because the electronic parent is there to answer all questions – even the hard ones, without any parental wisdom for the child to store in his own arsenal of future references.  The underlying message here is that mom and dad are obsolete and unnecessary for this generation of hooked up, plugged in, self-absorbed adolescents. And this is what makes me angry; the idea that we live in a culture in which we pay (mightily too) to stand in line for the right to become hardened to beauty, nature and, saddest of all, human contact.  We will not survive as a species if this becomes the case.