One judge bragged he could look an attorney right in the eye the whole time the attorney was making an argument but never hear a word the lawyer said. In fact, that judge was just like the rest of us. Much of what we appear to hear may as well be a foreign language. We smile and nod but are totally unaffected by much of what others try to convince us. And, of course, we all know very little that we say to others has any hope of convincing them to truly agree with us, even as they nod their heads up and down. If you are married, you might feel the truth, and frustration, of this phenomenon.
It is not just the state of my ability to hear that prevents me, and probably you too, from comprehending what someone in a movie, on television or even someone right next to us in a noisy room is saying. Just as a traffic cop continues politely filling out your citation while he does not consider your reasonable explanation, most of us already have our minds made up about practically everything. Therefore, please do not attempt to confuse us with information on the subject at hand.
In many situations it is not our fault that new facts are irrelevant to our decisions. Take our hypothetical traffic cop for instance. He/she often has but a moment to observe some fleeting situation. He/she may have an ill child or a demanding spouse or be behind on his/her rent. What he/she does not have is the time or inclination to debate with you.
The same thing happens with judges. By the time a case gets to court the judge may have already read the file including briefs and depositions. The judge may have predetermined his/her decision and arguments in court are simply something that must be endured, not listened to. Trial judges often believe that is exactly how appellate court decisions are made.
Regardless of your circumstances, you may feel no one is hearing what you want to say. Actually, others may hear us but they just have their minds made up and the competing demands of our busy lives drive out our ability or desire to reevaluate our positions.
That may be why the same sermons get delivered at almost every religious service and why parents have to constantly admonish their children to do their homework. We hear but we do not listen. We see but we do not comprehend. The constant drumbeat of others attempting to confuse us with their thoughts eventually becomes just so much “sounding brass or tinkling cymbals”. 1 Corinthians 13:1.
So the next time you grab someone’s arm and ask intently, “Are you listening to me?”, you can almost certainly assume they are not. On the other hand, you can hope they will at least smile and politely nod in response.
When our son, Jim, served in the Gulf War in 1990-91 and the Iraq War in 2006-07 and briefly in the Afghanistan War in 2007 he observed one of war’s most vital premises: our country should never fall behind the curve of military superiority. America was fortunate to recover from Pearl Harbor in time to help the Allies survive World War II. In the age of nuclear and cyber warfare we might not be able to survive World War III with outdated technology. The United States must remain vigilant. Vigilance does not call for aggression. In fact, our Constitution demands defense, not offense. However, we have been in an offensive mode militarily since we unwisely intervened in Viet Nam after France was driven out in 1954 after the Battle of Dien Bien Phu. Beginning in 1956 America saw fit to emulate the errors of the French and we have been intervening militarily in numerous countries ever since.
One thing we Americans thought we had learned from the discovery that our government had misled us into the Viet Nam War was the old truism that in war the first casualty is truth. This adage is often attributed to Aeschylus (525-456 BCE) but it probably has been noted by many observers of peoples drawn into wars by their leaders. By the way, those leaders have almost always not been the ones to do the fighting.
Such examples as King David sending Uriah to die in battle to hide David’s seduction of Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba, Second Samuel, chapter 11, or perhaps President George W. Bush’s false claim that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction or now our government’s claims about our war in Afghanistan may illustrate this ancient principle.
Just this month Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John Sopko testified before the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee that America’s war in Afghanistan, our longest war ever, was conducted on a basis of lies to get and maintain Congressional political and funding support. The Washington Post newspaper published reports that Douglas Lute, former White House Afghan War official under both President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama, had testified America invaded Afghanistan in 2001 without a fundamental understanding of Afghanistan or what America planned to accomplish there.
Of course, Americans are no longer surprised that our government misleads us into wars. Unfortunately we have become inured to it. That is the danger. It is as frightening as the old story of the boy who cried wolf. If our government continues to mislead us into unnecessary wars, will we citizens respond appropriately when, and it could happen some day, we are asked to sacrifice our lives and treasure for a just cause such as our country’s survival?
Associate Professor Jean-Pierre Macquart of Curtin University in Bentley (Perth), Australia is the principal investigator of the CRAFT project that studies Fast Radio Bursts from throughout the universe. These phenomena became a subject of intense interest in 2007. The cause of these FRB’s is still being researched but in June, 2019 the source was determined to be a galaxy 3.4 billion light years from our own Milky Way Galaxy, practically next door.
The theories of the origins of FRB’s are many. However, my favorite guess is that they originate from a highly advanced civilization that is reaching out for contact with other similarly positioned beings. Of course, I still hold out some hope Santa Claus will bring me a pony.
Regardless, if there are intelligent creatures sending out probes it may be because they have been monitoring Earth’s progress for years and are wondering how we are currently doing. If these beings, I’ll just call them Busters for convenience, have been observing us for the last 200,000 years or so they were probably pretty bored until around 5,000 years ago when the “ancient” Chinese, Egyptians, Assyrians and Babylonians came up with writing and pyramids. The Busters may have followed the careers of Imhotep or Cheops as mankind leapt from hunter/gatherers to farming and architecture. Today the descendants of these great civilizations may get less interest from the Busters, especially as the societies began to engage in efforts to control their neighbors with clubs.
As humans migrated from Africa to the Mediterranean area our curious observers may have followed the writings of Socrates and the Greek culture until the Roman’s discovered the short sword. And while we do not know the length of the year the Busters live with, they probably have figured out ours and our time lines. Therefore, the Busters may have followed the rise and fall of Rome including the decline from such as Justinian to the likes of Mussolini. The Earth at war from 1914 to 2020 may have caused the Busters pause.
One curious aspect of the Fast Radio Bursts is how they were discovered by humans about 2007 and their volume has waxed and waned over the next 13 years. It is as if the Busters may be concerned or confused about recent events. Perhaps they are perplexed by our world’s own fast radio television bursts as current events may appear from outer space to be pure chaos.
For example, I can imagine a cable news Buster asking, “Where did Socrates go and what the devil is a Hannity?”
We begin 2020 with the death of Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani. President Trump ordered the drone/air strike. The President said:
“The attack was necessary because Soleimani was planning massive attacks against U.S. personnel in Iraq and throughout the Middle East.”
America has been heavily involved in the Middle East since World War II. Our role until 1990 was mainly diplomatic with some force of arms as a threat. In 1990 we invaded Iraq and re-invaded Iraq in 2003 although we have not completely disengaged since our first incursion.
After the 911 attacks of 2001 we invaded Afghanistan in the hopes of quelling further attacks by Al-Qaeda members who were using Afghanistan to plan operations in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere. In 2014 America intervened militarily and diplomatically in the Syrian Civil War.
Iranian college students stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, Iran in 1979 and held 52 American hostages until 1981. All were released. The U.S. has had a prickly relationship with Iran since but it has been almost totally a war of words and sanctions.
If we point to 1990 as the metaphorical “Firing on Fort Sumter”, we have been engaged in military actions in the Middle East for 30 years. The strike on Soleimani may expand and extend our involvement. A calculation of costs and benefits of our 30 years of war is far beyond my knowledge. How does one evaluate the lives lost when there is no accounting for them? Did we eliminate terrorists or innocents, a future dictator or someone who might find a cure for cancer? We cannot know. We surely have expended trillions of dollars of national treasure, but would we have spent it any more wisely at home?
Over the last 30 years what have we done with our lives and treasure within our own country? More particularly what have we, and I mean me too, accomplished in our system of criminal justice? If America seeks to punish foreigners for transgressions and seeks to force other countries to behave as we think best, what are we doing and how have we done on imposing justice upon and modifying the behavior of our fellow citizens whom we convict of crimes? These issues, while always at play, rise up as salient as the New Year ensues.
Instead of war with Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Iran can we think about the legal system and Chris, Danny, Jackie and Jason? Is it logical to compare the behavior of countries to the behavior of individuals? Is it relevant? Is it meaningful or just another method of hoping instead of helping?
Each of the people named were at one time considered by our legal system to be in need of rehabilitation, much as America thinks of those named Middle Eastern countries. And while I have dealt with thousands of our fellow citizens in our legal system as lawyer, prosecutor and judge, this New Year season I have been musing about these four above-named survivors of my attempts at punishment and rehabilitation. In essence these four were given the opportunity to modify their own behavior and they did. Each is now a productive citizen and of more import to me, each is now my friend. Do I deserve any credit; no. Do they; yes.
But if society had continued to demand a pound of flesh from these, and so many others who have turned their lives around, each of them might have returned our slings and arrows with ballistic behavior. Yes, society held each to account just as we must do with other countries. But giving individuals and nations an opportunity for redemption might be worth contemplating.
Yuletide is the Germanic term for the season that begins with the Winter Solstice, usually about December 21 or 22. For 2019 the fleeting moment when Earth’s true North Pole was at its maximum tilt away from the sun occurred on Saturday, December 21 at 10:19 p.m. Central Standard Time. The winter or hibernal solstice marked the twenty-four hour period of the calendar year with the least sunlight and the beginning of longer daylight days. Humans probably have always celebrated this event. It is the true “new” year.
For many people the end of the year’s gradually darkening after the Summer Solstice, about June 20 or 21 each year, is a time to reflect on the past and hope for the future. One need not be superstitious to experience a period of introspection when darkness turns to light. Nature provides the perfect metaphor.
For Peg and me as leftovers from the turbulence of the 1960’s retrospection often includes the days of Jim Crow and America’s legal system. These painful recollections were once again seared into our psyches when we happened to come upon the 2018 movie Green Book while surfing television shows for something of value, that is, something other than the cacophony of vile opinions claiming to be news.
Green Book is based on events from 1962. Dr. Don Shirley (1927-2013) was an African-American pianist who decided to engage in his own sociological experiment concerning racism in America. Instead of designing a laboratory environment where rats are manipulated and observed followed by conjectural opinions, Shirley literally put some real skin in the game, his. He hired a white Italian-American from New York City to be his driver and event manager then, with a white cellist and white bass player, the four of them dove into America before the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It was not pretty. Believe me, I remember.
I was born in 1943 in the legally segregated state of Oklahoma. I lived the good life of a middle-class white kid and young man with hardly a thought about why everyone I went to school or ate out with looked like me. If I ever had a passing observation of this phenomenon until after Brown vs. The Topeka Board of Education in 1954 I do not recall it.
Then in 1957 Oklahoma used “all deliberate speed” to comply with the United States Supreme Court’s decree that its previous decree that Separate but Equal was no longer constitutional. Turns out the Judicial Branch is no more virtuous than the other two. Not surprised? Me neither.
Anyway, the public schools of Oklahoma initiated their version of integration and the “colored” kids from Booker T. Washington School across Bird Creek from the rest of us came to school with the rest of us. Of course, public transportation, restaurants, restrooms and water fountains remained pristinely white until after the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Jim Crow still reigned.
Green Book transported Peg and me back to those not so thrilling days of yesteryear. Don Shirley was kept back by the dominant white culture to those dark days symbolized by the Winter Solstice. Perhaps whoever erected the Stonehenge paean to the coming light had their own demons to quell. My guess is there is in human nature a certain element of dark mentality that is constant and that each generation must re-learn and deal with that fact.
Of course, for one to recognize the darkness in our souls we must have the ability to appreciate the possibilities of the coming light. When the light finally expels the dark, if it ever does, we will be able to dispel the competition between good and evil by not just hiding from the long night but reveling in the light.
Happy New Year!
In the musical My Fair Lady by Lerner and Loewe Professor Henry Higgins is a middle-aged speech specialist who attempts to pass off the cockney flower girl Eliza Doolittle as a socialite. Eliza is young, crude, pretty and most of all female. Her audacious resistance to Higgins’ efforts to turn her into a fraud is beyond frustrating to Higgins. He sums up his Eliza dealings with a statement to his co-conspirator Colonel Hugh Pickering, “Why can’t a woman be more like a man?”
I suggest the main reason My Fair Lady is one of the most successful musicals in history is this eons long male quest to control or at least understand their female companions. Every man, especially every married man, commiserates with Professor Higgins. When Higgins asks Pickering if Pickering would get upset if he did not speak to him for hours or if he forgot Pickering’s birthday, Pickering scoffs and replies, “Of course not”.
The reason I raise this subject pertains to Peg’s totally unreasonable reaction to my involvement in our move from Posey County, Indiana to Osage County, Oklahoma. I don’t get it. Regardless of what activity or inactivity I am currently engaged or unengaged in Peg believes I should be doing something else, something she declares is essential to national security or at least to getting us moved. And whatever it is it is vital that it be done immediately! No time to finish watching a ballgame or drink a cup of morning coffee or an afternoon beer.
Let’s take yesterday as an example of Peg’s recalcitrant attitude. I will leave up to all fair-minded husbands if I was in the right. Wives need not trouble themselves with a response.
I turned on the television about eight a.m. and was in the process of continuously switching between CNN and FOX in the hope of finding some news squeezed among the vitriolic diatribes at both ends of the impeachment debacle. My coffee had hardly cooled when Peg burst into the den with fire in her eyes and a dust rag in her hand.
“The buyers must never know we lived here for twelve years without dusting behind those boxes in the closet. Are you about ready to quit griping about the national news media and the government and help me?”
“Uh, can I finish my coffee or will Rome fall if I don’t immediately go searching for dust devils?”
“Oh, don’t let me interrupt your delving into the fine points of who did what, to whom and when. I am sure they will contact you for your solution to war in the Middle East!” I ask you, husbands of the world, does such sarcasm sound familiar? I calmly responded it appeared to me the dusting and packing of yet another item we had not used for years could probably safely wait until my coffee was finished. Such was not to be.
Anyway, it does appear we will get completely packed up this year. I am looking forward to my instructions on unloading and unpacking out on the prairie. Wish me luck all my fellow testosterone travelers.
P.S. From Peg, who has to type all these Gavel Gamut articles, post them to the jamesmredwine.com website, Facebook, and send them on to the newspapers, which happens to take 3 hours of her Friday because the author waits until the last minute to write them: “No wonder the National Organization of Women’s credo is ‘Men just don’t get it!’. And, by the way, I am more like a man! I have had to help my Dear Jungle Jim move quite a few pieces of heavy furniture from one room to another because he decided he wanted them in a different room than the moving crew originally moved them into!”