I Am a Democrat

I am a lifelong Southern Democrat. Born in the mid forties in southwest Florida, I grew up in the Jim Crow South when it was a Democratic stronghold as solid as Gibraltar. One of the most furious reactions I ever saw from anyone in my family was the time when I was (young) and, within earshot of my grandfather at a family get-together, happened to utter the phrase, “I like Ike.” His reaction was both visceral and instantaneous and, if he had not recognized me as he rose, I do believe he would have crossed the room and smote me where I stood.

I identified with those Democrats when I discovered that they spoke to the interests of labor, that they saw a role for government in providing a safety net under those who had fallen, and generally considered government a possible tool for establishing standards of protection and assistance for the wider citizenry when that was needed. They appeared to me to represent a more human(e) approach to government, to stand for a vision of the role of government that included compassion and the collective use of our financial power to advance solutions for some of the pressing social needs within the country.

I never left that Democratic Party and I never abandoned those interests or visions. It appears to me, however, that the Democrats have left me. I see what looks like a huge PAC into which has been concentrated the control of what used to be, and still is called, the Democratic Party. That PAC is essentially indistinguishable from a twin that is at the heart of the Republican Party. They are both fed by the “free speech” ($$$$$$$) of what is in effect the world community of international businesses.

The Republicans, however, in addition to maintaining their organic connection with that business community, have connected on a much wider scale to a constituency that I believe once was actually Democratic: the Church. Religion, and most especially its evangelical and more fundamental expressions, was and still is part of the bedrock of the South and those people were Democrats, solid and proud. Since the basic tenets of the Church have remained essentially unaltered for several hundred years, I must consider the likelihood that it is the Democrats that have moved and not the Church.

The Democrats have grown a symbiotic connection to the Republicans’ core constituency: Business, as that constituency has increasingly spread its very substantial power in the form of “free speech” ($$$$$$$) to the parties. Since (as they say in “South’r’n”) “Ya best dance with him as brung ya.” what is still called the Democratic Party has had to increasingly act like Republicans. Acting like Republicans while talking like Democrats has left most of the party’s constituents standing alongside the path confused and annoyed, scratching their heads and looking around trying to figure out whether they accidentally left the Party or the Party deliberately left them.

Both parties’ centers are built on the same foundation: The “free speech” (ok, ok…I’ll stop doing that..) of business, which “talks” to both, though more “loudly” to the one it thinks will win and/or act most effectively in its behalf . While the Republicans have approached and won a new and very solidly united and active constituency in the persons of the millions of faithful in the nation, the Democrats have drifted away from and lost not only that constituency but labor, in whose interests it is hard to speak when you are connected by transfusion to the very corporations for whom those people work; Greens, for the same basic reason, but the Greens see what those corporations are doing to the environment as they convert resources into capital; I think there are more to list and I think the point is made.

The Democrats try hard to distinguish themselves from the Republicans, to create distance between them, and it is hard to get very far away when you are connected to the same umbilicus or even share organs. The Party has a dilemma: It has found the riches and to access them it must leave home. It must choose. At stake is the two party system because, sooner or later, those of us from which the “center” of the party has walked away will, once again, seek to build the kind of representation and power in political expression once offered by the Democratic Party. It is an organic necessity that from within a country founded upon the most Liberal vision of government ever conceived on the planet there must arise a political expression of the values that shape that vision. Be that the Democratic Party, as it has historically been, or be it a rising third party, it will happen. Perhaps the two party system will persist in the form of the Redemopublicratican Party and a Second Party Yet to Be Named.

Democratic thinking has not disappeared. Liberal values have not lost their power. The party that calls itself Democrat has left the building.

I will be a constituent of a party that values human labor; sees government as a tool, not the answer, in ameliorating suffering and bringing social conditions toward civil resolution; that works to tax its citizens accurately and fairly and then turns those revenues to commonly agreed purposes (Yes, I do mean “tax and spend.”); that supports a military that is superior in its quality and then seeks to build alliances and partnerships with neighbors and others in the world community so that military can be used for its best and truest purpose: providing for the common defense. I will join and vote for a party that establishes civil liberties and the sanctity of citizenship as its cornerstone and builds upon that cornerstone administrations that recognize and act as though they are the property of the people and not the other way around. If those principles can be brought home to the evangelical faithful as natural to their faiths, connected to and growing from the basic tenets of the Gospel of Jesus, that’s fine with me, the party I’m talking about really is a big tent. When I hear these principles strongly and genuinely spoken and followed by actions consistent with that speaking I will seek out and support whoever that is.

Or, I shall keep speaking them myself and watch and listen for an echo or a chorus until either there is such an echo and subsequent chorus or I exhale and do not inhale again.

I am a Democrat.

Thank you for your consideration. I invite your reply.

April 18, 2006

A conjecture: Life of an Original American or Any Indigenous or Aboriginal People

Asleep in a shelter built of native materials and suited to its environment, I awaken, to what? I awaken to the morning light, to the pressure in my bladder, to the movement/sounds of the world about, to the touch of another. It is winter, cold. I dress myself in the skins of cold weather animals. Experience has long ago taught us how to use these, how to tailor them into well-cut and effective garments. We are warmly dressed. What do we eat? We have a small supply of items in our domicile: dried meat/fish, rootstocks, nuts, and legumes. If there is fresh food available in winter, we know where it is. The world in which I live is friendly, known, understood. Its resources are familiar and available. Its seasons are familiar as well, their stars, their animals, their changes; all go on around me like the lives of my family.

Dressed and fed, warm, I leave my domicile, out into the morning. The air is utterly sparkling, the sun just up. I go to a stream and from it drink clear cold water. What is my day to be about? What are my activities, what chooses where I go, with whom? It is early in the deep snow; the sun creeps farther south each day, showing his face to us for a shorter and shorter times. We prepare, near his farthest wandering, to invite him back to warm the anticipated, welcome spring. Today we hunt and forage for the food of the feast of the sun’s return. There are food animals, fur animals, and we shall go and bring the meat and fur for the happiest of the sun feasts: Sun’s turn from the Southern Journey.

We shall hunt these days and prepare, then for several days we shall not eat. There will be little happening among my people except the ending ritual. These are the short dim days. The long dark night has nibbled at the dawn and the twilight since the fall of the leaves. Longest nights and shortest days are times of reflection and prayer. At the shortest day, upon the eve of the longest night, we finish trouble among our selves; make good the injuries we haven’t healed. If we have kept that which didn’t we did not make, that which wasn’t given to us for our own, on this night we return it. If we have between us feelings that stop the tongue or lower the eyes, on this night we go to each other and speak of these things. A new time is coming, the days will lengthen as the sun takes back the night’s stolen light. The darkness of our spirits and in our relationships among ourselves is to be reclaimed at this time as well. We shall eat no gift from our land, only drink the water and soak the leaves for our drinks. It is a time to look into the darkness to see its spirits and workings, to know its ways. Long ago these were fearful times but we have come to know the sun wants to come back to us. The light wants to lengthen as the sun climbs higher and higher crossing the sky. We know these seasons are the way of our world and we live their messages. So we shall inhabit the dark and finish the long nights among us.

For three days all will stop as we watch the shadow fall upon the stone, awaiting the sun’s joyous acceptance of our invitation to return to us, to once again climb to the zenith in our sky. Then we party, feasting on the bounty of the dark nights and upon the preserves from the long days; a feast of gratitude, of welcome, of hope.

The world continues.

These are also the beginning days of the hardest season. It is a season of black and white, of cold, snow. In the past many have died during this passage. Now we have learned to dress and to live well and how to shelter ourselves securely from the storms. Still it is a long and hard season. The Sun Feast turns it to anticipation of the green bud, then the rush of rivers.

In the clear nights I see the old stars of winter, the turkey calls from thickets heavy with snow. I know some trees are sleeping; some will give their clear blood for sweet syrup. I live surrounded by all the spirit of the earth. It is a time of rest, of peace, sleep for trees, for bears. The beaver are lodged. It can mean something about the day or the person if one is seen in this Season. The small streams stop, rest. The rivers and lakes pull blankets of ice over themselves and hide like the bear.

Much of the world is asleep.

Sky is, of course, never sleeping. She marches around us, telling us her stories and we see her moods, one in the stars, and one in the weather. One ancient and distant, one so near that sometimes the clouds hide the mountaintops. She is a woman with seasons, moods. She storms and shrieks, tossing over trees. She scours the land clean in torrents of rain or covers it for rest in the snow blanket. Her heart is sun and moon is her hunting dog, running ahead, then following. She howls, this sky, and sings softly. She cleans, she warms the very earth with her heart in the season of the green bud. Sometimes she lays her soft dew upon the ground by touching us with her cloud cape.

This is sky.

In all feasts and celebrations, of course, are the prayers and offerings to sky for she is the daughter of the every-in-all-one…the Nameless Joyful Mover. Long ago we had for this a name. We found that to be a bad thing; not like a crime, but we saw the name always made smaller the great expanse, the vastness of presence, the power. So we had a great council with all our nations. For days we spoke of it and agreed there would be no name, that we all knew we could speak of natures, of movement, of presence, and no more would we try to speak all and all in a word or phrase.

To stand each day upon a world I know as living. To walk in forest and know each tree and plant, each animal. To understand the place as loving, safe. To know it as a source of food, of shelter, of water, of life. To be one with it. To be present at any and all times to myself and the world in which I live as organs of the same being. For all this experience, this way of being in the world to be what I think WITH, how I just AM, not a conjecture or construct of mind. Not a way of looking but simply SO, the already/always, the IS. To BE that I am a being of all this being, this is my home, we love each other, we ARE each other. I, just as much as the rabbit, the bear, the bison came from her(e). We revere each other and care for each other, we are aware and know each other. We ARE that we belong here and are the parts, integral, organic inseparable parts of one whole living being.

The “wilderness” is home, not a dangerous place of hunger and thirst. How could one hunger in a vast organic food display? All of it is available: The plants, the animals, the water, the earth. I assume their awareness. As I know I am aware, so, I assume, are they. Spirit invests all. We speak of parts, aspects, ways of the great-all-everything-life-spirit-mind. We do so with care. Care to be inclusive not narrowing, care to hold ourselves open to more of the being and being with, not less. The “organs” of this being are invested with the spirit. Canyons, rivers, sky, earth, sun, the bear, the mouse, eagle, each plant and flower, the giant trees, all penetrated by spirit, invested with spirit. Each and all making spirit their own as spirit makes of them its own. One being with eyes that number like the stars, one being that knows “rock” because it IS Rock, that knows “cloud” because it IS. And I, I and spirit, just like all else and spirit, are one. We know each other that we are each other. In my words I say “me” and “spirit”. My mind can hear two words and treat them as two things. I say, “I know spirit and spirit knows me.” My mind separates “me” and “spirit” for hearing the language. There is no separation. I and spirit are one. I am a place of spirit, I see through my eyes, spirit sees through my eyes. Spirit is, and sees through bear, river, sky and bear sees with, by, and through spirit. I take my self to the great forest and sit with my back to the tree, bringing my body and his close and our spirit centers near. There is a difference in how our spirits are, his and mine; a different feel: His is slower, more even and I must sit a while and be with tree for my self, for my spirit to be with his. Then we can sense what was already so: We share spirit. Not A spirit, not THE spirit: What is me that if it left, would leave me not me, and what is tree that when it leaves, tree is not tree, is the same in its essence, different in its feel, its energy. Like water in a dewdrop, a rainstorm, a waterfall, a snowflake, an iceberg, a fogbank, in steam: Different expressions and states, same essence. In this world I live. Of this world am I a part. To this world do I belong and all vice versa. The spirits of all around me and mine are one and it is the spirit of all that and all else. Like a river of grass it is visible here, not there, deep here, not there, here this grows out of it, there, that does. It is all one thing flowing and I am of it.

This is where I live.

What gets me up each day? I hear the birds, the light comes up. I awaken because I am rested and finished sleeping. My bladder needs emptied and my belly filled. And my Days, of what are my days filled? I may hunt; I may work on art, on fashioning objects, things to use, gifts to give. I may help another with a job. What gives me my activities? Whatever is needed, wanted.

My people have conversations, small and large. Sometimes we meet in council, the oldest among us listen long and often speak last. Everyone brings something. Families or family groups may meet to talk of matters close to them and out of that meeting one or a few may go to meet with others from other families or groups to bring their views, to present the thinking of their family to the others. All are heard, their views considered, weighed on the beam against and with the interests and views of others and other families or groups. The older ones among us often listen silently. I have seen such listening stretch for hours. Sometimes they will ask questions, speak among themselves briefly. There is a council of our whole community in which there are people who bring the views, concerns, needs of all the families and groups. It meets when conversations are needed that affect all of us: moving, disputes with other communities, war, peace. These conversations may extend through many days until all that is to be said has been said. So that all may be considered and have its weight added to the balance. Everyone leaves having listened to all there is and having spoken all there is and having taken part in any deliberations and choices there are. Sometimes some will not agree with the choices but they all know how and why the choice was made and know their interests were included in the process.

In this way we live together.

Arise in the light to the songs of birds and children. Eat with our families and friends that which we gather from the place we live, including, during its season, that which we grow for ourselves. In their seasons we move. In spring we begin our move to the mountainsides and high valleys. This can be a hard journey but we know the high country will be better for living when the sun is high crossing the sky. We stay through summer in the high country. There is much food there and we prepare stores for the dark season. As the leaves turn and the peaks are frosted we travel to the south and to the lakes and streams of the plains and lowland forests. Sky tells us when and which way. We are always at home; we move though our home from place to place with the sun and the stars. Long ago we summered in the lowlands. Wintered in the mountains. Long ago we learned where the air is kindest, the weather best. There are stories of our learning days. We learn still of our home, ancient, sky dome, deep earth, flowing water. We still discover their voices, their spirit with ours. Each tree every stream, its place and its person are its character. We are at home. We are in and of our home all through our journeys. We sometimes visit friends in the forests or on the mountainsides: trees, streams, rocks, to sit with them again and feel our spirit together. There are canyons where many of us have felt similarly in our spirit. We go there together to listen and ask of the spirit we share. This we will bring back to the community, to the council. Some hear clearly rivers, some trees, some the sky. Some hear several and a few hear all.

So do we listen to our home.

I study the world around me, I watch the processes of my home. I see the beetle bore into the dead log, then, breaking open such a log, I find the tunnels connected through it and the eggs, the larvae crawling out and chewing the dead wood, leaving dust. I see this larva select a place and become a cocoon, a chrysalis, and I see the beetle emerge. This process I observe and learn, the birds, the deer, the sky and the weather, all around me I watch my world for centuries learning and teaching those who come after me. Thus is my world known to us and are we at home across its vastness. In steaming jungles, scorching deserts, ancient forests, upon the glistening ice and aboard tiny dots of land set in vast azure seas are we at home, familiar with the cycles of our cousins and friends.

We honor the spirit we share with our surroundings.

There are acknowledgements spoken, thanks given, prayers and sacrifices offered as we prepare to hunt. We call to the spirit of our quarry so they know we need their bounty of meat for food, so they can hear us coming to them and those who will can come to us and give themselves to us. They are great and powerful brothers and sisters, living also in the spirit we all share, and we are honored that they come to us for our use and comfort. We thank them. We thank the spirit all in everything, considering ourselves blessed and honored.

All and everywhere is the spirit, through and in the earth, the sea, the sky and in the ant, the squirrel, the deer, bison, bear, leaf, twig and branch, limb and tree. The very air is charged through and sometimes roars and tears until it splits with great searing flashes of light and roars the thunder across the lands and seas.

Such is the spirit.

To see the outside power and feel the inside presence, to know the sameness of the spirit throughout and across all, this but humbles and honors us and one or many of us may find ourselves paused and being with it at any time as we might pause to converse with or greet a friend or watch a storm over the prairie. We are all one inside, though different in our appearance. This we have found from long careful talks in pairs, families, councils. We are with the spirit as are we with our skins, our breath, our heartbeat. It lives through us and we through it. This is my world.

This is my life.

This is how I live my day and my time. How do I look at this? In the spirit, in the all in everything. I look across the living world and see it one in aspects appearing dissimilar. I see the same animating principle from the black stardusted winter sky to the endless blue depths of sea, from the ocean shore to river bank to lakeside to and to and to and know that of this I am, included as a vital part. There is only one “each” so all in everything may have eyes everywhere, ears hearing, foot upon the earth, everywhere. Each eye, each foot uniquely valuable: no other can see just that, is standing just there, hears so clearly this at just this time. This I am and of this am I we are one and each a part of all that is every one of us always in everything. We have special places, places special to us: some individual, some family, some as whole communities, which are especially evocative of the presence of this “so.” We go to these places in gratitude, in need, in inquiry, in joy, and grief, we to stop and be with all in everything for giving and receiving. The great falls in the smoking land, the canyon, among the giant trees, these are special places.

This is my world.

Laddie

First there was a luxuriously soft bright-eyed, eager bouncy puppy, sable with a pure white collar and bib, black “frosting,” and a white flash on his nose. Google up a picture of “Lassie.” That’s him.

 

Always original, we named him “Laddie.” He was my dog.

 

I don’t recall a lot of detail while he grew up, just fleeting moments of play, frolics at the beach …

 

I was seven. He was six weeks old and we grew up together. We played a lot, on that I’m clear. As he grew to full size I remember one of our favorite games was for him to grab one end of something and me the other and for him to literally drag me around the yard. He was a powerful guy.

 

He had a set of jaws. At the back of the long hall from the living room past the bedrooms was an old-fashioned Florida screen door. Black wood framed screen panels and the lower panel was backed with quarter inch “hardware cloth.” We left Laddie in the apartment one day and came back to find the lower corner of that wood frame nearly chewed through.

 

We took him along to a family get together, I think it was at my aunt Theresa and uncle Andy’s house in Sebring, and Laddie had to stay alone in a back room, separated from me and the rest of his family. He was distressed and vocal about it, disturbing the whole house. My father was enraged and punished him by pummeling him … and Laddie cowered and yiped in pain and fear.

 

I was devastated. He hurt my dog.

 

We lived upstairs and the apartment was not air conditioned, so in the summer the back door was open to the screen door for ventilation. Its shelter under the back porch and the awnings over the open windows at the front of the building allowed the hot and humid summer breezes through, and, during those potent Florida summer thunderstorms, brought us blessed cooling drafts. Laddie was standing just inside the back screen door one thunderous summer afternoon when lightning struck the huge fuse panel on the wall just outside the next door neighbors’ back door. The brightness of the flash, startling all the way into the living room, and the pounding crack of what can only really be called a detonation, not ten feet away, was indescribable. By listening for the distressed whines we found Laddie under the bed in my parents’ bedroom. He had dived under the bed at such velocity that he was wedged in a place he really didn’t fit. We had to lift the bed for him to crawl out.

 

He never was quite the same during thunderstorms after that.

 

Mom started nursing school. It was the return to her pre-War, pre-Marine Corps studies at St. Elizabeth’s in New York, which had been interrupted in a confrontation with an Autoclave, and part of my parents’ strategy to leverage our family upward into the Middle Class. Her practical class work at the Gordon Keller School of Nursing included shift work on the floors at Tampa General Hospital. I guess I was in the second grade and dad, by that time, was a traveling salesman for Gaylord and left Monday morning to work until returning Friday evening. I spent weeknights alone in the apartment.

 

Irma Morelock, who lived with husband Gene and daughter Sandy directly downstairs, would come upstairs and check on me each evening. Laddie knew Irma. He saw her daily … and nightly. She said he lay on the carpet in the middle of my room, between my bed and the door, and watched her quietly. She could come to the door and she could look in and he lay with his chin on his front paws, and all was peaceful. She said if she set foot inside the room his head came up and he rolled up off his side onto his haunches. If this woman Laddie saw every day and every night set another foot inside the room, the big ears lay back against the sides of his head and a very quiet, slow, even, bass-rich growl would rise from his chest. She never explored the matter further.

 

When corrugated shipping containers (what you call “cardboard boxes”) are cut from the blanks that are fed through the flexo’s, printer-slotters and die-cut machines, the process results in scraps where slots and vents and flaps are cut out and edges are trimmed. The factory has a vacuum system that evacuates this blizzard of scrap as it falls from under the machines, bails it and readies it for shipment back to the paper mill. That system failed at Gaylord and those scraps had to be gathered and hauled outside across Inman Avenue and dumped in a pile which swiftly grew into a huge cushiony stack in the vacant lot there. It was an artificial mountain range with valleys resilient enough to absorb the impact of a leap from a peak and it swiftly became a play attraction for the kids around the neighborhood. John Palios was a big kid. He also tended to be … rough … one of the “capos” in the local “playground mafia.” He and I and Laddie were playing on that stack one afternoon and John went to the top of one of the peaks and came hurtling down toward the valley, where Laddie was standing, tail wagging “doggie grinning,” and watching. When John ran past he reached out and slapped Laddie alongside the head. Laddie yiiiiped and, without ever taking a step lunged at Palios as he was running away. The result was two bloody stripes down John’s back where his shirt had been. He yelled and kept running.

That was the only time I ever saw Laddie respond to an attack against him. It was the day I learned what his canines could do.

 

It was a rough, blue-collar neighborhood with a host of characters that ranged from an evangelical Pentecostal preacher who tried to get me to hold the plug wire on an outboard motor while he pulled the starter rope to a family whose boys were expert craftsmen at building balsa, rubber band-powered free flight model airplanes, whose father was known to be seen around the house in bra and panties inviting kids “to the movies” in falsetto. Some of the kids were just plain old-fashioned mean and used to whack Laddie across the nose with sticks and such to the extent that he developed a permanent bump on his nose. He never laid paw or tooth on any child.

 

Mom finished nursing school and found well-paid work in the offices of doctors Hugh Steele and Marvin Miller. Dad turned out to be a fine salesman. Their strategy for upward mobility was working and they saved and looked. They found a newly-built three bedroom, one bath house on Wisconsin Avenue in Gandy Gardens, a neighborhood populated with officers and NCO’s from the air force base just a couple of miles down Dale Mabry Highway. I guess I was eleven.

 

It was the summer between 5th and 6th grade and I went from Gorrie Elementary to a brand new Sidney Lanier Elementary, which opened overcrowded and Mr. Lamb’s 6th grade class, along with the entire rest of the sixth grade, was trooped across the parking lots to the next-door Monroe Junior High School where we maintained elementary school days in the midst of a school running on a junior high schedule.

 

Laddie became an “outside” dog, his headquarters on the open concrete patio behind the living room and between the kitchen and my bedroom. The next door neighbors were an Air Force family. He was a Captain who flew nuclear-armed B-47 bombers for the Strategic Air Command, she was a Military Housewife, and the two boys were just about and just a little younger than my age. They had a female Collie who lived indoors or chained to a column at the corner of their back porch. Laddie was a “free range” canine. He lived on a diet of straight canned Ken-L-Ration which he would leave until he starved if I didn’t tell him to go ahead and eat.   Soon there appeared a depression in the grass about 18 inches away from and all the way along and around the outside walls of our house. It was the path where Laddie walked … patrolled … through the night.

 

He had one bad habit, aside from the throaty, soulful serenade he rendered at the sounding of any siren anywhere any time. See, he was wearing a full-length heavy fur coat … all the time … and he liked to find cool damp earth to lay in. Made sense … but if he couldn’t find some, he made some … most frequently by excavating the flower beds. The result looked like a small bomb crater. I would come home from school and he’d be lying in a crater in one of the front flower beds. Over and over I yelled at him and over and over he’d dig a hole to lie in. One afternoon I lost it and I just wailed the tar out of him … screaming at him the whole time … then I shunned him for about three days. I was furious and any time he’d approach me I’d walk away. He was devastated and increasingly anxious … and he never went near any of the beds again.

 

Laddie loved kids. There was no way to harm a child within his awareness. He simply wouldn’t allow it.

 

One day when Laddie was six or seven and I was about thirteen a man beat his son on the walk in front of our house. He had seized the boy by the arm and held him as he struck him repeatedly. The boy was screaming and the man was yelling. There was a hurtling sable and white blur that coursed around the corner of the house from the back yard. I never really had a chance to utter a sound and Laddie was on the guy like a linebacker. It was all fur and arms and feet and growls and yells. The next few seconds are … fuzzy … and next I remember Laddie held by his collar and one VERY pissed off and thoroughly shaken man screaming things. My father was outside, most of the neighbors were too, and the guy showed my father two stark purple marks on his thigh where he insisted Laddie had bitten him. The ugly purple stripes were an inch apart. The skin wasn’t broken. Laddie’s canines were somewhere just outside two inches apart. Remember John Palios? I knew what those canines could do and what it looked like when they did. Those were not from a bite. They were from his nails. Laddie had basically taken him down with a punch at mid-thigh and held him down with simple domination.

 

My father freaked. A lawsuit would destroy my parents’ decade of labor that had opened the door to the Middle Class for our family. No one was interested in the logic of my argument.

 

Laddie had to go.

 

We had occasionally boarded him at Glenn Garverik’s kennel up Highway 41 in Land-o-Lakes and they called Glenn, who really liked the dog a lot, and asked him to take Laddie and find him a new home. He agreed.

 

I was utterly devastated, and lay sobbing at night in abject despair …

 

I never knew, until years later, that Glenn had called a few weeks later. Laddie was bereft, grieving … and pining … and my parents told him to put my dog down.

 

10 12 12

Lost in the Web

Out with the big dog. Early morning mid-August Summer Sun clear and warm, and deep cool, damp shade under the oaks. Warm in the sun …

Across the yard, for some reason now long forgotten, I walk toward the azalea beside the garage. Irrespective of my initial destination, as I near the azalea I see a flash, apparently suspended in mid-air near the very leaf-end of a branch, razor-thin, iridescent and multicolor and shining brightly,

… and I stop.

… and loooooook … wow … a web … no, a single strand of silk … shining in the nine o’clock sun, a single strand of silk stretching away and up from the fringe of the azalea leaves.

First I just followed it a little way away from its end. The sun hits the silk in such a way that it reaches my eyes at slightly different angles and the result is … I see two razor-thin iridescently multicolor bolts of light before my eyes, and I follow those … at first just amazed at the perfection of the silk and the fact that there was no noticeable “sag” in this line traversing this opening.

I walked away briefly, yakkin’ at the dog and lookin’ around.

… and that sight called me back over there and I looked … to find at least four solid anchor lines on the azalea, arranged three at about the same level and one from underneath from a different leaf. Four strands joined seamlessly to form one, single, gleaming strand of silk stretching tautly across open space to reach,

… the lower leaves of a great Duncan grapefruit tree that volunteered just the right distance from the back fence about ten years ago,

… those leaves nearly twelve feet distant and a full foot and a half above the four point anchor on the azalea. One single silk thread blended from four anchors spanned nearly twelve feet while climbing over a foot and a half. The anchor on the Duncan is only a couple of strands and what looks like a fuzzy lump of glue.

I’m sure the neighbors were amused. The best angle for continuing to follow the glimmer of the sun along that silken strand called for distance not much exceeding a foot from it and, owing to its rise across the space, constant … postural adjustment? … is required.

… and we are treated to the sight of a(n “Older”) guy, barefoot, in brown plaid flannel PJ bottoms and a Will McLean T-shirt, hands on his knees, craning his neck downward while stalking back and forth sideways, bobbing up and down and adjusting his head position like a heron zeroing in on a shiner.

Then coming back and doing it again … for longer …

Why would anyone live anywhere else?

Y’all have a good day, ‘K?

How Exquisite is Flying?

Buzzard Spirit was a tidy, prim and certain little spirit, compact and capable, who tidied up and cleaned up around and around, sharp eyes focused on the ground around.

 Always cleaning, straightening up, tidying … “neatening” up … peering to the ground to see that not so much as a leaf be out of place …

 … and yearning.

 Buzzard Spirit felt Earth solid underfoot and tramped in resolute measure across the Land, warm and soft … and hungered sadly … for all was tidy everywhere around and Yes, the land was warm and soft and there was … something … something … in an expanse ungraspable … unseen and yet it was there … known even if never present.

 … and everything else, including what was happy and grand, was …

 Not It.

 ”How can everything be “Not It,” and “It” be yet unknown?” puzzled Buzzard Spirit … and happily tidied and cleaned up, knowing this to be Great Spirit’s wish for such a one, and all along and mixed among the gladness of known-calling-done-well was the soft ache for an unseen expanse, an unrealized “above” that stretched away in weightless freedom …

 “How … What … could that be?” … eyes to the Earth, puzzle upon question, “… so there and clear but only by absence!?”

and Buzzard Spirit caught sight of an angel in flight one luminous evening ere the quiet of Night

AAHH!! With heart having leapt and yet pounding Buzzard Spirit sought Great Spirit …

Great Spirit … would that I could fly as an angel! … What price?”

Great Spirit opened the Sky to Buzzard at that very moment and Buzzard Spirit soared on great broad wings so made from Sky that the tips of their feathers could tease and ride the breath of Butterfly …

and Buzzard Spirit soared effortlessly and ecstatically across the Sky, along the windy rivers and rising when they turned up toward the sun, spiraling higher and higher, afloat on the Sky.

Like that?” called Great Spirit?

Yes!! YES, Great Spirit …!! Just so!!! … What price, Great Spirit??”

Thinking on the vast gift, Great Spirit thought to test Buzzard’s resolve.

Buzzard … your broad wings of Sky shall be black, and you as well … but your neck and face, Buzzard … shall be nearly crimson, wrinkled and sagging and what “hideous” shall come to mean, Buzzard, and you shall yet make Our Earth clean and neat but now you shall clean her by what you eat.

You shall eat what has fallen, Buzzard Spirit.  What Death has claimed and set all Spirit free … what Lion Spirit has taken and left … what Hyena Spirit has found among the flies and maggots and has left … that, Buzzard Spirit … shall you eat all your days.

except when you sail from your rest, stretching your black wings of Sky to float around and aloft on the rising shimmer of the heated Earth, wheeling on the buoyancy of my Spirit with yours into the Sky I have given you, to turn on the Autumn winds and Spring, to soar along Southward and North across the mountains above all the Autumns and Springs in the Great Migrations …

is the price, Buzzard Spirit …

That is the price for the Sky, Buzzard … and you shall be called “Vulture.”

Looking over, Great Spirit was prepared to await the answer, certain the price would focus profound consideration as to the terms.

I’ll take it.” … before Great Spirit’s words were faded from the ear.

and Buzzard stood eagerly and came to inhabit “Vulture,” and to this day does rip and tear the tainted and fetid carrion from among the flies and maggots … wrinkled crimson, hideous face glistening with the putrescence … to look to the Sky’s embrace on broad wings and rise there within Great Spirit’s love and power and grace and soar … and soar … and soar …

and that … is “How Exquisite is Flying …”

 

 

 

The Line “I” Describe … A Speculation on the Path of a Single Point of Awareness Through Whole Space

“I” describe, or draw, or create, a line as I move through the Universe. In fact, I describe, draw and/or create probably an infinite number of lines, depending on what point within my person you might choose as “the” point you’ll track.

You could pick one atom in a lower bicuspid as a point, and that point describes a line as it moves through the Universe.

I will choose my “Heart” … just because it is a familiar notion and seems more or less at the center of the “me” about which I’m talking, and will further specify, in this initial description, that I’m referencing whatever point is the perceived “Center of My Heart” at any given moment.

So … my “Heart,” referencing whatever point is the perceived “Center of My Heart” at any given moment, describes a line as I move through the Universe. This is pretty easy to imagine as I walk down the hall toward the front door. Not too hard to consider that my Heart is describing a line as I move from one place to another or that the line will have a certain “texture” to it as my gait moves my “Heart” in idiosyncratic fashion, rising and falling with my steps and perhaps swerving slightly from side to side because of the same influence.

But my movement down the hall is not the only thing that determines the line my Heart describes as I move through the Universe. You see, I am also walking along the surface of the Earth, which surface is moving about a thousand miles an hour as Earth rotates around its axis. So, in addition to the idiosyncratically “textured” but more or less simple-to-imagine line my Heart describes as I walk down the hall toward the front door, the line my Heart describes as I move through the Universe is also determined by the fact that I am borne along upon the surface of the Earth at a thousand miles per hour. In fact, though I may appear to be describing one particular line as I’m walking West, the line I’m actually describing is an arc to the East, as I ride our Earth in its rotation, the speed is just slower by however fast I’m walking toward the West.

 

So my heart describes a line as I move through the Universe and part of what determines the line is my movement across the surface of the Earth and another part of what determines that line through the Universe is the fact that I’m on a surface that’s rotating around an axis.

 

But that rotating surface, as it spins, is also revolving around the Sun at just over 67,000 miles per hour.  So my Heart describes a line as it travels through the Universe that is determined by my movements across a surface that rotates around an axis that is revolving around a star.  Though the surface upon which I walk spins around, the line cannot be a circle, because the forward movement of the revolution continually removes it to ever different locations along the orbit, which seems cyclic itself except … well, there’s another factor at work further determining the line my Heart describes as it travels through the Universe.

 

The Sun is in orbit around the center of our Galaxy, and it is traveling along that orbit at nearly 500,000 miles per hour.  So my heart describes a line, as it moves through the Universe, which is given by my movements across the surface of the Earth as the rotation of the Earth around its axis is revolving around the Sun which is revolving around the center of the Galaxy … Those are some of the vectors and forces and velocities that determine the line my Heart describes as it moves across the Universe.

 

There is at least one more:  The Galaxy itself is traveling at 1.3 million miles an hour.  It is in orbit? I don’t know.  It may simply be following whatever trajectory was imparted to it by the forces at work during its creation.

 

So … my Heart describes a line as it travels through the Universe that is determined by my movements across a surface that is rotating at a thousand miles an hour around an axis  which is revolving at 67,000 miles per hour around the Sun which is revolving at nearly half a million miles per hour around the center of the Galaxy which may or may not be in orbit, but is moving through space at 1.3 million miles per hour.

 

It could not be clearer that there can be no circles in this line or that any but partial spirals are impossible.  There are arcs, but they are very complex as they are always created by the combination of multiple velocities and directions acting in constant interaction with each other.

 

I describe a line, travel a trajectory, as I travel through the Universe.

 

A Speculation on the Path of a Single Point of Awareness Through Whole Space

Trayvon

This week in Florida something that had festered for three weeks erupted, first locally, then across the state, and ultimately nationwide.

On a rainy night in February a young man was visiting his father and his father’s fiance’ in a gated community near Sanford. Apparently during halftime of a basketball game he went to a local convenience store and bought candy and iced tea. On the way back to his father’s house he was confronted by a man, tried to leave, was engaged in a physical struggle with that man, and was shot and killed.

Trayvon Martin was seventeen, a young black man walking on the street in a gated community.

George Zimmerman is a twenty eight year old man with an extensive history of calling 911 and reporting “suspicious black males” in his neighborhood. He has repeatedly been called the “captain of a neighborhood watch.” There is a great deal of different reporting on the matter with some saying he is not even a member of a watch and others reporting that he is, indeed a leader of his neighborhood watch.  On this night he seemed to be, in old fashioned parlance …

a vigilante.

He prowled the streets of his neighborhood, armed. Neighborhood watch members do NOT carry weapons.

He called police emergency to report a suspicious person walking in his neighborhood.

That was Trayvon, walking to his father’s house from the store with his candy and iced tea, bareheaded, in the rain.

Zimmerman considered that he was on drugs, or “looking about,” and followed Trayvon, who was on the phone to a 16 year old girl described as his girlfriend. He told her he was being followed by a man in a vehicle.

She told him to run.

From many places there have been reports that the police instructed Zimmerman not to follow the subject. Here’s what’s on the tape: The police dispatcher asked Zimmerman if he was following the man and when Zimmerman said he was, the dispatcher said, “Okay, we don’t need you to do that.”

Zimmerman acknowledged that … and followed Trayvon.

…who pulled up his hoodie and started walking away … faster. He’s still on the phone and the girl can hear what’s happening.

Zimmerman claims he stepped out of his vehicle to read what street he was on, and Trayvon attacked him from behind.

Do YOU need to step out of your vehicle in YOUR neighborhood to see what street you’re on?

Trayvon’s girlfriend heard someone ask him, “What are you doing around here?” and Trayvon asks, “Why are you following me?”

Does that sound like an ambush attack from behind?

At that point the young lady reports that she hears what sounds like someone pushing Trayvon and she loses contact with him.

Within moments 911 calls begin to light up the board and people begin to report someone scuffling and cries for help. In some of the audio you can hear the voice. I have listened to it several times. It sounds like a young man in a panic.

Zimmerman claims it was him calling for help after being ambushed from behind by Trayvon.

In the middle of one of the calls there is an audible gunshot … and the cries for help stop.

 

By the time police arrive, Trayvon is dead.

 

The police, with an unidentified dead child and a man with gun, interview Zimmerman and when he claims to have fired in self-defense and they release him … with the gun.

 

… and despite the fact that they have Trayvon’s cell phone, he is tagged “John Doe” and is held in the morgue for three days.

 

Right now, this very minute, George Zimmerman is free among the citizens of this society, with a loaded gun.

 

 

As Friday Comes Around

What a week, huh?

Hope your International Women’s Day was rich and powerful. The women at WMNF ran the station today, as they do each year. Each year is a treat and this year was no exception.

The public affairs programs in the morning brought a diversity of young women to the mic for a long and deep conversation about the experience of being a woman and an activist in today’s world where one of our major political parties seems to be homing in on the 19th Century. “It’s the Music” showcased women making music LIVE in the WMNF studios. You can’t find that anywhere across your dial.

Thank you, ladies … it was wonderful and, as always, I look forward to next year.

The Republican “Circular Firing Squad Tour” rolled through “Super Tuesday,” so named for its fabled power to deliver the “clincher” for the party’s nominee, and produced not a hint that resolution is anywhere on the horizon. Even the “pundits” on the right are puzzled and confused as to where the road may lead. The “brokered convention” is a feature of comment with increasing frequency, with there apparently being a very real possibility that the party may caucus in Tampa in August, cast a vote and find they have no one to offer to run against the president. There will follow a process to find a candidate, someone, and that candidate may be one who rises from the ranks at the convention and, after all the months, debate after debate … after debate, the campaigns, the primaries, the money, the Republicans may nominate someone, perhaps Jeb Bush … who never participated at all!

What message would that send to the party’s “base,” those Red Rootin’ Tea Party Fundamentalist Republicans who have been the power and the center of this entire primary process?

“Thanks, but no thanks.”?

It sounds to me like the quickest and easiest way I can imagine to alienate an entire electorate … your own.

 

Rush … Rush rolls on. Dozens of his sponsors across the nation, from Sears to Sleep Number, have quietly dropped their ads. Rush doesn’t care. He considers himself to be above the reach of such pathetically inconsequential actions from the little people.  He claims 18,000 sponsors and considers those who have abandoned him to be like a few “fries” dropped from a Giant Economy Sized order.  He believes his draw is so powerful that no matter how many may leave, more and more want to enroll.

He may be right.

It takes a lot of focus and extended action to affect a system so large and commercially successful.  it remains to be seen if Americans are angry enough and committed enough to carry out the needed campaign.

It’s had an effect, though.  MSNBC reports that in the largest market in the country, of over 85 ad spots on Rush’s show today more than 75 were donated unpaid public service announcements, and the American Heart Association has asked to have its PSA’s removed from the show.  There is political action afoot to yank Rush off the armed forces networks.

“It ain’t over, ’til it’s over.” right, Yogi?

Rush and the Truth

By now nearly everyone has heard about Rush Limbaugh’s remarks when he called a young lady a “slut” on the air.

Many people have also heard of his subsequent remarks where he offered to trade pills for sex videos.

What may not be widely known is how that all came about, what happened that put that young lady’s person in the position to be Rush’s pinata.

She testified before Congress. It was about insurance companies covering birth control pills. She was describing the plight of her friend who suffered from ovarian cysts. To control the growth of the cysts her physician had prescribed the birth control pills. The insurance company refused to cover them because. well, because they were birth control pills. She couldn’t afford them, didn’t get them, went untreated and that resulted in a cyst that required the surgical removal of the ovary, which one source has reported resulted in the onset of menopausal symptoms.

Rush made this about Ms Fluke, which it wasn’t, and specifically about her sexual activity, which it wasn’t. She was accused of wanting to be paid (getting insurance coverage for birth control pills) for having sex.

She was called a “slut.”

The story Rush used his nationally syndicated media platform to promulgate is, in a word … a lie.

Rush is frequently considered a source of information.

He’s not.

He’s a political shock jock with no fealty to the truth and this latest episode is simply the latest and most egregious.

It’s time to go, Rush.

If you think such wanton, deliberate disregard of the truth and the damage it causes, as evidenced by this incident, has no place in our political discourse, and if you wonder if the people who sponsor his show know what they’re presenting, perhaps you should tell them about it.

Google “Rush’s sponsors” and pick a page. Some of them have embedded links that will put you directly in contact with those sponsors. Tell them what you think and indicate to them whether you are willing to do business with those who sponsor such lies.

Where I Am and How I Got There with the Financial System

Having found I would have the opportunity to talk at length to the oldest daughter, who has a Master’s in Business Administration, worked for A.G. Edwards, is a trained tax preparer and is currently at work in a bank, I had sat for a while and reflected on my relationship to Capitalism and “wealth.”

 

I inherited money saved and invested by my parents.  My father worked in the corporate world for three and a half decades and he and my mother chose to put money away in the ways that they were “supposed” to to build wealth in the United States.  They bought a house.  They bought a vacation cottage, more real estate, riverfront property in North Central Florida.  They invested in IRA’s and C.D.’s and insurance policies.

 

They built, using “surplus” income not required for daily survival.

 

Dad had a real retirement plan from his company, a huge timber corporation based in the Northwest.  He got a pension.  He got medical insurance.  So did my mother, because she was his wife.  This was regularly available then:  You worked, often for the same company, for twenty, thirty, or more, years and there was a plan, a company plan, a plan run by, or at least for, the company, a plan that was part of your job, that was designed to provide you with a pension and health insurance for the rest of your and your spouse’s life when you completed your career.

 

He retired, and his pension began and continued, as did his medical coverage, to the day he died and then for the eleven succeeding years of my mother’s life.  When she died the remaining funds came to me.

 

That was 2007.

 

I’m a bright guy, both talented and capable.  As I have said in other places, if you leave me the materials and I have the tools, I can start on a flat spot and leave you a nice, snug frame house to live in when I’m finished … all learned from study and experience.  I can read and understand and I can put instructions effectively to use.

 

Hand me a financial statement and, although I can clearly see each and every word and that those words are words I even recognize and whose meanings I understand, I’m utterly and hopelessly bewildered.  Makes NO sense to me.  Lots of things are like that, for example … ohhhh, say the details of the workings of a jet engine, or the communication system that allows for control of the airplane.  Totally unknown to me.  I know, however, that there ARE people who DO understand these things, who work on them and keep them functioning properly and so, without extensive technical preparation for understanding the technology … I fly.  I choose to trust the professionalism and knowledgeability of those people and I use the product they produce.

 

I found myself in possession of nearly $80,000.00 … money that my father had generated and my parents had siphoned from the stream of income to invest, to participate in the REAL “American Dream,” to “generate wealth,” and I now had that money and the “wealth” it had generated.   I sought out a professional, a REAL professional, actively at work IN the field … a “Vice President of Wealth Management” in one of the country’s largest and most successful financial companies.  He had been recommended by name by a client for whom he had “generated” a great DEAL of “wealth.”

 

We sat, he, my wife and I, and we talked and we looked and we made the arrangements that put the “wealth” in his care in that company’s structure to conTINue to “generate wealth.”  Nearly eighty thousand dollars from a family that had started in a tourist court in Fort Myers, grown through times when my father swept the barber shop floor for quarters to help support himself as he studied art and my mother budgeted food in pennies and nickels, a family which got its first new car thirteen years later having landed in a medium-sized Florida city, first in rented apartments and finally in a house built from a set of options to their specifications in the suburbs, wealth generated over the course of three and a half decades of success as a “Senior Account Manager” over the road first five and then only three days a week for that whole career.

 

That was the “out”come of my parent’s “American Dream,” their actual climb into the middle of the Middle Class in the United States.

 

I listened carefully, chose with equal care, and left the money to build … to do what “wealth” is supposed to do in the Capitalist economy … to grow … in 2007.

 

Stretching back across the years my family had been the very epitome of the “American Dream” of the age (“As seen on TV”).  Both had been Marines in WWII, leveraging themselves with the new “G.I. Bill” into a college education, dad studying art early then mom studying nursing and going to work with a physician in private practice to help make the money that first moved us out of the second floor apartment and into “our” first house down in Gandy Gardens, quitting and “returning home” afterwards as the equity built in the little house that allowed the move to the suburbs into the house “built for us.”

 

They amassed nearly eighty thousand dollars in “wealth” in addition to the houses and the cottage.

 

… and I very carefully invested it with “The Best” to continue to dream the dream … in 2007.

 

“Crash”

 

… and the next thing I knew I had FORTY thousand dollars.  The rest was “gone.”  Now, mind you, it’s not the profits, the money that the money had MADE, that went away … although THAT certainly did … No, what went away, disappeared, was half of what my parents had worked for over a generation to amass, their “American Dream,” the ostensible foundation of the possibility of building wealth.

 

THAT was irrevocably and utterly vanished.   I had it.  I put it in accounts designed by the “Best There Is” to increase as the cornerstone upon which and threshold over which my family could now, according to the “Experts,” the “Financial Wizards” of Capitalism, build and pass toward “wealth” … and … it disappeared. What I already HAD … not what I “made” … what I “had” … gone.

 

… and what was the reaction?  Palms up, head tilted with eyebrows raised, shrug.

 

“Gee … uhhhh … wow.”

 

The “Vice President for Wealth Management” was genuinely chagrined and,  at least as far as I can tell, did HIS job “as usual,” following the “rules” of “investment” that were the blueprint for using money to make more money.  He didn’t spirit my money off to a hot weekend in Cancun … nor was he driving a new Ferrari (I know, that’s only a small down payment on ANY Ferrari) … No, he did what he was supposed to do, professionally and knowledgeably and with suitable dignity and demeanor.

 

He had his job.  The company was still in business doing what it had been doing.  In fact it “merged” with another such trusted edifice of Capitalism to become a “Four Name Behemoth,” even bigger than it had been when it was “Too Big to Fail.”   That merger was made possible in part by MORE of my money, called “taxes,” paid from my real-time day-in-and-day out job, and called “Stimulus Money” that my government … simply handed to the people who had presided over what EVER the HELL that was … whatever that was where half of over a generation of work and honest participation in “The System” simply disappears and there’s not even a ripple …

 

Half my “fortune” was gone.  I watched.  No one was “perp walked” out of their suite, away from their desk or even their cubicle.  I watched.  Nothing …

 

Now, that money went somewhere.  It was there, having been earned by labor across decades, and it went somewhere, as things do not, in THIS Universe, simply disappear.  It was mine, bequeathed and entrusted to me by the people who DID the labor across the decades, and I gave it to professionals to use to make MORE … and it was … taken?  It WENT somewhere, and NO one can say … WHERE.  It didn’t blow out of the bucket on the way up the hill or burn in the fire with the mattress into which it was sewn.  It isn’t buried in a forgotten location because of my loss of memory.  There was no “tsunami” and it washed out to sea.  It went into “The System” because “The System” uses money to make money.

 

… and (I am invited to believe) ”It’s simply GONE!!”

 

Bullshit.  SOMEone got it.

 

… and I continue to watch and not ONE SINGLE individual has been apprehended and charge with theft.

 

This exact experience was provided to MILLIONS OF AMERICANS.  We worked for or were stewards for whatever we or our families had diverted from the cash flow from jobs worked day after day after week after week … year after year after year … and we “invested” that money in the system that makes the wealth, the system designed to make the wealth, and not only did the “profits” disappear … THE MONEY DISAPPEARED!!!

 

Billions and billions and HUNDREDS of billions … trillions? … of dollars, dollars earned at labor, dollars that were THERE … we are invited to believe … DIS … a … FUCKING PEARED!!!

 

At that point I found I had a choice:  I could take what was left of my parents’ generation of work … thereby “cementing” the loss, or I could leave what was left of it in the system that had made half of it “disappear” and hope it would somehow … grow (reappear?).  All this time the people who RAN this system were being paid bonuses that MY pittance was too small to buy a big enough wheelbarrow to carry, and … the government was sending them MORE of my money, for free, and they were turning around and lending it back to that very government for profit!!

 

I do not think I am the only American who noticed this.  I find, for some reason, that my attitude toward “Capitalism” and “business” and its “association” with “government” is a bit … sour? … a bit on the cynical side?

 

I also noticed that, like the electric company, there is no OTHER system to which I can turn for the service.  If I have something to invest it must be in THAT system.  THAT system is essentially worldwide and, judging by the condition of the economies across the globe, has functioned similarly everywhere:  There was money.  It “disappeared.”

 

Uh huh.

 

I suffer from “Dreamus Interruptus,” (and a mild case of P.T.S.D.)  My future is VERY different from the one that, in fact, was offered to me as a goal, a reward, for working “in the system” and doing what I was told would establish the possibility for my family to begin to build wealth.

 

I did my part.  My family did its part.

 

OK, I’ll give you the “profits,” which I’m willing to consider “unearned.”  Where did MY money go?  Who has THAT?  That WAS “earned” and was NOT “paper proceeds.”  How come REAL money can simply disappear from people who earn it and the people who are in charge of the system that made it disappear not only keep doing what they were doing, they are paid MORE … bonuses … ?

 

I think these questions, either consciously or not, are present for MILLIONS of us across this nation, and I’m not requesting that you answer them.  This is just a rambling rant to arrive at “Where I am” with our “financial system” currently.