Thoughts on Cinco de Mayo

I’ve seen a number of Facebook posts warning the world not to engage in Cinco de Mayo celebrations unless they really know what it’s about.  I am not Mexican, and until today I really did not know specifically what this holiday was about.  I only had a vague notion that it celebrated Mexican culture.

So I googled Cinco de Mayo and discovered that – like many other holidays – it commemorates a historical event that was quite violent and of questionable moral value.  Somewhat along the lines of St. Patrick’s Day, which celebrates the deliberate cultural colonization of an indigenous religion (St. Patrick was known for converting all of the pagan druids to Christianity) – Cinco de Mayo celebrates a major battle between Mexico and France in which a lot of people died fighting over debts.  Moreover, although Mexico won the battle against the well-equipped French forces, this battle led to the fame and eventual dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz, known for ruling Mexico much in the same way that Trump rules the United States today.  Namely, a corporate oligarchy that centralizes wealth and legitimates civil repression.

However, in spite of the dark side of history, Mexico’s victory over France in the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862 has been a source of great pride for Mexico, and it remains a celebration of Mexican culture and Mexican pride to Mexicans living all over the world – many of whom live in the United States.  Moreover, it is more widely celebrated in the U.S. than in Mexico.

So in response to those who are saying “don’t celebrate Cinco de Mayo unless it/you are authentic,” I say that (a) it has been celebrated in the U.S. just as long as it has been celebrated in Mexico, and (b) the blend of new and old, the adaptation of Cinco de Mayo in the U.S., and the general sentiment of respect for Mexico that it engenders are in fact better than the actual, historical events it was made to commemorate.

And likewise, I would say the same for St. Patrick’s Day.  (not that they are the same!)






Holistic approach to health

I have a chest cold, not too serious.  But every time I get sick, I wonder/ponder about the emotional aspect of sickness – how emotions can be stored in the body and how the body processes them.  Within this framework, sickness seems like a way to get rid of old emotions and move on to the new.  Granted, I believe in science and I know there are viral and bacterial causes of illness.  But the strength of the immune system is linked to stress, and stress is a mindset and a state of being highly influenced by emotions.

Chinese medicine also draws connections between the emotional and physical bodies.  I do not remember many details, but I do remember that different organs in the body help deal with different aspects and issues in life.  For example, if you have a problem with your lungs, you may be dealing with anxiety or grief.  Treating the lungs physically, with medicine or body work, as well as dealing with the causes of anxiety and/or grief in your life, would result in healing.

The tricky part is to avoid blaming yourself for doing things that make you sick.  It doesn’t help to feel guilty or angry at yourself for getting sick.  True, there may have been things you could have done to prevent it.  But the key lesson is to listen to your body and see how you can make changes in habits and lifestyle, both physical, and  emotional, in order to improve and be a healthier happier person.



Why aren’t people concerned about the psychological effects of pollution?

Polluting the environment is not just a matter of parts per million in the air or water.  When a person dumps a toxin into a field or stream or any natural area, they are showing that they lack respect and have disdain for the natural environment.  They are saying the equivalent of “I don’t care about you” to the web of life that lives there.  To me, this is deeply offensive and equal to the actual physical harm caused by toxic or chemical pollution.

I find it offensive because nature and the earth are the source of all of our resources and all of our energy and all of the settings we choose to live in and experience.  Life would not exist if not for the balance of ecosystems on the planet; nor would it exist without a unique blend of elements in the earth’s crust and in the atmosphere that makes the planet livable.  Even if you assume that God created the universe and created humans at some point, it still holds true that we depend on the Earth for all things and we will be better off if we take care of natural resources and promote the long term health of the planet.

Each person who sees or smells or feels pollution under their feet can get depressed and can become more disassociated from the natural world each time they experience it as ugly and dirty and unwelcoming.  For people who were born and grew up in large cities, they may not have ever become comfortable with nature, and this is tragic.  However, even worse is to grow up at war with nature and to continue the fight into adulthood and to take that animosity to the grave.  In that instance you, your children, your family and all those you touched will bring that sense of opposition into the future, and it will shape interactions with the natural world for years to come.


A message from Monica Lewinsky

I came across an unexpected Ted Talk by Monica Lewinsky about shame and humiliation.  There is perhaps no better example of a non-public figure being publicly humiliated to a global audience than Lewinsky.  As she describes, the mainstream news broke the story of her sex scandal with Bill Clinton at a time when internet access was becoming prevalent, and the internet provided a mechanism to share the details of that scandal across the globe with more content and detail than ever provided in print media and TV.  She was only 22 at the time.

She suffered from extreme cyber bullying, trolling, and online harassment.  I cannot imagine what it would be like to be despised and humiliated and joked about by millions of complete strangers all over the world.  It is not a situation I would wish on anyone, no matter what they did or said.

Here is a link to her Ted Talk:



Gee, maybe we should privatize government agencies

The current political tone and the new leadership of federal agencies has made me consider options that I never thought were reasonable.  Privatization of certain government functions is one of them.

In spite of what party leaders are saying about “taking power from Washington and bringing it back to the people,” Trump’s leadership style seems to be a tight command and control operation with personal reprisal and public attacks against disloyal government servants.  This style indicates power centralized at the very top, with little room for disagreement or even experimentation at regional offices around the country.  As such, it is highly doubtful that Trump’s cabinet picks will actually give more power back to states (New York, especially) in order to experiment with local control where the feds previously had a hand.

In this context, I am starting to wonder if private corporations might develop and provide more equitable and efficient government services than the federal government would under Trump.  The least efficient agency that I know of is the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).  To my knowledge as a casual observer of immigration law, USCIS frequently loses paperwork, they take forever to make decisions, and they hold their own mistakes against the applicants if and when they do make an error.  This kind of ineffective bureaucracy would never stand if the clients it served were white, middle class American citizens, but because the clients are foreigners and immigrants, the level of service has not risen to the basic level we expect at Burger King or Domino’s Pizza.

Many other agency functions have already been delegated to the states, prime examples being the distribution of benefits such as Food Stamps, TANF, Medicare and Medicaid, accomplished by Department of Social Services at a state or county level.  So in a sense, the federal government has already given up on managing those programs.

One critique of this argument is that USCIS and other federal agencies would thrive and deliver amazing results if only they received proper amounts of funding.  That may be true.  But with a $14 billion wall in the works and Republicans at the helm, increased funding for any federal agency that does not primarily involve men with guns is unlikely to succeed.

So let’s give Google a try at it.  Let’s let CostCo give it a go.  Maybe a private conglomeration of immigration attorneys will materialize to run the agency with ease and accuracy.  Or maybe Rocket Lawyer will answer the call.  Who can resist a multi-billion dollar government contract to provide services indefinitely?



Avocados will pay for the Wall

I feel conflicted about the current administration’s proposal to cut back free trade.  Ever since I learned about NAFTA and the Zapatistas and the sweatshops along the Mexican border, I have opposed free trade agreements between the U.S. and developing nations.  The primary reason being that when you move manufacturing and industry to a country with cheaper labor costs, workers will be exploited and the environment will be polluted because the host country does not have adequate labor laws, environmental laws, and/or enforcement of the laws in those countries.  I witnessed both labor exploitation and environmental destruction in Mexico during a trip to the border region sponsored by my college.  (thank you, St. Lawrence University)

NAFTA also eliminated jobs in both the United States and Mexico in certain sectors.  In the United States, manufacturing jobs were shipped to Mexico, leaving blue collar workers out of work.  In Mexico, small family farms suddenly had to compete with U.S. agribusiness, which in the U.S. is one of the most heavily subsidized sectors of the economy.  Corn production in Mexico was all but wiped out when cheaper U.S. corn hit the market.  As a result, many farmers went out of business, and without a job, it became more appealing for agricultural workers to immigrate to the United States in order to find work.

Of course, automation technology took a lot of manufacturing jobs away from U.S. workers, regardless of the impact of free trade agreements.  Let us not lose sight of this fact.

What will happen if we cut back on trade?  Will consumer prices go up, and if they do, will local manufacturers step in to make products that are  no longer made in America?  Will American workers be adequately trained to step up production?  Will we have shortages of electronics since most electronics are produced in Asia?  What if we run out of rubber or bananas or anything that does not grow in the continental United States?

I am all for increasing the strength of local economies rather than creating dependence on vast global networks, but will any of Trump’s policies actually do that?  Most of his domestic policies seem to be directed at promoting concentration of wealth in the hands of large corporations and taking away social programs and health benefits from the people who would work in this new “America-first” economy.




Republicans Really Love Science When it Comes to Detecting Pregnancy

Since the issue of abortion has been in the news lately, and Trump has recently nominated a new Supreme Court Justice who is avowedly conservative and follows the originalist approach to Constitutional interpretation espoused by the late Antonin Scalia, I will make my point on this issue.

Originalists believe that the text of the U.S. Constitution must be interpreted as its drafters must have understood it at the time it was written in 1787.  So-called right to life activists claim that the right to life mentioned in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution grant the protections of personhood to fertilized eggs inside a woman’s womb.

The problem is, the scientific discovery of fertilization of the egg by the sperm was not made until 1879 by Hermann Fol, in Geneva, Switzerland.  Without the internet that we all rely on today, it probably took a few years longer for this discovery to reach the general population in the United States.

Long before the scientific discovery of human fertilization (conception) in 1879, the general population had an understanding that sexual activity lead to pregnancy and birth after a period of months.  Furthermore, due to the occasional miscarriage, the general population had an understanding that a baby developed over time and grew inside the mother’s womb before being delivered.  These general understandings predated the drafting of the Constitution by a long shot.

It was not until 1976 that the early pregnancy test (“EPT”) for home use was invented, which could diagnose pregnancy rapidly without the involvement of a medical doctor.  So it was about 200 years after the drafting of the Constitution that women had the ability to determine in some scientific way that they were pregnant.  For thousands of years beforehand, women had to rely on physical indications such as morning sickness and missed periods to determine if they were pregnant, and they were not always accurate.

Today, the same Republicans who deny that climate change exists and claim that science is biased against their beliefs are demanding that women use scientific testing invented in 1976 to determine if a fertilization process that was first discovered by scientists in 1879 has occurred and thus the tiny cell inside their uterus is a human being and as such deserving of legal protections put into writing in 1787.  So they are heavily reliant on science to determine if “life” exists.  Yet when any environmental issue is brought up as a concern for human health, they question the science and act like science is a liberal conspiracy in favor of a certain policy agenda.