We Are Squirrel Hill

I feel the need to say something about the horrific mass murder at Etz Chaim synagogue in Pittsburgh that occurred during Shabbat services yesterday.  Unfortunately, anything I could possibly say will necessarily be inconsequential and, quite possibly, both insipid and stupid.  I simply don’t have the words to make it better.  All over the world, our hearts go out to the families left behind, to the congregants and to the community at large.  But thoughts and prayers, lovely as they are, don’t seem nearly enough.  Neither does the condemnation of the accused and his actions, as voiced by President Trump.

Our president, like many others, says that gun control is not the answer, despite the fact that the same high-powered weapons of war used by our military are readily accessible to anyone with a little cash.  In fact, some believe that more guns is the answer, suggesting that this tragedy could have been avoided by an armed security guard posted at the door to the synagogue.  As it is, the falling rate of participation in organized worship, combined with competition from other synagogues in the area, has necessitated renting space at Etz Chaim to three different congregations (all of which were conducting services at the time of the murders).  Considering what it takes to make operating the building viable in today’s world, where would the money come from to hire an armed guard?  The necessity of that expense may well be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, a financial stress sufficient to close the building entirely, to cause it to be sold to buyers intending to use it for other purposes, leaving three congregations without a place of worship.  Indeed, most small congregations are unable to bear such an expense.  Then there’s the dampening effect on the spirit resulting from our admission that, no, we can no longer fling open the doors of our religious sanctuary to all who wish to worship God, and that, yes, we recognize that we live in a world of such madness that families worshipping together is no longer a safe act, that our Constitution’s first amendment is being held hostage by its second.

What I fear most is complacency, the acceptance born of numbness, the sentiment that “oh, it happened again,” followed by shoulder shrugging amidst the conclusion that the horrors of mass murder, whether motivated by hate or otherwise, are an unavoidable consequence of a free society.  It is out of self-preservation that most of us choose to think of more pleasant things, else how could we go on tending to the needs of our jobs, families and communities?  I know.  I was deeply affected by the Sandy Hook massacre of innocents, and yet here I am still writing, six years later.  Our very sanity would be in peril unless we put such nightmares out of our minds.  And soon enough we forget, at least until the next one occurs, and the next one, and the one after that. Except for the mothers and fathers, the wives and husbands, the family members and friends.  They are the ones who are never able to forget.  The rest of us, however, throw up our hands and move on.  So is it really any wonder that bigots, racists, and assorted demented individuals continue to shoot up synagogues, mosques, churches, schools, workplaces, and music concerts?  There are days when I think that the primary reason they do it is because they can.

The answer, of course, is to make it so that they can’t.  When there are little children present who do not know right from wrong, we remove all dangerous objects from their reach.  The time has come to wake up and acknowledge that we no longer live in a rational society, that there are many children among us who, left to their own folly, will surely hurt themselves and others.  Congress needs to open its eyes and act in loco parentis and remove legal access to guns once and for all.  Otherwise, we can just forget about freedom of the press, freedom of speech and freedom of religion in a world where printing political cartoons in a newspaper gets your newsroom shot up, where speaking out on the issues leaves you riddled with bullets, and where attending Shabbat services to worship our Creator and fellowship with our communities ends in a bloodbath.  Before you vote in the midterms nine days from now, think about which candidates favor gun control and which candidates support the gun lobby and the prospect of more and more mass murders.

And so today, just as many carried signs and wore buttons announcing “Je suis Charlie Hebdo” three years ago, instead of murmuring thanks that it wasn’t our community that suffered this tragedy, instead of burying our heads in the sand, instead of hoping that we’re not next, we need to loudly announce “We are Squirrel Hill.”

For I am reasonably certain that if I lived in Pittsburgh instead of in California, I would have been present at one of the services at Etz Chaim on Saturday morning.  And I might not be here to write this.

 

 

Advertisements

High There

Winter, 1972.  My last year of junior high. I’m sitting in English class, listening to Mr. Kincaid drone on, paying more attention to the distraction of the show that Mother Nature is putting on for our benefit, just outside our second story window.  It’s the first snowstorm of the year, and the thick, heavy flakes are being flung diagonally from the heavens directly onto the lawn and evergreens flanking the school building.  All of the students sitting at desks in straight rows are thinking the same thing:  Will it stick?  Will the roads become too slick for the school buses?  Will we have early dismissal?

Suddenly, the classroom door bangs open and a missing classmate bursts into the room with a grand entrance.  “It’s snowing!” he yells.  His unrestrained exuberance brings grins to many of our faces.  The guy is high as a kite, and Mr. Kincaid promptly dispatches the pot-reeking fellow to the assistant principal’s office.

Throughout junior high, high school and college, I found myself constantly dodging the haze of marijuana smoke that seemed to surround me everywhere I went.  From the time I was 14, the pot culture trickled down from the older kids.  Woodstock had occurred just three years earlier, the Summer of Love just two years before that.  The fact that marijuana was highly illegal in New York State and the fact that we were minors didn’t mean a thing.  My mother, herself an assistant principal in another school district, taught me that marijuana smoke smelled like burning rope.  It didn’t take me long to verify that firsthand.  It wasn’t unusual for me to push open the door to the boys’ room and to turn right around and walk out, coughing.  I guess I didn’t have to pee that bad.  Ugh.

As a very conservative teenager with a religious upbringing, the drug culture of the late sixties and early seventies freaked me out.  I could not understand why people felt the need to attain altered states of consciousness.  The vast majority of my classmates came from upper middle class families; few were poor.  Most of us led a fine suburban life.  What exactly were we trying to escape?

We’d hear a lot of talk about “youthful experimentation.”  Then we’d be shown films featuring marijuana as a “gateway drug,” with a clear explanation that the gateway led to a wasted life, delirium tremens, death from overdose and suicide.  Most of us laughed it off as typical “square” adult reactionist propaganda.  If only our elders would try it, their eyes would be opened to what the kids already knew.  If only they weren’t so uptight.  The illegality of pot wasn’t a factor at all.  That the purchase and possession of marijuana violated the law was just another notch in the deepening generation gap.

Teenagers such as myself who stood with our parents against drugs were ridiculed and marginalized.  “You do what’s right and never mind what anyone else thinks,” my mother would tell me.  I agreed with her, but it still felt like an uphill battle, at least until the middle of my junior year of high school when we moved farther upstate.  Although I am Jewish, I fell in with a crowd of conservative students who shared my love of music and drama.  It didn’t take too long for me to realize that most of them were born-again Christians.  But they were so nice to me, and none of them used drugs or even smoked cigarettes.  Happiness!

College was another story entirely.  I attended the state university nearest my home.  I was familiar with the campus, as my parents had done their graduate work there while I was growing up.  What I didn’t fully appreciate at first is that it was a so-called party school.  Drugs of every kind were for sale up and down my dormitory corridor.  I was offered drugs at every turn, and quickly learned how to duck and dodge the smoke and pills that seemed to be everywhere.  I learned that those tall glass monstrosities were known as “bongs.”  I had read enough to know to politely decline the offer of a brownie.  The college administration buried their heads in the sand, ignoring what was going on under their very noses.  In my second year of college, I transferred to a larger state university farther upstate, but the drug culture was there, too.  I simply couldn’t run away from it.  I’d return to my dorm suite after class and find a thick haze of pot smoke awaiting me.  “When else will we get to do this if not while we’re young?” my suitemate would tell me.  I was totally disgusted and moved into a single room occupancy student hotel at my first opportunity.

Among the privileges of adulthood that I began to enjoy upon graduating from college was freedom from being surrounded by illegal drugs.  There was no pot smoke in the rest rooms at work, and I did not have to constantly justify my drug-free lifestyle.

And now, all these years later, it feels as if I am awaking from a pleasant dream, awaking into a nightmarish reality.  Throughout the month of December, our local newspaper, the Sacramento Bee, featured a countdown (days, hours, minutes) on the front page of the online edition — a countdown to marijuana becoming legal for recreational use in California on January 1.  I started seeing electronic signs along the freeway, warning the public that “DUI doesn’t just mean booze” and “Check the label before you pop that pill.”  The hidden meaning seemed to be that pot may be legal, but driving under its influence is not.  Then the TV ads started.  “I really like it.  Yeah, I love it!  But I never drive under the influence.”

Marijuana dispensaries have begun opening all over the place.  The strict (and expensive) licensing requirements are more than offset by the lines of Californians ready to lay down their money for a natural cannabis high.  And I have to wonder whether, Cheech and Chong notwithstanding, California is truly going “up in smoke.”  Not that everyone smokes.  I’ve learned that there are “edibles,” marijuana in the form of candy, cookies and such.  You don’t need to light up to get silly and zone out.

I suggested to my wife that we buy stock in Nabisco and Frito-Lay, as they will undoubtedly be making more of a killing than they already do, this time off wasted Californians with the munchies.

It is difficult for me to express the depth of my disappointment in the legalization of marijuana in my home state.  What am I supposed to do, try to ignore what is all around me as I did in my college days?  As a manager, what will I do when I encounter a red-eyed employee whose clothes smell vaguely of pot smoke?  As long as the work is getting done, should I turn a blind eye?  Honestly, I don’t know which end is up anymore.

But what I find most disappointing of all is my state’s willingness to flout federal law, under which the purchase and possession of marijuana remains clearly unlawful.  Last I heard, the Golden State continued to be a member of the Union.  So now the feds appear to be engaging in a backlash against California’s legalization of pot.  Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently made it easier for federal prosecutors to enforce federal marijuana laws in states in which recreational use has been legalized.  The Bee has labeled Sessions as a hypocrite, in consideration of his past commitment to states’ rights.

The Founding Fathers must be turning over in their graves.  The great political battles over federalism in the eighteenth century continue alive and well today.  California has long been a bastion of liberalism, but I believe that there are limits.  I am beginning to understand the secessionist rumblings that hit the news in California from time to time.  It is said that, were California a nation, our economy would be the sixth largest worldwide.  Perhaps, should the feds begin raiding California pot dispensaries, our state will finally be pushed over the edge and will declare its independence from the United States.  The Second Civil War may well occur, not in the south, but in the west.  I haven’t yet heard a call from Governor Brown to raise a state militia, but it wouldn’t surprise me if that’s next.

Meanwhile, I’m told that my opposition to marijuana use is nothing short of ignorant.  I am reminded of its medical uses and its pain-killing power to alleviate suffering.  I am told that pot is not addictive in the way that Oxycontin and fentanyl are, and that legalization of marijuana could even have the effect of stemming the expansion of the deadly opioid epidemic.  I am told that if others want to drink or get high, that is their business, just as my decision to avoid those behaviors is my business.

To me, however, medical marijuana is one thing, while recreational use is quite another.  (Nevertheless, I have nothing but admiration for my wife’s dad, who suffered from terminal cancer in the days before medical marijuana was legal, and who passed up the opportunity to use pot in favor of painkillers that could be legally prescribed.)  It’s as if we haven’t learned anything from the families and lives that have been destroyed by alcohol.  Let’s make substance abuse easier to engage in, as it’s not our place to judge how others choose to live their lives.  What will be the cost of increased medical bills, increased deaths on the highways, and jobs and families lost to pot?

I’ve had a list of grievances against California that has grown throughout the 20 years I have spent in my adopted state.  With the legalization of marijuana, however, I believe that California has finally lost its mind.  Do we really want to live in a state in which every other person is high?  My prayer is that my personal fortunes and circumstances change such that I am able to move to a saner state in which recreational marijuana is, in accordance with federal law, not tolerated.  And I know that many of my fellow Californians will bid me good riddance, shouting through the pot smoke, “don’t let the door hit you where the good Lord split you.”

 

 

Happy New Year to the Homeless

post-office-hours

Now that we’ve reached last day of the year, my wish for 2017 is that we finally step up and provide the homeless what they need:  Homes.

We have made strides in that direction in recent years.  I am impressed with measures taken by state and local governments across this great nation of ours.  But we still have a long way to go.

The state of Utah has pulled off the substantial feat of nearly eliminating homelessness.  It accomplished this by means of the Housing First initiative, a program that acknowledges the fact that it is nearly impossible to deal with underlying problems such as mental illness and drug addiction while one’s life is constantly in peril on the streets.  The success of the idea is predicated on jettisoning preconditions (such as testing clean of drugs) for obtaining housing.

Of course, Utah has never had a homelessness problem on the scale of, say, Los Angeles, San Francisco or New York.  The cost of housing in such urban locales, along with an insufficient stock of rent controlled apartments and long waiting lists, sends homeless people seeking help into temporary housing rather than permanent homes.  But at least New York City law recognizes housing (of some kind) is a right.  It may end up being a motel room out by Kennedy Airport, but that’s arguably better than risking hypothermia in the freezing cold.

Homeless Californians, including those right here in Sacramento, don’t enjoy the guarantee of housing.  But at least we’ve opened warming centers on nights when the temperature drops below 40 degrees.  Previously, they’d only open when the temperature dropped below freezing on three consecutive nights.  Small steps in the right direction, just as we all hope for when we make New Year resolutions.

So, in 2017, I hope we can do better for Roy, for the old guy who hangs out at the local supermarket and to whom we sometimes give our loose change.

I hope we can do better for the motley crew who hang out at McDonald’s on Richards Boulevard, at least until they’re chased away by security.

I hope we can do better for the homeless with their blankets, bed rolls and shopping carts who hang out downtown near where I work, sleeping on sidewalks and in the doorways of commercial buildings after hours.

I hope we can do better for the young man who walked into the Chinese restaurant where we were eating dinner, begging for a free meal and being thrown out emptyhanded.

And I hope we can do better for the lady whom I found lying on a blanket on the floor of our local post office, surrounded by her worldly belongings.  I stepped over her on the way to our post office box.  Later, we returned to bring her food, but she was gone, likely chased out.  This happened several months ago, back when the post office lobby was open 24/7.  Now the lobby closes at 7 pm during the week and at five on weekends.

A sign in the post office warns the homeless that sleeping in the lobby is not permitted.

no-sleeping-in-lobby

The answer, pasted on the window by one of our neighbors, an unknown member of our community and a fellow human being, reads “Do not lock this door!  This is my bedroom.”

po-sign

I, for one, am ashamed.

With best wishes for a happy and healthy New Year to all.

 

 

Within the Realm of Possibility

When I was a kid, my father often told me that anything is possible.

“Anything?” I’d say, incredulously.  To myself, I thought:  Even fairies and ghosts and Mickey Mouse and Cinderella and all that make-believe stuff?

“Anything,” he assured me.  “Perhaps not probable, but certainly possible.”

Well, it appears that my dad’s beliefs have been vindicated.  After all, the Cubs and Donald Trump each won their respective contests, the former by breaking the curse of the billy goat and the latter by breaking through the big blue wall.

I feel like a part of history in that I was here, in 2016, to watch it all happen.  I had a conversation with a bellhop at the Marriott Hotel lobby in Riverside, down in southern California, in which I bemoaned the fact that the Cubs were down three and that it would all be over that evening.  He told me that he still had faith, and I thought he was crazy.  Then I sat in the twelfth floor lounge with my wife and watched the Cubbies pull it off against the Indians.  And a few nights later, I sat in our tiny kitchen/living room and watched them win the World Series.  A couple of weeks after that, I again sat at our table, glued to the map displayed on CNN, open-mouthed, as Trump turned Florida and North Carolina red.

With such astonishing events occurring right before our eyes, I find it rather unfortunate that the world has responded by going crazy.  There are the demonstrations, the school walkouts, the cries of “not my president.”  I’m surprised that there weren’t riots in our major cities over Cleveland grabbing defeat from the jaws of victory.

Sadly, my own family has not been spared this insanity.  I am told that, the day after the election, my nephew was “shaking with rage” and had to stay out of work.  His sister, I was informed, was so upset that she had to take extra Xanax and stay in bed.  Supposedly, she and her boyfriend plan to relocate to his native England.

Then there is the matter of my wife’s aunt.  She had been very ill with cancer, and passed on a week ago.  We attended her funeral yesterday.  She had been relatively active until her body simply gave out just a few days before she died.  When she could barely respond anymore, a family member asked if she had deteriorated so rapidly because Trump had won the election.  She nodded her head in affirmation.

The family asked my wife and me to write her aunt’s eulogy, which we did.  I felt deeply honored.  My wife said she wouldn’t be able to get through the first sentence, so I delivered it at the memorial service.  Honestly, I didn’t know how I would get through it either.  I carried an extra handkerchief with me, not knowing whether I would be able to remain stoic or would just break down.  With the help of God, I managed it, once again proving to myself that things that seem outside our abilities can suddenly become possible when circumstances warrant.  In my opinion, Hemingway was being overdramatic when he referred to this phenomenon as “grace under pressure.”  I like to think that being flexible, malleable, adaptable is just part of the human condition.  That’s why it appears so odd to me that some of us can’t seem to wrap our minds around the fact that things may not always go the way we expect them to.  Some of us rebel against any evidence that contradicts what we “know.”

The Chicago Tribune may brashly declare “Dewey Defeats Truman” in 1948 and The New York Times may rashly declare, the day before the 2016 election, that Trump has only a 16% chance of becoming president.  Journalists point out that it’s easy to jump the gun when you’re on deadline, that our quest for knowledge and understanding may lead to buying into polls that don’t necessarily reflect reality.  But, as my dad said, anything is possible.  Those of us who root for the underdogs, who refuse to accept the inevitable, who bravely believe in the power to change, know that we have a secret weapon with which to beat the odds.

Hope.

 

 

Protecting the Protectors

While I am rarely at a loss for words, I don’t know what to say about the recent rash of murders of police.  How can I adequately express my anger, frustration and fear?  I think of economist (and New York Times contributor) Thomas Friedman, who more than a decade ago warned of the dire necessity of enacting reasonable gun control laws to combat our insane epidemic of firearm murders.  As protesters chanted back in the sixties and seventies, “the world is watching.”

I go online and am greeted by commenters from many nations shaking their heads about the violence that is coming to define the United States.  If you’re not murdered by a family member or in a home invasion or carjacking or mugging, you may be the victim of a drive-by shooting or you may be shot dead just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  My wife likes to watch “The First 48,” a homicide investigation television show, in the background while she is working.  I try to drown out the sound with music over headphones, but the images of death and devastation on the screen are difficult to ignore.  It’s a stark reminder of what I’d like to wish away because it’s just too horrible and heartbreaking to bear.  John Williams’ soaring orchestrations only go so far.  Eventually, one must return to reality.

I hold little hope that either of the major presidential candidates will achieve improvements in this area.  Clinton is, despite her rhetoric, mired in the status quo.  She will get nowhere fast with the Republicans in Congress, particularly considering the apparent effectiveness of the Tea Party and other right wingers.  As for Trump, well, he brags about having a concealed carry permit.  Money is the only thing he loves more than the Second Amendment.  So, looks like we’re plumb out of luck.

Wow, this is sure turning out to be a depressing post.

To return to my subject of the murder of police, at face value it seems like a blatant disregard for authority, laced with a liberal dose of anger and blind lashing out.  Clearly, such conduct cannot be tolerated in a nation of laws.  The question, however, is how to prevent this disaster from occurring time and time again.

Some focus on swift and severe punishment, both to ensure that the offenders are unable to repeat their violent acts and to assuage justifiable public outrage.  Donning my sociologist’s hat for a moment, I happen to believe that attacking law enforcement is a symptom of Émile Durkheim’s anomie, a moral vacuum that perverts the social contract and may even encourage anarchy.  I have to assume that murderers take no regard of the effect their actions will have on the families (their own and those of their victims), never mind on the rest of us.  I still haven’t gotten over the murder of two of our local sheriff’s deputies by a married couple back in October, 2014.  Time is supposed to heal all wounds.  Life goes on, right?  (Not for their families, I am sure.)  But then it happens again and again and again.  Let’s rip open that wound, shall we?

Back in law school, decades ago, my fellow criminal law students would frequently have the “bad or mad” debate.  My view is on the “mad” side.  Not “mad” as in “angry” (although that is certainly in play these days as well), but in the British sense of “mad” as “crazy.”  I believe that those who do not care about the effects of their actions on others, and on society as a whole, are suffering from some form of mental illness.  Case in point:  The cop killer in Dallas was taken out by police after they got nowhere in negotiating his surrender.  Police say the murderer was laughing and singing.  You can’t tell me this guy wasn’t crazy.

Nevertheless, more than a few of my contacts in the legal profession believe that I myself am “mad” to think this way.  I am told that those who have the ability to abide by the law, but choose not to do so, are willful, disobedient “bad” children who need to be taken out behind the woodshed (or incarcerated for life because no one took them out behind the woodshed when they were young).

I find it interesting that, nowadays, this debate seems to have subsided.  That’s because it doesn’t really matter anymore.  In the case of the murder of police (as well as for multiple murders of civilians), it has largely become a nonissue because the offenders generally kill themselves or are killed by police at the scene.  The issue now is how to protect those who are sworn to protect us.

There is an argument that the most dangerous person is he who believes he has nothing to lose.  Those who do not value their own lives cannot reasonably be expected to value the lives of others.  Unfortunately, our officers of the law often become targets because, in the demented minds of criminals, they serve as a reminder of their own shortcomings and stand as a symbol of every disappointment they have ever suffered and, indeed, of everything that is wrong with their lives.  They may well be willing to go out in a blaze of “glory.”  Too often, their only concern is how many they can take out with them.

Some say that we have now reached the lowest common denominator, that now that police are constantly in danger, there will be an increased appreciation of the fear that the rest of us have experienced for so long.  I cannot believe that it has come to this.  In my line own line of work, we are always fretting over who will train the trainers.  Well, who will protect the protectors?

It is my hope that the devastating events of the past few months will fuel a robust return of the gun control debate and will spur Congress to enact some sane laws on the subject.  The recent Democrat-led sit-in demonstration by members of Congress (“no bill, no break”), minimized by many as an ill-advised publicity stunt, is a step in the right direction.  While more symbolic than anything else, it shows that at least some in Congress are as frustrated as the rest of us and believe it’s high time that we found a way to stop the madness.

Yes, blue lives do matter.  We need a diplomat to engineer a cease fire right here in our own country.  We need an expert in détente, a brilliant negotiator to encourage all parties to put away their guns.  The public must stop killing police and police must stop killing members of the public.  As the clergy will be quick to point out, the only answer is love.  If we cannot love one another, then I fear that all is lost.

News stories tell me that there has been an uptick in firearm purchases recently.  I fear for the utter breakdown of society that could develop in a world in which everyone feels the need to carry a gun for protection and the final arbiter of any slight, however minor, will be who is quicker on the draw.

Please, Congress.  I don’t want to reside in the OK Corral.  And I know you don’t, either.

A Lesson in Democracy

I was wrong, and I’m thrilled about it.

As I explained earlier this week, I am always wrong about my political predictions.  I am as shocked at everyone else that Great Britain chose to leave the European Union and take back its nation.  And today I raise a cheer for democracy.

The word “democracy” hails from the Greek root demos, meaning “people.”  That is what’s so great about national referenda like the one that occurred in Britain on Thursday.  The people, not the politicos, get to decide.

Here in California, on every Election Day you can count on a series of referenda (known locally as “propositions”) will be on the ballot.  Everything from term limits to new taxes to environmental measures is put to the will of the people.  We rarely, if ever, see this on a national basis, however (due largely to the federalist compromises made by our Founding Fathers in the Constitution).  Instead, in the U.S. our government operates on a system of representative democracy.  We choose our members of Congress and our president and we place our trust in them to do our will.  That’s supposed to be the price of our votes.  Of course, it often doesn’t work out that way, if for no other reason than any legislator, even the one whom you most ardently support, will have a contrary view to your own on something.

That’s why referenda are so refreshing.  It is as if our representatives are saying “you tell us what you want to do about this and we will make it happen.”  Instead of the representative democracy to which we are so accustomed, this moves down the spectrum toward the New England town meeting, perhaps the ultimate form of direct democracy.  You count up the votes and majority rules.

The problem, of course, is that this is a tough gig for the losers, particularly when the vote is more or less split down the middle, as it was in Britain on Thursday.  It is a far cry from the consensus so prized by the Japanese.  But sometimes it makes sense to acknowledge that there simply is no consensus.  (The first issue this brings to mind is abortion in the United States.)  Opponents of direct democracy point out that there is little gained by alienating nearly half the electorate in such cases.  And yet, short of kindergarten-style sharing (we’ll do it my way today and your way tomorrow), it seems like the fairest way to run a society.

Of course, once the populace votes on an issue, you’re stuck with the outcome.  There are times when the decision made by the people is not so irretrievable that it’s possible to put it up for a vote again later to determine whether public opinion has changed (which it may if the decision fails to yield the desired results).  There are often opportunities for the people to rethink the situation, back up and change their minds.  Many times, however, you’re really stuck with your decision.  In some circumstances, there is no going back.  The Brexit appears to be one of these, and I put it to you that this is a good thing.  Britons must accept the consequences of their decision, which involves both good and bad.  I believe that the former far outweighs the latter.

By the way, the “fear” campaign waged by the Remain faction did not help matters.  Many Britons saw the scare tactics for what they were.

So now there’s a lot of Monday morning quarterbacking going on.  The “leave” camp won due to the voting power of the working class.  The vote to leave the E.U. was all about England, as Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland wanted no part of it.  Not enough young people, who treasure the ability to roam throughout Europe free of border controls, showed up at the polls.  It was a rainy day with flash floods so many potential voters stayed home.  There’s no end to the second guessing.

The bottom line, however, is that now the people of Great Britain can cut the apron strings to Mother Europe and forge their own destiny.  Their money is better spent at home rather than being forcibly sent out to 27 other member nations.  Britain is a proud nation that will once again be able to make its own rules.  Britain has declared its independence of Europe, much as the American colonies once declared their independence of Britain.  ‘Tis a wondrous day, indeed.

As for those who persist in gloom and doom, dwelling on the crash of the pound and the steep drop in stock markets worldwide, I say to you:  Get over it.  It takes a while for markets to correct and for people to get used to new realities.  I have no doubt that there will be sacrifices to be made, but they seem a small price for the sweet taste of self-rule.  I just hope it won’t be long until the will of the people is consummated by Britain’s invocation of Article 50 of the E.U. compact.  Now that the people have spoken, let’s do this thing.

Thank you, Great Britain, for going to the ballot boxes in droves to let your voices be heard.  Thank you, Great Britain, for standing up for what you believe in.  And most of all, thank you for giving the entire world a lesson in democracy.

 

A Brexit, You Say? Fat Chance!

I don’t usually make political predictions because I’m generally wrong (and who likes to be wrong?).  Today, however, I will go out on a limb and predict that Clinton will win the U.S. presidential election and that Britain will elect to remain in the European Union.  I am willing to take the chance of making such predictions not only because I believe them to be true, but also because, this time, I will raise a cheer if I’m wrong on either count.

The U.S. presidential election is still more than four months off, but the Brits vote on Thursday.  The “remain” and “leave” factions have each waged active campaigns, complete with rhetoric, bombast and hand-wringing that even went so far as to encompass the murder of a British politician.

While I do not believe that there is much in it for Britain to remain in the E.U., I am disappointed that the “leave” faction has descended to making the issue about immigration, perhaps the most hot button item for Britons these days.  With Britain as a member of the E.U., citizens of any sister nation can live and work in Britain legally.  This, of course, is also true for Brits who wish to try their fortunes on the Continent, say, in a bit less cold and rainy locale such as Portugal or Italy.  No one really knows whether a Brexit would mean that the expats in Britain would have to go home and the British retirees on the beaches of southern Europe would have to do the same.  It really is a matter of “details to be worked out later.”  The “leave” faction just wants to take back control of Britain’s immigration policies.  That would include saving the costs spent by the socialized health care system in caring for the medical needs of immigrants.  Oh, and the “be-leave-ers” want to take the billions that Britain is forced to send the European Union and instead use it for worthy causes at home.  Also, they want to send their own representatives to international commissions rather than having to settle for representation by Mother Hen E.U.

All of this makes perfect sense to me.  Everyone wants to be (or at least to think they are) in control of their own destiny rather than relying, childlike, on others to make their most important decisions.

Of course, the “remain” faction insists that all this is hogwash and poppycock.  Why should they leave the Union, they ask, when they have it so good?  After all, Britain has a special deal with the E.U. that exempts the Brits from many of the onerous rules and red tape imposed on the rest of the Union nations.  Heck, Britain isn’t even saddled with the euro; they got to keep their pound sterling, so what more do they want?

The “remaIN” people point to strength in numbers, the clout that Britain currently enjoys with the E.U. and the advantages of mutual protection.  Plus, they are caterwauling about the economic catastrophe that would come with leaving the Union.  The stock markets would crash!  Worldwide financial panic would ensue!  Not only that, but the “remain” faction buys into the E.U.’s saber-rattling, the Union’s noisemaking machine that insists that Britain will pay dearly for destroying what could one day have become the United States of Europe!

And as for Scotland?  England’s neighbor to the north claims that, should Britain leave the E.U., Scotland will vote for independence so that the newly free nation can turn right around and join the Union.  To which I say ha, ha, ha!  Very funny, indeed.  Remember, Scotland tried that just a few months ago and the people of the kilt and haggis voted to remain securely within Great Britain.  If anyone believes the Glaswegians are going to change their minds now because they’re mad as hell and aren’t going to take it anymore, well, I have a bridge to sell you over here in California, chap.

The fact is that the “stiff upper lip” Brits are just too conservative and too stuck in their own bog to do anything as dramatic as vote to leave the European Union.  For heaven’s sake, even Greece, whose people did vote to leave the Union last summer (remember all those OXI! signs?) ended up staying, thanks to spineless Tspiras and “motorcycle Mac” Varoufakis.  If tiny Greece couldn’t pull off a Grexit despite the will of the people, I don’t think a nation as populous as Britain has a marshmallow’s chance in hell.

No one is saying that the E.U. would let Britain off easy if they do decide to leave.  The Union will undoubtedly use the two-year unwinding process as an opportunity to stick it to Britain any way they can.  But as far as the gloom-and-doom “remain” faction, they can quit peddling their disaster scenarios now.

Not that it matters.  The “remain” faction has effectively already won.  Even the financial panic that was gaining some momentum last week has died down as the “leave” faction has lost its momentum quicker than Bernie Sanders.

It’s really too bad.  As some articles in the media have pointed out, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Great Britain to cut the apron strings and forge a future on its own terms.  But with the vote less than two days away, I can see that Britain has already blown its chance.  Choked in the ninth inning.  Pulled defeat from the jaws of victory.

All that’s left is to pull out the chocolate bars and make some S’mores on Thursday.  And pass the hankie, please.  For I shall shed a tear at the incontrovertible evidence that a Britain that once lived up to its name is truly no longer Great.