Visiting Washington, D.C.

Was able to spend a few days with my son in D.C., which was a joy.  

If you want to see a Collection of my Washington Photo Sets, just click on the link and then click on any of the thumbnail photos to enter the sets.  Once in any set the thumbnail versions of the photos of that set are visible.  Click on the Slide Show link in the upper right hand of the screen to see full size versions of the photos in that set.  

A set of various things I saw in DC can be found at Washington DC Sights.

The DC buildings (paid for by we the people!) truly are impressive,

 The Library of Congress is the most ornate, artistic and extravagant building that I saw in my days in the nation’s capitol.  

DC creates an American mythology mixing an endless collection of monuments to American heroes and leaders with  historical figures of fame from the ancient past and mythological gods and goddesses as well as anthropomorphicized virtues and vices.  Power and might is the message, though interestingly enough little of the current president is evident in the city, unlike the cities and states run by dictators which display more images of their current leadership than their past.

We really had a beautiful evening view of the Reflecting Pool, Lincoln & Washington Monuments (DC at Night) complete with a shining full moon on a cloudless night. 

We took the guided tours that were scheduled through Congressman Mike Turner’s (R- OH) office.  We toured the Supreme Court, the Capitol Building and the Library of Congress.  We also did the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.  Each of the tours was informative and worthwhile.   Among other things, I learned that the U.S. hasn’t printed any bills greater than a $100 bill since the mid-1940’s.  Checks and credit cards have made the larger bills obsolete.

 I still find God’s creation and creatures to be the most beautiful to see (The National Zoo, Geckos at the National Geographic, US Botanic Garden).   Geckos are a most versatile and fascinating creature, a wonder of God’s creation and one that has evolved into a wide variety of divergent and adaptable reptiles. 

The orchids at the US Botanic Garden were a joy to look at and had a beautiful fragrance.   As usual I took few of people (none of me) and John makes a cameo in a couple of the photos.  You can view some of my Favorite DC Photos.

Best of all, I got to spend time with my son who was a patient tour guide and made lots of allowances for my making the visit into a photo safari.  We did a lot of walking, and saw an incredible number of things in a few days.

Stuck in the Middle of American Politics (B)

This is the second in a three part blog series.  As an observer of American politics more than as an activist, I am commenting on what I see.  The first blog was  Stuck in the Middle of American Politics (A).

The Tea Party movement is an American political Insurgency movement.   Generally insurgent groups have it easy – all they have to do is to attack in order to be perceived as successful.  This is how insurgents throughout the world keep established governments off balance.   All they have to do is attack, not create or protect or provide.   But they don’t have the responsibility of governing.  If or when they come to power, they can no longer just rely on an “anti-…”  policy for when they come to power they are no longer the opposition but have become the establishment.    A political party cannot govern simply by being against what is or what was, for they become what is.     And the American tendency to see government as the problem will continue even if anti-big government folk come to power, for in shrinking the government they will be perceived by the rest of the country as Washington still at work but at the expense of the people.  What the Tea Party has to show is not what they don’t like about what is (all politicians have long lists of what they oppose), but precisely what would they eliminate, what would they replace it with, exactly what the U. S. budget would look like with them in power and specifying what government programs would be terminated, in order to let the voters then decide if this is what they really envisioned by changing Washington.   Voters, not just politicians, love their entitlements – they usually just oppose the entitlements of others.    It is easier to be against the government than to be for the government.     When the advocates of smaller government spell out the details of what would have to be cut to attain smaller government, I wonder whether even in their own ranks they would agree with what would be eliminated and what would replace what is.   “Smaller government” is a popular idea right now, but when the federal government would shrink by 20%, many of these same folk (my prediction) would be complaining about the failure of government to get things done.

The problem with big government is it is addicting especially to politicians because they can use it to bring the bacon home to their districts.  How many anti-big government advocates would get re-elected in districts which also suffered massive monetary cutbacks due to shrinking the federal government spending in their districts?  My guess is many would fall to the next wave of anti-government reaction because they would then represent the government.  We all hate big government spending – in districts other than our own.   The American political principle is “me” – what do I get out of this?  How do I personally benefit from this?   The notion of the nation is left far behind.  How can this be conceived of as patriotic?   There needs to be some sense of civic duty and responsibility – not everything the government does is for “me” but it always should be serving the public interest.

Anti-government thinking seems to be a major viewpoint in American politics, shared by many Americans.  Politicians have all played that “outsider” card so much, calling for change in every election, that American voters have been brain washed into thinking changing Washington can be accomplished by voting in candidates from the same two political parties who created the current situation and who already control everything anyway.   Politicians at least believe that changing the political party in power is the key to change, but maybe what is needed is changing the parties themselves, or the two party system or changing the kind of people we elect to office.

A question:

What happens to a nation, and to a government,  when all sides – conservatives and liberals want change and no one likes what is, when in fact it is these same political philosophies and parties which created what is? 

The choice then really isn’t a clear difference between what is and what changes are proposed, but rather the choice becomes between two variations on what is.  Thus despite our endlessly voting for change we tend to get more of the same, just a Democratic or Republican version of the same old same old.   We have no sense at all of making a choice between what is and an alternative because all that is ever offered in increasingly polarized fashion are two variations on what is.

Additionally, I have to wonder whether the constant anti-Washington/government attitude is sustainable.  We have a huge military sworn to defend the U.S., but what if they all, egged on by the ranting and railing of media political entertainers cum commentators,  come to believe that in fact the government is the problem?

Outside our country, no doubt there are many enemies of America who share the same anti-Washington attitude that is cultivated here at home.   The constant anti-establishment diet we are being fed does very little to encourage improving America but does a lot to nurture constant dissatisfaction with our homeland.  We need some leaders to come forward to encourage us to make America a better place rather than simply tear down what is wrong with our country.   President Reagan to me is the last president who successfully played both the government is the problem card along with the “there you go again” nay-saying America card against his political rivals. 

Next:  Stuck in the Middle of American Politics (C)

Plenty of Blame to Share: Few Takers

I am going to offer a suggestion which I think might help the U.S. work through the economic crisis which grips our country and the world today.  That I think I have an idea for the economy which I think can be part of the solution to the crisis will no doubt amaze the readers of this blog since I have confessed openly that I know nothing about economics, and I have done nothing but puzzle over what is happening and how it happens (a webpage where you can learn about economic terms and theory:  http://vimeo.com/2606496).

I am going to speak from the point of view of my strength – being an Orthodox Christian priest, so I am not going to entangle myself in economic theory.

Here goes:

We Orthodox are in the middle of Great Lent.  There is a prayer we say throughout Lent which I think could help all of the politicians, economists, bankers, lenders, financers, federal regulators, brokers, and capitalists deal with the crisis.  I’ll paraphrase the one line from the prayer which is essential here (and you don’t have to even believe in any kind of deity to say this part of the prayer):

“Grant me to see my own sins and not to judge the other.”

For though I have heard countless people say regarding the financial meltdown that there is plenty of blame to go around, I have not heard many (any?) of the players in the crisis accept that blame.  There have been incredibly few “mia culpas” for all of the blame that is being thrown around.  Plenty of blame, but no one courageous and honest enough to own it.

So my solution is this:

Republicans look only at the ways that Republicans have contributed to the mess we are in.  Then clean up your house.

Democrats look only at the ways that Democrats have contributed to the mess we are in.  Then clean up your house.

Congress do the same.  Federal agencies too.  Wall Street also. Bankers, lenders and brokers the same.  Economists and borrowers too.

For the remaining time of Lent, let no one point the accusing finger of blame at anyone outside their own house.   Let each group responsible for this mess finally and honestly accept the blame for what they did to contribute to the economic collapse.  Stop covering your own butts, stop trying to make everyone else look bad, stop blaming and accusing and start owning up to your share of the blame.  Then you will be able to correct the faults in your own house and you will contribute positively to the recovery.   Take the painful step of confessing how your political party, your organization, your profession was responsible for the economic collapse.

That’s about the only way we are going to end Washington gridlock and Wall Street greed.

[Editorial Note:  I just heard this on NPR this evening.    President Obama said, “Washington is all in a tizzy and everybody is pointing fingers at each other and saying it’s their fault, the Democrats’ fault, the Republicans’ fault. Listen, I’ll take responsibility. I’m the President.”    It’s a start!  He also said he didn’t create the mess, but acknowledged it’s now his job to deal with it.    A little lame – it’s easy to accept blame when you don’t really think you are part of the problem.  He was part of the Senate though.  What blame will he be willing to accept from that role?]