SPEAKING SPIRITUAL TRUTH TO POWER

(Published on the editorial page of The Cape Cod Times on July 26, 2019)

Something most unusual happened at the first Democratic presidential debate. It was not only the number of women on stage, and it was not only the broad cultural and ethnic diversity among the candidates, although both of these are unusual by historic standards. What was most unusual this time was to have a candidate speaking spiritual truth to power.

Marianne Williamson, an author and activist, will not be our next president; she may not make it to the second round of debates. But she has broken new ground in political discourse by proposing a government of love instead of leadership by fear. Love and its opposite, which is fear, are probably the two most fundamental human emotions.

Hatred of others arises from fear, while compassion for others is the ultimate expression of love. Ms. Williamson has basically—in the simplest terms—defined the difference between Trump Republicans and the rest of the country: one group is motivated primarily by fear and hatred, while the rest of us are more likely to be compassionate in our thinking and behavior.

This has nothing to do with religion; there is already too much religion in politics. A large portion of the Trump Republican base profess to be Christians, but their beliefs, words, and actions directly contradict the teachings, words, and actions of Jesus Christ. Throughout history, religion has been the cause of conflict, while truly spiritual people have always sought peace.

What is now emerging is a fundamental truth that is understood by a growing number of people. That fundamental truth is that our planet is undergoing a monumental shift from two millennia of violent conflict, tribal thinking, and cultural differences. We are slowly but inevitably moving into a new paradigm of thinking and acting cooperatively, peacefully, and compassionately.

This shift frightens many, especially those who have benefitted from war, corruption, and the suppression and exploitation of others. It also scares people who have become comfortable with the old ways because that is all they know.

The political center is gone. There can be no more fence-sitting. Every individual now must make the choice to either strive toward an enlightened life of unity and compassion or to cling desperately to the old dark energy of fear and violence. The shift will not happen quickly. It may take several generations before the old thinking dies off enough to be replaced by the rule of peace, cooperation, and love envisioned by Ms. Williamson.

In the meantime, it is refreshing to see that we have at least progressed to the point where an intelligent, thoughtful, and articulate woman can stand on the same stage with members of the old guard and confidently state that every being on this planet is in this together, and that we need to stop fighting and begin working cooperatively for the benefit of all.


BOURNE ON THE FOURTH OF JULY – 1949

(Published by The Bourne Enterprise July 5, 2019)

Watching the delight of the children at Bourne’s Fourth of July parade takes me back to a smaller parade when I was their age. In those days as now the best Independence Day celebrations happened in the neighborhoods. Our neighborhood was Pocasset Heights.

My grandfather, Bert Ewell, built a camp shack with an outhouse at the corner of Circuit and Saco Avenues in 1904. Over the years he expanded it into a comfortable year-round home that he and my grandmother retired to forty years later.

We had a cottage next door that my father bought from his uncle. Back then summer houses seldom sold to strangers. They usually stayed in the family for generations. Like most of the other cottages in the neighborhood, ours was pretty rustic.

It did have indoor plumbing of a sort. There was a flushable toilet and sink in a little room off the back entryway, but the only source of water was a shallow well with a massive iron pump next to the kitchen sink. To wash the dishes or flush the toilet we would prime the pump with water from a nearby bucket, then fill the bucket and carry it out to the wash room.

The kitchen had a wooden ice box that drained through a hole in the floor. Once a week an old man with a mule-drawn wagon laden with 50-pound blocks of ice would come by and restock our crude fridge. His visit was also a real treat for the neighborhood kids. Although he didn’t speak our language, he knew what we wanted. With a warm smile he would chip off a sliver of ice for each of us to cool our throats on a hot July day.

The highlight of the summer, though, was the annual neighborhood association clam bake. Early in the morning a crew would show up and build a sort of fortress on the beach near the big rock that remains to this day. They would start with a ring of rocks surrounding a bonfire that soon enough became a bed of hot embers.
They would then add layers of fresh seaweed, clams, potatoes, corn, and lobsters that steamed all afternoon. The wonderful aroma of that meal cooking made it seem like the longest day of the summer until we could finally dig in early that evening.

And then there was the parade, which was also a competition of sorts. Called the “horrible parade” it invited all the neighborhood children to dress up and make up as the most horrible creatures we could imagine. I won first prize one year as a bedraggled hobo but had to settle for second prize, which was a box of pencils. It seems the girl who came in second was only two and could not write yet.

Our old neighborhood is quite different today. The neighborhood association is still active and holding memorable events. But the young families that once filled the streets with laughing kids can no longer spare the time to live at the beach all summer. Nearly all of the old cottages have been replaced or rebuilt into year-round homes for those who can afford them.

Even the little beach at the end of Saco Ave is mostly gone, flooded twice a day by rising sea levels. I still like to wander down to the pier, though, and remember fondly those carefree days that now seem so long ago.


RAIL TRAIL BENEFITS

(Published by The Bourne Enterprise June 14, 2019)

As the winter winds die down and the summer sun returns, many of us are dusting off our bikes, skates, and walking shoes and dreaming once again of the day when the Shining Sea Trail extends along Bourne’s Buzzards Bay shoreline between North Falmouth and the canal service road. The Bourne segment would certainly be the most scenic and probably the most heavily used portion of the of entire Cape Cod rail trail system.

This project would benefit Bourne in more ways than any other single action the town might take. It would provide safe bicycle and pedestrian connections among all of Bourne’s villages and off the streets. It would increase public safety by giving cyclists an alternative to pedaling on Shore and County Roads. And it would open some of the most scenic portions of the town’s coastline to view without need for expanded parking areas or roads.

Building this trail would also provide a significant boost to Bourne’s economy. The national non-profit organization Rails to Trails Conservancy has documented substantial financial benefits to local businesses and to public health where trails have been built. One in-depth survey cited by the Conservancy found average direct spending by trail users of $31 per person. Most of that money goes to locally-owned small businesses, such as lunch stops, bike shops, restaurants, and lodgings.

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation estimates that Cape Cod rail trails are used by an average of 1,000 people per day during the summer season from Memorial Day through Labor Day. The Falmouth Bikeways Committee has counted an average of twice that many riders each Saturday, Sunday, and holiday during the summer on the Shining Sea Trail. The Army Corps of Engineers says 300,000 people use the canal service roads each year.

If only 100,000 people use the trail extension through Bourne each year, that would pump more than three million dollars into the town’s economy. It is not unreasonable to expect actual usage of the trail to double that number. It is also not unreasonable to expect that average spending per trail user would be higher than the Conservancy estimate because The Shining Sea Trail is a destination, drawing people from a wider area who are likely to stay for more than a day.

The Conservancy has also shown that property abutting a recreational trail increases in value compared to similar properties elsewhere, which could add a considerable amount to Bourne’s property tax base. Their researchers are studying this trail benefit to better document actual numbers, but currently estimate that properties directly abutting a trail sell for five to fifteen percent more than comparable properties that do not abut trails.

That means that current abutters would reap a windfall benefit when selling their properties, and the town would reap a windfall benefit when the higher selling prices prompt increases in the tax assessment. Over a period of time, this would add millions to Bourne’s tax base. In summary, extension of the Shining Sea Trail would be a wonderful recreational amenity that would tie Bourne’s many villages together while improving public safety and public health and boosting our economy. What more could we ever want?


BRIDGES

(Published by The Bourne Enterprise May 17, 2019)

Is there anything that says “Cape Cod” more than our canal bridges? Not lighthouses; not beaches; not even sand dunes. Every coastal state has those, and theirs are often better than ours. But few tourist areas have anything as uniquely iconic as our graceful antique highway bridges. Do we really need to replace them?

The Army Corps of Engineers is currently engaged in a three-year study to determine whether it is more feasible to replace the two highway bridges with generic six-lane interstate structures, or to perform a major overhaul of the existing bridges. That was last done in 1982 and needs to be done about every 50 years.

Those of us who have endured hour-long backups at the Bourne Bridge this spring, and similar delays at the Sagamore last year, might welcome an efficient but ugly structure that gets us to work or home faster. But the loss to our image and cultural heritage would be unfortunate.

Here is an interesting fact about our bridges that a lot of people don’t realize: the Bourne Bridge is almost twice as long as the Sagamore. The central spans are identical, but the approach spans on the Bourne are about 1,000 feet longer than on the Sagamore. That would also nearly double the cost of replacing the Bourne Bridge.

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation reports that on a summer Saturday 59 percent of the vehicles crossing the Bourne Bridge from the west travel around the rotary and along Sandwich Road to the Mid-Cape Highway. Those vehicles not only have to navigate three-quarters of the way around the rotary, but they also interfere with traffic coming north on MacArthur Boulevard. If that piece of the traffic could be removed, there would be few backups at the Bourne Bridge any time.

Instead of replacing the existing bridges, the Corps of Engineers and state highway engineers should consider a direct connection between Route 25 and the Mid-Cape. This would be a nearly straight highway, three miles long, generally following the route of the power lines between the Bourne/Plymouth town line on Route 25 and the Mid-Cape just east of Exit 1.

Picture a four-lane divided highway crossing a high-level concrete arch bridge near Bournedale. It would span the canal at a point where the land is 150 to 180 feet high on both sides. Connections at both ends would be east/west only, with no need for full interchanges or traffic lights. Such a connector would reduce the travel distance from seven miles to three.

The cost of this concept should be no more than the cost of replacing both existing bridges. It would remove more than half the traffic from the Bourne Bridge, and nearly half from the Sagamore Bridge, Scenic Highway, and Sandwich Road. That would mean far less wear and tear on the old bridges, as well as longer life spans with fewer disruptions for maintenance and repair.

Most importantly, future generations of Cape residents and visitors alike would still feel that wonderful sense of ease and of coming home that we get every time we cross onto the Cape over one of those beautiful old bridges.


WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2019

December 19, 2018

It’s been a few years since I’ve posted my annual predictions. The 2012 shift in planetary energy has disrupted so many once-predictable trends and tossed in so many wild card events, that any attempt to predict outcomes would be no more than wild guesses.

New trends are beginning to surface, however, and some events now appear inevitable. They include major collapses in half a dozen institutions, and the emergence of a few progressive ideas that seem to have found a toe-hold in our collective consciousness.

Watch for the Trump administration, Wall Street, big pharma, big banks, the NRA, and what’s left of the Republican Party to suffer major failures. These failures are all interrelated and will build on each other. This will be a year of turmoil that will leave everyone reeling and fearful for the future.

Trump will be removed from office but, based on his past performance, is not likely to accept a plea deal and go quietly. He may have to be forcibly ejected from the White House. He will then be tried on multiple charges ranging from tax fraud to treason and could become the first U.S. President to go to jail.

Vice President Pence and members of the Trump family who have participated in the administration will all strike plea deals and resign to avoid prosecution in the face of overwhelming evidence of wrongdoing. The resulting turmoil will create a constitutional crisis that may take years to resolve.

Expect a devastating stock market collapse as the institutions unravel. The fundamentals of the economy are now strong enough to withstand a major correction, but everyone will feel the economic shock, and we are not likely to see anything resembling fiscal normalcy for a long time.

It will not be entirely bad news, though. All of the failing institutions have become too big, too powerful, and too corrupt. They are not being destroyed by outside forces; they are collapsing from their own actions. In their place we will see the first buds of compassionate society beginning to emerge.

Watch for the women in Congress to initiate unprecedented actions to restore order and change the direction of the federal government. Despite the turmoil, 2019 will see the beginnings of serious efforts to provide universal health care, equitable distribution of wealth, fair elections, and recognition that intelligence, competence, morality, and compassion are all essential requirements for individuals in leadership positions.


WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO OUR POLITICAL PARTIES?

July 4, 2018

What has happened to our political parties? The Republican Party of my youth is D.O.A.— an apparent suicide. And the Democratic Party needs immediate intensive care if it is to survive.

Despite having a minority of voters, the Republican Party has maintained power by nurturing a highly motivated base that turns out to vote. It has effectively manipulated the system through extreme gerrymandering, voter suppression, outright fraud, and control of the Supreme Court. And it is supported every hour of every day by a highly effective propaganda network, led by Fox News and abetted by a large cadre of talk radio gasbags.

The result is a party so lacking in governing ability, responsibility, ethical standards, and compassion, that it cannot continue to rule a country of basically decent people. Moderate Republicans and fiscal conservatives may eventually salvage the party but might have to start a new one to retain any voice in national government at all.

At the state and local level, the Republicans continue to do well. They control a majority of governorships and state legislatures. Even ultra-blue Massachusetts has frequently elected competent Republican governors like Bill Weld, Mitt Romney, and Charlie Baker. None of them would fit in, however, with the cadre of deplorables that has taken over the national government.

The Democratic Party, on the other hand, seems to have totally lost all contact with its base. It continues to cling to the old boy way of doing things, while its electorate storms off in another direction. It reminds me of an old political cartoon of a man breathlessly asking a bystander which way the crowd went. When asked why, he replied “because I’m their leader.”

If our democracy is to survive, its nominal party needs to take immediate action on three fronts. First, its titular leaders, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Joe Biden, and both Clintons, need to step quietly into the back room and focus on raising money. Second, Bernie Sanders needs to forget about running for anything and continue speaking to students about his vision for the country.

Third, and most importantly, the Democrats need to take a hard left turn. Think Bernie Sanders plus gun control. The new generation of voters is unlike any this country has seen in the past. They understand the futility of belligerence and war. They are more likely to think and act out of compassion than of fear.

The day will eventually arrive when we have no political parties at all. As we leave behind the barbaric millennium, we will begin to elect leaders who think and act in the best interests of the world, not just their political allies.

An overwhelming majority of people across the country wants a government that cares about everyone, not just the rich and powerful. We want good relations with other countries. We want open trade. We want health care and education to be purely public services, not for-profit businesses. We realize that this country was built by immigrants, and that its strength lies in its diversity. We recognize every person as an expression of God on earth, regardless of skin color, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation. And most of all we want our votes to count.


A RIDE FOR ANOTHER DAY

June 12, 2018

(This piece was published on the editorial page of the Cape Cod Times July 4, 2019)

As I was bicycling to the end of the Shining Sea Trail in North Falmouth on a beautiful spring day, I imagined what it will be like some time in the future when the trail extends all the way to the canal. I saw the railroad tracks there today used only for the benefit of a private trash hauler and thought how much better that corridor would serve the region as a recreational trail.

Continuing north in my mind, I pedaled over the little bridge crossing Old Main Road and approached the former Cataumet railroad station. I pictured it being a popular gathering place serving not only those who use the trail but also as a year-round neighborhood center.

Crossing Red Brook Road, with Parker’s Boat Yard on my left and the historic Alden house on my right, I soon had two beautiful vistas across Red Brook harbor on one side and Red Brook pond and river on the other. Passing Kingman Yacht Center, I crossed Shore Road on another short bridge and headed toward Pocasset.

Before pedaling alongside the Pocasset Golf Course to the village center, I imagined stopping to rest at a picnic area on the site of the old South Pocasset railroad station. It took no imagination to realize this would be the most scenic rail trail of the many that I have biked throughout the northeast. But the best still lay ahead.

Not far after Barlow’s Landing Road, I envisioned pedaling across the upper reaches of the Pocasset River on the long causeway and trestle. The area east of the trail can only be seen by neighboring homeowners and an occasional paddler. It is so rife with birds and so undisturbed by development that it should be a wildlife preserve.

Continuing under the Shore Road overpass on my imaginary journey, I found a stunning late afternoon view across Little Bay and Toby’s Island. Then I pedaled past Monk’s Park and through the Little Bay Conservation Area, with its shaded trails and abundant wildlife. As I cruised through the former Camp Briarwood, I recalled the many summers that my daughters enjoyed camping there.

Emerging from the shaded path through Briarwood I was greeted by the open vista of Monument Beach and the view across Phinney’s Harbor. As I cruised in my mind to the village center, I saw that the railroad station had become a bustling year-round place of rest and refreshment for both trail users and local residents.

After crossing Back River, I passed the spot at the entrance to the Gray Gables neighborhood where President Grover Cleveland’s private railroad station once stood. That building has been fully restored and moved to a more prominent location near the historic Aptuxet Trading Post.

From here it is just a short ride to the railroad bridge and the western end of the service road along the canal. I could imagine continuing my ride along the canalside path to Sandwich, meandering through the historic village center, and connecting with an extension of the Cape Cod Rail Trail to Provincetown.

But that is a ride for another day, as is the one I just enjoyed in my imagination along the wonderfully scenic and mostly hidden coast of Bourne.


TRUMP’S REAL ACCOMPLISHMENT

January 6, 2018

(This revision of my November 12, 2016 blog was published on the editorial page of the Cape Cod Times on January 29, 2018)

While it is deeply disturbing for many of us to watch the Republican administration wreaking havoc on our nation, and truly scary to have such an incompetent president, it could be that the last election turned out exactly as it should have.

A win by either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders would have meant four more years of congressional gridlock, endless investigations, and inability to get anything meaningful accomplished. Both Republicans and Democrats would continue the divisive politics that have made such a mess of our national government.

Instead we have Republicans running amok, viciously and blindly undoing any social and economic progress made over the past half century, while at the same time shamelessly doing the bidding of their financial backers.

The reality is that our government leadership has become essentially ineffective, benefitting only a small cadre of extraordinarily wealthy individuals. The election process has indeed been rigged to negate the will of the majority by manipulating voter access and flooding the news and social media with propaganda presented as fact.

The supposedly representative Congress not only does not represent the will of a plurality of the population, but blatantly acts against their best interest. And the Supreme Court has become so politicized that many of us no longer trust its judgement. We needed an outsider to barge in and tear things apart.

Obsolete institutions and policies cannot be destroyed by their rivals but must collapse of their own weight and irrelevance. Now that they are no longer the opposition party, the Republican leaders are showing that they have neither the ability nor the desire to actually govern, and need to be replaced.

As a nation, we are learning some crucial truths. We are finding it’s important to elect a president who is intelligent, well-informed, and emotionally stable. We are seeing that competence counts, knowledge counts, discernment counts, and morality counts. Most of all, compassion counts.

The Sanders campaign showed us that the generation now moving into adulthood wants a government that serves the best interest of all its people, not just the rich and powerful. They understand that the most basic role of government is not to rule the world through military and industrial might. Rather, it is to assure that no child goes to bed hungry; and that everyone has access to affordable health care, quality education, adequate housing, and the opportunity to use their talents and abilities.

Donald Trump has made a mockery of this nation’s highest office and appointed a team of department heads who are clearly bent on disbanding their agencies. He is draining the swamp by filling it with alligators. As a result, he has awakened a whole new constituency of voters who have not been paying attention or participating in the political process before.

The mid-term election coming up could see the largest voter turnout ever recorded. This insurgency is likely to overcome any Republican efforts to suppress votes or distort the results. Expect to see a flood of women replacing men at all tiers of government and in both major parties. They will inject a new level of cooperation and sanity into the governing process.

For decades we have seen a growing division between the rich and everyone else, with no concern shown for those who actually create the wealth through their hard work. Now, even the most unenlightened voters are beginning to see that their best interest lies not in the divisive politics of the past, but in the compassionate policies of the future.


POLITICAL SUICIDE

May 5, 2017
Congressional republicans, in a desperate act to appease their core voters, committed mass political suicide yesterday with their plan to kill the Affordable Care Act in order to further enrich their financial backers. They are confident that their plan will die in the Senate, but the damage has already been done.

As I wrote last November, the current government will expose the hypocrisy and mean-spiritedness of the Republican platform and agenda. Repealing the ACA will hit their core voters far harder than any other group, surely awakening some of them to reality.

Even without this desperate act, the Republican Party as we have known it for the past four decades is dead. Moderate and enlightened leaders have largely been driven out of the party. Tens of thousands of Republicans die every day of old age, frustration, or simple stupidity.

A new generation of voters is far more enlightened and compassionate, and will begin with the next election changing the face of American government. Look for the next congress to include more women, more independents, and more progressive thinkers. They will begin the big shift of government priorities from military excess and capital promotion, to expansion of programs that benefit those most in need of help.

Eventually, we will have a society that guarantees free health care, education, and equal opportunity, along with a universal basic income for everyone. Leaders will be chosen by ability, not by party affiliation, and expected to govern in the best interest of all citizens, not just the wealthy. We are a few generations away from that utopian dream, though. For now, all we can do is sit back and watch the Washington carnage.


THE UPSIDE OF A TRUMP WIN

November 12, 2016

All but maybe three or four of the people closest to me have been walking around like the living dead this week. They are shocked, scared, and trying to cope with the concept of a Donald Trump presidency. I too was stunned and depressed at first, and troubled by thoughts of the havoc another Republican administration will wreak on our nation. I have come to realize, though, that this election turned out exactly as it should have.

Don’t get me wrong. My political philosophy sits far to the left of Bernie Sanders; more like that of the Dalai Lama. Bernie would have beaten Trump in a landslide, but that outcome would not have been best for our country either. While I would love to have seen the headline BERNIE BEATS BLOWHARD BIGLY, I know that the euphoria would have been short-lived, as our country is not yet ready for a progressive government.

The reality is that a win by either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders would have meant four more years of congressional gridlock, endless investigations, and inability to get anything accomplished. During that time, the Republican party would reorganize and recover, ready to mount a real campaign with a legitimate candidate in 2020.

Instead we can expect four years of Republicans running amok. Trump could be pushed aside, possibly impeached, and run out of town by his own party. Mike Pence and his congressional cronies will then go wild, repealing and undoing any social progress made by the Democrats over the past half century. The next four years will be disastrous for the country, and especially so for the frustrated and disenfranchised voters who made it all happen.

This presidential campaign has torn apart the Republican party and severely crippled the Democratic party. I expect the next four years will see the Republican party we know—and conservative political thinking in general—pretty much finished off; while the Democrats lick their wounds and rebuild as a liberal alternative, following the Sanders model of democratic socialism.

Five years ago I wrote in my book What’s Happening that obsolete institutions and policies cannot be destroyed by their opposition, but must collapse of their own weight and irrelevance. The Republicans now have free rein to demonstrate their lack of either the ability or the desire to actually govern, and the stunning level of mean-spiritedness imbued in their platform.

After four more years of even greater division growing between the rich and everyone else, and no action taken to improve the lot of those who actually create the wealth through their hard work, even the most unenlightened voters might finally see that their best interest lies not in the divisive politics of the past, but in the compassionate policies of the future.