With the as yet untold number of people around the country and around the world, I marched last weekend.  I made my little sign, and I walked the streets of my little town, and I gave my little speech and listened to the speeches of others.  Then I got in my car and went home.  And if that is all I will have done, I will have wasted a beautiful afternoon, and I will have accomplished nothing more than making myself feel good.

What those strong and brave and bright students of Stoneman Douglas High School and elsewhere have done is enormously important, important far beyond even the seemingly limitless energy they are providing to the effort to rid our schools and our communities of massacres like those at Stoneman Douglas and Sandy Hook and Columbine.  They are demanding that those who occupy public office stop spending all their efforts getting re-elected and concentrate on the job for which we the people put them in office.

We are all painfully aware that it takes money to get elected, and re-elected, to public office.  We all further understand that the longer you stay in office, the more seniority you have and the more power you have and therefore the more ability you have to get things done.  The problem with all that is that our elected officials too soon start serving those who give them the money for elections rather than serving those who voted them in office.

A part of this perversion is on us the voters.  We are the ones who allow ourselves to get talked into voting for someone because of the ads and internet messages that all that money buys.  We allow ourselves to be far too influenced by slickly produced ads and messages, when what we really need is to do more thinking and learning and discussing for ourselves.  The greater part of the blame, however, must go to those elected officials who lose their way and start doing the will of those with the money rather than serving the best interests of those whom they were supposedly elected to represent.

This is the far greater message that these young people are sending us.  This is what they are really forcing us to remember and understand.  Senators and Congresspeople do not represent the NRA, nor do they represent the Kochs or the Adelmans or the moneyed folks who support the so-called liberal politicians.  They represent the people.  The people want their children to be safe.  They also want a lot more than that.  They want peace, not the constant wars that have been consuming us for the last two decades.  They want an honest voting system, not the gerrymandering and voting exclusions that prejudicially favor one factor or another.  They want an honest and productive economy.  They want good, solid educations for their children.  They want a rational system of health care.  They want fair treatment for all, regardless of sex or religion or race.  They want to pass on a habitable world to their children and grandchildren.

These young people got us to march.  Now they, and we, need to get our elected representatives to work for all of us.  If those representatives do not work for all of us, we need, all of us, to vote them out and vote in those who will work for all of us.   Absent those votes, and absent getting off our duffs and working to get everyone to vote, we will have all just wasted a beautiful afternoon.









ey represent.















I heard something on TV the other night that greatly disturbed me.  One of the moderators of a news channel introduced the program by saying, “It’s nine p.m. in the East, 6 p.m. on the west coast.”  This is a pet peeve of mine, the tendency of some people, including the news media, to think of the United States as two coasts, and to consider that which is in between — namely, the vast majority of the United States — as “flyover country.”  Never mind that this “flyover country” is the land where most Americans live, where most of what America produces is made, even that this is where most of those talking heads come from.  No wonder the talking heads were shocked at Trump’s election.  The most they know about the real United States is statistics, and even those are gathered by people who never actually go out and get to know that vast majority of people who make up these United States.

I am one of those people, and I live among those people and it is my job to represent those people.  So, the other day, when a large group of them were waiting to see me, I sat down with them.  Here is what I asked them:  “What do you think about all this Trump stuff?”  I have never, in the many hours of reading and watching the news, heard anyone say what those people taught me.

What they said, basically, was that it wasn’t about Trump.  They didn’t give a damn about Trump.  They didn’t care who he slept with, or where he got his money, or    even whether he pulled some shenanigans to get elected.  Hell, they said, Clinton had oral sex with an intern — in the oval office, for heaven’s sake — and he didn’t get kicked out.  No, they said, it’s not about Trump.  It’s about them and their families and their communities.  Tariffs?  So what?  They had no idea what tariffs might do five or ten years from now.  What they did know was that there were more jobs and higher wages, and that they were able to pay for their homes and for their children’s education.

And the legislators?  Well, the legislators were talking about jobs and saving them a few bucks on their taxes.  “Did you know,” said one of them, “that during the first two years of the Obama administration, all the legislators talked about was whether steroids were being used in baseball?”  They all agreed, and they were all angry about that.  What they felt was that these legislators had no business talking about steroids when their real job was to get jobs for the people and make sure that the country was safe.

So it’s not about Trump.  Of course he’s a crook.  He’s a hustler and a con man and a showboat.  He’s self-absorbed, and he’s a sexual predator.  Aren’t all those Wall Street types like that?  Who cares?  He got elected president, and the question is whether or not he, and government in general, is doing what it is supposed to do — taking care of the interests of the people.  And the talking heads?  They’re wasting their time and missing the point.

Here is a lesson to be learned.  The issues that divide liberals and conservatives are important, but those issues are not the bedrock of American politics, of the job of representing and caring for this vast country, all of this vast country.  Women’s rights, gay rights, minority rights, protection of the environment, abortion, opioids, school choice — these are all important issues, and we the people must and will deal with them.  Before we even begin to think about all those things, however, we must have a government that helps us to have the basic necessities — good jobs, decent health care and security.  Do those three things, and then you can work on the rest.  To be a Democrat and to be a liberal are two distinctly different things.  If you want to reach the people, the real people, all the people, you must keep that in mind.











years of the




















Okay, so that’s a bit of an exaggeration.  Stephen Hawking somehow lived with the lethal disease of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a disease that kills its victim in three years or less, for over fifty years.  The disease gave him reason to use his brilliant mind to contemplate the physical universe and, by that contemplation, to approach the most profound and haunting question:  why does this universe exist?  He is reported to have said that all of his research was actually prelude to that fundamental mystery.

It is no insult to Professor Hawking’s memory to say that this is a question for all of us to face, and that we need not have either an understanding of his work nor the staggering measure of his intellect to address that question.  Interestingly enough, he himself felt that it was critical to be able to explain his research in a way that could be understood by all of us.

To my mind, that very question is what we wake up with every morning.  It lurks behind every effort we make — every widget we help manufacture, every product or service we help to sell, every diaper we change, every dish we wash, every bed we land on at night and make in the morning.  It is also the question that we often take great pains to avoid.

Forget the universe and black holes and entropy.  What am I doing here?  What’s it all about?  Where is my meaning, my value, my significance?  It’s not all about me.  That way lies chaos, madness, war.  Neither is it about believing in some mystery.  Here and now is what we have, and my value is either right here or it doesn’t exist.

That was really the question that Steven Hawking was asking, and the important thing about his work is that this question remains and this question defines us.  So long as it remains, we remain truly human.  Fear not the attacks on our meaning by those hopelessly lost in self-interest.  Fear the day when we all stop asking that question.  So long as the question survives, so long as we continue to ask where our real significance lies, we remain truly human.  Hawking still lives because the question he asked himself all his life still lives.





























Recently a group of people set out, on the Capitol lawn in Washington DC, 7000 pairs of shoes to represent the 7000 children who were killed with guns in America since the Sandy Hook Massacre.  7000 children killed.  Twice the number of people who died in the 9/11 assaults on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.  What was done in response?  Nothing.  No tightening of background checks.  No banning of assault rifles.  No funding of security for schools.  Nothing.

Today, around the nation, children walked out of schools everywhere for seventeen minutes, to demand that adults do something to prevent the loss of lives such as the seventeen who died at Douglas High School in Florida.  The Florida legislature passed something of a law, but assault rifles and their multi-bullet cartridges are still available, and the president has gone back on his word to take significant steps to stop this senseless and preventable killing.  Parents everywhere worry, with good reason, whether their children are safe in their schools.  Yet the president, and the federal legislators, do nothing.

Enough is way past enough.  This is not a political issue.  This is an issue of fundamental safety and respect.  This should be as obvious as the nose on your face.  Those who do not act, those who would sacrifice children’s lives to protect political contributions, are being public shamed.  By children.

Someone said recently that the children’s words and actions should be respected because they are not yet “corrupted.”  It is a sad comment on adulthood to define it as having been corrupted.  Perhaps it is the depth of Jesus’ comment that we all need to become like little children.  Whatever it is, we all, of all different political parties and all different interest groups, we all need to stand back and look at ourselves.  We have, for far too long, defined ourselves by getting and spending.  We have worshipped tax cuts, despite the fact that those cuts have driven the country deeply into debt while suffering deep cuts in funding to education, health care and infrastructure.  We need to return to defining ourselves by our obligations to the inalienable rights of all human beings.

Listen to the children.