The times are a changing

Technological changes in the world around me are so swift and complex that I feel out of touch, like a lost little girl. I’m an older woman who grew up without cell phones, the internet, kindles or computers. A tablet was another word for an aspirin. There was no such thing as Snapchat, Facebook, or Instagram. We simply talked to each other on the walk to school or during play time. For pictures, we posed with Kodak cameras then dutifully carried the 35mm film to a drug store for development that generally took a few days. Film back then came in black and white or color. Black and white was cheaper for those on a budget. Telephones were installed by the phone company, also known as Ma Bell. If you needed help placing a call, you dialed O and an operator (always a woman) assisted you. At moving time, you called the phone company to arrange for installation. Almost every kitchen had a wall phone with a long cord to talk while you cooked dinner. I remember slamming down the phone on annoying tele-marketers. Today’s youth will never know the joy of hanging up, with emphasis, on someone they don’t like or dropping the phone onto the floor.

Men and women like our parents toiled in factories building everything from automobiles to floor lamps. Now robots fill the factory floor, replacing the men and women who woke up early, packed a lunch and headed off for work day after day, month after month, year after year. Cars are more advanced too, replacing the old-fashioned map. Plug in your destination into a GPS system and a cold, heartless voice tells you how to get there.

Call a bank, store, utility company, or just about any business to ask a question and expect to hear a human? Fat chance that a human will pick up the phone any more. My call will most likely be answered by a computerized answering system asking me to visit their website. If I insist on waiting, I am asked to hit a series of prompts. If patient, I might get lucky and talk to someone who hopefully hasn’t disconnected me after waiting15 minutes. In my day, if I called Macy’s, an operator answered the phone and promptly transferred the call to my desired department.

Winter weather in New York City was often brutal and unforgiving. Snow storms were harsh, punishing the city with layers of snow. That made playing games outside and bike riding all but impossible. So, I retreated to the public library which was only a few blocks away. There, I lost myself in books and encyclopedias Yes, remember them? Giant thick hard-covered books with pictures and stories about various topics, countries, and people. I loved the public library. Our family was poor, unable to afford much travel. I learned how to travel the world by reading, browsing through the encyclopedia and by listening to a short-wave radio at home. My mind went to a zillion places.

The internet has transformed the simple act of shopping, but at the same time causing the demise of the traditional brick and mortar stores. As of this writing, retail giants like Macy’s, Sears, J.C. Penney’s, and even the chic Michael Kors are struggling. In addition to closing stores, more are planned to stave off bankruptcy. That’s shocking when you consider how retail has been a steady source of employment in this country for generations including mine. That’s where I got my first job at the tender age of 16 years old in the now defunct Alexander’s in New York City. The following year, I moved up to a better paying job in Macy’s for $2.10 an hour. Other than the mall puppy store, which thankfully are on the decline, I love going to the mall. On line shopping may be convenient and sometimes less expensive, but it cannot compete with an afternoon at the mall among friends. On-line shopping is impersonal and just not fun, at least in my view. If you go out with friends or relatives, it’s lively and entertaining. Take trying on clothes for example. Ask your friend or cousin a question like, “How does this look?” or “Should I get it in blue instead of green?” That personal interaction isn’t possible on-line. Plus, taking the children with you allows for an afternoon of family fun in the food court and the play center. Human interaction is priceless. It cannot be replicated with a computer.

The on-line giant Amazon may sell everything from computers to jigsaw puzzles and offer quick, speedy delivery but Amazon’s mammoth size quietly killed dozens of independent stores, especially book stores. I have a hard time digesting that. OK, on the one hand, e-books are now more affordable for thousands of people who may not otherwise be able to afford a new book. E-text books are a life saver for students on a budget. Why spend $200 on a textbook for one semester? Alternatively, Amazon’s foray into electronic publishing has shifted the way we buy books. Was Amazon responsible for the failure of the retailer Border’s Books and Music? Or was it because the younger generation just isn’t reading like we older folks did. Border’s failed because of changing tastes as well as the proliferation of e-books. The mighty Barnes and Noble has worries too. They shuttered stores and rarely opens a new one. Their road ahead is rough. Even the once thriving newspaper industry is in trouble. Most cities have only one daily newspaper if they have one at all. The mighty New York Times, considered the most prestigious paper in the world, battles declining readership and stiff internet competition. The younger generation doesn’t sit down with a cup of joe in the morning and flip through a newspaper like we older folks did. They scan the internet with their cell phones for on-line sources to get the latest headlines. I’ve been reading a daily newspaper since high school and I doubt at my age that I’ll change.
Technology has its benefits no doubt. It has revolutionized travel, education, health care, and insurance, among other industries. Even pet adoptions have benefitted from the internet. Thousands of dogs, cats, horses, etc. have found new homes because of the internet. But technological advances heaps new and unusual problems my generation didn’t face. As a child, I wasn’t glued to a cell phone, computer games, Snapchat, or television. I grew up in a working-class neighborhood of large families in small apartments. We all got on each other’s nerves so hanging around outside was my freedom. Children like me played games in the streets or the public parks, rode bikes, or read in the public library Admittedly we consumed much of the same junk food as today’s youth but there was no childhood obesity epidemic back then because we were so physically active. I cannot explain the rise of violence but there were no metal detectors in the schools back then. Only the police and military carried weapons. Are we more violent because we lost our ability to communicate? I don’t know.

 

Am I prepared for a future of driverless cars, more robots, and artificial intelligence? I’m not sure. The other day I heard a report on NPR about driverless airplanes. That’s one change I cannot imagine. I hope by then I’m long gone from this world. As it stands now, we can kill and maim enemies real and perceived in foreign countries by remote control right here at home by pushing a button and unleashing a firestorm of bombs. I never thought I’d live to see warfare by played like a computer game, but with far more lethal results that sometimes strike innocent lives. Computers will continue to advance and control our lives but a computer will never take the place of a human touch. A computer will never love you nor console you upon the death of a love one. A computer will never smile at you when you need comfort. A computer will never replace the warmth of a loving family. A computer will never replace the joy of walking a dog after work, playing with your children, or having coffee with your best friend. A computer is not human and never will be.

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Feeling hope when there’s none

Sometimes, I sit in the warehouse, all alone, and glance around in admiration and sincere appreciation at the dozens of bags/boxes of donations for Syrian refugees given by our Islamic community. Now and then friends from the Mormon Church drop off donations too. Our bond with the local Mormon Church is strong and their outstretched hand is welcomed. I volunteer weekly for the Arizona Chapter of Helping Hand for Relief and Development, a world-wide Islamic charitable organization that helps with relief and aid projects in Third World nations. Lately, a focus has been to assist refugees in Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon. Here in the Arizona office we collect used clothing, new and used school supplies, as well as non-perishable food such as rice, beans, sugar and cooking oil. The donations are sorted, packed and readied for shipment overseas. Of course, I enjoy company when other volunteers are in the office. It’s always nice to have company to talk to. During my shift, at least one person and/or family walks through the front door with donations. Maybe it’s just one bag or it could be a whole car load from a mosque from across the city. Men or women may leave a cash donation or offer to spread the word about us among their friends. Muslims and non-Muslims care deeply about the Syrian refugee crisis. Ending the war would be the most viable solution but we, as ordinary citizens, cannot stop the endless carnage and bloodshed. At times, I cannot drag myself out of a hopeless spiral of despair because of Syria as well as other war zones like Iraq, Afghanistan and too many places to name. I am fed up and disgusted by our own government. I see them as nothing but war mongers hell bent on destruction including of our own beloved country. Some days I just hate getting out of bed but I must because my dog has to be walked. Volunteering for Helping Hand keeps my spirit alive. The pure goodness I see every week lifts me higher and higher, way above the garbage scattered about by war, Donald Trump, and others who believe hate has a place in the world. It does not and never well. The power of love and goodness must prevail and we who believe must not let that dream ever die.

Serving the homeless

Once a month, I volunteer for the American Muslim Women’s Association of Arizona (AMWA) and help serve a hot meal to homeless adults at a church. Around 6:15 p.m. the group of 25 men and women arrives, often in tattered clothing. They carry backpacks loaded with their belongings, perhaps a change of clothes, toiletries or vital documents. From the weary looks on their faces, I can tell they’re tired and hungry. A few are veterans. Some are nursing injuries with casts on arms or legs. Now and then, a homeless person arrives with a dog. If the dog is friendly, it can stay. When a person becomes homeless, their pet may be a source of comfort. Leaving a pet behind can be traumatic. Many homeless people spend all day on the streets while a few worked all day. Yes, some homeless people have jobs but their minimum wage income isn’t enough to pay for a market rate apartment. The few subsidized apartments available are reserved for families, elderly and disabled. Little is available for the working single poor. Once the group settles in, a line forms at the food table, usually cooked by my friend Nagia. Ladies always go first. Before digging in we start with a prayer. Sometimes it’s a Christian prayer; other times it’s Islamic. Volunteers serve generous helpings to appreciative guests. I am privileged to be a part of the volunteer effort. Not only is it a personal reward, but it is a declaration of my Islamic faith to serve others. Once the group is seated, we volunteers join them at the table. We do not eat because the food is reserved for them. Rather, we just talk and learn about their lives. These men and women are not deadbeats. Some lost apartments because of unemployment and their money ran out. Women fled violent relationships. Veterans often return from war zones with mental health issues and have trouble finding employment as well as medical assistance from the VA. Other people lost jobs because their cars were no longer operable. In a few cases, they made bad personal choices. No one is allowed to stay if they are active drug or alcohol users.

A group of Christian churches in Chandler take turns offering refuge to single adults. Families have more options not available to singles. As long as I can, I will continue to serve at the monthly meal program. I was homeless once but I was younger and had options that I don’t have now as a disabled senior. How do I know that Congress won’t strip housing subsidies away from the neediest? Millions of people like me will be affected. The free market won’t step in as the Republicans think will happen.

 

 

What your Trump vote got

A Trump vote landed total deception in your lap. Think again about Trump’s infamous promise to make Mexico pay for a border wall. That’s not going to happen. There’s no way to force Mexico, a sovereign nation, into an arrangement it doesn’t agree with. Trump’s narrow minded and hateful voters sucked up his ridiculous campaign promises like candy and voted for him. Trump promised to bring back coal jobs to Appalachia. That’s another far flung empty promise. For decades, demand for the dirty polluting fossil fuel known as coal has been dwindling. The coal companies know it and so do the miners. Understandably they want good paying jobs but mining won’t return to its former glory, which by the way, was one of the most unsafe industries in the USA. Even solar power is emerging in Appalachia because it is clean and increasingly affordable. This was yet another of Trump’s bold faced lies. Trump promised to bring back factory jobs such as the garment and electronics industries. To do so he proposes the border adjustment tax, a 15% tax on imported goods such as clothing, cell phones, and even food grown across the border. Will factory jobs return? Absolutely not but only feeble minded Trump thinks they will. Prices for produce, cell phones and blue jeans will drastically increase, threatening the brick and mortar stores already struggling to stay alive against on-line giants like Amazon.com. A vote for Trump wasn’t about change. A vote for Trump came from mostly White Americans who fed into his anti immigrant fever pitch. A vote for Trump came from mostly White Americans who believe that immigrants, such as the Mexicans, stole American jobs. If you want jobs that Mexicans take, then go work in the fields in the blistering heat or the filthy slaughter houses. That’s where many immigrants work. They do not take American jobs. That’s a total fallacy that Trump beat to death in order to win votes from uninformed America voters. Trump voters were bigoted against Muslims, Jews, gays and just about anyone who wasn’t a White Christian. Trump won because of fear, hatred and intolerance to others. Now he’s in office and destroying the USA by the day, possibly soon to start a major war from which we will all suffer. Trump’s impulsive, blustery and uninformed behavior just might start a major war and we’ll all be sorry, very sorry, because our way of life will change forever. There’s no turning back once he’s signaled the OK to launch a nuclear weapon. He’s signed off on executive orders to squeeze public funding for health, education, the environment, wildlife, foreign aid for the poor, and just about every social program that good decent Americans support. We cannot count on anyone but ourselves to end the madness. Pick up the telephone and call your Congress man or woman or Senator. Let them know how you feel. Donald Trump must be stopped and only we can make that difference. He’s in the White House but that doesn’t mean we are powerless. Use your voice before that too is silenced. Trump clearly doesn’t respect the will of the America voters, just the money and the idiots that elected him.

First 100 days

Mitt Romney may have lost the election in 2014 because he threatened to cut Federal funds to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, also known as PBS. Right away, the opposition threw up advertisements with the big bad Romney threatening to harm the lovable Sesame Street character Big Bird. Did Big Bird play a role in Romney’s defeat? Perhaps. Number 45, also known as Donald Trump, has threatened the same, to cut off Federal funding to PBS, to bolster his plans for a vastly increased military and to build a wall between the US and Mexico. Remember that was the wall he promised Mexico would pay for. Turns out Mr. Trump was wrong. Mexico is not paying for his big beautiful wall; the American taxpayers are. Big Bird and his charming Sesame Street family will be cut off to pay for more bombs, tanks, cruise missiles, guns, attack helicopters and other lethal weapons of mass destruction. Number 45 has also called for massive cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency. EPA director Scott Pruitt, who like Trump, poo poos at climate change even as the world burns. Pruitt claims that state environmental directors have plenty of money to protect water, air, etc. Not so say state directors. They depend on grants from the EPA to carry out their mission. Who then will protect our water, air, etc.? Apparently no one. Not to worry folks. Our military will be upgraded to the point we can wipe out planets not even discovered yet. How about that? Attorney general Jeff Sessions will protect us from criminals at the border, even though border crossings are at their lowest in decades. Can he protect us from the mentally deranged since number 45 allowed them to now own guns? You know like the man who barged into a school the other day, killing his estranged wife, an innocent 8 year old boy and then himself? What about that Mr. Sessions? Can you protect us from American criminals with easy access to guns? Number 45 has insulted our allies, our friends. We need friends, not more enemies. His Breitbart buddies apparently are out of touch with reality. Perhaps they should shake their anti-Semitic attachments and learn how to see America as we really are. Number 45 said he changed his mind about Syria. His syrupy sweet emotional plea to help the children was about as phony as his plea to help America’s poor obtain health insurance. Instead of bombing Syria, which did no good, he should open our doors to the Syrian refugees. But no, he continues to fight to uphold the ban against Syrian and all refugees. Number 45 deports Mexicans without criminal records who work on the farms. As harvest time approaches, the farmers who voted for 45 plead for pickers. There are few available and crops will likely wither on the vines. Another dumbass Trump move from someone who claims to be so smart. Not too smart are you? And now his spokesman, the man who represents the USA (not most of us) claims the despicable hateful Hitler didn’t use gas during World War II. What was zyklon B, the highly toxic gas used to murder 6-8 million mostly Jews during the war in concentration camps? Spicer called them Holocaust centers, as if they were welcoming centers set up by the Germans. What an idiot, an idiot paid by our taxes to make the USA look further dismal and dumb. I don’t know how we can get through this but somehow the good, decent people of all ages, races, sexes and religions have to pull together and be united like never before. Our own government is nothing but a bunch of pitiful, pathetic men and women who seem like they have fly paper for brains. May Allah bless us all and grant us the mercy and wisdom to move forward as our government makes every effort to destroy all the goodness we have created. We can do this but we must be together. All of us, every day. There is no turning back, only moving forward.

Orange clown destruction company

DT: Hello, orange clown destruction, I have a country I want to destroy? Are you able to help?

OC: Sure thing, first let’s start with the name of your country.

DT: USA

OC: I hear that’s a big country. This may take some time. We’ve never destroyed a country that large before.

DT: I’m in a rush. Do you want the job or not?

OC: OK let’s begin right away. What’s your first priority? What section do you want to rip apart first?

DT: The environment. Let’s get rid of clean air and water rules. Who needs them anyway? Big companies don’t like to comply with regulations. Says they eat into their profits. Let them dump dirty stuff like coal ash into rivers and streams. No more filters on power plants that kept poisonous junk out of the air. That’ll keep my big donors happy. I have to please them, you know.

OC: Sure about that? I mean we can do this but are you sure? Those pesky environmentalists will bring you to court. They might create bad press too.

DT: So let them. I’ve been sued many times and I always win. I never settle. That’s part of the master plan. Sue and never settle. Bad press means nothing.

OC: OK then, let’s undo the Obama regulations. He’s gone and can’t do anything about it. Consider it done. What’s next? Orange clown is at your service. They build, we destroy, that’s our motto.

DT: Public broadcasting. I detest that yellow mass of fluff known as Big Bird. Who the heck is he anyway? Ought to be made into chicken salad. PBS is too liberal anyway, teaching children about tolerance and kindness to refugees. Put them on the chopping block. And get rid of that damn bird once and for all.

OC: It’s taken care of. What’s next?

DT: Meals on wheels. What kind of hokey nonsense is that? Serving meals to homebound seniors? They probably go to the casino and gamble then eat lunch courtesy of my tax dollar. Meals on wheels has to go. Old age or disability isn’t an excuse for needing a meal. Those insufferable hacks need to get off the government dole. Cut meals on wheels.

OC: Don’t you think that’s harsh?

DT: The Republicans say it’s part of downsizing government. Hey, we can’t please everybody.

OC: If you say so. What’s next?

DT: Build that wall between the US and Mexico.

OC: A wall that size is expensive. Besides I’m in the business of destruction, not construction. We don’t have much experience in wall construction. It’ll cost a staggering amount of money first of all. Secondly, you’ll need to confiscate people’s private land. They won’t be too happy especially the Indians. The head of the Tohono Indian reservation said the wall won’t be built on their land. Remember, we signed treaties with the Indians. DT, let me ask you if you’ve looked at some of the rocky terrain between the US and Mexico? It’ll be quite a challenge to build a wall in some parts, if not impossible. And there are wild animals that migrate back and forth between the two countries. Finally, there’s the issue of payment. On the campaign trail you boasted that Mexico would pay for the wall. Doesn’t look that way to us. Seems like you’re asking the taxpayers to foot the bill.

DT: That’s beside the point. Americans want that wall. They won’t care who pays for it and how much it costs. Trust me. Americans will pay. And I’ll handle those Indians. Rip up the treaties. They’re old anyway. I’m the president and I can do what I want. As for the animals, who cares about them? I don’t. I said I’d build a wall and the wall will be built. A big beautiful wall.

OC: If you say so.

DT: Of course I say so. I’m the president.

OC: Yes you are. What’s next on your list?

DT: Hunters. Have to please the hunters. They voted for me. Stupid deer, bears and wolves don’t vote. Who cares about them anyway? Prepare a bill that lets hunters kill sleeping bears and wolf cubs. That’ll make them happy. They love their guns and they love killing animals. They’ll remember DT kept his word.

OC: Animal lovers will hate you. They hate you anyway.

DT: I don’t care who hates me. I’m rich, I’m the president. I can do what I want.

OC: What’s next on the list?

DT: The press. I hate reporters. They all lie anyway. Never report anything nice about me.

OC: May I say something?

DT: Sure go ahead.

OC: Have you done anything nice?
DT: Sure I have, I signed an executive order allowing mentally ill patients to buy guns. Hey, whose side are you on, anyway.

OC: Of course, your side.

DT: That’s enough for now. We’ll work on this again tomorrow. I’m tired, I’m going to my vacation home in Florida for a little golf.

OC: Who’s running the country in your absence in case I have questions?

DT: I guess the vice president. I have to go now. I’m tired. I’ll be back with you. There’s much more to destroy. We’ll start next time with health care.
 

Fraying at the seams

I haven’t said much lately about #45. In fact, I’ve stayed off Facebook too. The news every day is all about #45 and none of it is good. I hardly know what’s happening in the rest of the world and there’s plenty of worthwhile news. At home, it’s all about the war against the poor, environment, wildlife, Muslims, immigrants, gays, liberals, you name it. I am totally befuddled how anyone can still support this man and his administration. They seem to derive pleasure at destroying the USA and it sickens me to my very core. I’ve never been so ashamed, embarrassed and frightened to be American as I am now. Not only are they picking apart our country but other nations too. I honestly believe that #45 won the election with help from his Russian cronies but more so because of an underlying hatred that lurks throughout the USA. While most people just want to get along for the sake of getting along, there is a deep worrisome hatred that is festering and growing. Not many people even talk about it but it is there. The hatred exists for Muslims, Jews, Latinos, Blacks, gays, immigrants and liberals. #45’s supporters cheered at campaign stops as he called for Mrs. Clinton to be hung. Some urged that she be killed. Men, women and even children rallied around #45 as he urged beatings for Black, Muslim or Latino protesters. I honestly believe that #45 won because of his supporters’ disdain for others different from themselves. He sucked up their fears because many were too ignorant to venture outside themselves and associate with a Latino or a Muslim. They believed #45 that it was immigrants who stole their factory jobs and not corporate greed. Why should a corporation pay an American $10 an hour when they found a Chinese worker to take $10 a month? They believed #45 that he would kick the bums off welfare when in fact corporations take a huge chuck of corporate handouts. If #45 hadn’t stirred up so much arrogance, hatred and disgust the USA wouldn’t be fraying at the seams right now. I have no faith in our government to do anything responsible for people, animals or the environment. The only beneficiaries will be corporations and the affluent. The theory of trickle down is a joke. Trickle down won’t help me pay the rent. I pray daily that #45 will not start a major war or launch a nuclear weapon. Next year, 2018, is a mid-term election. Every seat in the House of Representatives will be up for grabs so will some seats in the Senate. If you read this and are a US citizen, please make sure you are registered to vote. I urge you to vote out the Republicans. And in 2020 we must not re-elect #45. In the meantime, keep up the pressure on your Congressional representatives. Call, write or fax. It’s our country and only we can save ourselves from this madness.