Volunteerism…what an interesting word. I suppose one might say it’s a word that has helped to build America and make it the nation it is today. Certainly, we can trace it back to the earliest settlers in the country who voluntarily (well, almost voluntarily) supported the religious establishments of which they were a part. Reverend Cotton Mather, a Puritan minister in colonial times, urged his parishioners to identify and care for residents in their neighborhoods in need. One source reports that, “He also encouraged people to create associations to suppress disorders, to visit the sick and needy, and to enable young artisans to help one another.” When it came time to establish the New Republic, volunteerism really began to show its appeal. Militia were formed voluntarily rather than by mandate to fight the British and to create the country of today. While we still have voluntary militia today, we look at them a bit differently.

When we think of volunteerism now, we think of it in somewhat different terms. We look at the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of American volunteers who make their way to places like Haiti, Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, New Jersey, and even across the oceans to assist those in need. Recently, the crises caused by the spate of hurricanes that tore up so much of US possessions and Southern states was a tribute to what I think of as American volunteerism in action. Whether it was fire and police department volunteers or private citizens with boats; whether it was volunteers from the American Red Cross and other agencies; whether it was the people who opened their purses or the groups of medical personnel who banded together to help in hospitals and shelters, America showed once more just how quickly we can come together to assist those in need.

Maybe you and I don’t think about volunteerism in such ‘severe’ terms. Maybe you’re the mom who goes into her child’s classroom once a month to aid the teacher. Maybe you’re the volunteer at the Boston, Chicago, New York, Denver, or other marathon who registers runners, passes out water along the route, or works in the medical tent because that’s what your background allows you to do. Or maybe, just maybe, you’re the person who is physically unable to volunteer directly, and so you write a check to support one of the participants in the race, the ride, or the activities.

I was sitting at the kitchen table recently and I printed a little saying. I don’t know if it’s original, probably not, but I thought about the number of people I know to whom this applies. “Never stop believing in the amount of good you can accomplish if you’re only willing to try.” Looking at it on the page, it sounds kind of corny, but then again, I’m not so sure it is. There are so many things that we can do to help others, and in so doing, we really help ourselves. Years ago, hell, I don’t remember how many – we were living in Newton, MA at the time, so it had to be more than thirty years – I used to drive in to Cambridge on Saturday mornings and record some books for the blind. I wasn’t very good at it, but it was something that I could do to help those unable to see the printed page. I always walked out of there wanting to do it better the next time. Come to think of it, I don’t know whether I just stopped because I thought that I sucked at it or whether they politely told me that I’d done enough…isn’t that a great way to fire somebody…tell them they’ve done enough?

Today, I think just about every school in every district, at least in the New England area anyway, has some type of program where students are required to perform a certain number of hours of community service. I don’t necessarily agree with that because ‘requiring’ something may not appeal to everyone. Seems to me that if parents are involved in volunteering, asking their kids to help them out might be a better way. The children get the idea that the parents enjoy doing it, maybe it will just rub off, so to speak. Many parents brought their children to the Pan-Massachusetts Challenge bike-a-thon when I was volunteering at that event. Some of the kids grew into becoming volunteers while others wanted a more active role and became riders. Today, more than 4,000 volunteers and nearly 6,500 riders participate in this event that has become the largest single fund-raising event in America, an event that has given more than half a billion dollars to the Dana Farber Cancer Research Institute over the past thirty years.

For several years, I volunteered at a road race in a nearby community. My job was to sell T-shirts, and I was good, so good in fact that I became known as the “T-Shirt Nazi.” Hey, all the profits went to Amnesty International, a darned good organization. Eventually, I became “King T-Shirt Nazi,” responsible for all the shirts. That was when I learned that leftover shirts were just thrown into a basement to either be parceled out during the year by the race organizer or left to mold, mildew, and rot. Don’t get me wrong, I liked this race organizer. He was doing good things for charity, but storing T-shirts in a damp basement just wasn’t the thing to do. Now, at the end of the race each year, all shirts are folded, sized, boxed up, inventoried, and stored in a dry area. Anyone authorized by the race organizer can pick up one or two, but the rest are sold the following year as “Vintage T-Shirts.” Hey, we only charged five bucks a pierce for them, but they became a hot item. Ain’t imagination wonderful?

From the days when the Pilgrims stepped ashore to these days when tragedy seems to be striking everywhere, volunteers are still a backbone of free people everywhere. If the volunteer bug hasn’t bitten you yet, I hope that you’ll give volunteering a try. Be careful though, you’ll find that it can become habit-forming.

You loot…we shoot

It is time that we came up with a new slogan in light of these climatic catastrophes that are becoming more common…here it is: “You loot; we shoot…to kill.” I suppose the last part might be a bit of overkill, so to speak, but I’m sick and tired of seeing these people, damn near all of them black, looting stores in the middle of storms. It’s no wonder people don’t want to obey the orders to evacuate. They may come back to find the house in great shape only to find their valuables gone. And how do black people justify this looting…and many do try to justify it? They say that “the man” has oppressed them and their ancestors for so long that they are forced to take this action. Forced my ass…

…Am I being a racist about this. You’re damn right I am. Listen, I didn’t keep black people in bondage. My father didn’t keep black people in bondage. My grandfather was not ‘the man’ to be feared with his whip and his shotgun, and neither was my great grandfather. Yeah, my ancestors did come over on the Mayflower. One was a servant (George Soule) and another became governor of Massachusetts (William Bradford). So-friggin-what? Big-damn-deal.

I have many friends of color. Some are black; some brown, some white – is white considered a color by these measures – and others are Asian. I would and have invited many of these people to my home. They are wonderful people, so why is it that the preponderance of looting that I see going on is not done by white people or even Asian people, but instead is done by black people…oh, I guess we covered that in the first paragraph.

Truth to tell, there is no ‘the man’ anymore. Yes, there are racist cops and racist firemen and racist Wall Street brokers and bankers. You will find racism damn near anywhere you go in the United States…and that includes Hawaii and Alaska. You will also find reverse racism, but we aren’t allowed to discuss that because that’s racist. You wanna feel your bladder begin to give out? Walk into a black bar in Mission Hill as the only white person. I guarantee that you will just partially begin to understand what some blacks feel. The open hostility can almost be tasted. I’ve been there. It’s happened to me a couple of times in my life. I was not trying to be some macho idiot; I made a mistake…and boy, did I learn something from it.

Let us, however, look at some statistics: data shows that 93 percent of black homicide victims are killed by other blacks. There were almost 6,000 black people killed by other black people in 2015. According to The Wall Street Journal’s Jason Reilly, “Black crime rates were lower in the 1940s and 1950s, when black poverty was higher” and “racial discrimination was rampant and legal.” Okay, so if poverty and racial discrimination aren’t to blame for today’s horrible black crime statistics, what is? How about if we start with family values. In 2013, over 73 percent of blacks were born out of wedlock as opposed to 29 percent of whites. If it’s of any consolation to my black readers, don’t worry, whites are catching up. Today, only four years later, whites are nearing the 41 percent mark. What does all of this mean. It may not take a village to raise a child, but a couple of caring and devoted parents would be a pretty goddamned good start. Single mothers are wonderful. They are to be commended for their drive to raise their kids. It’s even great that they want kids in the first place. Unfortunately, it’s really a bitch to raise a kid and have a job that pays enough to afford day care, renting an apartment in a decent neighborhood, or buying a house…funny, things just don’t work that way. I say this to every woman of child-bearing age, “Before you go to bed with a man, please ensure (a) that he’s wearing a condom; (b) that he’s a man who will stand by you should you become pregnant; (c) that this is the guy you wish to spend the rest of your life with; (d) that this horny bastard will be a good father; (e,f,g and onward) do you really want to get laid that badly that you haven’t thought through the consequence of what might possibly happen?” I love sex. I love making love. I’m so damned old now that I’ve almost forgotten what I loved about it, but I do remember just how wonderful it was. I remember how wonderful it was for us to welcome our first child, a girl. We had lost three before she was born. The best advice we ever got from a doctor was, “Keep trying.” Suffice it to say, he didn’t have to tell me more than once. But then again, we were married. I had a job. This was a “til death do you part” thing. It wasn’t any, “Wham, bam, thank you maam.” Yeah, I’d had several of those before marriage…the young man sowing his wild oats, and yeah, I’d had unprotected sex…largely because I, like so many others, was stupid.

Okay, enough of that. Black men have a responsibility, just as every other man does, to be a father in a family. If a woman becomes pregnant, she has every right to give birth to that child with the expectation that the man who impregnated her will share an equal responsibility for raising that child. I happen to believe that she also has the right to abort that fetus, but that’s a discussion for another time. If the guy is unwilling to take responsibility – white, black, brown, yellow, pink, or green – don’t sleep with him. If you’re that starved for sex, buy some toys; at least, they won’t run out on you!

End of sermon, but don’t forget…”You loot, we shoot.”

All I know is that this is the kind of day when people should not be exposed to me. The alarm went off at its usual three-forty-five. It took a while for me to recognize what it was, but eventually the light dawned on marble-head, and I shut the damned thing off. The compression socks that I put on argued like the devil with me about which was heel and which was toe, which was left and which was right, but we finally came to an agreement…at least, I think we did because my sneakers fit over them rather easily.

You should understand that I sleep in my workout gear. Oh, sure, I change before getting into bed, but it’s the workout gear into which I’m changing. I’m not, I’m not, I mean I really am not quite awake when I am supposedly awake. It’s a good act until I bump into a wall or collapse back on the bed…sneakers on and must begin the entire process of arising once more. There was a time…I’m not sure, I say, I’m not quite sure when that was, but there was a time when I could just pop out of bed, wide awake and get on with the day…when the hell was that anyway?

Anyway…oh, did I begin a new paragraph…I’ll be damned; I guess I did. Well…after performing my morning ablutions…that’s going to the bathroom, brushing my teeth/tooth, and combing my head with a sponge, I sit at the computer, click on the Greater Good Network, feed the hungry, provide mammograms for the poor, and click on sites for autism, veteran’s benefits, Alzheimer’s research, and a few other things. If I’m still viewing the monitor, I then check the blog to see who has left me a nasty comment…. this time, and then move on to read – yes, my eyes are open, and the brain is slowly awakening – the Washington Post, Boston Globe, and Chicago Tribune. I then proceed to the kitchen, eat my protein bar, drink my black cherry V-8 fusion, take my morning pills, and head off to the gym.

That didn’t happen today. At least I performed well until getting to the computer. There followed a brain cramp that set me looking at a blank computer screen with no thoughts of how to proceed. Eventually, I managed to click on to help all those folks mentioned above, but even there my heart wasn’t in it. Gym, gym, what gym? Why would I go to the gym? I can’t even get me arse out of this chair. (If you’re getting the idea that this morning was not starting well, congratulations.) Newspapers, what newspapers? Why the hell would I want to read newspapers? It took me well over an hour just to haul my pain-wracked bod to the kitchen, eat the friggin’ protein bar, slurp down the fusions, take the pills, and stumble back to bed…thankfully, not meeting anyone along the way. This day was, in my own self-tortured mind, the day from hell of which I’ve heard others speak.

Thankfully, that was several days ago. I don’t wish to have any more of those days…ever…ever again. Those days are not me. It was almost as though my body and mind had been invaded by some other species while I was sitting at the computer. Looking back at it – from afar I might add – that day really sucked. I mean, really, there are days when I’d rather sleep in and not go to the gym, but I go, and once there, enjoy myself and my workouts, but this, this was something totally different. Ah, well, screw it, because I’m back to being me…and having a great deal of fun.

Now, on to more pleasant things. Number one son just returned from a couple of weeks in Taipei, Taiwan. He was on the coaching staff of the US swim team that was competing there. One of the great things about Rick and this international coaching gig is that I will often receive a T-shirt or more from his trips. It’s also wonderful to hear his tales of adventure from the many foreign countries he’s been blessed to visit. The only down side is the number of days per year that he is away from his wife and children, but from all appearances, everyone has his head screwed on straight and that, too, is a blessing.

Well, for now, that’s about all that’s new on the home front. When the urge to write strikes, I will, once more, sit down for a critique of the latest goings-on in Washington, or babbling about something else that I find of interest. Until then, take care and be safe.

If there is no other lesson to be learned from the Trump presidency, it should be this…never make jokes about Donald Trump in a public gathering. President Barack Obama made this error when he chided Trump at the Washington correspondents’ dinner a few years ago. As a result, Trump is attempting to completely erase any evidence that there was a 44th President of the United States.

Think about this for a moment…the first thing that Trump did was to attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act put into place by the Obama presidency. That failed. Where Obama welcomed immigrants to this country, Trump has attempted to block immigrants from entering. Whereas Obama, by executive decision, protected young children who were brought into this country through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) order, Trump is now rescinding that and turning it over to a Congress that has so many difficult issues on its plate that it is highly doubtful DACA will even make it to the floor of either legislative house. It seems to me that rather than putting these people at risk of deportation, Jeff Sessions and company should be concentrating on the gangs that are gaining more power day by day. Could it be that the Justice Department is so afraid of being outgunned that they are leaving the Latin Kings and the 923 other recognized gangs in this country alone. We have a serious gang problem, a serious opioid problem, a serious ‘other’ drug problem, a serious violence problem, and most of it can be found in the gangs in our country. Why are we allowing them to proliferate to the degree that we are? If Trump wants a legacy, this is certainly an area in which he could have an impact.

Perhaps I’m wrong (and it wouldn’t be the first time) but it just appears that Trump is trying to erase any vestige of an Obama presidency. He has already shown that rather than unite the country he is more intent on dividing it than any other USA leader ever before. His pissing contest with Kim Jong Un will, most certainly, lead us into war unless some adult walks into the Oval Office and gives Trump the spanking he deserves. I find it difficult to believe, as Nikki Haley so eloquently put it, that “North Korea is begging for war.” His so-called rallies appear to do no more than to whip his electoral base into a frenzy of hate against those who are not exactly like him.

You must understand that I often return to these essays days after I have started writing. Using that as a segue, I must tell you what happened when Juli and I went shopping this morning. She prefers to shop alone since I (she tells me…and it’s true) walk too slowly and must examine damn near every product on the shelves (also true). As a consequence, I am consigned to the car where I can read my Kindle or watch people come and go. I remarked to here upon her return that people appeared to be angered by having to stop their cars at the crosswalk in front of Wegman’s to allow shoppers to cross. “Americans are in a state of anger right now,” she said. “People are mad because they have to go to work; they’re mad because Confederate statues are being taken down or not taken down; they’re mad because they think we might be on the verge of nuclear annihilation; they’re mad because we have a guy in the White House (she said, “President,” but I refuse to call him that) who is dividing the country rather than uniting it. Face it, Dick, people are pretty pissed off right now.” Frankly, I think she summed it up pretty well. We are a nation that needs to be brought together. Harvey saw the best…and the worst…of how Americans can work together in times of crisis. Irma will bring out the same thing. We will band together to help everyone who has been damaged, physically and mentally, by both storms. Volunteers will appear and pitch in to help, many without being asked. Will this salve the current American anger? Not to the extent that we all wish it would. Congress will be back in session and politics will once again assume it’s not-so-rightful-place as a hotbed of inactivity. The White House will blame Congress for inaction and in six months Trump will say that DACA is now dead because of Congress. He’ll then tell Jeff Sessions to “round ‘em up and head ‘em out,” thus causing greater anger in the country with the possibility of open rebellion, like that which takes place in other countries daily.

If the Republican majority in Congress cannot put together a workable plan to keep the younger men and women of DACA here, and develop a plan for them to attain citizenship, then this Congress deserves dissolution. If they cannot, before their next break, put together a tax reform package that simplifies the Federal Tax Code in an equitable manner, Congress deserves to be dissolved. If Congress cannot pull together a comprehensive immigration package before the holidays, all – not some, but all – members of the United States Congress should be voted out of office and a new group of people with some sense and love of this nation should be placed in charge of our legislative branch. Am I mad? You bet your ass I’m mad. I’m mad at Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey. I’m mad at Stephen Lynch and every other member of Congress from Massachusetts because I believe they are playing the same kind of political games that are also attributable to Tom Connor of Arkansas, Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, and a great many others who could be listed.

Get mad, America, and when these people ask for your financial support, tell them to stop begging and start doing some real work to get this country happy and moving again. We used to say, “Don’t let the bastards grind you down.” I’m saying, “Don’t let this President and this Congress grind you down,” for they are trying their damndest to do so.

Watching the television reports from Houston has restored my faith in America. When the chips are down, America rallies. When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, the military recruiting stations could hardly keep up with the numbers of young men signing up to join the fight. When New England was smashed by four consecutive Mondays of severe snow in 1978, plows from as far away as Wisconsin moved east to get the streets cleared and the snow melted. When Sandy devastated the Jersey shore, contributions and equipment took over to aid those who had lost everything. Now, once more, American grit is coming to the fore with volunteers from around the nation coming to the aid of the people of Houston and its surrounding areas. It can best be summoned up by the words of one single volunteer shown moving a man in a wheelchair from a nursing home onto a vehicle to move that man to safety…”I just want to help,” he said, and that’s probably what would escape the lips of every professional and amateur volunteer who is wading through the waist-deep, dangerous deposit left by Hurricane Harvey.

Despite the heroism of the volunteers, first responders from everywhere, and the efforts of the American Red Cross, there will always be those who see tragedy as a way to profit. The Texas attorney general is already taking a look at one store that was charging $99 for a case of water. Some hotels were doubling the rates for their rooms. Looters were everywhere to be found which might well explain why some folks were so reluctant to leave their homes. It’s unfortunate but this, too, is a part of the American psyche. Thankfully, it’s a much smaller part than that of the heroics that we are watching on the nightly news.

It will, undoubtedly, take years to know the final cost of what storm ravaged towns in Texas, Louisiana, and perhaps other states will be. With more than 32,000 in shelters right now, how many more will have to be saved by the Coast Guard and the Air Force is anyone’s guess. What frightens me the most is how Washington will proceed in helping the victims of this disaster. Two years after Sandy, billions of appropriated dollars were still not paid out due to the bureaucratic hogwash that various governmental agencies put victims through to get aid. Now is the perfect time for the men and women of Congress to throw aside their political differences, appropriate the necessary funds to help Texas, and ensure that those funds are distributed with a minimum of bureaucratic bullshit.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Anthropologist Margaret Mead said that. Thoughtful and committed well describes the volunteers and the professionals in Texas. It’s unfortunate that so many people in the bureaucracies of government are neither thoughtful or committed. Granted, there are many wonderful civil servants who wish nothing more than to help those who have been devastated by one natural disaster or the other. The problem appears to be the number of regulatory stumbling blocks that have been placed in their way that prevents them from clearing claims more quickly.

One of the most difficult tasks of government, whether it’s local, state, or federal, is to reduce the number of bureaucracies once they have been created. And just like Topsy, once created, they just grow and grow and grow, all too often because someone’s relative needs a paycheck. In a report released in 2013, it was noted that “Over the past three years, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found 162 areas where agencies are duplicating efforts, at a cost of tens of billions of dollars.” In one instance, it was said that each of the branches of the military were creating their own camouflage uniforms without consulting with the other branches. As the GAO issues its annual report to Congress regarding the redundancies, it should be noted that all of the redundant agencies have been created by Congress. It really makes one question the wisdom of Congressional leaders. Even after the first GAO report was submitted, Congress took any kind of action to reduce the overlaps and redundancies on less than half of the recommendations.

I tend to be very harsh in my criticism of the United States Congress. I am that because of the stupidity of political partialism and in part because of the pork barrel politics that takes place at the federal level. If a project proposed by a certain Senator or Representative is worthy, it should be able to stand on its own and not have to be added to some bill that may have fifty or a hundred other addended projects. Perhaps I’m being naïve but that’s just how my mind happens to work.

If Mr. Trump is concerned about Federal Tax Reform, which right now looks to benefit the rich and screw the middle class once more, perhaps he would be wiser to take a hard look at the 23 different federal agencies that are running hundreds of programs to support renewable energy, or any one of the hundreds of duplicate agencies performing the same tasks. This is where our waste is. Think of it this way: You have a family budget, so much for the rent or mortgage; so much for groceries; so much for utilities such as heat, light, and water usage. What if Dad paid all of those bills and then Mom did the same thing without bothering to tell the old man. Seems kind of wasteful, doesn’t it? Basically, that’s what Congress has done with our taxpayer dollars. They have created a bunch of federal agencies performing the same tasks and merely costing you and me more money. Trump is right when he says that he wants “to drain the swamp.” The problems are (a) he doesn’t know where the swamps are; (b) he doesn’t know how to work with Congress to get the action required to eliminate the redundancies; (c) he has his priorities screwed up. If that continues to be the case, I can only say, “Good luck, Texas, because you’re going to need it if you are to rebuild the areas destroyed by Happy Harvey and his horrendous hits.

“There is a front moving down from Canada. It has paralyzed Quebec and is promising to be the worst blizzard that New England has seen in over 75 years. Residents are warned that we are expecting more than eight feet of snow from this first storm, and it appears that there are prospects of both a second and third storm to follow. We’re not kidding here, folks. You have just about five days before this first blizzard hits. MEMA and the American Red Cross are preparing to open shelters for those who do not feel they will be safe in their homes. Get prepared now.”

Okay, you’ve been warned. You’re a New Englander. You’ve lived through the Blizzard of ’78, the snows of 2013, the horrors of Hurricane Eustis in 2028, and you believe that you’re immortal, inviolable, and invincible. Nothing can get to you. You’re Superman, Wonder Woman, and the Hulk all rolled into one. Why are you not worried? Why are you these super heroes? Why do you not have a care in the world about this impending disaster? Simple, you have your checklist. You know how to prepare. You take responsibility for you and your family and you take that responsibility seriously. What do I mean by that? Once you were informed that a major storm was headed your way, you immediately checked to ensure that the pantry was filled with non-perishable food, that all medicines were current and up-to-date, and if not, that they were refilled as insurance. How was the supply of bottled water, batteries for flashlights, back-up batteries for electronic devices, candles, and other necessities?

It’s not difficult to be prepared for emergencies. If you live in an area where certain types of disasters occur on an annual basis, you understand the need for pre-disaster-prep. A friend of mine lives in California, near the San Andreas fault. He has an evacuation bag hanging from his bedpost. In it are a pair of work boots, a few cans of food, some bottled water, a can opener, wooden matches, and several other emergency items. Is he prepared? He’s not too concerned, because he knows that he can grab that bag in the event an earthquake should happen at night. He knows there will be a great deal of broken glass in the area, hence the work boots. He is responsible and prepared.

I recognize the Hurricane Harvey was of epic proportions. I recognize that 51 inches of rain can do a hell of a lot of damage and that preparing for such a storm may be difficult. However, if I know a week ahead of time that such a storm is going to hit, I would do one of two things: (1) pack the kids in the car and fill the trunk with critical documents, non-perishables, water, etc., and get to higher ground, as far away from the storm as possible, or; (2) evacuate to a shelter when I was advised to do so by people who were far more aware of the impending danger than me. It floors me that people who were told to evacuate didn’t do so. I’m shocked when I hear people say that they didn’t know the storm would be “this bad.” When someone complains that she was trapped in the house with her two kids who didn’t have insulin for their pumps, I want to call her irresponsible and stupid. There was plenty of notice on this storm. There was time to prepare. There was time to get to shelters on high ground. There were buses to take evacuees to safe centers. Instead, many people chose to stay in homes they knew would be flooded. They chose to put the lives of rescuers on line when they could have just as easily rescued themselves. What could they possibly have of such value in their houses that they would opt to stay rather than do what they were told by those more knowledgeable? It just boggles the mind.

It’s difficult for me to fully express my admiration for the men, women, and young adults who have pitched in with power boats, jet skis, high trucks, kayaks, and other rescue vehicles…they are amazing in their dedication to their fellow man. The Coast Guard, National Guard, and the good ole “Cajun Navy” have been terrific in their efforts to guide stupid people to safety. It bothered the daylights out of me to hear a person say, “We’ve been in this shelter for three days without showers, and the floor is littered with debris, and….” Yadda, yadda, yadda. I want to say, “Hey, bitch, grab a broom and recruit others to help you clean up some of this debris. You were rescued. Now do your part. Stop complaining and start helping.” That, I’m quite certain, would be met with surprise or shock that I would dare ask an evacuee to do something to help him or herself. Granted, these people have lost everything. Granted, they are a little dazed right now. Granted, their lives have been changed forever. And it is now time to admit that, suck it up, and begin the rebuilding process. If that rebuilding begins with grabbing a broom, so be it. If it begins with finding a way to create showers for those wishing to take them, so be it. Don’t stand around and complain. Get off your butt and do something. Rescuers can only do so much. The rescued now must face some pretty harsh facts, and complaining to television cameras is no way to begin rebuilding their lives.

I’m not in Houston. I’m not in that perilous situation. I’m the guy who would have evacuated when told to do so. I’m the guy who would have gotten to the shelter and asked, “What can I do to help?” I’m old, but I can still do a few things to ease the job of other volunteers. You really don’t have to look too far to find someone who is worse off than you. The question is, are you going to help them or are you going to be the complainer who thinks only of your own situation?

The plane banks and wings its way west now, the sun reflecting on its wide fuselage, back out over the sea, its deadly cargo not yet even delivered…but it will be…soon enough. Soon enough, the message of death will land on a city of one and a half million residents, a city that will no longer exist once the message is delivered. The residents will never know…a blinding flash of light and almost instant incineration. The fortunate ones will be caught on the street. Their minds will not have the opportunity to even process what is happening to them. Those in the high-rise buildings, protected by their steel and concrete may, with luck, have a second or two to begin to understand the enormity of what is taking place. Those in the underground, waiting for trains or subways, may have a minute or so before the fireballs envelop them and turn them into smoldering embers. One million souls cast out in less time than it takes to sing, “Oh say, can you see by the dawn’s early light.” This is the light of darkness. This is the light of a war we pray never to see.

Philadelphia, the cradle of liberty, birthplace of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, home to the liberty bell and the first Continental Congress…gone…ash…hurricane force winds destroying Devon, Blue Bell, Wyncote and Bryn Mawr. Devastation in Haddonfield, Swarthmore, Narberth, and Fort Washington. Why? What did those people do to invite this apocalypse?

Could it all happen? Could we see Philadelphia, Chicago, New York, Washington, Boston, Los Angeles all disintegrate in fractions of minutes or even seconds? Sure, it could happen. I don’t know that we have a weapons system that could detect and destroy planes or missiles approaching our cities before they wreaked havoc. I’d like to think that we have such systems in place. However, if we cannot protect our voting machines, what confidence can I have that such a weapons system will work when or if the time comes when it might be needed?

Fortunately, the world has some reasonably cool heads of states desperately working to ensure that a scenario such as the one above never takes place. Unfortunately, the United States does not appear to have a cool head of state. Instead, we have a hot head, an out-of-control ignoramus who, despite his posturing, has never really negotiated a real deal in his life. He says he has, but who’s to believe him? He is an inveterate liar, a narcissist, a self-centered egotist who is capable only of bluster and threats. Who can say when all that hardline talk may fall on the ears of an enemy of America who finally says, “Ah, screw this. Bomb the son-of-a-bitch.” Most assuredly, the US would retaliate, but would it be too late to prevent catastrophes in several of our major cities.

Does all of this sound like a fantasy. Consider the number of lies that Trump has told – it’s now well over 1,000 – and think about what we haven’t heard, what he’s said when the microphones weren’t turned on, when he didn’t bother to tweet. Consider how quickly he has thrown his supposed friends under the bus of public scrutiny with claims that they were grandstanders or incompetents or disloyal to him. This is not a dictatorship where all members of the king’s court must pledge unfailing fealty to the leader. This is a democracy, where healthy discussion and even disagreement should be encouraged even in the highest circles of power. Without that type of discourse, the democratic process fails and the dictatorship becomes more probable.

I’m pushing 83 years on this earth, but I have children and grandchildren, and I don’t want to see their lives destroyed by some megalomaniac who is so self-absorbed that he fails to understand his responsibility to the peons beneath him. It has become apparent that Mike Pence is nothing but a yes man with little spine and even members of his own family seem to be avoiding him. Unless General Kelly and a few others can rein this madman in, I truly fear for the future of America. People laugh and tell me that I’m being too pessimistic, that ‘they’ would never allow his alt-right mentality to reach the point of putting the entire nation at risk. I cannot help but wonder if these are people cut from the same bolt of cloth as proud Germans were in the mid-thirties. I hope and pray that I’m wrong. I hope and pray that our systems of checks and balances will work and bring this mad dog to heel or impeach him to hell out of office.