Deep Down Things


Moving to the “Social Virtues” blog
March 9, 2011, 12:38 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Hello there, former reader or random person who stumbled on this blog. This was a blog that I intended to be long-term, but after a flurry of writing in August and September 2009, I fell away, for reasons I can’t quite figure. Just plain busyness… it’s that what we all tell ourselves?

Well, I’m restarting blogging, but in the meantime, I’ve grown fond of Blogger because of its integration with Google. I’m using lots of Google apps for all kinds of work, and I started using Blogger for teaching in some online courses, as I am a college professor. I also find it easier to edit and design the way I’d like it to look. And I think it will be easier for readers to comment on the blog on that site.

So, please follow me over to¬†http://socialvirtues.blogspot.com/. “Deep Down Things” will stay around for a bit longer, and then be removed.



An ethical withdrawal from Iraq
September 25, 2009, 2:36 pm
Filed under: Global issues, Iraq, War & peace | Tags:

I read with interest and agreement this essay by Nicolaus Mills and Michael Walzer in the New Republic on ethical guidelines for withdrawal from Iraq. Influenced by Walzer’s writings on the ethics of war, I had penned thoughts along these lines a few years ago.

I also reacted to some ill-founded criticisms by two commenters on the article, and I am reproducing my response here. Oddly enough, one commenter was anti-Obama and seemed to think that all plans for withdrawal were capitulation to jihadism; therefore, he harshed on Walzer as a capitulator. The other writer (to the extent I can figure him out) was anti-Bush; therefore he seemed to think that Walzer analysis was too abstract and failed to criticize the failed war harshly enough. Here’s what they both missed:

Walzer is not commenting on whether keeping troops in Iraq is a good idea or not. He begins with the historical observation that “Nations carefully plan for wars. They mobilize support for them. But typically they rush into withdrawals….” Walzer is starting with the *factual* premise that America has committed to removing all its combat forces by the end of 2011. The Iraqi government remanded this of the U.S. George Bush agreed to it, if you don’t recall, and Obama is continuing with that plan. Right or wrong, it is what the Iraqis want; want the Democrat and Republican consensus it; and what most Americans want (Gallup polls for the last three years show 60% support for withdrawal on a timetable.) I take Walzer to be saying that this withdrawal is happening and, given that, it should be done ethically. Isn’t it better to have a thoughtful, planned, ethically guided withdrawal than the alternatives he discusses? Neither of you comment on the substance of his guidelines given these political facts.



Bah!
September 10, 2009, 4:10 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I’m going to leave that post as it is below, to show you that I’m having a lot of troubles getting pictures to load to my blog in the right way. So close your eyes and imagine a golden-orangey sunset, with shadowy palm leafs hanging in the foreground…



Sunsets in Israel
September 10, 2009, 4:06 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

It has been hard to write as often as I want, as I try to get back in the rhythm of the school year. My apologies if you have been waiting for a new post.

A reader and fellow teacher, who noted my August posting of sunsets, sent me two from his own summer travels to Israel. Here are sunset at the Tel Aviv Boardwalk on 7/15/09 and sunset at the Sea of Galilee on 8/8/09. They are quite remarkable. Thanks to my friend.



They work hard everyday!
September 4, 2009, 10:54 am
Filed under: Economy, Health care reform | Tags:

This video complements the Happy Labor Day post below. The passage referred to starts at time point 5:30.



Happy Labor Day weekend
September 4, 2009, 10:49 am
Filed under: Economy, Health care reform | Tags: ,

If you’ve been looking for a new post, sorry that it’s taken me a week to write one. Who knows where a week goes? Around my house, we’ve been dealing with the transition back to school for both kids (4th grade and pre-K) and both parents (my wife is a high school teacher; my semester starts the day after Labor Day).

I’ve got a few posts coming up soon, in particular my observations on attending one of the health care reform town meetings that Rep. Jim Himes of Connecticut held last night.

As I process my thoughts on that town hall meeting, with Ted Kennedy still on my mind and with Labor Day weekend upon us, my mind stumbled on a deep memory of Jesse Jackson’s amazing speech at the 1988 Democratic Convention (full text here; video above). The passage below is seared in my memory. It’s very relevant to the health care debate that we are having as a nation. It’s also something to remember on Labor Day, when we should enjoy not just a rest from our labors, but should honor those who work hard every day.

Most poor people are not lazy. They are not black. They are not brown. They are mostly White and female and young. But whether White, Black or Brown, a hungry baby’s belly turned inside out is the same color — color it pain; color it hurt; color it agony.

Most poor people are not on welfare. Some of them are illiterate and can’t read the want-ad sections. And when they can, they can’t find a job that matches the address. They work hard everyday.

I know. I live amongst them. I’m one of them. I know they work. I’m a witness. They catch the early bus. They work every day.

They raise other people’s children. They work everyday.

They clean the streets. They work everyday. They drive dangerous cabs. They work everyday. They change the beds you slept in in these hotels last night and can’t get a union contract. They work everyday.

No, no, they are not lazy! Someone must defend them because it’s right, and they cannot speak for themselves. They work in hospitals. I know they do. They wipe the bodies of those who are sick with fever and pain. They empty their bedpans. They clean out their commodes. No job is beneath them, and yet when they get sick they cannot lie in the bed they made up every day. America, that is not right. We are a better Nation than that. We are a better Nation than that.



Summer reading: Verghese
August 27, 2009, 12:47 pm
Filed under: Books | Tags:

As kids head back to school around the country, probably most of them had to make some report on their summer reading. How about the adults: what did you read this summer that made on impact on you–or that you just enjoyed? What would your recommend to others? Your comments are welcome.

A big novel I read this summer was Abraham Verghese’s Cutting for Stone. Verghese is a medical doctor, medical teacher, and author of both fiction and nonfiction. (His blog at the Atlantic is linked at left.) He is proponent of the value of ¬†literature and the humanities in the training of medical personnel; he has drawn from his medical experiences to write memoirs that open up readers’ minds and hearts to the abiding questions, joys, and sorrows of human life. He is best known for My Own Country, which explores at those joys, sorrows, and questions through the vista of his experience treating patients with HIV in rural Tennessee at the start of the AIDS crisis.

Cutting for Stone is his first novel. It tells the story of twin brothers of Indian-English parents being raised at a missionary hospital in Ethiopia. We follow the story through the eyes of one twin, Marion Stone, as his rearing parents enliven him to the joys of doctoring. I can hardly summarize the plot without using a lot of words, as the story ranges into all sorts of themes and events: wondering about one’s true parents (the twins their mother at birth and the father abandoned them); sibling rivalry; first teenage romance; living in a politically dangerous situation. And through it all, the allure of medical mysteries.

I was rapt by Verghese’s descriptions of the natural beauty and culture of Ethiopia. There is much excitement as a family drama plays out against the backdrop of rebellion and dictatorship. Later in the novel, the reader gets an inside look at what it like to be a foreign medical doctor in the U.S. Verghese makes you feel the passion that draws people to a medical career. Through it all, the question of what you would do for the people you love–even when they have hurt you–makes the novel resonate, I think, with any reader.




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