A Father’s Pride

I have never met, nor will ever meet, Richard Cheney.  There is no doubt that we strongly disagree regarding the wisdom of the United States’ invasion of Iraq in 2003 and whether its aftermath strengthened or weakened America.  That said, as last night I watched Mr. Cheney’s daughter, U.S. WY Rep. Liz Cheney, speak on the floor of the United States House of Representatives, as a father I was confident that Mr. Cheney – a former White House Chief of Staff, a former U.S. Representative for the State of Wyoming, a former United States Secretary of Defense, a former Vice President of the United States — considered her stand his proudest moment.

We will never see more important words spoken in the defense of the United States of America.  A link to Ms. Cheney’s remarks appears below.     

A Couple of COVID Notes

Two unrelated notes pertaining to the pandemic:

I’m not sure how widely know this is — it has been reported by a number of news outlets – but those Americans who turned 60 in 2020 face an adverse, and potentially significantly adverse, Coronavirus-related reduction in their lifetime Social Security benefits if Congress fails to enact a remedy in 2021.  The potential shortfall arises from the manner in which Social Security calculates recipients’ benefits, which is based on the average wages of all workers in the year in which they turn 60.  Average wages fell notably from 2019 to 2020 due to the COVID-induced recession.  It is well worth recording on these pages since several that read these posts were born in 1960. 

This issue could arguably have been rectified as part of the recent COVID relief package, but wasn’t.  Members of Congress are aware of this impending “notch” in benefits, and there appears to be bipartisan support for fixing it; a couple of bills have been introduced to alleviate the irregularity.  That said, this is a problem deserving immediate attention; those that turned 60 in 2020 will be eligible to start claiming benefits as they hit age 62 during 2022, and at that point, it will seemingly become more difficult to unscramble the egg.  The links below are to articles, now spanning almost a year, calling attention to the issue.  One of the pieces reports that those turning 60 in 2009 faced a similar “notch” due to the Great Recession that was never addressed.

https://www.prweb.com/releases/people_born_in_1960_face_permanent_social_security_benefit_reductions_says_the_senior_citizens_league/prweb17706617.htm

https://www.aarp.org/retirement/social-security/info-2020/pandemic-impacts-1960-birth-year-benefits.html

https://www.cnbc.com/2020/08/05/some-retirees-social-security-benefits-could-dip-unless-congress-acts.html

Separately:  all who care are aware that the average weekly number of Coronavirus vaccines being administered across America is beginning to decline.  Over the weekend, the Wall Street Journal ran an account, “Officials Push to Encourage Shots,” which reported that nonprofit sources project that the United States’ supply of vaccines will exceed demand within the next month.  We are apparently yet reasonably far from achieving herd immunity.  Public health officials across the country are now devising programs on vaccine education to overcome the hesitancy of some citizens to get the shots and on making it more convenient for some population segments – not only those facing employment, transportation, or other barriers, but those whom the article refers to as “unmotivated” — to become vaccinated.  It was presumably to these “unmotivated” that an Alabama health official was referring when described in the article as declaring that he is ready to get down on his knees and beg residents to get shots.

The programs that these health professionals are initiating are obviously vital, and all efforts should be undertaken and no expense spared to get vaccinated those who truly seek the vaccine but are constrained by barriers beyond their control.  That said, there are people dying across the globe – e.g., India is on the brink of collapse, and Brazil remains in chaos — that would do whatever was within their power to obtain protection if vaccinations were available to them.  While being mindful that we need to maintain sufficient production and supply to provide boosters to vaccinated Americans if, as Pfizer has already suggested, such might be necessary, I would favor an Administration announcement on May 1 that starting August 1 – after all Americans wishing to be vaccinated will have had at least ten weeks to receive readily-available shots — the United States will start to divert its vaccine supply and priorities from the United States to other countries in need, and that there will no longer be a vaccine availability guarantee or federal funding available to vaccinate those Americans who had not already been vaccinated.

A suggestion born of exasperation with obstinacy?  Clearly.  Even so:  what would you wager that if currently-unvaccinated Americans believed that the Administration meant what it said — that indeed, as of a certain deadline, they couldn’t be sure of getting vaccinated even if they wanted to — another 10% to 20% of our people (which, according to the Wall Street Journal article, health experts believe would put us pretty close to herd immunity) wouldn’t overcome their recalcitrance and find a way to get their shots?

One Season Following Another

On a particularly cold Saturday morning in January, 1990, our two sons and I were returning home from an errand.  Our oldest, then 9, was in the front passenger seat; our youngest, then 4, was safely – at least by the standards of the day – strapped in a back seat.  Our oldest has always thought long term; even then, he and I were casually discussing when he would someday go away to college. 

We got home; our oldest went into the house; I came around to get his brother out of the back seat.  Our youngest looked up at me, and said, “I don’t have to leave, do I?” 

Faced with that question from a small one, you respond even as you know that things will change:  “No, son.  You never have to leave.  You can always stay here with Mom and me.”

Our son — whom I assured on that long-ago day that he never had to leave home – is now based in Brazil.  A COVID silver lining for his parents:  he and our daughter-in-law just spent the better part of a month with us while they received their two-shot COVID vaccinations.  While all are aware of the stresses families face when economic difficulties require adults to rejoin their childhood households, the pleasure of having one’s adult child return home for an extended stay without such pressure cannot be adequately described. 

As we settled into a routine, our Cariocas (the Brazilian term for residents of Rio de Janeiro) at first shivered in the chill of Wisconsin’s early spring, then acclimated … at least to an extent.  Our son took our daughter-in-law around the neighborhood, which it must be conceded still retains more than a passing resemblance to the Cleavers’ 1950s TV neighborhood.  After one of their walks, he brought home an old baseball he had found in a field near his grade school.  We played catch on a couple of occasions [our boys could fling the ol’ pill around a lot longer than I could; inasmuch as I had literally not picked up a baseball in over 20 years  and given my vintage, I quickly developed “Fauci Arm”  ;)].

The two worked throughout their visit; TLOML and I found it entertaining to watch the Rio de Janeiro Bureau Chief of a major news outlet provide insights on the chaotic state of Brazil’s politics and its COVID response in televised interviews against the backdrop of one of the walls of his boyhood bedroom. Our daughter-in-law maintains an Instagram site through which she provides enticing plant-based recipes to thousands of Spanish speakers throughout the Americas; as she posted her creations, our kitchen was beamed across the world [making us particularly glad we had remodeled a few years back  ;)].  [A number of her followers were intrigued by life in a Midwestern American neighborhood; others inquired as to how her decidedly carnivorous father-in-law was enjoying her vegan dishes.  I could assure them that each was, indeed, magnifico : )].

Vaccinated, our son and daughter-in-law have now returned to their life in Rio.  Although we have been empty-nesters for over 15 years, the house is and for a while will be empty, and silent.  Even so, we have mostly felt the joy and warmth of a great visit as we have moved furniture back to normal spots, reshelved books, and returned the lawn games to their accustomed places.  Where my pang came:  picking up the baseball gloves and the found baseball.  For whatever the reason, my immediate association was to a song from TLOML’s favorite musical, Fiddler on the Roof.  A part of one of its verses seemed the appropriate title for this note.

That said, I will venture that our vaccinations and the visit have made us ready to re-enter our lives.  As recently as this week, we have heard a medical professional opine that if one has been fully vaccinated, the primary obstacle to returning to normal pursuits is psychological – reticence born of a year of protective behaviors — not physical.  A number of those that follow these pages are, like us, of retirement age; I would submit that once one has become fully vaccinated, being too reclusive will result in the unnecessary forfeit of irretrievable life space.  Also, we can’t expect President Biden to run the country for too long without the benefit of our guidance  ;). 

The seasons have changed. Let’s go.

On Vaccinations

It has been reported that one out of three adult Americans has already had at least one COVID vaccination shot; we seem well on our way toward President Joe Biden’s expressed goal of being able to provide a vaccination to all Americans who want one within, at the latest, the next sixty days.  I hope that the Administration is already setting plans, assuming our domestic rollout remains on track, to make our unneeded vaccinations available to citizens of disadvantaged nations as the summer proceeds.  Although our international image has taken on more than a bit of tarnish over the last four years, I would venture that these nations, if given the option of receiving vaccines from the United States, China, or Russia, will still instinctively prefer the American option:  likely better quality, almost certainly fewer explicit or implied strings attached.

Closer to home, set forth below is a note I received recently from a very close friend of many decades – whose antics our adult children still well recall from their early days — who will only become aware of my intent to enter it here as he reads this post.  I am confident he won’t mind; when you read the note, I suspect you will share my confidence : ).

“When I was waiting for my second shot, a young lady (30 – 35) or so was pacing around.  I asked her if this was her first shot and if she was nervous.  She said yes.  I told her not to worry, this was going to be my second shot and it’s no big deal.  You just pull down your pants, they give you the shot and you are on your way. 

????!!!!!  She said WHAT???   She thought you get the shot in your arm!  I asked her who told her that?   She said she saw it on TV.   I told her that they can’t put people getting butt shots on TV plus if they did a lot of people might not get the shot.  Then they called her name and I said Good luck.   

Do you know she gave me the finger when she got out of the office?   How rude!” 

I suspect that all that read these pages either have received their vaccinations, or intend to do so when given the opportunity … while of course, keeping their pants on  ;).  Hopefully, many of our fellow citizens currently expressing reservations will soon resolve to do the same.  In the meantime, stay safe.

Easter Reflections on the Georgia Election Law

As all who care are aware, the Republican-dominated Georgia legislature recently passed the state’s “Election Integrity Act of 2021,” purportedly to address alleged irregularities in the state’s voting processes that, according to Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger and as established by several state presidential vote recounts, were never there.  The law appears a pretty ham-handed attempt by Georgia Republicans to limit the voting opportunities of Democratic-leaning voters in a state that has, judging by the narrow 2020 victories of Democrats President Joe Biden and U.S. GA Sens. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, the potential to trend increasingly Democratic.

A provision in the statute that has garnered a fair amount of attention is Section 33, which in the guise of preventing voter inducement, prohibits anyone but a poll officer from “… giving … food and drink, to an elector” in the vicinity of a polling place.

Clearly, anyone determined to wait in line to vote despite a notable thirst has already affirmatively decided how s/he will vote; the rationale that evil doers might be able to persuade a malleable voter to change his/her vote by offering the elector a drink of water – when the voter, if s/he cared so little about the substance of his/her ballot, could simply leave the line and slake his/her thirst — is on its face absurd.  The repressive aspect of the measure has been extensively noted; however, what also struck me were the ironies related to the provision.

First, the prohibition on furnishing food or drink to an elector waiting in the vicinity of a polling place evinces such mean-spirited pettiness that it has made me ponder whether such an obvious display of cancerous partisanship might even cause a conscientious conservative jurist to question the statute’s constitutionality.

That said, what seems to me the sharpest irony arising from this provision — perhaps brought to mind by the Easter Season, combined with a high level of confidence that the majority of the Republican Georgia legislators who voted for the Act consider themselves Christians — is embedded in the Gospel:

“Jesus said, ‘I thirst.’  There was a vessel filled with common wine.  So they put a sponge soaked in wine on a sprig of hyssop and put it up to his mouth.  When Jesus had taken the wine, He said, ‘It is finished.’”

John 19:28-30

Georgia Republican legislators have prohibited the provision of a humane accommodation to fellow Georgians seeking to exercise their constitutional rights that Roman soldiers provided to one they had just crucified as a criminal.

May you have the opportunity to celebrate this time of the year, including as it does holy days sacred to those of multiple Faiths, in the manner you consider most fitting.  Stay safe.

Breaking Out

There was extensive focus last week on the anniversary of the day when America officially shut down because of the Coronavirus.  There has been much appropriate coverage of the COVID stresses that have built on our people over the last year:  on those infected by or taken from us by the virus, and on those that have attended or grieve for them; on healthcare and frontline workers; on the health and emotional challenges faced by large families living in cramped quarters; on parents trying to work from home while ensuring that their children maintain their studies; and on the terrified, looking at their four walls after being laid off.  These have borne the brunt of the pandemic and the attendant enforced isolation.

As all who care are aware, President Biden recently declared that during May, there will be sufficient COVID vaccine for all adult Americans who want one.  I can’t believe that someone who has been as adept at setting COVID expectations as the President would make such a statement if he wasn’t very confident that he could meet it.  This presumably means that all adult Americans seeking to be “fully vaccinated” can achieve the condition within July.  Our need for enforced separation is apparently coming to an end.

I tend to agree with those commentators that have suggested that it will be difficult for the Administration to maintain the cautious line it is currently taking – to the effect that in the summer when all Americans desiring a vaccination will have already had one, it will then be appropriate for limited gatherings.  I expect that the sentiment among the majority of those that get vaccinated will be that those who choose not to be vaccinated had best take care of themselves, and that it will be time to break out — to start “getting back to normal.”  That said, I suspect that there may be a wide variance as to how we each individually emerge from our cocoons.  Some of us have appeared to handle seclusion better than others.  While having a reserved disposition has outwardly provided a healthy coping mechanism throughout the crisis, I would suggest – being cognizant that there are learned psychologists that read these pages, and so tread lightly — that while there has been extensive reporting on the deleterious effect that enforced isolation has had on those commonly considered “extroverts,” those commonly thought of as “introverts” may now be facing a different, but perhaps nonetheless trying, virus-caused transition.  Emotional as well as physical muscles need exertion. Too much isolation for too long might have become too cozy, might have arguably bred in some a disinclination to socialize that could, unaddressed, seemingly become detrimental. 

The other night, we watched one of our favorite films, Shawshank Redemption, which, as virtually all are aware, sets forth events involving prisoners in the fictional Maine Shawshank State Prison.  Toward the end of the film, Morgan Freeman’s character, Red Redding, remarks, “These walls are funny.  First you hate ‘em.  Then you get used to ‘em.  Enough time passes, you get so you depend on ‘em.  That’s institutionalized.”

It would seem that merely getting used to COVID-induced walls, at least for the period we have had to abide thus far, wasn’t bad; that said, the fictional Redding’s observation resonates.  I would submit that this summer, it will be beneficial for those of every personality inclination to actively “break out” — while paying appropriate heed to then-current CDC COVID safety protocols, of course  :).

Reflections on a Requiem for a Republic

Requiem

2a. A solemn chant (such as a dirge) for the repose of the dead; [2]b.  Something that resembles such a solemn chant …”

  • Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary

For someone who fully anticipated the Senate’s Saturday impeachment acquittal of former President Donald J. Trump, I nonetheless found myself unexpectedly despondent. 

My disappointment, at least on Saturday, surprisingly did not relate directly to the damage to our nation that Mr. Trump himself, given the high likelihood that he will soon start loudly proclaiming that he was exonerated by the Senate, may now seek to wreak.  Although one would certainly never count him out, there seems a substantial chance that the former president, reportedly a pariah among serious financiers, will struggle to find lenders willing to help him address the $400 million debt his businesses face in the next few years; he will undoubtedly be dogged by criminal investigations in the State of New York and other parts of the nation, and perhaps in civil venues by those seeking recompense for his part in the Capitol raid or otherwise; and despite his apparent strength among rank-and-file Republicans, his execrable legacy will forever unite quarrelling liberals and progressives and repulse sensible centrists and conservatives.  These factors will arguably make it difficult for him to mount another winning national campaign.

Nor was my ill humor primarily wrought by the knaves and nincompoops that have enabled Mr. Trump:  malignantly ambitious connivers such as U.S. MO Sen. Josh Hawley and U.S. TX Sen. Ted Cruz, or those that can’t find the bathroom (or, if they can find it, are concerned about being exposed to Jewish lasers while within it) such as U.S. WI Sen. Ron Johnson and U.S. GA Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene.  We have always had and will always have our share of nitwits and nefarious.

Nor did I feel any regret for the rioters who actually genuinely believed they were saving their country and now face lives forever altered, at least one ended.  They are adults who should have recognized the grotesque nature of their enterprise.  (I do wonder whether it will dawn on the elite-loathing segment of the Trump cult that while many who heeded his call will suffer, the former president himself will almost certainly “walk” – i.e., face no criminal exposure for his part in causing the riot.)

What troubled me was the fact that 135 more Republican House Representatives voted by secret ballot to keep U.S. WY Rep. Liz Cheney, who voted to impeach Mr. Trump and condemned his behavior in the strongest terms, in GOP House leadership than had the courage to vote to impeach him themselves.  What troubled me were credible reports that if the Senate’s impeachment trial vote had been secret, there would have been 80 to 90 votes – i.e., 30 to 40 Republican votes rather than the seven actually cast — to convict Mr. Trump, presumably including Senate Minority Leader U.S. KY Sen. Mitch McConnell, given his dramatic denunciation of Mr. Trump following the Senate trial.

This amounts to approximately 30% of our national representatives who, when facing the most direct internal challenge to our Republic in 150 years, didn’t have the courage to do their duty although they knew better.  Even U.S. AL Sen. Richard Shelby and U.S. OH Sen. Rob Portman, who are retiring from the Senate and are reputed to be serious men – voted to acquit, presumably pulling a Paul Ryan:  finding it safer to abide un-American behavior than risk being exiled from the safe Republican cocoon in which each has dwelt his entire adult life.  It has made me question whether even imposing term limits on Congressional careers will remedy politicians’ urge to prioritize pleasing their supporters above all other values.

I have no illusions that had the demagogue confronting us been a Democrat, that Congressional Democrats would have performed appreciably better than the Republicans have.

I have heard mixed reviews of Sen. McConnell’s comments after the trial even among those that agreed with their substance.  A very close friend noted to me that although – as Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi noted – the blatant hypocrisy existing in the contrast between Mr. McConnell’s vote and his statement were manifest, Mr. McConnell’s remarks were of exactly the nature that I have indicated that I hope will persuade non-cult Trump followers to abandon him.  Perhaps; but what actually came to my mind as I listened to Mr. McConnell was the oft-quoted observation of Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg in November, 1863 – words that in their modesty were perhaps the most inaccurate ever publicly uttered by Mr. Lincoln, but ironically apropos to Mr. McConnell’s post-trial protestations and the Republicans’ acquittal votes Saturday:  “The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.” 

Since Mr. McConnell cannot believe the poppycock he was spouting about the unconstitutionality of the Senate proceeding, it would appear that either he voted in concert with the Trump zealots – after signaling his sentiments in advance — because he feared ever regaining a Republican Senate majority if a substantial number of Republicans voted to convict Mr. Trump, or he feared losing his leadership mantle if he voted contrary to the wishes of his caucus majority.

Sen. McConnell is undoubtedly familiar with the 18th century Irish-Anglo statesman Edmund Burke, one of the founding fathers of modern conservative thought, who embraced the belief that reliance upon traditional institutions, community, and customs is the best way for a society to advance itself.  Addressing his constituents, Mr. Burke once declared, “ [A representative’s] unbiased opinion, his mature judgment, his enlightened conscience, he ought not to sacrifice to you, to any man, or to any set of men living.  Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.”

As all are aware, I never have any sympathy for Mr. McConnell.  That said, I sensed remorse in his rationalizations.  There is no real justification for what the Republicans have done.  He knew – he knew – that when facing the most perilous internal challenge to our nation in his lifetime, he and his caucus abandoned their duty by failing to convict Mr. Trump.  His remarks seemed akin to a chant; perhaps he felt in his own words a Requiem for a Republic.

An Apology

In the original version of a post published earlier today that appears immediately below, I disparaged in provocative terms the intelligence and savviness of those that might view differently than I do President Trump’s level of culpability for the Capitol riot and the motives of any Republicans that ultimately vote to acquit him at the conclusion of the Senate’s current impeachment trial.  I regretted the tone of the note almost as soon as I published it.  While I have no difficulty condemning in harshest terms the patent malefaction of Mr. Trump, his enablers, the Capitol rioters, and those such as espousers of racism, gender or religious bigotry, one of these pages’ guiding principles is to maintain a level of civility when referring to those of our citizens who, while maintaining the same fundamental values, may simply weigh the same facts differently than I do.  The note as it now appears makes the same substantive points as the original, but in at least a somewhat gentler manner. 

An apology – and an appropriate consequence of Irish Catholic guilt  ;).

The Perspective of an Aging Packer Backer

I know; it was extremely disappointing – indeed, wrenching – for many of those that follow these pages to watch the Green Bay Packers lose to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a game that the Packers should have won.  I doubt many, if told before the game that the Green and Gold, playing in Lambeau Field, would intercept Buccaneer Tom Brady three times, would have predicted a Packer defeat.  Since I consider the officiating mistakes and the two teams’ physical miscues to have about evened out, I would place the loss at the feet of the Packer coaching staff:  it was inexcusable not to impress upon the Packer secondary, with seconds left in the first half, what any sixth grader would realize – Don’t let a receiver get behind you; in going for two points after a touchdown with a lot of time left in the game, rather than taking the almost certain PAT, Head Coach Matt LaFleur was oblivious to what the late Marquette Coach Al McGuire called the “rhythm of the game” – that more points were certain to be scored by both teams and what was needed at that point was to maintain momentum – i.e., avoid the risk of emotional deflation that would necessarily occur if the two-point attempt failed (as it did); and Mr. LaFleur’s coaching malpractice involved in kicking a field goal rather than going for the tying touchdown in the waning minutes.

Fine.  I’m not sure that this would have as readily occurred to me 20 years ago, certainly not 30 or 40:  it is only a game.  Speaking as someone who our nieces and nephews used to say was as entertaining to watch, watching the Packers play, as the game itself – someone who has recorded the vast majority of Packer games for decades rather than watch them live, since his wife didn’t like putting up with the disgruntlement on Sunday nights that invariably accompanied a loss – Packer fortunes, or indeed those of any team, while providing a pleasant distraction from the many cares we face, are indeed that – a distraction.  On the macro level, even if Packer Quarterback Aaron Rodgers never plays another game, Packer fans can look back on the last 29 seasons – since then-Packer Quarterback Brett Favre threw his first touchdown pass to Kitrick Taylor in September of 1992 – and truly say that while the team has at times been an underdog in a given contest, there hasn’t been a game in almost the last 30 years, with Messrs. Favre and Rodgers at the helm, that at the beginning, the team had no chance of winning.  I doubt another pro football franchise can say the same.  We Packer fans have no kick [so to speak ;)] coming.  Was it disappointing for Mr. Rodgers that he didn’t win last night?  Sure.  Given his salary in the tens of millions of dollars – or the fact that every Green Bay player earned at a rate of over $500,000 this season — does his or their disappointment rank with the millions upon millions of afflicted we have around the world?  Obviously not. Regrets devoted to sport today might better be centered on the passing of Henry Aaron, a giant of a man who I submit remains baseball’s true home run king.

So let us reflect on what I consider the brightest national note of 2020 – that by the virtue of a relatively few votes in the states of Arizona, Georgia, and Wisconsin, we avoided becoming prey to a leader I truly consider deranged, and subject to fascist tendencies.  At the same time, we remember the arguably hundreds of thousands of avoidable American deaths and millions of lives needlessly and terribly disrupted by his twisted malfeasance in dealing with the Coronavirus.  Let us look forward with hopes of doing better in this still-new calendar year.  We are led by a good man who truly means well.  The vaccine, despite distribution hiccups, is in the offing.  Most economists cited in the Wall Street Journal believe that our economy will strongly and quickly rebound.  While we cannot bring back those we have needlessly lost, or repair all of the economic loss so many have suffered, as we remember them we can hopefully be part of a renewal that will make the lives of at least some of us, here and around the world, at least a little better.

I recognize that this note sounds less like the vehement lament of a dedicated Packer backer than the ruminations of an aging citizen; I confess that my thoughts didn’t cover as wide an expanse in the moments after the Packer game as they do as I type this; but age does have its benefits.

Stay safe.

Happy Holidays

[These pages may well address on another day the continuing flagrant – if hardly surprising – depravity we are witnessing as the Trump Administration dissolves.  It seems that the remainder of at least this week is best devoted to what Mr. Lincoln in his first Inaugural Address called, “the better angels of our nature.”]  

Perhaps you believe that God sent His (hopefully all will excuse this note’s use of male pronouns for the Almighty) only Son into the world as the Sacrificial Lamb that redeemed us from our sins.  Perhaps your Faith, proclaimed by the Prophets, holds the promise of a Messiah yet to come.  Perhaps you worship Allah, and abide by the teachings promulgated by his Messenger, the Prophet Muhammad.  Perhaps you devoutly follow one of the great Eastern or other sacred Faiths, of which my own knowledge is embarrassingly inadequate (a gap on my retirement list yet to be addressed).  Perhaps you have placed your trust in the Great Spirit of Native American tradition, or have made your own peace with a Being beyond our comprehension.  I believe that one who lives a life pleasing to the Almighty will be reconciled to Him, no matter by what path one has chosen to reach Him.  After a terribly challenging year on so many levels – including a virus which might be characterized as a plague, by Biblical standards – let us hope that as we take heart from what will be an uncommonly limited level of community with family and friends as this year ends, the Almighty provides us the strength, grace, and wisdom to have greater understanding in the coming year for the justifiable concerns of others, and that we work together so that by the end of next year, life will be at least a little better for at least some of those of our citizens and around the world beset by so many burdens.

Have Happy and Safe Holidays.