About Ponderer

Ponderer also writes science fiction and science-inspired rhyming poetry. Check her out at katerauner.wordpress.com/ She worked at Rocky Flats for 22 years - you may know her as Kathy London.

America’s Civil War – When Will We See the Last Battle?

I was all set to write about climate change and the bond market, Traitors' flagwhen I found myself dragged back into the Civil War. We’ve posted before about the lead-up and execution of America’s Civil War and it’s distressing modern remnants, but only recently have I come to appreciate how deeply the evil remains embedded in America.

I saw the incredibly bizarre statement of an American general, John Kelly.

During an interview Monday night on Fox News, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly said that “the lack of the ability to compromise led to the Civil War.”

His comment was swiftly countered by confounded observers, who pointed out that the Civil War was fought over slavery and that compromising on slavery would be morally unconscionable — and that the country did strike such compromises for decades and they did not, in fact, prevent war. NPR

If anything demonstrates we should offer the military respect, but not deference, this is it.

Starting with the Constitutional compromise that preserved slavery in the South, many writers have listed the nation’s shameful willingness to leave black Americans enslaved – to compromise on slavery. If today’s Americans are ignorant of our original sin, our education system has truly failed.

If the South hadn’t demanded slavery be extended into America’s western territories, how long would we have lived with the horrible compromise of our Founders? Would there still be slaves in America today?

I have fallen into political correctness myself, have silently tolerated monuments to Confederate leaders who sacrificed thousands of lives to perpetuate slavery. Perhaps I can understand how a war-weary nation abandoned black citizens to Jim Crow, but what excuse do I have?

Today I have a president who condemns NFL players for kneeling during the National Anthem but celebrates the statues of traitors against America. The Confederate Battle Flag was carried into war against the Stars and Stripes. Its display outside of museums and history books shows more disrespect against the America Flag than a stadium full of protesters.

Of course, not many people would be upset by Confederate monuments if real-life bias had disappeared. Symbols can lead us to action. It’s time to face our past and future with courage, to reject trolls aiming to inflame our divisions, and create a more perfect union.

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Match Made in Heaven

This phrase refers to some collaboration that occurs easily and benefits all parties.

Theidioms says the origin is unknown. The christunitedfellowship suggests Genesis 2:18-25 is the inspiration, which begins

The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man little-angel-mdto be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” New International Version

Wikipedia also suggests a biblical origin, though not a citation for the specific phrase.

Jews have held an ideal standard for Jewish family life that is manifested in the term shalom bayit. Shalom bayit signifies completeness, wholeness, and fulfillment… In Jewish culture, a marriage is described as a “match made in heaven,” and is treated as a holy enterprise.

But I’m pretty sure the first use wasn’t the 1977 movie A Match Made in Heaven

Legacy of Uranium Mining in the Southwest Falls on Navajo Nation

I recently drove through the Navajo Nation reservation in northeastern Arizona. I was on my way to view the eclipse from Idaho, hurrying along the interminable Route 191, idly watching the dry landscape go by. I’d never been there before but words on signs began to tug at my memory – Diné, Shiprock. This is the reservation featured in Tony Hillerman’s novels, by officers Leaphorn and Chee.

I only found images of large and lovely healthcare centers

I only found images of large and lovely healthcare centers

In several little towns I noticed simple store fronts with simple signs – Uranium Care or Uranium Treatment. I’m not sure which it was. They came up and passed by faster than I could grab a picture. I’m not sure now about the words on the signs. What was that about?

A google search at home immediately made it clear.

Uranium mining on the Navajo Nation helped America win World War II, but at an ongoing cost “throughout the once worthless desert landscape of the reservation.” earthisland

Mining companies blasted 4 million tons of uranium out of Navajo land between 1944 and 1986. The federal government purchased the ore to make atomic weapons. As the Cold War threat petered out the companies left, abandoning more than 500 mines. NPR

Maybe early ignorance and the press of war could excuse sloppy and dangerous practices in the 1940s. Perhaps it was fair to ask citizens to bear this burden to defeat the evil of Nazism and the Axis Powers. After all, some paid with their lives in battle. And who, besides the people living locally, were likely to take most of the mining jobs in a remote section of the Great American Desert?

We soon knew better. I myself started work in America’s Nuclear Weapons Complex in 1981. Safety was a priority, and worker health carefully monitored and studied. Today, because of my job, I have certain benefits – part of my compensation for the job I did. By my time, the hazards of exposure to radioactivity were managed and a lot of the complaints about Rocky Flats are hyperbolic. But there’s another American story.

“When they did the mining, there would be these pools that would fill up,” she says. “And all of the kids swam in them. And my dad did, too.”

Many Navajo unwittingly let their livestock drink from those pools, and their children play in mine debris piles… Cancer rates doubled in the Navajo Nation from the 1970s to the 1990s. NPR

I know the people who conscientiously worked at Rocky Flats to ensure worker and public safety. And clean-ups are underway in Arizona:

“We’re spending a lot of time making sure that the polluters pay, so it isn’t the federal taxpayer” … But one-third of the mining companies have shut down or have run out of money. The federal government knew about some of the dangers decades ago, but only started the cleanup in recent years. NPR

I also know, from my recent service as a volunteer fire fighter, that it’s easy to say the words “thank you” and easy to slap a sticker on your car’s bumper.

But who wants to pay? Not my war, not my decision, I’ve got my own problems – entirely understandable. If it weren’t that way, maybe we’d be mired down in the past instead of building a brighter future. Luck plays a huge part in anyone’s life – some draw a good hand and others don’t.

I didn’t find any pictures on the internet of the modest clinics I passed – I’m sorry I didn’t take my own. These people from a different place and – some – a different time are brothers and sisters I never knew.

Sometimes history leaves me sad.

Out of the Blue

bolt from the blueWhen you’re hit out of the blue, something (usually bad) happens without warning. I assumed this phrase refers to aerial bombing during a war. But Phrase Finder say it comes from an older “bolt from the blue” referring to lightning.

The earliest citation is Thomas Carlyle, in The French Revolution, 1837: “Arrestment, sudden really as a bolt out of the Blue, has hit strange victims.”

Another variation is “out of the clear blue sky.”

Don’t be a Jerk – discussing politics, religion, and policy

DebatingSocThis is a repost, but I think it applies more than ever: I attended a lecture by Dr. Benjamin Cline at Western New Mexico University: How to Talk About Religion and Politics Without Being a Jerk.  The world would be a better place if we all tried.

Cline discussed why our passions run so high on these topics: religion and politics are at the core of what makes life worth living for each of us.  They underlie much of what we do.  Our ideology is tied to the meaning of life as we each see it.  It’s our basis for deciding what’s valuable and what sources of information to trust.  Cline asks us to forget the old etiquette advice to avoid these subjects.  We need to talk about them, and to succeed we need to stop being jerks. Continue reading

No Problem, Forsooth

The tide of language sweeps ever along, and it Hamlet.svg.medcarries you with it whether you like it or not. Do not struggle foolishly against it. slate.com

English is a living language, which means words are always coming, going, and changing. Dictionaries don’t try to freeze language – they try to keep up with it. Grammar is more important to written words than it is to spoken. Because it lacks the subtle clues of tone and gesture, written language is less communicative.

This can be hard on those of us who struggled to learn the rules, and suffered under the presumptions of teachers decades behind us in modern usage. Teachers who thought I, for example, should love Shakespeare – even if I needed annotations in the text to follow the near-foreign language.

Once upon a time, “thank you” was invariably followed by “you’re welcome.” This arbitrary expression of politeness is falling from usage – it’s become common to reply “thank you” right back.

Now, apparently, the double thank-you is sliding into the past.

“Thank you” brings “no problem” as a rejoinder. Or maybe, “no worries” if you’re fond of Australian English (and who can resist?)

Does this grate on your nerves? Perhaps you never got used to the mirror thank-yous and still long to hear “you’re welcome.”

Get over it.

“Are you telling me that I, a human being with certain inalienable prerogatives, have no right to dislike this particular phrase? Must I remain silent forever? Have I no recourse to complain?”

That is exactly what we are saying… You will be nobler for it.

And stop grinding your teeth over “organic bananas,” complaining that no fruit is based on silicon chemistry.

You know who you are.