Column 1: As our nation celebrated

Martinez News-Gazette Columnist

AS OUR NATION celebrated its 242nd anniversary as a land of the free and home of the brave with traditional events like parades, fireworks, picnics and BBQs, memorial services and, of course, the annual Coney Island hot dog eating contest (returning champ ate 74!!) (ugh!!), hyped new car sales and great mattress deals, all is not good or well with the nation. In fact, there is much to be concerned about, to worry about and to work on to improve the awkward state we find ourselves in at home and abroad. Our nation is not the looked-up-to symbol it once was. Our current leadership in the White House has managed to put a blight on our name and reputation in less than 18 months with reckless policy decisions and careless statements and tweets offending our allies of many years. As the famous old song says, “There’s trouble in river city”.

Staring us in the face are two very important meetings; the NATO Alliance meeting, and the face-to-face meeting between the inept and ill-prepared White House tenant and Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. The predictions by experts in the field of international relations are a slam dunk for Putin (who is admired by his opponent) and highly skilled in getting what he wants. The greatest concern is what the great negotiator will do or say, in their meeting (typically, “We had a great meeting, etc.”) but what we won’t know what was agreed to, perhaps never. Pretty much as with North Korea and what was agreed to. Seems we have two versions; theirs and his.

Meanwhile, before the meeting with Putin, he has the opportunity to tick off the member nations of the NATO Alliance (allies of long standing) who have already been lectured to and told that the Alliance is probably not worth the investment. That and the thoughts he has expressed regarding the European Union’s value and approaching France and others (?) to make separate agreements with us. He has little or no background on these issues, nor does he want to take time to be briefed. He has gut feelings about such things. Wonderful!

A prominent presidential historian made a very worrisome statement on TV this past week. He said, “What is going on in the world today has parallels to the 1930’s leading to World War Two.”

Meanwhile, another of the ‘outstanding’ appointees to his Cabinet is undergoing investigations for some 15 alleged violations of ethics standards. You’ve heard the outrageous taxpayer funds Scott Pruitt, the EPA Administrator, has spent on himself, his wife, his office, and the ‘chores’ he has asked his staff to perform. And, he is the guy who, if given the time, will push back many environmental regulations meant to preserve our resources. He has expressed thoughts earlier of doing away with the department. Indeed, an outstanding appointee!

TRAGEDY continues on our southern border with the torn-apart families facing continued separation as the Justice Department and the administration try to work out a resolution. Meanwhile, children of all ages are scattered across the countryside in detention centers. TV news told us a few days ago that a group of the kids are in a home in Pleasant Hill. A very attractive place judging by the photos. Regardless of the place, there is an urgency to get families together again. URGENCY!!

FRANTIC EFFORTS continue to hold the attention of the world as the young soccer players and their coach continue to be trapped in the caves in South America. Even the most clever and heroic efforts of rescuers are being hampered and, perhaps, thwarted by the intricate layout of the caves. Seeing the photos of the youngsters in the light of cameras and recently installed lighting, is heart-wrenching, knowing that predictions of many weeks or more to rescue them. One can only imagine the ordeal already experienced in the nearly two weeks they have been trapped, but what will be experienced mentally and physically as the predictions of timing come to be more real. The horrible waiting and wondering of parents there is, while photos showed smiling and joyful faces when word of the finding of the group was announced, must become unbearable soon. Reminds us of the scenes of coal miners’ families waiting outside a mine disaster.

CIVILITY in our society has been an oft-mentioned word and topic recently as we seem to have hit an ugly period; a period of more division in our ranks and contention between groups, politically and socially. When did such behavior manifest itself? What caused it? Did the chaos in government create a ‘feeling’ in people that our society was not experiencing the level of respect we once exhibited? Did name-calling become less objectionable? We hear it from the highest levels of government, don’t we?

Ugly words about the media these days come from the same highest levels of government. Words like “enemy of the people”, and more. An extreme expression recently was the killing of five members of the staff of the “Capital Gazette” in Annapolis by a guy who who had a grudge against the newspaper, and took out his anger on five innocent people.

There is the old saying regarding newspaper stories, “Say anything you want about me, just spell my name correctly.” Many decades ago in Martinez we had a family of boys who made the news every so often. One of the sons called me to complain about the coverage. We were picking on him and his brothers, he claimed. When he came to the office to complain directly, I pointed out that his family did do those things in public which brought attention. After a lengthy conversation, I made the point that when they appeared on police reports they could expect to see their name in print. Not many names after that.

CHEERS for the Martinez Beaver Festival (relocated) last week. Attendees enjoyed a nice weather day and fun activities. Same for the July 4th events. Not the usual hot days we can usually expect on that day. Thanks, again, for those who work to provide the community with events which we can enjoy and which bring out-of-towners to visit us.

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