Sunset At Tarpon Springs, FL


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Article V

Let me be the first to warn you of the wailing about to commence at an even higher pitch that the system is rigged to favor the wealthy when Bernie Sander’s ‘revolution’ fails the numbers test required of any political revolution in the United States beyond the one that gave us the Constitution. The Internet campaign for Bernie has been intense on social media and his following on Facebook is substantial. But that’s where it ends in terms of the big numbers required for change even if he did make his way to the White House, which he won’t.

Why? Because the guys who wrote the Constitution made sure that the kind of revolution Bernie wants isn’t possible without overwhelming support for change at the states level for a constitutional convention and constitutional change. Their aim in framing the Constitution as they did, making the compromises they did on the way to ratification, was the Founder’s way of protecting the ‘commonwealth’ which for them included white, land-holding males. So believing that understanding the system is rigged came in with Bernie Sander’s is as politically naive as thinking the change we all want happens because everyone and their Facebook friends want it.

Political change takes hard work at the grass roots level, something never accomplished by sitting at a computer moaning about the status quo. I can tell you, and have already told, in this blog what’s coming in American politics because I am out in the places where the voting is about to take place and can see and hear the people who live there think and feel. That’s what Hill on Wheels is all about. Unfortunately, it isn’t what much of America is about because the real news isn’t on Fox or MSNBC or CNN, or even on the Internet where many people get their politics. It is out in the country in the stores and malls; on the streets and in the kitchens of American rich, poor and what’s left of the middle.

But it isn’t like people are paying any political attention to one another out there beyond the normal sort of American water cooler political association with the exception of the fact that there are fewer and fewer water coolers and more angry people with no political memory. Everybody accuses Washington of living in a bubble without considering the possibility that all of America lives in a certain kind of bubble. It’s hard to see a bubble when you are inside it, and even harder to break it from there. Self-education might be the first step to getting a view beyond the bubble, and to do that, you have to get up and turn off whatever you have on and get out and look and read for yourself. Read, as in books.

Among the wailing you will hear online is the unmistakable: “I’m leaving if my person doesn’t get elected!” Never heard that before. Actually, when Ronald Reagan got elected in 1980, I heard that a lot. Many of those people I heard it from, not only didn’t leave, they figured out a way to get rich on the Reagan ‘revolution’ that has dumped us where we are. The real revolutionaries stuck around and stayed true to their principles and faced down the Reagan administration’s homophobic reaction to the AIDS crisis. That standoff, in it’s time, brought about a clearer understanding of the gay community to all of America through theater and film and other more direct forms of interpersonal communication. I am proud I was a part of that movement because it earned rights for everyone.

I wish the younger generations, and the people who will get upset when change that they see as obvious and overdue not happening, would understand that that sort of change has eluded many of us for a long time. But we keep working away at it because change in this country is incremental at best. Often, it is two steps backwards to one step in the right direction. We have to wait for the wealthy to take their profits first. This is all just one more fight. It’s not the first or the last, so let’s stop with the apocalyptic language, take a deep breath and read the one worm’s hole in the Constitution that allows for We the People to take back the government from We the Wealthy. I have attached it for your reading pleasure.

The Constitution of the United States:

Article V:

“The Congress, whenever two thirds of both houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this Constitution, or, on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states, or by conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress; provided that no amendment which may be made prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any manner affect the first and fourth clauses in the ninth section of the first article; and that no state, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate.”



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The South

“The South was created by the need to protect a peculiar institution from threats originating outside the region,” the Southern historian Sheldon Hackney writes in his essay “Southern Violence” (1969). Consequently, “the Southern identity has been linked from the first to a siege mentality.” Being Southern, he says, “involves a feeling of persecution at times, and a sense of being a passive, insignificant object of alien or external forces.” Among these forces he lists abolitionists, the Union Army, carpetbaggers, Wall Street, civil rights agitators, the federal government, feminism, socialism, trade unionism, Darwinism, communism, atheism, daylight saving time, “and other by-products of modernity.” And writers like me, nature’s own subversives.
Paul Theroux – Deep South: Four Years on Back Roads

Lee surrenders at Appomattox


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The Way It Is

When you set out to bemoan the state of political events, as people do with great frequency on social media, it’s a good idea to understand the political realities you are confronting. When a populist, liberal political wave captured by a Bernie Sanders isn’t met with immediate results consistent with a what people might expect from a direct, popular vote style of democracy, the wailing is loud, but the results are the same. The system is what it is. If you want things to change, you have to be in it for the long haul of changing how it is built.

What do I mean by that? America is a republic; there are mechanisms built into being elected to all constitutionally designated offices designed to slow down any populist movement that might endanger the one thing conservatives, and most liberals, want to preserve most – wealth. Nothing produces nervous moments among the moneyed class more than uncertainty, especially the kind of uncertainty that popular elections bring about. The rationale behind the absurd dog-and-pony show that is the American primary system is to give the wealthy of both parties the opportunity to slow the speed of popular will down to the speed of profit-making at the corporate and individual level.

I have no idea why the people of Iowa or New Hampshire get a first shot at all this, or the rationale behind the SEC championship of primaries that follows. Let people run for president; let’s vote and the winner takes the oath. But markets wouldn’t have time to adjust to the political possibilities that such a speedy change might bring about. Large businesses wouldn’t know how much to produce to meet a new political and economic climate. When stock market know-it-alls tell me that oil prices are having a negative effect on the economy and on the markets, I wonder how that is possible when it is doing the one thing every politician claims the Obama administration hasn’t done – putting cash in average American’s pockets. It isn’t oil that is giving the market fits, it’s uncertainty. Ultimately they could care less who are the winners and who are the losers as long as the latter category never includes them.

If you travel as I do for a living, lower gas prices adds up to more than chump change, and, no, I do not feel any sorrier for people put out of work by the oil glut any more than they felt sorry for me when I was doling out four bucks a gallon to fill up. That put a lot of people out of work, too. What I do lament is that people don’t see the system for what it is and the need for a constitutional convention to rewrite the rules so that We the People end up electing our federal officials and not We the Wealthy. Read the Constitution and the documents at the state level that it was framed on. Look at the status of indentures whites, slaves, non-landed people and Indians. Disenfranchised from day one would describe their lot, but it is at least a clear indication of the structures wealthy white landowners built into the system. The absence of any mention of women – a testament to their political invisibility in the minds of the Founding Fathers – is an omission that cries out for a reexamination of the whole document and the attendant Bill of Rights and the Amendments.

If you do read these documents, take the time to read the Federalist Papers written by three very influential framers, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay and you will see even more clearly the awareness in the minds of the men who built our political system that the masses, and women, are fickle and not to be trusted with the affairs of state and the wealth of the nation. When you see that, for them, the wealth of the nation meant the wealth of states and ultimately the wealth of individuals, you will understand the reason why no one gets to the U.S. Senate or the White House and gets anything done without the right dollars behind them.





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Take It As It Comes

Real travel for adventure isn’t for those who like to be prearranged. The real travel adventure lies in improvising through a series of choices that come up once you’ve decided where you are going and how you’re going to get there. Even though you need to think about where you are going to stay while you are there and how and when you will get home, not making any firm decisions on your planning might give you a much better experience. In travel, too much charting will always result in an attempt to put comfort over real adventure and the great experience out of reach by trying to avoid the bad one.

Money can open the door to a fabulous adventure or close the door on any opportunity at a real one. Understanding that travel is about tempo as much as time and that the real reason to go anywhere is to find the unexpected will always help you discover a better experience. Knowing what you like is a good measuring stick, but if you don’t open yourself up to the possibility of disliking something, you will never put yourself in the position to see anything other than what you’ve already done in another form. A little unpleasantness can buy you a world of real experience, but, I can assure you, travel in American is designed to take the sting out of getting around. From the super highway to the Super 8 Motel, it’s all designed to make moving around easy and to take the adventure out of the journey.

Even trailer and RV camping can be a little too easy. I am awed at the size and comfort of some of the RV’s that pull into the $30 a night state parks I’ve stayed at. People’s life savings are tied up in some of these vehicles, and it seems to me they might as well have stayed at home for all the engagement with the great outdoors they are actually getting. I like working for my travel experience, and I like getting out and absorbing as much as I can about any place I visit. The effort makes the appreciation of any place all the more real.

Tops in my experiences with nature so far in my journeys are the beaches I encountered on Jekyll Island and at St. Augustine, Florida. The association with St. Augustine and the fountain of youth doesn’t surprise me. Walking on the beaches there was one of the most inspiring things I’ve done anywhere in the world, and the drive across the Appalachian Mountains from North Carolina into Virginia and West Virginia is one of the great drives in the U.S. Do it at some point.

State parks are all different and all the same. This is especially true if you are traveling in any one region of the country. The things to expect at a good state park – a quiet, clean park with accessible hookups and facilities and some kind of natural interest to explore nearby – most of them have. Some states clearly put more resources into these parks than others, but they are essential to tourism in all states, so they are usually pretty good. So far, the best I have been in were Fort Mcallister in Georgia and St. Augustine Beach, Florida.

I’m waiting for the warmer weather to head to places where national parks will be the preference, especially since at age sixty-two, I can get a one-year national park pass for thirty-five dollars and a discount for the already very affordable rates.


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The Art of the Journey

The difference between journeying and travel is carried in the root definitions of the two words. Journey comes from the French ‘jorneè’ meaning ‘of a day’s travel’, or work; the root of the word ‘travel’ being from the French: ‘travail’, to work. To journey means then, if not to work, then to certainly give up things to which one has become accustomed and experience each day not merely as an attainment of a given destination but as a constant transformation of the self.

In this sense, a journeyman in a trade or art in days gone by was not going anyplace location-wise but was putting in days of work on the journey to becoming a master, a journey of internal awareness that had nothing to do with travel as we think of it. As matter of fact, for most of us today, travel is anything but work, and is usually a vacation or retirement from work. But, to journey with the intention of mastering internal awareness like the pilgrim or the monk, is a different and difficult matter.

Traveling around, one might find oneself on a journey at that point when the plans begins to disappear and with them the expectations that come, not from any place of reality, but from us not wanting to encounter the one thing we fear the most: change. Despite the fact we are doing it every second, we are deeply apprehensive of change and recognize it as the bringer of all things that come under the category of bad news. The journeyer is the person who embraces change, seeks it out by instinct, as others might seek out comfort and stability.

To openself to change is have the capacity to take the world on it own terms for large chunks of time; to not filter out the things we often use to provide us with a safe place of operation for our homes and our efforts to make a living; to move out in the world with our instinctual judgmental-ism as much on hold as humanly possible. To desire this as a state of being and to embrace the things that come with it are the part of a kind of path following that is consistent with the form of Tendai Buddhism that I practice. To engage the path activity is to try to do what the Buddha said, which is to make of your life a patchwork of kindness.

In journeying, it is important, no matter where you show up, that your showing up is to make the lives of the people or person there happier or better in some way and then to move on. That may take a day or a year. Your showing up for your own fulfillment will lead to nothing good. This journey isn’t checking off a bucket list, it is bailing out old water with the bucket for as long as possible before it gets kicked. The journey is about lightning the load and getting rid of the things that have nothing to do with you because you can’t afford to carry around the extra weight.

This is not something I recommend you try in your own home.


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Winter Landscape


Winter Landscape, oil on canvas by Walter Launt Palmer, American, 1854-1932.

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