Saturday, May 26, 2018

Living the Golden Rule: Kindness and Caring in One Town #WATWB

We are the World Blogfest began over a year ago to spread light, love, and peace on the internet that was (and still is) dominated by darkness and all sorts of aggression. A group of bloggers got together to start this blogfest in an effort to counter that darkness and shine a light of love on humanity's goodness. We often forget the good stuff when inundated with screaming headlines.

The village of North Riverside, Illinois, doesn't forget the good stuff. In fact, they have made it a village goal to live the Golden Rule everyday with each other. I saw this story on The Good News Network and was amazed:
"Neighbors, strangers and village staff are more than fun and nice: They are genuinely caring, compassionate and concerned about those around them, 24/7. From sharing garden vegetables; shoveling snow; mowing lawns; driving to doctor appointments; donating unused items; paying utility bills; kids writing cards to the elderly; giving struggling, depressed residents a reason to smile; and hosting youth scholarships where no one is turned away – no place in the country comes close."
North Riverside Neighborhood Services Committee (Photo credit: Tina Valentino)

 Reader's Digest runs a contest for the "Top 10 Nicest Places in America" and North Riverside was nominated.

This village's Neighborhood Services Committee works to organize help for residents who need it, and residents also act on their own to help their neighbors. The village even has a manual for how to help each other. To read more about North Riverside, check out the story on the Reader's Digest site. I especially love the stories about how the kids in the village get involved. It's never too early to teach kids about kindness, compassion, and treating others as we want to be treated ourselves.

May all communities, no matter how small or how large, take heart and learn by this shining example.

For more #WATWB stories, please visit this month's co-hosts' websites for their contributions. Those co-hosts are: Shilpa Garg, Inderpreet Kaur Uppal, Peter Nena, Andrea Michaels, and Damyanti Biswas.You can also find more #WATWB stories here. Scroll down the page for the list of participating blogs.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Ever Experienced Screaming Kids on a Flight? #WATWB

It's the thirteenth installment of the We are the World Blogfest (#WATWB) this weekend! This blogfest was founded by an international group of bloggers to bring peace and positive stories of humanity to social media -- to shine light into the internet darkness.

The cohosts for the APRIL 2018 WATWB are: Shilpa Garg, Dan Antion, Simon Falk, Michelle Wallace , Mary Giese. Go visit them please and thank them for their hard work behind the scenes. If you want to know more about this blogfest and find a list of participating blogs, check here.

I ride public transportation all the time because I don't own a car. Occasionally, an unruly child or baby will be on the bus with a parent who is desperately trying to calm the child or distract him or her. So I was particularly taken with the story of Jessica Rudeen's first time flying with her toddler and baby. What parent hasn't had a bad day with a child? What parent wouldn't love to meet a guy like Todd in this story who happened to be in the seat next to Jessica and her kids?

After Jessica boarded the plane, her hungry 4-month-old son began to scream. Her toddler began a tantrum to get off the plane. Todd offered to hold the baby while Jessica settled her toddler daughter, and then distracted her daughter giving Jessica time to feed her son. By the time the plane took off, the kids were quiet, thanks to Todd's kindness.

But the story doesn't end there. Todd turned into a true angel for Jessica.
Read what he did here. The photos below are a clue!

Photos by Jessica Rudeen

Saturday, March 31, 2018

A Simple Act of Kindness Leads to Big Surprise #WATWB

It's been a year -- a YEAR -- since We are the World Blogfest began and this is the twelfth installment of the blogfest! If you're seeing this for the first time, We are the World Blogfest began a year ago to spread light and positive energy through the internet darkness, and to share stories of human kindness, love, and peace. We are an international blogfest, and we have a Facebook page where we also post stories.

A few weeks ago, a story on a local TV station caught my eye, and I've been excited to share it here ever since. It's about a young woman's act of kindness, her decision to take the time to help a customer in an unusual way.

In La Marque, Texas, 18-year-old Evoni Williams works in a Waffle House and saves her tips to one day go to college. One Saturday morning, Adrien came into the Waffle House and sat in Evoni's section. The 78-year-old Adrien's hands were not limber enough to cut up the meat he'd ordered. What happened next was captured in a photo by a nearby customer. And guess where that photo ended up?

The photo and the story of Evoni's kindness went viral starting on Facebook. I love finding examples of kindness going viral! Read here how that ended up affecting Evoni's life in a surprising way. Kindness generating even more kindness....

Thank you to our fabulous blogfest hosts for this month: Belinda Witzenhausen, Sylvia McGrath, Sylvia Stein, Shilpa Garg, and Eric Lahti. Check out their blogs for more interesting, and positive, reading! You can also find more stories at the #WATWB Facebook page.  For more information about this blogfest, see here. Until next out for random acts of kindness in your life, or perpetrate some of your own.

Photo courtesy: Disney Inc.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

C. C. Yager's Thriller "Perceval's Secret" is FREE through April 7!

Are you looking for a thrilling read? Do you like to read suspenseful novels that take you into a different world of experience as well as a different country? If so, check out C. C. Yager’s thriller novel Perceval’s Secret. It’s available at AmazonB& and for FREE until April 7, 2018.

Synopsis: In June 2048, American Evan Quinn conducts the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra in Vienna, Austria as Americans and Chinese conduct talks in that city about their economic relationship to prevent a global economic meltdown. Evan defects to be free of American oppression and brings a "Day of the Jackal" kind of secret with him that could demolish the talks and ignite a global war. Viennese Police Inspector Klaus Leiner, convinced Evan is an American spy, especially after CIA operative Bernie Brown takes an interest in him, organizes a surveillance operation to collect evidence for his arrest. Evan must stay ahead of the police and CIA while establishing his new life and music career. He believes he’s left America behind but has he? Whom can he trust? Finally, he realizes that his secrets could make him his own worst enemy or provide his best chance for survival.

Pricing update: As of March 25, the only Amazon site offering Perceval's Secret for free is Amazon US. 
Sampling of Reviews at Amazon:

“A dense psychological suspense thriller full of surprises.”

A chilling story of the world’s near future, with an emphasis not on the amazing technology, but on the personal relationships people have with technology, politics, and each other.”  

This book is a well-crafted spy mystery/cold war drama with interesting details about classical music, conducting, and levels within people. It also works in post traumatic stress from a non-military vantage point. The ending leaves this open for additional books and I hope to see a new one.”

Nothing Stops the Books Giveaway: Want to win a Kindle Oasis?

In addition, if you’re a member of (or want to become a member), there’s a big promotion going on from March 23-29 sponsored by LitRing. You can enter a drawing to win one of two Kindles Oasis by clicking on C. C. Yager’s name on the giveaway page here. Her BookBub author page will come up and just click to follow her there. Voila! You are now entered to win a Kindle Oasis!

After entering the drawing, hop over to Amazon or B& or and get your FREE copy of Perceval’s Secret to read!

Monday, March 19, 2018

Money and Guns

America has a problem. A gun problem, you suggest? By the way, the gun problem is not a mental health problem, although I can imagine people in countries where gun deaths are exceedingly rare may roll their eyes right now, sigh, and think, “No, it is a mental health problem. Any country that chooses guns over human life is crazy.” It’s also possible to argue the mental health issue is with people who cannot open their minds to listen and comprehend other viewpoints. Clearly, something is wrong when America is powerless to stop mass shootings, school shootings, murders and suicides by gun. No, the problem America has, the problem that has robbed America of its social power, is actually Capitalism.

Watergate 1972

In August 1972, several men broke into the Democratic National Committee’s offices in the Watergate Complex in Washington, D.C. Initially, it looked like a run-of-the-mill burglary, but then the burglars started talking and revealed that the burglary had been politically motivated, an attempt to hurt the Democrats during the presidential election campaign that year (nowadays, this type of disruptive and disinformation activity is done in cyberspace through social media). Two enterprising investigative reporters at the Washington Post, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, covered the story for that newspaper, and Woodward found a source, Deep Throat, who agreed to help them. One thing Deep Throat told Woodward repeatedly was to “follow the money.”

In the Watergate case, following the money led Woodward and Bernstein right into the Oval Office, and eventually their reporting contributed to the Senate investigation into Watergate and finally the resignation of President Richard Nixon in August 1974. Today, I think if we could all follow the money involving every aspect of the guns issue, we may be able to find the reason America is so powerless to enact laws that regulate (I know, dirty word) gun ownership, the type of guns available to civilians, and maybe enable America to join countries like Japan and the UK where gun ownership is regulated, i.e. countries that have chosen to support human life.

The Second Amendment

This amendment to the US Constitution reads: A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

I recently read a deconstruction of this amendment with respect to what the Founders intended. At that time, the US did not have an army (or navy, air force, or Marines), and the Founders did not want a professional national army because they were nervous that such a military might grow too powerful and overthrow the civilian government. At that time, “a well regulated militia” was the equivalent of the National Guard today. They were reservists who were trained and could be called upon to defend their communities if necessary. This reservist militia needed the right to keep and bear arms, hence the Second Amendment. Today, the Second Amendment gives the National Guard the right to keep and bear arms, not every Tom, Dick, or Jane.

The National Rifle Association (NRA)

Under the NRA’s Bylaws Article II, there are five purposes and objectives and the first includes the following: “To protectthe inalienable right of the individual American citizen guaranteed by such Constitution to acquire, possess, collect, exhibit, transport, carry, transfer ownership of, and enjoy the right to use arms, in order that the people may always be in a position to exercise their legitimate individual rights of self-preservation and defense of family, person, and property, as well as to serve effectively in the appropriate militia for the common defense of the Republic and the individual liberty of its citizens” (remember the Second Amendment above?). The second purpose and objective is “to promote public safety, law and order, and the national defense,” The next three purposes and objectives deal with the education and training of law enforcement, sport shooters and hunters.

I recently learned more about the history of the NRA than I knew before from a post by Daughter Number Three who linked to this podcast at Radiolab. Originally, the NRA existed to educate and train people in the proper and safe use of guns for sport and hunting. In the late 1960’s that all changed when a radical group of gun owners, feeling threatened by California’s ban of loaded weapons in public and afraid the federal government would eventually follow suit and take away their guns, joined the NRA and took it over. They turned the NRA into what it is today, i.e. an association whose first two purposes and objectives aim to arm every American citizen and protect the right of Americans to own guns, using the Second Amendment (ignoring the first clause of it) as the law that supports them.

There’s millions of dollars in ignoring the words, “A well regulated Militia,” and the time in which the Founders lived, their hopes and fears for the fledgling nation, and their complete inability to see into the future when muskets would become AR-15s. Ignoring and twisting the meaning of the Second Amendment allows gun manufacturers to produce and sell handguns, rifles, and military arms to civilians and make millions of dollars, allows the NRA to support and protect those manufacturers as well as lobby (with millions of dollars) Congress and state governments to stop any legislation that would affect the availability of guns. Because the American political system relies heavily on money, politicians need money in order to campaign for office. So, politicians are vulnerable as a result to being bought, even if they may not want to face that fact. The Citizens United US Supreme Court decision created the conditions for Capitalism to interfere with the governance of the country.

Let’s Follow the Money

If you read or follow more than one news source to get a balanced view of current events, it’s fairly easy to put together just how powerful money and Capitalism are in America.

So let’s take one recent proposal in response to recent school shootings – that teachers in schools be armed with guns – and see what that means in terms of Capitalism. Those making the proposal – politicians, the president, the NRA – could not point to any kind of solid research to support this proposal simply because the Dickey Law prevents research into gun violence. The Dickey Law was written and passed at the behest of the NRA in order to protect the firearms industry from public health and safety research that would reveal the need to regulate firearms ownership. Since this proposal to arm teachers was made, I’ve seen at least 2 reports of teachers accidentally firing guns in classrooms and injuring students. I’ve also seen a hypothetical scenario in which a teacher has disarmed a student who was either threatening to shoot or had been shooting people, and when the police arrive, they shoot the teacher whom they see with the gun. Common sense about human behavior would suggest that it’s a really terrible idea to arm teachers, even teachers who are experienced with firearms. But common sense has nothing to do with this. Money does.

How many teachers are there in America? According to the Department of Education, in the fall of 2017 there were 3.2 million fulltime teachers in the American public school system. If a good quality handgun with ammunition can be bought for $300 each, then how much does that mean in sales for gun manufacturers? About $960,000,000. The teachers, or more precisely, the school districts, are a new market for guns that didn’t really exist before. But who is going to pay for all those guns? The parents of the students? The NRA? State government? Or the US Department of Education? The gun manufacturers will make a killing on this deal. And that’s Capitalism.

Money and the American President and Congress

Money pours into the Republican and Democratic coffers for those who represent the American people from gun manufacturers and the NRA. I recently read that the NRA contributed over $30 million to Donald Trump’s campaign for president in 2016 in addition to running ads supporting him. That makes the Republicans and Democrats who accept that money beholden to the NRA and gun manufacturers. Since Citizens United, individual and corporate political contributors, and lobbyists give their money in order to buy influence or to buy what they want from government. This aspect of American politics, elections, and government has worsened since the 1970’s when Paul Manafort started his lobbying firm with two partners.

Until America has real campaign finance reform and regulates lobbying to exclude monetary contributions, freeing elected representatives to govern and to truly represent the people who elected them, money will continue to rule America. Money or profit will trump human life. Unregulated Capitalism will trump human life. Greed trumps human life.

What would gun ownership regulation look like?

I’d suggest researching what other countries like Japan or the UK have done to protect their populations in terms of laws and regulations that control guns.  Here are some of my ideas:

  • Establish a minimum age of 21 for gun ownership.
  • Require proof that prospective gun owner is licensed to own a gun.
  • Require that guns can be bought only from licensed dealers.
  • Require a one-week waiting period between the purchase and pick-up of the gun.
  • Require criminal and mental health background checks for all individuals who wish to purchase a gun.
  • Require education and training for prospective gun owners similar to that required of new car drivers with remedial training every 5 years.
  • Require prospective gun owners to pass written, oral, and marksmanship tests in order to obtain a license to carry a gun. 
  •  Require prospective gun owners to register their gun within 7 days of purchase.
  • Establish by law the types of guns available to civilians, excluding all weapons developed for military use as well as semiautomatic guns designed to fire multiple rapid rounds. 
  •  Establish by law the types of ammunition available to civilians, excluding all ammunition developed for military use.
  •  Require all gun owners to carry weapons liability insurance.

These ideas are based on what Americans must do in order to drive and own a car and would present as much of a hardship for Americans as they experience learning to drive a car, passing their driving test to obtain a license, registering their new car, and purchasing car insurance. Perhaps the NRA could step up and provide the resources and means to regulate gun ownership and use. I doubt they’d want state governments to create Departments of Firearms, like Departments of Motor Vehicles, to deal with the licensing and registration requirements, and they certainly could take a leadership role in the education, training, and testing of applicants.