How 3.5 drives us to find the best in ourselves

I spend a lot of time thinking about food. Interesting how this thought journey and my practical experience with food shapes my perspective about so many things in life.

I’m considering my last post, Your Cooperation Required: Food Choices. Since writing helps me think, I don’t always know where a post is going to end up when I begin it. That one ended up focusing on the practical necessity of cooperation if we are going to save the planet and ourselves.

It all hinges around a little number: 3.5. 3.5 degrees Centigrade. If the planet warms to that extent, various forces will likely push that to 4 or 5 or even 6 degrees, at which point, plants cannot adapt to the change quickly enough, we will not be able to feed 9.7 billion human beings, and we will die. It is a real possibility within this century.

The practical necessity of cooperation is an imperative in every religious tradition: yes, we are our brothers’ keepers. And I also want to say, they are ours.

In fact, this reciprocal relationship is an imperative in every domain of our lives. The requirement for cooperative relationships suggests, for example, the primary goal of education in this age: to learn to cooperate with others in a way that produces achievement and satisfaction for all.

Cooperation is also a political imperative, both within nations and across borders. The idea of reciprocal cooperation and all it implies, this basic necessity for sustaining life on the planet, helps me find my place with regard to political issues that have long been a source for me of a certain amount  of moral schizophrenia.

We are our brothers’ keepers…and they are ours. The first part of that statement seems easy. It informs the progressive agenda. The second part of that statement is more difficult. Consider it in today’s world: allowing others to be your “keeper”. This requires trust. Not an easy thing among human beings, individual human beings, groups of human beings, nations. Yet 3.5 compels us to find a way.

At the very least, the second part of the statement helps us understand the worldview of the other side, of those whom we “keep” and who sometimes seem to react negatively or ungratefully to the ways we choose to keep them.

We have a tendency to distrust each other, and human history, with its oppression and wars, has given us all plenty of reasons. Even religious traditions recognize the necessity of placing our full trust in something other than human beings. What our fellow human beings require of us is love and compassion. Yet 3.5 is an imperative to go further, to find some way to trust our fellow human beings enough to cooperate.

And for every example of how we fail each other, there are other examples, more examples, of how we reach out to each other with compassion. Today it is clear, more than ever, whatever our religion, or no religion, we must find that sometimes convoluted path to trust in all realms, trust but verify as some say. Without a willingness to trust at some level, to some degree, we cannot cooperate. And without cooperation, we probably will become extinct, if not in our lifetime, in the lifetimes of our children and grandchildren.

3.5 degrees Centigrade. That little number represents an apocalypse. It demands that every person and every nation on the planet reach deep inside to find the strength and determination to trust and cooperate.  We cannot afford to assign these possibilities to the dustbin of pie-in-the-sky impracticality and religious idealism.

We have to redouble our determination to find inroads toward trust and cooperation at every level of our lives. We have to question any project, any political or religious leader, who doesn’t make cooperation a top priority and who doesn’t actively seek it in real world ways. 3.5.

For more, visit my blog,, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.

Your cooperation required: Food choices


Do you believe that intuition is a valuable tool for anticipating events? I do! And I think that sometimes intuition works beyond our personal lives. Before you start to think that I’m getting into fortune-telling or something, let me explain.

Have you ever anticipated a trend? I have, and I suspect a lot of you have as well! So maybe there were “hints” in the environment or in the culture, and we didn’t even realize we were picking up information that fed our intuition.

What if intuition turns out to be an early warning system of sorts? Let’s look at the example of our changing food culture.

Once upon a time the overriding issue for what we ate was survival. It is still the most basic fact today. We eat to live, although you sometimes wouldn’t guess that from the way we eat. There was a time when we had to do what we could with what was geographically accessible and seasonally available. These facts limited and shaped food choices.

What happened when the weather was bad one season or when the climate changed? Diets changed because they had to. People migrated. Those species that survived over time adapted and learned to live and eat differently.

Today we aren’t dependent on our location or the climate or time of year. Choosing what we eat is both simpler and much, much more complex than in earlier times. Even though we have constant availability of everything, we shrink our choices in so many ways: no conventionally raised meat, chicken or fish; no meat, chicken or fish at all; no gluten or no grains at all; no dairy; no eggs; no white potatoes; no nightshade plants; no corn; no sugar; no carbohydrates; only organic produce; no GMOs; no animal products that have antibiotics or hormones in their history; only seasonal produce; only local produce. If we removed from our diet all the things we think we shouldn’t eat in our current environment…we’d eat nothing at all.

This voluntary diet shrinkage is a feature of modernity and of privilege. As our options increase, our food denials increase right along with them. When options were fewer, we ate what was available. Shelves weren’t lined with diet books explaining with authority why the best way to eat is the one described in that book’s pages. We just ate.

Of course many of us make dietary choices for conscious reasons, but many others follow trends for . . . well, a variety of reasons, conscious and unconscious, or for no reason at all. Curiously, in our modern world, those who contribute most to environmental degradation, the most privileged, are the same people who practice the most stringent dietary denials. People living in poverty typically don’t make these decisions of privilege.

What if this dietary shrinkage is an expression of intuition? Are those of us who participate at the highest levels in unsustainable living recognizing that our lifestyle is simply not sustainable and casting about for solutions before they are forced on us?

In National Geographic’s eight month series, Future of Food: Why Food Matters Now More Than Ever, Dennis Dimmick, Executive Environment Editor at National Geographic Magazine, points to our rapid worldwide population growth, 2.1 billion people in 2000, 7.1 billion in 2013, and a projection of 9.7 billion by 2050, mid-century. He also points to the difficulty of supplying that population with food. Today, in the U.S. alone, 45 million people require food assistance, people in rural, urban and suburban environments.

Another speaker in the series picks up that last theme as he speaks about 1 billion people worldwide who are food insecure. At the same time that our population grows at such a rapid rate, there is a rising demand for animal protein. People all want to live like the most privileged. If the world population stopped growing, this dietary affluence would still cause an unsustainable demand for an increase in the food supply.

In addition to population growth, we are all well aware by now of climate change. Many scientists and agencies consistently predict a planetary temperature rise of at least 3.5 degrees centigrade within this century. Guy McPherson of the University of Arizona says of that kind of temperature increase, “If we see a 3.5 to 4C baseline increase, I see no way to have habitat…This (increase) guarantees a positive feedback, already underway, leading to 4.5 to 6 or more degrees above ‘norm’ and that is a level lethal to life. This is partly due to the fact that humans have to eat and plants can’t adapt fast enough to make that possible for the seven to nine billion of us — so we’ll die.”

And here, I return to the issue of intuition and dietary shrinkage among the most privileged in the world. I believe there is some part of our preoccupation with limiting dietary choices that has to do with an often unconscious awareness that we are at the edge of profound changes that will impact our ability to survive on this planet. Perhaps at some level, our self-prescribed limitations are pro-active steps toward avoiding extinction. Certainly for some, the changes are purposeful in that direction.

Dietary changes I’ve made in my life were directed primarily toward humane considerations and only secondarily to environmental considerations. I always considered these changes my personal activism toward making the world a better place and thought my contribution sufficient. As I learn more, I begin to think perhaps it is not.

All of life is interdependent. Our survival depends on respectful, cooperative relationships, not “rugged individualism” or financial growth without regard to human and planetary costs. Every aspect of our lives must express this principle of cooperation. Our survival now, as was the case for our ancestors, depends on it. “United we stand, divided we fall” is a global reality and imperative. Every decision each of us makes must reflect that understanding.

Eating purposefully is fundamental to shaping a more cooperative mode of being in the world. In Woodstock, we have wonderful opportunities to live out our commitment to the principle of cooperation. Two food-related opportunities that come to mind are the Woodstock Farmers Market and the Foodshed Coop, well underway to realization.

In addition to other choices we make at each moment to contribute to the survival of life on this planet, supporting these cooperative food-focused organizations is an important one. If you would like to think more about food choices, please join me for  a class at MCC beginning March 9, Conscious Choices: Thinking About Food.

For more, visit my blog,, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.

Religion and spirituality: A false dichotomy



Religion and spirituality are frequently posed as different, mutually exclusive, even opposite modalities. This juxtaposition presents a false dichotomy based on a misunderstanding of how religions function.

The juxtaposition rests on traditions that separate body and soul and then characteristically devalue the body in relation to the soul. Post-Enlightenment, we experienced a backlash to this concept with the exaltation of science and rationality over any kind of extra-rational or transcendental experience.

The Oxford English Dictionary views spirituality as “affecting the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things”.  The second half of that statement, “as opposed to material or physical things”, is based on culturally formed assumptions that only serve to cloud our understanding of spirituality.

Spirituality affects “the human spirit or soul”. In this first half of the dictionary phrase, the spirit or soul is set out as something separate from the rest of the human being. Yet human beings are embodied. Without our body, we cannot experience spirituality, so it is disingenuous to simply discount our bodies, or the material world, as we try to understand our spirituality.

Perhaps there is a more holistic view, one more familiar to many religious traditions that conceive body and soul as inextricably linked and equally valued. In considering that more holistic view of body and soul, we can also begin to understand better the relationship between spirituality and religion, where religions are often self-described as “bodies”. This is an apt metaphor.

Spirituality is a human phenomenon and in that respect is a dynamic part of a whole human being with a physical body. Spirituality requires a physical, material home. If that physical home is a person, then spirituality is in a dynamic relationship with the personal and cultural characteristics of that unique individual.

If that physical home expands beyond the individual person into a community, then spirituality is in a dynamic relationship with the characteristics of that community and the individual’s worldview and personal characteristics.

A community might be a faith or religious community or any other kind of community we can imagine. In the religious frame, spirituality is in a dynamic relationship with the individual and the faith community, its sacred texts, rituals, liturgies, myths, ethics, law codes and history. This communal aspect brings additional texture and dimension to individual spirituality.

Either way, spirituality is a real life, embodied experience of authenticity, transcendence (what is beyond ourselves) and interconnectedness. Without our human bodies, we have no awareness of that spiritual experience — and without that spiritual experience, we cannot fully know our own humanity.

Spirituality is a function, in other words, of our body in the world. All the great religious and spiritual practices know this. Each, in its own unique way, serves to connect us to our full humanity, our spirituality in a material world.


So we have a prevailing cultural view that separates body and soul, sometimes devaluing the body in relation to the soul and other times exalting the rational, material world over extra-rational, transcendental experience.

At the same time, a conception of the material world as a static entity burdens our thought processes.

At least one medical researcher suggests that our bodies are not as static as we imagined them. Candace Pert, in her books, Molecules of Emotion and Your Body is Your Subconscious Mind, “establishes the biomolecular basis for our emotions and, explaining these new scientific developments in a clear and accessible way…empowers us to understand ourselves, our feelings, and the connection between our minds and our bodies…in ways we could never possibly have imagined before”.

Deepak Chopra goes beyond the universe of our bodies to suggest another way to understand all of material reality: “The quantum world forever broke away from the narrow, mechanistic world of Laplace: Solid physical objects became clouds of invisible energy, the certainty of cause-and-effect turned into “probability waves,” and time and space became flexible, to the point that a cubic centimeter of empty space contains enormous virtual energy while the arrow of time can turn on itself and go backward. The reliable world of the five senses was undercut by the quantum world…”

Religions, like human bodies, are much more dynamic than our static conception of material reality suggests, and their relationship to the rest of the material world is similarly more dynamic than the spirituality-religion dichotomy allows.

Viewing these relationships as more dynamic and fluid doesn’t undermine the possibility of universal truths embedded in spiritual experience. Nor does this different model suggest that there are no real differences between religions or that the differences between religions are superfluous to the spiritual experience.

Religions, like human beings, have discernible boundaries. Just as a human body replaces old cells with new cells by the millions every second, the moving parts of religions change over time. While this is happening, though, we still recognize the outlines of a particular person or a particular religion.

As the context changes, the individual context, the community context, or the religious context, spirituality changes even while it remains the same. Like the same dish prepared by 50 different cooks, spirituality has a unique flavor in each unique circumstance. At the same time, there are universal ingredients, a discovery of our authentic selves and transcendence, a profound awareness of connection.

Historically the language of religions, the sacred texts, rituals, liturgies, myths, ethics, law codes and histories of religious communities bring an expanded and paradoxically more specific dimension to spirituality. The paradox is the nature of living in a material world that provides us the opportunity to connect to spiritual reality.

This paradox of our lives as human beings, that our spirituality is embodied and therefore both universal and specific, is an important key to connecting with our full humanity. Understanding the connection between spirituality and religion in this way shows how, consciously or unconsciously, our various religious cultures can be part of our journey toward spiritual connection.

For more, visit my blog,, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.

Edelman’s Choice: Why I want Bernie to win the nomination

Peter Edelman, a Clinton appointee, resigned in 1996 when Clinton signed the welfare “reform” law. At the time he said only, “I had worked as hard as I could over the past thirty-plus years to reduce poverty and…in my opinion this bill moved in the opposite direction.” In an Atlantic Monthly article in 1997, however, after Clinton was reelected, Edelman detailed his position, prefacing it with this comment about why he had not come forth with a more complete statement earlier:

“My judgment was that it was important to make clear the reasons for my resignation but not helpful to politicize the issue further during an election campaign. And I did want to see President Clinton re-elected. Worse is not better, in my view, and Bob Dole would certainly have been worse on a wide range of issues, especially if coupled with a Republican Congress.”

Edelman’s choice. I believe it is a choice similar to the one we have before us today.

How I came to be an apathetic voter

For thirty years of my life, I was probably like a majority of Americans, so busy with my life that I accepted familiar political assumptions. I voted once I was eligible but wasn’t particularly engaged. Maybe there were other reasons for my apathy, though, and I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately.

I wasn’t raised to be an apathetic voter. I remember well the excitement of staying up with my Dad into the small hours of the morning to see if John Kennedy won the nomination of his party in 1960. Finally my Dad sent me to bed, then came and woke me to tell me Kennedy would be the candidate. I remember naively lining up outside the door of my junior high school that next morning wearing a Kennedy button in a Republican town.

President Kennedy was assassinated during my sophomore year in high school. I remember the day he died, the shock, the deep sadness, the feeling that the world would never be the same. I remember walking home from school on that terrible day and meeting my Dad halfway along my path as he was leaving his office, weeping openly. We walked the rest of the way home together.

I remember when my Dad took us all to First Methodist Church in Evanston in 1963 to hear Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speak. And I remember the tumultuous years of the sixties, the civil rights marches in the south, the anti-war demonstrations, the heart-crushing oppression and death broadcast nightly on the news, the deaths of great leaders.

I remember when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in April 1968, and a short two months later in June, Attorney General Robert Kennedy. I remember the Democratic Convention in Chicago in August 1968, two years before I graduated college and the November election that brought Lyndon B. Johnson into office, still before I was eligible to vote.

By the time I was voting age, I was busy with my adult life. I married in 1970, had my first child in 1972, my second in 1974, managed two homes, one in the country with a large organic garden and orchard, went back to school to complete a second bachelor’s degree, two masters degrees and most of a doctorate, survived a divorce and worked, worked a lot. My organic garden, off-and-on vegetarianism and whole food cooking for my family were my contribution to repairing the world.

Through the 70s, 80s and 90s, I voted Democratic even though I kind of liked some Republicans along the way. I came from a Democratic family, and it just seemed…necessary. After all, there was Watergate. I was unenthusiastic. I termed myself “apolitical”. The endless justifications for policies on both sides and the swirls of controversies lost me.

When Bill Clinton ran for president the first time in 1992, everyone I knew was excited. “Another Kennedy.” I wasn’t feeling it. Something just wasn’t right, but I couldn’t put my finger on it, just a vague feeling of dislike or discomfort. I assumed that was because I was busy and didn’t have time for or interest in politics.

In 1992, I was struggling, raising two kids as a single parent with little money. I was in school and working. By 1996, when Clinton ran for his second term, I was doing better. I was able to get good work, much of it that I could do from home, and my financial situation improved steadily. My kids were a little older. From my narrow perspective, life felt OK, so I figured the economy must indeed be better. Superficially, Clinton appeared to be on the right side of liberal social issues. He must be doing alright as a president.

Of course, by the time Clinton ran for his second term, his sex scandals were all over the news. I hated all of that and was angered by it — that he did it, the way he handled it and the way the Republicans leaped on it like gleeful kids and barraged us with the gory details day after day when I sensed they were equally involved in scandals of their own. The whole mess depressed me. I wanted someone to admire, and there was no one. The fact that Bill Clinton was little more than a talented, ambitious man, not the inspiring leader I wanted, helped me understand my original lukewarm reaction to him.

I was persuaded by everyone I knew, mostly liberals, that the man’s personal morals and behavior had nothing to do with his ability as President of the United States. I was persuaded that he had done an excellent job during his first term despite great obstacles, including constant attacks by “the vast right-wing conspiracy”. I was persuaded, in short, to vote for him a second time.

I voted for Clinton that second time, resentfully. I made Edelman’s choice.

The 2000 election was brutal. Everybody was angry. You could not raise an issue or ask a question or disagree with a position on either side without risking the loss of a friend or without getting into a vehement, heated argument. And of course, there was the hanging chad thing. I hated the entire election cycle all the way around that year. I was unenthusiastic to begin with. Much to my surprise, I found myself kind of liking the guy everyone in my circles loved to hate — nothing to do with policies. I was sick of the constant negativity and demonization and didn’t want to hear any more of it. I voted Democratic with complete lack of enthusiasm in that election and the one that followed, which was worse than the first, and I began my long recovery process from those election cycles.

By 2007, I also began to experience the beginnings of an economic catastrophe that originated in the 70s. If financial crash and burn taught me one thing, it was something about humility, about what it feels like to stare down losing your home, about what it’s like not to have a safety net. I just had to cope with that for a few short years, and I had family and friends that helped. Some people are born into that world. They have neither the resources nor the privilege that I enjoy and remain in that situation throughout their lives.

Sometime in the late 90s, I read an interview with Not-Yet-Senator Barak Obama. I didn’t fully agree with everything he said, but I was impressed. Living in Chicago at the time, I voted for him.

Then came July 26, 2004 when then Senator Obama delivered the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention. It was the first time in years I was moved by anything in politics. I wept through most of it. This is what I had missed over the years since my childhood heroes had all been assassinated, someone who could reflect back to us our most beautiful and inspiring vision of ourselves and who we can be.

For the first time in my adult life, I voted enthusiastically for a candidate, and I have not been disappointed. Michelle Obama is an awesome First Lady. Sasha and Malia, like their parents, are beautiful, intelligent and dignified. With grace, superb intelligence and thoughtfulness, President Obama weathered the storms of his presidency and moved us forward. Yes, the progress is slow, but he has moved us, and he continues to inspire me in how he handles not only the unbearably enormous task of being president of the United States but in how he lives his personal life. Because you know what? Personal morality DOES have something to do with how you govern. My friends were wrong in the 90s.

I dreaded coming to the end of President Obama’s second term in office and facing yet another election cycle, but then I started to hear more about Bernie Sanders a year or two ago and liked what I heard. He gave voice to my ideals. He electrified me as President Obama had, although in a very different way.

Bernie doesn’t have the same quietly intellectual and analytical thoughtfulness in his approach to issues or the same extraordinary rhetorical skills as President Obama. He is more like the prophets of the Bible, thundering down out of the hills and deserts, chastising us for our moral failures, our me-centeredness, and exhorting us to return to the path of social justice.  He often shouts, often in a hoarse voice, as I imagine the prophets must have done, and he sometimes seems angry. But Bernie Sanders has precisely identified the problem that will bring down our great Democratic experiment, in fact, our world, and tells us what we must do to adjust course. And the operative word is “we”, a word Bernie characteristically uses over and over.

We all should be angry. We all should shout until we’re hoarse from it. We all should protest what it says about our country today when 25% of our population is in prison, when 1 in 5 kids is starving, when 50 million live with “food insecurity”, when people who work full-time cannot afford to live and when there is no longer a social safety net, something put in place by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to save hundreds of thousands in his own time and protect millions well into the future from the effects of corporate greed in collusion with government.

I know the United States will never actually be the idealistic vision President Obama presented at the 2004 convention, nor will we ever fully solve the problems to which Bernie Sanders points. We will never actually be the vision created for us by our founding fathers. We’re a work in progress, and people are still people with all their extraordinary capacity for goodness as well as their capacity for greed and evil. But we have a concept, at least, of a system of checks and balances. That system is broken — again — as it was at the time of the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression.  And we must, unless we want to continue down the path to the Evil Empire of mythology, restore checks and balances on human behavior. We must find a way, as FDR did in the thirties, to do the most good for the most people.

Personally, I don’t care what the political label is on the person who leads us in that direction. I don’t care what gender they are. I don’t care what religion or what race. I just know it is imperative that we walk in that direction.

So I am starting to understand my lack of enthusiasm before President Obama as having something to do with uninspiring options. Too often I found myself making Edelman’s choice: the lesser of evils. And I don’t want to be forced to make that choice again.

The choice before us

I’ve been reluctant to say anything negative about Secretary Clinton. She fields plenty of accusations, plenty of criticism, and a great deal of it is possibly unfair. And she might end up as our Democratic nominee, so why add to the Republican drive to make her unelectable? But right now we’re in primary season, and I believe we have an opportunity to avoid, once again, having to make Edelman’s choice.

That is why, with some reluctance, I’m going to share my own thoughts: because if it comes to the moment that I must again make Edelman’s choice, I will resent it as I did before, and so will others. As a friend pointed out, while most Democrats, including Bernie supporters, will vote for Hillary, there will be many others, young people voting for the first time, Republicans unhappy with the Republican field, and independents, who will not feel the same compulsion and who will find someone in the Republican field or not vote at all. I don’t think we can or should ignore what the idealists among us are saying.

One of our options today is a person of clear moral character, a person who directs his focused attention and ours to the deep systemic issue that is at the base of every other problem in our society, the fact that we are a me-focused society, that since the 70s, we have built the political framework for a Catcher-in-the-Rye world. Our me-centeredness is captured perfectly in the drive to shrink government to the smallest possible unit of decision-making, “me”, doing just what “me” wants to do in a completely unfettered way. Break up government, give it back to the states, back to the corporations, back to the individual. A few lucky, privileged and often ruthless individuals thrive in this setup. Most do not.

The other option is Secretary Clinton. My decision to give more thought to my lukewarm reaction to her candidacy and to share my thoughts was influenced by a short Facebook post from Michelle Alexander, a law professor at Ohio State University and author of “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness”. In it, she said, “I can’t believe Hillary would be coasting into the primaries with her current margin of black support if most people knew how much damage the Clintons have done – the millions of families that were destroyed the last time they were in the White House thanks to their boastful embrace of the mass incarceration machine and their total capitulation to the right-wing narrative on race, crime, welfare and taxes. There’s so much more to say on this topic and it’s a shame that more people aren’t saying it. I think it’s time we have that conversation.”

I agree. I think it’s time we have that conversation. So I started to read. As I said, I’m not well-informed about those Clinton years. I didn’t have a good feeling about them but was too busy and disengaged to pay much attention or sort out the truth of what was and wasn’t true. I wanted to find out what Michelle Alexander means, though, when she talks about the Clintons’ “boastful embrace of the mass incarceration machine” and their “capitulation to the right-wing narrative on race, crime, welfare and taxes.”

I searched the Internet for what might be credible articles on Clinton and taxes, Clinton and incarceration, Clinton and welfare, Clinton and race. There’s no shortage of material, and I haven’t finished reading. I won’t try to summarize. I’ll say simply, it was eye-opening for me, and now I understand better the discomfort I had with this couple and why they failed, and continue to fail, to inspire me.

I will share a short sampling of these articles here, for those who are interested. I believe the authors are credible. They have strong liberal credentials (which removes the variable of the “vast right wing conspiracy” out to get the Clintons), and they are trained and accomplished  academics:

Bill Clinton and Mass Incarceration, Andrew Cohen

The Worst Thing Bill Clinton Has Done, The Atlantic Monthly, Peter Edelman.

How Bill Clinton’s Welfare “Reform” Created a System Rife with Racial Biases, Bill Moyers’ interviews Joe Soss, University of Minnesota sociologist, who studied the after effects of the legislation.

That second article by Peter Edelman is lengthy but well worth the read. It was a little difficult for me to absorb all of it, and I think it might require another read, but I followed enough to begin to understand Michelle Alexander’s rage with what happened during Clintons’ administration. I understood that Clinton was a long way from representing a progressive agenda, at least as I understand it, an agenda for social justice. I was disturbed by what I can only interpret as complete dedication to his political objectives, above meaningful moral considerations.

In another article by Peter Edelman about why we can’t end poverty in America, Edelman outlines what he thinks we must do to address this seemingly intractable issue — and it is essentially Bernie’s platform.

I know the cautionary wisdom here: Secretary Clinton is her own person. She is not her husband, and a Hillary Clinton administration will not be a Bill Clinton administration. And Hillary has a long list of accomplishments and contributions to her name, a list she recites for us at every opportunity, so I won’t lay it out again here. But then there’s this, a response to the question, did the Clintons really steal things when they left the White House. Gil Troy, American Historian and author of “The Age of Clinton: American in the 1990s” has this to say in the last paragraph of his response:

“Bill Clinton, an extraordinarily talented politician clearly was more morally tone-deaf and personally hollow than many admitted; while his wife was often co-conspirator, not just victim or enabler.”

Troy quotes George Will in the response:

“I love liberals. They put up with this guy through perjury, suborning perjury, obstruction of justice and use of the military to cloud discussion of his problems. Then he steals the toaster and they say, ‘That’s it, we’ve had it’.” Did Hillary not know of the theft? Was she compelled in any way?

We put up with a lot more from that couple in the White House. We put up not only with Bill’s me-centered ambition but with Hillary’s, an ambition that had her aimed for the presidency all along. In that universe, Hillary, a champion for women, participated in a smear-campaign against a woman her husband assaulted, calling her a “floozy”. In that universe, Hillary answered any questions about integrity or the authenticity of Bill Clinton’s intentions and promises with blame on a “right-wing conspiracy”, as she does today. When asked by a student in the recent Iowa Town Hall why people “don’t trust her,” she hauled out the standard response, a list of her personal accomplishments and progressive commitments followed by blame of the “right-wing conspiracy”. Yet this is a woman who staunchly supported her husband’s administration which laid waste to the social safety net and ensured the incarceration of 25% of the citizens of this country — and who was part of a smear campaign against a woman assaulted by her husband.

Shame on us as Democrats for taking notice only when the toaster went out the door. Shame on us for continuing to believe the lie that the Clintons have a deep and total commitment to a progressive agenda and that any questions of integrity and character are all a “right-wing conspiracy”.  Shame on us for not insisting on better answers for that young person who asked a question. And shame on us for not recognizing that our greatest issue is that me-centeredness that caused us to create a system that serves the few and neglects and oppresses way too many, preventing us from finding social justice in this country and the world.

I believe we have an important, even critical option in the primaries. We can choose a candidate whose life demonstrates passion and commitment to social justice and who has a clear-eyed view of the need for redemption in our me-society. Or we can choose the first woman president, a woman with amazing accomplishments and abilities — but also a woman who does not inspire young people and who responds to a question about a perception that she’s dishonest with a list of her accomplishments and abilities and blame of the “right-wing conspiracy”. A woman whose drive to the top “trumps” all else, who remains oblivious, apparently, to her own moral ambiguity.

If we choose the second as our candidate, I, at least, will feel as though I am confronted once again with Edelman’s choice. And I will vote for her. But I will resent it, and so will many others. That won’t play well for the Democrats in the long run. We need young voters who can still imagine a better world, not voters like I was whose apathy lets them ignore what is happening in front of them.


In 1971, John Lennon wrote “Imagine” in one sitting. It inspired and motivated his contemporaries, and it continues to inspire and motivate many today:

Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today…
Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace…
You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one
Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world…
You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one

Lennon’s vision wasn’t about being in a position to take the White House toaster. It wasn’t about rising to the top or being first whatever. It wasn’t about power or big money or prestige. It was about a world where all the people can live a life in peace, no need for greed or hunger, sharing all the world. Was he a dreamer? Yes, but he’s not the only one.

Since when did we start saying the the dreams and the vision we had when we were young are, as Hillary often suggests in debates, impractical and unachievable? If that’s what we’re saying, it’s time to retire and leave the voting to the overwhelming majority of young people who still have dreams for a better world, a world where at the very least the president of our country has the moral character to inspire and lead us in the slow crawl toward redemption.

I hope we make a choice for that person, for someone who puts that vision of social justice at the top of their agenda. I hope we respond to the dreams of our young people and put before them a vision for which they will not only vote but to which they will commit their lives.

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Dutch Oven Dinner 2/3/2016.


Got off track for awhile…other tasks. Here is tonight’s dinner, a recipe found on Pinterest from Straight Up Food.  I made a couple of tweaks and think it might be nice with a couple more next time, especially substituting a little red wine for part of the water.



  • 1 large Spanish onion
  • 3 large ribs celery
  • 3 large carrots
  • 1/2 pound Portobello mushrooms
  • 1-1/2 TB minced fresh garlic
  • 5 cups water
  • 2 pounds white potatoes, peel on
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 TB basil and oregano
  • 1 TB paprika
  • 2 tsp. rosemary
  • 1-1/2 cups green peas
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley (I used chopped green onion)
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • ground black pepper, to taste


Cut all veggies into 3/4″ pieces, keeping in separate piles. Mince the garlic. Chop the parsley or green onion and set aside. Pre-measure other seasonings and set aside in a cup. Defrost the peas if using frozen.

Preheat the Dutch oven. Add 1 TB water to the Dutch oven and the cut up onion, celery and carrots. Cook for 7 or 8 minutes, stirring periodically, allowing to brown slightly but not burn. Add water if needed (I didn’t find it necessary with the Dutch oven).

Add another TB water, garlic and mushrooms and stir periodically, cooking for 5 minutes.

Add water, tomato paste, potatoes, remaining seasonings, stir, cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes until the potatoes are cooked.

Remove 2 cups of liquid and blend. I actually scooped a couple of potato pieces into this to thicken the sauce a bit more. Return the blended gravy to the pot. Add the peas, and simmer for a minute or two more. Remove from heat and garnish with parsley or green onion, and serve.

Note: In the lower right of the picture, I added a large piece of fresh turmeric (which you can see in the lower right of the picture) to see what it would do for the color and for some additional nutritional content. It didn’t seem to change the color or flavor much – I might try adding more next time – but I suspect it probably added some nice phyto-nutrients and antioxidants to the mix.