Is Life a Poor Player?

Ed Raymond

   After the election I thought of Macbeth’s summation of the death of Lady Macbeth after her murder of King Duncan put her husband on the Scottish throne--and what the next four years of Trump might bring. Shakespeare did not exactly put it in the form of a Tweet: “Tomorrow, tomorrow, and tomorrow creeps in this petty pace from day to day to the last syllable of recorded time. And all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death.  Out, out, brief candle! Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour on the stage and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”  What will this 45th president of the United States do in four years? Will he always be strutting and fretting for hours on the White House stage each day, tossing off ignorant tweets in the early hours like a child with a full diaper or a texting, sexed-up teen? Will we be joining the Third World? Inquiring minds want to know. Meanwhile, life goes on, sometimes full of sound and fury, sometimes as brief as a candle, sometimes really weird.

   In this age of the disappearing middle-class and the greatest income inequality in our history, I see the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History is sponsoring a fund drive called KeepThemRuby to repair and preserve Minnesota’s own Judy Garland’s leather, sequined, and glass-beaded slippers from that epic “The Wizard of Oz.” Holy Toto, they think it will take $300,000 to fix the 80-year-old shoes, so donors will receive tote bags by a Tony Award-winning designer (if interested in donating, its William Ivey Long)! You can also choose posters and t-shirts as donor awards. Real-l-l-ly big donors will get video tours and parties. $300,000 to preserve a pair of slippers? This has to be a proposal developed by an idiot. How about a can of $2.99 plastic spray from a hardware store to cover the flaws? This is not the first time the Smithsonian has had a fund drive they call the Kickstarter. Last year their first Kickstarter drive had a goal of $500,000 to preserve Neil Armstrong’s space suit he wore on the moon. They reached the goal in five days and eventually raised $719,779 from 9,477 donors. A recent report indicated that at least half of all mentally ill adults in the U.S. cannot afford treatment. I wonder how many have worked on the space suit and will move on to preserve Dorothy’s slippers.

   Perhaps we are approaching the end times. A 1,500-year-old marble tablet containing nine of the Ten Commandments listed in the Book of Exodus was recently auctioned off in Beverly Hills for $850,000. It had been owned by the Living Torah Museum in Brooklyn, N.Y. It used to mark the entrance of an ancient synagogue which was likely destroyed by the Romans between 300 and 500 A.D. It was discovered in 1913 in Western Israel while a construction company was building a railroad line. The buyer, who wishes to remain anonymous, has to put the tablet on display according to the sale.  This is a religious “big deal.” I was shocked by the low price because there are 1,810 billionaires in the world and at least a few must think they can buy their way into Heaven. After all, Marilyn Monroe’s gown she wore at JFK’s birthday party which outlined all of her assets brought $4.8 million from a collector. Does it reveal a lot about the country that is the “most religious” among industrialized countries? What’s going on, U.S. shrinks? Only $850,000 for the Ten Commandments?

Has A Saudi Arabian Woman Ever Driven A Camel?

    I have always been interested in the fact that Muslim women cannot drive cars in Saudi Arabia. The banning has never made any sense to me because 63% of Saudi women have college degrees and have important jobs within the “Kingdom.” They must get to work each day. Before the advent of vehicles, Arab women rode beautiful Arabian horses and camels every day for thousands of years. Neither animal takes voice directions very well so they have to be driven. What is the religious difference between driving a car or driving your favorite camel?

   Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has perhaps the best comparison of science (the driving of a car) and religion (keeping women out of the driver’s seat): “Science investigates; religion interprets. Science gives man knowledge, which is power; religion gives man wisdom, which is control. Science deals mainly with facts; religion deals mainly with values. The two are not rivals.” Women in other Muslim countries drive airplanes, skateboards, horses, four-wheelers, camels, scooters, and trucks. What’s the big religious deal in Saudi Arabia?

  Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, a 36-year-old member of the royal family who is worth $18.9 million and is called the “Arabian Warren Buffett,” recently posted a four-page op-ed declaring it was way past time that Saudi women start driving cars. He even said it was “a fundamental infringement on a woman’s rights.” But the powerful Shura Council, which advises the king on such matters, rejected the proposal and said they wouldn’t even study it. Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that does not allow women to drive. Centuries ago many Muslim countries listed women with cows, horses, and camels as property. Those “values” have slowly disappeared in most countries—but not in Saudi Arabia. Saudi women must have the permission of a husband or male relative to apply for a passport, to marry, or to travel outside the country. They also must wear headscarves and wear loose-fitting garments called abayas when they go out in public.

   Some attitudes are slowly changing. Young Saudi men used to be shunned if they married a working woman. Today Saudi men look for a working woman as a marriage partner because she can help bring home the lamb chops. Over a million Saudi women are in the workforce each day and need someone to drive them to their job.  They also cannot use public transport alone. Many women are forced to hire drivers. Religious authorities still say that driving should be forbidden for women because “of a concern for their safety and virtue.”  Does religion really give men “wisdom” and a sense of “values?” Or is it really about control of women?  In the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammed his wives and daughters rode horses and camels, the only means of transport. At one time before and during the Middle Ages Islam was considered to be the most developed culture in the world, particularly in medicine and other scholarly pursuits. Look at the Middle East now. What happened? Was it religion or science that turned about a dozen Muslim countries into hell-holes? Sunnis killing Shiites and vice-versa. The Taliban and Boko-Horan killing everybody in sight. Is there a scientific explanation? There certainly is no wisdom in a religion that uses “thou shall kill” as a commandment.

Immigrants And The Nobel Foundation Prizes

   Almost 50 years ago our large farms and corporations needed a lot of cheap labor so we sent labor recruiters into Latin America called “coyotes” to find millions of workers to labor in the farms of California, Texas, and even the Red River Valley. Those cheap laborers later hung around and killed our cattle, pigs, and chickens so we could buy cheap hamburger, cheap pork chops, and cheap chicken wings—and they picked  the cheap lettuce, cheap tomatoes, cheap potatoes, and cheap onions that often go with them. But we always wanted them to go back home at night. We even passed laws banning “employers” from hiring the undocumented. When we lived in Phoenix one winter about a decade ago, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the savior of Arizona whites, said he was going to arrest U.S. employers who hired those illegals. He later said he couldn’t find a single employer who had broken the law! He could have arrested a hundred a day if he had gone to downtown Phoenix where hundreds of vans picked up thousands of day laborers waiting for jobs. I think it is absolutely fascinating to discover that six American citizens in 2016 have won Nobel Prizes for outstanding achievement in the fields of chemistry, physics, and economics. All winners are immigrants born outside of the United States.

A South African Victim Of Apartheid Tells Us About Apartheid In The United States

   I was surprised when South African native Trevor Noah replaced Jon Stewart as host of “The Daily Show” about a year ago. I did watch Stewart occasionally, impressed by his political acumen but depressed by his public profanity.  I never became a big fan. I’m going to watch Noah more because of his recent memoir about his life of 32 years: “Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood.” Born of an illegal meeting between his black Xhosa mother and a white Swiss-German father, his birth broke all kinds of laws, statutes, and regulations regarding “activities” between the white, black, colored, and Indian/Asian races. Because he was light-skinned the only time he was with his father was when they were indoors. If the family left the house to go for a walk, the father had to walk across the street from Trevor and his mother to avoid arrest. He would stay by his mother who would hold his hand until a policeman was near. She would then separate and pretend he was not her child. Because he was light-skinned he had neither white nor black friends.

   He spent almost all hours alone at home. He writes he was a lonely kid but was very good at being alone, reading many books, playing with toys he made from scraps.
   Trevor’s mother knew six languages: English, German, Afrikaans, Sotho, Xhosa, and Zulu. Trevor can also speak them, but his mother told him: “If you’re black in South Africa, speaking English is the one thing that can give you a leg up.”  One government test to determine whether you were white, black, or colored consisted of putting a pencil in your hair. If it stayed in your hair you could be labeled black or colored because you had “kinky” hair. If it fell out of straight hair you were white. Supposedly, apartheid ended in democracy about 20 years ago in a nation where 80% of the population is black, 8% are white, 9% are of “mixed” race, and 3% are Indian/Asian. But race relations in South Africa have now reached a point where 73% of blacks and 44% of whites believe the two races will never trust each other. But they have only worked at it for 20 years. We have been working at it for over 150 years and we still have major problems between the races. After the election of Donald Trump a white West Virginia development director said: “It will be refreshing to have a classy, beautiful, dignified First Lady (Melania Trump) in the White House. I’m tired of seeing a Ape in heels.” In the same week a white Republican Kentucky state senator posted a series of Facebook announcements depicting President Barack Obama and his wife Michele as monkeys. With published statements like these we have a long way to go,too.