Another international story of love and caring for our dogs.
This time about homeless or stray dogs and in Peru. Again it was written by Stephen Messenger and was shared on The Dodo website. Again it is about the fundamental goodness that is in a great many humans spanning continents.
Nice Restaurant Owner Prepares A Free Meal For Every Stray Dog Who Visits
“They pay us with their happiness and wagging tails” ❤️
By Stephen Messenger
Published on the 26th February, 2021
One evening five years ago, an unexpected customer dropped by Gerardo Ortiz’s restaurant, Ajilalo, in Peru. It was a stray dog, a look of hunger in her eyes.
Ortiz could have easily turned the dog away. But he didn’t.
That evening, Ortiz offered the dog a free meal, made just for her.
And thus began an adorable tradition that continues to this day.
Each evening, from then on, the hungry dog came and received a free meal from Ortiz’s restaurant.
But it didn’t take long for word of Ortiz’s kindness and generosity to spread among the community of local stray pups.
More dogs began to arrive with that first visitor— and Ortiz welcomed them all with a meal.
Nowadays, numerous stray dogs arrive to the doors of Ortiz’s restaurant each night. Many are regular “customers,” while others are first-timers — all hoping to fill their bellies thanks to Ortiz’s kindness.
Often, as Ortiz is working, he’ll look up and see a new dog’s face at the front — waiting politely to see if the rumor that free food can found there is true.
It always is.
“For me, they are the best customers,” Ortiz told The Dodo.
And his human customers hardly take that as a slight. Inspired by Ortiz, they often bring food for the visiting dogs as well.
“Thankfully, our clients have reacted well to the dogs,” Ortiz said. “They are affectionate toward them.”
Ultimately, Ortiz’s sweet routine of feeding all the stray dogs who visit does more than keep them from being hungry. It lets them know that their lives matter — a truth that Ortiz is happy to prove to them each and every day.
“They do not pay us with money, but they pay us with their happiness and wagging tails,” Ortiz said. “They are very grateful, and we enjoy giving more than receiving. Since I was a child, I have loved animals. My mother always taught us to help others, both people and animals. She’s my inspiration.”
This is such a wonderful share. Snr Ortiz confirms what we know absolutely. That people who care for animals care for so much more. As Gerardo says: “It lets them know that their lives matter.”
I am minded to remember when I first met Jean in December, 2007. Jean was living in San Carlos, Northern Mexico, and had been for many years. Her husband, Ben, had died in 2005.
Jean was rescuing street dogs off the streets of San Carlos and surrounding areas, caring for them, neutering or spaying them, and then finding homes for them mainly in Arizona, USA. Many, many dogs owed their lives to Jean’s love for those dogs. In 2010, after I had gone out to San Carlos with my Pharaoh to live with Jean and her dogs in 2008, we came North to Arizona to find a U.S. home and be married. We came through the Mexican-US border with 16 dogs, all of them with their paperwork in order. I will always recall the American border agent, after I had approached him with all the paperwork, leaning out of his booth and calling to the agent in the next booth: “Hey Jake, there’s a guy here with sixteen dogs!”
Jean and I were married in Payson, AZ on the 20th November, 2010.
Very sweet memories and the start of a loving era in our lives.
Their main job is to guard livestock, but wildlife benefits too.
A new litter of livestock dogs was just delivered by Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Argentina. Currently cuddly and very cute, the puppies will be specially trained to protect goats and sheep from predators. Not only will this help save the livestock, but these dogs will help limit conflicts between herders and the pumas and other native carnivores living around them in the Patagonian Desert.
The puppies are a mix of Great Pyrenees and Anatolian shepherd — large, working breeds trained to guard livestock. In the early weeks of the project, the puppies bond with the livestock to form protective relationships. WCS representatives work closely with herders to provide care and training for the puppies and the livestock during what’s known as this key “imprinting” period.
“During the first eight weeks of life, puppies will create a very strong bond, first with their mother and then with their social group. During the first 40 days, puppies remain with their mother, but livestock is kept in the same pen or corral with the dogs so they can smell them, see them, and progressively make physical contact with livestock,” Martín Funes, project manager of WCS Argentina, tells Treehugger.
“Progressively, during three months the bond between puppies and livestock will get stronger, and dogs will start to show a protective behavior. After this period they will recognize a certain species (we work with sheep and goats) as their social group, and that will remain for the rest of its life.”
For many years, WCS Argentina has been working with area herders to come up with new ways to stop conflicts with area predators. In the past, herders have resorted to shooting, poisoning, or trapping wildlife that have threatened their flocks.
WCS Argentina places the puppies with herders based on their location, the amount of conflict they’re having with carnivores, and their willingness to participate in the program, which includes proper care of the dogs through adulthood.
The dogs become a very powerful tool, says Funes.
“Livestock guarding dogs (LGD) stay with livestock 24/7, which is impossible for the other methods [of predator control]. They behave as part of the flock, and they will protect it against any threat,” he says.
“They tend to be very protective but they don’t have the hunting instinct of wolves or some other dog breeds (i.e., greyhounds or lebrels). However we should always consider a basic principle for reducing livestock losses by carnivores: The more methods you use, the safer your livestock will be. Combining different strategies is always an efficient approach to reduce attacks by carnivores.”
In the Patagonian Desert, also known as the Patagonia Steppe, livestock face threats from several wild cats including pumas, Geoffroy’s cat, pampas cat, and the threatened Andean cats. Other predators include Patagonian foxes and Andean condors.
“Even though we have been hunting, trapping, and killing carnivores, it has never been effective in reducing our losses,” said Flavio Castillo, a herder participating in the program, in a statement. “It is our hope that [the dogs] will be a very useful tool to stop predation. With the dogs, we can co-exist with carnivores and protect our production. Wildlife belongs here and we have to protect and co-exist with it.”
In addition to saving the lives of the flocks and their predators, the presence of the guardian dogs also can have a positive impact on habitat restoration.
“As attacks from carnivores diminish, producers tend to stop trapping, hunting and poisoning of wild animals, which is an outstanding benefit for the entire ecosystem,” says Funes.
“A secondary benefit, as producers perceive a reduction in annual livestock losses, is that herders might adjust livestock stocking rates density and improve soil and vegetation conditions and its performance, reducing overgrazing and desertification, a major and widespread environmental problem in arid Patagonia for the last two centuries.”
This is a powerful story of the many ways that dogs may be used to help humans.
Dogs are by far the longest domesticated animal that has bonded to humans and I’m trying to receive permission to republish a wonderful article that John Zande sent me to read. It is about the Neanderthals and homo sapiens and the relationship with dogs.
There is so much to speak about in this book, and anyone the ‘wrong’ side of 50 should consider purchasing the book. Really! I include the link to the book on Amazon. (And nothing in it for me I have to say.)
I want to concentrate on two items of note.
The first is that given the right diet, primarily a Mediterranean plant-based diet, and plenty of exercise, it is possible for the brain to rejuvenate new brain cells. Yes, that’s correct! New brain cells!
The second item of note is over on page 194. Let me quote:
Dr. Waldinger’s findings are attractive because they debunk commonly held myths about health and happiness. The findings are based on a comprehensive review of the participants’ lives and biology.
and two sentences later:
The lesson learned is that health and happiness are not about wealth, fame, or working harder. They are about good relationships.
Dr. Robert Waldinger is a psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital and a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. His TED talk, “What Makes a Good Life?” has been viewed more than 36 million times. The link to the TED Talk is here.
What keeps us happy and healthy as we go through life? If you think it’s fame and money, you’re not alone – but, according to psychiatrist Robert Waldinger, you’re mistaken. As the director of a 75-year-old study on adult development, Waldinger has unprecedented access to data on true happiness and satisfaction. In this talk, he shares three important lessons learned from the study as well as some practical, old-as-the-hills wisdom on how to build a fulfilling, long life.
On page 198 among the list of tips about staying engaged is to consider adopting a pet! Yes siree!
Now I am 76 and have had 14 years of pure happiness. Because in 2007 I met Jean, and all her dogs. We fell in love!
We came up to Payson, Arizona in 2010 and were married. In 2012 we came up to our rural acres in Southern Oregon.
It is 2021 and there is no doubt that we are both ageing but we are still very much in love.
We are very happy and that is because as luck would have it we are also each other’s best friend!
For as long as I live I will never stop marvelling at dogs.
Dogs are many things. In a sense they have as many likes and dislikes as us humans. But the one thing that is unique to these beautiful animals is their unconditionality. That, especially, shows through in the way that they care and love the humans and dogs around them.
This story on The Dodo emphasised that special way they care for their fellow dogs. Read it and you will see what I mean.
Camera Catches Dog Bringing His Bed To His Sick Brother So He’s Comfy
“As he’s dragging it he’s looking at Roman almost to say, ‘This is for you’”
From the moment they became brothers, Spanky has always adored and looked up to his big brother Roman. He follows Roman everywhere he goes, and is always happiest whenever they’re together.
“Roman is definitely Spanky’s security blanket,” Jackie Rogers, Roman and Spanky’s aunt, told The Dodo. “Spanky will do nothing without Roman and always makes sure he is close to him and if he’s not he gets up and goes near him.”
About two weeks ago, Roman’s ear started looking a little puffy and infected, so his mom took him to the vet and discovered he has a hematoma on his ear. They scheduled a surgery to take care of it, but unfortunately, while he waited for the surgery, his ear kept getting worse and poor Roman got more and more uncomfortable.
At first, Spanky didn’t notice anything was different, but as Roman’s ear got worse, everyone noticed that Spanky was much more gentle and concerned about his best friend.
“We had to take him back to the vet to confirm he could wait five more days for surgery and I brought Spanky along for the ride, but due to COVID we couldn’t go inside with Roman and for 20 minutes Spanky sat in the car crying/whining/barking until Roman got back,” Rogers said.
With the surgery set, all the family could do for Roman was to let him rest. During the day while everyone is at work, the family has a Ring camera set up so they can check in on the dogs, which is especially important now so they can make sure Roman is OK. Rogers was checking the camera recently when she noticed Spanky watching his brother lying on the floor, looking very concerned — and then he did the cutest thing.
“I see Spanky pacing for a minute while looking at Roman and then the bed and then I see him dragging the bed to Roman and as he’s dragging it he’s looking at Roman almost to say, ‘This is for you,’ and then the next clip is them snuggling,” Rogers said. “I had to re-watch it multiple times, I was in disbelief that he did that!”
Spanky was worried about his brother and wanted him to be as comfortable as possible, so he brought his bed to him so he wouldn’t have to move — because that’s how much he loves his big brother.
Spanky brought the bed over to Roman around 10 a.m., and when Rogers got home that evening, they were still snuggled up there together. Spanky knows his brother isn’t feeling well, and he’s determined to stay by his side until he’s feeling better — and will do anything he can to make sure he’s safe and comfortable in the meantime.
There’s no real way that words can explain that. It’s beautiful, loving and caring and just goes to show how the loving bond works in practice.
An essay about the 2020 winter solstice!
Winter solstice 2020 in the Northern Hemisphere will be at 2:02 AM on Monday, December 21. That is our local Pacific Time which is 8 hours behind UTC.
So in UTC terms that is 10:02.
For some reason I have always regarded the Winter solstice as special, no doubt because in the Northern Hemisphere it is the time for the shortest day! It is the start of the new year!
What you need to know about this year’s winter solstice and the great conjunction
December 18, 2020
By William TeetsActing Director and Astronomer, Dyer Observatory, Vanderbilt University
Editor’s note: Dr. William Teets is the director of Vanderbilt University’s Dyer Observatory. In this interview, he explains what does and doesn’t happen during the winter solstice on Dec. 21. Another cosmic phenomenon is also going to occur on the same day called “the great conjunction,” where Saturn and Jupiter, both of which can be seen with the naked eye, will appear extremely close to one another.
What happens on the winter solstice?
The winter solstice this year happens on Dec. 21. This is when the Sun appears the lowest in the Northern Hemisphere sky and is at its farthest southern point over Earth – directly over the Tropic of Capricorn. For folks living at 23.5 degrees south latitude, not only does this day mark their summer solstice, but they also see the Sun directly over them at local noon. After that, the Sun will start to creep back north again.
The sequence of images below shows the path of the Sun through the sky at different times of the year. You can see how the Sun is highest in the Northern Hemisphere sky in June, lowest in December, and halfway in between these positions in March and September during the equinoxes.
The winter solstice is the shortest day in the Northern Hemisphere but not the day with the latest sunrise and earliest sunset. How is that possible?
The winter solstice doesn’t coincide with the latest sunrise or the earliest sunset. Those actually occur about two weeks before and two weeks after the winter solstice. This is because we are changing our distance from the sun due to our elliptical, not circular, orbit, which changes the speed at which we orbit.
If you were to look at where the Sun is at exactly the same time of day over different days of the year, you would see that it’s not always in the same spot. Yes, the Sun is higher in the summer and lower in the winter, but it also moves from side to side of the average noontime position, which also plays a role in when the Sun rises and sets.
One should also keep in mind that the seasons are due to the Earth’s axial tilt, not our distance from the Sun. Believe it or not, we are closest to the Sun in January.
What is ‘the great conjunction’?
Saturn and Jupiter have appeared fairly close together in our sky throughout the year. But on Dec. 21, Saturn and Jupiter will appear so close together that some folks may have a difficult time seeing them as two objects.
If you have a pair of binoculars, you’ll easily be able to spot both planets. In even a small telescope, you’d see both planets at the same time in the same field of view, which is really unheard of. That’s what makes this conjunction so rare. Jupiter and Saturn appear to meet up about every 20 years. Most of the time, however, they’re not nearly as close together as we’re going to see them on Monday, Dec. 21.
For a comparison, there was a great conjunction back in 2000, but the two planets were separated by about two full-Moon widths. This year, the orbits will bring them to where they appear to be about one-fifth of a full-Moon diameter.
We have been encouraging folks to go out and look at these planets using just their eyes between now and Dec. 21. You’ll actually be able to see how much they appear to move over the course of a single day.
The next time they will get this close together in our sky won’t be for another 60 years, so this is going to be a once-in-a-lifetime event for many people. In fact, the last time they got this close together was in the year 1623, but it was really difficult, if not impossible, to see them then because they appeared much closer to the Sun and set soon after it. Go back another 400 years to 1226 and this would have been the last time that we would have had a good view of this type of conjunction.
What advice would you give to people who want to see the great conjunction?
If weather permits at Dyer Observatory, we’ll be streaming a live view of the conjunction from one of the observatory’s telescopes, and I’ll be available to answer questions. Even if you don’t have a telescope or a pair of binoculars, definitely go out and check out this very rare alignment with your own eyes. Remember that they set soon after sunset, so be ready to view right at dusk!
From the introduction that was received by email:
I want to include another piece on the conjunction. It comes from the introduction to that item above: It’s been a tough year. To many of us, every day during the coronavirus pandemic has felt incredibly long. Perhaps it will come as a relief that Monday will be the shortest day of the year. December 21 will also bring a rare cosmic phenomenon. If the sky is clear over the next few nights, look out just over the southwest horizon. You may see Jupiter and Saturn coming together and then drifting apart in an event known as “the great conjunction.” Although this occurs once every two decades, the last time they came this close, and we Earthlings got such a clear view, was in 1226.
I also want to include a copy of an article on the website belonging to KRCC that talks of the Great Conjunction.
Why The Jupiter And Saturn Conjunction During The 2020 Winter Solstice Is Extra Special
A rare celestial event will help mark the Winter Solstice in the northern hemisphere on Monday, Dec. 21.
Jupiter and Saturn are currently appearing very close together from an earthly vantage point. These two gas giants are in conjunction, an occurrence that happens every 20 years or so.
This one though, is extra special.
“Really, really close conjunctions like this one are quite rare,” said Hal Bidlack with the Colorado Springs Astronomical Society. “We haven’t been able to observe Jupiter and Saturn this close since the year 1226. And we won’t see them again this close for decades and decades to come.”
The two planets were last about this close together in the year 1623. But the pairing occurred while the planets were close to the sun from earth’s perspective, Bidlack said, and the sight was basically washed out in the sun’s glare.
In reality, Saturn and Jupiter are hundreds of millions of miles apart.
“On the 21st they will appear so close that if you held a dime on edge at arm’s length, that’s how close they would be together,” Bidlack said.
From Colorado Springs, sky gazers only need to look toward Cheyenne Mountain to catch a glimpse. Elsewhere in Colorado, Bidlack said folks can look to the southwestern skies, low near the horizon.
The pair sets around an hour and a half after the sun does, about 4:39 p.m. on Monday.
The planets will begin to separate when viewed from Earth, and will eventually disappear altogether from the night sky until reappearing in the morning sky in early 2021. See more skywatching tips from NASA.
If you have managed to stay on today’s post until near the end you would have seen the following: “We haven’t been able to observe Jupiter and Saturn this close since the year 1226. And we won’t see them again this close for decades and decades to come.”
Just about 800 years ago since this last happened.
If you can, go outside with a telescope or a pair of binoculars and watch the sight! That time of the sunset is 4:39 PM Pacific Time. I think that wherever you are in the world starting to watch as soon as it is dark would be a good idea.
I am not saying anything new but just reiterating what has been said before: 2020 is going to go down as the year from hell! And I don’t think that is too strong a word!
Part of it are the news stories that sweep the world: Covid-19; Brexit; Climate change; up until yesterday what was President Trump going to do in his last few weeks; etc; etc.
Also part of it is the way that news and more news and, yes, more news is flashed around the globe. Most of it bad news as we all know that bad news sells!
Finally, part of it is the new world of social media especially messaging on a smartphone. President Trump isn’t the only one to communicate greatly via Twitter.
Now, speaking personally, I couldn’t have got through this year without Jeannie and our dogs.
But, nevertheless, something has changed and Mark Satta has written an article that tries to explain things.
Three reasons for information exhaustion – and what to do about it
By Mark Satta, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Wayne State University.
November 18th, 2020
An endless flow of information is coming at us constantly: It might be an article a friend shared on Facebook with a sensational headline or wrong information about the spread of the coronavirus. It could even be a call from a relative wanting to talk about a political issue.
All this information may leave many of us feeling as though we have no energy to engage.
As a philosopher who studies knowledge-sharing practices, I call this experience “epistemic exhaustion.” The term “epistemic” comes from the Greek word episteme, often translated as “knowledge.” So epistemic exhaustion is more of a knowledge-related exhaustion.
It is not knowledge itself that tires out many of us. Rather, it is the process of trying to gain or share knowledge under challenging circumstances.
Currently, there are at least three common sources that, from my perspective, are leading to such exhaustion. But there are also ways to deal with them.
For many, this year has been full of uncertainty. In particular, the coronavirus pandemic has generated uncertainty about health, about best practices and about the future.
Many writers have discussed the negative effects of polarization, such as how it can damage democracy. But discussions about the harms of polarization often overlook the toll polarization takes on our ability to gain and share knowledge.
For those inclined to take the views of others seriously, this can create additional cognitive work. And when the issues are heated or sensitive, this can create additional stress and emotional burdens, such as sadness over damaged friendships or anger over partisan rhetoric.
As chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov put it: “The point of modern propaganda isn’t only to misinform or push an agenda. It is to exhaust your critical thinking, to annihilate truth.”
Misinformation is often exhausting by design. For example, a video that went viral, “Plandemic,” featured a large number of false claims about COVID-19 in rapid succession. This flooding of misinformation in rapid succession, a tactic known as a Gish gallop, makes it challenging and time-consuming for fact checkers to refute the many falsehoods following one after another.
What to do?
With all this uncertainty, polarization and misinformation, feeling tired is understandable. But there are things one can do.
The American Psychological Association suggests coping with uncertainty through activities like limiting news consumption and focusing on things in one’s control. Another option is to work on becoming more comfortable with uncertainty through practices such as meditation and the cultivation of mindfulness.
To deal with polarization, consider communicating with the goal of creating empathetic understanding rather than “winning.” Philosopher Michael Hannon describes empathetic understanding as “the ability to take up another person’s perspective.”
As for limiting the spread of misinformation: Share only those news stories that you’ve read and verified. And you can prioritize outlets that meet high ethical journalistic or fact-checking standards.
These solutions are limited and imperfect, but that’s all right. Part of resisting epistemic exhaustion is learning to live with the limited and imperfect. No one has time to vet all the headlines, correct all the misinformation or gain all the relevant knowledge. To deny this is to set oneself up for exhaustion.
That last section, What to do?, is full of really sensible advice. In fact, the American Psychological Association has an article at the moment that appears to be freely available called Healing the political divide.
I intend to read it.
It finishes up saying:
Scientists must strive to share their research as broadly as possible. And they don’t have to do it alone. Organizations like More in Common work to conduct research and communicate findings to audiences where it can have the greatest impact.
Advocacy is essential as well. Other countries that have made strides in addressing the political divide relied heavily on government-led reconciliation efforts. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, for example, in South Africa, has been fundamental in addressing disparities and conflict around Apartheid.
Were the United States to consider similar, government-backed efforts, psychologists must be part of the call to do so. And the behavioral expertise of the field would be central to success.
“The collective mental health of the nation is at risk,” says Moghaddam. “Just as we should rely on epidemiological science to tell us when there is a vaccine ready for mass use, we have to rely on psychological science to guide us through these mental health issues.”
And following an election that, for many, has felt like the most polarized of a lifetime, this piece seems critical. “ This is what our profession is all about,” says Moghaddam.
Good advice especially if you can take time off just losing oneself in nature.
Now again this has nothing to do with dogs and I would be the first person to say that there are still some people out there who are not convinced that global warming is a major result of human activity.. But none other than the Union of Concerned Scientists are persuaded that humans are the major cause. See their website here. (From which the following is taken.)
Every single year since 1977 has been warmer than the 20th century average, with 16 of the 17 warmest years on record occurring since 2001, and 2016 being the warmest year on recorded history. A study from 2016 found that without the emissions from burning coal and oil, there is very little likelihood that 13 out of the 15 warmest years on record would all have happened.
And further on in the article, this:
Scientists agree that today’s warming is primarily caused by humans putting too much carbon in the atmosphere, like when we choose to extract and burn coal, oil, and gas, or cut down and burn forests.
Today’s carbon dioxide levels haven’t been seen in at least the last 800,000 years. Data assembled from Antarctic ice core samples and modern atmospheric observations.
So on to the film.
My son, Alex, sent me the following email on the 7th October.
This is a really interesting film about climate change in the west coast mountains, USA. A bit skiing related but a good watch !
Lots of love
Included in the email was a link to the film available on YouTube.
The film is just under one hour in length and a great film to watch as well as having a clear, fundamental message: All of us must act in whatever ways we can if our children and grandchildren are to have a future. Indeed, do you believe you have another twenty or more years to live? Then include yourself as well.
About The Film
Professional snowboarder and mountaineer Jeremy Jones has an intimate relationship with the outdoors. It’s his escape, his identity, and his legacy. But over the course of his 45 years in the mountains, he’s seen many things change: more extreme weather, fewer snow days, and economic strain on mountain towns.
Motivated by an urge to protect the places he loves, Jeremy sets out on a physical and philosophical journey to find common ground with fellow outdoor people across diverse political backgrounds. He learns their hopes and fears while walking a mile in their shoes on the mountain and in the snow.
With intimacy and emotion set against breathtaking backdrops, Purple Mountains navigates America’s divide with a refreshing perspective: even though we may disagree about climate policy, our shared values can unite us.
Maybe because years ago he gave me blanket permission to republish his essays. Maybe because he and I are more or less the same age. Maybe because in my more quieter, introspective moments I wonder where the hell we are going. And Tom seems to agree.
Have a read of this.
Tomgram: Engelhardt, The Unexpected Past, the Unknown Future
[Note for TomDispatch Readers:Even in this terrible moment, TD does its best to continue offering an alternate view of this increasingly strange planet of ours. And I can only do so because of the ongoing support of readers. (I just wish I could actually thank each of you individually!) If you have the urge to continue to lend a hand in keeping TomDispatch afloat, then do check out our donation page. For a donation of $100 ($125 if you live outside the U.S.), I usually offer a signed, personalized book from one of a number of TD authors listed on that page and you can certainly ask, but no guarantees in this pandemic moment. Still, you really do make all the difference and I can’t thank you enough for that! Tom]
Let me be blunt. This wasn’t the world I imagined for my denouement. Not faintly. Of course, I can’t claim I ever really imagined such a place. Who, in their youth, considers their death and the world that might accompany it, the one you might leave behind for younger generations? I’m 76 now. True, if I were lucky (or perhaps unlucky), I could live another 20 years and see yet a newer world born. But for the moment at least, it seems logical enough to consider this pandemic nightmare of a place as the country of my old age, the one that I and my generation (including a guy named Donald J. Trump) will pass on to our children and grandchildren.
Back in 2001, after the 9/11 attacks, I knew it was going to be bad. I felt it deep in my gut almost immediately and, because of that, stumbled into creating TomDispatch.com, the website I still run. But did I ever think it would be this bad? Not a chance.
I focused back then on what already looked to me like a nightmarish American imperial adventure to come, the response to the 9/11 attacks that the administration of President George W. Bush quickly launched under the rubric of “the Global War on Terror.” And that name (though the word “global” would soon be dropped for the more anodyne “war on terror”) would prove anything but inaccurate. After all, in those first post-9/11 moments, the top officials of that administration were thinking as globally as possible when it came to war. At the damaged Pentagon, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld almost immediately turned to an aide and told him, “Go massive — sweep it all up, things related and not.” From then on, the emphasis would always be on the more the merrier.
Bush’s top officials were eager to take out not just Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda, whose 19 mostly Saudi hijackers had indeed attacked this country in the most provocative manner possible (at a cost of only $400,000-$500,000), but the Taliban, too, which then controlled much of Afghanistan. And an invasion of that country was seen as but the initial step in a larger, deeply desired project reportedly meant to target more than 60 countries! Above all, George W. Bush and his top officials dreamed of taking down Iraqi autocrat Saddam Hussein, occupying his oil-rich land, and making the United States, already the unipolar power of the twenty-first century, the overseer of the Greater Middle East and, in the end, perhaps even of a global Pax Americana. Such was the oil-fueled imperial dreamscape of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and crew (including that charmer and now bestselling anti-Trump author John Bolton).
Who Woulda Guessed?
In the years that followed, I would post endless TomDispatch pieces, often by ex-military men, focused on the ongoing nightmare of our country’s soon-to-become forever wars (without a “pax” in sight) and the dangers such spreading conflicts posed to our world and even to us. Still, did I imagine those wars coming home in quite this way? Police forces in American cities and towns thoroughly militarized right down to bayonets, MRAPs, night-vision goggles, and helicopters, thanks to a Pentagon program delivering equipment to police departments nationwide more or less directly off the battlefields of Washington’s never-ending wars? Not for a moment.
Who doesn’t remember those 2014 photos of what looked like an occupying army on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, after the police killing of a Black teenager and the protests that followed? And keep in mind that, to this day, the Republican Senate and the Trump administration have shown not the slightest desire to rein in that Pentagon program to militarize police departments nationwide. Such equipment (and the mentality that goes with it) showed up strikingly on the streets of American cities and towns during the recent Black Lives Matter protests.
Even in 2014, however, I couldn’t have imagined federal agents by the hundreds, dressed as if for a forever-war battlefield, flooding onto those same streets (at least in cities run by Democratic mayors), ready to treat protesters as if they were indeed al-Qaeda (“VIOLENT ANTIFA ANARCHISTS”), or that it would all be part of an election ploy by a needy president. Not a chance.
Or put another way, a president with his own “goon squad” or “stormtroopers” outfitted to look as if they were shipping out for Afghanistan or Iraq but heading for Portland, Albuquerque, Chicago, Seattle, and other American cities? Give me a break! How un-American could you get? A military surveillance drone overhead in at least one of those cities as if this were someone else’s war zone? Give me a break again. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d live to witness anything quite like it or a president — and we’ve had a few doozies — even faintly like the man a minority of deeply disgruntled Americans but a majority of electors put in the White House in 2016 to preside over a failing empire.
How about an American president in the year 2020 as a straightforward, no-punches-pulled racist, the sort of guy a newspaper could compare to former segregationist Alabama governor and presidential candidate George Wallace without even blinking? Admittedly, in itself, presidential racism has hardly been unique to this moment in America, despite Joe Biden’s initial claim to the contrary. That couldn’t be the case in the country in which Woodrow Wilson made D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation, the infamous silent movie in which the Ku Klux Klan rides to the rescue, the first film ever to be shown in the White House; nor the one in which Richard Nixon used his “Southern strategy” — Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater had earlier labeled it even more redolently “Operation Dixie” — to appeal to the racist fears of Southern whites and so begin to turn that region from a Democratic stronghold into a Republican bastion; nor in the land where Ronald Reagan launched his election campaign of 1980 with a “states’ rights” speech (then still a code phrase for segregation) near Philadelphia, Mississippi, just miles from the earthen dam where three murdered civil rights workers had been found buried in 1964.
Still, an openly racist president (don’t take that knee!) as an autocrat-in-the-making (or at least in-the-dreaming), one who first descended that Trump Tower escalator in 2015 denouncing Mexican “rapists,” ran for president rabidly on a Muslim ban, and for whom Black lives, including John Lewis’s, have always been immaterial, a president now defending every Confederate monument and military base named after a slave-owning general in sight, while trying to launch a Nixon-style “law and (dis)order” campaign? I mean, who woulda thunk it?
And add to that the once unimaginable: a man without an ounce of empathy in the White House, a figure focused only on himself and his electoral and pecuniary fate (and perhaps those of his billionaire confederates); a man filling his hated “deep state” with congressionally unapproved lackies, flacks, and ass-kissers, many of them previously flacks (aka lobbyists) for major corporations. (Note, by the way, that while The Donald has a distinctly autocratic urge, I don’t describe him as an incipient fascist because, as far as I can see, his sole desire — as in those now-disappeared rallies of his — is to have fans, not lead an actual social movement of any sort. Think of him as Mussolini right down to the look and style with a “base” of cheering MAGA chumps but no urge for an actual fascist movement to lead.)
And who ever imagined that an American president might actually bring up the possibility of delaying an election he fears losing, while denouncing mail-in ballots (“the scandal of our time”) as electoral fraud and doing his damnedest to undermine the Post Office which would deliver them amid an economic downturn that rivals the Great Depression? Who, before this moment, ever imagined that a president might consider refusing to leave the White House even if he did lose his reelection bid? Tell me this doesn’t qualify as something new under the American sun. True, it wasn’t Donald Trump who turned this country’s elections into 1% affairs or made contributions by the staggeringly wealthy and corporations a matter of free speech (thank you, Supreme Court!), but it is Donald Trump who is threatening, in his own unique way, to make elections themselves a thing of the past. And that, believe me, I didn’t count on.
Nor did I conceive of an all-American world of inequality almost beyond imagining. A country in which only the truly wealthy (think tax cuts) and the national security state (think budgets eternally in the stratosphere) are assured of generous funding in the worst of times.
The World to Come?
Oh, and I haven’t even mentioned the pandemic yet, have I? The one that should bring to mind the Black Death of the fourteenth century and the devastating Spanish Flu of a century ago, the one that’s killing Americans in remarkable numbers daily and going wild in this country, aided and abetted in every imaginable way (and some previously unimaginable ones) by the federal government and the president. Who could have dreamed of such a disease running riot, month after month, in the wealthiest, most powerful country on the planet without a national plan for dealing with it? Who could have dreamed of the planet’s most exceptional, indispensable country (as its leaders once loved to call it) being unable to take even the most modest steps to rein in Covid-19, thanks to a president, Republican governors, and Republican congressional representatives who consider science the equivalent of alien DNA? Honestly, who ever imagined such an American world? Think of it not as The Decameron, that fourteenth century tale of 10 people in flight from a pandemic, but the Trumpcameron or perhaps simply Trumpmageddon.
And keep in mind, when assessing this world I’m going to leave behind to those I hold near and dear, that Covid-19 is hardly the worst of it. Behind that pandemic, possibly even linked to it in complex ways, is something so much worse. Yes, the coronavirus and the president’s response to it may seem like the worst of all news as American deaths crest 160,000 with no end in sight, but it isn’t. Not faintly on a planet that’s being heated to the boiling point and whose most powerful country is now run by a crew of pyromaniacs.
It’s hard even to fully conceptualize climate change since it operates on a time scale that’s anything but human. Still, one way to think of it is as a slow-burn planetary version of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And by the way, if you’ll excuse a brief digression, in these years, our president and his men have been intent on ripping up every Cold War nuclear pact in sight, while the tensions between two nuclear-armed powers, the U.S. and China, only intensify and Washington invests staggering sums in “modernizing” its nuclear arsenal. (I mean, how exactly do you “modernize” the already-achieved ability to put an almost instant end to the world as we’ve known it?)
But to return to climate change, remember that 2020 is already threatening to be the warmest year in recorded history, while the five hottest years so far occurred from 2015 to 2019. That should tell you something, no?
The never-ending release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere has been transforming this planet in ways that have now become obvious. My own hometown, New York City, for instance, has officially become part of the humid subtropical climate zone and that’s only a beginning. Everywhere temperatures are rising. They hit 100 degrees this June in, of all places, Siberia. (The Arctic is warming at twice the rate of much of the rest of the planet.) Sea ice is melting fast, while floods and mega-droughts intensify and forests burn in a previously unknown fashion.
And as a recent heat wave across the Middle East — Baghdad hit a record 125 degrees — showed, it’s only going to get hotter. Much hotter and, given how humanity has handled the latest pandemic, how will it handle the chaos that goes with rising sea levels drowning coastlines but also affecting inland populations, ever fiercer storms, and flooding (in recent weeks, the summer monsoon has, for instance, put one third of Bangladesh underwater), not to speak of the migration of refugees from the hardest-hit areas? The answer is likely to be: not well.
And I could go on, but you get the point. This is not the world I either imagined or would ever have dreamed of leaving to those far younger than me. That the men (and they are largely men) who are essentially promoting the pandemicizing and over-heating of this planet will be the greatest criminals in history matters little.
Let’s just hope that, when it comes to creating a better world out of such a god-awful mess, the generations that follow us prove better at it than mine did. If I were a religious man, those would be my prayers.
And here’s my odd hope. As should be obvious from this piece, the recent past, when still the future, was surprisingly unimaginable. There’s no reason to believe that the future — the coming decades — will prove any easier to imagine. No matter the bad news of this moment, who knows what our world might really look like 20 years from now? I only hope, for the sake of my children and grandchildren, that it surprises us all.
This is such a powerful essay written from the heart of a good man.
I, too, wonder and worry about the next twenty years. Indeed, there are the stirrings of a book in my head. How that younger generation are reacting to the present and, more importantly, how they will react and respond to the next few years?
I’m 75 and really hope to live for quite a few more years. Jean is just a few years younger.
But much more importantly I have a son, Alex, who is 49, and a daughter, Maija, who is 48, and a grandson, Morten, of my daughter and her husband, who is 9.