A Blast from the Past

I just received the strangest thing in my mailbox.  It was addressed to me at my current address  (the street name slightly misspelled), with a postmark of San Francisco CA, dated 23 Apr 2018.  The return address was

The Past
Box 416
Middlebary, Vt 05753

Inside the envelope was a card with nothing but a heart written on it, and inside the card another envelope, which was addressed to

Mr. & Mrs. David Korn
99A Lundy’s Lane
San Francisco, California

The postmark was Middlebury, VT, dated May 26, 1965.  The letter bore 5 cents in postage stamps.  The return address was Box 416 – our mailing address when we lived in Middlebury.

Inside the inner envelope was a typewritten letter starting “Dear Dave, Evvie, and Christina”.  The contents of the letter were very positive & friendly considering that David and I had a lot of bad sibling issues between us at that time.  I apparently was trying to sound “sophisticated”, but looking at the letter 53 years on, I sound mainly embarrassing.

The mystery to me is how this letter came to my current address at this time, from San Francisco, forsooth, where I currently don’t know anyone.  Could any of my nieces or my brother cast some light on this mystery, perhaps?

 

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A Letter from the Bishop of the Southwest California Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church of America

[Some of my friends may be under the impression that all American Protestant churches are like those churches run by Jerry Falwell, Jr., or Billy Graham’s son, etc., or hold views extolled by Pat Robinson, Ralph Reed, James Dobson, or others of their ilk.  Nothing can be further from the truth.  Witness a letter that the Bishop of the local region of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America]

Pastoral Letter from Bishop Erwin

To the pastors, deacons, and people of the Southwest California Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:

Dear siblings in Christ, grace and peace to you in Jesus’ name!

Just over a week ago now, the screens of our television sets and our internet news feeds were filled with images of angry, torch-carrying demonstrators in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a gathering of white nationalists, Klan members, and neo-Nazis were challenged by demonstrators of many kinds, including many representatives of our church, our full communion partners, and other churches and faith communities.

The bishops of two of our synods (and one bishop-elect) were also present, and engaged both in counter-demonstration and some structured dialogue with those on the other side. Those of you who monitor my Facebook and Twitter feeds (and those of the synod) know that we were also watching these events closely and reacting strongly to what we saw.

For many white Americans, the events in Charlottesville came as a shock. But for Americans of color-and for anyone who has a heart for the true American story-these were not new: only the most recent victims of racism-inspired violence in our country. The scenes in Charlottesville were disturbing, but most of all because they could have been anywhere in the United States.

White nationalism and the racism at its heart are not a new phenomenon in the United States. They have accompanied our nation from its birth, through its rise to continental dominance, and into its world leadership in the 20th century. Ideas of white supremacy in visible in our governing documents. White supremacy is part of the underpinning of the national myth of European-Americans populating an empty land and making it prosperous through hard work and trust in God. It ignores the violent destruction of the native peoples except as examples of a natural obstacle to be overcome. It cloaks the national dependence on African slave labor in the language of economic necessity, when in fact it represents a deep and tragic moral flaw in the nation’s character and history.

The self-criticism and remorse that such a tragic history should call forth from contemporary Americans is clearly not shared by all and is rejected by some. Claiming the superiority of white, European-American culture, alt-right protesters use images evoking the rise of Nazism and other fascist symbols, and chant slogans dismissive of people of color, non-Christians, and LGBTQ+ people. And, of course, the white protesters were almost all male. There is an undercurrent of sexism here, too.

Those white nationalist protests in Virginia and elsewhere have now torn the veil from the face of hate; they have brought to the forefront again our nation’s legacy of violence born of racism. They have revealed to us the depths to which some are willing to go to drive wedges between us; and they have revealed to us that even the nation’s highest officials are unwilling to confront the racism that is part of the weave of the American social tapestry.

It is impossible to overstate the pain that this series of events has caused many of us, especially our friends and neighbors of color. But this is about all of us, whatever our race, religion, ethnicity, age, gender or sexuality. This is about the deliberate attempts to create division among people in our society to further political ends, and to sacrifice the well-being of those who are “different” to a false narrative of America dominated by white, male, straight, English-speaking people. White nationalism is a denial of diversity and a devaluing of “otherness” among our neighbors. It is racism, and it is sin: denying the image of God put into in every human being by their Creator.

Those who do not resist racism in our society are complicit in it. So how are we, as Christians and as a Lutheran church, to respond to this remarkable and painful turn of events? I believe we have both the obligation to speak out and act, and the resources we need to do so. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has made clear for many years its opposition to racism: in its social statement “Freed in Christ: Race, Ethnicity, and Culture” from 1993, our church has made its opposition to all forms of racism-personal and systemic-clear, and has called on us to renounce the racism in our hearts, our congregations, and our society.

I believe we are called to pray, to learn, and to act. None of these is optional, but as people of God, we always begin with God. God’s love has a human face: the face of Jesus the Christ. Born a human, a Palestinian Jew, Jesus presents us a face as familiar as our neighbor and yet entirely unknown. Jesus was not white-he was what he needed to be to be with those among whom he lived, and for us he is what we need, now, whoever we are. Jesus’ face is our face, when we love and care for one another. Jesus’ love crossed boundaries of race and nationality, too, and Christianity has never been limited to one race or language or ethnicity.

So out of our common faith in a single God and God’s love revealed to all in Christ, we are encouraged to call on God for help and hope, we are engaged with one another in an effort to understand each others’ stories, and we are empowered to act in Jesus’ name to make ourselves, our congregations, and our communities better and freer of prejudice.

In the name of Jesus Christ, I call on our people and our congregations in this synod to:

Pray for courage to speak out against racism, even in those closest to you, and act to call all those around us to understand and account for the racism they harbor.

Pray for clarity to understand our own role in social injustice; pray for forgiveness for the wrongs we have committed as well as those from which we have simply benefited-and act to protect the vulnerable in our midst from harm.

Pray for wisdom to be listeners and learners, especially to listen to those who have been victimized by racism and re-victimized by the failure of our nation to address its ancient injustices. Pray for insight into the ways prejudice stains everything we do, and strength to act to challenge it in ourselves and others.

Pray for strength to resist the forces of evil wherever they are found, for as long as we are able. None of this is new; none of it can be wiped away in a single generation, no matter how much we want it to. But we can act to resist it again and again, and we must be prepared to do so.

Pray for each other, that kindness and neighbor-love outweigh pain and suspicion-and put that kindness into action for each other, and for those we don’t know personally.

Pray for the church, that the presence of Christ in our midst give us the strength and compassion to make the changes we need to make, to accept the imperfection of human striving, and to abide in the hope of justice in the reign into which God is leading us. We also act when we worship, when we built community, and when we show one another love.

I spent the last week, like many of you, in deep anger at the ignorance and spite I saw manifested in Charlottesville. I am still angry. But I am also hopeful.

Somehow, I feel that I see more clearly now than I have ever seen. Racism and prejudice have revealed themselves anew; public leadership has failed to renounce them fully. We are not in a post-racial America-we are just beginning to understand what it means to be diverse. We are in a new time, not just of civil rights laws, but of an actual change in our people toward a genuine appreciation for our remarkable, enriching American diversity-the diversity that we enjoy in Los Angeles and its metropolitan area.

Clearly there are still many for whom this diversity is threatening. But it is no longer optional. The myth of “white America” is dead, carried to its grave by the light of tiki torches, interred at the foot of a Confederate statue in Virginia. The clock does not turn back. Diversity is here-right here in our community-and we must meet it as befits Jesus’ people, as disciples of the Christ.

I no longer believe that the struggle against racism is one that I can simply wait to see completed. It is no longer the challenge others need to meet. It is my struggle, too, both inside myself and in my life in society. And it is a struggle for our church.

May God help us as we push forward toward justice, equality, and a love that transcends difference and embraces us all.

With unwavering trust in God’s love for all, I extend to each of you my blessing: may God grant you strength, boldness, courage, and peace!

+Guy
August 19, 2017

Science vs. Codswallop

A relative of mine today “liked” a Facebook post about the Perseid meteor shower, which will peak this weekend.  The title of the post read

Get Ready! You Don’t Want to Miss the Brightest Meteor Shower in Recorded Human History!

This is utter bilge.  While it is true that the Perseids (along with the Geminids, which occur in mid-December) can usually be relied on to provide the best displays year-to-year (between 60-120 per hour at their peak, in very dark skies), that’s nowhere near “the brightest meteor shower in recorded human history).  However, this year’s Perseid display will occur when the moon is only a few days past full, and it’s light will blot out most of the Perseids (a rate of maybe 20 per hour is expected).

The Facebook article (see here),  was produced by a website entitled SIMPLECAPACITY.COM.  The “owner and CEO” of this site is a gentleman named Nikola  Gjakovsky from Macedonia.  You can read about him by clicking here.

Please understand that in general I really appreciate articles about science, any type of science (but especially astronomy), appearing on Facebook because the more folks know about science, the less likely they are to believe in all of the codswallop that’s floating around the Internet these days.  But this article, which to be fair does have some correct information about meteors (which Mr. Gjakovsky likely got from Wikipedia), overstates the Perseids way beyond the pale.  A look at other articles on SIMPLECAPACITY.COM show similar over-the-top-content.

Why is this a problem?  Well, in this instance, people who take the time to get away from the city lights this weekend to see the Perseids expecting a colossal show are going to be deeply disappointed.  To the degree that they believed the opinions of Mr. Gjakovsky have anything to do with real science, they will tend to distrust science and scientists.

Another fine example of pseudoscience occurs every two years like clockwork, when the Earth and Mars are at their closest distance from each other in their respective orbits (a bit more 33,000,000 miles).  Every two years, like clockwork, a flurry of Facebook and other social media article erupt claiming that “Mars will look as big as the Moon”.  Hogwash.  Mars will look like a bright reddish-orange star that doesn’t twinkle like a star.  It will only look “as big as the moon” if you look at it through a pretty large telescope.  However, every two years like clockwork, friends and relatives, knowing my interest in astronomy,  “tag” these articles for me.  And every two years, I have to explain that this isn’t true.

Some people don’t like to hear that what they’ve read is phony science.  Another relative of mine (not the one mentioned above) used to pepper her Facebook feed with articles of the type mentioned above, or some even crazier.  And every time she did, I went on Snopes or some other fact-checking site and gave her a link to that article.   When she challenged me about that, I let her know I don’t think propagating fake science is doing anyone a service, and she responded by unfriending me.  I love this relative deeply, but I’m OK with not being subjected to the articles.

[For the record, “the brightest meteor showers in recorded history” are associated with the Leonid meteor shower, which occurs in mid-November.  Normally, it is a relatively weak shower (maybe 20 per hour under dark skies).  But on a cycle of roughly 33 years (although not every 33 years), the Leonids give forth a meteor “storm” where the rate can approach or even exceed 3,000 per hour!  Known meteor storms emanating from the Leonids were observed in the U.S. in 1833, 1866, 1966, and 2001.  I was fortunate enough to observe the 2001 storm, and it lived up to its billing.  I’ve been spoiled.  After that display, I’m not as likely to go far away to see 60-100 meteors per hour anymore.]

A Blast from the Past — On Mount Lowe

About 100 years ago (early 1917), my grandfather, grandmother, and mother traveled 15,000 miles over the course of 49 days from St. Petersburg, Russia to New York City where my grandfather became a cipher clerk at the Russian consulate.  That job ended not long after the October Revolution and he came west for a time to run a chicken farm in Petaluma and later to do stunt riding in the silent movies in Hollywood before returning for New York, where he lived the rest of his life.

They took the “scenic route” from New York to San Francisco, passing through the South and Southwest.  They stopped in Southern California for five days and visited a variety of tourist attractions,  including Exposition Park, the old Busch Gardens in Pasadena, Long Beach, and the San Gabriel Mission.

On January 31, 1918, he and his family got on the Pacific Electric RR in downtown L.A.  to Pasadena, and from there to Mount Lowe.  He wrote about it in his dictated (in Russian) reminiscences some 50 years later.  My mother translated and transcribed them.

“First stop Rubio Canyon, long, deep, in places sheer sides, and narrow, where we changed to an inclined trolley leading to Echo Mountain with an observatory and power station on top for the incline and trolley.  The road to Alpine Tavern on Mt. Lowe very scenic but dangerous. Sometimes when the trolleys ran over a canyon or crevice, you had a feeling you were without foundation, in the air, because the trolley passed a narrow road without barriers.  When we got into the trolley a man asked everybody from where they were and why and then wrote it in a book.  The road had very sharp turns.  When we came to Alpine we went through the lobby where there was a huge fireplace, and in front of it on the floor was wood, six feet long and 12 inches in diameter, ready for the fireplace in the evening.  We had dinner (very good) at a restaurant with very wide windows and tables near each window, so during dinner we saw the mountains and canyons.  Then we got a newspaper (two pages) with all the major news and a list of all the visitors that had come to Mount Lowe Alpine Tavern.  They printed our names.  After dinner we went to the observation terrace and one of the guides explained all the mountains (Mt. Baldy, 10,500 feet), canyons, villages, and towns.  Mount Lowe has an elevation over 3,000 feet [actually 4,995 feet] so in the early evening it was very cool.  So we went inside to the lobby to wait for our trolley and there the fireplace was lit and the room was very comfortable with very comfortable chairs around the fire.  Then we went outside to our trolley and saw a colony of tent cabins for visitors willing to stay overnight.  At 6:30 pm we left Mount Lowe.  I took the outside seat so Nyusik [Anna, my grandmother] and Enusik [Ena, my mother] would be safe.  When we got to the observatory it was just after sunset, and light along the incline, observatory, and villages, towns, and cities below were all illuminated with electric lights, a very unforgettable picture.”

PostScript:  In 1992, it was no longer possible for my mother to live alone.  She came out to Altadena from Vermont and eventually became a resident at Scripps Hone, where she lived until her death in 2000.  Since I know that some trolley came down Mariposa Street from Fair Oaks, I used to tell her that she had passed, almost 75 years before, the orange grove where our home later came to be.

Qubits and Schrodinger’s Cat

Many of you have heard, however casually, of Schrodinger’s Cat, the subject of a thought experiment by Erwin Schrodinger in 1935.  Without going into great detail (detail can be found here), a central proposition of the story is that during the course of the experiment Schrodinger’s Cat is alive AND dead simultaneously.  It only becomes alive OR dead when someone opens the box and looks at it.  The thought experiment was developed to explain one of the (to put it mildly) counterintuitive findings of quantum mechanics – a branch of physics that applies to extremely small particles.

I always thought that this thought experiment was a cop-out.  Obviously, I thought, if the cat was observed to be dead at the end of the experiment, there must have been a particular moment before which it was alive and after which it was dead, but that time was unknown because the event of the cat’s dying wasn’t observed.  But I’m beginning to think I’m wrong.

After several decades of theorizing and development, the first, very crude quantum computers are now being built and evaluated (see here).  A quantum computer is different from a regular digital computer in the mechanisms that store and manipulate data, to wit:

  • The basic unit of storage in a digital computer is called a bit.  It can have two states – off or on, represented by the digits 0 and 1.  To represent numbers larger than one, individual bits are strung together to form a larger number, just like in “normal” (i.e. “base-10) numbers, digits are strung together to represent numbers larger than 9, 99, 999, etc..
  • The basic unit of storage in a quantum computer is called a qubit.  It can have three states – off, on, or off-and-on. (Do you see the relationship to Schrodinger’s Cat, which can be dead, alive, or dead-and-alive?),  This last state is known in quantum mechanics as a “superposition of states”.

The difference between Schrodinger’s Cat and quantum computers is that, as far as I know, no one has ever conducted the Schrodinger’s Cat experiment and successfully determined that the cat is at some point dead-and-alive, but qubits actually exist.  Moreover, they are capable of being in any of the three qubit states, and each qubit can be manipulated so that it can change from any of the three states to any other.

So, since qubits do exist, maybe dead-and-alive cats exists as well!

Better, Mr. Nino

Weather

Alright, Mr. Nino.  This is an improvement.  I should point out, however, that today’s rain comprises about a quarter of what we’ve received since July 1.  There is still plenty of room for improvement.  How about 20 more storms just like this one between now and the end of March?  That should make up for last year’s pathetic rainfall.

I’m Disappointed, Mr. Nino.

I’ve been looking forward to the realization of the breathless predictions being spread far and wide for the last several days about the train of storms heading right for the Hacienda.

The first one, admittedly small, was supposed to hit yesterday afternoon, or perhaps evening.  In the event, it happened about 4:15 am, lasted about three minutes, and dropped something less than 0.01″ (the smallest amount my home weather station can detect).  True, the ground was wet when I ventured outside in the morning.  There was even a puddle that lasted until noon or so, when the brilliant sunlight dried it up.  It also got warmer today than it’s been in the last month.

The second of the five (or six?) storms threatening to drown us is scheduled to come in around midnight, tonight.  I haven’t been watering the lawn or vegetable garden because of the oncoming rain, and they’re beginning to look at bit parched.

DAKHLEH_IMG_0307

Mr. Nino (may I call you “El”?).  You can do better than this.

SUPERMOON!

supermoon

The SUPERMOON is one of the most overrated astronomical events of recent history. Let’s get real about SUPERMOONS.

The Moon does not orbit Earth in a perfect circle. The orbit is an ellipse (a very fat ellipse, but still an ellipse). That means that the Moon is sometimes closer to Earth and sometimes farther away. The range is from 225,291-252.088 miles. (For those who like big words, these distances reflect the PERIGEE and APOGEE of the Moon, respectively).

A SUPERMOON happens when the Moon is full (or new) at or near the same time it is closest to Earth. (A MICROMOON is when the Moon is full – or new – at or near the same time it is farthest from Earth. The difference in the apparent size of a SUPERMOON and when the moon is the average distance from Earth is about 14 percent. Scientists tell us that this is not really detectable by naked eye observation. (The difference between the apparent size of a SUPERMOON and a MICROMOON might be more apparent, but they happen infrequently enough that you wouldn’t know it from memory).

SUPERMOONS (or MICROMOONS) don’t happen every month, but they’re not particularly rare. What is more rare is when an eclipse of the Sun or Moon corresponds with a SUPERMOON or MICROMOON. But even though they are more rare, they aren’t all that rare – certainly not nearly rare enough to bring fears of the oncoming Apocalypse to anyone but the most devoted tin-hat wearers.

Also, for the record, scientists have found no correlation between the distance of the Moon from Earth and the frequency of earthquakes, the weather, the incidence of temporary insanity, or a flare-up of your Auntie Fern’s bunions. People on the Internet have claimed to have found such correlations, but there are a lot of very silly people on the Internet.

There is one time when the distance between the Moon and Earth really does matter*, and that has to do with eclipses of the Sun. If the Moon is relatively close to the Earth when it passes directly in front of the Sun, it is more likely to be a TOTAL eclipse (the Sun is completely covered by the Moon). When the Moon is farther away, the eclipse is more likely to be an ANNULAR (or RING OF FIRE) eclipse. If you want to see pictures of the latter, check my Flickr! Account here.

*The distance between the Sun and Earth also plays a role. The orbit of the Earth around the Sun is also not circular, but elliptical, ranging from roughly 91-94.5 million miles).

A New Law Proposed

As many of you know, I started recording books for Learning Ally several months ago as a new service prpoject.  This organization, formerly known as “Reading for the Blind & Dyslexic”, specializes in making audio versions of textbooks ranging from K-12 through college.  I’m enjoying this activity, and think I’m doing an OK job on it.  (At least they haven’t told me to stop yet!)

One of the things I’ve learned, or rather re-learned after 40+ years of not reading textbooks, is that their quality is highly variable.   By quality, I don’t mean whether or not the author(s) got the facts right, but the quality of the presentation.  How easy is the book to read?  On the basis of recording chapters from about a dozen textbooks so far, I have come to the conclusion that Congress needs to pass a new law, to wit:

Any academic that dares to write a textbook must be compelled to commit the entire contents of Strunk & White to memory.  If this means tying an author to a chair and fixing his/her eyelids open with clips (like Alex the Droog in A Clockwork Orange) so be it.

If the author(s) insist on adopting the writing style of the Apostle Paul – including never-ending sentences with innumerable phrases (relevant or not) connected by every type of punctuation known to humanity except the period (not to mention extremely discursive parenthetical comments) – then the author(s) should be sentenced to reading his/her/their entire work aloud,  in front of a live audience well-supplied with rotten fruit and offal.

It doesn’t really matter how much the writer(s) know.  If they insist on dumping it all out – an idea itself, it’s qualifications, caveats, examples, counterexamples, etc. – in one or two sentences, no one will understand what it means.  What ever happened to narrative?  What ever happened to footnotes?

The most readable book I’ve come across so far is a college text on Marketing.  It’s not a subject in which I have much interest, but I can at least understand what the authors are trying to say.

Representing the Race

I have a Facebook Friend of long standing, back to the “y360” days, whom I respect more than almost any other person I know. He recently posted a little video spot about racism (see here) that everyone who isn’t a Klan member him- or herself will enjoy, and will enjoy even more the delicious schadenfreude that comes over them watching the bad person get her just desserts. I’ve seen this clip before and enjoyed it again when my friend shared it.

He then went on to relate that he had observed a “30ish black fellow” scoop some expensive nuts out of a bin with his hands (instead of using the scoop) and went off eating them without paying for them. My friend said, “He is not helping the current attention to race. … very sad.” He also said that he would find this behavior improper no matter who did it, which is good. He was challenged somewhat by other commentators, and went on to say,

“To earn respect, one must behave respectfully… not really anything to do with race… but somehow it ends up that way. To escape that vicious circle… one MUST behave better than others who typically get away with crap because of their race or social standing. Sad, but.I don’t see any other way to stop racism… earn respect, don’t perpetuate the problem by behaving badly, especially when other are looking for you to make mistakes or fail.”

And this just hit me really the wrong way. I made some responses, not all of which he responded to, but I wanted to put out my own thoughts in a more expansive form than allowed in a Facebook comment.

My first thought is, “May the good Lord preserve me from having my personal behavior or statements being seen as representative of any group – racial, ethnic, political, religious, or whatnot – to which I happen to belong.” They’re not. They’re representative of me.

My second thought is that I have known several people in several different areas of endeavor that were “minorities” or one sort or another –ethnic minorities, women in “men’s jobs”, people with a disability, or combinations thereof. All of them achieved positions of distinction through their hard work and “behaving better than others”. And not only that, every one of them had roadblocks placed in front of them because of their “minority” status. One result is that their personalities were all warped in significant ways. They became “tough” and uncompassionate, or became fearful of making a single mistake, or something equally unfulfilling. That’s more than “sad”, as my friend said, above.  It’s also wrong.

My third thought concerns my friend’s assertion that the only way to stop racism is for those oppressed by it to act “better than others”. I believe that assertion is demonstrably false. Let me give you some examples. I used to know a black couple, friends from church. Both graduated from Princeton, one with a B.S. in Physics and the other with a M.A. in International Diplomacy. They didn’t talk, dress, or act “ghetto” (as they saying goes), and both were very, very intelligent. However, every time either one of them went into a department store, he/she was followed by store clerks or security personnel because they might steal something. Their Princeton degrees did not show, but their skin did. If anyone thinks that doesn’t continue to happen regularly TO THIS DAY, then you are deluding yourselves.

Another example – my wife. She was born legally blind, and became completely blind at the age of 25. After she graduated from college, she took a course in computer programming and worked 6½ years at Southern California Edison programming in COBOL on their 100,000-line payroll program. During that time, she received the (wondrously sexist) award of “Best Female Employee in the San Gabriel Valley”, and was one of three women profiled in a documentary about women with disabilities in non-traditional jobs. She retired from programming to raise our two adopted kids (and let me tell you that it was a struggle to find an adoption agency that would even consider us, because “blind people can’t do anything”). While I was off working, she taught both boys how to read, tutored them in reading, English, math, and several other subjects, and did all the things a “regular” parent did that didn’t involve driving a car. But none of those achievements show now in this year of grace 2014. What does show now is that she can’t see and has a seeing-eye dog. Almost every time we go out together she may be denied entrance to stores (which is illegal), talked to as if she is deaf or mentally retarded (if talked to at all), or treated with sickening condescension (even by some of her so-called sighted friends).

And if those two examples don’t suffice, how about the President? I haven’t heard much about racists being cured of their noisome beliefs just because a black became President. Twice. Quite the contrary.

No, my friend, it isn’t enough to behave better than everyone else. It’s going to take some change on the part of the racists (or whatever you want to call them) as well.

Fortunately, there’s some hope. Younger people, particularly well-educated younger people in urban settings, seem to have cast aside many of the preconceptions that have so preoccupied their elders – certainly in terms of race and sexual orientation. That would suggest that educating our children better would go at least some of the way in resolving the various “–isms” that divide us. I don’t suppose it’s an accident that rabid conservatives really make an effort to get on their local & state school boards whenever they can. They fear, and quite rightly fear, that a modern education will cause their hard-held prejudices to crumble into dust, in the persons of their very own children.

So, my friend. While I agree with you that an individual member of a minority group acting down to the racist perceptions of others does not help anything, I do not agree with you that acting up to some higher standard will, by itself, help that much. Martin Luther King looked forward to the day when people “would not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character”. We ain’t there yet.