Hard History

I came across the story below and it amazed me that less than 8% of students in the cited survey knew that the Civil War was fought to preserve slavery. Here is a little bit about that:

Just a third of students correctly identified the law that officially ended slavery, the 13th Amendment, and fewer than half knew of the Middle Passage. Most alarming, though, were the results to this question:

Which was the reason the South seceded from the Union?

2018-02-04_09-42-37.pnga. To preserve states’ rights

b. To preserve slavery

c. To protest taxes on imported goods

d. To avoid rapid industrialization

e. Not sure
Nearly half blamed taxes on imported goods. Perhaps, the report’s authors guessed, students were confusing the Civil War with the Revolutionary War.

How many students chose slavery as the reason the South seceded?

Eight percent.

“Slavery is hard history,” writes Hasan Kwame Jeffries in the report’s preface. He is an associate professor of history at The Ohio State University and chair of the Teaching Hard History Advisory Board. “It is hard to comprehend the inhumanity that defined it. It is hard to discuss the violence that sustained it. It is hard to teach the ideology of white supremacy that justified it. And it is hard to learn about those who abided it.”

via Why Schools Fail To Teach Slavery’s ‘Hard History’ : NPR Ed : NPR

I like the term “Hard History” it implies that we ignore or downplay recognizing the dark side of the US and only remember what is “good”. Of course, that brings to mind the quote “history belongs to the victors”.

I kinda think a big part of the problem with students not understanding the hard history of the Civil War is that the folks in the Southern States still will not recognize that it was fought to be able to continue owning another person.  And of course, they tell this same tale to their children.

We have to recognize our dark history in order to keep from repeating it.  For me, the hardest history is that the founding of this country was based on the largest genocide the world has ever known. At the time of the first European colonies, it is estimated that there were about 80 million people already living in North America, some in very sophisticated societies.  As we spread west we systematically destroyed each civilization we encountered.  The mentality went something like “they are all just savages, not real people” or to some it is our Manifest Destiny meaning God’s will that we take over this continent.

Yeah, hard history is hard…but necessary to remember.

Imagining Their Stories…

Because I am deaf I have a game I play quite often when I am around people, especially those I don’t know.  In my early years of deafness before closed-captioned TV was widely available is when this thing started. Since there was no sound to what I was seeing I made up my own storyline. It would have been interesting to discover how closely my story matched up with the writer’s version but of course, I never was able to discover that.

canstockphoto8230027Getting slightly off the subject for just a little while, I never used to think that I was a creative person. I think part of that belief was beaten into me in my youth by some pretty uncreative parents.  I know I tried to draw some in my youth and was never pleased enough with the result to show my parents or anyone else for that matter. It would take some years and experiences to realize that creativity is not just one thing but can appear in many different areas of life. Making up stories is one of those areas I have become quite good at.

Getting back to the subject of the day, I kind of liked the idea of imagining stories which I was not really privy to so I started doing it in real life. I can look at someone in a restaurant and make up stories about why they looked or acted the way they did. Its easy in today’s world to imagine them as selfish, self-centered or other negative traits but I kinda do the opposite, at least recently.  Instead of seeing speeders as self-centered people I give them the benefit of the doubt and imagine them as doctors on the way to the hospital to save someone’s life.  I am a dreamer so to me it is just more enjoyable to imagine good things than to fear yet someone else as terrorists, serial killers, or just plain selfish people.

Getting back to the starting thought of this post, It is not easy for me to start up a conversation with someone, especially someone you don’t know.  It used to require them to write down what they say.  Most people are just not willing to do that. Now, I have a couple of apps that turn speech into text. They don’t work great quite yet but are much better than paper notes.  But even with these new tools, it is almost inevitable that when another hearing person joins the group I am pretty much ignored from that point on.  So, I end up watching other people or make up stories of what I might be missing.  It beats just sitting there like a bump on a log. 🙂


I am finally convinced that I am a pretty creative person as my mind constantly wanders into unimagined areas of thought. In my retirement years, I have done a pretty good job of cultivating my creative processes.  But I am always looking for ways to unleash my creativity to new areas and levels. When I ran across this article from the New York Times it gave me a different way to think about creativity.

2018-02-07_11-09-43.pngWe all have fantasies or, if you prefer, ideas. I will give them a different word: “Seeds.” These seeds are the germ-line of books, short stories, songs, the faces in a painting. Sometimes, when the idea is for a gadget that might, say, keep that guy in the car next to you from texting and driving, it’s the seed of an app or business. If it’s a doodle made during a boring corporate meeting, it’s the seed of an art project; the mixture of the barbecue sauce with the onions and the lemon might be the seed of the next, great slow-cooking invention…

Another quick tale to make the point: A family friend once told me that, in college, he was curious to find out whether he was creative so he picked up an easel at the store. He painted for 10 minutes, put down the brush and declared himself not remotely creative. But he went on to make tens of millions of dollars as an entrepreneur. He had mistakenly conflated artistic creativity with any type of creativity. But not all creativity looks the same, and it doesn’t take the same name.

via How to Be Creative – A year of living better Guides – The New York Times

I have been retired from the corporate world for a while now and therefore have a lot of time to create “seeds” and indeed I have created many of them. It is not as if I didn’t do it before but then as the bible says the seeds mostly fell on rocky ground and quickly died. Being able to concentrate on something as long as you want is one of the premier joys of retirement.

canstockphoto14469250These seeds when they come are now quickly written down and then planted in my brain to see if they sprout. Sometimes my desktop looks like an advertisement for post-it notepads. Sometimes my mind is so filled with seeds its hard to do everyday things. 🙂 One of those seeds that ended up being a five-year project as documented in my blog RedLetterLiving.net.  That is where I studied how Christian organizations did or didn’t follow the words of Jesus.

Of course, most of the posts here on RJsCorner also started as seeds. Looking at the current standings, I have 3,240 published posts, 35 drafts/seeds in various forms of completion, and a dozen scheduled posts. That is a lot of creative seeds as far as I am concerned!

I have about 20,000 photos now that I use my creativity to take and enhance. Many of those now reside in my Flickr account and many are here on RJsCorner.

Not all creativity looks the same. What do you do with your creativity??


Faking Religion

At one time or another everyone who is true to their thoughts doubt religious beliefs. I found it surprising to see that even Mother Theresa doubted on a regular basis that God even existed.  The more I studied religious documents including the Bible the more doubt I had as to the beliefs of the variety of religion that I was then a member of.

2018-03-10_10-38-19…according to a recent study in the journal, Society and Mental Health, individuals who consider leaving a faith, but do not, tend to experience more depression than those who decide to leave…

There are good reasons to not underestimate the instability of doubt, says Lack.

“Doubt is often framed in religious communities as showing that you aren’t a ‘good’ Christian or that the devil is tempting you and you are too weak to resist,” Lack explains. “Given that, many people who have doubts either get shamed by their communities when they express doubt or feel shame at their ‘weakness.’”

Source: Does Faking Religion Lead to Depression?

I am just not a person who allows others to think for me.  If you say “Take it or leave it” I will most assuredly leave.  But, at the same time, I can relate to the quote above. For many if not most Christians, their church is also their country club. It is where most if not all of their social life happens.  In that regard, many are willing to just look past things that they really don’t believe in order to stay on good grounds with the club rules.

Ignore the “belief” stuff has a name in Catholicism, it is called “Cafeteria Catholic”.  For them, one of the toppers is birth control.  They say that the vast majority of Catholics in the US practice birth control and just ignore the edict from the church that it is a sin.  But Catholics are by no stretch of the imagination the only cafeteria Christians.

Most Christian churches have a creed that you have to swear allegiance to in order to be a member of that tribe. I’m sure the leaders of the churches take those pledges very seriously but I don’t think most of the member really even think about what they are pledging. To them, the allegiance ceremony is just the right of passage into the clubhouse and its social advantages.

But of course, there are others like me who know they are really not aligned with what they pledge but do it anyway. That fake belief does cause depression until it is finally voiced.  Although I had seriously considered it, I did not leave my church voluntarily. It was only after asking too many questions and voicing “forbidden” thoughts that I was stripped of membership by a very fundamentalist pastor. I would have left myself but I knew the damage it would do and did to my wife.

When I finally was able to come out of the closet with the fact that I had serious doubts about what some Christian beliefs, I felt the tension and depression with that false allegiance wither away.  I no longer had to hide things like being convinced that the earth is millions, or maybe billions, of years old instead of the 6,000 or so as my church demanded I believe.

Artsy Saturday – Shaker Seeds

For this artsy Saturday, I want to give you a “dramatized” photo of one of my favorite shots from Pleasant Hill Shaker Village near Lexington Kentucky.  I have been to Pleasant Hill perhaps a dozen times over the years and I find myself re-taking this picture every time I go.

Shaker Seed Station.jpg

Surreal NYC

I am an old country boy at heart so when I visit NYC it seems like a different world to me. I have put together a few photos that make that city seem like a beehive.  There is the hive which contains thousands of cells, the worker bees and of course the Queen bee.

What do you think? Can you see the connection?

The NestWorker BeesQueen Bee

It’s Important To Take A Stand.

I am a fiscal conservative. That makes me a man without a party. The one steady thing I admired about the Republican party, at least until recently, was that they didn’t like debt.

“If you were against President Obama’s deficits, and now you’re for the Republican deficits, isn’t that the very definition of hypocrisy?” Senator Rand Paul said as he held up passage of the budget bill for a few hours — perhaps until he realized that the definition fit him, too, since he had voted for the tax cuts that will blow up the deficit.

Source: The Republicans Have Become the Party of Debt – The New York Times

Rand Paul is a maverick who stands up for what is important to him but even he is not beyond hypocrisy.

Sometimes I get tired of waving the absurd military spending in this country but it needs to be said again and again. We in the US make up about 5% of the world’s population but spend more on our military than the rest of the world combined!! Where other countries spend for the well-being of their citizens we spend much of those resources to overwhelm the world with our military might.

I hope that the Post Trump Republican party can eventually return to their roots of fiscal conservatism but I kinda think given the Pennsylvania election this week they have damaged their brand so severely even that would not prevent their destruction.


Turn Your Wounds Into Wisdom

2018-03-08_09-02-43I get weekly quotes from iHearts143Quotes to help me understand life. This one particularly got my attention. It might seem strange to some but I have often said that  I am a better person because of my deafness. What I mean by that is that through the challenges I have faced because of my deafness has made me much more aware of those who struggle in life. My empathy factor went up several orders of magnitude because of my deafness.

I have come to realize that my inflictions and afflictions (ha) add to the quality of my life. I was poor growing up but didn’t really know it. But because I was poor I have more empathy for those who struggle to keep their head above water.

We all face wounds in our lives and if we turn off the self-pity they produce and try to learn something from them we are better, wiser as a result.

Dispelling Myths vs Reimaging

2018-03-06_13-24-11.pngYesterday’s post was all about spin and how we too often try to reimage something because makes us uncomfortable.  It was primarily about the fact that we need to dispell the myth instead of just re-naming the condition.  Today I want to talk about why this topic is so important to me.

As I have often said, being deaf is a major part of my life but it is not what I am about.  I almost never say I am a deaf man but instead say I am a man who is deaf. There is a critical difference between the two. If I allow my deafness to define my life then what I am doing is to make it the central focus. Instead, I will define myself as:

  • A follower of Jesus
  • A creative person
  • A history buff
  • A person who enjoys adventurous things
  • An avid writer/blogger
  • An avid photographer
  • A teacher of coping with challenging circumstances

Somewhere far down the line would be deafness. In the area of deafness, I strive to teach others who might be just starting their journey that they are not alone and that their deafness does not have to define them or limit them to any extent.  Yes, it places challenges in their life but nothing that can’t be overcome.

I don’t think things have changed that much when it comes to medical authorities giving a person who is suddenly deaf, resources to cope. The hearing professionals in my day simply said: “We can’t help you anymore so, goodbye”.  I was left on my own to figure out where to go from there.

2018-03-06_13-27-06.pngAnother reason I am generally against reimaging is Google. If I want to learn something about this topic would I google “deaf” or “sudden loss of hearing”? I don’t think there is any disagreement as to that answer.  When I went deaf in 1988 the Internet was in its infancy. There were no major news sites and Google was decades away.  America-On-Line (AOL) was just starting out. I struggled for weeks trying to find anything I could use to help me cope with becoming deaf.

Now with the Internet, if I know the right terms and they haven’t been reimaged I can find a myriad of sources of information about any topic.  I hope that there are some who google “deaf” that happen to be pointed to RJsCorner and learn a little from my experiences with deafness.   Most importantly, I hope they learn that they are not alone out there. I struggled with that cruel idea for quite some time!

Closing up this two-part post, we need to do whatever we can to dispell myths that have grown up around too many topics. We can’t let just give into myths and let them stand as somehow being insurmountable. Dispelling myths is an underlying reason for RJsCorner even if I don’t directly say that enough.



Disney World on Flickr

Just a short note to let you know that I just put my Disney World album on Flickr. You can’t say that you have really seen America until you see Disney World.  Click here to see my offering.

Disney World 2016-15

Reimaging, Spin, Spin, Spin

Too many times we simply don’t like the name for something and to fix that we give it a new often indistinguishable name. Don’t like the word retirement, give it a new name. Give it a more positive spin. Call it the third trimester of life. Maybe that will offset the negative connotations associated with this time in life. Spin, spin, spin…

On a lighter side, job titles seem to be at the head of the reimaging wave. So many people have impressive sounding titles for the same old jobs. I have come to the conclusion that employers know that reimaging job descriptions is less expensive than paying more money for the work. Let’s look at a few:

Transparency Enhancement Facilitator – used to be called window washers.

Director of First Impressions – used to be called receptionists.

Beverage Dissemination Specialist – used to be called the bartender

Field Nourishment Consultant – used to be called waiters

Asset Financial Analyst – used to be called accountants

Spin, spin, spin…

2018-03-06_11-16-45.pngFinally, getting serious and to the main point of this post, one of the possible reasons for reimaging is that the current name has too many myths going against it. One of those I am intimately familiar with is “deaf”. Too many people still think “deaf and dumb” when it comes to anyone who has lost or never had the ability to hear.  Yes, there is a small percentage of this population who never manage to become accomplished at reading, writing, or speaking. A significant majority of that particular group were born deaf to deaf parents and were never encouraged to move beyond their deafness, in fact, many celebrate it!

There are about 46 million people in the US who have serious or profound difficulty understanding the spoken word.  About 35 million (80%) of those are or could be helped to one degree or another with hearing aids, cochlear implants, and other technological devices. But what about the other 12 million or so?

About 6.5 million (54%) are senior citizens who have lost their hearing due to aging factors.

About 5 million (42%) are people, like me, who lost their hearing as adults or at least after they became accomplished in the spoken word.

The last 0.5 million are people who were born deaf or became deaf at an early age. Of that group, about 0.1 million never learned to read, write, or speak beyond the fourth-grade level. In the past being born deaf was often due to oxygen tents and other medical procedures. Those mistakes have almost disappeared today and so has the born-deaf population.

Summarizing, the vast majority of the deaf population are anything but dumb. Many are college graduates and almost all have lead productive lives.

Instead of inventing new names for that 98% of the current deaf population we should all, especially those of us who are deaf,  be educating those who are “dumb” on this subject.

If I weren’t out of room on this post I could make the same argument for those with autism. Instead of reimaging the word, the general public needs to be better educated on the subject.

Tomorrow I will talk more about why the topic of labels is so sensitive to me.

Religion And Global Conflict

It is becoming more and more recognized that religious beliefs are and have most likely always been one of the primary sources of conflict in this world.

Here are some words about the underlying reasons for this:

2018-01-24_09-05-50“Religion often becomes the master variable,” Harris says. “It provides a unique reward structure. If you believe that the thoughts you harbor in this life and the doctrines you adhere to spell the difference between an eternity spent in fire or one spent on the right hand of God, that raises the stakes beyond any other reward structure on earth.”

Tribal tendencies are natural for humans who need groups and community to survive. But the driving forces behind especially alienating, fundamentalist beliefs are a combination of nature and nurture, experts say.

via Tribal Divisions Created by Religion Most Harmful in Global Conflict, Experts Say | Best Countries | US News

Personally, I have always struggled to fully understand why religion has such a strong hold on so many. The quote above helps me understand that a little better.  I am just not one of those people who believe things without proof as most religions demand.

What will it take for religions to finally come to agree to coexist in the world today? That is the major question at hand.  When will they accept that everyone has a right to believe in the god of their choice or no god at all? Thomas Jefferson understood that early on and thankfully at least the concept is part of our constitution even if it hasn’t been fully implemented.  In fact, Jefferson was more strongly a believer in freedom “from” religion than “of” religion.

Given that there are literally tens of thousands of versions of God in the world today coexistence is the only logical way to approach religious beliefs.


Santa Fe on Flickr

Just a short post to tell you that I just added a Santa Fe album to my Flickr portfolio. Click here to see it.

Santa Fe has become my favorite city InSearchOfAmerica. It is flush with history, heritage especially things Native-American and Spanish.

Santa Fe-18

Beautiful Things…

In these days of fear and gridlock, it is sometimes difficult to realize that there is always beauty if we open our eyes to what is around us. Yes, fear is a powerful emotion that can paralyze but for the most part, it is self-inflicted. Instead of living in constant fear we all need to realize that for the most part our lives and especially our responses to fear are up to us. Even when fear is real and necessary we must acknowledge that the response to it should always be action.  If you fear something, get off your butt and do something to eliminate it.

And if all else fails, remember that “this too shall pass”. Believe it or not, we have had much worse times in our nation than we are facing now.