Monthly Archives: January 2017

Is it okay to associate with disreputable people?

 

 

And it came to pass, as he sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with Jesus and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Teacher with the publicans and sinners? But when he heard it, he said, They that are whole have no need of a physician, but they that are sick. But go ye and learn what this meaneth, I desire mercy, and not sacrifice, for I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.

 

Matthew 9:10-13

 

 

And behold, a woman who was in the city, a sinner; and when she knew that he was sitting at meat in the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster cruse of ointment, and standing behind at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee that had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have perceived who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him, that she is a sinner. And Jesus answering said unto him, … Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thy house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath wetted my feet with her tears, and wiped them with her hair. Thou gavest me no kiss: but she, since the time I came in, hath not ceased to kiss my feet. My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but she hath anointed my feet with ointment. Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven. And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that even forgiveth sins? And he said unto the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.

 

Luke 7:37-50

 

 

This is the meal equally set—this is the meat for
natural hunger;
It is for the wicked just the same as the righteous—I
make appointments with all;
I will not have a single person slighted or left away;
The kept-woman, sponger, thief, are hereby invited;
The heavy-lipp’d slave is invited—the venerealee is invited:
There shall be no difference between them and the rest.

 

— Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

 

 

If you become degraded, criminal, ill, then I become so for your
sake,
If you remember your foolish and outlaw’d deeds, do you think
I cannot remember my own foolish and outlaw’d deeds?
If you carouse at the table I carouse at the opposite side of the
table,
If you meet some stranger in the streets and love him or her, why
I often meet strangers in the street and love them.

Why what have you thought of yourself?
Is it you then that thought yourself less?
Is it you that thought the President greater than you?
Or the rich better off than you? or the educated wiser than you?

(Because you are greasy or pimpled, or were once drunk, or a
thief,
Or that you are diseas’d, or rheumatic, or a prostitute,
Or from frivolity or impotence, or that you are no scholar and
never saw your name in print,
Do you give in that you are any less immortal?)

 

Walt Whitman, “A Song for Occupations”

 

 

Recall Christ, brother of rejected persons—brother of
slaves, felons, idiots, and of insane and diseas’d
persons.

 

Walt Whitman, “Think of the Soul”

 

 

 

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Commentary:

 

In my senior year in high school, I took an IQ test administered by a graduate student at Boston University. A question on the test, which he administered orally, was why should one not associate with disreputable people? I answered that I did not agree with the premise.

Some fifty years later, I still feel the same way.

I have learned a great deal from, and my life has been enriched by, people of all levels of intelligence, backgrounds, occupations, persuasions, personality types, idiosyncracies, and life situations.

I have given rides and handouts to just released ex-convicts; associated with people whose opinions and/or behavior could be considered immoral, criminal, improper, antisocial, deviant, clueless, or odd by others; have never chosen my friends according to their political or religious views.

The driving force, in my own experience, behind making acquaintances and forming friendships has been: how is that person disposed towards ME? Do they wish to associate and communicate; do they desire or need human contact? Then, I find that it behooves me to respond affirmatively. I am a priori willing to accept anyone as a friend.

I have benefited, immeasurably, from such associations.   These people have taught me so much or, to put it the other way around, I have learned so much from them.

I see no reason to change.

And, I am amazed and gladdened by the innate goodness and sincerity of so many people who are prone to neglect and sometimes scorn or to being rejected by polite society.

 

 

Roger W. Smith

     Januar+y 2017

Roger W. Smith, review of “Trump: The Art of The Deal” by Donald J. Trump

 

The attached downloadable PDF file contains a book review by Roger W. Smith of Donald J. Trump’s bestseller Trump: The Art of the Deal.

The review was written in May 1988 as a journalism school assignment.

(My favorite phrase — of my own, that is — in the review was one I used to describe Trump and his book: “relentlessly prosaic.”)

 

roger-w-smith-review-of-trump-the-art-of-the-deal

“the greatest country in the world”

 

Last night, I watched a recently released film about the editor Max Perkins and the writer Tom Wolfe, who had a close professional and personal relationship.

The film, The Genius (2016), has gotten mixed reviews. I liked it.

Anyway, there is a scene in the film where Wolfe (played by Jude Law) is returning from a trip to Paris. He is greeted as he disembarks from the ocean liner by Perkins (played by Colin Firth).

Perkins offers to pay for a taxi. “No,” says Wolfe, rambunctiously. [I am paraphrasing.] I want to walk the streets of New York again! The greatest city in the greatest country in the world!”

This reminded me of something.

 

 

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I had a long time relationship with an outstanding therapist: Ralph Colp, Jr., MD. (In my parents’ generation, one would have been ashamed to admit that one even saw a therapist.) He was a cultured and scholarly man with admirable personal qualities. Among other things that made him stand out, he himself had been analyzed by Freud’s personal physician.

Credentials notwithstanding, he was somewhat taciturn, chose his words carefully, didn’t say things just to hold forth, indoctrinate, or impress. I guess that’s partly why I seem to remember almost word for word practically everything he ever said.

He once said to me — apropos what topic I can’t recall — “Let’s face it. America is the greatest country by far. No question.” It wasn’t jingoism on his part. What he meant was that America was the greatest country in the world to LIVE in.

Sometimes someone will say something to you that’s obvious, as plain as the nose on one’s face, and yet you’ve never quite thought of it, at least in not quite that way. I had often entertained unpatriotic thoughts in my teens and young adulthood, because of resentment over things such as the Vietnam War and hatred of politicians such as Presidents Nixon and Johnson, But Dr. Colp’s remark struck me then as true and has stayed with me.

Jingoism aside, we do live in the greatest country on earth, by Jove. We are so lucky to. It’s a blessing that is often taken for granted.

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

      January 26, 2017

 

 

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See also:

“Tribute to Ralph Colp, Jr., MD”

https://rogersgleanings.com/2016/02/16/tribute-to-ralph-colp-jr-md/

Edvard Grieg, solo piano music

 

 

The Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg (1843-1907), himself a pianist, wrote hundreds of piano works, ranging from his well known Piano Concerto in A minor to a plethora of works for solo piano.

The works for solo piano are essentially tone poems, and Grieg is a master at painting scenes from daily life and depicting universal emotions that one can feel — it’s as if something auditory can be visualized or experienced with other senses (e.g., tactile).

I have posted here 14 of my personal favorites, focusing on pieces that exemplify Grieg’s genius for capturing a mood or depicting a scene. It seems to me that he comes close to being unrivaled in this respect. He does the same thing, by the way, in his lieder.

 

— Roger W. Smith

     January 2017

 

 

Continue reading

“God’s in His heaven”

 

 

The year’s at the spring,
And day’s at the morn;
Morning’s at seven;
The hill-side’s dew-pearled;
The lark’s on the wing;
The snail’s on the thorn;
God’s in His heaven—
All’s right with the world

 

— Robert Browning, “Pippa Passes” (1841)

Trump vis-à-vis Hitler

 

 

 

“Anyone who thinks Trump is Hitler never studied European history.”

comnet posted by a reader of an op ed piece, The York Times, May 9, 2017

 

 

 

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An acquaintance of mine posted a comment on Facebook last evening — following up on comments arising from a blog post of mine yesterday — saying that Donald Trump is “worse” than Hitler was. He then followed up with the comment that there are “many parallels” between Trump and Hitler.

He means it; he was not trying to be cute.

I was astonished by such a comparison having been made. After a brief check of the Times, however, I learned that others have been saying the same thing.

Another Facebook commentator, responding to the first person’s comments, wrote:

“Agree.

“And more recent history, Milošević: not only narcissism, popularism, support of white nationalists, but disturbingly parallel in terms of the belief in ridiculous conspiracy theories.

“Have you read Mein Kampf? Distorted, disordered thinking, stream of consciousness writing. If Hitler had twitter, he would tweet like this man [Trump]. And if this man could write (a book for himself rather than paying someone to write for him), his writing would likely be similar to Hitler’s.

“Except, Hitler had ‘grander’ visions … this man is indeed an idiot who has no thought beyond ‘winning’.”

 

 

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After pausing to catch my breath, I would be inclined to say:

There may well be something to these comparisons in alerting us to current political developments in the USA and Western Europe, where the politics represented by figures such as Trump and Marine Le Pen in France, both of whom only recently did not seem to be taken that seriously, are in the ascendancy.

There may be instructive parallels with 1930’s-style Fascism.

Historical analogies can be useful.

But, in the case of such claims, it is necessary to maintain a truly historical perspective; to avoid “reverse presentism,” so to speak (interpreting current developments in terms of past ones); to maintain some degree of objectivity and balance.

I believe that the left has become unhinged over the Trump candidacy and election and has lost all sense of proportion and reason.

 

 

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Donald Trump has been called “a monster” by another one of my close acquaintances.

And, God knows what else (by others).

Trump does not have an appealing personality in many respects. (I can hear Trump haters saying to me, “you just discovered that?”)

I have not studied him closely, nor would I be qualified to develop a psychological profile.

But, he appears, more often than not, to be

an egomaniac

a male chauvinist

a groper, at least – I don’t think his several accusers, who all of them tell pretty much the same story, are making it up; I don’t believe his denials

an adulterer; probably — it would appear, undoubtedly — at various times in his life — a philanderer (in which categories I would suspect that he would be found to have a lot of company if a modern day Kinsey  Report were compiled and published)

crude — at least sometimes; coarse and vulgar

given to puffery, braggadicio, and egregious self-promotion

given to distortion and playing loose with the facts when it suits his own purposes, in his public pronouncements

stiffs businessmen and women whom he or his firm has dealings with

his firm scammed students of the bogus Trump University

has to be the center of attention and has always acted as if he was God’s gift to mankind and womankind

espouses truly reprehensible policies

wants to dismantle Obama’s signature achievements

insults, trashes, or smears political rivals and those he disagrees with

can be demeaning to persons and groups who have suffered or appear disadvantaged

intellectually shallow

 

 

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Are there any pluses?

is not an intellectual or an Einstein, but seems to have a quick grasp of issues and exhibits problem solving skills

does seem to have an ability to get things done

says what’s really on his mind instead of hiding behind politico-speak

he does have business experience and savvy, and he has shown an ability to cut through red tape and deliver results

 

 

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Politicians then and now have exhibited a wide range of traits and abilities (name your own), including:

high minded

principled

moral

venal

corrupt

duplicitous

eloquent

demagogic

highly intelligent

borderline stupid

and so on

 

 

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TRUE MONSTERS

 

Stalin

Hitler

Pol Pot

Idi Amin

 

not Donald Trump

 

 

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It would take quite a lot of butchery from our new president – he would have a long way to go — to match the track records of the above named historical figures and be classed among the worst of recent history’s tyrants.

An old friend of mine, whom I like and admire, marched with her extended family in an anti-Trump protest in Washington yesterday (January 22, 2017) and proudly posted a photo on Facebook.

One of her friends posted as follows: “Give me a break, _______. Trump hasn’t done anything yet and you guys are protesting. This is ridiculous.”

Well put. (Although I do not feel that protestors do not have the right to engage in a “counter inaugural” and to demonstrate on this or other occasions.) Hitler has a track record whereby history has indicted him. Trump’s remains to be seen.

 

 

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I wonder. Is the left most incensed about Trump the “sexist pig”?

If so, I wonder why more fuss wasn’t ever made and as much outrage shown over:

JFK (had White House interns procured for him — one recently wrote a book about it that was respectfully reviewed; and, his girlfriend, the moll Judith Exner)

Ted Kennedy (Chappaquiddick)

Bill Clinton (Gennifer Flowers, Kathleen Willey, Paula Jones, Monica Lewinsky, and countless others; probably Denise Rich, to whose husband Clinton issued a scandalous eleventh hour pardon; apparently forcing himself upon Juanita Broaddrick)

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

     January 23, 2017; updated May 9, 2017

 

 

 

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Addendum: The following is my response to a reader of this post who criticized it.

 

__________,

Your feelings are shared by many of your and my relatives and friends and are well expressed by you.

A couple of comments by way of explanation.

I do not necessarily think Trump is great businessman, and he certainly is not a genius. I have read articles over the years critical of his business dealings and articles which point to weak links and question the financial soundness of businesses and holdings in in his corporate empire. I was trying to point out that, when assessing Trump in the round, he does appear to have business acumen and some of the mental abilities that go along with that.

As far as the implication that I am wasting my time writing about Trump goes, I think that the anti-Trump hysteria (as I view it) is symptomatic of something deeper and is an illustration of a zaniness on the left these days when it comes to things that offend them, Trump being their current bête noire. Which Lionel Shriver talks about. See:

 

 

I don’t like it when I see intolerance from either side, and when the public is in a frenzy, I find often find myself questioning it.

I could probably explain myself better if I took the time. But, one should not be faulted for writing what one honesty thinks, or for having an opinion that does not accord with others’. Nor is it a waste of time to point out what seem to be excesses by liberals.

It’s kind of like I’m being told, there is no point in even discussing Trump or any issues that might arise because of the controversy over his candidacy and election and revelations regarding him; that I am not allowed to even think or write about him, unless my view conforms and supports others’. But, for example, as was the case with my previous posts about the Billy Bush tape and the “Hamilton” cast’s remarks made to Vice President elect Pence, there were issues that arose that, aside from the news flashes, are worthy of consideration and, in my case, of reflection upon broader issues and concerns. Why should I steer away from controversial topics for fear of being disagreed with?

Many people became disillusioned with the Great Soviet Experiment, but were afraid to say anything. George Orwell saw that what was supposed to be an egalitarian, liberated society had actually become totalitarian and repressive, and wrote about it. I feel, as Lionel Shriver recently wrote, that “the left in the West [has] come to embrace restriction, censorship and the imposition of an orthodoxy at least as tyrannical as the anti-Communist, pro-Christian conformism [we] grew up with.”

Criticisms of Trump notwithstanding, it is not a waste of time to weigh in on such issues. They often arise when the person attacked is among the least popular and most reviled.