Bedlam Farm Blog Journal by Jon Katz

18 July

New Amazon Mansion Wish List: Six DVD’s

by Jon Katz

We asked the Mansion residents what movies they would like to see on their new Samsung widescreen, they asked for six movie DVD’s and the result was a new Mansion Amazon Wish List with six items, all DVD movies – The First Wives Club, A Fistful Of Dollars, Road to Morocco, Galaxy Quest, That’s Entertainment, and Evita.

These items range in price from $5.99 to $30.50. Thanks for supporting this work and the lives of the Mansion residents. You can see the Wish List here.

The Army Of Good has spawned a movie club at the Mansion, new lovers of film.

18 July

On A Personal Note, Showing Up…

by Jon Katz

I’ve never been big on labeling other people, I don’t care to be labeled. I have progressive ideas and conservative ideas, I do not hate people who disagree with me, I am not comfortable around people who hate, either sincerely or as a political strategy.

I will not ever knowingly become one of them.

I do not believe in a black and white, or left and right world, our system is about listening, and compromise and the greater good.  There are far more than two ways to look at the world.

Democracies are not about a single point of view, or cults or mobs chanting for the blood of their political opponents. To use power in that way is an awful thing to me, not gray or fuzzy or ambivalent in any way.

As Hannah Arendt wrote so eloquently, the enables and apologizers are complicit. There is no escaping the right thing.

Anyone who knows or loves history knows what bloodthirsty mobs can mean.

On my blog, I have worked hard – and successfully – to make sure that people who don’t agree with me feel comfortable here, they have always been and are still welcome.

And I am proud to say many have stayed with me.

For me, the great conflict is not about left versus right or conservative versus progressive, it is about humanity and compassion over greed and power.

But there are times in life when you have to just show up and speak up, and this is one of those times. I can’t say whether the President is a racist or not, I have not met him and don’t know what is in his soul.

The terminology doesn’t really matter to me, what he said was hateful and awful and destructive, and certainly racist to me, no matter how people can and will rationalize it. No one need answer to me, only to their own conscience.

There are untold millions of my fellow citizens – and me – who know just what it means when someone says we should go back where we came from. We came from here. There is no one powerful enough in America or entitled enough to tell us where we should be.

Speaking out is about my dignity and self-respect, not about what others do and think. I speak for myself.

Living in the country, I understand and see every day the many good reasons honest people voted for our President and support him still. So many people have been left behind, so many communities ravaged and abandoned. Politics and government and economists utterly failed the people we call rural Americans, generation after generation.

Demagogues arise when governments lie to people, many Americans were lied to for a very long time.

But hatred and bigotry solve nothing, resolve nothing, accomplish nothing but pain and hurt.

For me, there are just some lines I can’t and won’t cross. Wednesday night was one of them.

I now believe our President to be someone who would enthusiastically and callously tear our country apart in order to gain political power.  He has chosen to not be my leader or to care what I think.

My heart sinks to see all those robotic people shouting hateful things at those rallies. It evokes the worst images in our history or the history of the world. I pray they know not what they do.

This was Thomas Jefferson’s recurring nightmare, the angry mob, full of hatred,  free from reason or restraint. His whole system of government was built around protecting us from that very thing.

Nothing good or productive or aspiring comes from hate like that, especially from a person of great power to weaker people.

The most powerful man in the world ought to be careful about how he wields his power, and to what end. There is a difference between bullying and debate, and I expect the leader of the Free World to know what it is.

On a personal level, the image of an angry old politician telling four young, strong and idealistic women where they should go was stunning. I wish one of those women had told him that those days are gone, and they are not coming back. In some ways, I suppose they did.

It is the task of the young to challenge and rebel and provoke, that’s how our country was born. I don’t need to agree with them to admire them and salute them.

I will leave the political arguments to other people and go on doing my work for the elderly, for the refugees.  The people who support this work have a right to know where I stand, to hear from me today.

I believe good triumphs over evil, love over hate, compromise over conflict. Nothing about this week has shaken my belief in the ultimate outcome of the never-ending struggle between good and evil, in our nation and beyond.

But I do believe what Edmund Burke is believed to have said: the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men (and women) do nothing. There are so many people in our world who know from horrific personal experience that this is true.

So I just need to speak up.

I don’t want to do nothing and say nothing. When my granddaughter asks where her grandfather was in all this, I want her to know.  My blog is my living memoir and testament.

She is alive because someone risked their life to be free.

Good always triumphs in the end, that is, to me, the real lesson of history.

Doing good is my faith, my religion now, and I will not be knocked off that path. I’m uplifted and inspired every day by the good people who call themselves the Army Of Good, and by the brave people at the Mansion facing death, and the wonderful refugee children fighting to get their lives back.

I would ask people to keep faith with me, I pray and work for better times, for empathy, compassion, and the best, not the worst, of the human spirit.

I am not a Christian, but in my life I embrace the teachings of Jesus Christ, who calls us to help the vulnerable and the needy, to practice empathy and compassion. I’ve never heard a better call to humanity.

I see good every day, I hear from people every day.

I know good is there, it is powerful, and I believe it will prevail. I honestly do, I could not do what I do without faith in that idea.

I am proud to stand with you, and I hope you will stand with me. I don’t do despair and doom. A wise man once told me that hateful people eat themselves up.

We are doing good every day, small acts of great kindness. Good is the most powerful ideology on the earth, the truest affirmation, and glory of the human spirit, no matter what you see on their news.

We are making our own news.

18 July

Heat Wave: Corporations Are Worried About Me

by Jon Katz

I am deeply touched to learn that many of America’s richest corporations – they are renowned for their empathy and generosity – are worried about me this weekend. There is an intense heatwave heading for much of the United States this weekend.

So far, I’ve gotten eight separate very personal warnings from my utility, two weather channels, my health insurance company, the AARP, and my state and local governments.

The messages are not general, they are quite specific and targeting people over 65, people with heart disease, people with diabetes, people who have a history of allergies or asthma.

I’m thinking these warnings say a lot more about privacy and greed in our country than they say about the weather.

Whenever I squawk about the corporatization and profitizing of the weather – the government used to a good job of alerting me to the weather, they didn’t try to scare me to death either so that I would buy alerts and warnings – people get upset with me.

Oh no, they insist, we need more warnings and more graphic, even hysterical warnings in order to keep safe in this age of extreme weather.

I’m odd, though, I much prefer professional meteorologists to corporate actors and alarmists (storms make money, frightened people spend a lot of money.)  They warned us too, without the drama and hysteria, and our taxes paid for them.

The National Weather Service doesn’t sell advertising or warning apps stuffed with alerts and graphic videos of weather killing people. And they are free.

One doesn’t need to be a sociologist to grasp the irony: the same companies that make real health care prohibitively expensive to people who will need it this weekend  and who are pouring carbon waste into the atmosphere and warming the earth (and who sold 96 billion opioid tablets to unsuspecting Americans) and causing heat waves, are also worried about me and my health.

People would get upset with me if I told these compassionate corporations what I am really thinking: mind your own business, nobody asked you to tell me what to do when it gets this hot, you are mostly hypocrites and parasites. You are not the solution, you are the problem.

As a volunteer working in elder care, I am very conscious of the impact of extreme heat on the elderly, and as a volunteer working with refugee families, I also know the toll the heat can take on the poor and vulnerable.  And what their medicine costs them.

Perhaps the corporations might use some of their ad money to actually help people in need buy fans and air conditioners and health care at prices they can afford.

These messages do alert me to an impending “Heat Watch.” So did the cashier at the convenience store this morning where I got my coffee. She seems sincere.

These altruistic corporations suggest that I’m a person my neighbors ought to check on, as I am elderly and have not one but two chronic diseases. I’m sort of a perfect storm for warnings this weekend.

These companies seem to know all about my health, and my insurance company is worried about my keeling over with a heat stroke. They want me to stay inside. How nice.

The general idea seems to be that I should crawl into bed, sleep with a wet towel wrapped around my neck, turn the air conditioner on for several days, and not leave the house or rack up any hospital costs. And oh yes, keep an eye on my “pets.”

I’m touched, perhaps I can call these companies up and ask for a few months reprieve from paying my bills so I can go to Iceland with Maria over the weekend and ride the heatwave out. Is it the heat that’s making me caustic and skeptical?

Since we’re getting personal, here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to do what Minnie and the other animals do. Find a spot in the shade, drink lots of water, stay out of the hot sun.

Unlike them,  I get to turn on the air conditioner in my study when I work and cool down. I will certainly go to the dump with Maria to take the garbage out and maybe go out to dinner. We are going to hear a friend since at a local brewery Saturday night.

She will bug me to drink a lot, and I will do what I am told. She really does care about me, that feels so different.

That’s it. It’s not very dramatic, it won’t make the weather channel or cable news, but I feel safe in thinking I’ll get through it. So will the animals. We will all be here next week when the heat wave is gone.

How thoughtful of these corporations to even pretend to worry about them.

18 July

Wish List: Basketballs For The “Angel Children…” And More

by Jon Katz

I had a dream about basketballs last night, there were six of them up on the new Bishop Maginn High School Amazon Wish List, and it haunted me a bit to learn that the afterschool refugees and neighborhood children who come to play basketball in the school gym have to bring their own basketballs – the school doesn’t have any, the ones they bring are flat and tattered and threadbare. This kept me up a bit.

I bought two, somebody else bought one, there are three left. (For those who need it for Amazon, or for other donations,  the Bishop Maginn school address is: Bishop Maginn High School, 75 Park Avenue, Albany, N.Y., 12202, 518 463-2247.

This is a place of love and refuge and acceptance in a faith that is torn asunder by awful struggles and declining resources. I didn’t have much sympathy for the Catholic Church until I was reminded of some of the great work they still do, work that nobody else seems to be doing.

The Wish List has nine items on it, ranging from $4.76 apiece for 30 copies of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet to $5.99 each for erasers to critical thinking posters, gift cards, and some poly softballs.

The school spends all of its money admitting children with little money for tuition, so they need just about everything.

Sue Silverstein was supposed to take the day off, she seemed exhausted to me yesterday, but this morning, her “angel children,” as she calls them, forgot to look at the schedule and were sitting outside the school waiting for her.

She rushed in to be with them, of course. I was going to scold her and urge her to rest, but I held back.

It’s not up to me to tell her how to spend her vacation days. I’ve learned the hard way not to try to tell other people what to do, to accept them and not think I know best.

She’s a big girl, and this is her life. But I hope she gets some rest.  When I see what she has done for those “angel” children, there is little for me to do but stand back in awe. Many things are just bigger than me.

I think it’s clear who the angel is. I don’t know how she does what she does.

She sold her second painting yesterday for $200. She wants the payment to go to the school’s tuition fund. Check out the new Wish List. It’s a wonderful place to visit at the start of the day. And every single dollar goes directly to help a child get the tools they need for the future.

I also want to mention that there is a new Mansion Amazon Wish List, six movies that the residents of the Mansion have requested. Check it out, and thanks.

(I appreciate that some of you prefer to send contributions to me directly, and I will make the purchases for you if you prefer or don’t like to use the wishlist. People have many different feelings about buying things online. If you prefer, you can send your contributions to me via Paypal, jon@bedlamfarm.com, or by check, Jon Katz, Bishop Maginn, P.O. Box 205, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816. I’ll use it wisely and quickly and well. I never hang onto donations. Either way, thanks.)

18 July

Head Scratching…When Things Itch

by Jon Katz

Animals are always teaching me something, getting me to think. On a farm, we get bitten by mosquitoes, gnats, no see um’s, bees, wasps and giant black flies. Something is itching all the time, I had Benadryl tubes downstairs, upstairs, and in my office.

I used all kinds of holistic sprays, but there are just too many bugs to avoid, especially when it rains so much and there is so much manure. I’ve even had spider bites, which can be nasty.

Our animals get bitten by the same bugs, plus all kinds of ticks, and I can only imagine how image they are. It’s not too bad for the sheep,  because their wool shields them from the worst of it.

Donkeys, like most animals, are stoics. But they deal with itching by finding all kinds of things to rub against – gates, beams, limbs, stumps, almost anything that can hold up to a donkey rubbing against them.

We use holistic sprays, but it’s hopeless to think we can rid the farm of bugs, and they have a place in the environment. We can’t kill everything that is inconvenient for us.

I think insects teach me acceptance.  Bites are not drama. but a part of life, especially in the country, especially on a farm. This morning, I see Lulu has found yet another spot to tub the top of her head, a favorite spots for ticks and mosquitoes. And in the winter, a favorite thing to chew.

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