Bedlam Farm Blog Journal by Jon Katz

17 March

The Truth About Ageing And Ageism, The Last Acceptable Prejudice. Don’t Mess With Us.

by Jon Katz

It’s a sad turn in American history and a sorry statement of the human condition when the outside world tells us who and what we are, and we sometimes start to believe it ourselves.

I’ve fought this online for decades; now it’s time to fight it as I get older.

I see it as a challenge that runs all through life, now more than ever.

Ageism is the last acceptable form of bigotry unless you run for President.

Older people are rarely shown in positive ways in our culture or media, and when they are portrayed at all, they are consistently presented as useless, unwanted, doddering, expensive, helpless, incompetent, and needy.

When did you last see a healthy or happy older adult on the news or in a movie? They can’t make fun of women and black and gay people anymore; no one gets into trouble for stereotyping or demeaning the elderly.

Corporate health care makes billions keeping us alive too long, while shameless and cowardly politicians blame us for bleeding the treasury.

As an older man, I can caution you not to be fooled as I discover the truth of my existence.

You probably already know that not everything you see on the news or in your streaming videos is true.

When it comes to portraying the elderly, I’m discovering that we are a stereotype of exaggerated trouble and nasty characteristics. And we are lied about.

Now that I’m paying attention, I see vigorous older people everywhere hiking, skiing, working, exercising, writing, traveling, falling in love, and painting.

For years now, researchers have found and known that only five percent of those over sixty-five are in assisted or special care institutions and eighty percent of the rest of the older population have no limitations when it comes to managing the tasks of daily living – shopping, driving, cooking, cleaning, routine maintenance.

I had no idea of this.

Statistics also show that people my age have more chronic illnesses – the body is deteriorating and weakening – than young people but fewer acute illnesses.

(My wolf’s head cane, my new symbol of aging. Please don’t mess with me.)

Older people suffer fewer injuries in the home and have fewer accidents on the highway. All of these statistics – you can check them out for yourself – surprised me and challenged the stereotypes of the elder throughout the spectrum of media and culture – news, books, social media movies, and music.

Every doctor I see asks me if I’ve fallen down as if this is the primary danger of getting older. Every person I meet asks me about my health as if that is the most significant thing about me. These things are patronizing and dehumanizing.

If I fall, I’ll let the doctors know about t.

I have heart disease, diabetes, and some short-term memory. I have dyslexia also, and that has always caused me to make mistakes. Some of those look like aging mistakes.

None of these health issues have halted my work, activity, writing, photography, or social life. And yes, I love having sex and having some as often as possible. We are both happy in this regard.

We all have problems in life; at any age, we can almost always learn to work around them.

Joan Chittister writes about the gifts of aging and aging well in her essay Ageism.

There is good news for people my age: getting old is also rich in spiritual meaning, something missing from most of my early life and that of many younger people.

To those to whom much has been given,” she writes, “we know much is expected.” Amen to that.

That means me.

Age does not release me from my obligation to give something back to the world and to leave it a little better because I am here. I do this daily through the Army of Good, the refugee children, the older adults at the Mansion,  and my life. I do more good than ever the older I get.

For me, and many others, the jokes and stereotypes about aging are starting to wear thin and are no longer funny, if they ever were. There are too many of us; we know lies when we see them and live with them daily.

Ageism is a lie; all one has to do is look around and then look inward.

My only rational response is to reject this ingrained and foolish way of thinking about the elderly and its implications and just live my life.

Getting older is not something to be shamed for or pitied for. I can make aging as right and vibrant a place in life as an I want it to be.

No one can do that for me, and no one can take that away from me with dumb jokes and ignorant assumptions.

Bigotry is an ugly thing, for anyone, at any age.

I don’t intend to waste the remaining years of m life.

Joan Chittister:

A burden of these years is the danger that we might internalize the negative stereotypes of the aging process.

If we listen to how our culture portrays us, we might become what we fear and abdicate our new life call.

(That’s what “old talk” – “at our age” – is all about – a kind of unknowing self-hatred transmitted by the outside world.)

A blessing of these years is that we are responsible for proving the stereotypes wrong and giving age its fullness of life.



16 March

Flower Sharing: Was This The Last One? Are The Dark Days Still Dark? I’m Going To Keep Going

by Jon Katz

I asked myself today if this is still the dark days with a last, nasty, and messy storm passing through. The weather forecast calls for temperatures in the 40s for the foreseeable future.

We’re just into Daylight Savings Time, so the dark days are not so dark, and the cold days will not be so cold. But I still want to put up my flowers and continue the flower sharing. I guess I’m stuck on it and do it for myself and you.

This can take me right into May, when I get to plant my raised garden beds, and we can do it all over again. I love growing flowers, taking pictures of them, and sharing them on cold and dark days. I guess I see no reason to stop; I know they are appreciated, and mother nature is still battering people nationwide. Lots of people in the Southwest and other places can’t grow flowers anymore; it’s too dry and too hot.

I’ll keep going until the new flowers get here. Thanks for supporting this project. It turned out to be one of the most beautiful things in my life.


16 March

A Wonderful Artist Named Jared Soars At Bishop Gibbons. Re-Imagining Indiana Jones And The Fashion Culture With Legos

by Jon Katz

Jared is a gracious, shy, and gifted art student in Sue Silverstein’s excellent Bishop Gibbons High School art program. He has a dry sense of humor and is quiet and soft-spoken. He came to Sue and said he had an idea for a different photo assignment than the one given. Sue has been singing his praises to me all semester.

He said he wanted to “build his sets” and do a kind of spoof showing an Indiana Jones leggo character against the background of the fashion culture. Sue told him to proceed, as always, when students showed initiative. He wanted to know if it was okay to “build the sets” and do something different. Sure, said Sue, go for it.

The result is a brilliant take on vintage fashion photography, using Indiana Jones in full costume as told with Lego buildings and figures.

This is a strikingly original work; I thank Sue for permitting and recognizing it. The assignment was to take photos of people dressing up in vintage clothes. It was a fashion photo project.

Jared took this idea and made it his own astonishingly unique way.

For me, the Legos are fun but the least of it. This was a photo contest, and his photography is excellent. What Sue saw and what I see is a young artist savvy and imaginative enough to see how to connect his Legos to a fashion project, using his Legos to make the point.

Everyone else was using fashion people as models and dressing them up for photographs/ Jared used Legos, a unique and original idea. He then made these great sets (even spoofing Edward Hopper’s diner paintings).

He decided to use the fashion of Indiana Jones – a fashion genre, especially with the hats and other Jones clothes.

He took the idea further by re-creating Lego a fashion backdrop much like the ones in magazines. He put all of this into an art category, a wise and very creative impulse. He capped it all off by taking terrific photographs, clear in detail and rich in color and atmosphere.

The whole package was great, every part of it, from inception to execution. Just think of the work and thought it took. It has a very artistic feeling, we get what he is doing, but we never expected to see it through Legos.

I would have been proud to have taken any one of them. I’ll find out more about Jared, but I believe this is the first art class like this that he has ever taken. Sue spotted his talent immediately and gave him a lot of space to grow and experiment. He took it and ran. Next week, I’ll be proud to take his portrait.

Think what he can do with my Werewolf Cane.

Thanks, Sue, for alerting me to this.  It’s exciting. Your art program is one of the most innovative things I’ve ever seen in any school I’ve been in.  You are reaching these children in a new way.

You are pulling gold out of them and changing their lives. I need to say again that none of this would be possible without the support of the Army of Good and the wonderful people who have been shipping all kinds of art supplies that are making this possible. Thanks to you all as well.



Jared’s photos have a particular cultural awareness; using Indiana Jones to make his point was dry and sly. Jared had a vision for those projects and wasn’t afraid to deviate from the original instructions.

He also has a teacher who is not scared to let him deviate. I doubt he will forget this opportunity. He’s good. There is something deep inside of him.

The idea of Leggo Art is not new to me, but this is a beautiful and timely example. I love the point he is trying to make and the way he made it. Just look at those backgrounds.


I was blown away by the imagination, vision, and creativity I saw in Jared’s work. He was pleased I liked his work. I’ll so my best to ensure he knows how good this is.

I’m going to meet with him and interview him when I go to Bishop Gibbons next week.

Sue says he is very interested in photography, so I ordered three books for him as a surprise; they will arrive Monday.

One is a book called Black, a collection of photographs dealing with black culture; the second is the Beginner’s Photography Guide; and the third is Gordon Parks, How The Photographer Captured Black and White America.

This was a beautiful example of how a great teacher and an excellent art program draw fantastic work out of young people who have never seen themselves as gifted artists or been allowed to experiment.

I suspect some still consider creative careers. Sue finds the best in her students everywhere she goes and lights the Creative Spark.

I’m impressed. This is first-rate stuff.

16 March

A New Chapter For The Biog: Delete And Block, I Tried It Today

by Jon Katz

I’ve decided two things recently. One, I want my blog to be a safe and thoughtful place—no angry or cruel arguments from the outside or from me in response.

Secondly, I won’t be disrespected. I will respect anyone who respects me. I will get rid of anyone who doesn’t.

Someone posted a blog comment today on my blog that was upsetting.

I started to get angry. It was over the top; I’m not a tabloid for people to satisfy their twisted needs and curiosities.

The post was offensively intrusive.

A reader had been counting and monitoring the number of times I wrote about my son-in-law (my daughter and granddaughter are coming tomorrow, and Jay, my son-in-law,  has to work) and made some assumptions about our relationship.

She said there must be bad blood between us. Her conclusions were false, and the subject was none of her business.

No stranger has any reason to ask a question like that publically or privately. It really is none of her business.

Sharing my life is not an invitation to crawl inside of it.  Sharing it is not giving it away to people.

I got ready to reply. I stopped. I felt the old blood rising.

I remembered I have new software for dealing with nasty or inappropriate comments.

I call it my Troll- Killer And Deleter. My Web designer helped me to learn how to use it. It was always there; I didn’t know it. It felt good to use it. I think the online hostility left me feeling powerless; I just got my power back.

So today, for the first time, I deployed my new device to deal with social media’s growing hostility and rudeness.

I don’t want to become what I hate or what hates me. That’s just what they want. It’s not who I want to be.

I won’t post cruel and dishonest comments and get drawn into defensive arguments that make me no better than those assaulting me.   One friend wrote me to say I was better than that.

I think I am now. It was harder than I thought.

I feel a little foolish; I wonder what took me so long. Anger is not a good thing for me or anyone else I know. I have a lot of in me.

But my blog is not about arguing and trading insults. My spiritual work has radically decreased my anger; I feel so much less and less frequently. Sharing flowers is a lot better. This blog is a nice place to come,  a respite from the chaos – that’s the idea. It’s the story of a life, a living memoir presented differently.

That’s why all the photographs are free, and I want to give something back to the many people who have supported me and made my life here possible.

I have taught myself to stop, breathe, and not engage when I feel it rising.

My new delete and block button feels very good to me. It takes a second.

I have figured out how to use the software on my blog controls that permit me to block a message at the same time I delete it. It worked perfectly.

I didn’t feel the need to reply or stew about the arrogant intrusion of someone into my life. I started to reply and deleted my reply and the message simultaneously.

I am careful with my anger. Anger should never be answered with anger.

I share what I wish to disseminate; that is not an invitation for anyone to shadow me and pry or diagnose my life.

Too often, I took the bait. I didn’t like what I was becoming, and several very faithful readers wrote about it, suggesting I do something like this. They disagreed with my way of responding and told me so.

I heard them.

I finally took their advice to heart.

I’ve only blocked six people in more than  15 years. It’s not something I like doing. I’ll be careful. I need to hear dissent and disagreement for selfish reasons.

But I don’t subscribe to the idea that social media gives people a license to probe my life, lie about my family or me, or accuse me of awful crimes I have not committed.

Disagree with me all you want; challenge me as often as you wish. But do it civilly and respectfully so that I can treat you civilly and respectfully in return.

I do, and I will.

I won’t be disrespected, invaded, or treated rudely and cruelly, not on my blog.

I have a Delete And Block button now, and it’s easy, and I know how to use it.


16 March

One Man’s Truth: Why Hate Will Fail In American Politics. It’s Not Only Immoral. It’s Stupid. Cancelling Rosa Parks From Textbooks

by Jon Katz

Neuropsychologist Nicholas Humprey writes in his provocative new book Sentience about consciousness that people want to live fully and well. That is how the human mind has evolved.

He quotes the poet Byron who wrote, “the great object of life is Sensation—to feel that we exist—even though in pain.” Presumably, this would apply to our political leaders.

But it doesn’t.

The book is timely for me, a former political writer who once loved politics and specialized in trying to understand why so many politicians self-destruct, even when it’s evident to original thinkers that they are failing.

I don’t believe hatred is what most people want to live with day after day. As Humphrey discovered, they want more.

We’re in the crazy season again; Donald Trump is out there passing out his Maga hats and trying to look like a champion of the little guy and is campaigning at restaurants like Huey Long.

You, sir, are no Huey Long.

And Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who is rumored to be smart because he went to two Ivy League schools (really?) is re-defining the idea of a dumb political campaign.

Trump is a good guide to that.

I don’t want to write about politics often; it’s too poisonous. But I do need to speak up once in a while. I love the country too much.

This is a good time.

I read yesterday about Florida, where textbooks have fallen victim to politics and the mystical and mysterious war against the “woke.”

For weeks now, a small army of state “experts,” teachers, parents, and political “activists” have been combing thousands of pages of schoolbooks texts – not only evaluating academic content but also flagging anything that could expose, for example, on critical race theory or any theory that suggests the country has an ingrained history of racism.

Rosa Parks is one of the victims, reports Florida journalists; she is one of the first to be banished because of the story of her boarding a segregated bus in Alabama and refusing to go to the rear.

DeSantis’ army believes this story promotes bias and could make children feel bad about themselves. It is, they say, a”woke” story.


Race and gay and trans people and slavery and anything suggesting that humans have sex seems to be the primary targets.

Soon, those things will not exist in the Florida public educational system. How sad. How hateful.

This, say, educators, is the most extensive book purge and burning since the Nazis did it on Kristallnacht in 1938.

This might even top Donald Trump’s idea about drinking bleach to stop Covid-19.

This travesty is one of Governor DeSantis’s big ideas for reforming American education if he is elected president.

According to Florida journalists, election deniers, White Christian Nationalists, and defenders of the January 6 rioters are flocking to help sanitize textbooks.

DeSantis is very proud of himself.

His followers blame the “woke” for everything that goes wrong in America, from railroad accidents to lousy weather to bank closures.

It’s all the fault of the smooshy-headed people who keep babbling on about helping the poor.

Wait until he tries this in New York or California, or Massachusetts.

The Democratic election planners can’t believe their good fortune at being handed so much ammunition guaranteed to enrage and “wake” their supporters. What else can Trump and DeSantis do to win over more voters, piss on the Lincoln Memorial?

If you have a label, you don’t have to think about who you are or what you are about; you just let other people paste a sticker on your head and start hating everyone with a different label.

Labels are “stupid” stickers to me.

If you accept a label, you join in what the great critic Harold Bloom called the death of the American mind. Being “woke” is the hot new label, whatever it means.

You might remember the idea of truth and empathy. They were until recently considered moral virtues. I still consider them moral virtues.

If you call yourself a Christian, Jew, Buddhist, or Muslim, you might also know that hatred is considered immoral by the universal God and every major religion in the world.

Dr. Melvin Dunn, professor emeritus of psychology at Florida International University, is preparing another one of his Teach the Truth tours in April, when he will take a busload of people – mostly young African Americans – to visit sites where Blacks were lynched, brutally attacked, and murdered, including the Rosewood Massacre.

He says he’s afraid black children will never know the truth. The truth is bigger than any politician, it towers over Donald Trump or Ron DeSantis.

At the core, almost all of us want the same thing,  to be lifted, not torn down, respected, not belittled and humiliated.

This was Donald Trump’s colossal failure and is his failure still.

Ron DeSantis, his likely party heir and a new star in the Republican Party, have accomplished the impossible. He makes Donald Trump seem spiritual.

Hatred may be in politics, but it is not favored in our religious heritage. I think that still matters.

Ephesians 4:31: Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.”

According to the Bible, God said: “Whoever hates disguises himself with his lips and harbors deceit in his heart; when he speaks graciously, believe him not, for there are seven abominations in his heart; though his hatred be covered with deception, his wickedness will be exposed in the assembly. Proverbs”

Buddha said: “do not respond to anger with anger.” It can’t be a moral idea to feed fuel hatred.

Conventional religious morals are no longer restraining our leaders. Lying is not only okay but helpful. Hatred is essential. A politician that doesn’t hate someone is in trouble today.

Trump can’t open his mouth without lying.

DeSantis can’t open his mouth without hating or demeaning or bullying. If there is, in fact, a God, he is in big trouble.

Where is the vision to lift our spirits and improve our lives and get us to a better place?

What exactly are these men asking people to vote for? Is hate enough? Not if you know politics. Not if you know history. There are good reasons why historians consider Abraham Lincoln the best president and Donald Trump the worse.

Trump is a dreadful politician,  a loser and loser and loser; of all people, DeSantis is his allegedly his saner  mini-me.

DeSantis is supposed to be the smart one. I don’t see any evidence of that in politician terms.

Famed bigot  George Wallace won the election in his state by huge margins too. Voters all across America choked on him and spat him out. For all of his success, DeSantis is another born alienator, the worst thing for a national politician.

What fascinates me about Trump and DeSantis is not what they think or propose but what they don’t.

What will Governor DeSantis do for us besides bullying Mickey Mouse and sanitizing our textbooks?

Haven’t we seen this movie before? Even the reporters are beginning to wonder.

Donald Trump has failed in three successive elections, bringing down scores of fellow politicians and followers and traumatizing his party.

Governor DeSantis was hailed almost desperately as the perfect Trump replacement –  Trump without all the bullshit and incompetence.

America is not Florida; DeSantis can’t get his cronies to gerrymander all of it. And according to the latest poll, 78 percent of Americans have no idea what it means to be “woke.” Neither do I.

DeSantis, like his mentor, is taking a huge and perhaps fateful gamble.

Do the math. In a few years, most Americans will be people of color.

How is this bullshit a viable plan for the future of America that most Americans can or will embrace?

To any student of history and politics, these men are the same, singing the same old song: everything is stealing people’s stuff, displacing them, and taking their jobs.

The plan is to get enough people to hate others to vote for you, and you can win through the back door.

Except it doesn’t work.  

It only makes sense if you only talk to yourself, go on Fox News, and surround yourself with subservient acolytes. That will only get you so far.

Lincoln had this idea that the country should not be forever divided.

The new De-Santis-Trump idea is that the country must be forever divided. He’s banking on it.

De Santis has just one idea so far – he wants people to hate the “woke,” even though I’ve yet to find and listen to anyone who knows what that means.

What it seems to mean to both men is this: we should hate people who think differently than we do; we should hate anything the people we hate like. They are “woke,” and the rest of us are what? Asleep?

We must find people who disagree, silence them, remove them and protect our children from the dangers of thinking and learning. “Woke”people are trying to destroy our country.

We have no vested interest in Ukraine, says Ron DeSantis; preserving democracy is not our national interest; the war is a screen for the woke to do woke things, and programs for children and the poor are wasteful and “woke.”.

The hypocrisy-  I consider hypocrites the lowest form of life –  stands out -elitists in a hate campaign about elitists who pretend to be average Joes. Trump is a great actor. DeSantis isn’t.

He will never pass for an average Joe.

One of the seminal foundations of national politics is that people who want to be President need to stand for something, a dream, vision, or series of policies that inspire, touch, and call to the people who vote.

Alienating women, blacks, gay people, and compassionate people all at once doesn’t add to political genius; it adds to political suicide. Trump is the master of political suicide.

He had all of it right in his hands, and at his feet, he blew it all, not once but thrice.

Joe Biden beat the haters in 2020 just by not being them. That should give politicians some pause for thought. And Trump, at least, is exciting. DeSantis is as exciting as a turnip.

I believe – and Donald Trump’s campaigns have proven this again and again – that humans are programmed differently than the people trying to lead them.

They wish to live, not die.  They wish to hope and feel love. Hatred is grinding, wearing, and unpleasant at best. We are programmed to want more.

People want their souls awakened, not closed. They want something other than hate alone to believe in. Nobody wants to put up with someone as dull and sour as Ron DeSantis for four years. At least Trump was interesting.

Trump knows he can’t win a legitimate campaign, so he tried to steal one and take over the government. DeSantis is either blind or just as dangerous. He can’t win a legitimate national campaign, either.

I see little evidence of this alleged genius in Ron DeSantis.

I see more of it in Trump, who didn’t go to Harvard and Yale but has created a remarkably successful, if corrupt and narcissistic, life for himself solely on the strength of his personality.

DeSantis’s real hero seems to be Benito Mussolini, the fascist who did come to power by going after people who disagreed, often jailing them in prison camps. He also ended up swinging from a tree.

Aside from my particular politics, which aren’t really at play here one way or the other, I don’t see why many people expect campaigns like Trump’s and DeSantis’s to succeed when they have failed and again and again.

Hate is not a material thing that improves lives. It is the cheapest way to go.

It hurts and frightens people, preventing them from understanding the common good.

On his strikingly uninspiring national book tour, DeSantis had the chance to broaden his message, move beyond his war against that inspiring word “woke,” and draw more people to his cause.

He failed miserably, just like his mentor Trump.

Don’t get sucked in by fickle and crippled media. He is blowing it.  Successful politicians broaden their base; they don’t keep reducing it.

Hate is not an enduring philosophy. When I think of being “woke'” I think of people like Martin Luther King or Mother Theresa.

It isn’t that one has to agree with everything they say or do; both were very human. It’s that they can dream of something more than hating other people.

King said hate was too heavy a burden for him to bare.  Can anyone imagine Donald Trump or Ron DeSantis being that humble or self-aware?

From my curious perch on my farm, this next election is over already.

Both men are political dunderheads. They have no charm, soul, or inspiration about them. They offer us nothing that will touch or affect our lives.

As we learn over and over again, Hate isn’t enough. Politically, it’s a surefire loser. It’s just not enough in a country as big, complex, and diverse as America already is.

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