"Hang a Lantern on Your Problems..."
So All Can See.

During my seven-decade lifespan, I have benefitted a great deal from ten mentors. While there have been many others that have helped me in my journey through life, those ten were present in important developmental times for me. Tragically, only three are still alive. In addition, at seventy-one years of age and having danced with death a couple times already, I write this essay fully aware of just how finite life is...especially for me.

From my high school years through graduate school, my mother dealt with the aftermath of breast cancer, arthritis, and finally lupus, which caused her death in her early 50s. My father dealt with her decade long death process, and that tragically added to his heart condition. He too died after years of suffering. Therefore, I was fully aware that death is a reality...at one level. However, knowing that I would die someday is not the same knowing that I would die. I get that reality...now. It became abundantly clear in 2008...the age that I danced with death twice.

One of the mentors who helped me and my generation come of age in the 60s was Bobby Kennedy. Anyone who have ever received an email from me has seen this signature at the end of the email, "Some men see things as they are and say, why; I dream things that never were and say, why not." Bobby and I are not particularly interested in knowing some detail about life. However, he was driven during his life in the same way that I am driven by dreaming about improving the lives of others. He taught me to ask why. Why not work at changing the world.

Bobby, my mentor

Bobby, my mentor

However, since my last trip overseas, which was to Myanmar, when I say I am driven, I mean driven. I am different person today than the person who left the States in mid-December 2013 and returned in mid-January 2014. Prior to Myanmar, I was driven. However, I am really driven as if I am on steroids. My steroids are not drugs, but they are the driving force in my mind and life.

Beyond Bobby's paraphrasing a line from Shaw's play, Back To Methuselah, "Some men see things as they are and say, why; I dream things that never were and say, why not," another one struck me with almost as much clarity. Bobby said, "Hang a lantern on your problems."

Bobby was telling us that we all make mistakes in life. Own the mistake, address it, and move on. Making mistakes has two critical advantages. First, we can learn from our mistakes. We can realize the problem, straighten it out, and continue our journey through life. By hanging our problems like a lantern, we can clearly see the error. Second, by doing so, we will convince others that we are honest, and that they would benefit from using a lantern in their lives also.

In addition, by hanging a lantern on our problems, it will take away the opposition's opportunity to criticize us for our mistakes. That is an advantage in life. The next time the opposition disses our judgment about something, they will have to do so addressing that particular issue and not muddy the water about some mistake we made years before. Ironically, our being honest will force them to be honest also while debating with us.

What rattles me is how some in Washington will lie and compound the lie with more lies. Both parties have had their times of dishonesty and resultant stupid additional lies. However, in the past half dozen years, the right wing of the Republicans in their political driver's seat and are not using any lantern.

Some of the right wing are birthers. Obama was not born in Kenya. Healthcare is not socialism creeping into the American way. Moreover, Obama was not the first American president pushing for universal healthcare. If the Republican right used a lantern to read any US history book, they would find that a Republican president, Teddy Roosevelt, tied to get a universal healthcare plan passed in 1912. However, Teddy left the party, in part, because they did not want to address healthcare reform. It has taken us a century later to pass what is called Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act.

During that century, every Western nation in the world has passed a universal healthcare program. Norway started their program in 1912, the same year Teddy Roosevelt tried to in America. I lived under National Health while I studied in Scotland in the late 60s. The British adopted universal healthcare in twenty years prior in the late 40s right after WWII nearly decimated that country economically. I was required to sign up for National Health even though I was not working and paying into the program. I was just an American student; I was not a citizen of the UK.

Additionally, Obama has gotten us out of two wars. One of the wars was a mistake and the other war had already gotten bin Laden. What is the political right so upset about with Obama? My guess is that if they carried a lantern around with them for a day, okay...an hour that they would be able to see their racism.

Bobby is telling the political right that if you wish people to listen to you in the future, "Hang a lantern on your problems." Instead, some Republicans who might consider getting honest are being pushed further to absurdity by the tea party. As Forrest Gump reminds us, "Stupid is as stupid does."

I have taught for years. At the beginning of every semester, I tell my students the rules and the requirements that determine their grade. Then I tell them that if I ever make a mistake grading anything, tell me. I will check, and, if I am in error, the change will be made in a nanosecond. That is telling that I am honest. I am also telling them that I expect the same from them. We call that learning.

Bobby, my mentor, reached out to all that wanted to learn from him. I learned from him a great deal. Bobby shock hands with many Americans who learned a great deal from him also.

Bobby reaching out to each of us

Bobby reaching out to each of us

Bobby shock hands with many from overseas...

In Japan

In Japan

In South Africa

In West Germany

In West Germany

Tragically, Bobby is gone from us. His brother, Ted, at Bobby's funeral said this excerpt from his eulogy for his brother:

My brother need not be idealized, or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life; to be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it. Those of us who loved him and who take him to his rest today, pray that what he was to us and what he wished for others will someday come to pass for all the world. As he said many times, in many parts of this nation, to those he touched and who sought to touch him: "Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream things that never were and say why not."

If you are in your mid-thirties or younger, your knowledge of Bobby is from history books and the Internet. Trust me. He helped lead America to a better place in the world. Regardless of our age, we still can benefit from his teachings. We can start by dreaming and asking why. We can also "Hang a lantern on your problems."

Remember...lest we forget.

Remember...lest we forget.



Burma flag

Burmese independence flag

Visit the Burma Independence page to read more about this topic.



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An old man and his grandson

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04/27/14