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When you’re smiling, the whole world smiles with you.”

— From the old song; scroll down to hear Satchmo sing it

Think about that person you know who is a devout person of faith whose face seems to almost always shine with grace and lovingkindness, as if, like Moses, he or she has just beheld the presence of God Himself/Herself.

In Exodus 33:18, we see that Moses had the chutzpah* to ask God, “Oh, let me behold your presence!”

God said, “Look, buddy, I’ll make all my goodness pass before you, and but you ain’t seeing my face because you know good and well nobody sees my face and lives.”

So Moses had this up-close and personal encounter with God that was so powerful that when he went back down Mount Sinai, the people were afraid to go near him.

Why?

Because of the Holy Shine on his face, so radiant that Moses kept his face veiled except when he spoke to God. (See Exodus 34:29-35.)

I’ve come to have this spiritual discipline in which I monitor my face and what it says to people I meet or greet in public.

When they look at my face, I want them to see me smiling, or hear me acknowledging their existence with a disarming “Hello.”

As strange as it may sound, I monitor my own face, trying to keep it open and friendly to everyone who sees it. This isn’t really hard for me as smiling at people has always come pretty naturally to me.

Still, we now know that smiling (and laughing, of course) pays high dividends in terms of holistic healthy and well being.

Smiling is spiritual green tea.

Smiling relaxes the face muscles in such a way that it it, like the sound of music, can cause physiological changes within us, for the better, in an instant.

But smiling comes far easier and more naturally to us if we’re living in the presence of the Lord.
—————
*Chutzpah (from the Hebrew חֻצְפָּה, pronounced hoots-puh) is a Yiddish word that is used by Jews and non-Jews alike to describe someone who is particularly audacious or has a lot of “guts.” Chutzpah can be used in a variety of ways. You can say someone “had chutzpah” to do something, or you could describe them as a “chutzpanik” and achieve the same meaning.

It’s pronounced hoots-puh.


An American writer and her husband moved their boys, 7 and 9, to a humble mountain village in Ecuador to protect the darlings from all the darkness and social ills afflicting America. Me, I have a problem or 10 with that.

Legend has it that whenever Hemingway read or heard something that badly annoyed him, he would announce:

“That gives me the ass!”

Or, depending on how tooted he was down at the bar, he sometimes verily screamed: “I got a bad case of the ass!”

I bring this up because I read an article about living overseas that gave me a bad case of, shall we say here at what is a blog fit for the whole family almost, it gave me a bad case of the arse.

* * *

Wendy DeChambeau is a magazine writer who is the Ecuador correspondent for International Living, a magazine for which, a few years ago, I wrote a puff piece highlighting all the positives about life in Belize for one reason and one reason only: I needed an easy $300.

Of course, it took weeks of increasingly angry emails for me to get somebody in Denmark or England or wherever it is that the magazine is based to finally direct-deposit my $300.

That’s what I get for prostituting my writer self for easy money in a publication aimed at getting people to buy lots of real estate in places where the American dollar buys a lot of God’s prettiest green earth and white sand on the sea.

* * *

Anyway, the aforementioned Wendy DeChambeau has written an interesting piece for the online magazine The Week about the decision by her and her husband to escape America and everything they hated about it with their two young boys.

In 2011 the family moved to a comfy, beautiful, and “humble village” in a remote part of mountainous Ecuador, the South American country that is one of the favorites of retirees and others looking to live well and on the cheap outside the USA these days.

You’ll find a lot of happy-face articles in International Living about it being your could-be dream home in a dreamy country.

So here is an excerpt DeChambeau wrote about her move to Ecuador for This Week, which is more of serious online publication about politics and culture in America:

    Some of our friends turned on us, calling us terrible parents, or saying we were unpatriotic. Why would we want to leave the land of the free and the home of the brave? And where was Ecuador, anyway? Somewhere near Mexico? Africa? We were taking our children to a country that most Americans can’t even point to on a map. What were we thinking?

    Well, we were thinking a lot of things, and taking a number of factors into consideration. In America, it seemed every third child was taking pharmaceuticals to treat behavioral issues, anxiety, or depression. High school students were unloading automatic weapons into their classmates. Opioid use was reaching all new highs. Bank executives were defrauding their customers and Wall Street was walking an increasingly thin tight rope. It felt like The American Dream as we knew it was all but gone, having transformed into a shadowy unknown. We fretted about what the future would hold for our family. We thought maybe, just maybe, a simpler lifestyle somewhere else was the answer. And so, in 2011, our family walked up to the edge of the unknown, took a deep breath, and jumped.

* * *

Mind you, this radical move turned out to be just what DeChambeau and her husband dreamed it would be, in spite of the culture shock that afflicted them and that I can tell you will afflict you no matter where you move to live in this world.

It certainly hit me harder than I expected when I moved to third-world Belize, even though I had thoroughly researched the country and communicated with so many expats that I thought I could cope with all the downsides I anticipated.

The reality of life in a whole other country with a whole other culture and sub-cultures always bites, that I can tell you.

But enough of my digressing… In her description of the potentially maddening slow pace of life, in a country where the buses and nothing else much runs on time, DeChambeau could have been talking about Belize.

Here’s an excerpt (with my opinionated asides thrown in):

    Aside from the daunting language barrier, nothing in this part of the world runs on schedule, so we constantly showed up hours early for events and just had to wait around. Or we found they would be held at some undetermined future time. For a punctual, time-conscious person like me, this ramped up my anxiety to new levels.

    It was tough for the kids, too. Back home, my sons played little league, but baseball isn’t really a thing in South America. Instead, soccer reigns supreme. They missed some comforts of home, like the public library on rainy afternoons and the local swimming pool on summer days.

    [NOTE: Remember, the writer and her family moved to a remote village in Ecuador, a country with libraries and swimming pools aplenty in some parts, as in any country.]

    I began to worry: What if the naysayers back home had been right? What if the United States really was the greatest nation on Earth and we were ruining our children’s futures?

    [NOTE: Reading this really gave me a bad case of the arse: America IS BY FAR STILL the greatest and by far the richest nation on Earth. Just look at how much we spend, and waste, on defense and the illusion security every year compared to Russia, China and every other big military spender.]

    What if we never could learn to truly adapt? What if my children ended up in therapy all because I’d moved them halfway around the globe?

    But within six months, our plan began to work. Our kids were soon chatting away in Spanish to their new friends and started showing interest in learning other languages. Some of Latin America’s best features were rubbing off on us, like the emphasis on family time and community involvement, which I loved.

In short, everything has worked out well for the DeChambeaus, who plan to send their kids to college back in the U.S.

Yet, apparently things are not quite so bad in America–where every town used to be safer and happier than life in Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegone–that they will choose to higher-educate their children in their happy, adopted homeland in South America.

Wait! What’s wrong with this picture? …..

    Eventually my boys will return to the U.S. to attend college and build their adult lives. When they do, they’ll have a leg up. In a world where the up-and-coming generation is castigated for their feelings of entitlement and inability to handle disappointment, my sons have no notions of being owed a thing.

Picture me doing a big, loud, excitable John Oliver “WOW!” here. That last sentence, especially, gave me the arse.

I mean, the writer suggests that the only way to ensure that your little darlings won’t grow up with “a sense of entitlement and inability to handle disappointment” is to raise them in a “Safety Zone” you can chop out in a remote South American village.

It must be nice to have her kind of money socked away to relocate anywhere she chooses, carve out a most secure life among peace-loving people (probably sweet indigenous people who sleep contentedly on mats on dirt floors), and then educate her kids back in dreadful America.

What is wrong with this picture?

* * *

I urge you to read in entirety the somewhat lengthy but highly readable story (she is an engaging writer) by going here.

Again, I live in Belize, the so-called “Crown Jewel of the Caribbean,” which draws millions of tourists a year not only to the greenish-crystal waters and islands but also the mainland jungles and rainforests in which I tramp around in.

Belizeans are famously nice, hospitable and peace-loving people (especially the indigenous people).

But living here on what I call “the other side of paradise” among the thousands of Belize’s struggling poor people held down by an utterly corrupt government, I see all the country’s horrible third-world social ills every day–which of course I explore in my book The View From Down in Poordom.

(In fact, the book includes a whole chapter titled “The Other Side of Happiness in the Jewel.”)

I benefit from my white, American privilege in Central America and what privileged white or American person, like the woman who moved her children to Ecuador to escape America’s dark side, doesn’t take advantage of it.

Here are some of those social ills I see here in “Paradise” every day, such as:

    alcohol-drug abuse that is rampant;

    sickening, hair-raising violence against women and children;

    a huge amount of Belizean on Belizean violence;

    babies having babies, with first of many pregnancies at 13 and, increasingly, as young as 12;

    the highest rate of HIV in Central America, which has the highest rate in the world (I’m not sure it STILL has the highest rate because of all the education about it, but it had the highest for whole decades);

    horrific “public health care” (with private care that’s always the highest quality);

    and, mostly, terrible education in a country that has zero accredited colleges or universities.

(I’m planning to share some of the headlines and news stories of Belizean violence that scream bloody murder soon, like the story of Belizean police goon squad in northern Belize that recently went to arrest an unarmed man (they said he came out with a machete) who was probably innocent of the crime they sought him for. The whole squad unloaded their weapons on the poor guy in a massacre so senseless that the townspeople surrounded the cops in a small revolt. Some rotten cop probably had some kind of a personal grudge; that’s how so many of the cops here roll.)

Despite all the social ills above, Americans and other Westerners bring their kids here to raise them for the same reasons the DeChambeaus are raising their young boys in Ecuador*: to get away from hyper-consumerism and violence and all the horrible things they perceive America to be.

It’s easy enough to live in a Belizean “Safety Zone” and not be touched by the darker side of life here.

What the writer DeChambeau failed to point out is that Ecuador is shot-through with all the same ills, especially in its cities, that afflict Belize and the USA and most any other country today.

The story of the Garden of Eden is a myth. It’s a wonderful and holy myth from which we can draw all kinds of moral conclusions about the inherent sin of men, women and talking snakes.

But in reality, there was never any such “Safety Zone” in this broken, violent world, which the Bible clearly shows has always been broken and violent and in need of the healing, restorative, reconciling, and redemptive powers of God’s love, grace and tender mercies.

* * *

The DeChampeau family could have as easily carved out a bubble world for their kids by living off the grid in any number of remote, breathtakingly beautiful places in the USA (including many where much Spanish are Native American languages are much spoken, if they wanted the kids exposed to another language and culture).

It’s a really big country, America, with a lot of “out there” still “out there.”

I hasten to add that because I hold up the harsh realities of life in Belize and Central America in my book and this blog, that doesn’t mean life in countries south of the border is the utter pits.

Once more for the record, Belize plenty of redeeming social values, the friendly, hospitable, peaceable nature of the people ranking right up there with all the natural beauty and wonder of the jungles and seas.

As I point out in my book Belize always ranks at the top of those countries where the people are happiest and the living is easiest.

It’s a wonderful place to live–see my post from this past weekend about why I love Saturdays here!

I’m still all in here in BZ after five years and life is mostly very good if you can go with the flow of the buses and nothing much else, including the people, being or doing anything on time. (If your mechanic in Belize says he’ll have you’re vehicle up and running by noon tomorrow, his idea of tomorrow may be the end of next week, I kid you not.)

But there is that dark, “other side of Paradise” here in Belize, and in Ecuador, and in most countries.

But Americans have long been hung up on the illusion that “the grass is always greener” somewhere else, be it Canada, Mexico, Belize, Costa Rica, Guatemala, France, or pale countries like Denmark or Switzerland, and nowadays, trendy Ecuador.

(BTW, remind me to tell you about a neighbor of mine here, who has a massage clinic on her piece of paradise here in San Ignacio, who packed up her native Switzerland decades ago because it was getting polluted and wracked by all kinds of problems. She didn’t like modernity closing in.)

Any place is Paradise if you have enough money for a dreamy home with electricity, running water and maybe a beautiful fountain in your tiled driveway, a masseuse, and other amenities your next-door neighbor may not have.

American white privilege has its benefits for me and I take advantage of them in Belize every day. I don’t worry about being slashed up with a machete because the police hear, who have world-class goon squads, come down like hot lava on Belizeans who kill tourists or expats from rich and privileged countries.

Murders of expats and tourists here do happen, and make a splash in the American news cycle a couple of days or three, but there is a reason I’m safer and more secure here than my Belizean friends and neighbors.

(Which isn’t to say I haven’t felt seriously threatened by my 4-year-old Belizean daughter’s own family, a family in which education was never highly valued and violence in the home in their growing up was just home life. Belizeans can get made, they can get violent, and they can turn around and get along and act like nothing ever happened the next day. It’s the strangest phenomenon I’ve ever seen in my life.)

* * *

*Blogger and (controversial Christian author) Rod Dreher posted DeChambeau’s article about her cushy life Ecuador at The American Conservative (see it here) and asked readers to respond with comments about what they thought about the her moving to South America (and I did throw in my 2 cents in a reply), and one guy responded with a comment that sounds very much like life in Belize City, which has one of the highest crime rates in the world:

    Ecuador: quelle b.s.

    I was in Guayaquil (Ecuador’s largest city) a few years ago at Christmas. At our hotel, they instructed us to take taxis everywhere in the city because armed robberies were the rule and not the exception for tourists.

    Not only that, they told us not to hail taxis or call taxis directly, because it was not uncommon for fake taxis, or possibly real taxis, to rob the people they would pick up at various sites of interest.

    Instead, we were instructed to call the hotel, which had taxi drivers that it trusted. They would send a taxi driver from the hotel to pick us up anywhere in the city. It did not cost any more, so I think the motivation really was safety and not money.

    The only safe area was along the river in a protected zone where people were checked for weapons before being allowed to enter. That was the only place you could walk freely in the city day or night.

    And on Christmas Eve, or maybe it was New Year’s Eve, we were told not to go outside for the fireworks because most of what we heard was automatic weapons being fired into the air.

    That said, we really did have a great time in Ecuador. But moving there to escape the evils of America? What a joke.

While I’ve never been to Ecuador (I’d love a visit to any country south of the American border or even would love to live most anywhere else as I think I’m more adaptive, adventurous and curious about other nations and cultures than most people), I’ve heard similar horror stories about “The Other Side of Paradise” that is Ecuador.

America is no Eden but neither is the pretty blue planet.

Chapters in The View From Down in Poordom, which includes one about “the other side of paradise” that is Belize.


With Bush’s foolish invasion of Iraq (and yes, I protested against it while in seminary at SMU at the time), Americans were giddy. Hope “After Iraq” has been dashed ever since while we wage more senseless war.

The war against ISIS reached a milestone last October when the Pentagon reported that America’s taxpayer-funded bombing campaign had killed an estimated 20,000 ISIS fighters.

That marked a sharp increase from the 15,000 kills the generals and admirals had reported only three months before. (The election was a few days away, by the way.)

Of course, since You-Know-Who came into office–he who as a candidate promised to “bomb the shit out of em”–he’s killed more thousands. (He insists on credit for any and all American kills of bad guys.)

In addition, he, and the U.S. Congress, have granted the Pentagon north of $54 billion more and intensified Obama’s bombing significantly.

The president and Congress (Congress never gets enough credit for feeding the war machine) and the Pentagon are still killing ISIS fighters by the thousands. And it’s not even an election year. Wait till next year!

With the new guy in the White House, the promise is that, soon enough, we’ll see the total elimination of ISIS and the quash of threats from nasty leaders in North Korea and Iran.

Not to mention Afghanistan, where we will soon enough have a 50 percent increase in the almost 10,000 courageous Americans on the ground there.

Those American troops, by the way, will have no clear objective in Afghanistan whatsoever because the White House is winging it with no strategy for anything other than more bombs and troops on the ground.

Obama is still despised for pulling troops out of Afghanistan too soon. In Afghanistan, just a few more thousand boots on the ground here and a few more thousand there is always a winning formula, right?

We’ve been fighting in Afghanistan for 16–count em!–16 long years.

And when have we ever had anything to show for it?

How many times have we seen this newsreel since George W. Bush so foolishly injected us into Iraq, a country with the dictator Saddam who U.S. Congressmen had once schmoozed with even after he gassed his own people people. (And here’s a reminder: 14 of the terrorists who attacked the World Trade Center Towers were from: Saudi Arabia.)

Remember when, perhaps, you had these stickers all over your car, SUV or pickup in support of President Bush’s plan to invade Iraq at an estimated cost of $60 billion to American taxpayers? That worked out even worse than our allowing freedom fighters in Afghanistan back then fight the Taliban with our few thousand military advisers and a relative few troops on the ground there. And where did all those stickers go?

I don’t pretend to have the answers to achieving world peace.

But I do know that, in the end, war is never really the answer. We maintained 500,000 “boots on the ground” in Vietnam and killed millions of Vietnamese people indiscriminately. And how’d that work out?

We’ve been trying ever since to find a way to win another World War II–the so-called “Good War.” We’re always after another war we can finally feel good about.

So while I don’t know the answers, I know our leaders don’t either.

But I do know the definition of insanity. It’s doing the same stupid, super-expensive and bloody thing over and over, expecting a better result.

The current president can spend all the taxpayer money he wants on more bombs and wars and military “adventures,” just as Obama and Obama’s predecessor and their rubber-stampers in the United States Congress have done since 9-11.

But America’s military might is not going to achieve peace in the Middle East, or anywhere else.

Nor, for that matter, is it going to win the release of Americans still being tortured in North Korea (and Iran) while you-know-who trashes his predecessor yet again for letting a young American die a slow, torturous, sad death.

Constantly trashing Obama, who is no longer the president, doesn’t generate the kind of American solidarity we need to show our enemies. How I wish Donald Trump and others would actually get that rather than blabbing about it.

Our current military strategy, which is so lacking in any end-game strategies that will make any real difference in combatting terrorism and the ideology behind it, is going to do what it’s been doing for 16 long years under several president: create more recruits and “lone wolfs” who want to destroy America and Europe and so much of the supposedly civilized world.

If more and more war, more and more Pentagon spending were the answer to achieving peace and security, we could all tour around Iraq and Syria and other parts of the old Holy Land without fear.

“How long, O Lord?”


People walking up to you
Singing glory hallelulia
And they’re tryin to sock it to you
In the name of the Lord…

Look around tell me what you see
What’s happening to you and me
God grant me the serenity
To remember who I am

‘Cause you’ve given up your sanity
For your pride and your vanity
Turned your back on humanity
And you don’t give a da da da da da

— From “The Games People Play,” Joe South

Joe South was one of the greatest rockers you never heard of.

Even if you never did, here’s a bit of his 2012 obituary in Rolling Stone:

His Greatness Joe South. One of the forgotten greats of rock and country music.

    He recorded with Dylan on his 1966 classic Blonde on Blonde, played on Franklin’s 1967 single “Chain of Fools” and saw Elvis Presley sing his “Walk a Mile in My Shoes” on Presley’s’ 1970 live album On Stage. South’s track “Hush” later became a hit for Deep Purple, and he won two Grammys in 1969 for his single “Games People Play.” South’s biggest hit came in 1971 when Lynn Anderson covered “(I Never Promised You A) Rose Garden).”

So if you never heard of him, kids, he was big back in the day.

(And here’s the RS obituary.) … And a bit more detailed obit from The Guardian.

Too bad his underrated music has been largely forgotten. He was a a talented guy with booming chops and a keen social critic who did some edgy music that won high hosannas from that edgy social critic Bob Dylan..

What’s interesting to me is… South’s music is as relevant to our turbulent times as it was in the helter-skelter sixties when he was on top.

He urged us in his seminal song to “Walk a Mile in My Shoes.”

We would all do well to imagine ourselves walking in the shoes of “the other” — that other person we despise because he or she is not of our race, religion, or economic-social status.

Another of my personal faves… a song that’ll make a country boy ache to go back home.


My Mayan friend and healer Margarita from the Maya villa of Santa Elena near the famous Tikal May ruins in Guatemala. She has invited me to come stay at the village, which is high on my bucket list for another road adventure on my trusty motorcycle Heavy Lunch.

My Mayan friend Margarita, who catches a bus to market here in Old San Ignacio, BZ, from her home a few hours west in Guatemala on Saturdays, does a good business selling her herbal concoctions.

I like her divine, flaming incense made from resin, which I burn in my home. It’s a strong, flaming incense that would set off fire alarms if I had any.

See the photo captions for more.

For $10 US Margarita will sell you this fabulous resin/incense wrapped in palm leaves.

Cut a piece small or large, put it in a pan or on some kind of fire friendly surface, light it and it will burn for as long as you prefer, producing a divine scent. I put a small amount on the floor of a spare bedroom and the incense wafts around the house. Some Mayans and shamans in Central America and the Caribbean will tell you it keeps the evil spirits away, including the spirits of bad health. By the way, once you’ve scrubbed the sticky resin off your fingers your fingers will still smell good for a long time.

Maria speaks no English but her friends help her translate for the many tourists who stop by her table, intrigued by the piles of strange leaves and spices and exotica she offers.

She sells herbal tea barks and leaves and medicines like Rue, which is the English name for what is Ruda in Spanish.

This is dried Rue, which Mayan healers boil down to make tea that lowers blood pressure and has other health benefits. But travelers and tourists be forewarned when buying pure, unadulterated herbs in rainforest countries like BZ: an herb like Rue is so powerful that too much can lower the blood pressure to a risky level, especially if, like me, you have a history of serious hypertension and have to take 20 milligrams of BP pills to keep your BP at a perfect rate.

Me, I drink at least one cold, 4-ounce glass of Kombucha tea for good health every day, preferring the ginger-flavored tea I buy from another Mayan healer. Because it’s a rainforest country, BZ is an herbal-remedy culture and the Kombucha Culture is a big culture within the culture. Cheers.

And as an extra-added Roadside Attraction from my stroll through market today, meet the Belizean who is new in town whose name is Ale (pronounced Ah-lay.)

This is Ale, who moved to San Ignacio/Santa Elena recently to sell her beautiful sea-glass jewelry like the necklace she’s modeling here. (She’s a most camera-shy model, by the way, who I couldn’t get to flash her great Belizean smile.

She is from Punta Gorda, way down in south Belize in what is serious rainforest country which lies just across the beautiful Gulf of Honduras from coastal Guatemala. (PG was the setting for the Harrison Ford book The Mosquito Coast based on the Paul Theroux novel by the same name. You may recall I rode down there in February on one of my motorcycle adventures on my trusty motorcycle Heavy Lunch which slam-dunked me earlier in the week. The soreness has finally left me and the bruise the size of a large Montana map is slowly starting to fade thank you very much for asking.)

Many of Ale’s crafts are on her Facebook page at Ale’s Beach Treasures.

Ale moved to San Ignacio (she actually lives across the river in the twin city of Santa Elena) because she sells sea-glass jewelry and San Ignacio is a big-time tourist where handmade jewelry sells like pancakes.

Punta Gorda (Belizeans call it PG) is a more laid-back Belizean town where there are few tourists and making a living doing anything other than fishing is a challenge for some people.

“I started collecting sea bottles that washed up on the shore in PG five years ago and making jewelry out of it,” she said. “Everything I sell is from glass from bottles that might be many decades old or so old that the pirates used them hundreds of years ago. The water softens the glass up for such nice jewelry. I really enjoy it and trying to make a living from it.”

Check out more of Ale’s antique-glass jewelry on Facebook at Ale’s Beach Treasures.

Y’all come see us now, ya hear?

Some of Ale’s sea-glass antique jewelry fashioned into modern jewelry.

I try to give credit where it’s due, so I will give the overgrown child in the White House credit for doing something good and merciful while nobody was looking late last night.

What he did was, he reversed one of his major campaign promises.

Again.

And good for him. This one is one to be cheered.

Specifically, the Trump Administration (that’s shorthand for Donald Trump) announced that it will extend his former President Obama’s so-called “Dreamers” protection program.

This will protect from deportation the almost 800,000 undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children.

So-called “Dreamers,” undocumented immigrants who were brought into America as children, protesting outside Trump Tower in New York last year. Trump has flip-flopped on a campaign promise, big-time, to protect the Dreamers from deportation and good for him. © EDUARDO MUNOZ ALVAREZ/AFP/Getty Images.

Of course, I’m going by what The New York Times reported this morning, so Trump supporters won’t believe it until it’s confirmed as factual by Fox News and the Russian News Agency.

But being the gullible Times reader I am, I believe this report from the Times is accurate:

    WASHINGTON — President Trump has officially reversed his campaign pledge to deport the so-called Dreamers, undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as small children.

    The Department of Homeland Security announced late Thursday night that it would continue the Obama-era program intended to protect those immigrants from deportation and provide them work permits so they can find legal employment.

    A fact sheet posted on the department’s website says immigrants enrolled in the 2012 program, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, “will continue to be eligible” to renew every two years and notes that “no work permits will be terminated prior to their current expiration dates.”

Trump’s hardcore base is not going to like this Mother of All Flip-Flops.

    The decision is a reversal from Mr. Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric during the campaign and is likely to disappoint some of the president’s most ardent supporters, who view the program started by former President Barack Obama as an illegal grant of amnesty.

    During the campaign, Mr. Trump repeatedly agreed with that sentiment. At one rally last summer, Mr. Trump vowed to “immediately terminate” the DACA program, saying that Mr. Obama had “defied federal law and the Constitution.” (My italics for emphasis.)

    But once in office, Mr. Trump faced a new reality: the political risks of targeting for deportation a group of people who are viewed sympathetically by many Americans. In some cases, the immigrants did not know they were in the country illegally. Many attended American schools from the time they were in kindergarten.

In fairness, Trump started to hint before he was sworn into office that he wanted to protect the Dreamers. And months ago he went so far as to promise he wouldn’t deport those 800,000 Americans among us, reportedly going so far as to say to Republican senators at one point, “I don’t want to hurt those kids. It’s a matter of the heart.”

Honestly, in spite of my fierce loathing* of this reckless, immature, rolling cannonball who maintains part-time residence in “The People’s House” (i.e., White House), I do believe he has a good heart deep down there in the darkest coddles.

I just pray every day that he’ll open it up and let more goodness, mercy and compassion gush forth in this broken and violent world.

This action to protect the Dreamers, which already is enraging the hardcore base that has no interest in a kinder, gentler and more united America, could do him political harm, but I pray it’s the start of a new direction.
———

* Donald Trump will earn my respect the day he really does take a whole new direction in his life and leadership. A new direction in life will require a lot of heartfelt repentance and asking of forgiveness for diminishing the God-given humanity of all the masses of people he has hurt with his words and actions.


What a beautiful, wonderful world. And one shot-through with danger.

In my first life as a newspaper scribe I covered a story–one so sad it made me weep–about a twenty-something Texas rancher who, like so many Texans, started riding horses when he was a tot.

One day he was enjoying a ride with his young wife-to-be when a perfectly gentle and tamed mare that had been his horse for years started rearing up and bucking violently. In the prime of his life, the cowboy was thrown off and landed on his head and died.

Unlike so many Western- and Southern-born-and-reared folks, I’ve never been much of a horseman. (My dad was an excellent horseman and a motorcycle rider in his prime of life, but I’ll save that story for Fathers Day.) Yet having grown up in farm-and-ranch country in a rural Texas county I’ve done my share of horseback riding for pleasure.

When I was in college a group of us boys camped out in the woods one weekend. A couple of friends brought their horses and we saddled them up and a couple of the guys were preparing breakfast.

I wandered over to the horses and on a whim decided to mount the one I was going to be riding on our leisure ride to trot around a minute. Since she and I were barely acquainted, the mare didn’t like me being on her without her master around. So I was barely in the saddle when she took off like a wild hyena circling around a big pasture. There was no reining her in.

My friends mounted their horses and tried to speed up to my rescue, but too late. Like I say, I’m no master horseman, but I was able to hang on until the horse pulled up to a dead stop at the edge of the woods and I went airborne.

Somehow I came out of that, uh, relaxing Saturday morning ride without a scratch, a broken bone or a head injury. In fact I was quite fortunate to have crash-landed on cushiony brush at the edge of the woods.

After guzzling a few cold, calming beers before breakfast (honestly, one of the few times in my life I ever drank before noon) my friends had a lot of laughs at my expense.

I had to laugh at myself, even though it wasn’t funny at the time of the unexpected ride.

I was so young that I don’t remember being sore from the body slam, though I’m sure I must have had tender muscles for a few days.

I say this because I made silly fun of my Monday motorcycle mishap in the last posting here. At my age, I was so sore from my motorcycle body slam that I had to amuse myself with that post to keep from crying. You don’t recover from painful accidents at 67 like you do when you’re 21, which I think was my age when the aforementioned horse threw me back in college.

Now I bring this up because people are always telling me, “Motorcycles are dangerous!”

To which I say: So is horseback riding. So are contact sports and, for that matter, girls softball. So is pulling out of your driveway in that sedan of yours that has the highest marks for driver safety a vehicle can have.

Before I moved to Belize–five years ago come July 15–American freeways started making me increasingly nervous. I don’t miss them.

Nowadays, being a congressman playing leisurely baseball with peers early on a weekday morning is a dangerous pursuit. I just caught that disturbing news and glad the victims will live to enjoy more time playing ball in the future.

* * *

I know, I know… motorcycle riding probably tempts fate more than most activities. And being an active person who lives for activity I’m perhaps tempting fate more than most.

I live in jungle country, for gosh sakes.

The feared fer de lance, AKA Tommy Goff or Yellowjaw snake, is common in BZ. Its aggressive and its fast-spreading venom seldom kills, but it can do a lot of permanent damage to a body in a lot of time. Nature is dangerous but we still seek outdoor leisure.

The bush is teeming with all kinds of dangers. When I’m in the jungle hiking or birding or just communing with that old Holy Ghost, I’m extremely mindful of these dreaded serpents the Belizeans call “Tommy Goff snakes.”

The Tommy Goff is actually known as the “Yellowjaw.” Though seldom fatal, its venom has a nasty way of promptly chewing up your muscles and tendons up and down your limbs and potentially leaving you severely disabled unless you get to a hospital pronto.

And getting to a hospital from out of the Belizean wilds comes with a lot of hurdles, especially if you’re staggering your way out of the wild from a “Tommy bite.” See more on Central American snakes here.

But hunters and fisherman and outdoorsmen of all kinds all over the world seek their leisures knowing the many dangers to watch out for. All kinds of dangerous things that go bump in the night are out there.

* * *

In spite of my making that goofy fun of my accidents yesterday, I’m thankful they were minor accidents–and thankful to people who were concerned about me.

I can assure you, I’m good. I’ve had a free, healing massage from a friend who insisted on paying me back for a favor I did her once and by the way, she’s a retired British physician socialist. I sought her ought for some free medical care and the rubdown.

I’m just saying this…

There are no guarantees of security and safety in a world teeming with potential danger. Lord knows I saw evidence of this a million times doing pastoral care in the emergency rooms and Intensive Care Units of hospitals.

I saw people who got maimed or killed doing all kinds of mindless stuff: riding motorcycles as if they were death-proof, for example.

I also saw an elderly retired man who was out fishing on a dock one day as he did routinely, die in ICU from a bizarre fishing accident. His wife was walking behind him and watched him get tripped by their faithful dog. The old gent fell into a few feet of water and promptly drowned. He never learned to swim.

That too made me weep.

Incidentally, he was a retired pastor.

I witnessed an enormous of sadness and grief in two careers that made me appreciate life to the fullest and go for the gusto.

It’s a wonderful world. But dangerous.

Be careful out there.