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Jack be Nimble

by on December 22, 2016

Jack be Nimble

                           by Marco M. Pardi

“Never come between anyone and the fire.” WABASAH. (1773?-1855?) “The Teachings of Wabasha” in The Gospel of the Redman. 1966.


All comments welcome.  To those readers who have been hesitant to comment or ask questions, please be assured you may do so freely. In recent days several new people have signed on as followers, enabling them to comment freely, and it is hoped they will. All previous posts are open for comment by clicking on “uncategorized”. Reader participation keeps this site vibrant. MMP


As the holidays approach we are again faced with the prospect of gathering with family, friends, and acquaintances.  Bad enough on a yearly basis, but likely to be even more uncomfortable during the Advent of American Fascism.  December 19th, the day the Electoral College casts its vote, will have passed by the time anyone reads this.  And, as seems likely today, the electors will have chosen Party over country and ratified the passing of what once was a great nation.

When I first read the quote cited above my initial thought was, Sure, they could push you into the fire.  But on reflection it seems to have deeper meaning: don’t come between someone and their comfort zone.  Actually, both thoughts are now valid. The many who recognized the blatant signs and voted for Clinton over Trump (nearly 3 million more for Clinton as of this writing) are now navigating a landscape populated with Trump voters, some of whom are simply angry at themselves for having been so foolish, some who ardently believe in Fascism – without knowing they do, and some who, like the fawning crowds we see in newsreels of pre-war Germany and Italy, fell for a demagogue because, after all, simplicity appeals to the simple minded.

So what now?  We’ve got lives to live and people with whom to interact, like it or not.  I admit I have something of an advantage.  Not very long ago I was at a large gathering of family, friends and their acquaintances. I overheard one person asking another, “Which one’s Marco?” I was pleased with the given answer: “He’s the one who doesn’t talk much, if at all.”

But not saying something is not the same as not having anything to say.  Long ago I learned the dictum: Never argue with a fool. They cannot and will not see your point. And one good way to determine the fools is to listen. Igitur qui desiderat pacem, praeparet bellum –  Whoever wishes for peace, let him prepare for war.  And the best preparation is to listen to and know your adversary. You can’t learn much when it’s you speaking.  And, silence can be a very powerful tool as people have to rely on their imagination for your reasons and not on your statements.

What end does all this serve?  Well, peace in the short run. But it builds an armory composed of an adversary’s own weapons to be used against them.  Having been involved in physical confrontations I very early developed an experienced disrespect for traditional martial arts, with their easy to read poses and shouts as in sitting on a hot car seat. They are fine for show matches, but quite foolish in the real world. What’s even more amusing is the pitch commercial training centers use to sucker in parents; it will inspire self confidence, etc, etc. Yes, the kind that gets the kid’s ass kicked in the real world.

However, one form, Aikido, stands apart. Developed by Morihei Ueshiba as a way of defending one’s self while minimizing injury to one’s opponent, it consists of movements that redirect the momentum of an opponent’s attack. (In the real world terminating an opponent is sometimes necessary. There are efficient and quick ways of doing that, and I have taught these to women going into risky assignments)  The concept of aikido applies to those of us who, by virtue of a social realities, find ourselves in occasionally hostile verbal encounters with people with whom we otherwise must maintain a relationship. Some authors have addressed this problem; Suzette Haden Elgin wrote books entitled “The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense” and “The last Word on the Gentle Art of Verbal Self Defense“, a reasonable start and I very highly recommend them.  Essentially, the books teach the application of the aikido principle to verbal encounters, deflating the adversary’s attack while enabling him to save face. They do not teach match strategy to determine who wins the most points; those matches only escalate and breed hatred. Unlike the common martial arts, which address force with counter-force, the aikido principle teaches insertion into the attack and deflection and re-direction of the attack back onto the attacker; the force the attacker exerts is redirected such that the attacker hurts himself. Experience has shown that attacks diminish and cease when the attacker is only hurting himself.  This holds true both physically and verbally.  Of course, both cases call for you to be nimble, just in different ways.

Granted, there will be times when a person is simply too dim to realize he is making a fool of himself.  Is it really so difficult to say, “Of course, you’re right” and walk away?  Can our self image survive allowing a buffoon to think he’s “won” a confrontation? If it’s a matter of how onlookers view you, I would say the same holds true: The fellow buffoons will think you “lost” while the worthwhile thinkers will quickly recognize what you’ve done by your walking away. Again, silence can be an extraordinarily powerful tool.

What about those times when a proposition or a question is put directly to you?  Again, the way it is put determines the form of the response.  Some responses need only a short and precise answer.  But when I feel a proposition or question requires a complex answer, as so many often do, I have and do state that I will not address the issue unless the person is willing and ready for me to provide what I feel is the full context for my answer or my position.  If they are not willing and ready, I suggest they take their issue elsewhere. I much prefer being unheard to being misunderstood.

Not long after the Electoral College sealed the fate of the United States I heard people saying, “You can’t do anything about it except hope for the best.” I’m betting that was also said in Auschwitz, Dachau, and the “Japanese” internment camps filled with U.S. citizens who had lost their homes, their businesses and their freedom simply because they “looked Japanese”.

I must say, though, that silence on a national level can be particularly galling, especially when it is forced upon you by institutional indifference or outright threat.  President-elect Trump’s team has already demanded the names of all employees and contractors at the Department of Energy who have worked on climate issues or attended conferences on these issues in the past five years. This same team is trying to silence a number of media outlets they perceive to have been unfriendly to Trump.  And, when the CEO of EXXON in confirmed as Secretary of State he will wield even more power to silence critics than he has consistently used n the past. The proposed Secretary of Education has long made clear she sees Charter schools, cover for select religious institutions, as the “Gateway to Heaven” and is dedicated to defunding public schools in favor of tax money going to selected Charter schools. Trump himself effectively silenced several women who recounted his sexual abuse by threatening them with law suits.  And really, even if these women could prove their case in court they know they cannot financially outlast the defense team Trump would finance. Trump has signaled he wants to look for ways to loosen the slander/libel laws to silence any critics of any of his policies and practices. Effectively, the 1st Amendment is on the chopping block in issues of speech and the practice of religion.

These are just a very few of the coming appointments but they are far more, and far more ideologically driven than even the G. W. Bush appointments, which forced some of our top scientists to leave the country to save their science careers.  These scientists demonstrated they were nimble. As I’ve said in other posts, I sign many dozens of environmental/political/social justice petitions per day.  Some of these are directed to high level political officials. The updates I receive have indicated some success.  However, I never before truly thought I was at risk by signing these.  Now, I will continue to do so but will be mindful that I must be nimble if the time comes.

Petitions and letters directed at my State and local officials are, basically, pointless.  My State is almost entirely Republican.  Since with on-line petitions and letters I cannot include a large check, I simply get the pro-forma “reply” saying, “Thank you for contacting the Office of ………..”.  Yet, I will continue.

Having said this, I sincerely hope no one is deterred from sending such petitions and letters.  I’m also thinking of this blog.  Read in many countries, we have a reliable core of people who respond with comments and I deeply appreciate each and every one, replying to each as soon as possible.  Yet, I can understand the fear spreading across the United States as what amounts to the 4th Reich readies itself to take and hold power.

It has to be said for Trump that he was nimble, leaping from one media outlet to another with his baseless claims and outright lies and playing Pied Piper to every poorly educated, ready to blame others for their lot in life, xenophobic fantasist.  It has worked for him so far.  But his narcissistic megalomania will likely blind him to a reality the rest of us nimble people have not forgotten: The candle below him is lit.  And it’s our responsibility to feed the flame such that he feels the heat from his actions.

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  1. “The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes”. I have been thinking media is exaggerating the dangers of a Trump presidency but with this quote Donald Trump just posted on Twitter they aren’t doing near enough. I keep hoping it somehow is going to be ok, but each passing day it gets more terrifying. I have the luxury of being surrounded by family and friends who have similar views as I do. If I don’t read the news I can stick my head in the sand. But it’s looking like I may need to stick my head between my legs…. you know the rest. Please keep blogging so the rest of the world can see there are a few sane people left here. Thank you for your fights.


    • Thank you, Mary. I don’t think it is overstating the case to say free expression is quickly becoming endangered, even before the regime fully takes power. Actually, I do fear people who have commented in the past may be reluctant to do so now. But I will keep posting – and perhaps be nimble enough to get off a message before the knock on the door.


  2. Mark Dohle permalink

    I admire your clear thinking Marco and find what you say helpful. I have always thought and history seems to bear it out, that countries have a life cycle, not sure which one we are in now. Are we dying, turning into something else? Are we in freefall and when we hit will be break open or bounce back (?)…..I am not sure. We are living in interesting times that is for sure.

    We each have a perspective and while I don’t always agree with you I respect your insights into human nature. For any culture to survive for any length of time there has to be something to hold us together. If we start to crumble, or if it is perceived to be so and people give up hope, then yes, they will look for a leader to think for them. Have we reached that point…..well only history can say for sure, long after most of us are dead I believe. I also think that when we are in the midst of a culture crisis and I am sure we are in one, we really can’t say where we are, or where we are going. Hindsight is a wonderful thing and one day there will be plenty of hindsight about the time we live in at this time.

    I do believe Colbert said it best. Both the left and the right fear each other, both believe that the others polices will destroy the country….will they indeed? I believe that countries die because the overall population lives in such a way that things fall apart, do not hold together. Perhaps we should become a simple democracy; maybe the ‘experiment’ of our democratic republic is failed and lived out its purpose. Everyone wants ‘their rights’ without often considering the rights of others. I believe that this comes from both sides of the spectrum. We tend to forget that the ‘democratic republic’ that existed in Athens was a small one with only a few being able to vote, all male, the rest of the population, women and slaves had little say in matters. Now everyone and his dog have a say so and I believe chaos is the result. I don’t have any political answers, for I am an idiot when it comes to that.

    My faith gives me focus and that tells me that each human is unique and worthy of respect and if not, then they need to be dealt with in a just manner, not out of revenge or a desire to dominate. Difficult I know, perhaps impossible, but I try and rely on grace which I believe is something we all need. Grace from God and from one another. When we show friendship, or compassion or empathy that is a grace we bestow on others. As well as mercy, which by its nature is not something deserved but bestowed on another freely….something we all need, this grace from each other….I believe it mirrors the grace of God, something given freely and not earned.

    I was amused and dismayed over the presidential race; it shows where we as a people, divided and it seems to be getting worse. Maybe we have gone too far to turn back and have to ride this horse to the bitter end and see what happens. If people get scared enough and lose hope then yes, we will move towards some sort of government that may even be fascist. Just as we can often fail to really believe we can die, so we will do the same for a way of life, for a country, that they die as well. Maybe we are old and tired and moving towards breakdown. I did not want Hilary, nor was Trump, the only entity that came out ahead was SNL with their skits and the awards that they got for it.

    Ok I have rambled enough, again thank you.



  3. Thank you, Mark. I often think of you when the phrase “In the world, but not of the world” comes to mind. Your clarity, and your unfailing willingness to enable people to find themselves mentally and spiritually is the very epitome of being nimble, yet deeply concerned. Your voice must be heard, and by whatever form is appropriate I will strive to ensure it is.

    Perhaps it’s our age, but I seem to detect a certain sense of Leave them to their foolishness. I hope that’s not so as I consider so many who, as yet, have no voice of their own.


  4. Mark Dohle permalink

    No, I don’t mean that, yet we need to become more conscious of our collective choices and how they have ramifications for years and for generations to come; for they grow and mature. I think we can learn, though there may be some bumps along the way. Yet, again, history moves along, a strong current for sure, there is only so much anyone can do once the current starts, yet we can try, we should never lose hope.


  5. These days it seems that all I do is argue with fools; I’m sure that most of them think the fool is me. I’ve heard such phrases as, “I think Trump really cares about us,” and “Better Fascism than socialism.” How does one argue with that?, and then there is the ever popular “We’ll just have to agree to disagree.” No, we do not.

    I continually cite the history and stated agendas of the upcoming regime , emphasizing the idea that it is the possibilities of what may come which frighten me. My life is filled with supporters of the new president, and they refuse to believe anything but that all will be well in the end. There’s the key phrase, because if those of us who think and who care don’t do something, even if all we can do is continue to spread the truth, it will be the end for all of us.


    • Thanks, Rose. As you’ve made clear before, you are in a tough environment when it comes to wisdom. I’m looking forward to the return of your blog.


      • “All things are possible until the truth is known.” I keep those around me appeased (and thus willing to listen another day) by admitting that things could turn out okay, that I could be wrong, that, in fact, I hope I’m wrong…and then I begin to make my preparations for what I believe will come.


        • As the quote says, Who ever wishes for peace, let him prepare for war. If there is a laugh line in this, it’s Trumps challenge for a new nuclear arms race. Nuclear arms development comes under the Department of Energy, the department to which he appointed the dullard Rick Perry, who vowed in his demented presidential run to abolish it.


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