SEVERAL PEOPLE QUESTION THE PRESIDENT’S LITERACY LEVEL by Milt Hankins

SEVERAL PEOPLE QUESTION THE PRESIDENT’S LITERACY LEVEL by Milt Hankins

l.. MILTON HANKINS

I’d be the last person to question the literacy of a president–under normal circumstances. But, in the Trump era, nothing seems too outrageous. Frankly, evidence suggesting that the president may have literacy issues is piling up.

This is not a fly-by-night, conspiracy theory concern, i.e. as Obama’s citizenship. In the July 30, 2016 issue of The Times of Israel, Michael Jaffe bluntly titled his article “Does Donald Trump have a literacy problem?” Jaffe said, “Almost all of the words he utters are no more than two syllables. Given his authoritarian, narcissistic personality and thin skin, one can imagine a collective reluctance among his entourage to set Trump straight. … This and Trump’s difficulty with stringing sentences together might be an indication that Donald Trump’s language faculty, more specifically his literacy, may be lacking.”

In The Daily Beast, Matt Wilstein headlined his article “Samantha Bee Is Convinced Donald Trump Can’t Read.” Wilstein pointed out that Canadian political commentator Samantha Bee (host of Full Frontal) has “produced significant evidence…that Donald Trump may be, in fact, illiterate.”

Bee said in a recent segment, “[I] began by reviewing tape of a recently unsealed deposition in which Trump was repeatedly asked to read from legal documents and refused, first saying he didn’t have his glasses and then using the excuse that he’s not a lawyer.”

Bee continued, “How can you expect someone who isn’t a fancy-pants lawyer to read words? At first, I thought Trump was lying, but then it hit me…You heard it here first: People are saying Donald Trump can’t read.”

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP

Wilstein continued: “Over the next six minutes, she [Bee] meticulously laid out the evidence, including the fact that the only book title Trump can recall when people ask him what he’s read recently is All Quiet on the Western Front and his unnerving practice of shouting things he wants to tweet at his staffers during the day. Even his signature is suspiciously missing recognizable letters.”

In the Washington Post (July 17, 2016), Marc Fisher wrote, “As he has prepared to be named the Republican nominee for president, Donald Trump has not read any biographies of presidents. He said he would like to someday. He has no time to read, he said: ‘I never have. I’m always busy doing a lot. Now I’m more busy [sic], I guess, than ever before.'”

Alex Shepherd wrote in The New Republic, “Donald Trump doesn’t read books.” He points out that following an interview with Megyn Kelly, Kelly sensed “that Trump may not have read a book since sixth grade.”

STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS

Politico’s Jack Shafer has similar concerns. He says “Donald Trump Talks Like a Third-Grader.” In an August 13, 2015 article, he pointed out, “Run through the Flesch-Kincaid grade-level test, [Trump’s] text of [debate] responses score at the 4th-grade reading level.”

Shafter concluded, “…Trump’s verbal deficit, as grating as it may be on the ears of the educated class, has not caused him much political pain.”

No one appears, according to my research, to have seen President Trump privately reading a legal brief, the President’s Daily Brief (PDB), a document, or a book. Not even a magazine! I don’t ever recall seeing him wearing glasses either. It is strange, isn’t it?

TRUMP’S LITERACY REMAINS A PUZZLE

[L. Milton Hankins, the publisher and editor of Columnist with a View writes a weekly column for the Huntington, WV Herald-Dispatch.  This article first appeared in the March 13th edition of the Herald-Dispatch.  Hankins can be reached at:  amsmilt@windstream.net.  Comments on articles are also welcome in the webzine.  Those who have editorial-opinion type pieces they would like considered for publication in Columnist with a View may submit them to amsmilt@windstream.net or send hard copy to P.O. Box 913, Ashland, KY 41101.]

 

WHO IS STEPHEN BANNON AND WHY SHOULD WE CARE? by Milt Hankins

WHO IS STEPHEN BANNON AND WHY SHOULD WE CARE? by Milt Hankins

Like folks with inquiring minds, I sometimes find myself wondering about noteworthy people who might, in another context, be inconsequential. They might be merely seeking their 15 minutes of fame.

If you can remember them, think about these people in yesteryear’s news. Some were household names, like Larry Craig, Kim Davis, Mark Sanford, Trey Gowdy. See? Forgotten!

Who is Stephen Bannon? Do we know much about this guy who headed up Breitbart.com and who has become a top advisor to President-elect Trump? I wondered. So, I consulted the Wall Street Journal, archives of CBS News, the Washington Post and The Daily Beast. I thought these a good sampling - that I’d be able to sketch a decent picture of this Bannon fellow.

I learned Bannon was a Navy man; that he invested in the “Seinfeld” series, that he once made a “fawning documentary” about Sarah Palin. According to a CBS News article, he is “a rich guy-turned conservative propagandist” best known for his Palin documentary.

Lately, I’m certain he is best-known for his close association with President-elect Donald Trump. I dug a little deeper. At a WSJ CEO Council meeting, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren said Bannon, “is a man who says, by his very presence, that this is a White House that will embrace bigotry.” tribalism-1201697_1280That got my attention. I detest bigotry! But, of course, everyone knows Senator Warren isn’t exactly an unbiased source on Trump or anyone connected with him.

I kept researching because I ran across the Warren quote about bigotry and also because it appears that the next president has a xenophobic (“a strong dislike or distrust of foreigners”) streak in him that can only be exacerbated by a close advisor who is a reputed bigot.

According to Will Rahn of CBS News (August 2016) Breitbart.com (remember, it was headed up by Bannon) was a haven for the “alt-right” who proclaims “the West is under attack and conservatives, locked in the straight-jacket of respectability, won’t do anything about it.

STATUE OF LIBERTY

STATUE OF LIBERTY

The Muslims are coming, and so are the Mexicans. Blacks are out of control in the cities. The feminists are trying to upset gender norms, which is why you can’t get a date. Smart as you are, young white man, you can’t get rich, because of globalists, who ‘just happen’ to be Jews.”

Hmmm, it isn’t complicated to connect the dots. Steven Bannon bigotry Breitbart.com “alt-right” xenophobia close advisor to President-elect Trump to President Donald Trump!

Woodruff and Resnick of The Daily Beast, wrote in an October 2017 piece: “Breitbart News spends a lot of time worrying about [the aforementioned] things, too. And in Bannon, they see a media-friendly, ethno-nationalist fellow traveler.”

According to the Woodruff/Resnick piece, “Richard Spencer, who heads the white supremacist think tank National Policy Institute, said he was also pleased. Under Bannon’s leadership, Breitbart has given favorable coverage to the white supremacist Alt Right movement. And Spencer loves it.”

Should we just forget about this fellow, Stephen Bannon? I think not. I think we’d better keep an eye on him - remember who and where he is.

[This article first appeared in the Huntington, WV Herald-Dispatch on Monday, December 26, 2016.]

THE LAST CHRISTMAS TREE by L. Milton Hankins

THE LAST CHRISTMAS TREE by L. Milton Hankins

You’ll probably think it silly of me,” I said to my wife, Anne, on the eve of our first Christmas together, “but this year I’d like to decorate our tree just like we did at home when I was a kid.”

“How’s that?” she inquired, somewhat amused. “Was it something out of the ordinary?”

“Oh, very special,” I countered.

“I thought we’d get a nice artificial tree,” she went on. “They are very realistic nowadays, and my folks have agreed to let us have some of their ornaments.”

“No. No, it has to be a real tree,” I insisted. “Artificial will never do. Perhaps someday, but not this Christmas!”

“But, honey, don’t you think it’s a terrible thing to cut down a living tree?” she hedged. “It seems such a shame.”

“We’ll get one we can set out after the holidays,” I assured her. “But this is a special Christmas, our very first, and for some reason I really want a live tree decorated just like I remember back home.”

The scene of my childhood Christmases was a small, weather-boarded country house, which passed out of our family trust a few months after my mother died–my father desperately needing the money to see us children properly cared for. I’ll never forget the old home place, nor the day we were packed up to leave it forever, each one of us leaving behind some very pleasant memories. Mine were the Christmas Eve family festivities and, especially, our Christmas tree. In the ensuing years it came to symbolize the happiest moments of my childhood, the years before tragedy intervened and we became a divided family.

In those days, in the late afternoon of a crisp, early December day, my father, my brother and sister, and I would go scouting down in the pine grove for our Christmas tree. winter-1029889_1280It was always a happy expedition with much laughter as we roamed among the long needle pines, tree after tree, considering the merits of each until we had settled upon the right one. We would check out its height and the fullness of its branches with a practiced eye. Then, and only then, when we had all agreed upon a particular tree, my father would mark it with a band of red ribbon so we could be sure to find it against come Christmas Eve.

“Are you quite sure this tree is perfect?” my father would ask each of us in turn, and each would nod affirmatively, and if there were a minor defect we would, in our mind’s eye, discount it.

“We can always turn that skimpy side to the wall where no one can see it,” my sister would say. She was the one who found it so hard to reject any tree at all.

“I’m sure the trunk can be whittled down a bit to fit the stand,” my father would assure us if there were suggestions that the trunk was too fat.

“Make sure there’s a nice straight top for the angel!” my little brother would unfailingly insist. “Can I put the angel on this year, Dad? It’s my turn!”christmas-68289_1280

“We’ll see if you’ve grown tall enough, Son,” my father would promise.

Racing back home through the crunchy, snow-covered meadow, we could anticipate that our mother would be standing just inside the doorway.

“Well, do we have a Christmas tree this year?” she would say, and the first one of us to burst through the door would receive the honor of describing the chosen tree.

“It’s the finest one we saw!” my father would add, and we all knew that once it was cut, brought in, and decorated we would proclaim it “the prettiest tree we’ve ever had!” And it was always true; the last Christmas tree was always the prettiest.christmas-ornament-1033279_1280

So that first year of our marriage, Anne and I selected our tree with utmost care and brought it home to be decorated in the same way my family had done when I was a boy.

On Christmas Eve that same year I had a sudden, whimsical notion that we could drive the forty miles into the country to look over the old house of my earliest Christmases. Our own tree was decorated, all our gifts were lovingly wrapped and placed under its laden branches, and then we got into the car and headed for the country. As the miles began to fade behind us, I thought more and more of that last, special Christmas our family had spent together and the incredible thing that had happened, and I decided it was an appropriate time to share the story with Anne.

It was a sad Christmas that year, for, you see, my mother was buried on that Christmas Eve. As we drove alone, I told Anne all about our family Christmas customs and about the extraordinary event that had taken place on that last Christmas Eve.

A few days before Christmas every year, Mother would send Father up to the attic to bring down boxes of tree ornaments, which had been so carefully packed away the previous year. Together they would check out the strands of lights while we children rediscovered the fragile, exquisitely colorful balls and tinkling silver bells, which had become annual favorites.christmas-tree-1149619_1280

“Be very careful you don’t drop any of them,” Mother would caution as we passed each treasure hand to hand until all had a renewed acquaintance with it. Each of us always selected our favorite and staked a claim for placing it on the tree when the proper time came.

Day by day as the moment approached, the intensity of our excitement would swell. It seemed we were not so much intoxicated by the promise of gifts as we were by the atmosphere of the season and the activities we shared as a family–more so at this time than any other, as I recall.

Then the day would arrive, and a hundred times we would ask Mother how soon our father would be coming home from work, and she would answer patiently, “It won’t be long now,” but for us children the minutes drifted by so, so slowly. Long toward late afternoon I, being the oldest, would go out to the woodshed and bring my father’s broadax and his work gloves to the back porch. As we did not have a tractor or a wagon, it was also my honor, being the strongest, to help my father carry the newly-cut tree home. Then, soon after everything was in order, my father came home,table-791149_1280 and while Mother prepared a sumptuous dinner for the occasion, we would walk over to the pine grove and cut our tree.

While the dinner table was cleared and the dishes put away, my father would carefully trim away the lowest limbs, cut the trunk to size, and mount the tree in its metal stand. Next, he and I would carry it into the living room where it was to be installed and decorated. The remainder of the evening in our household would be entirely given over to our trimming and celebrations. After the lights and garland were meticulously draped around the branches, each of us busied ourselves with the ornaments. While we worked, we sang the old-fashioned carols,santa-claus-1628845_1280 talked about Santa Claus, for my younger brother’s benefit, and shared memories of Christmases past.

Later, when the tree stood shimmering with icicles and glowing with every color of the rainbow, Mother would bring from the kitchen popcorn balls and hot chocolate. Then either Mother or Father would recite “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas,” and the other one would read to us the story of Jesus’s birthchristmas-crib-figures-1060021_1280 from the New Testament. Always too soon the festivities would be over and bedtime came around, and we would be tucked wide-eyed into our beds to lie thinking about what we might find beneath the tree come morning.christmas-1881708_1280

As that last Christmas had neared and we had become mired down so by our mother’s illness, no one had given much thought to Christmas trees or celebrations. So we had driven home in mute sadness, acutely aware that never again would we be a complete family and never against would our mother be a part of our Christmases. Neither Father nor us children mentioned it, of course, but all of us felt the bitter sting of our mother’s absence, and all of us dreaded coming into the bleak and lonely coldness of a home that had always been warm and lovely at Christmastime.

I remember how slowly my father opened the front door on that Christmas Eve. Then I remember how we all stood open-mouthed, aghast. We were stunned, to say the least. We were enormously surprised at what we saw, for there in its customary place stood the most beautifully-decorated Christmas tree we ever had–truly!christmas-1236617_1920 My father had not decorated it, nor had we children, but there it was, in all its radiant splendor, glittering brightly, and we knew instantly that something marvelous and magical had brought us together once more.

The years passed and there were other Christmases in other homes and they were nice times with family and friends, but never a Christmas Eve passed that I didn’t think about Christmas in our home when  I was growing up, and never a yuletide season came that I didn’t wonder about the last Christmas tree.

When I had finished my story, I glanced across the front seat of the car to catch a tear trickling down Anne’s cheek.

“You never told me that story before,” she whispered.

“No,” I said. “It’s a story for an occasion like this.”

“Did you ever discover who had brought in the tree?” she asked.

“No, we never did,” I said. “As a matter of fact, I don’t think we ever really tried too hard to find out. It was just always just ‘the last Christmas tree,’ the tree our mother presented to us.”

“I see,” Anne said, and we drove on in silence.

(c) 1985, L. Milton Hankins. All rights reserved.
[“The Last Christmas Tree” was the cover story for The Mountain Laurel, Laurel Publications, Inc., Meadows of Dan, Virginia, December 1985.  It has appeared in several other regional publications, and was included in Ashes on the Snow (a collection of short stories, vignettes and poetry) by L. Milton Hankins, CreateSpace, 2010. The story cannot be reprinted without permission.]

 

 

 

“WHY MONITOR A PROBLEM IF WE DON’T FIX IT?” by Milt Hankins

“WHY MONITOR A PROBLEM IF WE DON’T FIX IT?” by Milt Hankins

I’m always amused by the TV advertisement where the character tells people in distress that he doesn’t fix a problem, he’s only a monitor. The announcer says, “Why monitor a problem if you don’t fix it?” As to our president-elect, we’re in that kind of a situation right now.

Over two and a half million people do not find it amusing!

A sufficient number of people, apparently, have elected a man to the presidency who is, at his best, frightening. If you’re not scared of a Donald Trump administration, you’ve not been paying attention.

PRESIDENT WARREN G. HARDING

PRESIDENT WARREN G. HARDING

He reminds me of Warren G. Harding, but there is a singular, conspicuous difference—Harding did not have access to nuclear weapons!  As far as I know, Trump isn’t a drinker or gambler as Harding was, but Harding had a warm, endearing personality; whereas, Trump is thin-skinned, vindictive and unpredictable.

Trump even talks nuclear weapons! Remember, he said “If we have them, why can’t we use them?” Apparently, he hasn’t the foggiest notion the power unleashed by a nuclear weapon. I saw it firsthand during a test in 1962 while I was in the USAF.

Those people who think our military is deficient or lacks the strength and power have no idea how strong the U.S. military is. When I think about what it was like in 1962, fifty years later, now, with our new series of bombers and rockets, I’m very reassured that we can handle ourselves with anyone in the world.

NUCLEAR WEAPONS TEST (1962)

NUCLEAR WEAPONS TEST (1962)

Our enemies–Iran, North Korea, Syria–know this! When we make them think we are weak, as Trump did during his campaign, it does us no good. As a matter of fact, it’s dumb!

NUCLEAR MUSHROOM CLOUD

NUCLEAR MUSHROOM CLOUD

We have the strongest, most capable military in the world…and we’ve never been afraid to use it. We’ve never had to be afraid. But we’ve always needed to be alarmed by talk about the use of nuclear weapons.

PRESIDENT-ELECT TRUMP

PRESIDENT-ELECT TRUMP

I have difficulty thinking of someone who attended Fordham and graduated from the Wharton School of Economics at the University of Pennsylvania as functionally illiterate. But, what we have on our hands is a sociopathic, narcissistic, habitual liar…a “con, a fraud,” Mitt Romney called him. Apparently, we have elected a womanizing, immoral, self-indulgent individual who obviously plans to use the high office of the presidency to enrich himself and his family. He is certainly already taking advantage of the opportunities to use his “position” as president-elect to negotiate or manipulate those foreign governments where he has holdings.

 What we have is more than a sad day for America. We’re in the midst of a national crisis! Every person in a state where it is permissible should contact their electors and make a plea for voting for Hillary Clinton in the Electoral College. I’ve had lots of history courses and a course in constitutional law, and that’s the only way he can be stopped now…if the electors care enough about this country to do the right thing!

“Why monitor a problem if [we] don’t fix it?”

 

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GOD IS GOD WITH MANY NAMES IN DIFFERENT RELIGIONS by L. Milton Hankins

GOD IS GOD WITH MANY NAMES IN DIFFERENT RELIGIONS by L. Milton Hankins

Have you ever wondered what religion you might follow if you were born in another part of the world?  I have.

HINDU BOY PRAYING

HINDU BOY PRAYING

For example, were I born in Japan, I would likely be Shinto. In India, Hindu. In the Soviet Union or Communist China, I might have grown up without any knowledge of any religion. In Iran or Iraq, I would most like be Moslem.

MUSLIM FATHER AND SON

MUSLIM FATHER AND SON

When my wife and I went to Tanzania to do mission work, we quickly learned the Tanzanians believed in Mungu. One elderly gentleman told me in Swahili, “We have long believed in the God who made everything. Can you look at the heavens and not believe? We call God ‘Mungu’ in our language.”

I’ve learned that the world’s people have many different names for God, but for the most part, they all worship the God of creation. The Tanzanian gentleman actually went on to say, “We have been waiting for you to come and tell us more bout the Creator God and His son, Jesus.”

STREET IN TANZANIA CITY

STREET IN TANZANIA CITY

You may not find this so astonishing, but we assumed we were to to Africa to teach “heathens” about God; we discovered they already believed in God and were hungry to know more about God. It was an exciting trip, but it wasn’t at all what we expected.

In both the Old and the New Testaments, we learn there is only one God. As a matter of fact, the Ten Commandments make it clear that God will not share with “other” gods. Even Jesus carefully differentiated between himself and God, calling God “his heavenly Father” and referring to “your Father who is in heaven.” When God was asked by the Jewish patriarchs by what name He should be called, God answered, “I am that I am.” Thus, God is the great “I am!” In other words, “I am Being” or the God who really exists.

HINDU GOD

HINDU GOD

Different languages have different words or names for God. However, if people of other lands recognize the God of creation, by whatever name they call Him, they worship the one true God!

I have said on many occasions the more I study about God, the more I realize how little I know about God. In recent years, I have observed a significant rise in the number of people who call themselves “agnostics” or “atheists.”  That is, they have come to believe there is no God.

Recently, some folks asked me about the thousands of Japanese people who were swept away by the horrifying tsunami that recently devastated their country. “Will they be lost?” Will they spend eternity in hell?” “Will they be a part of God’s kingdom?” How can we honestly respond to these questions?

ACCORDING TO THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION GOD LOVES THE WHOLE WORLD

ACCORDING TO THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION GOD LOVES THE WHOLE WORLD

I suggest a theological response and a simple, common-sense reply. Theologically, according to the Christian religion, God loves all the people of the world. God hold “the whole world in His hands.” The simple answer is that God always does the best thing in any situation we can imagine. I believe the God I learned about in Sunday School and in seminary would be incapable of doing anything less than the most loving thing for His creation and for the world’s people.

Whatever we may erroneously presume about God–God will always be God. Or not! Who can know?

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