Election Reflection – Civics 101 or Dear Mr. President

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Civics 101 is not something I would have expected to write for a President of the United States, but here we are – through the looking glass.
First, not receiving calls directly about citizens against DAPL doesn’t mean that everyone in the country is for it. In fact, I would hazard to guess that the President’s aides are not giving him the full picture of what’s going on in this country. More people are against it than are for it. In fact, this is the epitome of an example to show the President why we have conflict of interest laws. He should not be pushing forward on a pipeline that he will directly benefit from once it’s in place.

Second, you won’t receive phone calls if the phones at the White House switchboard are disconnected or turned off as has been reported.

Third, President Obama doesn’t like you. He’s just too polite to say it. You called him horrible things, said horrible things about his parents and his birth. He may forgive you, but I can guarantee he will not forget.

Fourth, and more importantly, there are Three Branches of Government. Three. There is a reason for that. It’s called checks and balances. They are co-equal. The Legislative Branch, ie. Congress, makes the laws. Watch Schoolhouse Rock’s How a Bill Becomes a Law. It will break it down into bite sized pieces for you. It can’t be more than three minutes. And they sing.

The Executive Branch signs the laws. He or she makes suggestions, and sets the agenda, the priorities for the country. The whole country. Not just the rich, white folks.

The Judicial Branch keeps it all in order. They determine what is and isn’t Constitutional. Yes, they can overrule the President. In fact, that’s kind of their job.

You’re not the boss anymore.

We the people are.

I’d recommend brushing up on this handy document in its original or a transcript.

Or the interactive version.

Get Out The VOTE

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In the United States, today is Election Day. Every citizen, upon turning 18 before Election Day can register to vote in their state. That means that you can vote in school board elections and for school budgets, for local government, state government, federal government, and for the President of the United States (every four years).

If you don’t register, you don’t vote.

If you won’t be in your home district on Election Day, you can request an absentee ballot. College students, disabled people, and the elderly and military personnel often use this. It is up to your state what your qualifications are for the absentee ballot.

Whether you believe it or not, every vote counts. Sitting out an election is the equivalent of voting for the other person.

Simply put, if you don’t vote, don’t complain. Legally, that’s not true – you still retain your first amendment right to say whatever you want about voting or anything else. But it’s not that simple.

If you don’t want to register to vote because you’re afraid that it will put you on the list for jury duty, don’t worry. The courts get your name for jury duty from the DMV. You drive, you’re in the jury pool.

Voting is more than a right. It is a privilege.

It is how we get things done in this country. If we want change, we need to make it happen.

If you feel that your voting isn’t doing enough, get involved in other ways,. Work on a campaign. Work in local areas to make your own community better. Educate yourself on the issues. Do not let the media and talking points (anyone’s talking points) give you the only information on a subject. Research.

The one thing you shouldn’t do is not vote.

GET OUT THE VOTE!

My Shrine Visit

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I’m still not sure what to call my Shrine visit. Since I live so close, about an hour, it feels odd to call it a pilgrimage, but really what else was it? Retreats have leaders and in my mind, they last more than one day or part of one day. It was a few weeks ago that I went on a day pilgrimage to the Shrine of North American Martyrs in Auriesville, NY [Technically, it’s the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs]. I couldn’t believe how close it was, practically in my backyard. It is so much of what I run away from home looking for and all the things I picture a shrine should be: pastoral, bucolic, natural, historic. Should I use serene? That seems cliche but it does fit. Strolling the grounds costs nothing but time, and it’s beautiful and quiet, and yes, serene, thoughtful, and thought-provoking. It is the perfect place to think and to pray and to reflect and contemplate on anything; everything.

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Thursday Travels – Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs

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These grounds are a reliquary to the North American Martyrs, St. Isaac Jogues and his Companions, St. Rene Goupil and St. John LaLande. In 1642, the same year Rene Goupil was martyred, the first known recitation of the Rosary was prayed here. This was also the birthplace ten years later after St. Jogues and St. Lalande’s martyrdoms, of St. Kateri Tekakwitha.

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The view of the Mohawk Valley and River from the Shrine Grounds

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Three Crosses bearing the names of the North American Martyrs at the Entrance, at the edge of what was the Mohawk village.

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The Grave Site of President Chester A. Arthur

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I recently took a drive out to the Albany Rural Cemetery outside of the New York State capital of Albany to visit the gravesite of President Chester A. Arthur, the 21st President of the United States. The cemetery is much larger than it appears upon driving through the gates. I’m told that the cemetery itself is 400 acres and I found it to be one of the more peaceful  places I’ve been to. It is spaced in a rolling way with hills and winding dirt/gravel narrow roads, large and small headstones and monuments, mid-19th century (some from before that had been moved there) to modern era as well as above ground burial areas. There is an abundance of nature with trees and creeks with natural stone walls, deep wooded areas and cool shaded spaces with benches and statuary. It felt a bit like some of the Gettysburg cemeteries for anyone that’s visited them, but I only felt the peacefulness rather than the spirits and ghost-like feelings reaching out that I feel in the Battlefields and Cemeteries of Gettysburg.

This cemetery began with 100 acres in 1841, and had its first burial in 1845, although some graves are from before that having moved from their original site at Washington Park. It is an active cemetery, and other than very famous names, I recognized my former Congressman’s father.

When I arrived at the President’s grave site, there was a groundskeeper trimming the grass. He chuckled and said to me, “My boss was right. Always weed whack over here first.” He then moved off so that I could get pictures. For all of the visitors you would think they get, there are no signs pointing the way. I did see one about the size of an interstate shield sign, but other than that, nothing. I ran into a jogger with her dog, and I asked her for directions to the President. She was not surprised that I could not find it on my own.

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Below is the Arthur family plot.

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Behind the monument with the angel and Presidential Seal is the actual grave where President Arthur is buried alongside his wife.

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It took me three tries to get the flag to wave just right behind the angel’s wings.

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I also have an affinity for taking pictures of things with a tree in the foreground.

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Some more photos from my day. The next two were where I happened upon the jogger. I saw a stone wall and flowing water and I needed to stop and get out of my car. I was really glad I did.

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This stone was under a copse of trees. There’s a stone wall layered behind it, the topiary plus a few statuary pieces. This person really liked frogs apparently. The bench right across from this has that little stone path and is under its own tree; it is also missing the seat. I can imagine that this person’s spouse or parent would come to sit and visit. Sometimes, I wish that there was a bench by my parents’ graves; something that my mother wanted to put in had she lived longer to visit my Dad.

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These last two are good examples of unexpected angles. Stand in just the right spot and it gives way to gobs of creativity and writing prompts. There is so much in the simplest photograph.

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