State of the (Dis)Union



It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the troubles of the world. To look outwards and stay focussed on all that is positive can be challenging.

Generally I do my best to avoid drinking up the deluge of information that emphasizes things I can worry over but which I have no control.

And yet…

When I read the essay below by my friend and frequent guest-blogger Jim Ferguson, I listen up because, as I know him, and as the way he describes himself near the end as, “Ever being the optimist…”, it prompts the hair on the back of my neck to stand at attention.

So, let’s let the eternal optimist Jim carry you forward now from his unique perspective as a proud Canadian (and prouder HABS fan!) living in the tumultuous American milieu… Sir James?


Keep a room ready… I may be making a run for the border soon…

As usual, thanks to Larry for giving me a platform to express some thoughts.

As the title of this latest guest edition of Man on the Fringe suggests, I may be making a run for the border in the not-too-distant future.

No! I am not having a hankering for Timbits or the urge to get a hot plate of poutine. What I am witnessing before my very eyes is the socio-political infrastructure here in “the States” crumbling at a rapid rate and the thought of moving home to Canada seems more and more appealing to me.

Frankly, I have seen this coming for many years. No! I am not the great Kreskin or Nostradamus, but one does not have to be a rocket scientist to see the glaring evidence of a society in collapse.

The U.S. is such a society.

And believe me, when the tipping point is reached, it will impact my family and friends north of the border and globally. As the saying goes “As the U.S. goes, so goes the world”. I don’t know who said that but I’ve heard it down here for years.

For those who are history buffs, go back in time to the Holy Roman Empire and its collapse. Read Gibbons’ Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire. History has a way of repeating itself over and over and over and…well you get the point.

Obviously, humanity A. hasn’t learned from past idiocy or B. doesn’t give a rat’s arse and keeps putting its proverbial hand on the burner over and over to see if it is in fact hot when turned on!

For those who have read my guest blogs before, you may recall that I am not involved in partisan politics. I do not belong to any party. Partisanship I find to be divisive and destructive to the general welfare of society, so I avoid it like the plague.

Oh yes! I vote but I try and examine the candidates and vote for character…not party. There’s a novel idea, eh! Having said that, the comments that follow are general and any likeness to any candidate or party is purely coincidental. Ok…I’ll do my best, but I am not perfect…😊

So… back to the collapse of American society.


Let’s look at the facts as I see them. I present my views in short, compact paragraphs. There’s no way to do a deep dive on each issue. I simply state them and offer a comment from my personal viewpoint and observations living in the States for the past 42-years.

First, this country, and so many others, is heavily driven by unbridled materialism.

Any nation that has such a leaning towards material pursuits at the expense of morality is doomed to fail. Think about it. If the almighty dollar is the ultimate value even more than human life itself, then human life will easily be sacrificed in favour of the almighty dollar and those in power who push such an agenda will not lose a moment’s sleep over it.

There must be a corresponding moral/spiritual/ethical code that leads to balance in society and brings out the nobility inherent in human beings so that the materialism is kept in check. If such morality does not exist what we see is what we are seeing now in the U.S. in the political realm where each party is accusing the other of being Godless, of killing the “others”, of lying, of cheating, etc.

When this occurs so freely, is anyone surprised when people fall into their “rigid identity” camps of their religion, their political party, their race, etc. and from inside those walls they can easily “other” those they feel are the cause of all of society’s problems?

It is happening before our very eyes and the result is societal collapse. When a group can “other” another group based on whatever criteria they choose, how long before it becomes acceptable to imprison the others or even kill the others.

I have seen this firsthand as a Baha’i with the persecution and execution of my co-religionists in Iran where many hundreds have been imprisoned and executed simply for their beliefs.

Second, I will state it for what it is. Pure and simple. Political corruption at all levels of government.

Corruption is rampant and the news daily is filled with glaring examples of the corruption. Here in the States, it is supposed to be government of the people, by the people, for the people.

Those days are long gone.

Special interests have control of the direction of the country and sadly the people suffer. There is evidence of this tragedy in every aspect of American life – politics, healthcare, education, equality, voters rights, etc.

I heard this joke about two honest politicians going into a bar… the punch line involving the fact that there is no such thing as an honest politician. How tragic is that!

It reminds me of one of my favourite movies – Gladiator – with Russel Crowe as Maximus and Richard Harris as Caesar Marcus Aurelius. Marcus Aurelius is talking with Maximus after the opening battle victory and asks him to be the protector of Rome after his death and give the power back to the people to which Maximus replies “this I cannot do sire”. Caesar states something like “that’s why it must be you Maximus”. In other words, the only honest politician is the one who would have the humility to decline the opportunity for such leadership.

America is struggling to find politicians of this type, and subsequently the nation has been dragged to the edge of the precipice and is teetering precariously on the edge. The notion of truth has been perverted to the extreme and people now hang their truth hat along party lines no matter if it is true or not. People often say that their truth is just as valid as someone else’s truth. They are willing to accept the poison as Kool-Aid and to continue to drink with healthy relish.

Third, I have talked about racism here in blogs but believe me when I tell you that racism has once again openly and freely reared its ugly head here in the States and it is frightening to witness.

When political leaders make blatant racist statements (as recently as today) publicly and make no attempt to hide their racism, it does not bode well for the survival of the nation. When police gun down innocent African Americans one after another, it does not bode well for the survival of the nation.

Racism did not end with the civil rights movement. There was no gathering around the White House with all colours singing Kumbaya! Dr. King’s dream of black and white children playing together in peace is still mostly a dream to many. Yes! There are models of unity throughout the country, but more is needed. Racism went underground and the guerrilla politics of the past few years have brought it out of its cesspool, and it is ugly and the stench is rank.


Fourth, the rich keep getting richer while the poor keep getting poorer.

This will not surprise any of you. This has been going on forever.

The problem today is that there seems to be no way out for the middle class and the poor. The economy, with its ups and downs, is collapsing and the “have nots” are in even worse shape. They cannot get decent jobs and subsequently cannot afford decent food, health care, etc. Their quality of life i.e. that mythical American Dream has been tossed out into the streets along with the families who bought into the nightmare. The current economic landscape does not bode well for survival of this nation.

Fifth, the loathing people have for their neighbours is palpable.

This hatred and antipathy are related to status, race, religion, economics…you name it!

I live in a small town in Oregon and maybe you have read about the great divide in Newberg, Oregon involving the school board and the tremendous disunity here.

It is sad as it has divided this community. I look out on the street where I live and there are yards with Republican candidate signs or slogans followed by Democrat candidate signs or slogans. Neighbours don’t talk to neighbours. Another sign of a decaying civilization.

Friends, I could go on. There are numerous other signs of the decline of American society.

It is now common talk among people here that depending on how the mid-term elections go it could lead to all-out civil war.

The BBC recently had an article on this. The reporter was interviewing people and one elderly couple in Arizona said they were ready for civil war and had armed themselves and were ready to fight to preserve “their way of life”.

Ever being the optimist, I am trying to be a catalyst for the positive and directing my energies towards the forces of light and away from those forces of darkness noted above. That’s all one can do I feel. No matter how dark things get, keep being a beacon of light in the darkness. Eventually others seeking the light will be attracted.

Keep your porch lights on and the spare bed ready in case I make a break for it. Thanks.



The Dis-Ease of the Human Heart


Welcome to Man On The Fringe Sunday.

Today, I’ll share another narrative from my good friend, retired Physician Associate, inveterate Montreal Canadiens fan, and recurrent “guest poster” from Oregon, Jim Ferguson.

Jim has a zany sense of humour, but like most of us, also wears a deeply serious, philosophical bent within his complexity. Jim brings a wealth of life experience to draw on for insights.

This time out, Jim will take us down a darker road than is his usual, but in the end, reflecting his perpetual optimism, he’ll attempt to shine some light on positive approaches to this darkness.

With my thanks to him, I’ll let Jim take the reins from here:


As always, I am happy to emerge from the bullpen and “step up to the blog plate” when called upon.

I am sure you have heard the old writers lament about having “writer’s block” and that the cure is to simply start writing and “poof” as if by magic an idea will come to you.

Well… I decided to start writing and as I was getting in a groove, I was multitasking and saw a news headline with the latest on the murder of Ahmaud Arbery here in the US.

I am sure you are aware of this tragedy – a black man was jogging through a white neighborhood in the south and three white men chased him down and killed him in the street without provocation.

Weeks passed before any official investigation was started. Finally, the three white men were convicted of murder.

Ahmaud Arbery

I found myself pondering the prevalence of racism that still exists in this country and decided this was a blog topic worthy of focus.

Having lived in North Carolina for 4 years in the 1980s-early 1990s, I recall vividly seeing both subtle and overt racism. It is ugly no matter how it presents itself.

While the issue of racism in America is complex with so many layers worthy of consideration, I want to take a moment here to make the argument that racism is a disease and to focus on that specifically.

Make no mistake about it – racism is a disease. It is a disease of the human heart! Let us explore this in more depth.

If you look up the definition of disease in the dictionary you get the usual medical definition of a disorder of the body that produces specific signs and/or symptoms allowing the provider to come to a diagnosis and to then implement a treatment plan. No surprise there.

I have been a family medicine provider here in the U.S. for over 30 years and have seen thousands of patients during that time.

The medical model used to evaluate and treat physical and psychological disorders involves eliciting a thorough medical history from the patient (their symptoms) and performing a detailed physical examination (looking for and identifying key signs).

Next a “differential diagnosis” is developed i.e. a shopping list of possible diagnoses based on the above, ordering any pertinent diagnostic studies to refine what we think is going on, and finally (in the perfect world) arriving at THE diagnosis and implementing a treatment plan for the specific disease/disorder in question.

However, if you read further (depending on the dictionary), you will see additional definitions i.e., reference to the quality of causing dis-ease or lack of ease. You may also read that a disease is “a particular quality, habit, or disposition regarded as adversely affecting a person or group of people.”

So… I offer for your consideration, does not racism meet the definition of a disease based on these descriptions?

Can you imagine anything causing more “dis-ease” to a human being or group of human beings than to be hated, despised, oppressed, abused, threatened, killed, or the threat thereof, simply because of the colour of your skin? Simply because of the amount of the pigment melanin in your skin compared to that of another. I can barely imagine how such treatment must feel.

Growing up white in Canada and living as a white man in the U.S. during much of my adult years, there was inherent privilege for sure – White privilege- we have all heard the term. It exists whether we acknowledge it or not.

Mr. Arbery was not granted the same privilege as a white jogger running through the same neighborhood.

Racism is a disease of the human heart my friends.

Humans are not born racist. Racism is a learned behaviour.

Exhibit A: I have a dear friend from New Hampshire. She is a lover of all humanity no matter what colour, gender, religion, nationality, etc. Her husband, however, hates black people and is not afraid to state it publicly. He is as matter-of-fact telling me of his hatred for black people as the day is long.

Years ago I asked him: “Bucky… why do you hate black people?” to which he replied, “Because my parents hated them.”

I then asked if he had ever met a black person and the reply was “no!”

His hatred of a whole race was learned from his parents and like a foul stench that seems to linger forever, he has carried this hatred in his heart his whole life.

Exhibit B: here is another (of many I could share) example of racism I encountered.

When at university in North Carolina in the 1980s, we lived in a multi-racial apartment complex in Greensboro. The “little old lady” next door loved our children and considered herself a surrogate grandma to our kids. One day as we were talking out in the parking lot, she saw another neighbor and her mother walking nearby and our neighbor made a comment to us about “those “N*%*&*^’s” next door.”

My wife and I expressed our shock at her comments and stated our views on the oneness of the human family and loving all humankind to which she responded defensively, “well you aren’t from here so you simply can’t understand.” Our elderly neighbor was pleasant on the surface but below the surface and behind the backs of our black neighbors she was seething with hatred towards these two women.

Racism can be overt as in Bucky’s case or subtle as in the case of the racist surrogate grandma, but both examples demonstrate a learned behaviour, not an innate trait.

Human beings are not born to hate others. My experience in North Carolina reinforced in me the realization that despite the great advances in civil rights (thank you Dr. MLK, Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, and the many others who sacrificed themselves for racial equality) racism is still very much part of the fabric of life in the States today.

Hate is a powerfully visible symptom of the disease of racism. It manifests itself in various “signs” both overt and subtle as noted above.

Other factors contribute to racism (or any “-ism” for that matter). Some examples include suspicion of others, ignorance, fear of something unknown or different, developing what is known as a “rigid identity” where a person retreats into their own “moral group” (politics, religion, RACE, nationality, etc.) and everyone else is “the other” worthy of suspicion, disdain, persecution, etc. Lack of empathy towards the oppressed is a symptom of racism as is defensiveness.

I saw this firsthand in North Carolina.

At a meeting of the Institute for the Healing of Racism in Greensboro in the late 1980s, a friend was sharing a story of how a black woman in a gathering made a simple request to have meetings in her area of town so that she could be relieved of all the bus travel required to get to “the white side of town”. One white woman became very defensive at this simple request, and when the black woman tried to have civil consultation on this request, the white woman became even more defensive reverting to the “look at all I have done for you” mentality to silence the black woman.

The signs and symptoms of racism are varied and many.

I will close with a few comments on the treatment of racism.

As you know, when you go to the clinic with an ailment you are instructed on how to manage or cure your ailment. This often includes some form of medication.

What of the “medication” for the healing of racism? What treatment plan exists to cure this dreaded disease?

• The cure is right in front of our eyes! If one hates, then the cure is to love!

• If one is ignorant or is afraid of folks different than oneself, then the cure is to gain knowledge and to engage with those different than ourselves!

• If one has suspicion for a person or group different than us, the answer again is to gain knowledge of those people/groups who are different so we can learn of them and their customs and to engage them in friendship.

The ultimate cure for racism is to accept that we are all children of one Creator and members of one family – the human family.

This concept of the oneness of humanity should be taught in schools in all subjects so the children will grow up to respect and even love all humanity as their own family.

Guy Murchie, a wonderful scientist/philosopher/spiritualist, wrote in his book “The Seven Mysteries of Life” something to the effect that if we trace our pedigree back 52 generations we encompass the whole population that has ever existed in our world (I have done this using a calculator and I get to the ~107 billion total population that ever lived on earth after about 37 generations).

This means that we are all related.

We are all cousins, and it behooves us to treat our human family with dignity and love and if we do this the disease of racism will vanish.

Many barriers exist to the implementation of this cure but just remember… it all begins with each of us focusing on changing one heart – our own! We can then serve as catalysts of change in our own communities as our own hearts change.


Jim Ferguson

Jim and his “better half” Deb