24 April 2023 NPR’s Morning Edition: Jake’s Takes

  1. They’re strangers with a painful shared bond: Robert E. Lee enslaved their ancestors. This is a good example of how young our nation is. We had slaves not that long ago. With improvements in our genealogical methods, it has become more possible to trace back your family history, even if you didn’t keep records. Apparently, this group of people have all discovered that their ancestors were enslaved by the general who led the South in rebellion against the North. How would that make you feel? Would you be afraid of your own country? Would you feel grateful to your country for fighting the South and ending slavery? Maybe both. The history of the United States is so full of dark mysteries, it is impossible to imagine how mixed up we are. Maybe that’s one positive thing about social media. We can only understand our own history as far as we can trace it. These people believe their ancestors were enslaved by Robert E. Lee, because there were records that kept track of them. I don’t know where I descend from beyond my great grandparents on both sides. In the future, however, people may know too much. They may wish more a little more mystery.

2.    New NPR poll shows a lower court decision to ban an abortion pill is unpopular. Mephipristone has been in the news a lot lately, and NPR has covered it a bunch. This is because a lower court tried to block the use of the abortion drug on the grounds that it was unsafe. The Supreme Court put a pause on this ruling, allowing the drug to be prescribed in the meantime. NPR has barely contained their contempt for the opposing side of this debate, and that is something that I have to admit. NPR is not without bias, and that is ok to me. I am pro-choice, so it doesn’t bother me that they are too. That is a place where this project is a bit of an echo chamber, though, and I should at least be honest about it.

3.    Bed Bath & the great Beyond: How the home goods giant went bankrupt. This is kind of a shocker, but it really shouldn’t be. The death of retail has been looming for a long time, and even the big corporate chains are not immune. Will this open up an opportunity for smaller home supply boutiques, or is this the trend that has been created by the Internet that will not go away. If this spells the end for that kind of a store, then it is because people value a bargain. If they can get basically the same thing for cheaper, then why would they visit a store? There are plenty of social reasons and some people might prefer it, but ultimately humans are likely to do what makes the most sense for their wallet.

4.    A Montana 5th grader applies to be principal of an elementary school in Great Falls. Is this even possible? Is this a joke, or did an eleven-year-old really apply for a position of power at an elementary school? That seems obvious that it could never be a possibility, but even the idea of them applying makes the whole thing seem odd. Our schools have become battlegrounds of ideological struggle and literal battlegrounds where gunfire is all too common. It is insane to even write those words, but this is a symptom of the U.S. gun policy and the public school system. We need to invest in better schools so that people will be smart enough to stand up to the NRA. Right now, the way our school systems operate it is creating a downward spiral. The failing schools, due to lack of funding, are creating unhappy and unequipped people who are easy victims for organizations that want to use them such as the National Rifle Association. Lacking a solid intellectual background, they are more easily convinced to do and support things that are not in their best interests. Now, parents are trying to make an example of how bad the school systems are, not to try and improve them, but to expose them. It is an extension of the escalating gotcha politics that is consuming us from within. Who needs Russia or China when we have ourselves?


5.    With NBA playoffs underway, players are showing off their talents — and their style. I am an artist who practices photography and writing every day. I appreciate anyone who hones their skill and trains to be the best version of themselves. I am not, however, a spectator. I simply cannot sit around and watch other people run around and get after it. As such, I have no idea who is whom in the world of basketball. Maybe my life would be enriched by following sports. I’m not trying to say that I am better for not, just clarifying my position. I love basketball as a sport. I would just rather play it than watch it, even if just shooting baskets alone at a hoop. Fanfare is a part of our national identity, though. We collectively participate in the industry of sports more than any other recreational entertainment activity. Sports is so dominant that when budgets are cut at schools or in cities the idea of putting even a dent in the sports programs never even crosses anyone’s mind. That was how I knew that the pandemic was a serious thing: they stopped playing sports.

6.    Pianist Lara Downes heals loss with ‘Love At Last’. Here is another example of why I absolutely love this project. It is a lot of work, but already it is giving me tremendous benefits. I am learning more about the world. That sounds simple, but in reality it is so valuable. It is something that drives me. It creates a hunger to know and share more. I had no idea who Lara Downes is. I believe that there is something in me and I don’t think it is uncommon that defends against the facts of not knowing. I don’t know, therefore I don’t care. That is the equation of ignorance leading to apathy. It could just as easily reverse into a statement of I don’t know therefore I am curious. That’s one of the switches this training is effecting in me. Lara Downes is a pianist and a cultural activist working to make classical music more popular among women and people of color. That statement alone is beyond beautiful. This is something that has never been done before in our history. She is taking something that has the connotations of the West, of wealth, of history, of men and making it more accessible to people today. That effort alone is worthy of note, and if she succeeds even in the slightest, then we will all benefit greatly from her efforts. This is an example of how much positive change there still is to make.

7.    First big event involving many GOP presidential candidates was hosted in Iowa. The blood sport of U.S American politics is officially underway. From here until the election and maybe beyond we are going to be engaged in the most vicious and ugly battle for power. We will become even more divided and the tone of our conversations will grow even worse. I had a nightmare about my father last night. He was trying to bully me into believing something that he did. He was using tactics that tried to minimize my point of view in general in order to pound home some one idea. In my dream, I stopped him short every time and demanded that he not acknowledge how I really felt and what I believed if he wanted to have a conversation with me. It was a sad dream because I love my dad much more than politics and I miss him, but it reminded me how personal and unkind debate can become when we do not agree on core issues.

8.    Opposition parties in Turkey band together to try to defeat President Erdogan. Turkey is a place, like so many places on this planet, that I know so little about. According to the U.S. State Department website, The Republic of Turkey is a key ally both in terms of the economy and security. As a member of NATO (North Atlantic Trade Organization), Turkey is both an ally in terms of stability in the region and for trade. There was an attempted military coup in the Republic of Turkey in 2016, which the U.S. publicly condemned. This new attempt to consolidate a political bloc against the Turkish president must be a concern to our interests. What does it mean for the people of Turkey?

9.    ‘Peaches,’ from Mario Bros. movie, entered the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 83. The Mario Bros. movie was undeniably fun and funny. Nothing was more hilarious than the character played by Jack Black, King Kupa, who is the head of a conquering army but secretly is in love with Princess Peaches. This comical juxtaposition of military might and rage with unrequited love works to make the characters dynamic enough to become emotionally invested in a cartoon. It is another example of brilliant writing in contemporary films made for children, and I am not surprised that the oh-so-funny song is rising in popularity.

10. How a Virginia city turned things around and attracted businesses to its downtown. This could be the most important story of the day. I believe that small business is vital to the health of our culture, but more importantly of our people. If people cannot build their own business to serve the community, then we are beholden to multinational corporate chains who have very little interest in our local wellbeing. We become pawns in a much larger game, one that we can’t really see or understand. This may not even be the topic of this story, but I’m hoping that it is. When we support small businesses and local artists, our community flourishes. We need to create the conditions for that to be possible.

11. Unraveling a hidden cause of UTIs — plus how to prevent them. There are so many things about the human body that can get funky. In general, it seems like cleanliness is the main solution to all of them. That’s why we value cleanliness so much. I’m betting that this is going to be one of those. It is enough to make you want to do your laundry immediately. How much time do you dedicate to cleanliness? How much is really needed?

12. Dozens of U.S. embassy staffers have been airlifted out of Sudan’s capital. Over the weekend, the Foreign Service extracted their workers from Sudan’s capital Khartoum. Fighting between the government and a paramilitary group has intensified to the point that hospitals cannot remain open, and it looks like many civilian casualties will be the result. We should pray for Sudan.

13. An accused gunman faces trial in Pittsburgh after a mass shooting at a synagogue. Politically or culturally motivated mass shootings have become all too common and are one of the most mysterious and disturbing trends in our culture. It is truly the height of the surreal. To enter a room of worship with a gun and murder people as they are worshipping must come from some place of madness and rage that must have some kind of explanation. Obviously, it is not right. It is clearly as wrong as anything can be. But there must be a reason for it. If it is just a random occurrence, then why is it increasing? We must be brave enough to analyze the situation if we are going to find some way to stop it. We simply cannot live with guns drawn. We must figure out how to stop these terrorists with the powers of our minds.

14. A Southwest Airlines flight was delayed because of spilled fried rice. So far, in this writing experiment, I have not found much occasion for humor. Some of these stories are very sad and serious, so I have not been able to find the funny. Maybe as I continue, I will be able to change tone and get at some of the good stuff. For now, it seems like this story is a softball pitch just waiting to be crushed, but I’m not going to do it. This could be very serious. People may have missed an important appointment. Rice was wasted. Someone could have been trapped and burned alive under an avalanche of fried rice. I am not going to joke around until I know more details.

15. Apple Music Classical aims to reach music lovers the streaming revolution left behind. I want to know more about Classical music. I enjoy listening to it when I hear it, but I don’t know enough about the history to make good sense of it. I love classical painting, too, and I know more about it so it becomes more interesting to me. They are very related in some profound ways, although I think that the revolutions in painting style came earlier. They are both expressions of power and wealth commissioned by very rich people but performed by oftentimes poor but talented artists. People like to say that artists are not good at business, and the pantheon of great artists who died in poverty would seem to underscore their point, but that is taking too much of an ahistorical view of business, as though we have always had the ability for people to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. The fact is, talent doesn’t know class. It appears where it appears, and sometimes, oftentimes that is among the poorer class.

16. As diplomats flee Sudan fighting, a former envoy says some should stay. The thing that caught me up with this headline was the word envoy. That is such an interesting word although in this case it is being used in a tragic context. Politics is as old as recorded history, may be the cause of the first efforts to record anything. The way we fight determines so much of who we are. It’s no wonder that conflict is daily bread. It has always been a part of our culture. That’s why we have elegant words like envoy to describe our diplomats. Staying if it can be done safely makes sense. Clearly pulling all of our people out of Sudan signals that the violence is going to escalate and sometimes that kind of message can add fuel to the fire.

17. Missouri to restrict gender-affirming care for trans adults this week. This is a story about one of the states in our nation that I have never had a desire to visit. This is one of the reasons. I understand that the evangelical right thinks that the progressive left is brainwashed and dangerous, and we think that they are equally out of their minds. The big problem with this kind of thinking is that it reinforces each side’s position. Nothing gets up your will to fight like being attacked. As such, Missouri is entering into the national debate on trans rights, but in this case, it is for adults. This is a political rejection of a category of people, and that seems like it should be unconstitutional. Our cultural differences are so irreconcilable that they are being worked out through politics and the courts. Meanwhile corporations are playing off the fear and rage provoked by this debate. The winners will be those who correctly choose which side of this debate to support. By correct I do not mean that one side is inherently right or wrong, but that history will move in a direction. Either we are experiencing a period of reaction against conservatism, or trans identity is here to stay and as it becomes more widely discussed it will make more sense to more people and will eventually become normalized. Personally, I’m on the side of trans folks.

18. Are you getting more voice notes these days? You’re not alone. No, I am not and thanks for making me feel lonely. Finally, some humor! In fact, however, I do not receive voice texts. DMs, texts and emails are at the top of the communication frequency, with phone calls coming in quietly behind and video calls bringing up the rear. Maybe I should start sending some voice texts.

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