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Doris writes a weekly column for LaGaceta, the nation's only trilingual newspaper, which has pages in English, Spanish, and Italian.  Begun in 1922 for Tampa's immigrant community, it continues to thrive more than a century later.  Her column is titled "In Context," as it aims to put contemporary issues in the context of the past.

The Real News

You’ve heard that the physician who claimed that Donald Trump was the healthiest presidential candidate “ever” did not actually write the letter proclaiming that. Trump did. The real news: He writes? Whole letters? On stationery? Who knew?

The teachers’ strikes you’ve been hearing about? All were in conservative states – West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Colorado, and Arizona. The most recent one was in Arizona, and teachers got a 20% raise. The real news: legislators can find money when they want to – as in when they fear losing their re-elections in a few months.

And speaking of Arizona, how sad is it that a revered and dying Republican senator announced that he doesn’t want the Republican president at his funeral, but has invited the Democratic predecessor, who happens to be African American. The real news here: Not so long ago, Arizona was the only state that refused to recognize Martin Luther King Day. That’s real progress.

And I see that we are getting our fourth car wash in the one-mile stretch that is downtown Mango. Two ways to look at this news: our planning commission still fails to plan, but because of the landscape ordinance that I helped write when we had a better commission, the car wash will feature lovely magnolias.


You may recall that I wrote a while back about the sabbatical that Hubby and I spent in South Korea. The university where we stayed was just a few miles from North Korea, and we witnessed the heartache of elderly people separated from their families forever by this short distance. We were there near the end of the Clinton administration, and reunification signs were everywhere -- but then Dubya happened and things went into reverse. Now it appears that Koreans are getting together on their own, without asking permission from Washington.

Kim Jong Un took a huge consolatory step in crossing the border, and Moon Jae-in greeted him graciously. Now if we can just keep our warmonger-in-chief on the golf course, these two men might bring an end to this long and stupid struggle. No treaty ever has been signed since the combat stopped in 1953, but it cost almost 50,000 American lives and those of some three million Koreans. More were civilians than soldiers. And we since have paid for hundreds of thousands of soldiers there.

I was a child in Minnesota back then. I remember watching the TV news and asking adults what it was about. They couldn’t answer in a way that made sense -- and after all the years, the most sensible words I know are those of Joan Baez: “We lost Davy in the Korea War; Still don’t know what for; It don’t matter anymore.”

On a lighter note, the university provided (male) students to drive us into Seoul, as the traffic was too dangerous for Americans. Indeed, the rental car agency at the airport took one look at us and claimed they didn’t have any cars available, even though we could see a big parking lot full of cars. We became friends with these drivers, Kim Choel and Mr. Moon, whose given name I can’t recall. Because they share the same family name as the current officials, I looked up Korean names.

It turns out that Kim is the most common surname, with over one-fifth of the population named that. Park and Lee are next, and these three family names make up more than half of the population. The Moon clan claims just over 400,000, making the South Korean president much more a minority than his bargaining buddy from the North.

So back to our drivers. Kim was a witty, carefree guy who liked to do outrageous things in traffic and then excuse himself by saying, “I studied law.” He also had a real talent for taking us to expensive restaurants, knowing we would foot the bill. Moon was contrastingly serious -- and very intent on marrying his girlfriend at the coeducational school. After we had been there for a while, he asked if he could take her on our next outing because he wanted to show her a happy marriage.

Neither of our young men ever had seen their parents so much as hold hands, let alone kiss. They were surprised when Hubby and I danced with each other (Elvis was popular there, too). Moon never touched his girlfriend in our presence, and both probably would have been shocked at the idea of dancing. It strikes me now, though, that Moon may have been showing what his family might have deemed too much independence. I don’t know what happened to him and his girlfriend, but I do know that after settling here in the US, Kim returned to Korea and married the woman his family had picked out for him.

Animals and Morality

If you have Facebook friends like some of mine, you regularly get videos of someone rescuing a cat from a drainage ditch or a firefighter running into flames to save a frightened bunny. I have two recent favorites: a woman who called 911 because she feared that a raccoon had overdosed on marijuana; and a bear in a Jersey suburb of New York who eats from neighborhood garbage and sleeps unmolested in a tree.

These things make you smile, but they also are important as a measurement of our society. No bear would have wandered around my childhood town; my dad and others would have shot him on sight. Dogs, on the other hand, wandered as much as they wanted – with no licenses or leashes. I don’t think I saw a leashed dog until we moved here. Even in highly-regulated Massachusetts, where we lived in the early seventies, our neighbor’s dog went up and down the street, clearly enjoying barking at little children. This, too, is an indication of the relative freedom back then, as unaccompanied kids were in fact going up and down the street.

Licensing and leashing of dogs, of course, was done in their best interests, and the same is true of our much more humane treatment of wildlife. There has been a tremendous change during the last decades in our attitudes on this. Where once drivers went out of their way to kill a possum or rabbit on the road, we now stop and wait. We put up signs to remind us that deer or panthers may want to cross the highway. We bring injured birds to a sanctuary instead of shooting them, and we even turn off lights so that turtles can lay their eggs in peace.

Hubby’s favorite philosopher at Harvard was John Rawls, and he believes that Rawls’ work will be taught in the future along with such eminences as John Locke or John Stuart Mill. (No, I don’t know why all these guys are named “John.”) Simplistically put, Rawls’ chief contribution to philosophy is his assertion that the morality of a society is defined by its treatment of the least advantaged. If we look at that in terms of animals, we’re doing better.

Puzzles and Puzzling Light Switches

Unfortunately, Hubby had to spend a couple of nights in the hospital recently, and this time we had a chance to evaluate private vs. public. The VA was overcrowded, so the EMT guys delivered him to the nearby facility that used to be University Community and now is Florida Hospital. I’m not going to spend time trying to figure out these mergers and acquisitions, but we did notice that the lobby features Protestant messages that weren’t there when it was University Community. And when I googled Florida Hospital, the news articles that came up were not reassuring. Too much information, I decided, so I’m going to focus on two little things I can understand.

First, I’ll bet they spend thousands of dollars annually just on explaining the location of bathroom lights. The hospital probably was built with non-union labor back in the seventies, and those light switches remain weird enough that dozens of employees must have to show dozens of people where they are, day in and day out. Multiply that by more than 500 rooms and more than forty years, and they should have ponied up for decent construction by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

Second, during the two hours we waited for paperwork to be completed (we finally left without a formal checkout), I tried to work the word puzzle that had been left at breakfast. Hubby already had given up -- even though he was an Army cryptologist whose decoding work was similar. If there’s a name for this type of puzzle, we don’t know it. It looks like a crossword, but has no clues or definitions, and you have figure out what word goes where by trial and error. I’ve since spent another couple of hours trying to figure it out and still don’t have it.

There’s not a snowball’s chance in hell that a sick person could manage this. So my question is this: does anyone actually look at the presumable 500 (badly inked) puzzles they hand out every day? They’re probably plagiarized, too, as it said that the solution was on page whatever – but no page was attached. It’s enough to run you nuts.

And finally, a nurse said she suspected that the VA was overcrowded because it was April 30, and apparently some veterans who are low on cash at the end of the month check themselves into the hospital to have a safe place to sleep and something to eat. We can do better.


Doris Weatherford writes a weekly column for La Gaceta, the nation's only trilingual newspaper. With pages in Spanish, Italian, and English, it has been published in Tampa since 1922.
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