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Broken Clock

David Berger



You know the old saying:  Even a broken clock is right twice a day. So, I’ve got to say it: I agree with the Republicans in Congress. That’s right. You read me correctly. I’m not sure we agree for the same reasons. Actually, there were two seemingly unrelated articles in this morning’s New York Times that yanked me out of my liberal live-and-let-live mindset and made me look at the relationship of the past and future that exists within all of us.


Basically, Conservatives want to resist change and return to the past, Liberals want to build on the past and improve society by doing things such as helping those that are underserved, and Radicals have lost faith in the system and want to blow it all up and start over. This is a gross simplification. As in everything in the adult world, there are shades of grey.  No sane person can honestly say that they vote the party line on every single issue in life. We are complicated people living in a complicated world.


The first article I read was about a small medieval walled city in Italy whose young people have moved away to find work. The younger generations have recently been replaced by immigrants from Eastern Europe and Africa. This is very disturbing to Italians who pride themselves on their culture and traditions that go back centuries and millennia. 


The Italian Far Right has falsely labeled these newcomers and their families (many of the children were born in Italy) migrants. For the record, they are not migratory.  They have moved to Italy to escape extreme poverty and political violence.  Furthermore, the Right has issues with them not being white. 


I always have found it interesting that some of the worst racists I’ve known were Americans whose families came from Sicily. Sicily, you know that boot at the south end of Italy a few miles across the Mediterranean Sea from Africa? Now that DNA testing is affordable, I’d be interested to know the percentage of African ancestry in Sicily. Over many centuries Sicily was conquered by North Africans. The great jazz trumpet player Jimmy Nottingham (who was Black) used to call Sicilians “canoein’ niggers.” Then again, Hitler’s grandfather was Jewish, so maybe there is a strain of self-hatred in some racism.


While I was reading this article, I found myself feeling a bit upset that my world (the one I grew up in and have inhabited for well over a half century) is disappearing like the polar ice caps and bears. I’m all for America being a land of immigrants with an emerging culture, but Italy? Nah!  I want to go there and eat authentic pasta served by a waiter who sounds so musical just reciting the menu, and not Ahmad handing me a dish of falafel accompanied by “ch” sounds filled with phlegm. Don’t get me wrong. I love falafel, and Ahmad might be a helluva guy, but I want the Italian experience. That means all of the culture. Not just the food, but the language, the opera, the wine, the architecture, clothes, customs—you get the point. 


So I say, “Ahmad, if it were up to me, you’d be welcome to come to the United States.  We have plenty of land and jobs. We have a tradition of accepting foreigners as long as they abide by our laws, contribute to society, and their children attend our schools and grow up to be Americans. And if you want to open an Italian restaurant, go for it.


Years ago I ate at an Italian restaurant in New York City that was owned and completely staffed by Japanese. The concept sounded weird to me at the time, but the food was great. When Yogi Berra was told that the mayor of Dublin was Jewish, he responded, “Only in America!


I understand why Europe is having an identity crisis over immigration. Their cultures and populations are frozen. It’s like in music. Folk music is frozen. It’s performed basically the same way it’s been performed for generations or longer.  Those singers and musicians are preservationists. If you are creative with the music, it ceases to be folk music and becomes jazz, pop, or some other music that welcomes creativity. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s not folk music any longer. And it’s not Italy the way it used to be either.


But even jazz has its conservatism. How would you feel about the Count Basie or Duke Ellington Orchestras being all white? Would fans of the Glenn Miller Orchestra accept them if they had all black musicians?  Some black musicians? This is not about the musicit’s about race and the visual look. Years ago when it was suggested that I become leader of the Ellington band, as much as I would have loved the job, my response was that the racial image of the band was too important to mess with.


Although we all have initial conservative and liberal feelings and reactions, we often temper them with a dose of reality and practicality. The past isn’t coming back (except in the arts), and even then, we can’t recreate it with the same perspective as those who actually lived then. And for liberals, some things aren’t about equality and treating everyone the same. Men and women are different. Different societies have differing morals and ethics. Who am I to tell Muslim men should treat women in their countries like American women are treated?  


Article #2 concerned a bill recently proposed by Republican Congressmen to fund maternity leave. Paid maternity leave has been a Democratic talking point for a while now, and Republicans have finally agreed that this would be good for families.  The issue is where the money will come from. Republicans, being the party of business (meaning that they are funded by big business), must protect their funders from having to share the wealth. Realistically, as a small business owner, I honestly can’t afford to pay for my employees to take maternity leave. 


The Democrats would be OK with having the Federal Government fund this worthy endeavor as an entitlement. Republicans are spendthrifts, but only when it comes to handing money over to our largest corporations, wealthiest citizens and the military. They hate helping anyone else—especially those who need it the most. They say they don’t want to encourage laziness.


So the Republicans came up with an interesting solution: self-funding maternity leave. Let those maternity leavers delay collecting their social security until their maternity leave money is reimbursed. I’m not sure this would work, but I like the idea of it. Or at least I like the discussions this can lead to. Here’s where I’m coming from.


I see the biggest problem facing our world as the destruction of our ecosystem.  Global warming is only part of it. Pollution, extinction, and overuse (leading to scarcity) of our natural resources threaten our very existence over the next 50 years. The one thing that has caused all these problems is overpopulation. The earth isn’t big enough to sustainably support more than 2 billion human beings. We currently have 7.4 billion—more than twice the population in 1960. At this rate, we will add a billion people every 13 years. 


Think of all the plastic trash clogging up our oceans and all the human waste, not to mention the cost and waste of animals that are eaten by people. Our air and water are being destroyed by the cows, pigs and chickens raised for human consumption.  This is unsustainable. Even if we all became vegetarians, which is highly unlikely, there are just too many of us. Way too many!


Many countries (like Italy and Japan) have very low birthrates that do not support their populations. I had two children with my former wife.  So we basically replaced ourselves. Statistically, due to death rates, the population would decrease somewhat if every couple only produced two children. When China was faced with a population crisis, they enforced a one-child-per-family law, which got their population under control. A draconian measure, I’ll admit, but something had to be done. 


I’m not saying that people shouldn’t be allowed to have babies, but I am saying:

  1. They need to have fewer
  2. They need to rear their children responsibly and make enough money to support them.


I think it’s unfair for me to have to pay for young Americans to have children that they can’t afford. Having children is a huge responsibility in so many ways. Many young people are too immature to understand the needs of the children they bring into the world and the strain they are putting on our schools, medical establishment and social services. I understand the desire to have sex, but in this digital era of AI, self-driving cars, etc., how about Bill Gates and his rich buddies bringing birth control into the 21st century and making it universal? 


My grandfather had 7 siblings. I can’t even imagine that. Isn’t it about time that we get serious about taking responsibility for the stewardship of our planet? Maybe when Elon Musk starts colonizing other planets, we can go back to being prosperous and multiplying in outer space. Until then, let’s be sensible, and maybe then prosperity will be just around the corner.

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  • Roland Butta on

    Enojyed reading your blog as usual, even if I don’t agree with some of your views. Just one thing, to be pedantic. Sicily isn’t that boot at the south end of Italy. Sicily is the island just off the south coast of Italy and is an autonomous region of that country. Yes their heritage certainly is mixed. I think everybody’s is. The Arab era lasted around 250 years, from the 9th to the 11th century.

    Thought you’d like to know.

  • Andrew Homzy on

    Regarding population growth, I found Dan Brown’s 2013 novel, “Inferno”, fascinating & enlightening. It ties-in with much of what you say, and it takes place in Italy. It may be the best of his books -

    The following link factors into his story:

  • Hans on

    Government policy makers might benefit from reading your comments if they weren’t so focused on elections.
    The population “oversupply” surely contributes to global warming, since every person is in effect a heating element, maintaining a temperature of 98.6 deg. F., and each of us keeps ~12 gallons of water out of circulation.

  • Tom on

    Excellent reasoned and reasonable read on “things”

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