A Country Man’s Journal: Values Are Not Transactional

My cynicism and skepticism with  the American political system are no secret. I do not hold back my thoughts or keep my beliefs a secret – I put them out there.

This morning I listened to another politician, the current Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, walk away from things he said four years ago. I have heard this so often in the Trump administration. The Trump administration seems to be populated with folks that found Trump completely unacceptable four years ago, and now,  “…it is a privilege to work for Trump…” Horsefeathers!

Real values are not temporary, they are not transactional. Principles, standards, and integrity are not for sale to the highest bidder. This is what has happened in American politics today. Both parties are guilty of transactional values.

Most of us would never raise our children to have values, principles, and integrity that can be shifted to suit the moment or  purpose. This sounds like a system that organized crime would adhere to, but a society cannot survive in this kind of a culture.

I do not buy the proposition that election to an office washes away all sins. I do not accept this in faith either. I believe in a life that is built on doing good, not what worked for me at the moment, and if it was wrong, I can cancel it out later. Again, call me un-Christian if you want, but I do not accept all wrongs can be cancelled out because I saw the light at the last moment. Again, this sounds like some sort of belief system the Mafia would subscribe to.

This morning, I listened to Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo try to cancel out positions and beliefs he espoused when he was supporting Marco Rubio for president four years ago. Gail King from CBS tried to pin him down on what he said four years ago, and all Pompeo could say was that these were words said in a “…hard fought campaign.” So, apparently, everything said by politicians is just for the moment and for the audience, and not really part of any belief system.

I cannot accept this for leadership. Our country was not always  like this. Principles, values, and integrity were earned, built, and the result of long and careful thought and effort. They were not transactional like they are today.

It is never  a privilege to serve a man like Trump. He is what he is. To his credit, he has never hidden his faults and lack of character and decency – it has always been right out there for all to see.

I would not want to be in the same room with most of our leaders and politicians today. I do not want to get myself dirty. Values, standards, principles, and integrity are all I have – they are not transactional.

“Sweet Dreams and Flying Machines…”

Thank you James Taylor. You wrote an anthem for many of us (“Fire and Rain”).

This past weekend, my high school class (1969 – Spaulding High School) celebrated our 50th reunion. Fifty years – where did they go, and why aren’t we all here? Both, hard questions, and no easy answers – life happened is about as good as I can do.

People and friends I grew up with flooded my brain with their smiling faces, and flashbacks to a time long ago. That night, it was sweet, and now, it is hard, I have to fight back the tears as I write this.

We grew up in a small central Vermont town, Barre. Everybody knew each other – it was the way life was then. Most of us shared an immigrant background in our families. Parents and grandparents came from the “old country” and found their way to Barre to work in the granite quarries and granite sheds producing beautiful granite monuments that found their way all over the world. So, the site of our 50th reunion, the Barre Granite Museum was more than fitting.

1969 was a big year, not just for us, but for most Americans. Neil Armstrong walked on the moon that year, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Woodstock Nation rocked our lives and the world too. And yet, this was the last time we were still insulated from most of the world. Imagine that, being insulated from the world that was going on outside of our world in Barre, Vermont.

This reunion, a 50th, by most standards, is a giant mile marker, one that stands out like a huge sign on the interstate highway of life. There were plenty of hugs and kisses to go around, and just so damn glad to be there and see everyone, well not everyone, but many of us, one more time. Now, I have the night, and our faces and smiles to keep in my heart and bring up when I want to see you.

So, I am going to leap forward one more year, 1970, and borrow some lyrics from James Taylor’s song, “Fire and Rain.”

“I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain
I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end
I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend
But I always thought that I’d see you again.”

For one more time I got to see many of the best people in the world.

“Sweet dreams and flying machines in pieces on the ground.”

Thank you!

What Happened to “The Police Gazette?”

As a young boy, about once a month, or when my mother said I needed a haircut, I found my way to one of our local barber shops. The barber had a odd nickname, “Peanut.” Well, Peanut was a wealth of knowledge, sort of the male gossip central. I listened and learned a lot about life, and what was going on in our community.

Peanut had some reading material there for patrons to pick up and read while waiting for their turn in the barber chair. The reading material was mostly recent issues of “The Police Gazette” and also “The National Enquirer.” The local newspaper, “The Times Argus” was also available. I used to do an informal survey and watch to see who would pick up “The Police Gazette” or “The National Enquirer.” Even as a young boy, I recognized these trashy magazines for what they were, trash. The paper was cheap and the stories were just as cheap and outrageous. I was amazed to see men pick this stuff up and read it. I made my own mental judgements right then and there about these folks. I have always had a knack at reading people.

So, where did “The Police Gazette” and “The National Enquirer” go? Well, I have no idea about the pulp “Police Gazette,” but “The National Enquirer” found its way to our grocery store magazine racks right by the check out. It’s as if “The National Enquirer” found some form broader acceptance as legitimate journalism.

 Well, we all know the recent stories about “The National Enquirer” and its purchase of stories about Trump and his porn stars and Playboy bunnies. The owner of “The National Enquirer,” a David Pecker (interesting name isn’t it) is a friend of Trump and bought these stories to bury them so they would not see the light of day and harm Trump.

I think I know how “The Police Gazette” and “The National Enquirer” evolved. Yes, “National Enquirer” still can be found in magazine racks, but I think the style and quality of journalism represented by these magazines found its way to Fox and is put out there for the same audience. I think people like Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, and Laura Ingraham, among others are the successors to the old “Police Gazette.” And sadly, the audience is still there. They don’t even have to be able to read anymore, just find the channel on their television.

We can fix immigration problems

Yesterday, ICE arrested about 680 undocumented aliens working at a food processing plant in Mississippi. This is a large food processing company with headquarters in Illinois. The company employs about 13,000 people mostly in the South. A big part of their work is processing poultry. A comment was made, “Where are we going to get the workers?” This is a good question. We need to fix our immigration laws. I think the need for workers is well established.

During the 2nd Bush administration, a bipartisan group in Congress tried to deal with the immigration laws. They suggested guest worker programs with paths to citizenship if wanted. The fixes suggested by the bipartisan group, the so-called “Gang of Eight”, were never voted into law, defeated by the more conservative elements in Congress. These are the same fights we are having today, and we have even slipped further from sensible solutions.

So much of this is about race. We need the workers, they want to be here. They are on payrolls and paying taxes. In many cases, large corporations like the one in this article, are employing undocumented workers – because they need them. It seems, we would prefer to fight over racial issues, than come to a good fix of our immigration laws.

We also need to rethink our foreign aid programs and look to creating some sort of a “Marshall Plan” for Central America. These countries are our neighbors. In many respects, these are also failing or failed states. I think of all the money, mostly borrowed, we have spent on Mideast wars, and really, for one purpose, to protect the oil industry. Why not invest right here for peaceful purposes with our neighbors. Maybe we would not be seeing these “caravans” headed north if we did this.

It just seems like there are some sensible solutions to the immigrations problems, and they are not about building walls, they are about building partnerships with our neighbors.

“For Whom the Bell Tolls”

“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.” John Donne

The tragedies of this weekend in El Paso and Dayton have been much on my mind this weekend. I came here to write more than once and stopped every time. I thought about safe harbors, we have none. I thought about being insulated from the rest of the world here in Vermont – I am not. I thought about the overall silence from our nation’s leaders – if anything, the silence resonated. Oh, there were a few words, just enough from a few to show they knew what happened, but mostly silence.

I thought about the rhetoric and the words the president uses almost every day. He seems to find the most comfort in being on the attack. He uses the power of the presidency to make his attacks hurt. Almost every day we wake up to some new twitter attacks launched against some American by this president. There has never been an effort to unite us, to bring us together. Vehemence is the tone we find in this president’s words. Vehemence directed at us, at Americans – “…send them back…”

I have said this over and over for the last few years, “Silence is complicity.” I have to ask those that continue to choose silence, what will it take for you to rediscover your morality, your human decency? How can anyone lay claim to either and support this president?

I go back to John Donne’s poem, “…any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.”

Whether it is a father and his daughter floating face down in death’s embrace, or our neighbors and friends out doing what people do, we are all diminished by these losses.

And, we have the power to do the right thing, yet we continue to choose not to. A Christian might say Satan works among us. We seem to have lost our will to resist, and we will reap what we sow. I am always mindful to be careful what we build…

“…the bell tolls for thee.”


Hi, and welcome to my blog, “West Topsham Views.” My name is Ed Pirie, and if you are not familiar with West Topsham, I will help you with the geography. West Topsham is a small village in the town of Topsham, Vermont. The population of Topsham, Vermont is about 1200 people. The village of West Topsham has about a dozen houses, a church, a general store, a post office, a fire house for the volunteer fire department, a cemetery, and a Grange Hall. If you look at a map, you will find the town of Topsham in eastern central Vermont and in Orange County. The town is about 20 miles west of the Connecticut River and New Hampshire.

Ok, the geography is settled. As you might guess, I like life on a small scale. I was born in Vermont and I have lived here for most of my 68 years. This is where my roots are. I cannot bear the thought of ever leaving. I have tried this once and hurried back after a brief stay in Connecticut. My wife and I have raised our family here and my children now have families of their own and they also live in the town of Topsham. My grandchildren are close by and we are spoiled being able to see them often.

This blog is a new adventure and I am excited to have a place where I can share my thoughts and have some good conversations. I think you will find my writing to be casual and respectful. I am a great student of history, an educator, and I will often use my understanding of history to support and anchor my commentary made here. Politically, I am an independent. I cannot bear to let anyone do my thinking for me. I want to reach my own conclusions after a careful look at the evidence and issues.

I am more than concerned about the current state of affairs in this country. This will come out in later posts. I will not leave you guessing as to what I think, but you will find I do not get to my conclusions without being careful and marshaling evidence to support my point of view.

I borrowed the “Pathfinder” from James Fenimore Cooper. I have always enjoyed the woods and finding a way. The paths we choose and the paths yet to be taken are not always clear at the outset. A good look at the lay of the land, and the places we have been can help point us in the right direction going forward. I like to think our compasses share the same cardinal directions, and north for me is also north for you. Our destination should be a good one for all of us.

I also hope to use this space to share some human interest stories. I enjoy telling a story and find most of life very interesting and fun to share. I live where I can be very close to nature and the world of natural science has great fascination for me. I like to garden and raise food. I have a small flock of chickens, currently twelve, and collect the eggs from my girls every morning. These chickens are really pets and share my life with my English Cocker Spaniel, Olliver, and our little Silky, Poppie. I guess you could say, I am their human.

Well, this is a start. Please come back and I will have more to share. I am anxious to get started.