The issue is survival, not winning or losing

The words “win” and “winning” are losing their meaning through overuse and misuse.

So is the notion of war. The idea that nations are fighting a war against a virus and can actually win is preposterous.

A well-prepared nation can limit the death and social and economic havoc that result from a pandemic. That is not winning. A nation certainly does not win anything by being so unprepared that thousands of people die before civic leaders accept their responsibilities and act. That is called failure.

The issue is survival, not winning or losing.

This nation and other nations can survive or not. Individuals will survive or not.

We can do either with honor and dignity. Our choice.

Image by jhenning from Pixabay

The New Desiderata (2003)

Pulled from the archives…

With apologies to Max Ehrmann
Desideratum = something desired as essential. – Merriam-Webster

Go noisily among the silent and apathetic and remember what virtue there may be in saying what you think. Suffer not the fools of the earth but be on good terms with all others. – Think carefully before you speak, but say your truth plainly and loudly enough for all to hear. – Yes, listen even to the dull and ignorant, especially those who became so through no fault of their own. The purposely ignorant deserve nothing more than your scorn; they have their stories, too, but none that are worth knowing. – Avoid telemarketers, insurance salesmen and yammering pundits; they are vexations to the spirit. – Compare yourself with others only to see how you can grow as a human being; find someone to be like who is worth emulating.

Sunday Goose, Lake McIntosh, Longs Peak, Colorado

For your successes, give due credit to your maker and your parents and your teachers; your failures and mistakes are your own. Forgive yourself and go on. – If you can, devote yourself to meaningful work that you enjoy, but remember that any honest labor is worthwhile if it contributes to the well-being of your family. – Steal from no one; if you want something, be willing to pay for it. – Entertain no silly ideas about the inherent honesty and goodness of the people; many have high ideals, but many hold to no universal truths other than their own consciences and desires. – Be true to your school.

Trust those you love; with others, verify. – Give no one reason to doubt your word or sincerity. In the face of cynicism and reality that is only virtual, your word is still your bond and your good name all you can take with you. – Unless misfortune or disease strikes you down, you will get old; deal with it. – Few things are as bad as you imagine they will be. Think of all who have taken your path before; they managed somehow.

Being here is a gift you have been given and there are strings attached: You are here to help the universe unfold, and others are counting on you. – Live a good life, and do nothing that would displease your mother. – It really can be a beautiful world if you treat it that way. Don’t worry. Be happy.

Found on a PC in East Central Iowa, circa 2003.

© B.J. Smith

Curiosity, Irish history and the gombeens

Curiosity often gets the blame (or the credit, depending on your point of view) for killing cats, but more often it leads to learning.

Take this morning, for example, when I was fortunate enough to have Presidents’ Day* off and learned that someone named Eamon Loingsigh from New York had started following this blog. I’m not good at all about acknowledging this, but every new follower is a big deal. I look at their profiles and usually read a post or two – out of curiosity, of course.

This time I landed on Petition – Stop Calling it a Famine!

Having some ancestral ties to Ireland, and a photo of my mother visiting a hovel somewhere in County Donegal, I read Eamon’s piece and signed the petition. The words “potato famine” do not do justice to what they are used to describe.

Donegal Castle, 2004. B.J. Smith photo

I did not know such a discussion was ongoing. As a writer and editor, I support calling things what they are. (I was impressed by the polite back and forth in the comments on the blog post.)

I also learned a new word, which I hope to be able to use in a sentence someday and force the curious who’ve never seen it before to look it up:


Always curious,


* It certainly doesn’t mean what it used to, does it?

Guess who says there’s a war on cars

A person can almost always save some time by skipping to the end of a guest commentary in a newspaper, magazine or other publication to get an idea of who the guest is behind the commentary.

Take Denver is waging a war on cars and drivers, as a recent example.

The guest is identified as Tim Jackson, president and CEO of the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association. I could have stopped reading then, but I didn’t. Call me curious.

Key takeaway: If a guy representing car dealers can pin the blame on someone other than those who pay him, he will do exactly that.

Toward the end of his commentary, Jackson quotes an op-ed* from a California newspaper. The authors of that piece maintain that deliberately slowing traffic to increase safety for pedestrians kills anywhere from 35 to 85 victims of cardiac arrest “due to delayed emergency response.”

What Jackson fails to point out: Emergency responders would get to people who need help much more quickly if there weren’t so many damn automobiles on the streets.

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

* By a Cato Institute senior fellow and his lawyer co-author.

In memory of an Iowa woman

Rosemary Smith was born on this day in 1926. She was my mother and I’m sharing her obituary below because she is so much on my mind today. In addition to the obvious reason for that, I can’t help but think how disappointed she would be about the Iowa caucus fiasco, the sorry condition of the party she worked so hard for, and the shambles of our democracy.

One did not ever want to disappoint Rosemary.

Rosemary McLaughlin Smith 1926-2001

Rosemary McLaughlin Smith, who died Sunday, Feb. 18, of congestive heart failure at Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids at the age of 75, was a proud Irish Catholic Democrat and faithful to all three of those traditions.

Rosemary Smith

She was born Feb. 5, 1926, in Des Moines, the third of John and Lucile McLaughlin’s six children. She attended St. John’s School in Des Moines and graduated from St. Joseph’s Academy in the Class of 1944. She also attended Drake University.

She married Dr. Robert J. Smith and gave birth to six children. The couple lived in Iowa City, Des Moines and Stacyville before their divorce. Dr. Smith died in 1974.

Rosemary worked for the Principal Financial Group in Des Moines for 25 years before retiring in 1991. She was an active member of the Social Concerns Committee at St. Theresa Catholic Church in Des Moines and she served for several years as a precinct committee chairwoman for the Democratic Party on Des Moines’ West Side. She also volunteered in an adult literacy program at Drake University and was active in the anti-Vietnam War movement and Amnesty International.

Her daughter, Dr. Kathleen Smith Johnson, died of cancer in 1995. Rosemary is survived by three daughters, Christine Packnett of Madison, Wis., Marianne McLaughlin of Englewood, Colo., and Marcia Blank of Culver City, Calif.; two sons, Bernard of Cedar Rapids and Martin of Kansas City, Mo.; son-in-law Dr. Keith Johnson of Des Moines; a sister, Virginia Swift of Edina, Minn.; and four brothers, Daniel J. McLaughlin of St. Petersburg, Fla., John F. McLaughlin of St. Louis, Mo., Charles Edward McLaughlin of Carmel, Ind., and Thomas McLaughlin of Isanti, Minn. She had 12 grandchildren.

Rosemary moved to Marion, Iowa, in 1999 and was a member of St. Matthew Parish in Cedar Rapids. She loved her family, her faith, her politics and her travels to Ireland. She enjoyed a good cup of coffee and a nice glass of Merlot.

A memorial service is scheduled for 11 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 20, at St. Matthew Catholic Church in Cedar Rapids. Rosemary donated her body to the University of Iowa School of Medicine. Her family asks that friends consider donations to the Alzheimer’s Association in lieu of flowers.

# # #

A memoir of her last few years – Miles to Go: An Alzheimer’s Journal – is available on Amazon and free on request as a PDF from the author. Just comment on this page with your email address and I will send it to you.