Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Goodbye to Summer

I don't guess Summer is the favorite time of year for very many of us who live in southeast Texas. It's just too hot and muggy during summers here. By far Spring is my favorite time of year. Everything is being reborn and refreshed, the days are pleasantly warm and the nights are cool. I love the Spring.

For many years I became mildly seasonally depressed each Fall as the days grew shorter and leafs began to fall leaving the trees bare and bleak looking. That doesn't happen so much anymore because most of the trees here in the Houston area are either Live Oaks or Pines which stay green year around. I've come to appreciate the shorter days because life becomes a little bit less of a rush for those of us who are retired. We can't cram as much into short Fall and Winter days as we try to do in the seemingly endless days of summer.

Nevertheless, I enjoy summers, especially the couple few weeks leading to the end of summer. My
Stunning Shot of Northern European Village
wife and I have taken to traveling frequently in the latter days of August and in September when kids are back in school and their parents are back at work. It's an especially nice time to visit Europe. Everything is still open, the weather is mild and crowds are small or even non-existent. This year we took a few days to visit Northern Europe. It is a place I had wanted to visit since my childhood. I was not disappointed. It is a magnificent part of the world and I enjoyed it immensely. My only disappointment was that I have, with my cancer, become simply unable to hike the rugged areas as I once would have done.

I enjoy the people of northern Europe. They live their lives well. Like Switzerland, the countries of
northwestern Europe are sparkling clean. Everywhere one looks, the eye sees a picture post card. Rarely is anything out of place. Houses are well maintained and neat as they can be. Maybe there are some slum areas, but if there are, I've never seen them. European Socialism seems to have, in the decades since WWII, brought everyone firmly into the middle class, and there are, as well, those who are just as firmly in the upper 10% or 1%.

One thing I like a great deal about the northern Europeans is they take a more sensible approach to religion than do Americans. In some parts of northwestern Europe, almost 30% of the population are atheists, compared to only 10% in the United States. More importantly, of the 70% who remain believers, almost none worship in churches that are involved in anything even close to the fundamentalism that attracts more than 30% of all U.S. Christians. The lack of fundamentalism means that northwestern European cultures are significantly different than U.S. culture. They see religion beliefs as a personal thing not open to active proselytizing. Fundamentalist in the U.S. are extremely active in proselytizing and see it as their duty to save everyone who does not believe as they do from Hell by converting them not just to Christianity, but to fundamental Christianity. We should be so lucky here in the U.S.

Norwegian Stave Church
Because religion is seen as a private thing in Europe, the way one leads his life, even his sexual life, is considered private as well. All the countries of northwestern Europe allow gay marriage and it is not allowed because high courts have demanded it. It is allowed because the majority of people support it. How different from what we have to put up with here in the U.S. where fundamentalists are not content to have their own beliefs but insist that everyone else share their beliefs as well.

We could certainly learn a thing or two from the Europeans. Of course, to be fair, I have to point out that not all is rosy there. In a conversation with one man, I told him within two weeks of being diagnosed with cancer I was undergoing treatment by an oncologists. He readily admitted such a thing rarely if every happened in the socialized medical systems in Europe.

In some northwestern European countries women who give birth are give one year off with their babies and retain their full pay. Such a thing is bound to be a boon to childhood development, but we'll never see it here in the U.S. And, of course, it must be pointed out that everything in northwestern Europe is expensive for Americans. Social benefits are not free. There is a definite cost, and high prices and even higher taxes are required to support the cradle to grave welfare systems.

I think America and Americans suffer from an all too often parochial outlook because they are too isolated from the rest of the world. We won't and we shouldn't adopt everything that is European, but it would be nice to consider where they seem to have made better decisions that we.

Jack Scott
Anyone can comment on what I write in this blog. Regretfully, the recent amount of spam in my email account as required that I reinstate the word verification process for comments which I personally hate.

But at the same time I have loosened the comment moderation process so that those of you who have a Google Blogger ID or other recognized blogger ID will no longer need to wait for your comment to be moderated. I'm hoping this will tempt you to take the trouble to comment.

The truth is I want respectful comments both from those who agree with me and those who do not. All I as is that you keep comments to the point, clean and non-threatenting.

I look forward to hearing from each of you.

Jack Scott