U-Pick in New York: Fruits, Vegetables, and Values

By Dr. Denise R. Ames

I love the fall season, my favorite. And October is the best month of all! New Mexico, my home state, is a fall wonderland—but the first few weeks of October find me in upstate New York visiting my daughter and her family, namely my three grandchildren. I must say, adorable by any estimation, a girl age 8 and almost 4-year-old twins, a boy and girl.

Upstate New York is resplendent with vivid fall colors in October—the leaves shimmering in the pale light or quivering in the subtle breeze as they drift down to the moist ground as they see fit or just pause in mid-air to flutter about in the sunshine. Fall emits a subtle feeling that reminds us of what is important. At least, it does to me.

One of the things that my daughter thought was important was a family outing to Smascott Orchards, located in Kinderhook New York, a U-Pick farm where we were able to pick our own apples, pumpkins, and assorted vegetables. Located in Kinderhook, New York, it was not far from an old farmhouse that my daughter and her husband were remodeling.  This outing would be fun, even my cousin from Cooperstown joined us.

The U-Pick orchards transported me pack several decades to the early 1980s. While living in rural, central Illinois, I remember picking strawberries and raspberries by the gallons, freezing them in our chest freezer or making endless pints of jam. I bought apples by the bushel to make applesauce, enough for the full year. Also, I canned enough peaches and pears from local orchards to put up plenty of fruit for family consumption. As I traipsed through Smascott’s apple orchard to the broccoli patch, I recalled growing beets, carrots, cauliflower, beans, and peas in our enormous garden. It was a lot of hard work but also very rewarding to know that what we ate was a product of my hard-physical labor and skill as a gardener.

The U-Pick experience also reminded me of what I had lost in my march to progress and prosperity. Moving from my small town and huge garden to the “big city” of Blooming-Normal, my life changed from an “earth mother” to a “city sophisticate” in a short time. Although I always enjoyed being out “in nature,” I never had such a bountiful garden again. My canning jars sat in the basement, always hopeful that I would renew my passion for gardening so they could be useful again. It didn’t happen.

I have found that our country and I have followed similar paths. As a nation, we once prided ourselves in being self-sufficient, making many of the things that we wear, eat, or enjoy.  From the 1980s onward, I have found that these values changed from self-reliance to dependence: dependent on China for our goods, dependent on the government for subsidies, dependent on outside educators to tell us what to think, and dependent on the material world for meaning and inspiration. Nature got shoved aside in our push to acquire more and more things.

Strolling through the rows of nature’s colorful bounty was a vivid reminder that in our rush to progress and prosperity we left much behind. The was a deep satisfaction of directly connecting with the food we eat, or the warmth and security of being with family and friends, all the while being surrounded by nature at every step.

Perhaps our experience with the shock of COVID-19 to our way of life has shaken us out of our nature-deprived existence and shown us another way of life that is an attractive alternative. Perhaps, picking some of our own fruit and vegetables is just one part of the new equation. Instead of a manufactured way of entertainment, a trip to the u-pick orchard seems heartfelt.

When all this COVID-19 business has hopefully passed, perhaps one of the positive effects will be a re-evaluation of our definition of progress and prosperity. There are many dimensions to this process, but in fact we are not only picking our own fruits and vegetables but perhaps we are picking new values and meaning in our lives. I have found that it is long overdue.

About the Author: Dr. Denise R. Ames

Dr. Ames’ varied life experiences— teaching, scholarly research, personal reflections, and extensive travels—have contributed to her balanced and thoughtful perspectives. Earning a doctorate in world history education, she has taught secondary schools, universities, a community college, and lifelong learners. In 2003, Dr. Ames founded the educational non-profit, Center for Global Awareness that develops globally-focused books and educational resources for grade 9-university. She has written eight books, plus numerous blogs, lesson plans, articles, newsletters, teaching units, and conducted professional development workshops for the non-profit and its clients.

Dr. Ames is now developing her new program: Turn, Transformation, Understanding, and Reflection Nexus.  Turn encourages life-long learners to see things with new eyes, learn from the past, and understand the relationship of all things. She teaches workshops/classes and writes about Turn’s five topics: learning from the past, cross-cultural awareness, five colliding worldviews, elder wisdom, and transformative travel.

Divided: Five Colliding Worldviews and How to Navigate Them has just been released!

Divided, Dr. Ames’ latest book, addresses the question on the lips of every American: why can’t we get along? The cultural divide is threatening our democracy and destabilizing our country. Divided looks at the deep cultural divide through the lens of five colliding worldviews—indigenous, traditional, progressive, globalized, and transformative. This approach helps us make sense of our deep divisions and suggests ways of bridging them.

It is urgent that we understand and bridge the cultural divide. Bridging the divide is dependent upon first understanding it. Gaining an understanding of the five worldviews enhances our success of arriving at sensible solutions and increasing civil conversations. If not, rancor and intractability ensue.

Divided is one of nine books written by Dr. Ames and the Center for Global Awareness, check out their offerings! Global Awareness Books 

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Bayo Canyon Trails: A Glimpse into our Past

by Dr. Denise R. Ames

I love to hike, not just for the exercise although that is important too, but it is a time that I feel a deep connection with nature. Hiking the Bayo Canyon Trails gave me a healthy dose of connecting with nature but it also provided a glimpse into the lives of people who were living in the area over 150 years ago. What could be better.

My partner, Jim, and I visited Los Alamos recently for a brief stint of relaxation and hiking. The city of over 12,000 people is located on four mesas of the Pajarito Plateau in north central New Mexico. Los Alamos is best known for the Manhattan Project, in which it was the primary location for building the atomic bomb during World War II. But the area is also home to some beautiful hiking trails that are fun and refreshing, Bayo Canyon Trail is one of our favorites.

The area surrounding Bayo Canyon is rugged and dry, and it is hard to imagine that people would live in such inhospitable conditions. But actually, the area has been inhabited during various times since around 1150.  The ruins of permanent Puebloan (ancestors of today’s Indians) settlements, such as those located in nearby Bandelier National Monument and numerous other sites, such as cliff dwellings, prove their livability.  

Sangre de Cristo Mountains in background

Bayo Canyon trails are a complex of different trails that traverse the canyon. Trails crisscross the rugged terrain and it can be confusing at times which way is which. The popular North Bayo Canyon Trail winds its way across porous volcanic rock for about two miles to a stunning overlook point. Along the way, statuesque ponderosa pine trees sway in the gentle breeze, looking weary of being constantly thirsty and thrashed by high winds. The panoramic scene at the overlook scans the entire canyon and the Barranca Mesa, the Sangre de Cristo Mountains loom in the shadows on the horizon. Nature as its most splendid.

But the trail has a truly unique feature. While plodding along the dirt trail, we were stunned to see a bizarre site. Etched into the soft volcanic rock were rutted groves made by what looked like iron wheels going back and forth hundreds of times to permanently scar the ancient soft stone. Indeed, after some research into the ruts we found out what caused them.

In the late 19th century, homesteaders settled on the mesas, eking out a living by farming, raising animals, and even some logging. The homesteaders drove their supply wagons with 3-inch iron-clad wheels over the same roadbed for decades, cutting deeply into the porous stone. The ruts are still visible today. In 1943, as the Manhattan Project was getting underway, the area was abruptly closed and Army security forces patrolled the area for potential spies eager to find out more about the secret project. Bayo Canyon was closed to public use into the 1960s because an explosives detonation area was located at the upper end.

Years of use by hikers and horses have worn deeper and wider ruts into the soft tuff. The road may have been used by vehicles with pneumatic tires during laboratory days. The road was later used in the 1950s to install a sewer line serving Barranca Mesa. Anecdotal accounts indicate that operators of local sawmills took their products, primarily railroad ties, off the plateau down this road.

What strikes me on this particular hike is the hardscrabble life that the homesteaders must have endured. The land is rocky and sandy, the winds can be relentless, and the rainfall is sporadic. Eking out a living would be backbreaking work. Add to all that, the difficulty of getting into town over the rutted roads would make getting away from isolation a difficult venture.

Juxtapose the minimalist living standards and primitive technology of the homesteaders with what took place about 50 years after their settlement in the area: the Manhattan Project. Perhaps some of these homesteaders were still alive when the top Allied scientists from around the world congregated in their tiny inaccessible town. Paradoxically, the most advance technology was being invented in the midst of the homesteaders’ rudimentary technology.

Along this very trail that I was hiking, the transition from a world of homespun clothes and log cabins to a modern world of atomic bombs that defied the imagination took place. As I ambled along the delightful trail, I wondered if we will come full circle and our modern technology will turn its destructive side on us leaving humans to pursue again a simple, rugged way of life that the homesteaders endured decades ago. The future holds that secret.   

About the Author: Dr. Denise R. Ames

Dr. Ames’ varied life experiences— teaching, scholarly research, personal reflections, and extensive travels—have contributed to her balanced and thoughtful perspectives. Earning a doctorate in world history education, she has taught secondary schools, universities, a community college, and lifelong learners. In 2003, Dr. Ames founded the educational non-profit, Center for Global Awareness that develops globally-focused books and educational resources for grade 9-university. She has written eight books, plus numerous blogs, lesson plans, articles, newsletters, teaching units, and conducted professional development workshops for the non-profit and its clients.

Dr. Ames is now developing her new program: Turn, Transformation, Understanding, and Reflection Nexus.  Turn encourages life-long learners to see things with new eyes, learn from the past, and understand the relationship of all things. She teaches workshops/classes and writes about Turn’s five topics: learning from the past, cross-cultural awareness, five colliding worldviews, elder wisdom, and transformative travel.

Divided: Five Colliding Worldviews and How to Navigate Them has just been released!

Divided, Dr. Ames’ latest book,addresses the question on the lips of every American: why can’t we get along? The cultural divide is threatening our democracy and destabilizing our country. Divided looks at the deep cultural divide through the lens of five colliding worldviews—indigenous, traditional, progressive, globalized, and transformative. This approach helps us make sense of our deep divisions and suggests ways of bridging them.

It is urgent that we understand and bridge the cultural divide. Bridging the divide is dependent upon first understanding it. Gaining an understanding of the five worldviews enhances our success of arriving at sensible solutions and increasing civil conversations. If not, rancor and intractability ensue.

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The Canyons of Los Alamos: Where Discoveries are Made

By Dr. Denise R. Ames

Los Alamos, New Mexico—home of the Atomic Bomb—also showcases a rugged terrain of deep canyons and soaring cliffs. Los Alamos’s city motto is “Where discoveries are made,” in which reference to the atomic bomb immediately comes to mind. But there are other discoveries to be made in Los Alamos, and I uncovered some of them during my recent visit.

Angel’s Casita

My partner, Jim, and I recently drove from our hometown of Albuquerque to Los Alamos to do some relaxing and hiking. We love to go to Los Alamos where we stay in our favorite Air B&B Casita that overlooks one of the deep canyons carving the city into sections. It feels like we are alone in the wilderness, even though we are just a mile or so from the downtown area and the labyrinth of national laboratories.

It is clear why Los Alamos was selected as the site of the secretive Manhattan Project during World War II—it is isolated by canyons making it difficult to approach the remote city from all angles. Winding our way along Route 502, as we approach the city from the east, the road narrows, hugging the mountains along blasted out sections from which the winding road snakes to its destination.

The canyons interlacing Los Alamos were the destinations of several of our hiking expeditions during our visit. They weren’t hard to access, we could practically walk out in back of our casita and a plethora of trails beckoned to be hiked. One that we particularly liked was in back of the Aquatic Center, where we accessed the trailhead.

This trail had particular historical significance. Some of the steep switchbacks and steps at the beginning/end of the trail were constructed by boys at the historic Los Alamos Ranch School. Founded in 1917, the private school for boys was later taken over by the federal government for the Manhattan Project. Although the school has never reopened, its legacy of trails has endured. We descended from the top of the mesa into the canyon, but found going down was easy, making our way back up strained our calves and leg muscles to the max.

A kind of hush came over me as I ambled down from the bustle of the city to the soft tranquil quiet of the forest sprouting from the canyon. Every turn-out revealed a panoramic view of the canyons and high mesas. Sky and soft clouds enveloped me in a comforting embrace, telling me it was alright to be a human.

The canyons emitted a sense of eternity, whispering to me that they would endure and continue long after I and my species disappeared. They seemed to say, “Just be kind to us while you are still around, we have more to give to you than you can imagine.”  To me this message is the real meaning of the city motto, “Where discoveries are made.”

I took their message to heart. I agree that kindness is a wonderful act, perhaps one of the most important things we can do as humans. But it is also one of the most difficult, especially to be kind to those who you don’t agree with. I thought of our contentious political/cultural divide, reaching a crescendo pitch as the election nears, and imagined what it would be like if protesters said kind words to the police and vice versa, our politicians (both sides) utter kinds word to those who they oppose, or Antifa and Proud Boys had a get-to-know-each-other picnic instead of spewing hatred.

It is ironic that the canyons whisper kindness to all, while the nearby Los Alamos National Laboratories emit a different message—one of power, control, violence, and strength. Although I realize that force is necessary at times, Hitler probably would not have received the same message from the canyon as I did, and needed to be stopped.

In this vitriolic atmosphere we are increasingly descending into, the canyons remind all of us that kindness to our fellow humans and to all of nature is indeed worth remembering and acting upon.       

About the Author: Dr. Denise R. Ames

Dr. Ames’ varied life experiences— teaching, scholarly research, personal reflections, and extensive travels—have contributed to her balanced and thoughtful perspectives. Earning a doctorate in world history education, she has taught secondary schools, universities, a community college, and lifelong learners. In 2003, Dr. Ames founded the educational non-profit, Center for Global Awareness that develops globally-focused books and educational resources for grade 9-university. She has written eight books, plus numerous blogs, lesson plans, articles, newsletters, teaching units, and conducted professional development workshops for the non-profit and its clients.

Dr. Ames is now developing her new program: Turn, Transformation, Understanding, and Reflection Nexus.  Turn encourages life-long learners to see things with new eyes, learn from the past, and understand the relationship of all things. She teaches workshops/classes and writes about Turn’s five topics: learning from the past, cross-cultural awareness, five colliding worldviews, elder wisdom, and transformative travel.

Divided: Five Colliding Worldviews and How to Navigate Them has just been released!

Divided, Dr. Ames’ latest book,addresses the question on the lips of every American: why can’t we get along? The cultural divide is threatening our democracy and destabilizing our country. Divided looks at the deep cultural divide through the lens of five colliding worldviews—indigenous, traditional, progressive, globalized, and transformative. This approach helps us make sense of our deep divisions and suggests ways of bridging them.

It is urgent that we understand and bridge the cultural divide. Bridging the divide is dependent upon first understanding it. Gaining an understanding of the five worldviews enhances our success of arriving at sensible solutions and increasing civil conversations. If not, rancor and intractability ensue.

Divided is one of nine books written by Dr. Ames and the Center for Global Awareness, check out their offerings! Global Awareness Books 

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Nature’s Perfection: A Hike Along Los Conchas Trail

by Dr. Denise R. Ames

Los Conchas Trail

What is your vision of a perfect hiking trail: a bubbling stream, sheer cliffs climbing to the sky, evergreens adding dimension and texture, a canyon floor ablaze with wildflowers, an open meadow with thickets of willowy grasses, and a clear blue-sky ablaze overhead. Well, you just described the Los Conchas Trail. Nestled in the Santa Fe National Forest just south of the equally mesmerizing Valles Caldera, the trail is easily accessed off of New Mexico Route 4.

Hiking the Los Conchas Trail was high on our list of must do activities that my partner, Jim, and I wanted to do when took a COVID-19 break and ventured into the high country around Los Alamos, New Mexico. The trail is a scenic and windy 20 miles from the security gates of Los Alamos to the trailhead. Although it very popular, the trail never feels crowded. Hikers always have a smile on their faces as we pass each other, with the unspoken but mutual acknowledgement that we are participating in something special, an encounter with the splendor of nature.

At about 8,400 feet elevation, the trail meanders across a flat terrain, making it easily traversed by people of all ages. Children especially love to stir up a frog on the stream’s banks, or pile up a few rocks around the water’s edges to try and corral an elusive fish. Several wooden bridges cross the stream, making sure your feet don’t get soggy and you can get a glimpse into stream life.

Although I have hiked the trail many times, it is always a fresh experience for me. The cliff walls surround the canyon floor, giving me a feeling of being bounded on all sides by nature. I am a mere speck in nature’s multitudes, a rather insignificant guest, much like I think of the annoying ants building their mounds next to my driveway. But oddly this insignificance is comforting to me. I can’t exactly explain why but perhaps my mind should not try to analyze this feeling. My intuition prods me to merely accept it and understand that there are many human feelings best left to mystery.

I am at nature’s mercy as I explore the magical canyon. I imagine it is not such an inviting place during frequent mountain thunderstorms or a blizzard dumping heaps of snow on its guests. But during this visit, nature is kind to me, dashing me with a few sprinkles of rain, but reserving its wrath for a time far past my departure.

As I walk through this canyon of delight, I find that I am filled with gratitude that I am able to connect to nature and revel in her majesty. I, like other humans, am too often separated from nature—or should I say that I think and feel that I am separated from nature. Actually, we are always within nature, how could we not be. But it feels good to me to be outside of human-created nature, and revel in non-human-created nature.

While ambling down Los Conchos Trail nature whispers to me through her rustling pine trees, reminding me that I am part of her and not to forget it as I go about my everyday life. Tell others she says, we are all part of this together, we are not separate, isolated creatures. We are all connected into an intricate web of relationships. Yes, I reply.  

About the Author: Dr. Denise R. Ames

Dr. Ames’ varied life experiences— teaching, scholarly research, personal reflections, and extensive travels—have contributed to her balanced and thoughtful perspectives. Earning a doctorate in world history education, she has taught secondary schools, universities, a community college, and lifelong learners. In 2003, Dr. Ames founded the educational non-profit, Center for Global Awareness that develops globally-focused books and educational resources for grade 9-university. She has written eight books, plus numerous blogs, lesson plans, articles, newsletters, teaching units, and conducted professional development workshops for the non-profit and its clients.

Dr. Ames is now developing her new program: Turn, Transformation, Understanding, and Reflection Nexus.  Turn encourages life-long learners to see things with new eyes, learn from the past, and understand the relationship of all things. She teaches workshops/classes and writes about Turn’s five topics: learning from the past, cross-cultural awareness, five colliding worldviews, elder wisdom, and transformative travel.

Divided: Five Colliding Worldviews and How to Navigate Them has just been released! $14.95

Divided, Dr. Ames’ latest book, addresses the question on the lips of every American: why can’t we get along? The cultural divide is threatening our democracy and destabilizing our country. Divided looks at the deep cultural divide through the lens of five colliding worldviews—indigenous, traditional, progressive, globalized, and transformative. This approach helps us make sense of our deep divisions and suggests ways of bridging them.

It is urgent that we understand and bridge the cultural divide. Bridging the divide is dependent upon first understanding it. Gaining an understanding of the five worldviews enhances our success of arriving at sensible solutions and increasing civil conversations. If not, rancor and intractability ensue.

Divided is one of nine books written by Dr. Ames and the Center for Global Awareness, check out their offerings! Global Awareness Books 

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A Pall over Los Alamos: A Visit to the “Atomic City”

By Dr. Denise R. Ames 

photo: Denise Ames

What comes to your mind when you hear Los Alamos? I bet it is not cottonwood (poplar) trees, as the word means in Spanish, but something more ominous, perhaps the place where the great minds of the world feverishly worked to create such destructive energy that when unleashed on two Japanese cities it killed over 200,000 people.

The Manhattan Project was initiated between 1942 and 1946 at the height of World War II with the explicit purpose of producing nuclear weapons for use in the war against Germany and Japan. Government officials selected Los Alamos as the top-secret site of the Manhattan Project, largely because of its isolated location in the sparsely populated state of New Mexico. Surrounded by deep ravines, wide canyons, and bordering dense forests, its seclusion was an asset that changed Los Alamos’ future from a sleepy, provincial town to a renowned hub of international, scientific geniuses.

I am visiting Los Alamos for a three-night retreat in the fall of 2020. Even though I am traveling to the city for hiking and relaxation, and to enjoy the fall colors, it is hard to escape the palpable energy that still emanates from the Manhattan Project upon the city. The energy settles over like a mist over a meadow, enveloping the city that made its name in creating explosive energy almost 80 years ago.

Whether the U.S. decision to drop the atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was justifiable is debatable. At the time, those who were exhausted from war it was a welcomed way to end the war decisively. My father, a World War II veteran fighting the Japanese in the Pacific theater, thought is was the right decision, despite the loss of civilian life. He dreaded the prospect of invading Japan to end the war, one of the alternatives to dropping the bombs.

Even though you might be on the side of those who believe the bombings were justified, the making and use of the bombs has elicited profound thoughts about our human ability to create and destroy multitudes with a single object of our creation. Robert Oppenheimer, chief architect of the Manhattan Project, captured the profundity of his actions when he quoted a line from the Indian epic Bhagavad Gita at the time of the testing of the bomb in Alamogordo, NM, “I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.”

Robert Oppenheimer

I cannot stop thinking about the Manhattan Project and its ramifications when visiting Los Alamos. Even though the downtown streets are festooned with vibrant hanging baskets of flowers in the summer or Ashley Pond is a welcoming place for a relaxing picnic lunch, the pall of the Manhattan Project slips into the crevices of my mind and warns me about the destructive side of our human nature.

Like other animals, humans fight for territory, form hierarchies of authority, and coalesce around tribal loyalties. Although I believe we have done a reasonably good (although not perfect) job of curbing our natural and exploitive nature to fashion a smooth-running and orderly society, our destructive side is still with us. The Manhattan Project reflects this side. It shows that our amazingly imaginative minds often fashion creations that are two steps ahead of our nominal human ability to consider future consequences of our actions. Too often we need to step back and say “why are we doing this, perhaps more contemplation and reflection are needed.” But usually our impulsive side wins out and humans charge ahead without caution holding us back.  

Perhaps because of the reality that the atomic bomb could annihilate the human species, we have stepped back and contemplated its ramifications. Knowing that the bomb could become even more of a “destroyer of worlds,” we recognize its annihilative possibilities.

So, I can now better understand the pall that shrouds my visits to Los Alamos is actually a dire warning to me and others that we live on a razoor’s edge of human existence. A tip in the balance to one side of that edge could be doom for our species. It is a warning we must all heed despite our political and cultural differences.

About the Author: Dr. Denise R. Ames

Dr. Ames’ varied life experiences— teaching, scholarly research, personal reflections, and extensive travels—have contributed to her balanced and thoughtful perspectives. Earning a doctorate in world history education, she has taught secondary schools, universities, a community college, and lifelong learners. In 2003, Dr. Ames founded the educational non-profit, Center for Global Awareness that develops globally-focused books and educational resources for grade 9-university. She has written eight books, plus numerous blogs, lesson plans, articles, newsletters, teaching units, and conducted professional development workshops for the non-profit and its clients.

Dr. Ames is now developing her new program: Turn, Transformation, Understanding, and Reflection Nexus.  Turn encourages life-long learners to see things with new eyes, learn from the past, and understand the relationship of all things. She teaches workshops/classes and writes about Turn’s five topics: learning from the past, cross-cultural awareness, five colliding worldviews, elder wisdom, and transformative travel.

Divided: Five Colliding Worldviews and How to Navigate Them has just been released!

Divided addresses the question on the lips of every American: why can’t we get along? The cultural divide is threatening our democracy and destabilizing our country. Divided looks at the deep cultural divide through the lens of five colliding worldviews—indigenous, traditional, progressive, globalized, and transformative. This approach helps us make sense of our deep divisions and suggests ways of bridging them.

It is urgent that we understand and bridge the cultural divide. Bridging the divide is dependent upon first understanding it. Gaining an understanding of the five worldviews enhances our success of arriving at sensible solutions and increasing civil conversations. If not, rancor and intractability ensue.

Divided is one of nine books written by Dr. Ames and the Center for Global Awareness, check out their offerings! Global Awareness Books 

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Along the Rio Grande Bosque

by Dr. Denise R. Ames

The act of traveling has changed. COVID-19 has stretched its deadly tentacles into traveling as well as into other areas of our lives. Exotic vacations in foreign lands are on hold for now and cross-country flights to visit loved ones are deemed too dangerous at this time. Americans don’t like to have limits imposed upon them, I am one of them. But instead of chafing under restrictions, someone who enjoys seeing different landscapes and living different experiences has to be creative.

There is a world of wonder out there to be discovered and reflected upon, we just need to shift our mindset. We have been conditioned to want to behold breath-taking scenery, visit “exotic” people, or see monumental architecture. I love all that, but it is not what we can have right now. It is time to turn to the local, to explore what is just down the road a spell.

I took my own advice a few days ago and ventured out to hike along a string of trails that I had not hiked before. Bordering the banks of the Rio Grande River in the heart of Albuquerque, New Mexico, my home town, the trails were new and fresh to me. In Spanish this area is called the Bosque or woods in English, a tangled mish-mash of intersecting and dead-end trails meandering through a tree-shaded stretch of protected lands.

Giant cottonwood trees shade this swath of green ribbon nestled between a dry, expanse of brown plateau, technically called a semiarid high desert. The Rio Grande, a river of legion in the old West, cuts through this green paradise as it ambles along in search for the Gulf of Mexico. 

I felt like I was entering a wild land of thick underbrush, thorny branches, and sunlight flickering through the treetops. Although I was surrounded by the city just a mile or so away, I pushed away the city sounds and surrendered to birds chirping from above and the rustle of lizards scampering through the groundcover. This was a more remote section of trails than other areas along the river, so I encountered few fellow hikers, lending to the isolated feeling I craved.

It was an early morning hike in early September, just as the hint of fall has crept into our lives. Fall is magically in New Mexico, the sun is crisp, the air is light, and colors of nature are at their most intense. Artists flock to New Mexico because they love to paint the “light.” Here I was, just me and nature, enjoying the early morning light filtering through the leaves and catching a glimpse of that emerging, indescribable fall weather. I was ecstatic.

I flitted through the bosque. My gait even took on the lightness that enveloped me as I glided amongst the trees, dodging low hanging branches and skipping over roots shooting through the soil.

After a couple of hours, I grew a bit tired and hungry for breakfast. The sun grew hotter, and warned me that summer was still around in the afternoon. I exited the trails closest to the river and walked along a gravel pathway to ease my transition to “everyday life.” Soon I crossed over the street leading to my parked car, waiting for me amongst the shading, gigantic cottonwoods.

As I started the engine of my car, I was transported back from my in-depth and exhilarating experience with nature to my everyday life. COVID-19 was still with me, tyrannizing my thoughts and actions, but at least for a short time I escaped and found sanctuary and nurturance from a swath of nature just a few miles from my home. It was a blessing I accepted with gratitude.   

About the Author: Dr. Denise R. Ames

Dr. Ames’ varied life experiences— teaching, scholarly research, personal reflections, and extensive travels—have contributed to her balanced and thoughtful perspectives. Earning a doctorate in world history education, she has taught secondary schools, universities, a community college, and lifelong learners. In 2003, Dr. Ames founded the educational non-profit, Center for Global Awareness that develops globally-focused books and educational resources for grade 9-university. She has written eight books, plus numerous blogs, lesson plans, articles, newsletters, teaching units, and conducted professional development workshops for the non-profit and its clients.

Dr. Ames is now developing her new program: Turn, Transformation, Understanding, and Reflection Nexus.  Turn encourages life-long learners to see things with new eyes, learn from the past, and understand the relationship of all things. She teaches workshops/classes and writes about Turn’s five topics: learning from the past, cross-cultural awareness, five colliding worldviews, elder wisdom, and transformative travel.

Divided: Five Colliding Worldviews and How to Navigate Them has just been released! $14.95

Divided addresses the question on the lips of every American: why can’t we get along? The cultural divide is threatening our democracy and destabilizing our country. Divided looks at the deep cultural divide through the lens of five colliding worldviews—indigenous, traditional, progressive, globalized, and transformative. This approach helps us make sense of our deep divisions and suggests ways of bridging them.

It is urgent that we understand and bridge the cultural divide. Bridging the divide is dependent upon first understanding it. Gaining an understanding of the five worldviews enhances our success of arriving at sensible solutions and increasing civil conversations. If not, rancor and intractability ensue.

Divided is one of nine books written by Dr. Ames and the Center for Global Awareness, check out their offerings! Global Awareness Books 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Rise of Populism, pt. 4

By Dr. Denise R. Ames

A growing political phenomenon, populism, is making headway in many countries around the world today, including western democracies. It is a worldwide phenomenon with far-reaching ramifications. Here is part 4 of this blog series …

6. Authoritarian Tendencies (cont.)

The prospect of some wholesale overthrow of the system in pursuit of greater unity is appealing to many authoritarians. An example of this sentiment was when Trump supporters in the 2016 presidential campaign claimed that they wanted someone to “shake things up.” The consequences of this shake up were vague, but the mere act of “doing something” to right the wrongs of the perceived corruption and chaos was appealing to his supporters. As a result, liberal democracy is least secure when authoritarians believe that another type of government is better able to grant them the oneness and sameness they crave.

Mocking, belittling, and patronizing authoritarians are triggers that further aggravate their anger and insecurity. Stenner found that to ease their distress, there needs to be greater consensus on issues, leaders capable of inspiring confidence, and rhetoric far more focused on the power of unity than the joys of diversity. Authoritarians are malleable in their positions; for example, the boundaries of “us” and “them” can be shifted as long as there is a common in-group identity.

7.  Populism and Democracy

The relationship between populism and democracy has sparked intense debates. Some critics see populism as dangerous to democracy, while populists often present themselves as the only true democrats. On the positive side, populism can serve to give status and recognition to some social groups who feel excluded and marginalized from the political process. It also directs negative attention to the elites of society, who the populists perceive as usurping power, privilege, and wealth from the common person. 

Populist leaders tend to dislike a complicated democratic system. When populism takes the authoritarian track, it is at odds with liberal democracy. As mentioned above, populists who have an authoritarian predisposition undermine the tenets of liberal democracy by rejecting notions of pluralism and the idea that constitutional limits should constrain the “general will” of the people. Populists tend to view democratic institutions such as Congress as alienating, rambunctious, and full of conflict; instead, they prefer direct democracy like referendums or executive orders that settle issues in a clear-cut manner. Ultimately, populist leaders make decisions in a way that typically isn’t possible in traditional democracies.

Populists who live in liberal democracies often criticize the independent institutions designed to protect the fundamental rights of minorities, particularly the judiciary and the media. Mudde notes, “Populists in power tend to undermine countervailing powers, which are courts, which are media, which are other parties. And they tend to do that through a variety of mostly legal means, but not classic repression.” Fearful of this type of governance, liberal philosopher John Stuart Mill described it as the “tyranny of the majority.”  

About the Author: Dr. Denise R. Ames

Dr. Ames’ varied life experiences— teaching, scholarly research, personal reflections, and extensive travels—have contributed to her balanced and thoughtful perspectives. Earning a doctorate in world history education, she has taught secondary schools, universities, a community college, and lifelong learners. In 2003, Dr. Ames founded the educational non-profit, Center for Global Awareness that develops globally-focused books and educational resources for grade 9-university. She has written eight books, plus numerous blogs, lesson plans, articles, newsletters, teaching units, and conducted professional development workshops for the non-profit and its clients.

Dr. Ames is now developing her new program: Turn, Transformation, Understanding, and Reflection Nexus.  Turn encourages life-long learners to see things with new eyes, learn from the past, and understand the relationship of all things. She teaches workshops/classes and writes about Turn’s five topics: learning from the past, cross-cultural awareness, five colliding worldviews, elder wisdom, and transformative travel.

Divided: Five Colliding Worldviews and How to Navigate Them has just been released!

Divided addresses the question on the lips of every American: why can’t we get along? The cultural divide is threatening our democracy and destabilizing our country. Divided looks at the deep cultural divide through the lens of five colliding worldviews—indigenous, traditional, progressive, globalized, and transformative. This approach helps us make sense of our deep divisions and suggests ways of bridging them.

It is urgent that we understand and bridge the cultural divide. Bridging the divide is dependent upon first understanding it. Gaining an understanding of the five worldviews enhances our success of arriving at sensible solutions and increasing civil conversations. If not, rancor and intractability ensue.

Divided is one of nine books written by Dr. Ames and the Center for Global Awareness, check out their offerings! Global Awareness Books 



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The Rise of Populism part 3

by Dr. Denise R. Ames

A growing political phenomenon, populism, is making headway in many countries around the world today, including western democracies. It is a worldwide phenomenon with far-reaching ramifications. Here is part 3 of this blog series …

5.  Populists as Disrupters

Populists typically show their distrust of the establishment by transgressing normative rules of behavior, language, and ethics. One example is behaving in a way that is not typical of politicians, such as using bad manners. Stylistically, populists often use short, simple slogans and direct language, and engage in coarse behavior, which makes them appear like real people. They use this colorful and crass language to distinguish themselves from the establishment. News coverage of populists often follows a tabloid format, emphasizing their preference and tendency toward melodrama, gossip, infotainment, and scattered and confusing narratives.

6.  Authoritarian Tendencies

Karen Stenner

Some populists have authoritarian tendencies. According to political psychologist Karen Stenner, “Authoritarianism is an individual predisposition to intolerance of difference that brings together certain traits: obedience to authority, moral absolutism, intolerance and punitiveness toward dissidents and deviants, and racial and ethnic prejudice.”

Among authoritarians individual autonomy gives ways to group authority. Stenner concludes that authoritarian tendencies are mostly latent when there is political consensus, little strife, and authority figures are trusted. However, the authoritarian tendency may be triggered or activated when people feel leaders are unworthy of trust and respect, and normative beliefs are no longer shared across the community or nation.

Authoritarians are boundary-maintainers, norm-enforcers, and cheerleaders for authority figures. The loss or perceived loss of these boundaries, norms, and authority is a catalyst for activating their latent authoritarian predispositions.

Authoritarians do not necessarily strive to preserve the status quo and are in favor of social change when that change entails shifting together in support of common goals. They are not opposed to government intervention to enhance oneness and sameness. Unlike libertarians, they are not necessarily supportive of laissez-faire economics.

Authoritarians are not necessarily open to new experiences, instead they have difficulty handling complexity, freedom, and difference. Conservatives grow more attracted to authoritarianism when public opinion is fragmented and fractious, and major institutions fail to inspire confidence. But when confidence in societal institutions is at a reasonable level, they are disinclined to adopt authoritarian stances.

About the Author: Dr. Denise R. Ames

Dr. Ames’ varied life experiences— teaching, scholarly research, personal reflections, and extensive travels—have contributed to her balanced and thoughtful perspectives. Earning a doctorate in world history education, she has taught secondary schools, universities, a community college, and lifelong learners. In 2003, Dr. Ames founded the educational non-profit, Center for Global Awareness that develops globally-focused books and educational resources for grade 9-university. She has written eight books, plus numerous blogs, lesson plans, articles, newsletters, teaching units, and conducted professional development workshops for the non-profit and its clients.

Dr. Ames is now developing her new program: Turn, Transformation, Understanding, and Reflection Nexus.  Turn encourages life-long learners to see things with new eyes, learn from the past, and understand the relationship of all things. She teaches workshops/classes and writes about Turn’s five topics: learning from the past, cross-cultural awareness, five colliding worldviews, elder wisdom, and transformative travel.

Divided: Five Colliding Worldviews and How to Navigate Them has just been released!

Divided addresses the question on the lips of every American: why can’t we get along? The cultural divide is threatening our democracy and destabilizing our country. Divided looks at the deep cultural divide through the lens of five colliding worldviews—indigenous, traditional, progressive, globalized, and transformative. This approach helps us make sense of our deep divisions and suggests ways of bridging them.

It is urgent that we understand and bridge the cultural divide. Bridging the divide is dependent upon first understanding it. Gaining an understanding of the five worldviews enhances our success of arriving at sensible solutions and increasing civil conversations. If not, rancor and intractability ensue.

Divided is one of nine books written by Dr. Ames and the Center for Global Awareness, check out their offerings! Global Awareness Books 


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The Rise of Populism, part 2

by Dr. Denise R. Ames

A growing political phenomenon, populism, is making headway in many countries around the world today, including Western democracies. It is a worldwide phenomenon with far-reaching ramifications. Here is part 2 of this blog series …

3.  The Common People are the Underdogs

Populists morally frame the common people as the underdogs, oppressed by evil elites. The way of life of the common people is good and rooted in the country’s “real” history and its traditions, which is regarded as being beneficial to the public good. Populists’ leaders claim that they alone represent the common people. Even though they may lack majority support, they claim the polls are rigged or the questions on the survey favor the elites.

Populists reason that they only lose an election if the common people have not had a chance to express their views. For example, Bernie Sanders’ supporters in his bid for the Democratic party nomination in 2016 blamed his loss on a “rigged” system that elected the more establishment candidate Hillary Clinton, despite the fact that he lost by thousands of votes.

Populists frequently invoke conspiracy theories or elaborate rationalizations for political losses; the elites are still manipulating events behind the scenes in order to benefit them and keep the common person compliant. Therefore, if the populist politician doesn’t win, there must be something wrong with the system.

Logically, this argument would seem to fail once populists enter government and become the establishment. But a primary appeal of populism is its underdog status, so they continue to portray themselves as victims even at the height of their power in an incessant game of blaming others for their shortcomings or mistakes.

4.  Populist Leaders Are Usually Elite Men

Anti-elitism is a key feature of populism. Populist leaders often present themselves as representatives of the people, but they often come from the upper echelons of society, either through wealth or elite education. Leaders get around this contradiction by distinguishing their elite status as “self-made,” a qualifying mark of their leadership abilities.

They vigorously claim that they are not the despised established political elites. In fact, they are fighting against the established elites for the ordinary person. Populists often condemn not only the political establishment, but also economic, academic, cultural, and media leaders, which they present as one uniform, corrupt group. For example, President Donald Trump does not consider himself to be in the category of the elites; instead he frames himself as a self-made businessman who has sacrificed his position of power and wealth in order to battle against the corrupting elites who are oppressing the common person. A populist leader who gets into power is in a perpetual crusade to prove to the people that he is not an establishment figure and never will be.

The overwhelming majority of populist leaders have been men. They often present themselves as men of action and images rather than men of words, talking of the need for bold action and common-sense solutions to issues which they call crises. Male populist leaders often express themselves using simple and sometimes vulgar language in an attempt to present themselves as the common man or “one of the boys” to add to their populist appeal. Overstepping traditional political boundaries, they may use language that draws attention to their virility and sexual prowess.

About the Author: Dr. Denise R. Ames

Dr. Ames’ varied life experiences— teaching, scholarly research, personal reflections, and extensive travels—have contributed to her balanced and thoughtful perspectives. Earning a doctorate in world history education, she has taught secondary schools, universities, a community college, and lifelong learners. In 2003, Dr. Ames founded the educational non-profit, Center for Global Awareness that develops globally-focused books and educational resources for grade 9-university. She has written eight books, plus numerous blogs, lesson plans, articles, newsletters, teaching units, and conducted professional development workshops for the non-profit and its clients.

Dr. Ames is now developing her new program: Turn, Transformation, Understanding, and Reflection Nexus.  Turn encourages life-long learners to see things with new eyes, learn from the past, and understand the relationship of all things. She teaches workshops/classes and writes about Turn’s five topics: learning from the past, cross-cultural awareness, five colliding worldviews, elder wisdom, and transformative travel.

Divided: Five Colliding Worldviews and How to Navigate Them has just been released!

Divided addresses the question on the lips of every American: why can’t we get along? The cultural divide is threatening our democracy and destabilizing our country. Divided looks at the deep cultural divide through the lens of five colliding worldviews—indigenous, traditional, progressive, globalized, and transformative. This approach helps us make sense of our deep divisions and suggests ways of bridging them.

It is urgent that we understand and bridge the cultural divide. Bridging the divide is dependent upon first understanding it. Gaining an understanding of the five worldviews enhances our success of arriving at sensible solutions and increasing civil conversations. If not, rancor and intractability ensue.

Divided is one of nine books written by Dr. Ames and the Center for Global Awareness, check out their offerings! Global Awareness Books 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Rise of Populism, pt. 1

By Dr. Denise R. Ames

01.1 populismA growing political phenomenon, populism, is making headway in many countries around the world today, including western democracies. It is a worldwide phenomenon with far-reaching ramifications. The term was coined in the late 19th century, and the movement has resurfaced at various times in modern history.

Populism is a political stance that appeals to ordinary people who feel that their concerns are overlooked by the established elite. Populism sets in on the left and right side of the political spectrum. At this point I will describe seven general characteristics of the phenomenon to give an introductory overview of this trend.

Seven Characteristics of Populism:

1.  A Thin Ideology

Populists call for ousting the political establishment, but they don’t identify what should replace it. According to Cas Mudde, populism is a thin ideology, one which, on its own, is not substantive enough to offer a comprehensive ideology for governance. 05.2It differs from “thick-centered” ideologies such as liberalism, socialism, federalism, nationalism, conservatism, or fascism that have developed more comprehensive views on the relationship of politics, economics, society, and religion.

As a thin-centered ideology, populism is flexible and populist politicians attach it to thick-centered ideologies. It is a complementary ideology that spreads itself through thicker ideologies in order to facilitate political rule.

2.  Appeals to Common People

Populists are dividers, not uniters. Although populism means “for the people,” it splits society into two hostile groups: “the pure (or common) people” and “the corrupt elite.” Populists purport to speak to the common people, who feel that the political establishment overlooks or degrades their concerns and anxieties. In keeping with the flexibility of populism, the concept of “the people” is vague.

05.3According to populists, the pure people share a sense of identity that distinguishes them from different groups within society. The pure people are also considered virtuous and their selection of populist leaders is self-legitimatizing. While a liberal democracy is a political system based on pluralism in which different groups with different interests and values are all legitimate, populism is just the opposite.

Populists tend to define the common people as those who are with them. They separate the world into warring camps. The common people may be connected according to their socioeconomic status or class, in which they share certain cultural traditions and popular values. Populists make the case that the dominant elite belittle or devalue those peoples’ values, tastes, character, and judgments. Therefore, it is the duty of the people to retaliate against this disparagement.

Populists often employ the common people as a synonym for the whole nation, whether that national community is conceived in ethnic or civic terms. In such a framework, all individuals are regarded as being “common” to a particular state either by birth or by ethnicity.

About the Author: Dr. Denise R. Ames

01.2 DeniseDr. Ames’ varied life experiences— teaching, scholarly research, personal reflections, and extensive travels—have contributed to her balanced and thoughtful perspectives. Earning a doctorate in world history education, she has taught secondary schools, universities, a community college, and lifelong learners. In 2003, Dr. Ames founded the educational non-profit, Center for Global Awareness that develops globally-focused books and educational resources for grade 9-university. She has written eight books, plus numerous blogs, lesson plans, articles, newsletters, teaching units, and conducted professional development workshops for the non-profit and its clients.

Dr. Ames is now developing her new program: Turn, Transformation, Understanding, and Reflection Nexus.  Turn encourages life-long learners to see things with new eyes, learn from the past, and understand the relationship of all things. She teaches workshops/classes and writes about Turn’s five topics: learning from the past, cross-cultural awareness, five colliding worldviews, elder wisdom, and transformative travel.

Divided: Five Colliding Worldviews and How to Navigate Them has just been released!

07.3 and 08.2Divided addresses the question on the lips of every American: why can’t we get along? The cultural divide is threatening our democracy and destabilizing our country. Divided looks at the deep cultural divide through the lens of five colliding worldviews—indigenous, traditional, progressive, globalized, and transformative. This approach helps us make sense of our deep divisions and suggests ways of bridging them.

It is urgent that we understand and bridge the cultural divide. Bridging the divide is dependent upon first understanding it. Gaining an understanding of the five worldviews enhances our success of arriving at sensible solutions and increasing civil conversations. If not, rancor and intractability ensue.

 

Divided is one of nine books written by Dr. Ames and the Center for Global Awareness, check out their offerings! Global Awareness Books  

 

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