Memorial Day, a quick look back

Mary Ann Williams frequented her husband’s grave, a Confederate officer from Columbus, Georgia, who fell to the Civil War. Mary Ann decorated the deceased husband’s grave, and her daughter inspired her to lay flowers at the graves of all fallen soldiers. The sentiment caught up in many Southern states and soon came to be commemorated as Decoration Day to honor, mourn and celebrate the dead soldiers.
The practice quickly spread to Northern US; in 1868, John Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic declared it a Memorial Day for all the fallen soldiers, confederate or Union. Memorial Day has survived the “appropriation” charges of some of the leaders in the South. After WW II, Memorial Day became more or less universally accepted over Decorative Day. In 1968, Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday on the last Monday of May to honor all the soldiers who sacrificed their lives for the country’s good.

As the long weekend occasions, family gatherings, BBQ, and the usual commercial excesses, it ought to compel us to recognize the day’s solemnity.

Mary Ann Williams started a tradition that blurred the divide of the Civil War with a noble tradition that commemorates the sacrifices of all who laid their lives that a grateful nation honors on this day.
As the divisions remerge, this day should also remind us that we are all Americans. Our differences are beneath us, and the bonds that bind us are stronger; if not, we stand to default on the debt owed to the fallen soldiers.

As I remember, I say a silent prayer: Together Better.

– Brij

Merit Anyone?

I went to medical school in 1976 and have been tested innumerable times for nearly five decades to affirm a threshold of competence. The testing preceded medical school and is a subliminal part of every patient encounter. Patients have the right to be comfortable with their quality of care. Any deviation from that covenant can defile the fundamental rule of medicine; the sacred Hippocratic Oath: First, do no harm. The notion of competence seems to be in a state of disrepair, and merit is losing its relevance. We are still struggling with a parallel experiment dubbed Modern Money Theory that proclaims government can print to prosperity; it surely ignites inflation and guts the toils of hard-working. A mulish submission to magical ideology and distribution of free money to influence elections can win a battle and lose the war.
Some amongst us are fiercely determined to wreck all metrics that measure merit and underpin the nation’s upward trajectory. From high school SAT exam to dilution of academic criteria for college admission, substantially corroded by DEI requirements, to hollowed-out Next Gen bar exams and more, is a fatalistic attempt to erode America’s pre-eminence. I lack the insights of the anti-meritocracy crowd to appraise their beliefs, but I do see the precipice they are pushing the next generation to.
On top of that, many of us are firm in our convictions, hold irreconcilable differences, and stand against each other.

Let’s contrast this with the Chinese Communist Party’s vision. CPP, through a generational effort, has homogenized syllabi with an emphasis on merit and STEM. CPP has also essentially solidified most of the population in a single-minded nationalistic dedication.

The much-anticipated freedom in China as an offshoot of prosperity failed to materialize, and the Chinese society, for now, has settled in for relative prosperity against tumultuous freedom.

It’s a simple equation: ill-prepared and divided against rigorously prepared and united. The superpower stature stands shaky for us if we don’t course correct.
Job fitness has to be a universal and continuous requirement. We need a Captain Sully if the plane has to land in the Hudson River. Even Michael Jordan can’t find a berth as a player at his present age in NBA. As faculties build and strengthen from birth to adulthood, they inevitably decline in later years before eventuating in a final exit. We need fine-tuned, external, and transparent processes that measure job fitness. Most of us concur with this basic premise of fitness but can act as a judge and jury when assessing personal fitness. The self-assessment gets inherently biased because a concomitant cognitive decline with age can often cloud an impartial judgment.

On multiple occasions, I have had to carry the difficult conversation with my senior colleagues to let go of the scalpel. It’s a death-like experience akin to letting go of the car keys, but it saves lives.
Recently, I watched the senior Senator from California, with blatant evidence to the contrary, state that she is still fit for the job. I do not doubt that she believes it, mark that as exhibit one against self-assessment. We as a nation have to decide whether we let cognitively extinguished and physically impaired stubbornly demand persisting in self-service at the country’s expense. Similarly, questions abound about job fitness for a Senator from Pennsylvania and a Congressman from New York across the party lines.

We know the answer, its time we find a way to implement it.

Ageism, generally speaking, is a pejorative slur against a particular age group, like hello boomer. Irrespective of the heightened sensitivities of a specific age group, a job holder has to demonstrate the vigor and competence the job demands.

It is especially true regarding the Commander of the US military and leader of the free world, incumbent or the next. The good of the nation can not be subservient to the ambition of a few who have a hard time letting go.

If not, in the spirit of DEI and prevailing standards of merit, I want to play as the center in 4th quarter of 7th game in the NBA finals.

Merit anyone?

– Brij

Women in Higher Education

Brij –

As I prepare for my new position as Chancellor of the California Community Colleges, I’ve been reflecting on my time as Chancellor of the Kern Community College District. I wanted to share this video from a speech I made last summer for Women’s Equality Day.

In it, I talk about the importance of Early College, as well as some of the issues facing women in higher education. While there has been progress since I made these remarks last August, there is still work to be done in ensuring equality and equity for our students and our leaders in education.

– sonya


Permanence in transience.

The Hindu concept of reincarnation is genuine, at least physically. The Carbon trade of eating, eliminating, living, and dying satisfies the biological basis of reincarnation. The vegetables, humans, animals, and biomes; continually exchange matter.

Love, empathy, and care are an anthropic creation, an antithesis to the Cosmic reality.

We are the recipients of life without a cookbook to help navigate it.

Fear controls life.

Death is the ultimate tool against fear.

Fear belongs to the living.

Death puts an end to the fear the living harbor.

The billions of years that worked their magic in a tortuous journey through an incredibly finely tuned physics that eventually lent to the planet Earth with its current anthropic experiment, if the understanding of the past confirms the future, the infinity that confronts the sentient will be bereft of emotions and do its job as non-biologic photons extinguishing in eternal darkness.

AI allegedly will put the anthropic experiment to its place in the perpetually extinct.

While we are alive, let’s revel in the miracle of life.

¡ Feliz Cinco De Mayo!

– Brij