Category Archives: Politics

At a Loss

I am at a loss as to what to write about this week.  I think I’m a little depressed about Elizabeth Warren dropping out of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination following her steep descent in the polls and inability to generate the number of votes she needed to begin accumulating delegates.  She was so clearly the best candidate, in my mind.  While she didn’t have Hillary’s baggage, and she was exponentially more personable than Ms. Clinton (and equally smart), the American populace didn’t trust her, for some reason.  Multiple Democrats I spoke to held her missteps against her disproportionately to their seriousness.  One woman said she was turned off by Elizabeth’s claims to have Native American heritage, and thought it was misguided for her to have released her DNA results.  (But what if she HADN’T released those results?  She would have been criticized for THAT.  This is a pattern that keeps repeating . . .  Women and people of color have to be exceptional, and yet their errors and hiccups are deemed unforgivable.  They are held to a higher standard, and so fall further when they do something – ANYTHING – wrong.)

Another Democratic woman I know thought Warren was “being mean” when she repeated a statement by Bernie Sanders that he didn’t think a woman could be elected president in this country.  Yet another woman I know – otherwise very liberal in her thinking – excoriated Warren for attacking Michael Bloomberg during the debate by repeating an allegation that he had told a woman employee to have an abortion when she announced her pregnancy.  I pointed out to this woman that, had Elizabeth been selected as the nominee, and had she gone after trump that way in the general debates, Dems would have cheered her on.  In fact, she would have to be twice as “tough” and “mean” as a man to stand up to trump’s inevitable bullying and name-calling.  But she didn’t get the chance, so we’ll never know.

(Do you notice that these are all women making these criticisms?  It hurts my heart when women are so unsupportive of other women.  It’s true, woman are not perfect beings.  But I have to believe, as a percentage, there are far fewer female assholes in the world than male ones.)

But here’s the best thing about Elizabeth Warren.  After what must have been a crushing Super Tuesday, and her difficult decision to end the campaign she had worked so hard and so well to develop, down to the smallest detail (and which she was still willing to tweak as she heard from constituents and evolved her positions, as I would hope any intelligent world leader would do), she still managed to invite Rachel Maddow into her home in Massachusetts and do an amazing, gracious interview – without even getting choked up, which I frankly did a few times listening to her – and end with a still-positive message.  And to top off what would have been a devastating week for most folks, she did a brilliant cameo on Saturday Night Live and hugged everyone at the end (coronavirus be damned!).  (I especially loved the GIF she did with Kate McKinnon that made the rounds on Facebook where they were dueling dancing Elizabeths, and McKinnon could barely keep a straight face at the end watching Liz’s genuinely playful postures.)  I love you, Elizabeth Warren, from your trim, colorful blazers to your comfortable shoes, from your “I have a plan for that” to “She persisted”!  I know she will continue to be the kind of senator and public servant (perhaps with a role in the next administration?) who blow-torches through interrogations (as she reminded us today in a clip from 2016 she posted on Facebook of her grilling Leonard Chanin to emphasize what a terrible choice Chanin would be to serve as acting Deputy Director of her beloved Consumer Financial Protection Bureau; “He doesn’t belong within 100 miles of the CFPB,” she said in today’s post) and sparkles as a role model to the future Katie Porters and AOCs of Congress, state and local governments and the world, including all those little girls to whom she made pinky promises.  Ideally, some of her “plans” will even make it into the Democratic platform to shape policies for the near future (such as her blueprint for a new disability plan based – as most of  her “plans” are – on intensive consultation with the people who have the most stake in her positions).

So now we’re stuck with Bernie and Joe, two septuagenarians battling it out for a chance to defeat yet another septuagenarian in November, who represent the left and center (right?) of the Democratic Party.  The general consensus seems to be that Joe is the “normalcy” candidate, while Bernie would prefer a revolution.  Our system of government is so broken – trump being as much a symptom as a cause – it could probably use a good blowing up and starting over.  But people are afraid, and I get it.  We just want to feel safe again.  We want what we EXPECT to happen to actually happen.  And above all, we want trump GONE.

I truly hope that, if Biden wins a majority of the delegates (which appears likely, although it ain’t over till it’s over), Bernie can convince his supporters to work together with the rest of the party to remove the orange stain from the Oval Office.  Perhaps it would take something as simple as letting the Bernie Bros have a powerful voice in the platform process, a kind of “horse trade”: If we work together across the invisible line dividing the party to elect a Democrat as the 46th president, maintain the majority in the House and actually gain four (or more?) seats in the Senate, the moderate winners will make (and KEEP) some promises to the left on matters where agreement is the strongest, such as with family leave and child care and humane and economically effective immigration policy, for instance, and save the Medicare-for-all health care battle for later, or as something to be worked on in installments rather than all at once.  Show trump and his Republican toadies who the REAL dealmakers are!  And also show how the American democracy is supposed to work – allowing the minority a voice, but respecting the will of the majority, until the next election rolls around to effectuate any necessary adjustments.  Because for the first time in four years, the majority will really BE the majority and not just a vocal segment of the minority that managed to, by some combination of voter apathy, Hillary hatred, garden-variety cheating and a Russian finger on the scale, elect this abomination who, in my mind, is not even worthy of a capital letter for his name.

Apologies – I didn’t really mean to be so rabidly political this week after last week’s screed on socialism.  Losing the hopeful optimism that Elizabeth Warren represented for me was a tough blow.  But, like Liz, I’m going to try to stay positive and see a way forward through the fog.

Stickers

Some of my favorite stickers from my daughter’s collection.

Some Thoughts on Socialism

When did “socialism” become a dirty word?  It’s like “liberal” – my ex-husband used to use that as his worst insult for me.  Wasn’t “liberal” meant to be a good thing – like a “liberal” helping of ice cream on your apple pie?

Liberal definition (courtesy of Merriam-Webster):  “Marked by generosity; open-handed; given or provided in a generous and open-handed way.”  Hmm, that seems pretty nice, actually, kind and GOOD.  Here’s another usage:  “broad-minded, especially not bound by authoritarianism.”  Why, yes – that’s how I would proudly describe myself:  generous and broad-minded.  How does that get turned into an insult?  He may have meant it that way, but I never took it that way.

What about “progressive,” also used as a derogatory term these days in political discussion:  “making use of or interested in new ideas, findings, or opportunities.”  Also something to be proud of, I would have thought.  What’s the alternative?  Being stuck (or perhaps “comfortable” would be a more fair description) in the familiar, the customary, the tried-and-true?  Okay, I can see how there might be a little more leeway on this one, with some people believing in looking forward and some happy to stay where they are, although I cannot comprehend why anyone would want to go backward.  That just makes no sense to me at all.  There might be some things that were better in the past – take, for example, those Facebook memes that look back nostalgically at the 1970s, when we used to play outside till the street lights came on and rode our bikes everywhere, compared to how kids nowadays just play video games and obsessively communicate on their cell phones.  But you have to admit, no one would want to go back to the ‘70s, socially, technologically or even politically.  Even now, when the past four years have been a nightmare and so many of our trusted structures and rules have fallen by the wayside on a daily basis with little in the way of pushback, I wouldn’t want us to go BACKWARD when sane people take over again in 2021.  I want us to move EVEN MORE FORWARD, to make up for the slippage.

But what about this “socialism” I’ve been hearing used as the latest bugaboo by the right and Republicans?  (“You don’t want to elect a SOCIALIST, do you?  That’s almost the worst system of governance you can imagine – just one small step shy of COMMUNISM!!!  Bernie loves FIDEL CASTRO!!  And just look at what SOCIALISM did to Venezuela!”) Is it really as terrible as they try to make it seem?  Is Bernie Sanders the next Lenin or Mao, his Bernie Bros the 21st -century Bolsheviks?  There are certainly those who say that trump and his cronies reek of the fascism and national socialism that harkened the rise of the Nazis and World War II.  I think that’s actually a closer analogy than Bernie and the Communist Revolution.  Just look at the demonization of the “other,” the primacy of the wealthy, white and powerful, the bending of the rules of law and human decency to meet the needs of the privileged, and which society does THAT resemble more?

Bernie is smart (unlike trump).  He might have learned a thing or two from history.  The Communist experiments of Soviet Russia and China didn’t actually work (although the remnants of the underlying corruption certainly remain).  It’s not exactly a workers’ revolution he’s promoting – it’s more like a rising up of those of us in the bottom 90% who don’t own the top 1% of the wealth to say, “Hey, we want our fair share – and we definitely want health care!”

The socialism that Bernie is fighting for (and, to be frank, Elizabeth Warren, although she’s got a stronger connection to the capitalist structures that Bernie might rather see blown up and rebuilt in some other form) is more akin to what the nations of Europe enjoy.  While they have their complaints and economic woes like the rest of the world, the social democrats in Sweden, Denmark, Germany and France certainly garner higher scores on the World Happiness Scores.  (The USA is 19th, but 1-18 are all considered “democratic socialist” countries.) Their people get health care, parental leave and readily available child care, education and a more level playing field, which is why their middle classes are so strong and broad.

I’m not saying I’m a Bernie fan.  I’m actually not.  I don’t think he is the best candidate (although I will certainly vote for him if he ends up getting the undisputed nomination).  But I’m trying to make this point:  “Socialism” is not a dirty word.  It has been demonized and bad-mouthed for decades.  Winston Churchill famously said back in the 1940’s:  “Socialism is the philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy” (Perth, Scotland, 28 May 1948, in Churchill, Europe Unite: Speeches 1947 & 1948 (London: Cassell, 1950)) and “The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings. The inherent virtue of Socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.”  (House of Commons, 22 October 1945)

The Merriam-Webster usage guide offers this helpful description:  “In the many years since socialism entered English around 1830, it has acquired several different meanings. It refers to a system of social organization in which private property and the distribution of income are subject to social control, but the conception of that control has varied, and the term has been interpreted in widely diverging ways, ranging from statist to libertarian, from Marxist to liberal. In the modern era, “pure” socialism has been seen only rarely and usually briefly in a few Communist regimes. Far more common are systems of social democracy, now often referred to as democratic socialism, in which extensive state regulation, with limited state ownership, has been employed by democratically elected governments (as in Sweden and Denmark) in the belief that it produces a fair distribution of income without impairing economic growth.”

And here’s another fact for you all:  The United States is ALREADY rife with socialism!!  It’s all around us!!

Let’s take a look at how that plays out in today’s USA, courtesy of an article published on Daily Kos back on March 29, 2012 (but just as true today):  “75 Ways Socialism Has Improved America” (https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2012/3/29/1078852/-75-Ways-Socialism-Has-Improved-America).  [Thanks, Tommy Kelly, for sharing.]  According to article, there are at least 75 ways in which Americans enjoy socialism.  Just a sampling:

1, The Military and Defense

2. Highways and Roads . . .

4, Police

5. Fire Department

6. Postal Service . . .

9. Garbage Collection

10. Public landfills . . .

15.  Congressional Health Care [This is a big one – we actually pay for CONGRESS’ HEALTH CARE but we have to pay out of pocket for our own??] . . .

17. EPA

18. Social Security [Another big one – THIS IS OUR MONEY and yet trump and the Republicans are determined to find ways to TAKE IT AWAY FROM US.] . . .

20. Public Schools

21. Prison Systems [While there has been a rise in for-profit prisons, there would seem to be something inherently wrong in profiting off larger prison populations, don’t you think?] . . .

23. Veterans Health Care

24. Public Parks

25. ALL ELECTED GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS [emphasis mine] [WE PAY THEIR SALARIES!!  THEY WORK FOR US!!  We seem to have forgotten this, with all of trump’s “I can do whatever I want.”  No, you can’t.  You work for US.  We should have some say in what you can and can’t do.] . . .

28. Medicare [That’s the one for the senior citizens, something else that WE PAY FOR and will hopefully get a chance to use when we need to if the Republicans don’t try to chip away at it.].

29. Court System . . .

34. IRS [Thanks to which all of this is made possible!] . . .

36. Pentagon . . .

38. FDA . . .

41. Disability Insurance . . .

45. Unemployment Insurance . . .

The list goes on, but you get the picture.

My conclusion?  I have no problem with what Bernie is selling.  I think the majority of the people in this country desperately need it, but the difficulty is that the folks who need it most are the ones who seem, inexplicably, the most resistant.  Why wouldn’t rural America be jumping at the chance to know that they can keep the farm, with government subsidies (that a lot of them already get, and even more now thanks to trump’s bungling of trade negotiations with China), but they would also get free health care, better public schools and an opportunity to go to community college for free (and a four-year college inexpensively) to expand or improve farming methods, or to give the next generation more opportunities in life?  The same goes for factory workers in communities where the local manufacturing plant has closed.  WHY WOULDN’T THEY WANT THIS??  They already get so much for their tax dollars under the socialism “umbrella” – why not just embrace it and have the people who have all the wealth (that fortunate 1%, who largely have “earned” their wealth through inheritance) pay a commensurate share?  They can certainly afford it. Just like the folks who most need help are the ones who inexplicably vote against their interests in local and federal elections, so too the folks who have more money than they know what to do with are so adamantly opposed to sharing it for the public good.  But because the rich benefit equally from socialism – if not even more – it would only be fair for them to pay what they can afford into the system rather than forcing people who CAN’T afford it to bear the bulk of the burden.  As the Daily Kos article says, “Socialism is taxpayer funds being used collectively to benefit society as a whole, despite income, contribution or ability.”

Bottom line:  The entire government – including those Republican Senators who refuse to consider doing their jobs (i.e., debating and passing bills into law), including the cadre of far-right judges being appointed by the Federal Society and rubber-stamped by those same Senators, including even our ill-suited executive and his team of sycophants – is paid for by YOUR TAX DOLLARS.  Yeah, trump doesn’t take a salary, but we have to pay for his golf weekends, and the Secret Service for him and his extended family, and for all of his “entertaining” at the White House and elsewhere.  YOUR TAX DOLLARS pay for all that, for a freaking millionaire, sucking the marrow out of the bones of the working and middle class who are the only ones left to foot the bills, thanks to the tax cuts afforded the wealthy and mega-corporations.  Doesn’t that seem WRONG to you?

Is the middle class problem with being provided with universal health care, etc. under a more socialist system because they’re afraid they’re going to have to pay higher taxes for it?  This is the thing I don’t get.  WE ALREADY PAY TAXES, and what do we have to show for it?  A bloated military and military-industrial complex (that can’t afford to pay its human inventory, whether in-service or post-service), lots of shadowy foreign aid and the rest of the “socialist” structures mentioned above that THEY’RE ALREADY PAYING FOR!!  Wouldn’t it be nice to know Joe Six Pack and Stella Secretary actually GET SOMETHING in exchange for that hefty tax bill they have to pay every April?  To actually know that your tax dollars are going to pay for something YOU use every day, like your health care and your education, not to mention the roads, bridges, police and first responders, libraries, protecting your food and medication, and the water you drink and the air you breathe, and who cleans up after you . . . you get the idea.

Sometimes I wish people would just THINK for a minute before they SPEAK.  If they did, they might not have so much to complain about.  Like Harry S Truman said, from the back of a train in October 1952 as he campaigned for Democrats against the Republican ticket led by Eisenhower: “Socialism is a scare word they have hurled at every advance the people have made in the last 20 years. Socialism is what they called public power. Socialism is what they called social security. Socialism is what they called farm price supports. Socialism is what they called bank deposit insurance. Socialism is what they called the growth of free and independent labor organizations. Socialism is their name for almost anything that helps all the people.”

I think Churchill had it wrong (which is ironic as his country is more “socialist” in the 21st century, with its National Health Service, free university, the “Dole” and housing for the poor, than the USA.  As do those working and middle-class people who have been bamboozled by trump and the Republicans into thinking they’re looking after your interests by protecting you from the poison of “socialism”.  Open your eyes, people, to the benefits of “socialism” all around you, and maybe our government and the reasons for its existence will start to make sense again.

IMG_0037

Your (socialism) tax dollars at work (#42 – Town/State Run Beaches)

I Don’t Understand

I’ve never considered myself to be a student of human nature, of the motivations that compel people to do what they do.  This probably explains why I never succeeded in my attempts at writing fiction:  All my characters think and sound like me because I literally can’t get into the heads of others.

There’s a lot going on in the world of politics today that I just don’t understand.  First and foremost, I do not understand the appeal of Trump.  Not one iota.  To me, there is nothing attractive or powerful about the man.  The way he looks, the way he speaks, his rampant narcissism and bullying – why every American isn’t disgusted by all of that (and more) is beyond my comprehension.  Behavior we wouldn’t tolerate from a middle schooler is allowed to inundate our airwaves, the Internet and print media.  Why do we waste so much time and space on him?  He is a laughing stock internationally and makes people worldwide question the intelligence (and sanity) of Americans.  Every time he comes on the TV or computer screen, I involuntarily avert my eyes from his ridiculous hair and orange face with the white circles around his eyes like some kind of sunburnt albino raccoon.  I cringe when I listen to him speak, garbling words and repeating his sixth grade vocabulary to the point of incoherence – who could listen to that and be anything but embarrassed for the man?  When his followers are interviewed at his rallies, they say they like him because “he tells it like it is”.  Well, if an incoherent soup of lies, insults and unsubstantiated boasts  are “like it is,” then I guess they have a point.

A woman I know professionally and with whom I’ve shared a meal or two, mystifies me with her Facebook posts.  She was very helpful to me during a stressful time in my life, and I genuinely like the woman.  Based on what she posts on Facebook, it’s clear that she loves animals and is concerned about the preservation of the natural environment, and she has even shared some intelligent and humane items on immigration and income inequality.  But she is an unabashed  Trump fan and constantly posts negative items about Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer and Democratic leaders generally that make them out to be liars and the scourge of our country and the reason why things are as terrible as they are in this country right now.  I cannot comprehend such utter cognitive dissonance.

I don’t understand why people like her consistently vote against their interests.  Why are there any middle class supporters of Trump at all?  If you’re not a multi-millionaire like him, he doesn’t care one whit about you except to the extent that you shower him with praise and adulation.  For that, you are useful to him.  Otherwise, he couldn’t care less.  I read about a recent Gallup poll that claimed 6 in 10 Americans think they’re better off today than they were three years ago, but I just don’t see it.  I must be part of the 4 in 10 who is struggling, paying more in health care bills, utilities, student loans and credit card interest than ever before, with no relief in sight, seemingly unable to get ahead or escape the crushing debt.  And yet, I saw another article today about the record levels of personal debt Americans are carrying.  That explains it, then.  We’re better off because we’re more willing to go into debt to get there.  (See my post last week about the curse of consumerism – and here’s a post-script to that:  I forgot completely to mention this new insane phenomenon of “influencers”.  For the uninformed, these are otherwise talentless individuals who have managed to develop a social media persona whereby they promote certain products and accumulate followers, which earns them money and the opportunity to promote more products and get more followers, and on and on.  Yet another thing I do not get at all:  why people waste their time and money on the advice of nobodies who want you to buy things just so they can bolster their reputations.)

I don’t understand why someone like Lindsay Graham can be so anti-Trump during the 2016 campaign – and be insulted and belittled by him; remember Trump’s public disclosure of Graham’s cell phone number? – and suddenly become his biggest fan?  Same with Ted Cruz or even “Little” Marco Rubio.  Don’t these guys have any self-respect?  Humans shouldn’t be able to make 180-degree turns like that without a good reason, and I haven’t seen one, unless fear of reprisals from a bully and a jerk are sufficient justification.  What has Trump done for Graham or Cruz or Rubio to make them change their tune so radically?  I just don’t get it.  And why haven’t former loyalists like Jeff Sessions and Rex Tillerson, who Trump insulted mercilessly both in and out of office, stood up and defended themselves, or at least questioned why this behavior is allowed to continue?  I’ve heard that former Chief of Staff John Kelly has finally started talking sense, but really, who’s listening other than people who already agree with him?

Some people’s motivations are clearer than others.  Take Mitch McConnell, for instance.  His drivers are greed and power.  That much is obvious.  But why is he so adamant about creating an insurmountable logjam of bills in the Senate that ultimately reflects badly on him?  I guess his Kentucky constituents are still behind him (although that will be proven in November, as a really attractive Democratic opponent, military hero and mom Amy McGrath, is lurking back in his home state generating grass roots support hopefully sufficient to remove his saggy ass from office while Mitch wastes all our time rejecting House bills in D.C.), but here’s a thought – why bother keeping Trump around?  McConnell could do the same damage with Mike Pence as president and have a lot less mind-boggling baggage to deal with.  If I were McConnell (which, happily, I am NOT), I would have cut my losses with Trump and thrown in with Pence in a heartbeat when handed a primo opportunity with the impeachment trial.  Pence is a lily white, homophobic, religious right-wing nightmare, but he’s not a megalomaniac, wanna-be dictator like Trump who daily threatens the rule of law and democracy itself through his cruelty, ignorance and self-absorption.  Frankly, I didn’t understand why there wasn’t more of a push amongst Republicans when they held both the House and the Senate to oust Trump, because only Republicans would have been in the line of succession.  Now, if anything happened to Trump and Pence to remove them from office, we’d have President Pelosi, which would be a karmically delicious outcome for Democrats but awfully dangerous to Republicans.  I have to believe there are other ways to disseminate the poison of the Republican agenda that don’t involve the unpredictable and ridiculously unattractive Trump.

That’s another thing I don’t understand about Republicans in general — why they have been so willing to abandon their core (or at least they used to be core) ideologies, such as reducing the deficit, limiting governmental control and preventing executive overreach?  In an effort to try to make sense of some of these motivators, I consulted former Republican media manipulator Rick Wilson’s book, Everything Trump Touches Dies, which provided a comprehensive analysis of why Republicans are so willing to drink the Trump Kool-aid.  But even with all of Wilson’s explanations, and acknowledging that, if Trump is skilled at anything, it’s being a con man (it’s certainly not being a deal-maker), those rationales still rang hollow.  Trump, to me, is like the old alcoholic who takes up residence at the end of the neighborhood bar, a built-in fixture bloviating about everything and anything, who knows it all and has all the answers, and no one listens to him until the bartender finally says, “Enough, old timer,” and calls him a cab so the patrons can finally get some peace and quiet.

Or do Republican goals only have meaning if Democrats are in control of government?  Another thing I don’t understand about Republicans is, if they want government out of people’s lives so much, why are they so fixated on controlling what women do with their own bodies, or what folks do in the privacy of their bedroom, or what children are taught in schools?  If you’re going to roll back regulations in favor of Big Agro and Big Oil and Big Pharma because they don’t want government intruding into the workings of commerce, what about rolling them back for the Little People?  (In that sense, I have somewhat Libertarian tendencies and think government should be less about CONTROL and more about SUPPORT.)

But enough about the incomprehensible Republicans – what about the Democrats?  How is Elizabeth Warren not the most popular candidate in the 2020 campaign?  Why are the strongest candidates at the moment all old white men in their 70s?  Why do young people so fervently support a crazy-haired old white guy who would (figuratively) blow up the establishment in a heartbeat rather than everyone’s favorite teacher, a mom and grandmother, who is truly looking out for the “little guy” in a less combative way than Bernie (but then again, don’t challenge her, because she’ll put you in your place in a heartbeat)?  She doesn’t have Hillary’s baggage, and she’s smarter than anyone in the room (but doesn’t feel the need to brag about it).  The New York Times, former fellow candidate Julian Castro and others clearly agree with me (although the Times split their endorsement with Amy Klobuchar, who I also like, but I don’t think she’s as complete a candidate as Elizabeth Warren is).  When she dialed back her plan for Medicare-for-All after being criticized for it, by saying, “Okay, we won’t force it on you, but we’ll give you a chance to try it, and I’m sure you’ll like it” – which in my mind was such a reasonable response: she re-considered her position and offered up a compromise solution — how was that a bad thing?  And yet pundits and the public deemed that a problematic development and have even blamed her supposed “backtracking” for her drop in the polls.  There’s a woman I know through my rescue group who is very kind and funny and I think we could be better friends if I ever managed to wake up early enough to join her at the local pool for Aquasize.  But she and I had a text discussion the other day where she said she doesn’t trust Warren because she had the temerity to release her DNA results in connection with the whole Native American brouhaha.  To me, that was Warren being transparent, but to her, it was disqualifying.  This is what we’re up against!!  I don’t understand it – not one bit.

[An aside on that episode in Warren’s trajectory:  I kind of understand where she was coming from with her claims to Native American heritage.  First of all, she was PROUD of it, so why is that a negative?  We should all take more pride in our Native American ancestors and predecessors rather than ignoring the slow genocide of a race of people that continues to this day.  I’m certain it was a matter of a childhood spent listening to family tales of a great-grandma or auntie who was a member of the Cherokee Nation, and feeling pride in that.  I have something similar in my history:  My father told us for years we were descended from gypsies, which explained his clairvoyance and ability to tell what was in wrapped packages before he opened them.  In my youth I would brag about being a gypsy (before learning about their darker side, of course), but I confess I would be a little disappointed if I did a DNA test and it didn’t come back with at least a little Romany ancestry.]

And one last thing I don’t understand (although believe me, there’s more):  What’s the deal with women who willingly subvert themselves to men ? Maybe their excuse is fear, or it’s all they’ve ever known, but thinking that way only serves to perpetuate second-class citizenship for females.  Why are there woman saying America is not ready to elect a woman president?  To the contrary, women should be DEMANDING a woman president, and since we actually make up a slight majority of the population in general, we should win every election if we stay true to our gender.

The bottom line?  I wish I had more clarity about human nature, but given that we are so complex and not always transparent, it doesn’t seem likely that I’ll get it.  People’s motivations will continue to be a mystery to me.  Even on those rare occasions when I think I know why people do the things they do, something will be revealed that shows my assessment to have been completely wrong.  All I know for certain is this:  Whatever their inclinations, the majority of Americans had better do the right thing come November 3 and vote the current disaster out of office (and make sure he leaves).  I am so tired of living in Bizarro World, where presumably decent and intelligent people are controlled by their fear of the insults and retribution of a Cheetoh-colored man-baby.

no understand

No comprendo.

 

2017:  The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

I blame the New Yorker.  I kept getting emails in my inbox from them, teasing me with a few of their intelligent, well-written articles and glimpses of the on-point cartoons (“Love them New Yorker cartoons!” frequently writes a Facebook friend.)  So, in the spirit of supporting definitely-not-FAKE NEWS (which also accounts for a subscription to the Washington Post that I can’t really afford right now), I ordered a trial subscription.  (I also, by dint of some clerical error that I won’t be calling to anyone’s attention, received not one but two fantastic New Yorker totes as a thank-you gift.)  The subscription has caused a bit of a problem in that I don’t have enough “free reading” time – I pretty much only ready on the train going into the city once a week, and really only coming home because I tend to nod off on the morning ride – and the New Yorker articles are so dense and just, let’s face it, LONG, so the magazines were just piling up.  I’m only now getting finished with the November 9 issue.  So I discontinued the subscription when it came time to renew at the regular rate (which, needless to say, I can’t afford).

Apart from overloading my limited reading time, the more egregious thing that my New Yorker subscription did was expose me to all that quality writing, which had the effect of shifting my confidence decidedly back into the “I will never write as well as these people” sphere.  So I blame the New Yorker, but that’s only one of many reasons why I seem to have abandoned my blog just short of three years from its inception in March 3, 2015.  It causes me indescribable psychic pain that I wasn’t capable (for whatever reason) of keeping up with my weekly blog posts, and since November I haven’t posted anything at all.  And yet that discomfort hasn’t been painful enough, evidently, because I haven’t done anything to stop it.

Is it mere writer’s block?  True, I haven’t been writing much in my journal either.  In fact, I have to force myself, most nights in bed before I fall asleep, to even manage to pen a few quick paragraphs to recount my day and beat myself up over how miserably I’ve failed at keeping up with my writing.  (On the positive side, I’m at least somewhat proud of that meager diligence, and also that I manage to write SOMETHING in my joy book every day, even if it’s “No joy today”.)  It’s also the case that my brain hasn’t been particularly brimming with creative ideas or juicy thoughts ripe for squeezing out on paper.  I’ve basically been BLANK for months.  The things that occupy my gray matter lately fall into three categories:  the good (not much – mostly my kid, my pets and volunteering at the shelter – oh, and actually having a parking spot every time I leave the house); the bad (my money woes, hating a job that I desperately need, lacking an overriding “purpose” to my life and continuing to be somewhat of a hermit); and the supremely ugly (TRUMP and the travesty our government has become in the hands of the Republicans).

The fact that it’s winter doesn’t help.  I’m pretty sure I may have mentioned it once or twice in this blog, but I HATE WINTER.  I especially hate when it snows, as it did this past week (nearly two feet in drifty spots), and digging out the carport was no picnic.  Thank goodness Darian had to free her car right away for a trip to Boston to catch a flight to the Cayman Islands (SO JEALOUS!) with her college friend’s family, and then a lovely man with a snowblower and three pre-teen “assistants” with shovels came by the following day to liberate my car.  To add to the snow, the temperatures were well below freezing for nearly two weeks and my front-of-the-house pipes froze, halting the flow of water in my kitchen and main bathroom.  Fortunately, we still had heat and hot water in the small master bath at the back of the house (tiny shower and tinier sink) throughout the frigid snap.  But only on Tuesday morning, as the temps hit 40, did all my water come back.  The short, dark days, the cold, the mess – all of that contributes to my seasonal depression.  Plus the Rangers – usually the only bright spot in the winter months – aren’t playing particularly well (and they’re actually in their “bye week” right now, so there’s been no hockey AT ALL for nearly a week), so that’s become more of a downer than an upper on the mood scale.

Underlying it all is this feeling of futurelessness.  Like, when I try to envision my life in twenty years, ten years, even five, I don’t see anything different than what I see right now, and that is ultimately kind of paralyzing.  Realistically, I know things won’t stay the same – in fact, I can almost guarantee that I won’t be doing this job much longer, which will create a whole different trauma.  I had my worst year, billable-hourly speaking, since I started working there over fifteen years ago.  And (by design) I don’t participate at all on any of our “big client” deals that the younger partners in our group spearhead.  When the senior partner in my office, who has enabled me to finagle my current plum working situation, was removed as practice group leader (“moved up” to global practice group leader, they said, but he and I both knew what it really was) last year, I was sure I would get my walking papers.  Fortunately, the new practice group leader knows me a little bit (although he works on the West Coast) and appreciates my work (at least so far), so he kept me on.  After this past year, though, there’s not really much justification for my retention unless I expand my scope and I am too lazy and unengaged to do that, I’m afraid.

So let’s say they cut me loose – then what??  I won’t get a severance package because I’m a contract attorney, not an employee.  I guess I could try to collect unemployment, but I have no idea how to do that.  It might force me to start another career, even if I have to begin at the bottom of the ladder.  At least I could explore areas that are more fulfilling to me – ACLU, civil rights work, even some kind of animal law, or perhaps not even practicing law anymore and getting back into the publishing sphere – but that would probably involve having to LEAVE MY HOUSE to work a regular 9-to-6 shift somewhere (to which I would also have to commute).  It’s been so long since I’ve had that experience, I don’t think I even remember how to do it (and I’m pretty sure I don’t WANT to do it).  That is, if I can even get through an application-and-interview process that sounds like the worst kind of hell right about now, given my lack of self-confidence.  I’m way too lazy for my own good.  And don’t even mention the inevitable reduction of income.

So, as you can see, there’s enough “bad” there to choke a horse.  I don’t even want to get into the “ugly” because it fills me with such impotence and gloom and an overriding fear that it’s only going to get worse, somehow, if all the controls come off completely.  I remember when Trump first (inexplicably, shockingly) won the election, the thing that most upset me was that there would be no checks on him, given that the Republicans controlled both houses of Congress and he would take advantage of the Supreme Court nomination stolen from Obama (by those same dastardly Republicans) and create a conservative majority (please the gods, no one else dies or leaves while he’s still in office!).  (Alarmingly, it’s largely gone under the radar what a travesty Trump’s judicial lifetime appointments to the lower courts will turn out to be.)  He’s stacking the deck with hand-picked federal prosecutors and even trying to get the Justice Department and FBI, both of which are sworn to uphold the law wholly independent of any president, to swear fealty.  It’s an “American Horror Story,” all right.  And it’s brought out all this ugliness in so-called publicly elected (and supposedly publicly accountable) government officials.  Whatever happened to “You work for US”??  November 2018 can’t come soon enough, and there needs to be waves of volunteers helping everyone who wants to vote, because the Republicans are going to do their damndest to shut out (and shut up) the Democrats.

I’ve never in my life been so obsessed (and not in a good way) with the workings of our government, but it’s probably a civically responsible thing that I am.  In fact, every week I receive an email about the local neighborhood association meeting, and I note it but I never actually go.  (That’s not precisely true – I went once, when they were talking about hiring a “parking consultant” to sort out the parking situation in the West End, which turned out to be a colossal waste of taxpayer money with no apparent results.)  This year I am committed to going to the meetings regularly and maybe even getting involved on a committee or something.  The last president of the West End Neighbors Association went on to win his first election as city councilmember this past November, so who knows?  Maybe I would make a good politician!  There’s a woman I met at one of my Organize Plan Act (OPA) meetings named Elaine DiMasi who is running for House representative in Suffolk County to unseat the terrible Lee Zeldin.  She is a scientist and is operating a really intelligent campaign, getting out to meet her potential constituents and LISTENING TO THEM, which is something that I think this happy flood of women candidates nationwide will do much better, as a bloc, than their male counterparts.  (There are always exceptions – I’m looking at YOU, Susan Collins.)

One of the pundits I follow regularly since Trump came along is Robert Reich, formerly the Labor Secretary under Bill Clinton and an incredibly smart man (who also draws well!).  I saw on Facebook the other day his “GUIDELINES FOR 2018”, which I found encouraging and uplifting and entirely do-able:

  1. Don’t use the president’s surname. [Well, I do call him “Trump” but I never use the word “president” when I refer to him or, like Charlie Pierce of Esquire does, use an asterisk! One of my OPA colleagues always uses a lower-case “t”.]
  2. Remember this is a regime and he’s not acting alone. [And they’re the truly frightening ones – Trump is an ignorant puppet who can be easily manipulated.]
  3. Do not argue with those who support him—it doesn’t work. [I’ve lost so much respect for people I know who support him that I wouldn’t waste my time.]
  4. Focus on his policies, not his orange-ness and mental state. [Again, they’re not necessarily “his” policies since he only parrots what he hears – see #2 above.]
  5. Keep your message positive; they want the country to be angry and fearful because this is the soil from which their darkest policies grow.
  6. No more helpless/hopeless talk. [These two might be tough, but I’ll try my best.]
  7. Support artists and the arts. [YES! ALWAYS!!]
  8. Be careful not to spread fake news—check it out first.
  9. Take care of yourselves.
  10. RESIST.

To end on a positive note, let’s look at the good – and there IS definitely some, and I do my best to remember that.  My daughter is home, at least for a little while, till she figures out her next career steps.  January finds her, first, in the Cayman Islands for a rainy but warm vacation, and then she’s off to Thailand for five days (almost longer in the air than on the ground) to pick up some pups from the Soi Dog Foundation, an affiliate of Posh Pets Rescue who saves dogs from the meat trade and other cruelties in Southeast Asia.  Generous Soi Dog donors periodically offer to pay the round-trip airfare for volunteers to come to Thailand and then accompany a few doggies back to the States to find their forever homes.  It was an ideal opportunity for travel (which she loves to do), so she jumped at it.  She’s never actually been to Asia (apart from a wedding on the Asia side of the Bosphorus in Turkey), so that will be yet another continent represented on her “world travels” map.  I’ll finally get to see her again at the end of the month!

But in the meantime, I have furry children to keep me company.  We’re above maximum capacity at the moment, on the canine AND feline side.  The Posh Pets cat director, Vanessa Vetrano Vaccaro, had a horrible fire at her house just before Thanksgiving and actually lost five of her favorite cats, which was heartbreaking, although the many fosters living with her were saved and shuffled off to various locations in Westchester and Long Island.  In the chaos after the fire, I of course offered to take in one of her foster cats.  As this happened a couple of weeks before Darian’s graduation (on December 15, a day that will live in Lucas Family history!), I had a whole room in which to host him.  Turns out the cat I took home wasn’t one of Vanessa’s cats at all:  He was just a stray that lived in a foreclosed house down the block from her.  But he’s never going to live outside again, as he has become House Cat Supreme, lazing all day on the bed and getting cuddles and pets, non-stop purring and making biscuits.  He’s a big, beautiful strawberry blonde boy we first called Fred, which we had to change when another “Fred” was surrendered to the shelter the same day.  So then we were calling him “Big Red,” but once Darian got home, she decided she didn’t like that name because it reminded her of a girl she didn’t like, so now we’re calling him “Greg”, which seems to fit just fine.  Greg is still officially a foster cat but we are going to have a hard time giving him up.  My daughter is very fond of him as well, and shares her bed with him nightly.  They haven’t even posted him on the Posh Pets website yet as none of us can manage to get a good photo of him (as the below can attest – it does NOT do him justice).

Greg (fka Fred, Big Red)

Greg (fka Fred, Big Red)

And earlier this week I took home a little 7-month old Teddy Bear (bichon-shih tzu mix) named, appropriately, Teddy.  Teddy was one of fifty (!) dogs that Posh Pets saved from a puppy mill auction where they sell these beautiful creatures off like so much merchandise after having lived their lives as breeding machines, stuck in a metal cage with bars under their feet so the poop and pee can fall through, never feeling a human touch or love.  It was harrowing for the Posh folks that actually went there and for those of us here at home, too, as we heard the horror stories.  What a cruel business!  And what’s even worse is that so many of those puppy mill puppies will end up in shelters when the unthinking folks who preferred to buy from pet stores rather than adopt inevitably unthink their way into surrendering an animal whose family membership they didn’t fully consider. (More ugliness, I’m afraid.)  We can’t change people but we can save some lives, including little Teddy’s.  I didn’t have him for long.  He was adopted today by a lovely family in New Jersey and he’s going to have the best life ever.  Housebreaking and separation anxiety will need to be worked on (although he was a pretty quick study with the weewee pads), but he’s so cute and cuddly and playful, he’ll make a wonderful companion.  So now I’ll probably end up taking another one of the 50.  So many dogs!!!  Watch this space.

IMG_1109

Teddy has a forever home!

Finally, the ultimate “good” is this:  I have a roof over my head (and now I even have running water from all my faucets!); reasonably good health (although my medical insurance situation is a whole other nightmare that I’ll tackle in another blog post); a house full of love and barking (and yes, plenty of poop and pee – my garbage men must find me disgusting); good friends and family (even though I don’t see them often enough); and a college graduate daughter whose future stretches out before her like a sparkling (if maybe a little daunting) yellow brick road.  And maybe, just maybe, I can re-start my blog in earnest and resurrect it as the pleasurable pursuit it was intended to be.

The Graduate

The graduate and her siblings

Happy 2018!

A sad post-script:  My cousin George has officially retired “The George and Tony Entertainment Show,” which makes me very sad, especially as his foray into the podcasting arena was a catalyst for me to start my blog.  RIP, GATES.  You will be missed.  I am encouraged, though, by inklings that his podcast days are not entirely over and that there’s some new project in the works.  I certainly hope so!  Cousin George has shown himself to be an intrepid interviewer and a charming and funny host.  Can’t wait to catch up on some of the podisodes I missed in the last year or so and look forward to his future endeavors.

20171127_121008

The End Is Overdue

With each passing day, the Trump debacle becomes more worrisome even as it gets closer to imploding.  I spend far too much time thinking and worrying about it.  Recently, an idea occurred to me that seems so obvious that I had to wonder why no one has been discussing it.  (Conceivably I could have missed an opinion piece covering this topic, but, believe me, I read and watch a lot – A LOT, altogether TOO MUCH – of news reports about the current state of affairs in a variety of mediums, none of which qualifies as “fake news” in my book, although it certainly would for Trump and his herd.)  My idea is this:  By any measure, Trump is a narcissistic ignoramus, a serious peril to the people and perception of the United States, who denigrates the traditional American image and wreaks havoc on our global interests every time he opens his disgusting, petty little mouth or sends a misguided tweet with his stubby, uncalloused  little fingers.  So, why are the Republicans so intent on keeping him around?  If Trump were removed from office somehow (and in all likelihood the Republicans will have to be the ones to do it via impeachment, hopefully in the very near future), a conservative Republican would be the next in line, for as far down the line as we might end up going.

First up would be Mike Pence, although in my estimation he is also a dangerous lunatic who is wildly complicit in the whole disastrous Trump presidency and spends most of his time, when he’s not kissing Trump’s ass publicly, standing idly a step behind him with a smug smile while Trump puffs and poses and bloviates.  If I had my druthers, Pence would be eliminated from office as well, if not prosecuted for perjury and obstruction of his own.  (At the very least, he should be disqualified for being blind and naïve.  How could he not have known Mike Flynn was a political time bomb?  Representative Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) has spoken often on his rounds of the political commentary shows about the dated letter that was sent to the White House TELLING THEM EXACTLY THIS.  So when Pence said he didn’t know, he either didn’t read a missive from the House Oversight Committee or he read it and then lied about it.  And that’s just one example of Pence’s duplicity.)

So let’s just say, wishfully speaking, that Pence is out as well, flushed down the toilet with the rest of the Trumpian turds.  Who’s next?  Paul Ryan, who has been a vice presidential candidate and a presidential candidate and is slobberingly desperate for this gig.  And if for some reason he’s out of the running, who’s next?  President pro tempore of the Senate, Orin Hatch, another long-standing spouter of the conservative party line.  WHY AREN’T THE REPUBLICANS CLAMORING FOR TRUMP’S REMOVAL?  Not that it would be great – oh, god, no – but at least there would be certain expectations of something resembling normal governmental functioning, decorum and (sort of) ethics.  At a minimum we wouldn’t have to deal with a president who is perhaps one of the dumbest people alive, who doesn’t believe that the law (which the legislators in Congress have the duty to create) applies to him and who is frighteningly apt to get us involved in some scary stuff, like a war or a dictatorship.*

If the Republicans successfully removed Trump from office, then America could start moving away from being the laughingstock we’ve become in the last six months.  (Six months!)  Some people might even see these Republican stalwarts as HEROES!!  They CLEANED HOUSE (literally)!!  They DID THE RIGHT THING!!  Saved the nation and the world from a lawless madman who should never have been elected in the first place, who won a tainted election with help from our mortal enemy, who belittled and insulted EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM during and even before his campaign (and it continues to this day).  We won’t even remind them how much they simpered and sniveled and said, “Yes, Mr. Trump”, “Whatever you say, Mr. Trump” for far too long, before finally coming to their senses and taking assertive action.  What possible benefit do the Republicans get with Trump IN office that they would not have – perhaps three or four times over – if he were NOT in office?  Republicans would still control all three branches of government, and there wouldn’t be a polarizing, clueless idiot at the helm who, between the “Russia thing”, his disdain for the law and his love of authoritarianism, is very likely risking THEIR jobs in the 2018 election.  Trump sees no issue with threatening to fire special prosecutor Bob Mueller or his own attorney general, Jeff Sessions, both of whom are technically supposed to be neutral, to serve the Constitution and the American people, not to blindly swear loyalty to Trump, especially now that Mueller is getting closer to the truth (Sessions is a strawman).  But Trump does not consider himself constrained by the traditional boundaries of how the U.S. government is supposed to work – and has worked – for upwards of two hundred years, or by the rules of ethics that should prevent him from profiting off his presidency.

I just don’t get it.  Congressional Republicans are craven people out solely for their own interests (and those of their deep-pocket donors, so, like I said, their own ($) interests).  Why don’t they admit that this ridiculous “Buffoon-in-Chief” experiment has failed miserably and they need to make the next move?  Who will step up to restore order to the law?  Democrats don’t have the numbers, nor do they have a cohesive message at the moment, but they would surely support the impeachment by the House and the conviction by the Senate.  So it’s got to be those craven, self-interested Republicans.  Hurry, please, before he blows something up.  He’s feeling like a cornered dog and all he knows how to do is destroy.

* I’ve been interested in this bipartisan bill being considered in Congress right now about preserving and even beefing up the sanctions against Russia as punishment for their (concededly admitted) meddling in the 2016 election.  According to Trump’s new press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, he’s is ready to sign it.  [Sanders replaced the beleaguered Sean Spicer, who finally grew some cojones and decided he was done being a punching bag, but it may be too late for him now, since he’s shown himself on the public stage to be little more than a kicked dog.  I mean, how crushed must he have felt when Trump wouldn’t let Spicer, a devout Catholic, meet the Pope when they went to the Vatican?  Sad!]  But that’s probably because he is not aware (it almost goes without saying that Trump has not read the bill) that, within this potential law, there is a provision that says the president can’t reduce or remove the sanctions without the express approval of Congress.  It might be a hollow gesture, given that, as long as the Republicans retain control, they would probably red-stamp a Trump request.  But at least the opposition would be out in the open and subject to the court of public opinion (if not the actual courts).

Willful Ignorance

Synchronicity, serendipity – whatever you want to call it – is real.  My early notes for this week’s blog post read, “Not sure what I want to blog about this week but I had an idea – maybe the Willfully Ignorant, or Willful Ignorance, or something like that.”  Mere moments after writing that in my journal, I came across multiple articles and quotes that echoed that very thought.

First was a post on Facebook by my friend and fellow resistor (the master resistor, actually) Chris Cangeleri of an opinion piece from the Miami Herald called “In Trumpworld, it’s OK to be ignorant” [Leonard Pitts, Jr., MiamiHerald.com, 2/17/17, http://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/article133497824.html].  A great quote from the piece, which almost exactly captured what I had been thinking to write, was:  “It’s time we talked about the most consequential political divide in this country.  That divide is not between liberals and conservatives. Rather, it is between the ignorant and the informed, between those who have information and can extrapolate from it and those who do not and cannot. There is an education gap between left and right, and it poses a grave threat to our national future.”

I’ve written about this before and I likely will again, because it’s something that troubles me very much about my country.  I’ve never considered myself one of those “Rah-Rah-U.S.A.!” people.  As much as I grew up loving the Olympics, it was the sportsmanship among athletes rather than the competition between countries that appealed to me most about them.  I’m part of a generation – the Baby Boomers – that has witnessed a time of greater prosperity than has ever been known in the world, and the United States has had the most respect it has ever had (or may ever again have).   I’ll save the history lesson for another day, but the bottom line is this:  I can never remember a time in my 50-plus years of life when there was such a sharp gap between the educated and the willfully ignorant in this country.

And there is no greater evidence for this than the results of the 2016 presidential election. During the campaign, whenever I listened to Donald Trump speak (and how could I NOT?  The mainstream media, which he now deems them “the enemy of the people,” gave Trump so much free TV time, we couldn’t escape him), I would hear nearly nonsensical strings of fourth-grade-level vocabulary words in run-on and incomplete sentences that wouldn’t be conveying ANYTHING, really, and he would punctuate his every line with “Believe me!”  or “Am I right?” and a wave of his signature stubby-fingered OK sign.  (What a tell!  Every time Donald Trump says “Believe me!”, he is clearly lying.)  And I would say to myself, “How could anyone in their right mind think he’s making any sense whatsoever?  What is he SAYING?  Does he even listen to HIMSELF?”  Yet so many people – none of my close friends (with whom I am universally politically aligned) but certainly many people I know, who I consider at least semi-intelligent – were hearing something completely different.  What they were hearing was what they WANTED to hear.  It didn’t matter if it didn’t make a lick of sense; they wanted to hear it, so that’s what Trump was saying.

In considering this week’s post, in addition to the Pitts article cited above, I also serendipitously came across a couple of pithy quotations.  One was posted by another one of my fellow resisters on Facebook, from an American abolitionist and vocal supporter of women’s and Native American rights back in the mid-19th century named Wendell Phillips (who was also a contemporary of Frederick Douglass, who still has definitely NOT done any great things lately).

The Wendell Phillips quote:  “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty; power is ever stealing from the many to the few. The manna of popular liberty must be gathered each day or it is rotten. The living sap of today outgrows the dead rind of yesterday. The hand entrusted with power becomes, either from human depravity or esprit de corps, the necessary enemy of the people. Only by continued oversight can the democrat in office be prevented from hardening into a despot; only by unintermitted agitation can a people be sufficiently awake to principle not to let liberty be smothered in material prosperity.”

Heavy stuff, but the bottom line is this:  In a free country, the people have to be vigilant about their rights because once they hand over their power to the elites in control, it is damn hard to get back.

We’re a nation of sheep, as Trump’s election has proven:  ignorant people being led by the nose by Fox News and con men and people with money who control the people who don’t have money.  The populace is woefully ignorant – and willfully so.  Organized religion contributes to that, and also a lack of respect and support for teachers and public education (as evidenced by the ability of the thoroughly unqualified Betsy DeVos to not only buy her position as Secretary of Education but also to make noise about eliminating public education entirely, to be replaced by some mishmash of home schooling and charter schools and God in the classroom – egads!).  Sometimes I think people are happier to be told what to do rather than to think for themselves.

I’ve written about this before in a broader post about public education [“An Ideal Education,” 7/6/16].  It troubles me that so much focus in schools is on teaching to standardized tests and not teaching youngsters how to think for themselves based on their powers of observation and critical analysis.  That kind of emphasis is sorely lacking in schools until college level education, and by then most of the folks who need to be critically thinking about their roles and responsibilities in this country and the world have essentially dropped out of the system.

The founders set up the U.S. Constitution as a blueprint for governance of the people, by the people, coming as it did out of the fight for independence from a controlling monarchy.  Today’s sheep give lip service to patriotically living up to the standards of our forefathers but they’re not willing to question authority and get involved in their own governance.  It’s an awesome responsibility, and what’s happened is that large numbers of people (perhaps a majority of us, and I include myself in that number) have abdicated their power to such a degree that they allowed a con man to be elected by a bare majority of the bare majority (57.9%) of eligible Americans who actually bothered to vote in a damn presidential election, let alone mid-term or local elections, when you can have the most access to the governing power that most affects you.

The other quote I came upon was from George Orwell, whose classic 1984 is undergoing a rediscovery because of its prescience.  Said Orwell, “To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.”  This is so, evidently, because it is so easy to believe what you want to believe, especially when people in power are pushing it on you, despite the actual FACTS in front of your face.  The denial of the FACTS in front of one’s face has become alarmingly common, and the people in power are doing nothing to change that (and, in fact, are unabashedly promoting such denial).

That George Orwell quote was cited in a transcript of the Daniel Pearl Memorial Lecture at the UCLA given by Bret Stephens [“Don’t Dismiss President Trump’s Attacks on the Media as Mere Stupidity”, Feb. 18, 2017, Time.com, http://time.com/4675860/donald-trump]. Following on Orwell’s quote, Mr. Stephens said, “We each have our obligations to see what’s in front of one’s nose, whether we’re reporters, columnists, or anything else. This is the essence of intellectual integrity. Not to look around, or beyond, or away from the facts, but to look straight at them, to recognize and call them for what they are, nothing more or less. To see things as they are before we re-interpret them into what we’d like them to be. To believe in an epistemology that can distinguish between truth and falsity, facts and opinions, evidence and wishes. To defend habits of mind and institutions of society, above all a free press, which preserve that epistemology.  To hold fast to a set of intellectual standards and moral convictions that won’t waver amid changes of political fashion or tides of unfavorable opinion. To speak the truth irrespective of what it means for our popularity or influence.”

I could go on – I haven’t even touched on the absurdity of the accusations of “fake news” by Trump and his minions against established and reputable newspapers and media conglomerates with extensive fact-checking teams and decades of public trust.  Certainly, the big ones are controlled by a few powerful (wealthy, white, male) people, but I think, if Big Media is guilty of anything, it’s of trying too hard to be fair and balanced, to the point where they’re almost afraid to call bullshit when they hear it.  Not to mention the free publicity they gave (and evidently continue to give, since Trump is still campaigning even after winning) the Trump campaign.

But I’m preaching to the choir.  It seems highly unlikely that I will change anyone’s mind or convince them that they need to work a little more on their critical thinking skills because they’ve been bamboozled bigly by a con man.  I go to sleep every night hoping that, when I wake up, it will all have been a bad dream.  But perhaps one good thing has come of this horrible political nightmare:  The outpouring of protest and public outcry will maybe, just maybe, cause some of the previously willfully ignorant to do a little more digging, get a little more involved, and start seeing clearly what’s been in front of their own eyes all along.

Some Post-Inauguration Thoughts

Well, it’s done.  We’re stuck.  Trump is the president of the United States for the foreseeable future.*  Something I never believed would happen has come to pass.  I remember telling my good friend Carole, when she expressed the grim certainty this past summer that he would be elected, that I couldn’t even conceive of it.  The nightmare is real.  I’m scared for my homeland, for current and future generations of Americans, including my suddenly politically aware daughter, but I feel existentially depressed and powerless to do anything about it.

I did join a local grassroots group called Organize, Plan, Act (OPA) that was begun by a couple of my high school classmates but which has expanded beyond the borders of Long Island.  (And anyone who is interested, please check out our page on Facebook.)  We had an in-person meeting this week, which made up for in passion what it may have lacked in focus.  There’s just SO MUCH we need and want to do – to protect our rights, to turn Congress and get more progressive representation that can actually resist the Trumpian juggernaut, to do battle on the side of “right” (not THE RIGHT, but what’s right and fair and sane) – but there’s also a danger that we’re just preaching to the choir.  We didn’t discuss this at the first meeting, but I think our focus needs to be on reaching out to people on the other side of the aisle who can be convinced to cross party lines and do what’s “right” (there’s that word again) when faced with decisions that will negatively impact our present and our future.  WE already know what’s what; it’s THEM that need convincing.  Yes, we need to let our Democratic senators and representatives know that we support them in their opposition, but it’s Republicans who we need to sway on issues because no matter how loud the Democrats speak, they will always be outnumbered (at least until mid-term elections in 2018).  Republicans may seem monolithic at times, but they’re not.  Representative Adam Kinzinger (R‑Ill.) was on “Vice News” the other night as an example of a congressional Republican who is not convinced by Trump and has publicly refused to blindly support him.  Senator Lindsay Graham is no fan, and neither is Senator John McCain, and I optimistically wonder if they (and others) would be willing to break party ranks if enough people from their own and other districts complained, especially if they have broader political ambitions.

Truth be told, I still feel powerless, even after the outpouring of support and solidarity represented by the Women’s March the day after the inauguration.  While certainly heartened and hopeful, perhaps most by the wide range of generations in attendance (with so many brilliant signs and banners; my favorite said “Respect Existence or Expect Resistance”), the first thing that popped into my head (and evidently – although I am loathe to admit that I share ANY thought with him – Trump picked up on it, too, in his first tweet on the topic) was, where were these people when Hillary needed them?  But then I thought to myself, these ARE the people who were “with” Hillary. Even if every voter at the Women’s March had voted for Hillary, there were still too many people who didn’t, who even now, months after her loss, continue to denigrate her.  There are actually people in my life who I consider generally decent who question whether she would have been any better.  OF COURSE SHE WOULD HAVE BEEN BETTER.  If Hillary were in office, we would know what to expect.  Now, it’s a constant, decidedly-non-fun guessing game in terms of how crazy Trump will be on any particular issue, or how wrong his “people”.  The very first gig of his press secretary Sean Spicer consisted of a petulant rant accusing the media of trying to make it seem like there were fewer attendees at the inauguration than there actually were.  WHO CARES HOW MANY PEOPLE WERE THERE?  There are so many more important things that need to be addressed.  Yet they continue to perpetuate lies in the face of actual facts to the contrary, like Kellyanne Conway saying Spicer was putting forth an “alternative” set of facts.  THEY’RE NOT FACTS!!  THEY’RE FALSEHOODS.  (Thanks, Chuck Todd, for your incredulous response that literally took the words out of my mouth.)  There’s a dramatic difference between the two that Trump and his people don’t seem to get.

I’m still a combination of numb and scared and angry, still feeling helpless and impotent. But the word that keeps coming into my head is VIGILANCE.  We need to be vigilant.  It’s unfortunate to hear people say they don’t pay attention to politics, and I confess that I was less than interested, even after the buffoon George W. Bush and his cronies stole the election of 2000 (although I would take W. in a heartbeat right about now), but it’s become very clear to me, with our rights and freedoms under threat, that the government impacts so much in our lives that we take for granted.  I’m just waiting for the day when I can stand up against some injustice or speak out when something needs to be said so I can feel like I’m having some positive impact, no matter how small.  One small impact added to a bunch of other small impacts should eventually add up to a large impact.  Unfortunately, so far my protest activities have been limited to the OPA meeting, emailing and phone-calling my senators, Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, and my newly elected representative, Kathleen Rice (all of whom, I am proud to say, are progressive and outspoken Democrats that I have voted for), and posting “Like” and “Angry” responses on Facebook, but hopefully now that my eyes and ears have been well and truly opened, I will be able to take more substantive action soon.

It’s tough to pull any positives out of the inauguration of Trump.  [An amusing aside:  I posted a great article on Facebook the other day (Charles P. Pierce, “Today Was Just the Beginning. The Reckoning Will Come”, Esquire.com, 1/20/17, http://www.esquire.com/news-politics/politics/a52437/donald-trump-inauguration-day-report/).  Something I particularly loved about the article was that every time Mr. Pierce wrote “President Trump”, he put an asterisk after “President”.]  But at a minimum it should demonstrate to Democrats and progressives and probably Libertarians and all clear-thinking people that they need to mobilize, make lots of noise and take meaningful action because Trump and Congressional Republicans have all the power and want to take any modicum of power that remains away from everybody else.  We can’t sit idly by and let our planet be ravaged and our rights infringed.  The Women’s March was just the beginning (I hope).

Finally, I’d like to end this kind of dark and depressing post with something a little more uplifting, my personal rallying cry, which has been borrowed in this form from an article by Seth Millstein (“What To Tell People Who Say You Have To Accept Donald Trump’s Presidency Now”, Bustle.com, 1/19/17, https://www.bustle.com/p/what-to-tell-people-who-say-you-have-to-accept-donald-trumps-presidency-now-31726) but I had already posted something along these lines in my first public stand-taking on the Facebook page of Rep. Peter King, one of the New York Republicans we are targeting for removal in 2018:  “I reject the implication that just because Trump is president, we aren’t allowed to condemn him anymore. To the contrary: We most definitely are allowed to condemn him, whenever we like and as strongly as we see fit. One of the nice things about living in a democracy is that we’re allowed to freely criticize our government. This is the constitutional right of every American, and I’ll exercise it under any president with whom I disagree. I suspect I’ll be exercising it frequently under the Trump regime.”

_______________

*I read something interesting on Robert Reich’s Facebook page the other day.  (I love Robert Reich, by the way – he is so measured in his outrage and backs up what he says with actual, not alternative, facts.)  He recounted a conversation he’d had with an anonymous former Republican congressperson who explained that the Republicans are really just using Trump to push their pet agenda items through – like repealing the ACA, gutting Dodd-Frank, cutting the taxes of corporations and the wealthy, yada-yada-yada.  (A quote that really struck me:  “They’ll get as much as they want – tax cuts galore, deregulation, military buildup, slash all those poverty programs, and then get to work on Social Security and Medicare – and blame him. And he’s such a fool he’ll want to take credit for everything.”)  Then they’ll suddenly find something Trump says or does so outrageous that they’ll have to impeach him, and then Crazy Scary Pence will become president, which is what they wanted all along.  Evidently, it was the condition they set for backing Trump in the election.  Sounds a little tin-foil hat but also TRUE.