Category Archives: Social Commentary

Randomicity

Perhaps it’s the laziness borne of summer, or an overload of bad news on the political front, or even my daughter’s invasion of my physical and mental space these past few months.  But whatever the cause, I haven’t been able to string together sufficient cohesive paragraphs to produce a blog post since my last missive (which was a reflexive diatribe brought on by the aforementioned overload of bad news on the political front).  Regretfully, I haven’t been writing much in my journal – in fact, in a highly unusual circumstance for me, I’ve gone days without writing anything at all or, at most, a sentence saying how little I’ve been writing.

But occasionally I will have what I’ve been calling “common sense ideas,” which may ultimately end up turning into blog posts if I’m able to muster the sustained brain power.  For example, I think every publicly held company should include in every employee’s compensation package a share or number of shares of stock in the company, so employees become shareholders and literally have a vested interest in seeing their company succeed.  Those employees would care more about their jobs because the better they do, the better the company does, in a potentially endless cycle of success.

Another thought stream I’ve been entertaining (but I lack the capacity to get deep enough to write 500-1,000 words about it) is how I would fix the health care system in this country.  First, it should be mandated that all hospitals and all doctors have to take all insurances.  Second, all insurances should work the same way – same claims process, same reimbursement process, same referral process, etc.  This will cut down enormously on the administrative burden.  Third, the government should mandate that insurance companies cannot raise their rates every year, or ensure that any increases be linked to something like interest rates or cost-of-living.  Finally, as the process becomes more streamlined and the overhead and premium costs go down, then there would be no reason why larger employers couldn’t afford to insure even part-timers and the 30-hour minimum could be eliminated.

Here’s yet another recurring theme I keep returning to, in my head and my journal:  I don’t understand what the Republicans think will happen to the poor and the sick and the disabled and the elderly if they succeed in making Medicaid go away or cutting welfare and food stamps and school lunches, or when there’s no more funding for Section 8 public housing or public education.  (And of course, no abortions or contraception, so a ton of unwanted children adding to the already overburdened system.)  WHAT DO THEY THINK IS GOING TO HAPPEN TO ALL THESE PEOPLE IF THEIR LIFELINES ARE TAKEN AWAY??  If they thought the “great unwashed” were a burden before, what do they think they’ll be creating if Republicans are able to fulfill their dark and cruel desires?  Do they even care, as long as their own pockets are overflowing and they don’t have to actually SEE homeless or poor people?  It blows my mind.

And one more:  Elected representatives are supposed to do what their VOTERS want, not their DONORS.  Money for campaigns should be taken out of the equation entirely and people should be elected (or, more importantly, RE-elected) based on their record, not on how much money they’ve raised; on what they have DONE over what have they SAID (words are cheap, especially in the age of Trump).

* * *

So, those are some ways my mind has been wandering lately.  Which reminds me of the Beatles song, “I’m Fixing a Hole” (“to stop my mind from wandering / where it will go . . . “), which in turn reminds me of that post that was making its way around Facebook a few months ago about the 10 albums that most influenced you as a teenager.  A high school friend posted his list, and while I liked most of what he had included, my list would be ENTIRELY different even though it was from the same era.  My list of LPs on which I wore out the grooves in high school and early college is as follows (in no particular order):

  1. Bowie, “Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars”
  2. T. Rex, “Electric Warrior”
  3. Elton John, “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”
  4. Leon Russell, “Carney” (one of the first albums I ever purchased with my own money, Elton John’s “Honky Chateau” being the other)
  5. Led Zeppelin, “Houses of the Holy”
  6. The Beatles, “White Album” (“Sgt. Pepper” was a close second, and I also loved “Rubber Soul”)
  7. “The Ramones”
  8. Jethro Tull, “Aqualung”
  9. Neil Young, “After the Gold Rush”
  10. Pink Floyd, “Wish You Were Here”

Honorable Mention:

Queen, “Night at the Opera” (although my favorite Queen song, and the one that was our “let’s get crazy tonight!” theme, was “Tie Your Mother Down”)

“Foreigner”

Fleetwood Mac, “Rumors”

Rolling Stones, “Hot Rocks”

* * *

Speaking of school, remember how every new unit in English and science and social studies would include a list of vocabulary words that would be featured in the unit, and the first assignment was to look them up and learn to use them?  Well, in all the brilliant political commentary I’ve been reading lately (Washington Post, NYT, New Yorker, The Atlantic, Vanity Fair, Esquire [I especially like Charlie Pierce, who seems to come up with all these obscure terms to describe the “vulgar talking yam” and his minions], to name a few), I’ve come across a list of words that were either new to me or I’d seen them before but wasn’t sure what they meant (sometimes I like to guess and then see how close I am to the actual definition).  Some of those words (and their definitions, thanks to the Merriam Webster.com dictionary) are as follows:

sophistry:  subtly deceptive reasoning or argumentation.

mandarins (not the oranges or the Chinese):  a pedantic official; a bureaucrat.

mountebank:  a person who sells quack medicines from a platform;  a boastful unscrupulous pretender.  (See also:  Trump, Donald)

anthropocene:  the period of time during which human activities have had an environmental impact on the Earth regarded as constituting a distinct geological age.  (An aside:  I actually came across the word “anthrocene” in a song by Nick Cave, which may be a made-up word or a bastardization of “anthropocene”.  Actually, the well-read Mr. Cave probably got it from the science writer Andrew Revkin, who used the term “anthrocene” in his book Global Warming: Understanding the Forecast to describe a new geological era dominated by the actions of humans.)

wry:  bent, twisted, or turned, usually abnormally to one side; made by a deliberate distortion of the facial muscles, often to express irony or mockery; wrongheaded; cleverly and often ironically or grimly humorous.

redoubtable:  causing fear or alarm; or, alternatively, worthy of respect.

mondegreen:  a word or phrase that results from a mishearing of something said or sung (e.g., “Hold me closer, Tony Danza”).

shebeen:  an unlicensed or illegally operated drinking establishment.

oleaginous:  I initially thought it meant oily, and I was right, but it also means marked by an offensively ingratiating manner or quality.  (See also:  Trump Cabinet meeting)

opéra bouffe:  satirical comic opera.

numinous:  filled with a sense of the presence of divinity; appealing to the higher emotions or to the aesthetic sense.

imperious:  befitting or characteristic of one of eminent rank or attainments; commanding, dominant, domineering; marked by arrogant assurance.

I now challenge myself to use at least one of my new vocabulary words in my next blog post!

Frustration Overload

The other night I watched the powerful documentary “Hell on Earth:  The Fall of Syria and the Rise of ISIS” (2017), directed by Sebastian Junger and Nick Quested.  The filmmakers focused on two brothers who, with their families of young children, try to escape the two-headed horrors of terrorists claiming territory and a so-called leader who bombs and poisons his own people.  What is Assad’s end game here?  That he lords it over a shattered hulk of a landscape where whatever populace remains pay hollow homage and secretly hate him?  (Why do so many of the world’s despots have creepy close-together dead piggy eyes and petty little mouths?  Trump’s mouth resembles an anus, and Putin’s eyes are reptilian.  Assad, to me, looks like an ugly cartoon dog.)

What is the end game of ANY of it??  How will the impossibly complicated conflict among the various shades of Islam, secular and religious —and let’s not forget Israel, which is a burr under the saddle of ALL of Islam and a very key part of the Middle East notwithstanding Trump’s ignorance – come to any kind of conclusion?  Mutually assured destruction?  Holy war?  End of days??  Sometimes I wish there really WERE a messiah who would descend from the heavens to render final divine judgment on all the hypocrites and evildoers currently inhabiting this planet (and maybe resurrect all the monsters who came before, just for good measure).  And all the jihadists and evangelicals and hard-line Jewish settlers and atheistic bad guys (organized religion is responsible for a lot of humankind’s problems, but not ALL) will, once and for all, know that they’ve been wrong all along — that they’ve been erroneously proselytizing for a creator who loves its creation and would NEVER want it destroyed by war or murder or repression or man-made disease and climate catastrophes; that our creator, whatever or wherever it may be, is in all likelihood colossally disappointed by the way its precious creation has abused and maligned this most magnificent gift we have been given.

I’m just starting Richard Engel’s account of two decades of turmoil in the Middle East (And Then All Hell Broke Loose: Two Decades in the Middle East (Simon & Schuster, 2016)), from his vantage point as a war correspondent, and I’m already fascinated.  (I have such a crush on him.)  The Middle East of today is actually an artificial creation, manipulated by the world powers of Europe (primarily France and England), in much the same way that the populations of Eastern Europe were artificially and indiscriminately separated and forced together by Russia.  Of course, it was inevitable that the centuries-long exercise of colonial power by white, Christian, European men would end badly – the unwashed masses can only be trod upon for so long before they realize they’ve got strength in numbers and  can, with an effectively timed effort, rise up to resist their oppressors.  But what will it take?  What about people like me – perhaps a majority of us – who were fortunate enough to live a life of privilege, aware that it was at the expense of the less fortunate, but frustrated by the fact that there was little that could be done to change the situation from your vantage point, no matter how wrong you believed it to be.  And even at that, people of color, Native Americans, the poor and the homeless often resent much of the support and assistance proffered by (white) people who have sympathy and maybe even empathy but will never truly understand what their lives are like.

Of course, as a female, I am a member of a repressed class that, as recently as the 1920s, was still deemed to be nothing more than the property of our fathers and then our husbands, too feeble-minded (dare I say secretly dangerous?) to even open our own bank accounts or purchase a car.  Generally speaking, all women are still objectified and belittled and demeaned by all men — but especially white men in positions of power – to the point where the scores of white men dominating our current government (have you seen the lily white and exclusively male Senate crew making hash of this so-called “replacement” of the Affordable Care Act?) are attempting to control the decisions that only women should be able to make about their own bodies.  It boggles my mind that there is still such a powerful anti-choice movement in this country (which, it must be said, includes women among their number), to the point where there are quite a few states that have only a single location, in the entire state, where abortions can be performed.  ONE!!  I read something so obvious the other day:  these folks aren’t “pro-life” so much as they’re “pro-forced pregnancy”.  I saw a cool video posted by Bill Nye the Science Guy the other day [https://www.dailydot.com/irl/bill-nye-abortion-scientific-reasoning-big-think/?fb=dd%3Deg] where he completely deflated any claim that “life begins at conception”:  Eggs are fertilized by sperm cells ALL THE TIME but don’t necessary go on to become a child.  Any miscarriage – even where the woman doesn’t even KNOW she’s miscarried – is a wholly natural and uncontrollable response by a female body indicating that the conditions are not optimal for a full-term pregnancy.  But the bottom line is, WHO HAS ANY RIGHT TO TELL ME WHAT I CAN AND CANNOT DO WITH MY OWN BODY??  How does my choice whether or not to have a child have ANY impact on anyone other than ME??

Which gets me into a whole other line of frustrations about human rights:  as a human being, I should be entitled to exercise my rights to do whatever I please, unless and until MY rights infringe on YOUR rights.  Otherwise, it’s none of your damn business.  Gay marriage?  What the hell does it have to do with YOU, Mr. Conservative Politician?  That inane Defense of Marriage Act they tried to put forward a few years ago – defend marriage from WHAT??  Infringement on its “sanctity” by the gays??  The whole argument is hollow and frankly ridiculous.

The human rights battles being fought in the US of A are bad enough, but when expanded to the world stage, it becomes paralyzing in its magnitude.  A child unjustifiably detained by the North Koreans is returned to his parents with irreparable brain damage caused by his torture at their hands, only to die within days of his return.  For what?  For possibly attempting to steal a poster (although nothing can be proven, especially since he is not able to tell)?  Supposedly they believed him to be a CIA operative but still, torture is a universal crime.  North Korea may be a freakish anomaly (have you ever seen a satellite photo of North Korea at night?  THERE ARE NO LIGHTS), but dangerous all the same.  What is the end game for all of Kim Jong-un’s missile tests?  Would he actually dare to use his puny (yet still deadly) missiles on South Korea or Japan?  The unpredictability of it all is chilling.

Apart from North Korea, there are plenty of other danger zones when it comes to the human rights.  There’s the repression of the press and political opposition by Putin, Erdogan, China, the Saudis, countless African nations – it all becomes too much to bear.   I genuinely admire the people who work for organizations like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International and even the ACLU (local and national chapters), and I wish there was something I could do (apart from sending money, which I lack at the moment) to help.

I started writing this blog with an idealistic intention to make the world a better place one blog post at a time.  To the extent that my blog posts have any effect at all on the world – like a butterfly wing flap or pebble’s ripple in a pond – I try to stay positive and not complain too much about things I cannot control.  Trump winning the presidency was a rude awakening for me, and my blog posts during the election and in the time since are evidence of that.  His term thus far has been a nightmare of epic proportions and it’s just getting worse.  Our standing on the world stage is lower than it’s ever been, and trusted allies are questioning our commitment to shared goals.  On a personal level, my demeanor and frame of mind have been negatively affected on a daily basis.  I am afraid, and I am ashamed at my impotence.

But even Obama, as much as I respected him and believe he did as good a job as he could as president under the oppositional conditions he faced (but while always maintaining a sense of grace and higher purpose), failed in the Middle East and also domestically, with his partial and largely ineffectual efforts at gun control and reforming health care.  And under his watch, the monolithic Republican Party has gained in power and numbers, both fairly (thanks to a woefully ignorant voting public and lethargy among those who can’t even be bothered to vote) and unfairly (thanks to illicit gerrymandering, which hopefully the courts – including the Supreme Court – will succeed in curtailing, not to mention that sneaky little Russian “interference” that’s all the rage these days), both at the state and federal levels.  If even Barack Obama, ostensibly the most powerful and level-headed person in the world during his presidency, was not able to bring about as much positive change as he wanted to, what possible effect could my paltry little blog have?  The problems we face in the world right now are so overwhelming, all I can do is feel sad and frustrated and powerless.

I know there are good people doing good things out there.  I love my “Upworthiest” emails (do yourself a favor and sign up for some truly POSITIVE perspectives:  http://www.upworthy.com); they are a ray of sunshine amid the dark tales of war and waste and repression and inequality.  Wasn’t it Martin Luther King, Jr. who said that only light can defeat the dark?  But I guess it’s very, very dark these days, because all those tiny personal bits of brightness out barely seem to be making an impact.  (Remember George H.W. Bush’s “thousand points of light”?  Of course, he was using that image to encourage the “little people” to do more charitable work with their limited resources rather than relying on our taxpayer-funded GOVERNMENT to do it, but it’s still a nice metaphor.)

In contrast, so many things I read about or hear on the TV leave me upset, drained and demoralized.  I wonder why I even waste energy thinking about them.  There’s a whole laundry list of things that frustrate me these days, many of which will probably end up as a blog post of their own.  For instance:

(1)          Partisan politics:  When did Republicans and Democrats get so completely diametrically opposed with their political positions that they can’t ever compromise or even have an open discussion about things that are important FOR THE WHOLE COUNTRY, not just Dems or Republicans, not just rich or poor, not just white folks in Red States or recent immigrants in Sanctuary Cities (we are ALL immigrants, remember?)? We are supposed to be UNITED, especially as viewed by the rest of the world.  Don’t Republicans have children to whom they want to leave a healthier planet?  Can’t we agree that ALL Americans have “certain inalienable rights”, and then protect those rights for EVERYONE, no ifs, ands or buts?  Maybe the answer, like in most other civilized nations, is to break the mega-parties into multiple smaller factions, where coalitions can be built and it’s not so much “us vs. them”.  But the way things are now, it’s just dumb and nothing gets done.

(2)          Income inequality:  I have covered this topic a few times in this blog.  I find it so disheartening that people who have SO MUCH begrudge a few extra dollars in the pockets of people who work hard and still have NOT ENOUGH.  I’m sick of it. Develop some compassion.  Look beyond your bubble of privilege and wealth.  There ARE people of worth outside your protective shell who deserve a chance to succeed in life.  What was that quote I saw on Facebook the other day?  “Equal rights for others does not mean less rights for you.  It’s not pie.”  PAY UP, RICH PEOPLE!

(3)          Then again, you can’t make saints out of the poor, or drugs addicts, or petty criminals, either.  Yes, their unfortunate life circumstances have often forced them into difficult decisions, but there is something called “personal responsibility” also.  Poor people CAN succeed despite their limited resources and sad circumstances, but a boost and/or helping hand from people who are more fortunate would certainly not hurt.  And drug addicts and petty criminals should be helped to transition back into society with the support they need to thrive, not suffer the inevitable recidivism that is the only possible outcome for the profit-centers that our prisons have become.

(4)          Guns.  I HATE guns.  They are nothing more than penis substitutes, in my mind, tools for the weak.  Last week’s VICE episode (Season 5, Episode 71) was about how entrenched the gun industry is in this country.  Americans do love their guns, boy.  The VICE correspondent was interviewing the proprietor of the nation’s foremost gun mega-shop and he was saying how gun buying is cyclical, but as far as I can tell, in my lifetime, there has been nothing but an INCREASE in the number of guns and the ease with which people can obtain guns.  I think all guns should be incinerated, but I admit that’s unrealistic, given the American lust for firearms.  (Who, apart from a soldier, needs a semi-automatic weapon?  Would a pistol or a rifle not kill someone just as easily?)  A more sensible option would be for governments (probably at the state level, because the federal government is just too cumbersome and partisan to get ANYTHING done these days) to regulate guns like they regulate the motor vehicles we all drive.  Hey, they’re both instrumentalities of death:  cars are potential, but guns are assured.  That’s what guns are FOR – to kill things.  Yet we do more to protect each other from car accidents than we do from gun accidents.  I saw a statistic today that thousands of children are killed or injured by firearms every year.  Do Americans not want to protect their CHILDREN?  (Or I guess another solution is that kids could just be armed themselves, like the youthful gun groups and pre-teen sharpshooters sponsored by gun manufacturers featured on the VICE episode.)

AH, BREATHE, NAN.  We can only do what we can do.  In fact, I’m going to attend my Organize, Plan, Act meeting tomorrow evening.  They’ve arranged some interesting speakers, and I’m looking forward to spending time with like-minded individuals who are as frustrated as I am but who actually manage to maintain a positive outlook.  I desperately need to tap into that.  And hey, it’s not only safety that comes with numbers – it’s comfort, too.

Hopefully my next blog post will have a lighter message.  I think we could all use one. these days.

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.

Some Thoughts about Immigrants and Real Live Music Revisited

The United States is and always has been a country of immigrants.  Unless you’re an indigenous person (whose birthright was stolen from them by the original immigrants to this land) or an African-American descended from slaves (who were brought here against their will), all of our ancestors came here, by choice or desperation, to escape turmoil in their native lands or to take advantage of American opportunity to create a better life for themselves and their families.

And yet, subsequent waves of immigrants are inevitably vilified by the ones who came before, like somehow the new immigrants are not as good or worthwhile or deserving as the old immigrants.  Why begrudge them this?  Why not help the newbies?  Are they deemed such a threat to the inroads their forerunners have made?  This nation’s geography is certainly large enough to accommodate more.

Just consider what immigrants bring to America when they come:  talent, labor, FLAVOR. Think of the awesome array of food choices in a place like New York City, with every conceivable culture represented and available for the comestible enjoyment of one and all – not just the denizens of the country or culture from which it came.  What about music, and art, and literature?  I always loved “International Nights” at school, where every kid represented a culture (either their own or an acquired favorite) and they brought a special dish and told a traditional story and drew a colorful flag and learned a little history.  Through those “International Nights” (and parents would also come, some of whom were still learning English as THEIR second language), the intention was to gain an appreciation of our differences rather than to judge and denigrate them.

I’ve always had an interest in doing Ancestry.com and/or DNA research to see what my genes reveal about my make-up.  I know on my mother’s side that we’re Italian, and I can even trace back through my great-grandparents their arrival (or their parents’ arrival) at Ellis Island.  My maternal grandmother’s mother, Petronella, came to New York as a young child from a place my family always called “Fooj” but I have so far been unable to find it on a map.  She never did learn to speak English; I remember teasing her (she passed away in 1990 at the age of 102, and I was the oldest great-grandchild, so I was fortunate to be able to know her pretty well when I was a kid) for the way she said “pock-a-book” and “ice-a-box”.  (I also remember, with vivid clarity, spending an afternoon in the Bensonhurst apartment she shared with my bachelor Uncle Frank, and drawing a picture of her – I must have been no more than 4 – that she tore up in anger because I put in too many wrinkles.  It damaged my artistic confidence for life!!)

But my father’s side is awash in mystery.  My paternal grandmother, Mary Weiss (or perhaps it was Weitz),  was Hungarian.  I think I remember that she and her two sisters came over as children, but I may be confusing the reality with a photo I saw of three Hungarian sisters, shell-shocked and sad-faced, with their battered suitcase on the docks of New York City.  My father’s father, and his father’s father, and his father’s father’s father before him, all died before the age of 50 (as did my father), so their genealogy has been difficult to trace.  They might have come from Austria or somewhere in Germany, and their last name was almost certainly NOT “Lucas”.  My father always used to joke that he was Romany – a gypsy – and had magical powers of clairvoyance and the ability to curse people who did him wrong, but I’ll probably never know for sure.

But my point is this:  BASICALLY ALL AMERICANS ARE IMMIGRANTS.  And every new wave of immigrants brings something unique and interesting to the fabric of American life.  Although their reasons for coming may be diverse, there is one thing they all have in common:  They believe that life will be better here, that there will be opportunity for growth and prosperity here, for their children and their children’s children.  Immigrants generally don’t come here with the intention of going back to where they came from, and some of them are physically unable to do so.  But all this anti-immigrant sentiment, fomented by Trump and his supporters, is ridiculous and, frankly, anti-American.  As the Sam Cooke song goes, “Don’t know much about history,” but I do know this:  Immigrants have always been, and should always be, a vital and valued part of this nation, which in this regard, at least, is already pretty great.  Our forebears came here with the same hopes and dreams, whether one or two or ten generations ago.

* * *

My good friend Sue ruins things for me.  By virtue of her thoughtful and extremely generous gift-giving, she has destroyed Broadway musicals (thanks to a third-row seat to see “Tommy”, where we were so close we were peppered with flecks of Michael Cerveris’ spittle) and Rangers games at Madison Square Garden (where not only did we sit in the first row behind the penalty boxes but we also witnessed the most exciting game I’ve ever seen in person, with the Rangers coming from four goals down to win in overtime).  And now she has ruined music concerts (although, as you may recall, I already have mixed feelings about live music:  see “Real Live Music”, 3/16/16).

For my most recent birthday, she got us tickets to see ’80s goth icon Peter Murphy at City Winery.  The concert was this past Sunday night, and it was remarkable, and I will never EVER be able to enjoy a live music venue again unless I am sitting as close, and unless I have the level of interaction with the artist, as I did for the Peter Murphy show.

First we had a yummy dinner at Tinys and the Bar Upstairs (of which King Henrik Lundqvist is part-owner), and then we walked through Tribeca in a light first-of-the-season snowfall to get to City Winery in Soho.  I had never been to City Winery before, although Sue had, so I had no idea what to expect.  Long rows of tables radiated out from the small stage, the height of which was basically at the top of the tables.  The host took us to our seats – one four-man table in from the stage!!  Literally the width of two large humans away!!  It was like we were practically on the stage.  We saw everything in fine detail:  Murphy himself, thin and regal, high cheekbones in shadowed relief, stalking the proscenium – almost stumbling a couple of times over various pieces of audio equipment  – and leaning out over the edge of the stage.  His bassist/electric violinist, Emilio “Zef” China, all in black, his face outlined by sinewy strands of hair escaping from his man bun, kept up a masterful drone; his guitarist, John Andrews, with his wide bandanna and samurai-style ponytail, effortlessly provided the lead.

The sound level was a tad loud, being that close, but we soon became accustomed to it.  At the tail end of a long worldwide tour, Murphy’s deep golden baritone was a little raw at times, but he still sounded fantastic, especially on the bone-buzzing low notes.  But the absolute highlight – maybe of my musical life – came when he was singing a shimmering acoustic song, stripped of any ambient sound other than Murphy’s and John Andrews’ guitars, with which I was not familiar called “Strange Kind of Love”.  While he was singing the dreamy lyrics (including “Perfect taste choice and meaning/A look into your eyes”), I was absolutely mesmerized, but then I could swear he started looking RIGHT AT ME.  You know that sensation?  You can FEEL it – it almost makes you a little giddy – when someone looks straight at you like that.  At first I thought he must be looking at the woman behind me, who had earlier called out some semi-inappropriate and slightly suggestive exclamations; while I didn’t get a good look at her I knew she was wearing a spaghetti-strap top and leather pants and without a doubt was more attractive than I am.  But because I had that feeling that it was actually ME he was looking at, I smiled.  AND HE SMILED BACK.  I felt a little shiver but kind of shrugged it off.  Why would he be looking at ME?

A few moments later, he looked at me again, longer this time, and I cracked another smile, and he smiled back again.  At that point, I KNEW he had been looking at me all along.  The second smile in particular was quite charming and made me feel all warm inside.  I also realized that other people must have seen him looking at me (well, at SOMEONE), too.  When I asked Sue about it afterward, she said it seemed like he had been looking at me, although the girl behind me was probably equally certain that he had been looking at HER, but it was quite clear that he had been engaging with SOMEONE in the near audience.  When I explained to her about my smile test, she had to agree that, yes, indeed, it must have been me to whom he was singing that glorious song.

Perhaps he was thinking, “Let me mess with that chubby girl with the man hair and glasses sitting down front.  I bet she’s a little freaked out that I’m looking at her.”  Or maybe he just appreciated my rapturous expression while I was enjoying his gorgeous song in such close proximity to the artist.  Whatever it was, it was certainly a pinnacle of my musical lifetime experiences.

Of course I downloaded the song as soon as I got home (the studio version, although the live version was available – I wanted to best capture his impossibly pristine voice) and then I found the video, during which he stares intently into the camera with his piercing and colorized “indigo eyes,” right into your (MY) soul.  I must have watched it twenty times since Sunday night.

So of course I am wrecked for any future musical act, unless, of course, we can get the same (or dare I say even better?) seats and a dreamy singer decides to give me a thrill!!  THANKS A LOT, SUE!!  I can’t wait to see what other entertainment experience you can ruin for me!!

Woe Is Money

My money situation is killing me.

Over the past decade and a half, I’ve earned no less than $100,000 a year – not small potatoes, I admit.  I support only myself and my kid (and multiple furry children).  I don’t want for things, but I get what I want when I want it (more to the point, I get what my DAUGHTER wants).  We’ve taken a few expensive vacations since 2002, which has been by far my biggest outlay but also our greatest enjoyment, not to mention that I could only afford to travel every other year.  I live in a small house and I drive a small car.  I don’t own or wear jewelry.  (In fact, I don’t really GET jewelry – to me, it’s just an ostentatious show of wealth and a target for thieves.  I’m talking to YOU, Kim Kardashian.)  I wear clothes and shoes until they’re stained and falling apart (especially if they’re comfortable).  And yet I am deep in debt and hacking away at my middling retirement investments (left to me by my mother – more on that in a moment) and there’s no relief in sight short of winning the lottery.

Growing up, my parents always ensured that we lived comfortably (that’s how we got accustomed to it, of course).  And yet they still managed to have enough income to put two daughters through four years of college and pay off a 30,000 mortgage (in 1968, for a four-bedroom, 2-1/2 bath house; contrast that with a two-bedroom, two-bath bungalow in Long Beach in 2004 with a mortgage of $300,000; I get that beach access comes at a premium, but still – literally ten times the mortgage for half the house?  Something doesn’t seem right.).  My father went through multiple cutting-edge (at that time) heart surgeries, and yet health care expenses didn’t cripple us.  In fact, there was enough left over in their savings (and my father’s life insurance) for my mother to live comfortably (still) into her early 70s until her own health issues overcame her, and STILL leave my sister and me over half a million in inheritance money (which we have both nearly wiped out, I’m ashamed to admit).

Of course, most of the money I’m taking from my inheritance is for my house, which has undergone three full renovations in less than ten years, only one of which was planned.  The others, of course, were courtesy of Superstorm Sandy.  And while I did get assistance with flood insurance and state grant money, I’ve still been forced to dig deep into my own already paltry retirement fund.   I have actually heard rumors of NY Rising suddenly changing procedures and withholding money or cancelling payments altogether, right when people are close to the end.  In fact, I was forced to pay my rent by credit card this month because I didn’t receive my Interim Mortgage Assistance payment in a timely manner, plus I had to pay an additional service charge of $52.95 to do so (which is outrageous in and of itself).  Thanks, NY Rising.  And they’re going to screw me out of my last payment somehow, too, I just know it.

I’ve whined about my money situation before in this blog (see, e.g., “Tax-Inspired Stream of Consciousness (and Another Top Ten List)”, 2/24/16) – it’s a constant source of agita for me – but thinking about this has led me to recall how things were when we were growing up, and even back when I first started working at a “real” job, in the early 1980s.  It was such a perk to get a position with “full benefits”.  I mean, TOTALLY FREE.  You didn’t have to pay for any of it – your employer paid for it, whether you were a single person or a family of ten.  Sure, medical advances to cure diseases and improve treatment methods, which have extended our life spans exponentially, all cost money, but SUCH an increase?  And if it all went to R&D, that would be one thing.  But what it’s really about is lining the pockets of the already wealthy.  I’m so sick of it.  All the angry middle-class and out-of-work Americans are backing the wrong horse (and the wrong horse’s party) in this election because Republicans and the wealthiest Americans (like Trump believes himself to be) are the ones who PUT the working poor and middle class in this position.  Find me a Republican who isn’t “Me First” (or, at best, “Us First”) and I might consider voting for that Republican (or at least listening to and working with that Republican).

I saw a couple of graphics on Facebook the other day (I think they both came from Bernie Sanders’ website, although I can no longer find the CEO pictograph).  One showed the disparities between the prices of the same drugs in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world.  The same exact drugs!!  It was obscene.  [https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fsenatorsanders%2Fposts%2F10155280240672908%3A0&]  The other showed the compensation for the CEOs of the major insurance companies, which were all well in excess of $20 million (with one outlier around $10 million).    Hmm, I wonder where all that money is going?  Then there’s all that inane advertising.  It’s a mystery to me why Big Pharma wastes so many millions of dollars on these fake-ass ads, with actors portraying ordinary humans living their (completely unrealistic) ordinary lives.  It’s not the CONSUMERS who decide what medication they need; it’s the doctors and, ultimately, the insurance companies.  Case in point:  My endocrinologist (who, by the way, does not take my insurance so I pay him out of pocket and try to limit my visits to twice a year) prescribed a new diabetes drug for me, but my insurance didn’t cover it.  So he suggested trying a different brand of the same drug, which my insurance supposedly covers.  I called the mail-order prescription filler that my insurance company insists upon for my regular medications and the woman there told me that I will have to pay NINE HUNDRED DOLLARS for a three-month supply because I still haven’t met my deductible (I will NEVER understand how that works).  “Well, I can’t pay that,” I told the woman.  It turns out that this particular pharmaceutical company (AstraZeneca) offers a program whereby I can get a free trial month and then heavily discounted doses for the next three months, and by that time, I will have hopefully lost enough weight so that I no longer require the medication.  So, in fact, THAT is what has determined what medication I take – not some stupid commercial with fake families kayaking in a lake at sunset or pushing their fake grandchildren on swings (or the absolute WORST commercials, those for Cialis or Viagra that show fake horny older couples doing all these flirty-touchy things.  Those make my skin crawl!).

In thinking about how our economic situation today is so much worse than our parents’ was back in the ‘60s and ‘70s, and the nausea-inducing income inequality that exists in this country (a statistic that really burns me is that the top 1 percent of wealth holders in this country are richer than the bottom 95 percent) [http://inequality.org/99to1/facts-figures/], I’ve been considering how to counter possible criticism of my (and others’, notable Hillary Clinton’s) desire to make the rich pay their fair share toward maintaining our country’s infrastructure and the planet as a whole, as well as contributing to the common good of humankind.  Apart from the rich folks (who can AFFORD it – that’s the whole point:  if a multimillionaire were to give away HALF his or her money, he or she would STILL be a multimillionaire), who would suffer?  Law firms, for one, if corporations no longer needed to engage legal counsel to set up convoluted tax-minimizing structures for their deals and just sucked it up and paid what they should instead of siphoning off from the company’s profits to funnel the big bucks upstairs, ultimately at the expense of the employees.  The “luxury” industry might suffer, like, say, jewelers.  I was wondering if, as in the game of Monopoly, there was such a thing as a “luxury tax” that rich people have to pay when they buy things like diamonds and fancy cars, over and above plain old sales tax like the peons have to pay.  If there isn’t one, there should be.

All I know is, if I ever had a couple of million dollars, I wouldn’t be buying boats and diamond rings or gold-plated toilet seats.  I’d be paying it forward, giving money to rescue organizations and friends and family and worthy Kickstarter and Go-Fund-Me campaigns.  (My one indulgence if I were suddenly wealthy?  I would stop working, if I could manage it.)  [For more on this topic, see “An Excess of Excess”, 6/24/15]  But in the meantime, it would be ideal if the wealthy were on the (inescapable) hook to pay more taxes than they have been paying for the past few decades as the result of misguided economic policies like “trickle-down economics”.  The only way the money has been trickling is back into the pockets of the wealthy.

* * *

One more word on this cringe-worthy election and hopefully in next week’s blog post I can express my extreme relief that America has dodged a stupidity bullet and we’ll never have to see Donald Trump’s sickening orange face on our televisions again (as long as you don’t watch Trump TV, which I decidedly WILL NOT).  I can’t believe how many stupid people there are in this country – nearly half, according to “polls”.

It’s been expressed much more eloquently in many recent articles:  see, for example, Matthew Yglesias, “Clinton’s critics know she’s guilty, they’re just trying to decide what she’s guilty of”, Vox, 10/31/16, http://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2016/10/31/13474116/clinton-prime-directive:  “But what if all previous investigations have shown no wrongdoing because there was no wrongdoing? And what if the client-side copies of emails on Weiner’s computer are just client-side copies of emails, just like the emails in the inbox of everyone else who downloads email to a computer? What if Benghazi was just a tragedy and an example of how bad things happen in war zones? What if Whitewater was just a land deal on which some people lost money because real estate speculation is risky? What if Clinton has been getting away with it for all these years because she hasn’t done anything wrong?”; and  Conor Friedersdorf, “There’s Simply No Comparison Between Clinton’s Flaws and Trump’s”, The Atlantic, 11/1/16, http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/11/perspective-on-the-flaws-of-hillary-clinton-and-donald-trump/506042):   “The trouble with calling both candidates bad and leaving it at that isn’t just that it doesn’t capture how much worse he is, though it doesn’t, or that it is unfair to Clinton. I don’t actually care about her. I do care about us–about Americans who have to live in this country going forward, who will suffer if we elect a man as unfit for the presidency as any major party candidate for that office in generations.  His inexperience matters, his indiscipline matters, his ignorance matters, and so do his character flaws, which render him a greater danger to others the more power he is given.”,

But if I may, some final thoughts from me about this long national nightmare, for what it’s worth:  It shocks me (although maybe it shouldn’t, given the widespread willful ignorance of an educated-but-not-really American public) to see that there are so many people in this country who prefer Trump – a shady huckster who has jobbed the system at every opportunity, a pig and a racist and a wanna-be dictator, who is wholly unqualified to be president of arguably the most wealthy, powerful and influential nation in the world – over Hillary Clinton, a lifelong public servant who has experience at every level of government, who has stood up to those who vilify and criticize her because she realizes that there is an extremely important job that needs to be done – a job she has been waiting her whole life to do.  It’s just common sense, people.

If Hillary’s lying bothers Trump supporters so much, how hypocritical is it for them to support Trump, who lies far more than he tells the truth and whose pronouncements are almost entirely without basis in fact?  Republican strategist Steve Schmidt, speaking on “Meet the Press” on October 9 (http://www.nbcnews.com/meet-the-press/video/schmidt-trump-has-exposed-intellectual-rot-of-republican-party-782256707624), had it exactly right:  He said, in no uncertain terms, of the Trump campaign that “the magnitude of its disgrace . . . is difficult to articulate” and that “it has exposed the intellectual rot within the Republican Party”.

I just want it to be over.  Instead of rejoicing in this historical moment for women and knowing that the goals of political progressives are finally within reach, we’re being driven to distraction by a lot of hoohah over EMAILS.  GAH.  Enough already!

I Am a Perennial

I read an article the other day that struck a chord with me.  Entitled “Meet the Perennials”[Gina Pell, “Meet the Perennials”, NewCo Shift, 10/19/16, https://shift.newco.co/meet-the-perennials-e91a7cd9f65f#.8ihtv1ojp%5D, it describes a segment of the population that cannot be classified by the year in which they were born.  For one reason or another, they TRANSCEND the limits of their generation.  I believe I qualify as a Perennial and I make my case as follows.

One of the characteristics of a Perennial is that they have friends of all ages.  This is most definitely true of me.  I have friends that range from my 83-year-old neighbor (who, unlike the lady downstairs, will NOT be happy to see the back of us), to one of my most beloved friends who is in her early 70s, to my buddies from the shelter who are in their 60s (I worked at an adoption event with them last weekend, and we joked that I had to do all the heavy lifting because I was the “kid” of the group), to a cluster of cohorts in my age range in our 50s, to some younger folks – the ones I consider my “international friends”, in Ghana, Dubai and Sweden – who I met through my job who are in their 30s and 40s.  I don’t have many friends in their 30s, though, probably because I no longer travel in circles with folks in their getting-married-and-having-babies years.  And then there are the 20-year-olds, my daughter’s friends, who aren’t MY friends but who I know and care about through her.  Finally, there are my daughter’s siblings, who aren’t related to me by blood but who I consider my friends.  I had a lovely dinner with the 12-year-old for her birthday the other night, and we’re making plans to go to the movies together (I’m dying to see “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” and also “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”).  I’m fond of her 14-year-old brother as well; when his father asked me to pick him up from school after he complained of a stomach ailment a couple of weeks ago, our conversation in the car was comfortable and easy.  So clearly I am not limited to the enclave of 50-year-olds, or even Baby Boomers, who comprise my “age group” when it comes to the people with whom I enjoy spending time.

I may not be up on all the latest trends or lingo, but I am certainly open to new music – there’s great music being created every minute, so how could I limit myself to only the “oldies”, or “classic rock”, like some of my fellows (although that music certainly has its place and appeal in my record collection)?  My favorite radio station, WFUV, does skew a little older, but my other favorite source of new tunes is Passport Approved, which I’ve recommended before in these blog posts and features cutting edge music from all over the world – avant garde, ahead of the curve, the latest vibes.  I still watch plenty of MTV (and I confess that, until recently, I used to be a big fan of Degrassi but I think I’ve officially outgrown it!).  I cannot believe that “The Real World” has been on for 32 seasons – and I have unabashedly watched every one!!

The clothes I wear are timeless – ragamuffin style transcends all ages!  When we were traveling through Europe a few summers ago, my daughter scoffed at the women of a certain age who continue to dress in a youthful style– perhaps in an effort to LOOK younger, but probably just because they figured, why not?  Women (and men, for that matter) should be able to dress any way they please, without judgment or restriction by their age (although belly shirts and short-shorts on grandmas are just beyond the pale).  That being said, if anything, my androgynous trousers-only, oversized outfits are what I imagine the clothes of the future will be:  clean and comfortable, sustainably made.  The cover subjects in Interview Magazine this month (September 2016) were Jaden and Willow Smith, who themselves could probably be considered Perennials, given that they come across, in many ways, as older than their years – 15 and 18, respectively – and were talking with their interviewer, Pharrell Williams – another Perennial at age 43 – as if they were all peers.  The outfits in which they were photographed were baggy, shapeless, unisex things, covering the kids from head to toe, that I actually quite liked for myself (unlike most of the fashion that I see in Interview Magazine which, I confess, I JUST DON’T GET).

Pell says of Perennials, “We comprise an inclusive, enduring mindset, not a divisive demographic.”  I am all about bringing folks together, finding similarities and points of connection rather than focusing on the things that divide and differentiate us.  My dream for the world is that humans achieve tolerance and togetherness, building bridges and not walls.  That’s the calling card of a true Perennial.  (Which brings to mind one highly unpleasant person, (t00) much in the news lately, who shall go nameless, who is as far from a Perennial as a human could be.  The ANTI-Perennial, if you will.)

When people first meet me, and even after they’ve known me for a while, I think they find it hard to pinpoint my age.  I’ve got the wrinkles (although made slightly less obvious because of the face fat – the ONLY benefit to carrying excess weight) and the little-old-Italian-grandma central spread in all directions, yes, but I’ve got a youthful outlook and a skip in my step.  I also don’t SEE myself as a 57-year-old person in my mind’s eye, although when I look in the mirror I can sometimes believe it.

Where I fall behind a little is with the gizmos and doodads of life.  Pell says Perennials “stay current with technology”, but sadly I am a dinosaur in that regard.  Still, I have an android phone and I’m on Facebook and am capable of sending email and surfing the web, so I’m not TOTALLY incompetent where technology is concerned.  It’s not something that terribly interests me, though; it’s just a means to an end of communication and research. If I put my mind to it, I could probably go beyond my current technical stasis, but I firmly believe that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.  Who needs a new iPhone every year?  Why do we have to constantly upgrade our software and operating systems to version 2.0 and beyond?  I’m perfectly content with the level of my digital knowledge at this stage, until obsolescence forces my hand.

Fortunately, I have a kid just beginning her adulthood, so I can rely on her to educate me when I need to be updated on things that matter in life.  I never felt a “generation gap” with her; I’ve just tried to keep up with her and impart whatever knowledge I’ve gained over the years that might serve her well (that is, if she’s willing to LISTEN, which she isn’t always – at least not OBVIOUSLY, although sometimes, years later, I can hear my words coming out of her mouth, which always gives me a feeling of secret satisfaction).  That’s one of the benefits to being a Perennial:  “We get involved, stay curious, mentor others, are passionate, compassionate, creative, confident, collaborative, global-minded, risk takers who continue to push up against our growing edge.”  Yes, that sounds like me, if I do say so myself.  My roots are sturdy and deep in the ground and I bloom at least once a year!