Category Archives: American politics

Remember John Brown

A snippet from Morning Joe regarding Trump’s declaration that the media is the “enemy of the American people”–

 

The commentators are right about the danger of what Trump is saying, but equally important, I think, is the point John Heilemann makes at about the 7:35 mark, that Trump’s language is an incitement to terrorist acts such as the Oklahoma City Bombing, still the worst domestic act of terror in our history.  It’s a point that I think needs to be repeated over and over again– we are in dangerous waters, and it may take just one latter-day John Brown to set the ship on fire.  The danger exists from both the left and the right– the respective ends of our political spectrum are overheated, and it’s possible some fanatic or deluded individual will do something so awful that our political discourse, or what’s left of it, will completely disintegrate.  What happens then, God alone knows.

Pray.  Stand up for the helpless.  And don’t let anybody, left or right, blather about doing something radical, even if you’re sure they’re not serious.  At this moment we just do not need more gasoline on the fire.

A Kleptomaniac in theWhite House, with a couple of extra thoughts

 

Thank God for SNL–

 

I think this article has to be required reading for anyone concerned about the course of our country under Trump (written by a conservative, by the way….)–

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/03/how-to-build-an-autocracy/513872/

This article immediately reminded me of a book I read years ago, Friendly Fascism by Bertram Gross, which resonates with David Frum’s concept that the autocracy Trump intends to build will not be based on the heavy-handed models of 1930’s fascism, but which will still just as effectively castrate our civil liberties.

Frum’s article has a lot to recommend it, especially how it frames Trump’s main purpose as the creation of a kleptocracy with him and his family at the center, all of which, if unopposed, would be as utterly destructive of our civil liberties as the worst of the Nazi regime.  I am, however, a little cautious about Frum’s assumption that we won’t see the same sort of heavy-handed political and social control as previous fascisms.  If it were left to just Trump, that might be true, but too many of the people around Trump are positively scary, starting with Jeff Sessions and ending up with Steve Bannon, whose white nationalist views are nothing less than apocalyptic.  If Trump leaves much of the actual running of the government in the hands of his aides, as seems likely, then people like Sessions and Bannon will inevitably use that power to further their own agendas– or get us into disastrous situations in foreign lands.  A crook opening a door for worse criminals is nothing new, except, perhaps, in this country.  That the crook is a buffoon doesn’t make the situation any easier.

It’s going to have to come down to people, progressive and conservative, putting aside their differences on issues to join forces to stand up to these people.  The test of Americans as a people will be whether we can do that.

Hang in there.

 

 

And immediately, sunlight….

No honeymoon for Il Duce

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/people-across-world-rally-womens-rights/

http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/inauguration-2017/women-s-march-washington-echoed-cities-around-world-n710156

http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/worldwide-people-rally-in-support-of-women%E2%80%99s-march-on-washington/ar-AAm5Ltx?li=BBnb7Kz

Note to self: yo, numb-nuts, you missed out on joining the local march because you weren’t paying attention.  Keep a better ear to the ground in the future, nimrod, because this is exactly the sort of thing I want to add my two cents to.

But this put a smile on my face after yesterday’s gloom.  We are a very large and noisy conglomeration of people, and that’s exactly what we need right now.

And we’re off to the races….

I’m just going to do this once, because if I do it every time Il Duce and his minions do something off the wall I will expire from an incredulity overdose.  I’m going to have armor up and ignore the small stuff.

So, just this one time–  are you shitting me?

http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/white-house-website-promotes-melania-trump%E2%80%99s-modeling-and-jewelry-line/ar-AAm4lRR?li=BBnb7Kz

On the other hand, why am I surprised– this is a guy who thinks he’s a business genius and that a business model is appropriate for governance.

I am now in the process of barricading myself in my apartment with a tub of double-fudge ice cream.  Diabetes be damned.

Later.

A little perspective…..

As Inauguration Day arrives, I find myself in a strange mental state.  At the most basic level, it is still a matter of incredulity to me that Trump is going to take the oath of office and become President of the United States.  If I stop to think about it I start rehearsing in my mind the utter absurdity of it.  Teeth get gritted and steering wheels death-gripped.  It’s like the universe has played a practical joke on humanity (because who POTUS is at any given moment affects most if not all of the people on the planet) and we’re just waiting for the sumbitch to bust out laughing and tell us it was all a joke.

At another level, I am trying to think what I can do.  Writing, for sure– this is one time I wish I had the gift of satire, because, by all the evidence, a good satire gets right under Donald’s skin in a way that really highlights his narcissism and self-centered ways.  Contributing to progressive causes and groups and being the best citizen I can possibly be are other things I can do.  Oh, and if the Clown-in-Chief actually implements a Muslim registry, I intend to register as a Muslim, which will at least tell El Bozo that his little plan to scapegoat a religion isn’t going to slip by unnoticed and unremarked.

At the same time it is strange how  everyday life still makes its demands on you.

I still need a job.  I still need to lose weight (not helped by all the comfort eating I’ve been doing in the last two months).  I am in the midst of figuring out how to end a very long relationship.  I’m worried about my blood-pressure and diabetes and trying to remember to take my medication for both.  I am adjusting to the consequences of a long-distance relocation, some of which I anticipated and some I didn’t.  I worry about my daughter, from whom I am now physically separated but still as close as a text.

I still have to brush my teeth and shower and (at least once or twice a week) shave my face.  I still have to do laundry (note to self: today is probably a good day for that).  I have books to read and items to pick up at the store.

I am still trying to write fiction– I’m attempting to serialize The Horseman on this blog, and Princess of Stars, about which I haven’t talked a great deal in the last few months, is still an active project, at least hypothetically.  Part of me wonders if fiction isn’t a frivolous distraction right now, but then I remember that fiction can be a powerful vessel for truth.  It’s an open question whether I have the talent to make my writing as effective as it could be, but I am still possessed of the impulse to write stories, even as the house burns down around me.

And then I find myself, just for a moment, wild with happy excitement at a new Logan trailer (careful, it’s got splashing gore in it, but then, it’s Logan, waddaya expect)–

At one level, you might expect this to be far off my radar, but on the other hand, I suspect in the next year or so we’re all going to need moments of down-time, of allowing ourselves to be distracted from whatever disaster is unfolding.  Logan is not the only movie I’m looking forward to this year, and then there’s Season 7 of Game of Thrones.

This is an important point– for all our fear and uncertainty, and despite the necessity of resistance, we will still need to tend to our ordinary, workaday lives.  It’s essential we take care of ourselves and our loved ones, to make the lunches for the kids to take to school and to get the car lubed when needed.  If we don’t we won’t be able to sustain our effort to speak truth to power, to stand up for the helpless, and to preserve the Republic.

So, take a deep breath, everybody.  Take care of yourselves and your loved ones.  Do what you can, and stay together.  And we will get through this.

Later.

Five songs for the resistance

Some songs for the resistance-

 

 

 

 

 

Perhaps I am showing my age in that most of these songs are from fifty to sixty years ago, the last time we were in serious need of marching songs.  Perhaps we need a new generation to write the anthems of the new resistance.  Nevertheless, these still speak to me, especially Pete Seeger’s interpretation of We Shall Overcome, which breaks my heart every time I listen to it.  Take heart from this music, and do what you can.

Later.

I want to turn it all off, but I can’t- Frontline’s Divided States of America

I just finished watching the two part Frontline documentary Divided States of America (Part One is here), which recapitulates the history of the Obama administration and the rise of populist rage in this country.  It’s enlightening and difficult at the same time, especially as it is unsparing in its recounting of Obama’s naivete and missteps during his two terms.  On the whole it is balanced and sober.  It is also sobering– it ends on the note that Obama came into office with the idea of bridging divides, and he leaves office with the country more divided than ever.

In the documentary there are talking heads from both sides of the political spectrum, and some of those on the right are quick to blame the president for the divisions.   That is both unfair and typical of the right.  The divisions were there before Obama became president; his presidency, however, laid them bare in ways we did not anticipate when he took office in 2009.

The documentary is very good about outlining the rise of populist anger in this country in the last eight years. What exploded at first as the Tea Party and then the candidacy of Donald Trump has deep roots.  The documentary ties the current populism to that which emerged during the 2008 Republican campaign and which found its focus in Sarah Palin, but of course it goes back decades, to the civil rights era and the culture wars of the Eighties and Nineties and the drastic changes in our society and the technology it employs for work and communication.  The absolute (and to progressives, irrational) rage of conservatives who think their country is being stolen by blacks and immigrants, and that Obama was a Muslim socialist bent on destroying white America, is outlined in detail.  The documentary describes the divide in the country as being so profound that it almost amounts to there being two antithetically opposed Americas at war with each other.

That observation resonated with me.  Over the last three decades I have watched this country grow more and more polarized, to the point that we hardly consider those on the other side of the divide from us to be true Americans.  That polarization is what really frightens me, far more than even Trump, because I don’t know how to heal it, and because it is absolutely destructive to our political unity.  I fear this country has gone past some limit without realizing it.  Once this sort of rhetoric gets past a certain point, and people begin to accept it as normal, then there comes a time when your opponents don’t just disagree with you, they are evils that have to fought, in the streets and house-by-house.  In other words, the logical end of this sort of rhetoric is civil war and social dissolution.

And when Trump inevitably spins out of control and crashes, the rage of Trump supporters will not go away.  He did not create it; it created him.  When he’s gone– and I will be surprised if he lasts as much as two years– his supporters will have to find another figurehead to encapsulate their anger.  And what new monstrosity will they create the next time?

I am tired of it all.  I wish I could turn it all off.  But I can’t.  I am not optimistic about America’s chances, but I can’t join a rush to the lifeboats.  Weary and weak as I am, I have to stay and try to do what I can.  I hope you do, too.

But we don’t have to watch the inauguration.  That much, at least, is a relief.

I recommend the Frontline documentary to anyone who wants a good summary of how we got here.

Later.

 

Some pointed questions for 2017

So, lots of people are greeting 2017 with enthusiasm, assuming (or hoping) that is has to be better than 2016.  2016 was, indeed, a dreadful crap-fest.  Terrorist attacks, desperate refugees, the Syrian civil war, and Russian ass-holery were all bad enough, but here in the US we had an election that literally threatens the life of the Republic.  Pretty much everyone whose last name isn’t Trump has ample reason to be happy to see the year in the rear-view mirror.

But, of course, as much as we try to make January 1st into a celebration of newness and renewal, it is nothing of the kind.  Each successive year works out the tensions and conflicts of the preceding, while introducing new ones.  It’s an open question how those tensions and conflicts will work themselves out at this particular moment of history.

So, regardless of its infant state, and with particular reference to the situation here in the US, let’s shove 2017 under a bright light and ask it questions that need answers–

  1. Will Donald Trump live up to his hype and become the rampaging narcissistic tyrant the words he uttered during his campaign promised?  For the sake of the Republic, for the sake of ordinary people, we pray he doesn’t, that he will somehow find it in himself to conduct his presidency in a manner that will help and not harm the lives of Americans and the admittedly imperfect form of government we’ve sacrificed so much for.  We hope and pray, but our expectations are low.
  2. Will Republicans, now that they have control over two out of three branches of the government (and possess a fair prospect of seizing control of the third, in the form of the Supreme Court), find it in themselves to actually govern?   The modern Republican party has so long been an institution of obstruction and denial it is difficult imagining them actually engaging in doing anything positive.
  3. Some folks on the right-wing seem to be set to try to rollback almost every gain America has made in the last eighty years– never mind the Affordable Care Act or Roe v. Wade, these people have their sights set on Social Security.  Will they be allowed to gut the progress of the last three generations of Americans for the sake of ideologies most Americans do not share?
  4. Will the white supremacists and the climate change deniers and the billionaires and the CEO’s who are Trumps advisers and cabinet members actually stand for something other than their fanaticism or their self-interest?
  5. Is anyone in the incoming Congress or administration going to face up to the fact that global warming is real, and is a direct threat to our nation?  This issue, which should be one of science and reasoned response, is another that has become entangled in ideological claptrap.
  6. When Trump violates the Constitution, will the Republican-dominated Congress find it in themselves to apply the Constitutionally-mandated remedy of impeachment?  Or will it roll over and play dead because the guy in the White House is their’s and giving them goodies?
  7. How much suffering lies ahead for the American people?  How much will they have to go through before this irrational poison is flushed from our system?  And what form will the flushing take?

Poor 2017– it can’t answer these questions.  Neither can anyone else.  We are just going to have pray, live these times out and do what we can.  I can’t think of a better way to encapsulate our purpose now than this scene from Peter Jackson’s The Fellowship of the Ring

None of us who want a better future for our country wanted to find ourselves here.  But these times are upon us, and now we have to decide what to do.  At the very least, speak for the voiceless, stand up for the helpless, and tell tyranny the truth.  We don’t have to row to Mordor; it is upon us.  But one thing is true– we have to do this together.

May God bless us and keep us through what is coming.

Prove me wrong, Mr. Trump….

Trump is proceeding with his cabinet picks, and while they are not all vicious knuckle-draggers, there are more than enough to indicate the direction Trump’s administration will take.  Billionaires, CEO’s and alt-right operatives, oh, my….

Not much in this group changes my mind about what I fully expect will be the most racist, authoritarian and and criminal presidential administration in our nation’s history (which is saying something).  We Americans have shot ourselves in the foot, and it’s an open question how much suffering and blood– and I may not be talking metaphorically– we will have to go through before we can bandage up the wound.

But no crimes have been committed yet.  The constitutional process is working itself out.  Nothing irretrievable has happened.

So I want to address President-elect Trump directly.  I don’t think I’m wrong about you, Mr. Trump, but, you know, for the sake of my country, I am willing to be mistaken.  I am willing to be proven completely wrong, butt-headed wrong, completely off the beam.  There is still time.

You have promised to build a wall on our southern border.  Even if that’s just metaphorical, making our relationship with Mexico– tied to us by economic and social bonds far stronger and more intricate than most people realize– into a battleground over an imaginary influx of rapists and thieves hurts everyone.  I expect you meant this when you said it.

So prove my expectation wrong, Mr. Trump.  Walk back your rhetoric; engage Mexico as a respected partner, not as some sort of punching-bag for your ego and the titillation of your followers.  Make your deeds better than your rhetoric.

You suggested you will make religion a criteria for admitting people to this country, a criteria profoundly un-American.  Half the people in this country would not be here, if such a criteria had been applied to their ancestors.  But you said this, so I expect you meant it.

Show me I’m wrong.  Call it campaign rhetoric, call it hyperbole, call it indigestion, but drop the suggestion of religious selectivity, even in the name of national security.  Live up to the standard that has guided our country throughout its history, that a person’s religion is no bar to inclusion in America.

You’ve played footsie with alt-right white nationalists.  You’ve made one of them a top adviser.  I have to suppose this is because, somewhere deep down, you are in sympathy with their philosophy.

Prove me wrong, please.  Please.  An administration that explicitly promotes a white nationalist agenda would tear this country apart, obliterating everything accomplished in the last fifty years.  Even engaging these people with a wink and a nod goes too far.  Rise above them, repudiate them, throw them out, wipe your feet on them–truly prove that you really will be president for all Americans.

You’ve suggested torture would be brought back in the name of national security; you’ve threatened to re-write and possibly not honor solemn treaties which have been drawn up between the US and other sovereign nations; you’ve played kissy-face with a dictator while suggesting countries threatened by him might not be able to rely on the US fulfilling its treaty obligations.  There are a myriad of things you’ve said you would do that would hurt the country or spell actual disaster.  Listing them all would take too long; but you get my drift.

So now’s your chance to prove you really didn’t mean all this bilge-water.  Confound my expectations and show yourself to be a real patriot and a true leader. No one will be happier than me, Mr. Trump, to see my many expectations about you confounded.  I’m not asking for you to undergo a conversion of a progressive form of politics– that would probably require divine intervention.  All I’m asking for is that you set aside your ego and need for attention long enough to think about the well-being of the nation.  That’s the action of a true patriot.  If you could do that, I will eat crow for breakfast from now until November, 2020.  I wouldn’t care, if it would spare the country pain and despair.

The ball’s in your court.  There’s still time.  Either confirm my expectations that you’re a authoritarian narcissist, or rise above all that and become a true leader.  It’s up to you.

I will be watching.  And so will a lot of other people.

 

 

More random thoughts….

Why didn’t we listen to Michael?

There’s actually a critical point here– the anger and disenfranchisement of what used to be the middle class in this country has been out in the open for quite some time, and it has been given voice/exploited by movements of the left and right.  The Tea Party and the Occupy Movement, Trump and Bernie Sanders, have all addressed, in different ways and from different angles,  the collapse of the old economic order in this country.  To me, obviously, some of these approaches are more legitimate than others, but they are all talking about basically the same thing.  The part that grieves me is that Hillary just could not get across to those caught in this upheaval that she, and not that shyster Trump, would be better able to help right our socioeconomic ship.  For sure, it’s now clear that this is a core issue that can no longer be explained away, nor can those suffering because of it be patted any longer on the head and given blithe and vague assurances that everything will be all right in the end.

Hillary failed to make that connection, and that’s on her.  In truth, she had her issues and she was not the most inspiring candidate.  But it is also an evident truth that she rode into this campaign with the weight of twenty-five years of right-wing lies and character assassination on her back, and that had to have contributed to her defeat.  Well, congratulations, FOX News, et. al.– you finally achieved your goal, the destruction of a competent and qualified public servant’s career.  You can be proud of yourselves, I guess, in your narrow-minded and mean-spirited little way, but when the bill comes due in the next six months to a year, don’t come back to us whining that you didn’t know how horrible it was going to be under President– and soon, Il Duce– Donald Trump.  What goes around, comes around.

I’m trying to find silver-linings around here, although they seem elusively scarce.  One is perhaps the thought that Trump is going to unite those of us who see through his bullshit and who want something better for the country.  Another is that, just maybe, when everything sorts itself out this country may be in a position to finally face up to and deal with all the broken promises and lost hopes that fueled the anger that Trump fed upon, or which generated him in the first place.  But it’s an open question how bad things are going to get in the interim, how much suffering people will have to endure before this is over.

Note: here and there on the blogosphere I am detecting the occasional “Trump better watch out, look what happened to….” insert your favorite assassinated politician from history.  So far I’ve seen allusions to Caligula and JFK.  We need to knock that shit off, right now.  We’re supposed to be the ones who respect Constitutional process, guys, and part of that is having the patience and courage to let it work out.  Muttering about political violence only feeds the paranoia of the other side; actually committing political violence is the last act of desperation, when all other means of redress has been exhausted.  That, by the way, is called ‘revolution’, and we are not there, people, not yet.  Pray God we won’t have to go there.  So put a sock in it.

Personal note: in my posts from yesterday I tried to sound an encouraging note on the lines of ‘carry on with normal life while getting ready to oppose Trump’.  I will admit that the first person I am trying to calm down is me.  I am positively oscillating between taking deep breaths and screaming out loud.  I hear the words ‘President-elect Trump’ on the radio and I want to puke.  We have entered a danger zone such as we have not seen in this country since 1861, and it’s hard to not to panic over it.  But just as you don’t want to panic while swimming or on the road, so we don’t want to panic over Donald Trump.  This disaster– and I have no doubt it’s going to be a disaster, unless God grants us an unwonted measure of grace– is going to take some months to unfold.  We need to keep our heads about us and work on ways to resist what is coming.

Sad/scary note: Trump, of course, is the effect, not the cause.  He was produced by the anger and dislocation of millions of ordinary Americans, which has been aggravated and exploited by decades of right-wing propaganda demonizing anyone perceived as ‘progressive’ or ‘other’.  Americans, in fact, have spent the last generation dividing themselves along ideological lines, to the point where we no longer see each other as fellow Americans.

The logical end of such a path is, to put it bluntly, civil dissolution and civil war.

Pray God, we can find a way off this road before we get near that destination.  But we need to understand where we’re headed, in case anyone was unclear.

Geez, I was going to try and end on a positive note.  Okay, here goes– there are millions of people who worked for Hillary and voted for her, and we are not going away.  We were even a majority.

More thoughts to come.