Category Archives: democracy

Some random thoughts among the ruins

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  1. I still had to balance my checkbook this morning.
  2. Six to twelve months of Trumpism in power, and I predict many of the people who thought they’d like his brand of change will be begging for some of the old order back.
  3. A note to the pollsters and pundits– please get your heads out of your asses.  At the very least this should not have been a surprise.
  4. “Up to three Supreme Court picks” (11/9/2016 ABC News).  With the Senate and House both in Republican hands, this has the potential of locking a right-wing collar around America for at least a generation.
  5. That’s assuming that the economic depression Trump’s asinine monetary policies will cause leaves a country to collar.
  6. I’m just glad Keith Olbermann didn’t blow a complete gasket.  He still calls it pretty good, though.
  7. An ABC News commentator just mentioned that votes are still being counted in California and that Hillary will probably win the national popular vote while losing the Electoral College– only the fifth time that’s happened in our history.  If we needed a clinching argument to do away with the Electoral College, we got one now.
  8. Perhaps the chief moral of this election is that there is a deep, deep reservoir of resentment and fear in this country among certain people who have been generally shafted by the shifts in the economy away from industry toward information and services, left behind by the concentration of too much wealth in the hands of too few, and who don’t see themselves included in an increasingly diverse country.  It was that alienation Trump tapped into.  Like most demagogues, he has no real remedy for these perceived ills, and will doubtless only exacerbate them in the long run.
  9. Trump’s election ties the US to what is clearly an emerging international wave of retrograde nationalism and anti-immigrant feeling (e.g. Brexit) that threatens the world order as we have known it since the end of the Cold War, and maybe since World War II.  Right now, it really sucks to be a Syrian refugee, but given Trump’s waffling on NATO, in the near future it might be even worse to be Estonian or Latvian.  That’s scary– and it’s just the start of the potential horrors.
  10. A note to Mr. Trump– per the Constitution, you are President-elect.  But when you take office, Mr. Trump, expect the people– and there are a lot of us– who see through your bullshit to be watching.  That same Constitution that designates you as President will also provide the mechanism to hold you accountable.  If there is any life left in this Republic, you will find that Presidents are not dictators– at least, please God, not quite yet in this country.
  11. A note to my fellow Democrats– let’s all take a deep breath, take care of the necessary, mundane business of life, and try to think about what’s next.  Keep calm, and persevere.

More thoughts to come…..

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Well….

It hasn’t happened yet, here in north Texas, but I’m reasonably sure the sun will come up today.

That’s about all I’m sure of at the moment.

I watched the election results come in last night with a group of increasingly distressed folks in a local pub, who could not believe this was happening.  I finally went home before Wisconsin and Pennsylvania sealed Hillary’s fate, but with the mathematical certainty looming on every TV screen.

It is now evident that are we are entering a time of testing in this country.  It remains to be seen how severe this test will be, but all the signs to point to an acute constitutional crisis in the near future.  Trump has given every indication that he will manipulate and twist the levers of government to suit his own ends, as well as doing things that are strictly illegal.  How much damage will be done before the shaky mechanisms of constitutional checks and balances take hold is unclear.  It’s even unclear whether those mechanisms are up to the task.

Everyone who believes in a future for the US that isn’t some devolved nightmare of racial and nationalistic stupidity, shot through with an economic buffonery that threatens not just the American economy, but the world’s, is going to need dig in and work to save what we can.  In previous posts I suggested the fate of the American Republic was at stake in this election.  That suggestion is now hard reality.  We have elected a demagogue and a fascist to our highest office, a man who would have dismayed Jefferson Davis.  This is a danger inherent in democracy, that sometimes manipulators of a distressed and frightened populace gain power.  When this happens, and it happened last night in this beautiful country, it’s then the duty of all true patriots, however much they disagree with each other, to stand up and resist.

There’s much more to be said, but I will need to say it when I’ve had a chance to get more sleep and to organize my scattered thoughts.

In the meantime, if you pray, pray for this country.

God help the United States of America.  God help the world.

 

Democracy– untidy and beautiful

I took part in the Washington State Democratic caucuses today.  It was a special day in more than one way– not only are the stakes in this election extremely high, but it was the first caucus in which my daughter was able to participate.  This simultaneously made me extremely proud and reminded me of my age.  Just a little while ago my daughter was far, far more interested in crayons and her dolls than politics…

Our district caucus was held at one of our local high schools.  We arrived early, but not early enough– the school parking lot was jammed, and street parking was quickly filling up.  I dropped my wife and daughter off, and then had to find parking seven blocks away.  This made my hike back to the high school a bit of a chore, as I am nursing a sprained knee (and a possible meniscus tear– medical assessment in progress).

But I wasn’t going to miss this caucus.

The caucus was wall-to-wall with people– quite probably the largest number of people I have ever seen at a caucus in this state.  People congregated by precinct, and the subsequent discussion was passionate, but generally respectful.  In the end Bernie Sanders took three-quarters of our precinct vote, Hilary Clinton one quarter, which, at the moment, roughly matches the proportion of the vote state-wide.

It was good, face-to-face grass-roots democracy, and nobody called anybody names, and nobody got into a fistfight.  It gives me hope, seeing so many people engaged and looking for change.

Because, frankly, in this country we need hope, and we need change.  There is a real sense that our essential democracy is slipping away.  Working people are getting profoundly shafted, and our republic is in danger of becoming a plutocratic oligarchy.  I am convinced that if certain people from the other party become president (by which I mean all of them, but some more than others) the danger to the country will move from chronic to acute.  We need a political revolution in this country to restore our democracy, and to point the US toward a future that includes everyone.

The problem is that there are a lot of people whose dreams for this country are quite different, far, far too many of whom are threatened by the changes the country is going through, and who are looking for scapegoats for their sense of dislocation.  Certain politicians are pandering to that fear and paranoia and dislocation, offering up empty promises of ‘restored greatness’.  Others are ideologues spouting doctrines that are seriously disconnected from verifiable reality, such as denying global warming in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence.  And all of this is wrapped up in a political polarization that is destroying our sense of all being Americans together.

So I’m hopeful, and I’m worried.  It’s seven-plus months to the general election, which is very long time in American politics, and will be even more so in this election, which has been off-the-wall whacked-out and off the charts.  All we can do is buckle up, hang on and keep working toward what we believe is right, while remembering that while one election is not going to automatically make everything better, that one election could also put us in serious danger.

At minimum, I can do two things for my country at the moment– pray and vote.  To my mind, that’s a pretty powerful combination.

Later.

 

The fix we’re in….

WARNING!– Political post! You have thirty seconds to reach minimum safe distance!

I wasn’t originally going to post about the mid-term election. There didn’t seem to be much to say about it others hadn’t already said, and I didn’t want to assign the election more weight than it deserves– mid-term elections in this country tend to skew toward the base (aka the committed, or, depending on your point of view, the whack-jobs), and the incumbent party usually takes a beating. It’s painful to watch know-nothings crowing about their “electoral mandate”, but this sort thing of thing usually passes, and the wheel comes around again.

Then I read this piece by Nicholas Kristoff, who seems to crystallize the larger issue we’re facing in the US. Democracy is ailing in this country, ailing badly, and the mechanism of government is jammed with partisan game playing. Kristoff contrasts people in other countries, such as China and Ukraine, who have fought and died for democracy, with us, the inheritors of a democratic tradition, who are failing, and it is a painful contrast.

At one point in the last years of the Roman Republic one of Julius Caesar’s political opponents refused to take the auguries required to conduct a certain piece of business, not because the gods were angry, but because doing so would have allowed Caesar to look productive and useful to the state. In ancient Rome you didn’t twitch a political eyebrow without checking the auspices (from which we get the term ‘auspicious’), and thus Caesar’s opponents were able to manipulate the machinery of government to stymie him.

If this sounds familiar, it should– it’s exactly where we are in this country, at this moment. And that is a thought that should scare everyone, because the Roman Republic lost the consensus it needed to maintain itself, dissolved in civil war and then devolved into an imperial monarchy. If that is probably not the exact path the US will follow (actually, I’m afraid it could turn out worse), it should be self-evident that if the political class is more interested in frustrating its opponents than in actual governance, the whole country is bound to suffer.

I have another book on my short list to read, Chris Matthew’s Tip and the Gipper: When Politics Worked. Having lived through the ’80’s, and remembering the partisan sniping of the time, it is sobering to see someone looking back on the relationship betwween President Reagan and Tip O’Neill, Speaker of the House, as an example of politics that worked. It’s a measure of how bad things have actually gotten.

Perhaps we all need to remember that partisan differences do not inevitably mean all-out ideological warfare, with no prisoners taken and the ‘victors’ inheriting only ruins. Because that’s where we’re headed, folks.

An additional couple of thoughts….

In my most recent post I painted an apocalyptic picture of a future America I think is at least potentially possible, if not likely. I realized afterwards, however, that I left off saying what might be done about it, and, perhaps more personally, why I have not yet fled to British Columbia or Antarctica or some other place where Congress’ ravings don’t apply. It also may raise a few questions about me in people’s minds when, in subsequent posts, I go on blithely talking about my writing and movies and such, as if I didn’t believe my country is in deep effluvium.

Let me try to s’plain myself.

There is much we can do about the danger we’re in, and mainly it’s simple; apply the tools of citizenship and democracy– obey the laws, pay your taxes, vote (can’t leave that one out), let your representatives know exactly how you feel (don’t let them, for a moment, assume they know how you feel), and don’t shrug your shoulders and be all fatalistic when the government does something you don’t like. If your Congress person or the President or some other government hired hand does something you don’t like, let them have it. Above all, speak truth to power when needful. Personally, my jury is still out on whether Edward Snowden should be considered a hero– he is certainly no Daniel Ellsberg, who stood up and faced prosecution after the revelation of the Pentagon Papers– but the truth about NSA spying needed to be told. We need more transparency like that.

But there is one more thing I believe we Americans need to do, something I think we used to do much better than we do nowadays– speak and act with humility, knowing that no one faction has all the answers to the totality of the problems we face. The people who pose the greatest danger to our civil peace and commonwealth are those who are totally certain that they have all the answers, who believe everyone else should get in-line with their agenda, and who are ready to destroy anyone who doesn’t. At the moment, we seem to be awash in that sort of absolutism.

Doing all these things is the only legitimate way to make sure the system works. It will be a telling point if we do all this and the system still cannot be salvaged. That will be the moment for a new constitution and a new social contract. If we’re lucky….

On a personal level, there are number reasons I haven’t already applied for asylum in Canada–

1. I already live within a two-hour drive of the border. And it’s real easy to cross in places….
2. I don’t speak French, and French-speakers don’t want me to try to learn (polly-voo Franksass…)
3. My daughter has told me she wants to graduate from high school in the US.
4. Hockey. Really, this is a game?
5. Curling– ditto.
6. Having to learn a new national anthem (although, the Canadian anthem sounds a lot more musically accessible than “The Star-Spangled Banner”. C’mon, guys, who thought this was a good idea?).
7. I guess I still have a fair deal of hope. A lot of people are already living in an America that is mostly inclusive and tolerant. There is a good chance that sort of wacky behavior will spread. And there are a lot of people who starting to stand up and say out loud that allowing the US to fall into the hands of oligarchs of any stripe is unacceptable. When I get down, I try to remind myself of that.
8. I am, after all, an American. I don’t think I would be happy living anywhere else. I don’t want to give up on my country just yet.

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There, I think I’m done talking politics for a while. My next few posts will be focused back on my writing, but I will also be posting more original fiction, as part of a change I am making in my writing efforts. More about that later.

I want to scream at Congress, and I have no mouth

(with apologies to Harlan Ellison)

I was about to go off the reservation with my blog.

In creating this blog my chief intention was to use it to help myself with my daily writing process, while making connections with other writers who might be going through some of the same struggles. Since then, however, I have strayed into movie reviews and a few other topics that struck my fancy.

But the last few days I’ve been tempted to really go off the deep end and blog about one of the two topics I never talk about at work– politics (the other topic is religion, which means that in some company I am left totally speechless)– in particular, the current three-ring-circus/inexplicable dumb-show/unbelievable cluster-fuck known as the US government shutdown and looming debt-ceiling crisis. There are times when it is just embarrassing to be an American. You find yourself wishing for a comparatively effective parliamentary system, like, say, Liechtenstein’s. This is one of those times.

But I suck at writing about politics. I mean it. I’ve tried it before in a couple of different venues and I always come off sounding like a pompous bloviator– and God knows we don’t need more of those right now. I can do fiction, but current events, uh-uh.

Besides, other people have already basically said what I would have said, only better. This is Bill Moyers from October 4th–

http://billmoyers.com/segment/bill-moyers-essay-shutdown-showdown/

“Secession by another means” about sums it up.

So I’m going to leave the current political train-wreck alone. Suffice to say we live in interesting times, when I’d much rather be living in some quiet Golden Age. The only problem with our stupidity is that it ripples out to affect the entire world.

Now, as a writer of fiction, I have thought that I should be trying to express myself on this subject through stories. I have written one novella that relates to what is essentially the ongoing breakdown of American democracy, but it has gone basically unsold (I guess people find the topic off-putting). I have in mind a couple of ideas for novels, but they are far, far back in my project queue. Part of the problem is that I have a feeling that the different sides have become so polarized that they essentially stopped listening to each other years ago. I doubt any fiction right now would change anyone’s mind.

It leaves me depressed, and I wonder what’s going to happen next.

Later.