HAPPY NOW?

So, we “let Donald be Donald.”   And what did it get us?

We’re not going to tabulate the number of executive orders specifically designed to erase the idea, presence, and effectiveness of President Obama.

Nor are we going to list those liberties and privileges we’re held for 240 years that – thanks to the Donald and his blue ribbon cabinet – seem to be blowin’ in the wind.

Even the energy to oppose, counter, demonstrate against what’s been happening these past seven months has dissipated.

Many of us who voted against Donald decided, one by one it appears, that at least he isn’t Vladimir Putin, an outright dictator.   Although he may be an admiring acolyte of Mr. Putin’s, Trump has so far found that to be president is NOT the same thing as being KING.  He may not like it, but he seems to be adjusting.

So, “we let Donald be Donald.”

That, alas, seems to have been a mistake.

We cannot have been the only old codger, wrapped in Dickensian night cap and scarf, blankets to his chin, who found sleeping impossible Wednesday night.  Even as we told ourselves we were being alarmist, fretting over nothing that could conceivably happen.  Realizing that Donald had boxed himself in to action of some kind kept us awake as we actually tried to imagine some way out of the puzzle into which Mr. Trump had ad-libbed us all.

Not having been to Guam did not keep us from imagining the death and destruction of its inhabitants.  Or from picturing the horrendous conflagration of Seoul.  Which might well have led to list-making: potable water, toilet paper, duct tape, tuna fish, peanut butter, medicines.  Remembering the duck-and-cover fifties we found those lists to be unchanged and as reassuring (hah!) as they had been before.

We couldn’t feel quite so optimistic as we had years earlier.  SEATO had disappeared; NATO was unlikely to leap into a fray so far from its base.  The subcontinent of India is otherwise occupied.  Australia is unhappy.

We’re out there all alone.  Our military establishment seems to be letting Donald be Donald, and as he “doubles down” it’s clear that the president has neither information, a sense of history, respect for diplomacy.  Rather than bombing the —- out of ISIS, we’re going to bomb the —- out of North Korea.

To millions, Donald is THE MAN.   Members of Congress have lined up behind him as they usually do in international crises.   Criticism of a president stops at the water’s edge, we’ve been told.

It doesn’t make us feel better to acknowledge that the threat to the US is not from the Donald but from North Korea.

So we look around and keep our ears open.   The stock market seems largely impervious to what may or may not occur.   Businesses and people throughout the country are still making plans, to expand, to vacation.   Our infrastructure remains on a list of things “to do.”   Our nuclear arsenal has been growing.  The “alt-right” is rolling gleefully.  The Democrats are nowhere.   Women are underpaid.  Blacks and Hispanics are still the most honored guests in our prison systems.  Drugs are being consumed at record levels.  Babies are having babies.   Food stamps continue to be worth their weight in gold.  Corporations continue to make promises of research and development.

Donald is still being Donald.

What’s changed?

How foolish we feel to be alarmist.   To criticize our own Dear Leader seems pointless.

Yet at the back of our minds, in our memories, are days of sunshine and baseball,  scholarships, the NIH, intellectual curiosity, brilliant scientific achievements, great books, family reunions.  Pride in our armed forces.  Helping to feed the world. Helping to heal the world.  Helping to educate the world.  Electricity, Google, cellphones.  Space exploration.  Lemonade stands.  Voting rights.

It may be that Donald is going to get away with it.

Then where are we?

BLAME…

…the Constitution.  “High crimes and misdemeanors” deals not with ineptitude, lack of talent, intelligence, vision.  Nor is there any word of cruelty, conceit, deceit.   Nor of ignorance, purposely maintained.  Nor of pomposity, threat, megalomania, disloyalty, or failure to protect and preserve the nation.

Blame us liberals (Democrats, moderate Republicans) who refused to believe that the norms of behavior could possibly include a chief executive like the one we have now, a man so self-enamored that he cannot see (let alone sense) the damage and real harms (in economics, diplomacy, honesty and trust) he is causing around the world.

Blame us for assuming that people in this country would, sooner rather than later, come to their senses and vote for a system of government (regardless of its leader) with which the nation had prospered for 240 years.

Blame us for DOING THIS TWICE: in 2004/5 when George Bush was re-elected, and all Europe muttered “How could they do this again?”

Blame us for lazily assuming common sense would save us all.   For allowing a charlatan to busker his wares , marketing them to the neediest, the least sophisticated, the already dumbed-down citizens of 21st century America.  For allowing him to present bread and circuses rather than ideas, policy, truth and concern.

Blame us for thinking that our fellow citizens were smarter, more savvy, more on to the incredible.

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THE CZAR

 

THE CZAR

Perhaps because we feel that the United States is tougher and stronger and more blessed than Donald Trump, we find a sneaking and growing sympathy for the man who is currently doing his best to destroy the nation.

Rather than just screaming every week “Enough!”, we awoke recently to an ironic allegory…no, a parallel in fairly recent history of which even he should be aware.

Russia had never been considered by her neighbors, allies, enemies and friends as a nation of first rank.  Since the time of Catherine the Great, and even before, Russia herself was aware of this.  As a nation, it fought and struggled to make its influence and importance internationally grow to parity with Great Britain, France, and Germany.  Behind every battle it fought, behind every war, was the need to expand, the need to dictate, the need to become sophisticated and cultured in the same way her European neighbors were.

The Great Bear, until the nuclear age dawned, was always half a dozen steps behind everyone else in scientific accomplishment, in building an empire, in sitting as an equal at the table of nations.

The last czar of Russia (the very nation Mr. Trump seems to idolize) WAS above the law on his throne.  When World War I erupted, Russia went to the barricades against Germany along with his more stable colleagues. But Russia’s war was a disaster.

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DOUBLING DOWN

After last week’s podcast, our “director, cameraman, advisor” and more-Republican-than-we-are friend, said to us, “You know, you’re getting boring.  It’s too much, week after week, hearing you go at Trump, his crew, his ideas.  You’re going to lose your audience if you can’t talk about some positive things.”

We thought seriously about this.  But then we remembered that the other half of our weekly endeavors for WHDD.FM included five segments each week called ”Good News,” wherein we found items of general surprise and interest: health concerns, elephants, dogs, happy children, veterans rising above their injuries.

In a moment of madness we thought about combining the two programs: Good News Amid the Bad, something like that.  And instantly we knew that the good news would overwhelm the bad, because people really DON’T like hearing bad news all the time.   It has already lead us all to Trump fatigue, administration fatigue, Russian fatigue, even if you are part of Trump’s base.

We think Americans believe that nothing that comes from Russia can do us harm (except of course the ultimate bomb).  Which is why Mr. Trump’s followers have, nearly to a man or woman, decided to can the Russian talk and to worry about it later.  What concerns THEM most, as it should we think, is their health care plan.

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JULY 4th, 2017

 

This column is not late.  Instead, think of it as considered slowly.

To write about our nation on its birthday, and the state of that nation as it is today, right this very minute, made us want to duck the whole thing.

We’re not the oldest citizen in the land.   Nonetheless, we have memories, happy ones, of being a people proud, farsighted, daring.  A nation willing to take chances to help others as well as ourselves live better lives.  Willing to reconstruct battle-zones that eventually became viable and important nations and trade partners.

Reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, whether at twelve in camp, or singing the national anthem at football games – even sometimes way back in the forties and fifties just staring at the test pattern on our first television sets (let alone the thrill of watching the Moon Landing in ’69 in grainy black-and-white) – mixed abstraction with accomplishment and brought proud tears.  To be an American meant for so many years to be a GOOD GUY.

Millions before and after us understood.  We were trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.  Our motto – Be Prepared – meant something.   We made three promises: duty to God and Country; duty to Other People; and duty to self.

What do we face now?  Greed, lies, perjury, violence, racism (granted it was there earlier, too), immorality, anger, hate, disappointment, failure, tension, war.

We are not naïve enough to believe these wondrous qualities erupted only in the past couple of years.  But once they were unleashed at the top of the governmental strata – the only successful evidence that “trickle down” might actually work – the oil slicks at cabinet and Congressional levels did NOT kill all life below.  Rather, as we know, the human mechanisms on the bottom swam upwards to meet and mingle with the detritus floating above, in effect covering the continent.

A beautiful woman we know of certain years bought a house a few years ago down south to be closer to her family.   Meeting her one recent afternoon at the hardware store, we were not only surprised (and pleased) at her return, but horrified at her reasons.   It wasn’t only her own family she couldn’t talk with.  It was also that family’s entire cast of supporting characters: friends, in-laws, landowners, hardware store owners down south.   She would have been speechless had she not been so angry.   Her comprehensible fury would have – had she not fled – turned her into a termagant unwilling to see goodness or reason in any of them.

We had heard, and read, of intra-family breakdowns because of politics.   That story goes back more than a hundred and fifty years.  That it is alive today – witness monuments guarded, flags raised, idioms rejuvenated – testifies to the witless and nearly psychotic air we breathe and (thanks to the newly empowered EPA) the water we drink, the slag in our streams, the drilling for riches regardless of whatever harm may come to people who live and try to survive despite their crumbling environments.

Insofar as a large part of the structure of our government today is missing in action – not just bureaucratically but in Congress, as well – there are no brakes on any one person’s viciousness.  From the top to the middle (that’s as far as this administration wants to go), citizens have been given license to imitate their leaders’ attitudes and language and gestures.

As for the press on which we have depended for as long as the Republic existed, it too has been caught in the maelstrom of incivility, lies, fake news.  This alas is what they cover 24 hours each day.  This is what they have to cover.  And in doing so, too often they’ve been infected with the same viruses.  Bruit their honesty and truth-telling as they will, their readers and listeners shrink in their granting of approval and belief.   For every ambitious, hungry, untutored talk-show host there now exists an ambitious, hungry, untutored would-be pundit.   Face to face these exist, and the noise they make together drowns out what we have long been accustomed to hearing, thinking about, deciding.

Worse than all this – in our mind – is that the puzzlements that now face the average citizen include features never before elevated to such status or recognition or even possibility: treason, for one.   And not just incidentally, which most of us all have acceded to over the years, the making of power, the construction of wrap-around power and money.  The threat not only of economic debasement but of quote legal action unquote for disagreement and demonstrations of resistance.  Ethics as a science and as a practice has nearly disappeared.

Where once we as a nation lead confidently towards peace, understanding, human rights, we now waffle.  And that indecision has affected our allies around the world.  Their respect and reverence for the US of A has down-sized not only our influence, but also our future value to the rest of the globe.  We still – in the persons of dedicated idealists – work beyond endurance to make a difference in health and education and standards of living.   (True enough, we are also still selling weaponry at a phenomenal clip.)

What we see before us, in Washington, London, Khartoum, Malaysia, Brazil, is a melting down of American strength, goodness, effectiveness.  Our leaders tell us the world is no longer laughing at us.   Our leaders know, and have learned and want to learn, nothing.

Which is why the Fourth of July has become so painful.

So what can we do?

This may sound inconsequential but what we have to do is remember who we were, what we were, what we sought and achieved, and work like hell to get back to that Eden before the Fall.

 

THE NEXT TEN DAYS

 

Forget about the Last Tweet.  Forget about Michael Flynn.  Forget, if you can, about Donald Trump.

Remember who has the ball.

You do.

It’s difficult sitting isolatedly while trying to estimate just how strong opposition to the Trump Health Care plan is.  We’re not the most technically savvy blogger in the Union.  We haven’t a dozen screens or even a text messenger with which to keep ourselves up-to-date.  We don’t have assistants or editors or researchers working at our beck and call.

But this week we watched as olenagenous Mitch and his enabling wife, Elaine Chou, came smashing up against reality.  She, for being unable to open her mouth (let alone her eyes), in recognition and defense of women throughout the nation who stand to lose health care, forcing them and their families to stay up nights trying to imagine how they are going to (a) keep those home-fires burning, (b) keep their own parents alive and well either at home or in assisted living centers, (c) keep sending their children to day-care, (d) afford minimal medical care especially in rural areas.

Mitch, who doesn’t appear to have parents alive, or even a memory of them in his heart, for the first time in many years stands diminished in nearly every way.  He can’t find 50 votes for his bill in the Senate, although he’s certainly not above buying them with our tax dollars.   He and his silent lieutenants, after a run of eight years obstructing American progress, now stand all alone, naked, before their voters.  And we voters are not happy.

Trying to rush through Congress an enfeebled health-care outline for action that denudes millions of warm clothing, food, livable wages, healthy drinking water, nonregressive taxes, failing infrastructure – McConnell is revealed finally for what we all along imagined him to be: mean-spirited, devious, secretive, slippery and untruthful.

But from what we see and read, millions of American voters have already scented decay on that Hill and are not about to let its odor poison them further.   Sit-ins, stand-ins, marches, emails, advertisements, banners, town hall meetings, letters-to-the-editors, seminars teaching people to recognize the signs of “Tyranny,” and determination to fight it – like the Wave in a stadium – are circling the nation, heading north/south, east and west, having plainly reached a point of exhaustion that is well-beyond frustration and closer to furious confrontation.

Continue reading “THE NEXT TEN DAYS”

THE GODFATHERS

 

While we watch the country as a whole break down politically, we are also spectators at the dissolution of common sense at The New York Times.  Its left-hand editorial page seems to have no idea what’s on its right hand page.

On Wednesday, Tom Friedman tried to push younger people into the position of becoming gradual saviors of the Constitution.  “In the long run the only thing that will save us is if more people – no matter what age, color, gender or faith – build moral authority in their respective realms and then use it to do big, meaningful things.  Use it to run for office, start a company, operate a school, lead a movement or build a community organization.  And in so doing you can help put the “we” back in “We the people.”

We would call this approach a soft, gradual one with which to fight an organization like the Republican mobsters in the Senate and House.  It’s thoughtful, safe, civilized.   And of no practical use against an entrenched mafia with no moral suasion of any sort.  To fight people who do not believe in America, or in the Constitution, or in the dictates and directions of history – not to mention the every-day manners and mores of a nation that has thrived for more than 200 years on courtesy, debate, respect and concern for others – it is no longer sufficient to cut them slack.   To suggest that Mom and Pop, or even their single Harvard graduate son, could effectively combat the collapse of the United States by opening a store, organizing a community, teaching…is for armchair politicos.

We’re facing people who care for nothing.   Who have no bottom lines, who read not neither do they reason.  Our president is exhibit number One.   He cares not for religion, nor economic status of others, nor their health, nor their safety, nor the future of a once great nation, no matter his campaign slogan.  What he loves is adoration, unrelenting loyalty and fealty.  We have more than once noted how medieval Trump’s vision of his role is.  He’s the King and You’re not.

Facing the prospect of a ruinous “health care” bill married to an incredibly slightly more sympathetic House “health care bill,” we see – despite the Times’ opposing editorial – how many of the mafia yearn only to be soldiers, not capos.   No Republican (indeed, no member of Congress of either stripe) wants anything more than his colleague next door: safety, stable income, great health insurance, total anonymity in the larger world.  Those who might be inclined to clear their throats and raise their hands to suggest an new idea or more sophisticated proposal – i.e., who might actually have a vestigial memory of what our nation once was – go unrecognized, if not unpunished.

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