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.

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ANOTHER NEW NORMAL

In the wake of the attack in Nice, and the abortive coup in Turkey, it occurs to us that each day, when we tune into the evening news, we are expecting to be regaled with the latest incidence of inexplicable violence.

Three examples.

  • A few weeks ago, we met a wonderful attractive friend from California for an afternoon and early evening in New York City. A matinee and dinner at Joe Allen’s, preceded by a bit of walking around in Times Square (she is not a regular visitor).  I arrived first at the theatre (by cab), waited a while, and when she showed up we went to an elegant wine bar for a shot of something before the curtain rose. When we approached our theatre, she led and was stopped, her handbag investigated, and then allowed to proceed.  I, following, held open the panels of my blazer and the man with the wand couldn’t have cared less.  Perhaps the police in NYC are more suspicious of women with handbags than men wearing suicide belts?   In any case, after the show ended and before going onto dinner, we wandered a bit at 47th and Broadway, gaping at both the signage and stunned by the size and variety of the crowd.  It was nearly impossible to walk from one side of the street to the other; it was impossible to stay on the sidewalks for safety.  (This has recently been commented upon in The New York Times.)  The point of all this is that it is virtually impossible not to become part of a “soft target” for terrorism in New York and no doubt in other cities.  There is no way each pedestrian, or family, or romantic couple could be accompanied 24/7 by security guards on the lookout for trouble.   During that one afternoon, and after my companion had flown across the country…after I had trained into Grand Central,  as we entered the theatre, as we struggled through the crowds of visitors and sightseers on Broadway…we had both been part of “soft targets” no matter what we did.  Wherever we go now, in buses, on foot, in elevators, in convenience stores, in restaurants, we are “soft targets.”  Although we try to submerge this realization in the hustle of daily life, it is something we can no longer allow ourselves to forget.

 

  • We have a friend and colleague who lives, as we do, in a quiet town of about 4000 people. The town is situated in picturesque countryside and is not the end point of many travelers or tourists.   My friend, on 9/11, was living in a small coastal Connecticut town from which he could see the smoke and devastation occurring in lower Manhattan.  He decided that very day that he would have to move, take his wife and daughter and try to find a community in which he felt safe and more removed from the possibility of international violence.  He moved his family northwards and in time began to feel comforted and safe.   Today he no longer feels quite so sanguine about the future.  He will not enter any enclosed space that contains more than three other people.   He knows where each “Exit” sign is and where it leads.  He reconnoiters even going out to dinner, to the post office, to the dry-cleaners.

 

 

  • The other afternoon, while watching political coverage of Mr. Trump’s vice-presidential selection process, the screen was filled suddenly with images of a possible coup in Istanbul.   It was night in that city.  Jets were overhead, the army on the move, and….we turned off the television set.  Following every heinous deed in this country, and immediately after Nice, we no longer had the fortitude or patience to witness another slice of religious hatred, of political dissatisfaction, that would eventually lead to mass casualties.  On that day, our own resistance to violence had built to such a degree that there was no longer room within us to watch, consider, absorb.  We waited an hour before returning to the screen.  By that time, what had been unclear was slightly more certain, enough so that we could begin to process what was happening in another part of the world that naturally would affect us here in the US.

 

The points we are trying to make here are two.   Violence and its aftermath – riots, ambulances screaming, troops massing for action, marches beginning in thoughtfulness and ending in armed confrontations – really now is daily fare.   We believe the recurrence of each bloody image reinforces our watchfulness and our caution.   “If you see something, say something” has finally begun to take hold of the public imagination.

Secondly we are convinced that in this country, confronted by a rogue 19 thousand pound truck being driven into crowds to murder and maim, citizens would turn TOWARDS the action rather than run from it.  Americans are curious and often brave.  And perhaps even thoughtlessly so.

This is cold comfort but we believe it is also real comfort.   We are not here to run from but to run towards, and to save, solve, stand firm.

This part of the new normal is not new.  It’s what gives us all hope.

CHRISTMAS 2015

We live in strange and disturbing times.

This is what happened to us on Sunday, the 13th of December.

We live in a small New England town of about four thousand people. Yesterday we joined perhaps two hundred of our fellow citizens for a concert at a local church. The big pull was to hear a Christmas Oratorio at three in the afternoon. There would also be, on the program, a selection of music played by our local bell choir.

The church filled gradually with the usual long-time-no-see greetings between friends and neighbors. The pastor greeted us and we were off.
We heard a Baroque selection first. The orchestra was comprised of music students largely from a nearby college with a few local technicians filling in. The chorus behind them was partly from the same college, but also filled by local basses and tenors, sopranos and altos. The soloists were all college music majors. Our local prime musician played the harpsichord, as well as the organ and piano.

The man behind the performance was new to most of us, a musician of many years’ experience, wreathed in curly white hair, jacket off, baton held firmly.
After the opening, we were invited to stand and sing a Christmas carol. We did. It raised our temperatures and spirits and expectations. We sang later a second carol and finally a third, in front of and after the bell choir. A lovely young woman, who also played the violin in the greater ensemble, regaled us with bel canto which was thrilling.

The oratorio itself, by Camille Saint-Saens, was very good indeed. The soloists, all college students, were uniformly impressive.

Cutting to the chase, the afternoon was a grand success and sent us home feeling not only seasonal but hopeful as well.

Later, we crawled into our bed to watch “Homeland” on Showtime, a program we had only come to recently. No spoiler alert here, but to say that by the end of that hour, we were terrified.

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