Saturday, July 23, 2016

Donald Trump Comes To Bring Us Into the Light

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My God, after watching most of the Republican Convention last week, I wanted to say, "just shoot me" at the picture of this sad, pathetic thing our country has evidently become - a shadow of our former confident, courageous selves. No longer admired or respected by anyone in the world. Americans are sleeping in the streets and lining up at soup kitchens. Hardly anyone has a job. We're forced by our autocratic, unconstitutional president to have health insurance. We're lucky we have Trump to warn us of all the dangers we face.

It's so scary, we're afraid to celebrate the summer with outdoor barbeques because we know there are vicious immigrants and brutal terrorists and Black Lives Matter thugs behind every bush and our poor police are too intimidated to help us if we call. We might be able to defend ourselves if Obama doesn't confiscate all our weapons first.

We are being screwed by everybody. China and Japan, Germany and England. Certainly Mexico and even Canada. Iran, for sure and Iraq and Syria and Libya and Egypt. And NATO. That's because our leaders are all stupid and wimpy, loathe to use threats or nukes or torture, even when they are clearly called for. We've let our military deteriorate so, they probably couldn't fight off an attack from Monaco, which is the smallest country in the world besides Vatican City.

It very very sad to realize what a pitiful nation America is now. Ronald Reagan thought it was Morning in America; Donald Trump thinks the clock is about to strike Midnight.

But thank heavens, we have him to save us. As he says himself he is the only man who can fix all the things that are wrong with our country.

His answer seems to be to put America in a bubble. We will build a physical wall to keep out immigrants. We will build a virtual wall to keep out Muslims. We will build an economic wall to keep out globalism.

It will be a whole new world with Trump at the helm. Whatever we've done in the past is now moot. We may decide to default on our debts. (Bankruptcy holds no stigma for the Donald). We will deny the trade agreements that have been negotiated by our government. We will renege on our promises to defend our NATO allies. We will do whatever it takes to protect our interests. Trade agreements and treaties and accords be damned!

We were promised something special for the Republican convention. It would be glitzy and glamorous. Instead we got aging teenage heartthrobs (Scott Baio) and soap opera stars and the 441st best female tennis player. We got less that enthusiastic endorsements from former rivals like Marco Rubio and Rick Perry. We got a betrayal by Ted Cruz and who among us was surprised by that? And Trump kids....lots and lots of Trump many of them I lost count. All of them sleek and glossy and extremely well educated and well-spoken....pretty much what you'd expect from billionaire kids who've had every advantage in life (except for that somewhat off-putting picture of a son triumphantly holding a killed elephant's tail aloft.) Maybe knowing what his father has done to the Republican party, it was a snarky symbol of the GOP elephant.

I found it passing strange that when part of Melania's speech seemed to be plagiarized, it was from Michelle Obama, for Pete's sake. And Ivanka's speech was closer to one you'd expect from the Democrat convention. Affordable child care, early childhood education, equal pay for equal work? Huh? First I'd heard any of that from the R's!

No, the Republican base were more into chanting "Lock Her Up" than "Equal Pay for Equal Work. They reminded me of nothing so much as a lynch mob wanting an execution without a trial. So much for the Constitution.

It was all ugly and depressing.

I hope next week brings us more light and more optimism and more love and for god's sake, a little more courage.


Monday, July 18, 2016

Living in a Prison of Fear

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I believe this is absolutely true. Think of every time America has fallen away from its principles. It was always about fear. We killed and then collected the remains of Native American tribes and put them on what we called reservations but what were really refugee camps, not because we hated them but because we feared them. We first kept African-Americans as slaves, then isolated them from white society, not because we hated them but because we feared them. We put Japanese-Americans in internment camps because we feared them. We imprisoned and tortured and humiliated Muslims, not because we hated them, but because we feared them. Hate is but an extension of fear.

And now we seem to fear and hate one another and Donald Trump is the fear leader. Once again, because of fear, America says, "principles, be damned!" Fear is why we want to build a border wall. Fear is why we want to ban Muslims. Fear is why we want to carry guns and shoot each other at the drop of a hat.

Black people are afraid of cops. Cops are afraid of Black Lives Matter. Fear is what causes both sides to over-react so the fear, and then, the over-reaction grows and reaches ever more dangerous levels as fear feeds on itself.

Most of this started with 911, of course. Americans were stunned because we'd never faced such a large scale, and successful from the terrorist's point of view, attack on our own soil before. Our reaction was nothing to be proud of. We rushed to buy duct tape and bottled water and emergency food supplies. We cancelled our vacation plans to Las Vegas. We stockpiled weapons. As if any of that would do any good when a plane crashes into a building.

But, worst of all, we gave up on America. We couldn't afford those values we had so cherished in the past - due process, habeas corpus, legal counsel, innocent until proven guilty, ban against torture. These were the ideals America was founded upon but we cast them overboard in our fear. We hurried to create a huge, new, secretive agency called, tellingly, Homeland Security. Homeland - I hate that word. I don't even like to say it. We acquiesced to having our privacy violated. After all, what's a little surveillance among friends?

We ignored reality which is often what fear causes people to do. How likely are you to be attacked by a terrorist? Not as likely as that you'll be killed by falling furniture....or shot by your drunken neighbor. Experts assured us that torture didn't work. It rarely elicits actionable information but we water-boarded and rubbed feces in faces and made people crawl on all fours by means of collars and leashes. We didn't even care whether it was effective or not. It was more about vengeance than truth. How many new radical Muslims do you suppose the pictures from Abu Ghraib created?

Now we not only live in fear but what you might call our "victims" do as well. Muslims are now afraid of us because hate crimes against them have increased. And we don't always even bother to find out if they really are Muslims. Hey, a brown-skinned man in a turban is close enough although he's a Hindu, not a Muslim.

We assume Latinos are illegal though many of them have lived in America longer than we have. They are an elemental, and growing, part of our culture and that scares many of us.

And, African-Americans, of course. Since the beginning, we have been afraid of African-Americans and we create our own reality. Our discrimination stokes their anger to the boiling point. How can we be surprised? Read the report about Ferguson, MO. and get back to me on that. Read the details about Flint, Michigan. Read the statistics about who we imprison and why and for how long.

I believe and always will that the horrendous treatment received by our First Family is a product of racism. It was anathema to envision a black man in the White House so that people like Trump and his followers tried to deny his very American-ness. The Obamas, all of them, have represented our country with pride and dignity and grace. We used to tell ourselves that we were a post-racial society but in the face of an African-American president, it turned not to be true. Judging from the current political campaign, if Hillary becomes president, I believe we'll discover we're not post-sexist either.

"The land of the free and the home of the brave."

Sad to say, not so much in the 21st century when we live in a fear prison of our own making.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

America Can't Stand If We Don't Get a Grip on Hate

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I asked on a Facebook post today: "can anyone actually parrot the NRA's assertions that the more guns Americans have, the safer we are" with a straight face? After watching the blood running in our streets for the last few years - cops killing members of the public, African-Americans in most cases. Amazing how the old saying - "wanted: dead or alive" applies differently to the races with "alive mostly meaning whites and "dead mostly meaning blacks".

But the next day, it's a different story. A sniper, taught to be deadly by our own military targets police officers, killing five of them and wounding several more.

And the next day, its a toddler killing his father or a father killing is son or a mother killing her daughters.

The following day, it is theater-goers dying or celebrants in a night club or classrooms full of children or churches full of the devout

Or is is a neighbor killing his neighbor or a gang member killing another gang-member...or perhaps an innocent child who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The next day it is a jealous husband killing his estranged wife or maybe it is your depressed brother killing himself.

I hear talk of revolution all the time. We have to have these guns because we very well may have to fight our government. You know, that government that's taking all our freedoms? We will not tolerate being enslaved by the authorities! We love us some Bundy clan, But if you are one who believes this way, then you should feel a sense of kinship with the shooter in Dallas and with the Black Lives Matter crowd. They are pushed to exactly the point you say you are being pushed to. They see themselves being killed for no crime that deserved the death penalty...or perhaps any crime at all. They see a government that has turned on them.

But, oh, ho, this isn't how most of you feel at all. You've flipped your position. Now, you are all in favor of the government in the guise of the cops. You support the authorities. They are the good guys (and most of them are good guys). It is the bitter revolutionaries who are wrong....not like when YOU spout those seditious slogans!

Present day America is awash in hate and violence. I listen to the Patriot Channel and discover that as a liberal, I hate cops. I sympathize with radical Muslims. I support a president who probably IS a Muslim! I want to ban ALL guns and confiscate the ones people already have. I spit on the American flag. I hate Jesus. I want totally open borders - terrorists and Mexicans and whoever else - come one, come all.

I assume the conservative radio hosts know they are spewing the purest kind of bullshit but obviously, the majority of their listeners don't. They hate me because this is what they think I am though this characterization is wrong in every instance. I know this because I hear them every day.

Our politics have become the Hunger Games. Close to half of us loathe our own president. We no longer prefer one candidate; we despise the opposition. Well, naturally, because they don't just want to institute different policies that we disagree with, they literally want to destroy America. Donald Trump and Ted Nugent and some of the others walk right up to the line of encouraging their fans to kill their save our country.

I don't see how America can stand with this much animus and lust for killing swirling around.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Happy Birthday, America!

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I have never been the fan girl type. I don't want anyone's autograph. I don't want to ask any famous person to take a selfie with me. There's no one I'd walk across hot coals to meet or go much out of my way to see them in concert.

I do love to watch and hear and read some people. Andrew Vachss is my favorite author, although honestly, I follow him on Facebook and he seems rather like a cranky old so and so. I root for Jimmie Johnson in every NASCAR race. I love the way David Garrett look and sounds when he plays the violin. I enjoy Johnny Depp's acting. I think Marlon Texiera is gorgeous. I anticipate Saturday nights because of Outlander. I think the cast is terrific, especially Sam Heughn as Jamie. I think Diana Gabaldon is a wonderful author. I love all her books but I don't call her "Herself" as as way of paying homage as many of her devotees do. All of these people are famous and rightly so, but none of them are without flaw.

Some people are special and I treasure them for the qualities that make them so but I've never been into hero (or heroine) worship. I hope with all my heart Hillary becomes our next president but I'm not a slavish follower the way so many Trump and Bernie people seem to be. I think she'd be an excellent president but she won't work miracles.....and neither will the other two.

I have had two husbands and a son die. I loved them all dearly but I didn't think they were perfect when they were alive and I don't think of them as perfect now. So many people seem to place their beloved (or even not so beloved) deceased spouses and children on a pedestal when they die and that pedestal gets higher as time goes on.

I'm a realist more than a romantic.

It's the same with my country. I love America and I'm certainly glad I was born an American. America has done some great things and been led by some great people but I'm not a patriot in the guise of "my country can do no wrong."

That fact America has done plenty of things wrong. Our treatment of the Native Americans was wrong and something we should be ashamed of. As a matter of fact, our treatment of them in many cases is still wrong.

Slavery was wrong. And the discrimination against Black Americans following the civil war and into modern times was wrong. Treating women as second-class citizens for so long was wrong. Our cruelty toward gays was wrong. And certainly, much of the ugly way we've handled the land, the water, the air, the animals, the birds and the fish has been wrong. Our penchant for non-stop war is wrong as I see it.

It doesn't mean you love your country any less because you acknowledge the areas where she has faltered. It doesn't mean you love her any less because you'd like to see her make some improvements.

Rose-colored glasses don't make anything better; they just disguise the way things are.

We have often been big-hearted and generous and forward-looking. We've been creative and entrepreneurial. We been risk-takers who were willing to share the wealth with the less fortunate. We've been courageous and mostly honest. We've usually tried to live up to our principles.

We've backslid now and then. Three examples of that for me right now are the Voting Rights Act and Citizens United and our current anti-science bias. Yours may be different.

But in the end, we keep forging forward. We include more of our citizens in their full civil rights with transgenders only being the latest. Despite obstructionism, we continue to get more of our energy from alternate source and lessen our reliance on fossil fuels. Hopefully, we are on the brink of making our justice system more humane and fair.

The U.S. is still a work in progress but we are making progress. Happy Fourth of July, America!

Monday, June 20, 2016

Onward and Upward

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I have always believed that mankind is on a gradually upward spiritual evolution. I know many will say I'm naive, what with the bloody mess the world always seems to be in. Sometimes, it is discouraging when we seem to take two steps back for every step forward. But spiritual time is not our time. What seems like lifetimes, centuries, millennia to us pass in moments in the Great Whatever. I call it that because I have no clue who or what may direct our evolution or if anything does. I don't think it is any particular god, however, none of the ones we've made in our image, no, not in our murderous, jealous, greedy, bigoted image. If there is a god, he, she or it is far larger than anything we can comprehend. I think it beyond arrogance to believe god is focused primarily on us, this small group of humans on one planet among billions.

We have to look far behind us to see our progress. Slavery, for instance, has almost been eliminated except for small pockets here and there. In America, we have "given" women the right to vote and (mostly) to choose their own lives and that is so in the other developed nations as well. If there is still racism (and there is), it is not as overt as it once was. There is no more  officially sanctioned segregation or Jim Crow laws or poll taxes. Gays have been able to come out of the closet without fear and to marry those they love and their government has recognized those marriages as legal with all the rights that designation bestows....though not without much wringing of hands on the part of some.

We treat children better than we used to, striving to make sure they are all fed, clothed, housed and educated. We don't have thousands of small children begging on our city streets. They aren't working in mills or mines, at least, not in most countries in the 21st century.

We are more aware of the fragility of our planet and the devastation that can be wrought by leveling rain forests and pouring our trash into the ocean and ravaging the earth itself to get at the resources that we want/need. Plunder for profit is still the name of the game in many places but we are learning. More and more countries are getting their power from resources that aren't finite and don't require raping the earth.

I can say all this and still be stunned sometimes at the hate that is so overt on the internet and elsewhere. Many of the comments and posts I read are like having a blunt force weapon taken to your sensibilities.

Many despise our president and also the Democrat nominee...and despise is not too strong a word. It is innate loathing based on nothing I can understand. Many hate Muslims. Many hate Mexicans. Many hate African-Americans. Many hate our government.

I believe they are in the vocal minority. I believe there are more kind people than cruel ones. I believe there are more lovers than haters. I believe there are more optimists than those who believe America is in the midst of self-destruction.

I believe we will continue to get better. I won't live to see the end of wars and brutality and ugliness but maybe your children or your grandchildren or your great-grandchildren will. The upward spiritual evolution can be paused but it can't be stopped.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Who is the Majority?

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The way I see it, the upcoming presidential election is a choice between intelligence and ignorance, sanity and mental disorder, fear and courage, hate and love. America appears to be divided roughly 50-50 between which set of attributes it favors. In November, we will find out for sure who is in the majority.

We will either select a candidate whose calm (aka boring, or so we're told) style of wanting to bring all of us together - gay, straight, black, white, Latino, transgender, Christian, Muslim, Jew, males, females, is the foundation of her campaign or we will pick the candidate for whom sowing discord and dissension is his bread and butter.

We will either choose commonsense or hysteria. We will either reach out to one another or we will shut one another out. We will pick that bland wonk who sets out her plans in great detail or the one who shouts stirring slogans with nothing behind them - the one who thinks America can be great again or the one who believes America is great now.

In November, it will be up to us to decide whether to go with the candidate who can take a punch and come back strong to keep moving forward or the one who strikes out viciously at anyone who hurts his oh-so-sensitive feelings.

Sometimes, I truly believe Donald Trump knows he's in over his head and is trying to find a way out without admitting it. Other times, I think he considers running for president as the ultimate reality show, like an especially high-stakes Survivor. And still other times, I wonder if he is curious to know just how far he can go without losing his supporters. Just where is his bottom? He doesn't appear to have found it yet.

Calling John McCain not a hero didn't do it; saying he could shoot someone on Main Street and his supporters would still follow him didn't do it; wanting to deport 11 million Mexicans didn't do it; calling for a Muslim ban didn't do it; promoting torture of families didn't do it.  His racism didn't do it. His sexism didn't do it. An attack on the American justice system didn't do it. His disregard for the First Amendment didn't do it. In his latest, "where the hell does he come up with this shit" diatribe, he accused American soldiers of stealing the money we sent to Iraq.

When I listen to him, I often think - "American simply cannot and will not elect this horrible man president of the United States"....but I thought that about the Republicans selecting him as their nominee and I was wrong about that.

There are evidently more people out there who vote on emotion rather than rational thinking than I thought. They appear to be Americans who believe everything in the country is so rotten, we need a Donald Trump to burn it down and start all over again. What kind of America do they see when the shooting stops and the fires go out? A safer one? A better one? In what ways?

Monday, May 30, 2016

Stinkin' Wars

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Oh, man, I have such conflicted feelings about this holiday. Fact is, though I'm not quite a pacifist, I'm pretty close to it. My criteria for sending our children to war seems to be quite a bit higher than most Americans. Many people said, "never again," after Vietnam. I really meant it but obviously, many Americans didn't because here we are embroiled in two wars that have each lasted over a decade.

We've been at war more often than we haven't been since our birth as a nation. That started with the Revolutionary War, of course. Eight thousand men died in combat in that one (the numbers from various sources don't agree and honestly, how could we know for sure?). Another, 25,000 or so died of other causes such as disease and 25,000 more thousand were wounded. What would have happened if we hadn't fought that war? Well, 100,000 plus lives would have gone on as usual and we'd be Canada, I guess. We'd have a Prime Minister and a Queen rather than a president.

Then we fought the war of 1812. Do you remember what that was about? I don't, not without looking it up. Presumably, we thought it was necessary and another 2,260 Americans died in that one. Then the Mexican War - 13,283 dead.

Ah, and then the biggie, the Civil War. Still the Number One Killer of American soldiers with 620,000 recorded deaths (two/thirds of whom died from disease rather than from combat). Another estimated 500,000 were wounded and 400,000 were simply listed as captured or missing.

We paid one hell of a price to remain the "United" States of America, didn't we? Was it worth it? We never have really become united again. All these years later, we are still fighting those battles. We have completely different political philosophies. The Confederate Flag is a source of contention. The South still feels aggrieved. The red states threaten to secede again periodically. Texas actually debated doing so in their most recent legislative session. Maybe this time we should just let them go. So, we have two countries, America and Reagan (the name proposed by one secession advocate). Maybe divorce would make us better friends than marriage has.

Twenty-five hundred people died in the Spanish American War. Then 46,516 in World War I and 405,397 in World War II. Of all our wars, the world wars were probably the most necessary. They were supposedly to make the world safe for democracy and it seems they did, at least as much as that was possible. We couldn't let someone like Hitler take over "our" part of Europe although we did let Russia control most of Eastern Europe and rule with a bloody hand.

The consequences of wars can't always be predicted. Korea, for instance, was a proxy war between us and China. We thought we'd found a reasonable solution when we split the country in two but now we're faced with a nuclear-armed maniac in North Korea.

My generation's war, the Vietnam War, was an enormous mistake from Day One. None of the excuses for why we needed to fight in Southeast Asia were valid. I believe the names on the Vietnam Wall (58,307) are there because of the egos of American presidents who didn't want to admit losing a war. That doesn't even include men, like my husband, who died of lung cancer in 1989, attributable to Agent Orange, by the Army who paid him an Agent Orange pension.

Since then we've had the first Gulf War with 1,565 deaths. At least, George H W Bush knew how to set a goal for ending the war and then stuck to it, which, if you're determined to fight a war, is the best way to do it.

Now we're in Afghanistan and Iraq and Syria and where-the-hell ever. We call this the War on Terror. and it appears it will be endless. Almost 7,000 have died so far.

I have no clue why we are still in Afghanistan. Russia fought there until they were practically bankrupt and finally realized they had no clue why they were there either and got the hell out. Yet, here we are 15 years later, adding people rather than bringing them home.

And Iraq, what can you say about Iraq except it was one of the worst mistakes America ever made and accomplished nothing but totally destablizing the Middle East. Obama, whom I think of a judicious and reasonable thinker in most areas, can't manage to extricate himself. It's simple. You just say, "we're out of here....handle it as best you can...good luck" and let the chips fall where they may.

In between all these other wars, we fought many wars with Indians and wars with pirates.

It seems, America is a war-like nation whether we want to admit it or not.

None of this means, I honor our soldiers any less. They did what we asked them to do. Some of them had glorious motives about protecting our freedoms and others (like my husband)  just tried to make it through alive.

Because, of course, soldiers aren't a monolithic group. They are as different as you and me. Some of them are genuinely heroes and some, not so much. Some were brave and some were cowardly. Some were kind and some were mean. Some were exhilarated by war and some were brought to despair by its awfulness. Some wore their medals proudly and some, like my husband, threw them in a drawer and never looked at them again.

Some came home to become responsible citizens and some didn't. I loved my bunch of Vietnam veterans but they were rowdy and reckless, drinkers and dopers, cynical and sarcastic. They wore their scruffty old flak jackets, not as badges of honor, but as visible statements that meant "fuck you".

And yet, there was something about their service that gave them a deep-seated sense of self-respect. They went when others didn't. They met their obligations to their country, if not eagerly, at least steadfastly. They risked themselves for their brothers. They marched courageously into a world of horror only a minority will ever experience. The ones who emerged were forever changed but forever bound to one another because only they can share the understanding of what it is like.

I give them all the credit in the world. I only wish our leaders didn't take advantage of them so casually and carelessly.