Thursday, July 30, 2015

There, But For the Grace of God.....Go You

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"There, but for the grace of God, go I." That has always been my touchstone in dealing with other people even though I'm an agnostic who has no particular belief in God.

I never had an abortion but I wanted no more children after I had my son. I tried to make sure I never got pregnant but if something unexpected had happened, like my birth control failing, I would have had an abortion. I would have made arrangements just as soon as I knew. I loved my son and I think I was a good mother but I knew I was not by instinct the maternal type. Some women are, bless them. They are the ones who cry when their child starts school. That wasn't me. They are the ones who suffer from Empty Nest Syndrome. That wasn't me either.

People can have 20 children if they choose and although I think it is disgusting, it's their business not mine. But it is not their business how I choose to handle my own reproductive choices.

I was never on any type of assistance - no food stamps, no free lunches, no HUD housing. That wasn't because I wasn't poor enough to qualify at times but that I was fortunate enough to have a family able and willing to pick up the slack when I faltered. But you can bet, I would have applied for all those things if my folks hadn't been there to see that my son and I had food to eat and a place to live.

I'm not African-American. The police officers I've come in contact with have always treated me kindly. I never had to give my son "the talk" about obeying cops instantly even if you think they are being unfair, never backtalk them even if they are disrespecting you, don't, for God's sake, put your hands in your pockets, be submissive....and even that might not be enough. I've never had to worry that my son might be shot and killed simply for walking home from the store at night with iced tea and skittles wearing a hoodie because all that constitutes "suspicious behavior" when your skin is black.

I'm not an undocumented worker so I didn't come to the United States to find a better life. I've never had to live in fear that immigration officers would come pounding on the door to arrest me and deport me back to Mexico. I never had to slip out the back door of an employer's business to keep from getting caught without papers. I never had to worry about what would happen to my children if that happened.

I'm not Muslim so I never had to feel what it's like to be lumped into a collective mass under the heading "Islamic" and be judged by the worst examples of my faith even though I'm nothing like them and only want to live a peaceful life practicing my faith.

I've never had to walk into any government building which I help support with my taxes under a banner that symbolizes my past history as a slave and more recent history of a little girl trying to go to school as white adults scream vicious epithets at her and even more recent history of children shot dead in parks.

I'm not gay so I've never been discriminated against because of my sexual orientation and treated like a second-class citizen for wanting to marry the person I love or service in my country's military.

I've never been called a nigger or a terrorist or a queer or a lazy moocher or an illegal or a baby-killer. But had I been born under different circumstances, I could have called any of these things. I try to put myself in the shoes of others and imagine how they feel because, there, but for the grace of God, go I. And you know what? There, but for the grace of God, go you too.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Trump - Exciting Flirtation or Real Love?

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Is it even possible for a political blogger to write about anyone but Donald Trump this week?, unfortunately, I don't think so. His "take no prisoner" tactics make it impossible for the media to ignore him....and they don't even want to ignore him....because they love the sidehow and the headlines and the controversy. Now, this is what we call a horse race! Give us that red meat!

I wonder how long we will have to endure the ravings of this narcissistic, egotistical asshole, a man who would make the world's worst president. You kind of figure even most of the fire-breathing right-wing candidates would settle down and try to be somewhat rational if they actually won but not Trump. I thought no one could trump (ha!ha!) Ted Cruz in the crazy sweepstakes but Cruz looks positively sane compared to The Donald. Trump is driving the Republican train right off a cliff and they seem not to know what to do about it....but they better think of something fast.

At first, I thought, "well, his nuttiness is an entertaining distraction but the Republicans will come to their senses soon and he'll implode." But no, it appears that the more outrageous he is, the more his poll numbers go up. He tells it like it is, don'cha know?

When he calls the other candidates idiots and stupid and lame and stiff and says John McCain is not a war hero (and yes, he definitely said it even though he denies it now), his fans cheer. When he says most Mexican immigrants are rapists and murderers and child molesters, they shout in approval. When he says he has a foolproof plan to eliminate ISIS, they buy into it.

They seem titillated by his arrogant braggadocio. Is this what a large swath of GOP voters want? Really? A stick-it-in-your-eye president? Do they believe that would be an effective form of governance?

Is the Republican party feeding its voters stupid pills and they just took it one treatment too far? You can almost feel the panic in the mainstream GOP from here. They created a Frankenstein as they fawned on Trump for years and now they don't know how to kill him off. But I don't think this monster is going to turn out to be a gentle giant like the real Frankenstein.

I still keep hoping that this is just a flirtation with the bad boy and in the end, the R's will give a sigh of regret and marry up with the boy next door, the one with a proven record of stability and reliability, like John Kasich. I don't know though, I keep underestimating the Republican inability to live in the real world. (Thank you Fox and Breitbart and Red State and the Conservative Tribune, et al.)

Donald Trump winning would probably be the best thing that could happen for the Democrats. It would propel Hillary right into the White House. And that's the result I want ultimately but even at that, it would leave me despairing of the GOP and their total lack of commonsense. Honestly, the Republicans becoming the Buffoon Party doesn't make me happy for my country.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

The Future of the Republican Party

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Honestly, if the Republicans don't get it together, I almost think 2016 could be the end of their reign as one of the two most powerful parties in America. I know they won big in 2014 and I know they have some built-in advantages, like gerrymandering and voter suppression, but I'm not sure even those things will be enough to keep them in the game if they can't impose some discipline and commonsense and cooperation on their members.

So far, that big 2014 win has been a disaster. The Republicans in Congress have accomplished exactly nothing. They started with such high expectations. "Watch how we roll!" they exclaimed. So, we've watched but they haven't even made it on to the track yet, much less started rolling.

The Democrats proposed legislation to remove the Confederate flag from our national parks and, low and behold, it passed! Until the Republicans belatedly noticed what had happened, that is, and threw a hissy fit, screaming and shouting on the floor of the House. As a result, John Boehner put up another bill rescinding the first bill. Of course, Democrats were livid about that so in the end, Boehner pulled his own bill. That's about how things have worked in the Republican Congress so far.

Remember how they were going to concentrate on jobs, jobs, jobs? Well, they just killed the infrastructure bill. At the present time, the issue of immigration reform is roiling their campaign but not only have they not passed an immigration bill, they haven't even proposed one.

They probably sighed in secret relief when the Supreme Court validated Obamacare because they had no plan whatsoever for how to deal with millions of Americans suddenly without healthcare.

Naturally, they have literally been foaming at the mouth about gay marriage although the majority of American don't even consider it an issue and have moved on.

Their nomination process for 2016 has been an unmitigated disaster. For years, Iowa (a midwestern state), New Hampshire (a northeastern state) and South Carolina (a southern state) have been the start of winnowing the candidates. Sure, sometimes it gets a little farcical with politicians petting pigs and kissing babies and eating deep-fried Milky Ways, trying to look like down home good old boys and girls but still, it was retail politics, and they had to convince real voters to cast real votes. Between these widely disparate states, we began to get a sense of who was actually viable.

But this year, the Republicans turned the power over to Fox News. Fox, and Fox alone, get to decide who is worthy based on polls that mean nothing at this point. But if you don't charge right up to the top ten early on, Fox says you can't take part in the debate, effectively killing your candidacy. Why bother going to Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina? Fox has spoken.

It's odd, isn't it? Fox was created to be the servant of the Republicans, protecting and explaining and defending the GOP. Always on their side - right, wrong or indifferent. But in 2015, the servant pulled off a coup and became the master. It is no longer the Republicans pulling the channel's strings but Fox pulling the party's strings.

This has made the under-top-ten candidates a little testy. "Who the hell is Fox News?" they now demand to know, after it is too late. Of course, if you're in the stop ten, you're probably happy because Fox eliminated about half of your competitors for you.

And while all this is going on, Donald's Trump's bullying rampage against his opponents has taken him to the top. The Republican base evidently loves this stuff but I doubt if the party leadership does. Good old Donald calling the rest of the Republicans wimps and fools and idiots. Good old Donald, alienating vital Hispanic voters. Good old Donald, who can't be stopped because he's funding his own campaign and is accountable to no one. A bull in a china shop is dainty compared to The Donald and the Republican presidential field.

And I expect Fox is licking its lips at the prospect of Trump in a debate, throwing punches right and left. Because a cable network is first and foremost about its bottom line and it is entertainment that swells its bottom line. Fox may be loyal to a point but when ratings are involved, all bets are off. Sorry, guys. You trusted the wrong ally (which doesn't bode well for your diplomatic and negotiating skills should any of you become president - heaven forbid!)

All this is rather delicious for a liberal Democrat to sit back and watch but its sad too to see a once proud party reduced to what the GOP has become - a party in thrall to its crybaby base, a party that can't get out of its own way long enough to accomplish anything, a party that makes it decisions based on how much they hate the current president rather than what's good for the country, a party that seems to dislike most of its constituents including gays and African-Americans and Latinos and women and poor people and students.

If you think you feel the earth move now and then, it is probably Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower and even Ronald Reagan rolling over in their graves.


Saturday, July 4, 2015

A Short Escape from Reality


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When I went to Florida, I totally divorced myself from the world. I didn't log onto a computer for over a week. I didn't watch any television or radio news. Brenda and I joked that the world could be at war and we wouldn't know it.

Instead, we watched the spectacular sunsets over the Keys, to the otherwordly sound of the boat people blowing on conch shells in tribute to the sun going down.

We admired the Royal Poincianas blooming brilliantly tangerine in the medians and the bougainvillea spilling over the sides of walls and fences in shades of scarlet and hot pink and lilac. We listened to the palm trees rustling and spied the occasional Iguana. We saw and heard Frigate birds and pelicans and gulls across the water.

We lost ourselves in a night of lights and the ding-ding-ding of slot machines at the Hard Rock Casino in Fort Lauderdale.

We gorged on shrimp po-boys and grouper and sandwiches mounded high with barbequed pork.

And then we headed home. On the first day out, we happened to see the headline in a day-old USA Today. "Obamacare Upheld by the Supreme Court!" Yes, yes, yes! I forgotten all about the Supreme Court's schedule. We hunted for and found a later newspaper headline. "SCOTUS Affirms Gay Marriage!"  More yeses!

Geez, the world was traveling at light speed while we weren't paying attention. What a joyful surprise. The ever-unpredictable Supreme Court made the right decisions (in my humble opinion) in two huge cases with far-reaching ramifications for Americans.

Of course, I suspected these would be the rulings because how could they not be? By deciding in the opposite way on either Obamacare or gay marriage, the court would have plunged the country into chaos. Millions of people suddenly without insurance. Gay people who thought they were married suddenly finding those marriages nullified. It would have been catastrophe.

Naturally, Scalia, Alito and Thomas would have done it anyway but the rational members of the court held sway, thank God.

Conservatives are pissing and moaning and gnashing their teeth ever since. They are always big on hyperbole but they've been even more over the top than they usually are. Glen Beck's website opined that Obama had somehow "intimidated or blackmailed" Chief Justice Roberts. Sean Hannity warned us that death panels were on their way, with the government feeling free to kill us with shots of morphine. (I've seen people die hard and personally, I wish the government would give me the option of being sent off with a shot of morphine). The Breitbart website huffed that the "law is apparently whatever Obama says it is", forgetting the many rulings that have gone against the president. Apparently, the laws should be whatever Breitbart thinks they should be.

The rhetoric got even more extreme on the gay marriage issue. Rick Santorum lamented that the court had "ruined the foundation unit of society." Glen Beck said the decisions might mean the end of radio programs like his because, of course....fascism. Obviously, Christians would no longer have the right of free speech.

Ted Cruz called it "some of the darkest 24 hours in the nation's history." Not the times when thousands of people died, like Pearl Harbor or the Battle of the Bulge or civil war battles or 911 but Obamacare and gay marriage. What a weird sense of priorities that man has.

Anyway, we were bumping along happily back to Indiana when we came to a Confederate flag rally in, I believe, Ashville, Alabama. The good old boys were there with their motorcycles, wearing their Confederate flag doo-rags. They had many more flags all around the Courthouse. People were honking and yelling their support.

I figured that in many cases, these were the same people who'd angrily booed SCOTUS' recent decisions.

Actually, though, no one is trying to ban the Confederate flag except from flying over government facilities that are supported by the taxes of those who see it as a hated symbol of slavery and discrimination. They are still free to fly it or post it on their homes and cars and businesses.

But the very same people who are outraged about losing their right to see the Confederate flag waving over their courthouse, have no qualms about denying the rights of other Americans to have healthcare or marry the person they love, which, you have to admit, are much more consequential to a person's life than a flag.

As always, rights are often in the eye of the beholder.