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.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

The Quiet Majority

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I have never been to a political rally. I have never protested a political rally. I have never carried a sign for or against a candidate. There is no bumper sticker on my car or sign in my yard. I make a small donation now and then and I post my opinions on blogs and Facebook. I am a Hillary Clinton supporter. I think there are lots of people like me. I call us the Quiet Majority, at least, I hope we're the majority.

We don't consider Hillary a goddess. We don't believe she is a political messiah. We know she's not perfect. She's made mistakes and changed her mind on some issues (as they all have), though not her core beliefs. We are not looking for a savior because in politics, there probably is no such thing, and people who confuse leaders and saviors generally live to regret it.

A lot of us probably tend to be older. We've been through most of this before. We've lived through wars and recessions and assassinations and riots. We've learned to recognize pretenders when we see them...the McCarthy's and Wallace's and Perot's. The kind of charismatic candidates people fall in love with but hopefully, don't elect to the White Bernie and the Donald.

If we are Democrats, we don't want our party sabotaged. We don't want it threatened. We don't want it blackmailed by the Sanders true believers. I can't speak for Republicans but perhaps many of them feel the same about Trump.

We don't require flash and dash. We are looking for quiet competence. We want change, yes, but we want it to come in the form of hard work and peaceful cooperation. We don't want a Revolution. We know revolutions usually don't end well.

We don't want our president to be the person who screams the loudest, who comes up with the nastiest nicknames for his opponents, who complains the most, who thinks anything that doesn't favor him is cheating. We don't want our president to be someone who urges his fans to anger and discontent.

We aren't voting for Hillary because she is a woman but because she is by far the most qualified candidate. Although, we do believe it is past time to give a woman a chance after 2 1/2 centuries of male dominance in the White House.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Sleazy Donald

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He said this in 1998. In 2016, he proved that he was right. He charged into the Republican field and, using completely different tactics than had ever been used before, he wiped out every other Republican candidate. He came up with demeaning names for of them - Low-Energy Jeb, Little Marco, Lyin' Ted - and they never figured out how to fight back against a man who wasn't held to the same standards by the electorate as the rest of them. Statements and actions that would have killed off anyone else, were excused by the voters who loved his macho man, no-political-correctness, don't-bother-with-facts or policies campaign. Give'em hell, Donald. Bomb the bastards, build that wall!

Those of us who've long had faith in the innate level-headedness of the American voters were stunned that he emerged victorious in the Republican race. We were shocked that the Cult of Personality beat commonsense by a mile. We were beyond surprised that he could take over one of the two dominant parties in the U.S. with nothing more than outrageous assertions and crazy promises that could never be kept.

And now we're essentially into the general election. The Donald Trump who was one of the main players in the birther movement against Obama, is once again diving as far down into the mud as he can get. Hillary called him a sexist and that, to Trump, gave him justification to throw out every wild accusation he can think of regarding Bill and Hillary's marriage. It is rather like she used a peashooter on him and that gives him cause to use a flamethrower on her. The latest allegation is about Vince Foster's suicide which has been litigated and re-litigated since the 90's, always with the same result, namely, that he committed suicide, period. Hillary had nothing to do with it.

Of course, she was right. He is a sexist. He treats women like creatures who were put on this earth to please men and if you aren't a 10 in Donald's estimation, you should probably be burned at the stake. Flat-chested women should have to join a convent so the public doesn't have to see them. Wives are good only until a newer, younger model comes along. When asked by Don Imus if he'd still love Melania if she was disfigured in a wreck, Trump asked - "I don't know, does she still have her breasts?"  Ha!ha! Now there's some real 7th grade humor there.

He speaks in superlatives. Obama is the WORST president we've ever had. Hillary is the WORST Secretary of State. Republican voters, as stated above, are not just dumb, they are the DUMBEST!

Those of us who see through him, keep wondering how low he can go. But so far, there seems to be no bottom.

If I was to make up a nickname for Donald, as he does for others, it would be Sleazy Donald, or Scummy Donald or Slimy Donald or Sicko Donald. They all apply so it would be hard to choose just one.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Mom and John and the Six Tree Woods

The Six-Tree Wildflower Garden is almost done. My friend, Jan, has worked her heart out on it. I have a black thumb but she can work miracles with fruits and flowers and vegetables.

I've called it the Six Tree Woods ever since I moved here in 1991. There really may be more trees than six. I've never actually counted them. They border the extra lot behind the garage where no one ever goes except the lawn guys when they mow. Weeds grow up in a tangle between the trees. I've always thought it was pretty in its own neglected, wild way.

After Mom and John died and I got their ashes back, I hadn't a clue what to do with them. Neither of them had any particular place in their heart that was special to them. Neither of them ever said they wanted their ashes spread at sea or from the top of a mountain. We were always transient people so there was no "old home place".

In fact, though it was certainly never meant to be so when we moved here, this house is the closest to an old home place as we've ever had. All three of us lived here longer than any other place we ever lived.

So, what I finally decided was that I would plant wildflowers in the Six Tree Woods and when the flowers were blooming, I'd spread their ashes out there. I liked the idea that they would always be here with me. (My friend, Tina, has promised me she'd sneak out at night and  put me out there too when the time came even if strangers own the house by then.)

I think I wrote once before that Mom and John were over at Jan's for quite a long time. I just didn't think I could face seeing two boxes with all that were left of my mother and son. I went to see a psychic in Arizona. I had not told her any of this. At the very last, she said, "you need to bring your son home. Your flowers will not be beautiful unless you bring him home. You must accept what happened so you can begin to heal."

As soon as I got home, I had Jan bring the boxes to me. They are on a shelf on John's bookcase now, waiting for the flowers to bloom.

I bought tons of wildflower seeds and a lot of self-naturalizing lilly bulbs and two fairly large rhododendrons. My idea of gardening was to rake the worst of the underbrush out, plant the lillies and throw the seeds around. Done deal.

Jan had other ideas. She went out and pulled and cut the weeds. She removed every single blade of grass. She spaced the lilly bulbs just so. She planted the seeds. She put a Rhododendron at either end like anchor plants.

Lisa is coming for a family wedding on June 10. She wants to be part of spreading the ashes so we will do it then whether the seeds are up or not (I'm pretty sure this is illegal but I'm going to do it anyway....don't tell anyone, okay?)

In the meantime, Jan and I bought more plants that are already blooming so there would be flowers when Lisa is here.

I visualize it in my mind sometimes, when there are coneflowers and poppies and daisies and lillies waving in the breeze under the trees. Purple and yellow and red and orange and pink. I'm not very sentimental about death. I don't believe the soul of a person sticks around with their body or their ashes but still.....I think Mom and John would like it if they knew.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

I'm So Over Bernie.

Oh, God, I am so over Bernie and Bernie's lecturing finger and Bernie's strident voice and Bernie's repetitive stump speech and Bernie's whining about the unfairness of it all.

I've been a Hillary supporter since the beginning but I felt a certain amount of affection for good Old Bern. I am not as left-leaning as he is but I agreed with him on several of his issues, particularly income inequality. I admired his passion for that subject. I respected the terrific campaign he was able to wage and the way he has connected with young voters. Although I thought a lot of his promises were pie-in-the-sky ideas that he could never accomplish in the polarized climate of America today, still I considered him a positive participant over all.

But then I began to get nasty comments to my posts supporting Hillary. Not just, "look here, this is how Bernie is better", but "he's the only honest candidate - she's corrupt - she's a liar - she's this - she's that - just compare her to our Savior and you'll see it and you're a moron (or corrupt yourself) if you don't."

Well, I thought, that's his fans. He can't help it if they are young and single-minded about their views. That's the way young people tend to be. So, I shrugged them off, simply replying that if Bernie was nominated, I'd happily (well, okay, maybe not so happily) vote for him. Let the race go on and may the best man/woman win! We're all in this together.

Most of the Hillary people I knew felt the same but I heard in no uncertain terms from the Berniebots that no, we certainly weren't all in it together. It was Bernie or screw the system. They wouldn't vote or even worse, maybe they'd vote for Trump. That will show that Hillary bitch. And bitch was one of the kindest names they called her.

Don't even try to talk to them about the minimum wage or the Supreme Court or Citizens United or healthcare or any other issue where Bernie and Hillary are close together compared to the Republicans. Because, don't you know, for them it is purity of principle before commonsense. They'd rather go down crying about no loaf than to settle for half.

So, the campaign went on. Leave the super-delegates out of it and Hillary was still winning by hundreds of earned delegates and millions of votes. The Bernie folks have a hundred excuses why this is. The system is rigged. The establishment is cheating in Hillary's favor. Closed primaries aren't fair because they favor her. (Of course, caucuses are fair although they favor him).

Suddenly, groups that support Hillary, such as Planned Parenthood, are part of the nasty old establishment. People like me who've fought for the Democratic party all our lives are hacks. We need to move out of the way for the Bernie babies.

And Bernie's criticisms of her get progressively more vitriolic. He's practically writing Donald Trump's negative ads for him. He vows to go to the very end and to try to rustle her super-delegates as he goes. He's going to insist on a floor fight at the convention. He raves about her donors. He rants about her speeches.

He has the zeal of a missionary, him and his Children's Crusade both. The ends now justify the means because the ends are so right (which, of course, are famous last words for people doing wrong).

But politics is not religion. Politics is practical. Politics is about pragmatism and persuasion. It's about  doing your homework and compromising where you have to. It's about getting as much as you can get and living to fight another day.

So, really, want a smart, tough, experienced negotiator. I don't need a Preacher to lead me to the Promised Land.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Indiana, Or As I Call It, Fantasyland.

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Well, my home state of Indiana weighed in and the result was about what I expected. Judging by my Facebook friends, I figured it was going to be a blow out for Trump and a closer win for Bernie. This is the first time in forever that Indiana's votes meant much in the scheme of things and we made the most of our moment in the sun. We knocked Cruz clear out of the race and gave Bernie another reason to forge on. Take that, rest of the country! (What can I say about Kasich? He's a nonentity but he must not know it).

So now we have a draft-dodging, philandering misogynist as the Republican nominee. (If he wins, do you suppose he'll be able to tolerate Melania for 8 whole years while he's president and she's getting older by the day?) Wow, conservatives must be so proud! Walls and weapons and torture for all! Bobby Knight told us Trump would have guts enough to drop the bomb and isn't that what we want in a president?

Meanwhile on my side, the Democratic side, the quixotic Bernie supporters gave him a boost even though he doesn't have a prayer of winning the nomination. Because they are into making a statement, don't you know? They believe in standing on principle, as opposed to the rest of us, I guess, who vote for less honorable reasons.

I've asked some of my Trump friends to try to explain to me what they see in him that causes them to be so enamored. Honestly, I don't see one redeeming quality in the man but I'm willing to listen because I really would like to have some insight into their thinking.

They usually answer with slogans. Of course, we're all familiar with "make America great again" but they say he'll bring about change in Washington. He says what he means. (Really, if that's true then his mind must be a kaleidoscope of ideas because what he believes seems to change from one day to the next). He'll bring back jobs. He'll be tough on China and Mexico and whoever, whoever.

If you try to dig a little deeper, beneath the slogans, to ask how they think he'll bring about these changes in tangible terms, they seem to have no clue. They are not practical believers but faith believers.

As are the Bernie fans because, despite knowing  he is cannot win, they are going to continue tilting at those revolutionary windmills until the last dog has died and then I expect we'll hear them whining about how the "establishment" cheated him even though Hillary got more votes and more earned delegates by far.

Indiana's primary was an illustration of how much of America prefers to live in fantasy land rather than the real world. We are so discouraged and disgusted (mostly unwarranted as far as I'm concerned), we are willing to take a flyer on anyone who tells us what we want to hear even if they can't show us their plans for keeping their promises.

I have never had any respect for Donald Trump. I've now lost what respect I had for Bernie Sanders.

I expect the campaign between Hillary and the Donald will be the most vicious I'm seen in my lifetime. I can hardly wait (which is sarcasm, in case you don't recognize it.)