Sunday, July 31, 2016

Steady-As-She-Goes Hillary or Half-cocked Donald.


What a relief that was! After the discouraging, depressing, demoralizing Republican convention, we got some uplift and some happiness from the Democrats. It was like coming into the light after a long trek down a dark road. The hall and the speakers were a picture of America - all ages, all colors, all ethnic groups, all religions. The speakers were inspiring - Michelle Obama, Bill Clinton, Elizabeth Warren, Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Tim Kaine and of course, Hillary herself. There were Muslim Gold Star parents and the disabled and the dreamers. There were mothers of slain black boys and cops and generals. There were independents and Republicans. There was top-notch entertainment.

Of course, not all was peace and love. Poor Debbie Wasserman Schultz had to walk the plank. I felt sorry for her myself. The head of the DNC is supposed to try to end up with the most viable candidate and I think she thought Hillary Clinton was that person. The Republican leadership would have done the same if they could have. And, in addition, I expect Debbie was biased in favor of the lifelong Democrat rather than the man who often complained about the D's and became one only at the last minute yet still wanted to mold the party more to his own liking.

And we had the disaffected Bernie Believers. They seemed to come to the convention thinking they could still pull it off though it had all been over but the shouting since June. They strike me as a bunch of spoiled whiners but then I've been involved in politics for decades and I've faced my own heartbreaks along the way. That's life, kids, suck it up. Some will probably vote for Trump out of spite because they didn't get their way. Some will go home and give up the whole political business. But most will vote for Hillary, just as those of us who were Hillary supporters last time, jumped on the Obama bandwagon.

Over all though, the drumbeat of togetherness drowned out the few sour notes at the convention. And that was the theme of the week - Stronger Together - and we are, aren't we? We're stronger when we don't hate each other and when we don't blame each other and when we don't resent each other. America is stronger when billionaires like Michael Bloomberg and Bill Gates care about whether poor children are fed and housed and educated. America is stronger when we care about our police officers and our young black boys, when we respect every religion that flourishes here, and when we sympathize with Latino families who fear they'll be torn apart by a knock on the door.

Yes, the United States has problems it needs to fix. I agree with Bernie Sanders that the worst of these is income inequality. It is the working people who don't see a bright future for their kids because the rich are soaking up all the nation's wealth who are most resentful....and who can blame them? But we can't just write off big banks and corporate owners and insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies. Instead, we need to regulate them so that we give them no choice but to be part of the solution whether that is freeing our young people from crushing student loans or improving Obamacare so that everyone has healthcare or re-building our infrastructure for the 21st century or curing diseases.

And, yes, we have problems abroad but fixing them takes togetherness as well. We need our allies to defeat ISIS. We need them to get a grip on climate change. We need NATO to show Russia a united front. I don't know enough about trade agreements to know if they are good or bad or some of each. I doubt if most of you do either. Would everything have been fine and dandy economically if we'd never signed on to NAFTA? Well, we know jobs were leaving to go overseas for cheap labor before we ever heard of NAFTA. We know we had large trade imbalances pre-NAFTA. So would we have been better or worse off. I have no clue which is why I guess I have to trust the people who presumably do.

So, we've seen both conventions now and the stark differences between the conventions, the parties and the candidates should make for a pretty easy decision for most people. I want a president who is judicious and knowledgable and solid. I want someone who does her homework and studies before the test. What I don't want is a fly-off-the-handle guy who wings it.

Seems to me those are our two choices: steady-as-she-goes Hillary or half-cocked Donald.

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!