It has been quite a while since my last blog. A great deal has happened in the meantime, and I'm not talking about the world of politics. I don't even intend to use the word “politics” in this blog, even though I realize I have said “politics” twice already, and now three times. I also do not intend to dwell on some negative energies thrown my way by some of the people around me, by doing un-Christian things to people I love. I realize saying that may peak your interest, and now you want to hear more, but that is not going to happen in this blog. What I intend to do instead is brag a bit and self-promote.
First, almost seven weeks ago I underwent surgery to replace my left knee. The recovery from that surgery is much more intensive than the recovery from the right hip replacement I had last December, though actually less painful. I am making solid progress in recovering range of motion, with the help of our local physical therapy team. I have a goal solidly in mind: to be ready to travel. On January 18 Diane and I are flying back to Holland for a short visit thanks to the generosity of my brother and sister-in-law. It will be so good to see our friends “on the flat,” as I like to say. Given that winter in Montana has not yet provided much snow (one good storm at the beginning of November, and not much since), I suspect that we may miss the worst of a short winter here by being over there for eighteen days. Ultimately, however, it is the gezeligheit of being with dear friends (many of whom are also family) enjoying hot coffee and cold beer, sometimes at the same sitting.
Second, and the real reason I am writing today, is that I just published my ninth book and sixth volume of poetry. It is called Rhymes and Reasons. The first section of the book contains six prose pieces that casually talk about “light verse,” as opposed to what I am still not certain, and other thoughts about creativity and, even, oops, politics. The rest of the book is filled with shorter poems, all of which rhyme, and an occassional photograph either from the public domain or from my own personal collection. I think the book is a fun read, a good exploration and a worthy effort. I do have one caveat: light verse does not mean funny or frivolous. It can be and often is very serious in tone and theme. My book contains a solid mixture, sort of like life itself.
Rhymes and Reasons, like all my books, is available through Amazon, Amazon Kindle, and CreateSpace, as well as through most other booksellers online. Pick up a copy and enjoy!
A Passing Thought (10-10-17) On Fire and Brimstone
I have heard people like “Judge” Roy Moore declare that the afflictions hitting America are the direct consequence of the changing values in our country. Pistol-packing Moore won his Party's nomination to run for Senator. Meanwhile, Bob Corker, who said at the outset of his first campaign for the seat that he would serve two terms only and is true to his word, gets criticized for honest opinion as being disloyal. To whom? Certainly not his own conscience, or the people of America. At the same time, the entire NFL falls under attack from the POTUS. Trump objects to those players who exercise free speech in a peaceful and respectful way, genuflecting toward the flag as if to pray for a better America, while the reason for their protest is ignored or minimized by the West Wing. The Trump Reality TV Show continually calls attention to itself with ever more outrageous comments and actions, continually pushing the envelope to see how far they can go. Trump once said he could kill a man in broad daylight on a city street and not lose a vote.
Not to put too fine a point on it, I have to ask my religious friends: The fires, the floods, the hurricanes, the mass shootings, the threat of thermonuclear war-----could these be God's punishment for us permitting Donald Trump to move into the White House?
Last Sunday, Mike Pence went to see the game between his hometown Indianapolis Colts and the San Francisco Forty-Niners. In terms of the post-season the game was all but meaningless, but the half time break was dedicated to honoring Peyton Manning. Presumably, former Indiana governor Pence was there to tip his own hat to the football legend. But when players from the Niners took a knee—which everyone knew was going to happen—Pence waited until the end of the National Anthem and then walked out. No other fan followed him. The Vice-President's limo was outside the gate waiting for him; the driver had been told this might be a short stop. This means that, in the middle of scandal and controversy over other cabinet members using private and government aircraft for personal reasons, Pence flew Air Force 2 on the public dime from Las Vegas to Indianapolis just to exercise his right to free speech. In the process he attacked that very right as exercised by others. It was a gesture, a stunt, a calculated move designed for effect.
Trump and Pence continue to ratchet up the debate over “taking a knee.” Why? Because we are more likely to get excited about what happens at an NFL game than what Trump might be doing. It is classic misdirection. It distracts us from the Russian investigation into possible collusion and obstruction. It takes the spotlight off the small tweaks Trump is doing to undermine the Affordable Care Act. It hides Trump's terrible performance in providing needed leadership and aid to Puerto Rico. It obscures Trump's dangerous rhetoric about thermonuclear war. It deflects from the growing debate over Trump's very competency and just how dangerous he is to world peace. It also shifts the debate on race in America to a debate on respect. In true jingoistic rhetoric,Trump is pushing patriotism without clearly understanding what patriotism is. The flag is not America, but merely a symbol, The “Star Spangled Banner” is a difficult but beautiful song that also represents America, in particular, the America we wish America to be. Trump demands we stand for the anthem and salute the flag, as if both representations were America herself, and as if everyone MUST conform to a single meaning. But the flag does not mean the same to everyone. It represents an ideal, perhaps, to an immigrant, a work in progress to the descendant of a slave. It is the flag that flew over the camps liberated from Nazi barbarity in World War Two. It is also the flag that flew over the corpses at Wounded Knee. When someone takes a knee, he or she is saying, “Hey, we're not perfect. We've come a long way but your reaction shows that we still have a long way to go.” Attacking the gesture, Trump hopes to diminish it. What he is diminishing is the First Amendment itself, perhaps the most important 46 words ever penned and certainly the cornerstone of American democracy.
Let us repeat the reason for the gesture: young Black men in America are more likely to be killed by police than young white men even when they are guilty of no crime or transgression. This is a fact. Look it up. Young Black males are more often stopped by police and harrassed without cause, because of their skin color. Although Colin Kaepernick was the first to offer this peaceful and respectful exercise of his First Amendment rights (he did not incite a riot or even turn his back on the flag), this right has come under attack by the President. Trump misses the point. He misses it on purpose. Rights mean nothing to him, nor do the people across this great nation who continually use free speech and peaceful assembly to be heard.
Donald Trump disrespects the First Amendment. He disrespects the United States of America. One-third of the country stubbornly supports him. Most of this “base” seem to be white males reacting to the fear that their power is slipping away. Perhaps they are terrified of the possible repercussions to a group as cruel as they and their ancestors. But two-thirds do not. In a democracy, majority rules, if it does not, what do we have? Tyranny of the minority? Does that make Trump a tyrant? He seems to think it does. Just this morning I heard that he now wants to gag NBC News. The first sign of tyranny is making the Press the enemy. The second is limiting free speech.
//Thomas Jefferson did not like banks.
//To Alexander Hamilton do bankers give thanks.
//Generals and pacifists together close ranks
//Campaigning for President on behalf of Tom Hanks.
//Lincoln saw to it the Republic still stood,
//House divided, united, o'er expanded lands,
//Then TR, ol' Bully, watered the sands
//So we could go out selling the Tom Hanks brand.
//He'll have to be drafted, we all know it's true:
//Political ambition, the kind Kennedy knew,
//Is not something Tom Hanks would ever do,
//So getting him to accept is up to me and you.
//And if, like Bill Sherman, Tom Hanks tells us no,
//Says the cost to his family would be too steep,
//Crying and desperate, we must let it go
//And ask Meryl Streep.
//And if he says yes, we too will give thanks
//And ask Meryl please to run for Veep.
Great words, not mine:
1)Man is by nature a political animal.-----Aristotle.
2)The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy, that is, the search for a moral justification for selfishness.-----John Kenneth Galbraith.
3)In politics, nothing happens by accident. If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way.-----Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
4)The secret of politics? Make a treaty with Russia.-----Otto von Bismark.
5)Politics is not a bad profession. If you succeed there are many rewards, if you disgrace yourself you can walways write a book.-----Ronald Reagan.
6)A typical vice of American politics is the avoidance of saying anything real on real issues.-----Theodore Roosevelt.
7)If we don't believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don't believe in it at all.-----Noam Chomsky.
8)A fool and his money are soon elected.-----Will Rogers.
9)If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in five years there'd be a shortage of sand.-----Milton Freeman.
10)Unity in faith is theocracy; unity in politics is fascism.-----Maajid Nawaz
11)Liberalism is trust of the people tempered in prudence. Conservatism is distruct of the people tempered by fear.-----Dwight Gavid Eisenhower.
12)In a democracy, dissent is an act of faith.-----J. William Fulbright.
13)Politics is too serious a matter to be left to the politicians.-----Charles de Gaulle.
14)One of the key problems today is that politics is such a disgrace, good people don't go into government.-----Donald J. Trump.
15)Suppose you were an idiot and suppose you were are member of Congress, but I repeat myself.-----Mark Twain.
16)Democracy is when the indigent, and not the men of property, are the rulers.-----Aristotle.
17)I love America more than any other country in the world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.-----James Baldwin.
I wonder if Colin Kaepernick had any idea how important he has become, via a gesture. By finding a peaceful and respectful way to lodge his protest—taking a knee during the playing of the National Anthem—he has brought holy hell down upon himself but, because of his celebrity, has opened a dialog across the nation that has reached the current White House a full year later. Donald Trump disapproves. He said so. He calls it disrespectful, a cause for termination. Kaepernick did not turn his back on the flag, he did not walk off the field. He took a position of supplication, in total silence, to draw attention to his concerns. To my mind it was an act of patriotism because a true patriot, when confronted with a failing in his country, finds a way to speak out. But our president does not seem to understand the First Amendment, or if he does, he does not seem to buy in. His disapproval has opened the door further, and entrenched Kaepernick's point. A new poll shows that three of four Americans now admit that race relations are still terrible in America. Taking a knee is almost a prayer to make things better, to notice. The practice has not stopped, but spread, all the way to Congress. Since football is more popular than Trump, I fear he has kicked the hornet's nest.
The trouble is, Trump likes kicking hornet's nests. He thinks it is fun and he thinks it entrenches him with his base. More, he thinks he can distract us from North Korea, Puerto Rico, health care, tax reform and the Russian investigation by going on tirades about what athletes do before the game begins. True, a slight majority of Americans agree that taking a knee is disrespectful, and some are fairly militant about it. I heard a great deal of vitriol about Kaepernick when he did it. I defended his action then, and I would kneel beside him today is I were in that position. Respect is not a given. Trump thinks it should be. But more, Trump thinks that he can get away with anything as long as he keeps firing salvos broadside against whatever his tweeting thumbs think of on a given day. I personally see Lady Liberty, the great symbol of our country, taking the field of a stadium with Trump watching in the stands, and she takes a knee.
They don't care if you die. Any member of Congress who votes for this newest anti-ACA bill is telling you this. The ACA, or Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, has witrhstood various serious attacks designed to overthrow it at the cost of coverage for millions of Americans. This klatest proposal is as bad as or worse than those which came before, but they don't care what you think. Only 12% of Americans approved of the previous plan. Over 60% expressed relief when it failed—by one vote. This one is so bad that its sponsors are trying to sneak it through without proper debate and before its actual costs can be calculated. They are so anxious to undo something former President Obama accomplished that they have designed a bill that essentially returns American health care to a luxury for the rich instead of affordable for all. It is not a fix, or a repair; it replaces a system that needs work but is functioning better than they would have us believe, with a system that denies coverage or hikes premiums once again, or goes back to high deductibles for people who are betting they will only need coverage for a catastrophe.
These people have great insurance themselves. They don't need to care about you. They want to free up funds to pay for their tax cut for the rich. And the rich don't care if you die. For every job in America there are plenty in line waiting to take it. That means you, your parents, your children—there are plenty more where you came from. The pool is endless; so what if a few of us die? Please note how many people and organizations do care about you, among them the American Medical Association, the American Nurses Association, AARP, the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, and the American Hospital Association. Also note, win or lose, how your representatives voted-----and remember it come the next election.
While a handful of Republicans in Congress plot to enslave the American people to the health insurance companies of America, the President of the United States insults the entire United Nations and threatens North Korea with total annihilation and the murder of at least half as many victims as were killed during all of World War Two. Today I am embarrassed to be an American. I know we can do better, I just don't know when we plan to start.
It astonishes me to think that only three percent of the water on earth is fresh water. 97% is salt water. About one third of all fresh water is in the Amazon River system—so much fresh water pours into the Atlantic at the Amazon's mouth that water two hundred miles away atill tastes fresh. Another fifth of the world's water is in just one lake, Lake Baikal in Russia. The sixth largest fresh water lake in the world in terms of surface area, Baikal is so deep that it holds twice as much water as Lake Superior. Sitting on the Baikal Rift, an active geologic feature, the lake is actually growing. This means the rest of the world—plants, animals and people—has to share 45% of the fresh water available, or less than one and a half percent of the world's total water supply. Factor in the polar ice caps and the other massive lakes around the planet, and it seems that land based life is frugal with water, indeed. We use that water to irrigate our crops, slake our thirst, bathe our bodies, flush our toilets, and we have to share it with every other creature on the planet. Truly amazing. Water renews itself through evaporation, migration and precipitation, but to think it is infinite is foolish. And yet—unless the convenience store closes early—we never run out of beer.
Not to mention wine and spirits. Did you know that there are approximately 158 distilleries in Scotland alone, producing the true King's Sport, single malt whisky? It would take six months to visit each one and truly appreciate its finesses. The cost would be prohibitive, but I think about the water involved in producing this elixir of the gods, from sweet to smoke. Plus, one needs a wee dram of water to open up the Scotch—I am told.
And speaking of coffee, did you know that most bottles of beer cost less than a latte or a can of Starbuck's? Just sayin'. Or grab a shot of Vodka while overlooking the massive expanse of Lake Baikal, and zdravstvujtye (hello!)! But, ooch, donn ask me how te pronounce it.
I wish I were done with politics, but politics is not done with me. Yet I stand at an impass. There is no human being on earth—and probbably none anywhere more celestial, either—who can convince me that Donald Trump is an honest man worthy of my trust. At the same time, I know I will never be able to convince anyone who so believes otherwise. So I have to let Trump do the convincing.
It should be easy. All anyone has to do is pay attention. He spreads alternate facts without bothering to check them; the most recent one is the story thyat Black Jack Pershing had 49 Muslim terrorists shot with bullets dipped in pig's blood. A 1927 newspaper article related that Pershing did sprinkle pig's blood on captured terror suspects, then let them go, but even that story is legend and not fact. But Trump adopted the embellished story he took from the internet as his own, as the truth, and I am certain he believes it. He has insulted Gold Star families, major celebrities, and even fellow Republicans without impunity. Point by point, his base of support has slowly dropped to 34%. Two-thirds of Americans no longer support him or never did, yet he remains President. Uncharacteristically, the American people are rejecting Trump as their trusted leader despite it being less than a year since he took office, and despite the fact that the US economy is booming. To many, Donald Trump is best described as an embarrassment. Now, Charlottesville and his subsequent rants.
Trump declared himself a racist within the first minute of his candidacy for President. Throughout his campaign his rhetoric was outrageous and inflammatory. People loved it; they saw him as speaking from the heart instead of what he was really doing: say whatever he thought would win his base and then what would keep them. He won the election in the Electoral College despite losing the popular vote by three million. He distorts and embellishes the truth and out and out lies. Then he convinces himself the lies are the truth and the truth is made up of alternate facts. He really believes that he won the Electoral College in a landslide. He really believes he won the popular vote. He really believes that the crowds at his Innaugural were the largest in history. He probably believes that his polling numbers are all lies manufactured by the media to embarrass him. When he holds a rally, he believes that the people who come to see him represent the majority of Americans while protesters outside are radicals for hire. And on and on—he even had a great number of us convinced that Mexico was going to pay for his “Wall.”
Now, after months of promising, Trump is threatening to close the government if We The People don't finance the construction of the Wall. Every promise made is falling apart; every lie told is coming to roost, yet all he seems willing to do is tweet incessantly and hold campaign rallies three plus years before the 2020 campaign, aimed at that dwindling base. On Friday, the same day Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas, the President pardoned Joe Arpaio, the Phoenix, Arizona, sheriff convicted of violating a federal court order to stop random profiling of Hispanics who might be illegal because of how they look regardless of their actual status. The pardon is just another proof of where Trump stands, and with whom he stands shoulder to shoulder. I guess the rest of us just don't count.
Excuse me for not blogging for so long. It's not that I've been out jogging or busy cataloguing all the things I haven't written and haven't done. I'm just right here sitting more or less adrift like a shipwrecked sailor on the wine dark sea waiting for a shark to make a meal of me while I tread water for all eternity. My keyboard clacks with noiseless sounds where all my empty thoughts abound after everything is gone that I have tracked and kept in storage in a treasure chest buried on an island under a thousand feet of shifting sand far from the madness of the world at large; my own personal madness will do quite nicely.
Today is my half-birthday. I'm sixty-seven and a half today. Who cares? Well, at 67 ½, every day you wake up breathing is a cause for celebrating. Whatever the weather, wherever you are, whoever is in power at the moment near or far, life is good, life is fair.. At least for me; in that sense I've been pretty lucky. I have hair. Lots of it. My brain is still reasonably functional. I still remember all sorts of s—tuff. My train of thought blithely sits on the track waiting to move. My bags are packed and whatever I lack for the trek I will figure out at the other end and, what the heck, I celebrate by sharing the following paragraph with all my friends, and rest assured I'll never quit.
I've been on a poetry kick of late, rhyming lines on love and fate. The Trump Show makes me hesitate, but sometimes you just have to leave politics aside and go on a more joyous ride, and sometimes you feel a lion's pride in the few things you can control and the many things that feed your soul. So rhymes have become my oars on a lifeboat that suddenly appeared, easing all my deepest fears for now as I put in for a distant rocky shore, and I can see you standing there waiting with a warm blanket6 and a steaming cup of tea.
I've been away for a while, by choice. I pulled back from my blogs because the political scene just keeps getting more Reality TV absurd. I began to feel like Cassandra warning the Trojans not to open the gates and let that giant horse inside, only for me it was a giant horse's ass to worry about. I kept track even though the news has been depressing, frightening, at times ridiculous and at times sublimely absurd. I would laugh except it is all so real—an egomaniac with no moral compass who believes his own lies is running our country by alienating our allies and antagonizing more and more of his own people. I keep seeing smug Benito Mussolini addressing the Italian people on how great things are going to be at a rally before the start of World War Two—he didn''t know someone else was the puppet master and his people had no idea what they had purchased. So I backed off. Let things play out. Worked on my own stuff. Figured no one would be listening, anyway. Then Charlottesville happened, and guess what? The majority of the American people began to speak, by a 2 to 1 ratio, not just against the purveyors of hate who tried to incite the nation into violence, but against a President who cannot say the right thing whenever he is left to his own devices, and wouldn't know the truth if it hit him in the head, which it does, continually. Looks like I'm the one listening now. He won't. He's too busy building a horse.
I bet those who didn't come out to vote in 2016 are sorry now. They elected this man.
The honeymoon appears to be over. Republican members of Congress and other staunch members of that party are being confronted by the stark reality of Donald Trump's belief system. I remember when he first began his campaign, just seconds after he walked down that staircase and announced he was running for the office, and then went on a tirade against illegal immigrants that went far over the top, and I thought, this man's a joke. He will get nowhere. But so many people told me, “He doesn't really mean it.” I thought, are you lkistening? “It's just what candidates say.” But all we have to judge by are the words a person gives us, especially when we have no idea of that person's track record in actions. Trump did mean what he said. He keeps saying it. Now, finally, it seems that most of the country and even some of the Republicans among us are getting it.
Trump's base support keeps shrinking, down to 34% this week. 40% of Americans want to see him impeached. 6% more want him tried by Congress and thereby removed from office than support his agenda, whatever that is, and his rhetoric, which is remarkably clear. Even die-hard supporters are eroding away, and rightly so—who wants to remain associated with the closet bigotry that helped elect him and that he has so blatantly taken out of the closet?
Which begs the question: can't we just look at Donald collectively and say, “You're fired!”? The answer, sadly, is no. the Constitution has never made a provision for lack of confidence. Other democracies have a vote of no confidence clause, and use it, but not the United States. We have to wait. We have to wait for the general election of 2020. We have to hope that the other party presents us with a worthy opponent whom we can trust and in whom we can believe. To act sooner, we have to wait for the 2018 mid-term elections and if, IF, the House flips to a majorty for the Democrats, then impeachment proceedings might be voted upon to begin. Otherwise, we have to hope that a Republican majority Congress votes for it now, or that they, in conjunction with the President's own cabinet, decide that he is unfit and invoke the 25th Amendment, placing Mike Pence in the top spot, which is equally frightening. Or Trump might resign. I think he'd rather drop nukes on North Korea.
In a discussion on free speech, my brother expressed to me a certain ambivalence about whether of not Confederate Robert E, Lee's statue should be removed. I asked him, what if you were in Berlin or Amsterdam and someone wanted to remove a statue of Adolph Hitler, assuming one was there? After all, Hitler is a vital part of human history. I am not equating Hitler with Robert E. Lee, but I am equating slavery with Nazism. Both were and are heinous institutions that derive(d) their power from the misery and enslavement of others. Neither is on the scrapheap of history—obviously, neo-Nazism and White Supremacy and the bigotry and hatred they engender are still loud and vulgar in America and elsewhere; and the fact is that over 26 million human beings are enslaved around the world today. So why is the removal of one statue so important: because any symbol of either Nazism or slavery is an affront and an insult to Liberty.
Ironically, Lady Liberty allows someone so inclined to display suich images. But when the land is 'public,' when it belongs to and is freely open to all who wish to go there, those symbols do not belong. Those who display them privately or as an expression of free speech should be mindful of what those symbols really represent--hatred--and how displaying them makes that person appear to the rest of us. One has to think that such public displays are meant to incite violence and hatred, given what they represent. It was not a statue that was the issue in Charlottesville; the statue was an excuse to cause a riot. The First Amendment guarantees the right to peaceful assembly; I saw no intent to promote peace or understanding among the neo-surpemacists in Charlottesville.
Those who exercise free speech are not required to have respect for the institutions that guarantee and protect that speech, or for the majority of citizens the speaker presumably wants to sway to their point of view. You do not have to respect us, but do not expect our respect in return.
The Right Honorable Senator from Montana
Dear Senator Danes,
I am appalled that ther House of Representatives passed the health care reform bill practically in secret and before discovering the bill's potential financial impact, and before allowing the American people to see it in detail and comment intellegently. I am appalled that this bill will likely increase medical and insurance costs for individuals, making health care less affordable rather than more so. I am appalled that this bill will increase the deficit while cutting taxes only for those making $200,000 or more. One in every seven Montanans stand to be affected if this bill or similar legislation becomes law. These are your constituents, Senator. Among them are a good number of Native Americans—1,000 in Lake County alone—who now are eligible for Medicaid but would lose their eligibility under the newest plan Health care is a major issue among Native Americans. We owe it to this small groiup to be sure they are counted. The needs of the few sometimes do outweigh the needs of the many.
The United States has fought wars to liberate oppressed people everywhere. Right now, at home, your own constituents face an oppression of a different sort that the ACA was helping to address and rectify, but the AHCA appears to ignore altogether. We don't know. We don't know what the Senate plan looks like, and may not get to see it before it is made law. I am appalled that passing a repeal and replace act so quickly without proper scrutiny was more important than creating a better plan. I am disgusted that this plan seems designed only to benefit the very rich, the insurance companies, and the pharmaseutical industry. I am frightened that members of the United States Senate seem to be doing exactly the same thing, trying to sneak new legislation into law without debate or amendment.
Senator, when you contemplate your vote on this bill or any variation thereof, please consider how your constituents will view your vote when you come up for re-election in 2020. Please remember that more Americans currenlt approve of the Affordable Care Act than approve of the President, and by far, of Congress. The HR bill is opposed by AARP, AMA, AHA, and many other major players in the health care industry. 74% of Americans do not want to see the ACA repealed. Only 17% do. Over 55% of Americans do not want this new plan at all. The ACA is not perfect, so fix it. Don't scrap it just because your party leaders tell you to do so. The new bill is a rush to judgment that will only make things worse. If Congress fast tracks this legislation and rams it down our throats, there will be hell to pay. Be on the right side of history. Make us proiud. We are watching, despite the distractions.
Thank you for your time.
Just a quick brag. Please check out Highland Park Poetry Magazine's Muses Gallery for 2017 Summer: Birds. There are many fine and well crafted poems and there and many excellent bird photographs as well. Among them, quite a ways down in the gallery, is my poem, "Osprey," and my own picture of, you guessed it, osprey. They are a parent and young in a nest built upon a flat platform expressly for them because they had been building their nests atop power poles, which was dangerous for them and potentially damaging for the power company. I think the platforms are a brilliant way in which human beings thought outside the box to find a solution that works for everyone concerned. Thanks for looking! Support the arts and your local poet!! The link is: http://www.highlandparkpoetry.org/themusesgallery.html or search Highland Park Muses Gallery.
I have a leak in my roof. It only shows up on rainy days. When the sun comes out, the leak's not there. I can ignore it. Better still, without the proof, I can deny there's a leak at all. But while I do, the support beam under the roof is rotting away. Slowly, yes, but in time my roof will collapse. Intellectually, I know that to be true, but the sun shines far more days than the rain falls.
Despite American isolationism, climate change will continue. I have long said that the United States is no longer the power or example she used to be and now Donald Trump makes it official by removing her from the leadership role in combating the Number One challenge to global—and US—human security. We have passed that role to China. In his efforts to look powerful and decisive Trump makes America look petty and foolish. This makes the United States, at least in terms of climate change and its implications, the Rogue Nation. Even North Korea ratified the agreement. Nicaragua did not sign because they thought the accord was too weak. Syria did not sign, presumably because its “president” likes to use chemical weapons on his own people.
Trump says he represents the people of Pittsburgh, not Paris, but Pitsburgh and Allegheny County voted overwhelmingly against him in 2016. And what about New York or Los Angeles or Albuquerque? Trump is supposed to represent what the majority of Americans want; instead, he tries to appease a dwindling base.
The oceans will continue to rise. The ice will continue to melt. The air will continue to warm. Weather patterns will continue to grow more extreme. Whether this is a natuiral pattern of the planet or caused by human activity is irrelevant at this point (I personally believe that human activity exaserbates and accelerates the natural cycles of the planet to perilous levels). It is happening and we have to deal with the changing reality humanity faces world wide. The great irony of global warming is the probable outcome that, in time—not much, either—the surface of the planet will begin to cool and then freeze, bringing on the next Ice Age. This is because the ocean's salinity lowers from ice melt, which changes the currents that drive our weather. Meanwhile, Trump, like Scrooge, will count his pennies one by one while the snow falls, wondering why nobody is buying his outsourced ties or renting space at Mar-a-Lago anymore.
What bothers me most is his arrogance. He calls the Paris Accord a bad deal for America. Trying to secure a better world for his own son Barron is a bad deal. Trying to ensure that future deal-makers have something to work with is a bad deal. The world that Barron will inherit doesn't matter to him. What matters is how Trump himself looks right now, and he looks like an idiot. Tomorrow will be Barron's problem. Don't mess with the bottom line today, Son, because I sure as hell am not investing in you. You're a bad deal. Daddy Trump doubles down on the coal industry, which is dying because coal is dirty and expensive to extract even with new mining techniques that eliminate the need for miners. His position encourages oil producers like Saudi Arabia and Russia to look away from renewable energy sources that themselves will promote new industries and new jobs.
I should not be surprised. Long range thinking is beyond Trump's ken. He can barely make a plan to cover the week ahead before his next golf date at Mar-a-Lago, which, I am given to understand, will soon be, as realtors like to say, under water.
My granddaughter wears the delightful name, CharleeRose. I call her Chuck. Or Bug. She is almost three years old and totally fearless, like her father. She runs, jumps, tumbles, and if she goes airborn she is confident that her Opa will catch her. If she stumbles and falls, or crashes into something solid, which happens often enough, she rarely cries. “I tough cookie,” she says.
CharleeRose loves to come over to OmaOpa House in OmaOpa Car. “Opa Cra car white?” she always asks, as if to check the world is as she left it yesterday. “Daddy car blue.” It is a fact, dependable, certain. “Opa drive?” The world is consistent. The world is good. When she knows she is coming to our house she waits by the front door of hers, hugging her coat. CharleeRose loves to go anywhere, anytime, but OmaOpa House is special. The fun place.
Her favorite thing is blocks. We have Duplos and we have soft blocks. The first thing she says when she comes in the door is, “Opa blocks?” We dutifully bring them out, one set or the other, her choice, then dump them on the livingroom floor. She loves to build them up and then knock them down. Unlike her brother at that age, she actually builds. She likes it best if I am down on the floor with her, building. We make Duplo towers as tall as she is, and when they fall she hands me some and says, “Try again!”
If I am slow to join her on the floor, she says, “Opa blocks” not as a question but as a command. It means, “Play with me.” Opa always does. But for awhile, I couldn't. I had hip replacement surgery in December and for several weeks I did not dare to get down on the floor with her. It was too hard to get down and impossible to get up again. Bug was disappointed but she shouldered on. She was delighted when I could get down on the floor again.
For my comfort, I would take a pillow off the couch and set it on the floor. I did this every time and do it still. The other day I was too slow joining her, so she said her command, “Opa blocks!” But first, she took the pillow off the couch and set it down for me.
This may seem a normal jesture, but when your grandchild does it for t he very first time your heart swells. Not that it takes much where my Bug is concerned. She has me wrapped around her little finger and I'm pretty sure she knows it. Still, it was genuine kindness in her soul that I saw in that pillow. After all, she didnlt have to do that, she just did. She didn't have to win my heart. She had me at “I tough cookie.”
I'm a pretty bright fellow, and I know a lot of stuff. In fact, I am a virtual warehouse of useless information. But put me on a television show, cameras rolling and buzzer in my hand, and I think i'd freeze. I would stand there with a blank look on my face, forget where I am and what I am there to do, and the first round would slip past before Alex Trebeck could get my attention. It's stage fright and more. I get test anxiety reading an eye chart.
What if I fail? Will the opthamologist declare me blind? Will he say I can't drive? It has never happened, but what if it did? I love to drive. I love the control. It's like remote control heaven with changing scenery. I park outside the eye clinic, perfectly spaced between the lines. I step out and my confidence wanes. I'm nervous going in. They check you for glaucoma – talk about pressure. Then they dilate your eyes with drops. Is that some sort of performance enhancing drug they're slipping into you? You trust them – they're doctors, after all – but the Eyeball Olympic Committee might be watching.
I know you can't “fail” an eye exam. It's a tool to help you see better. But what are they thinking when you're sitting there with that blackout circle over one eye, trying to read the back-lit letter board with the other? F looks like P. E blends and twists before my eyes into B. O grows a tail and C may or may not have a TV tray across its lap. I stare and stare and stare, trying to make certain I have it right. Are they judging me? Am I stupid if I miss one? I mean, the answer is right there in front of me.
“A, E, I, O, U, Alex.”
“In the form of a question, please.”
“What are A, E, I, O, U?”
“Eh-eh. Sorry. The correct answer is, what are vowels?”
The sky has not fallen. Small bits of it seem to have impacted on and around the White House, but they were mostly harmless. The pieces President Trump attempted to launch never left the ground. The sun still shines, the earth revolves around it, the moon arund the earth.
29 days into his Presidency, very litle has changed either in Trumpo world or the real one. The people who will believe anything still believe the Donald even after provable lie after lie coming from every corner of the West Wing. Mitch McConnell syas he believes in Trump's agenda but is tired of the rhetoric. Republicans in Congress seem nervous, disillusioned, even dismayed, but vote to give him what he wants, The democrats protest loudly but have no power but to delay, which they do only half as well as the republicans did under the last administration. Things are stgnant, largely; in other words, politics as usual.
Masses of American citizens are taking to the streets, protesting on behalf of various higher issues all dealing with human rights. Trump supporters send out tweet-worthy bytes demanding that we all must support the President, right or wrong, and stop criticizing him. They forget three things: first, it is a patriot's duty to speak out when something is wrong even more than when it is right, because you don't have to fix what's right. Second, if we are going to make America great again, we will do so by practicing democracy and not its opposite. Third, criticizing Trump is way too easy to resist.
In one week I will be 67 years old. I never thought about getting this old. It just happened. But all those years have shown me many, many things. Although I have never seen a presidency like this one, I have seen leaders come and go, lead and fail, rise to the job or be swallowed by it. I have been so fortunate to have lived in a counrty that encourages freedoms, and I have exercised my freedoms to the best of my ability. I have seen the days turn to night, the sun rise and set, the moon wax and wane, relishing in them, counting them, all my life. I have learned that there will be a tomorrow despite the efforts of insane leaders to stop it, yet I worry desperately that the next insane leader might destroy so much and so many before the dawn.
So don't blame me for the mess we face. I voted for Hillary. 27 times. In sixteen states. Unfortuinately, I missed Wisconcin.
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They told us to wait and see. It didn't take long. The United States of America has been stripped stark naked for all the world to see in just a few days of the Trump presidency. The agenda is clear: we are who we are and we are no longer going to pretend that we are altruistic, freedom loving people. We are who we are, greedy self-serving corporations using our military might to get what we want, not because it's good but because it's good for the bottom line. Steal the oil. Ignore climate change. Defund Planned Parenthood and the National Endowment for the Arts. Coming: dropping out of the Paris Accords, stripping women of the right to choose, privatizing Medicare, stripping insurance from twenty million Americans, and killing Social Security so the old folks like me starve or freeze to death and disappear. Along the way, young people are going to be placed in harm's way. Only the children of the rich will be well educated. The rest of us will be vocationally trained, or pressed into military service to protect corporate interests around the world. The naked truth is this, and clearer every day: America is not a democracy, not even a Republic. America is a Plutocracy – run by the rich, of the rich, and for the rich. The world be damned. The majority of the American people be damned. I can smell the cordite in the air. And all we can do now is bear witness.
What the rich seem to forget constantly is that without the rest of us, they have nothing. But if they treat us with respect and provide us with economic stability and security, in the long run they will come out ahead. What I see instead is a domestic free for all pitting us against each other just to survive, and an international bully fest that will turn the world against us. This is not the America I learned about in history books, the America that has set itself up as an example to the world of how to be, the America envisioned by our founding fathers, protected by Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt. We have a president who seems determined to force his image of the world on the rest of us, a congress that seems ready to bend over backwards to give him what he wants, and all of it a front for an agenda set to make the rich richer in the short term. The long term be damned as well. Along the way, America is losing whatever is left of what did make her great.
I fear for America. It is somehow sad to me to think that my first blog of 2017 would be to say those four words. I have had a bit of time to pull back, to reflect, to rest, to have my right hip replaced and recover a bit from that, to let politics post-election play out. I began to look forward to a better year than 2016 both personally and politically. But I can't help it, I can't stay away. I hear people say we must stand behind our new President even before he actually is President. We should not criticize him. We must understand that what is in his heart is not necessariloy what comes out of his mouth. He will be the leader of the free world in ten days. And I fear him. I am a loyal American, patriotic enough to stand up for the things I believe best represent American values and oppose things I fear would undermine those values. It is how I was raised, by a passionately democratic immigrant father who came to America in 1952 seeking the American Dream. He dragged me along. I was two years old, so I, too, am an immigrant.
By 1952, Charles Brotman had become a celebrated public announcer for local Washinbgton DC sporting events, most notably the Washington Senators baseball team. In 1956 he met President Eisenhower, there to throw out the first pitch, and was the one who introduced the President to all the players and made sure he was comfortable. In November he got a call asking him to be the President's announcer at the inaugural parade, an offer he said he felt he was not worthy to receive but he wasn't going to let it go. It became his once-in-four-years gig, part of his American Dream. He's been doing it ever since, for sixty years, fifteen inaugurations, and eleven presidents. He recently lost his wife of 65 years, and the only thing that kept him going was preparing for parade number 16. But Donald Trump's transition team told him, essentially, we admire you and plan to honor you with a nice seat near the President, but you're fired.
Brotman is 89, still vital and engaging in that wink of the eye kind of way old men seem to acquire. Annouuncing the parade had become a tradition, and a harmless one, that held not a single party line. But Trump said no. There was no compassion, no kindness, no effort to be reasonable. There was no explanation given, no chance for appeal, no chance for rebuttal. It was, as businessmen like to say, a done deal. Trump got what he wanted and all else be damned. That's what scares me: will he treat this own country that way, without care, comnpassion, or kindness but just as a pathway to whatever he wants, his way or the highway. Will he spend his presidency in petty squabbles with famous people who disagree with him and exercise their freedom of speech to say so? What happens when people start to say, No, no more, Donald? Will that day even come? I have waited and watched for weeks now as a man elected by less and a quarter of the country prepares for office. My fear only grows.
I was born in Holland in 1950. My parents immigrated to the US when I was two. I have many close friends and family on both continents. My wife Diane and I have been happily married since 1974. I have four children and one grandchild (two more are on the way). I love writing and sharing what I wrote most of all..