Monday, August 21, 2017

Fire the President!


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.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

A Note on Free Speech in lieu of Charlottesville


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.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Open Letter to Senator Danes re Healthcare


The Right Honorable Senator from Montana Steve Danes 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. Roy Blokker Lakeside, Montana

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Highland Park Muses Gallery: Birds


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.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Neo-Isolationism: Trump versus the Climate


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.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The Perfect Seduction


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.”

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Why I Could Never Go on Jeopardy


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?”

Sunday, February 19, 2017

66, 52 Trump!


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.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Now Available


Now available for the first time in paperback, my poetry volumes "Meeting Ronald Reagan," "Thinking About Asphalt," and "Poems, Prayers, Promises and Procrastinations." They are for sale right now at CreateSpace.com and will be available at Amazon.com within 3-5 days. Overseas buyers should see them listed within a few weeks, and other online sellers will have access to them about the same time. All three volumes are still available on AmazonKindle. Supprt the arts! Poetry is not an easy sell. All poets know this to be true. But we love what we do and love it best when others support us in our efforts. Thanks!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

America in the Nude


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.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Charles Brotman's Inaugural Parade


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.