Friday, February 10, 2017

#221 - Done Trying To Understand

"You are about to enter another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land of imagination. Next stop, the Twilight Zone!" - Rod Serling's opening narration

I have felt as if I were living in the Twilight Zone since January 20, and it has only become more surreal in the three weeks since The Donald took the oath of office and became our 45th President.

I have to wonder, though, whether the man (or his wife or any of his advisors) actually listened to the words of that oath as he repeated them. Because since that day, it seems as if Trump has spent more time tweeting in response to things said about him than he has actually governing.

Trump has railed against a retailer for making a business decision to no longer carry his daughter's line of products due to poor sales. The fact that he doesn't seem to recognize the need to cut your losses by dropping product lines that aren't selling might help to explain his four bankruptcies and the fact that he owes hundreds of millions of dollars to his creditors. (If he were a nation, he would almost make the United States look solvent.)

A key Trump advisor, Kellyanne Conway, also spoke to the decision by Nordstrom to discontinue the Ivanka Trump line in a clear violation of law. (Not to mention her repeated mention of a terrorist attack that never took place. #rememberBowlingGreen)

Trump's wife is suing a British newspaper, claiming among other things that its stories have harmed her ability to profit from the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that comes with being First Lady. Are we next to see the Trump Hotel brand proudly brandished above the portico to the White House?

None of Trump' supporters seem concerned by these blatant conflicts of interest. They continue to delude themselves into thinking that Trump is going to "drain the swamp" when, in fact, Trump is himself a swamp creature. Instead, they shout "Benghazi" and complain about protesters not giving Trump a chance, all the while failing to accept or acknowledge that millions of Americans are concerned about and opposed to the actions of this President.

I have friends and family who say they don't care how another person chooses to live his or her life. In the next breath, however, they voice their opposition to gay marriage or abortion. So, they actually do care; why don't they admit it?

They talk about turning this nation "back to God" (i.e., a return to Christianity) and have no problem in banning a different faith. They conveniently forget the fact that the Constitution prohibits establishment of a national religion or of laws regulating the practice of religion (or non-practice).

They then turn on those of us opposed to Trump's immigration ban, wondering how we can support a religion that marginalizes women while forgetting that there are Jewish sects in this country where women do not have equal standing with men. They also seem to forget that not all Muslims share the antiquated views of some more radical members with regard to women, just as most Christians no longer support slavery or stoning for eating shellfish, both of which were accepted in the Bible.

Regardless of where you stand on gay marriage or abortion, the fact is that legalizing both does not force you to do either. Whereas criminalizing both forces people to live their lives in secret and/or resort to desperate measures. It's the old "out of sight, out of mind" approach.

These same friends and family argue that they are not racist, yet they have no problem with Steve Bannon being the key advisor to Trump or with Jeff Sessions being Attorney General. Both men would be right at home in a Ku Klux Klan meeting. Instead, they point out that Democrat Robert Byrd was a Klan member for a short time in the 1940s, as if that justifies the views of these two men. Last time I looked, two wrongs did not make a right.

Do I believe everyone who supported and voted for Trump is a racist? No, not yet, but I do believe Trump is at the very least a closet racist. He is definitely a bully. He is definitely mean-spirited, and he is certainly thin-skinned.

For eight years, I watched as friends and family ranted about the lack of experience of Barack Obama before he became President. Yet these same people have no problem with Trump's lack of experience in government. Nor are they concerned that Betsy DeVos' only qualification to be Secretary of Education is the fact that she and her family donated millions to Republican political campaigns.

I admit to having a hard time understanding how supporters believe Trump gives a damn about middle-class Americans. He has never been middle-class in his life, and his Cabinet is made up primarily of rich white men.

I am convinced that if Obama had said or done half the things that Trump has said or done so far, conservatives would be screaming for his head on a platter. For some reason I can't (or maybe don't want to) comprehend, they are okay with Trump doing and saying these things and can't seem to understand why some of us are not okay with that.

Since these people can't seem to understand or seem unwilling to try to understand, I've decided I'm done trying to understand their views. I accept that there are serious problems in this country. I do not accept that they were all the result of one man's actions (Obama). Nor do I accept that hatred, fear, isolationism, dismantling of environmental protections, or daily tweets on Twitter are the path to a solution for any of these problems.

With each passing day, I grow angrier at having my patriotism questioned because I disagree with Trump's actions and his supporters. Dissent is, perhaps, one of the most patriotic acts a person can engage in. In fact, this nation was born out of dissent. Slavery was eliminated because of dissent. Women gained the right to vote because of dissent. Workers gained better wages and safer working conditions because of dissent.

Now, however, Trump supporters simply want me to shut up while it remains okay for them to belittle me because I disagree. Well, this "snowflake" does not plan to comply with their wishes. Just remember, with enough snowflakes, you get a blizzard, and I suspect it's coming.

Friday, January 20, 2017

#220 - Does Anybody Really Care?

"Does anybody really know what time it is?" - Chicago

As I write these words, we are roughly two hours away from Donald Trump taking the oath of office as this nation's 45th President. This fact makes me angry.

What makes me angrier is the fact that less than half of those casting votes actually voted for the new President, yet his supporters think that gives him an absolute mandate to change things. It does no such things. It tells me Trump needs to find a middle ground (something he's never shown much ability of doing) and fast.

What makes me angriest is that roughly half of all Americans who could vote in this past election didn't care enough to do so. That means the new President was chosen by 25-percent (or even a little less) of the people. Hardly the people's choice.

In baseball, only getting a hit 25-percent of the time makes you a marginal player at best. In football, only converting third downs 25-percent of the time makes it highly likely you will lose the game. Yet Trump supporters view his getting 25-percent of all possible votes as a sweeping victory. Seems a bit delusional to me.

To those who didn't care enough to vote - in my eyes, you are even worse than those who voted for Trump. You didn't like Hillary. Fine. Most, if not all states had other options. Me, I nearly voted for Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate.

Sometimes, a protest vote is important. It registers unease, concern, even anger. Not voting registers just one thing. Apathy. It is obvious to me at this point that most people really don't care about politics. I see it all the time on Facebook.

With that in mind, I am proposing a new third party, the Apathy Party. I am willing to be the party's first presidential candidate if need be. I believe I am capable of caring as little as the next person. However, I am willing to make way if another candidate comes along who cares even less. I don't care. Just let me know. I'll get back to you. Or not.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

#219 - Dawn of a New Era or the Eve of Destruction

"Ah, you don't believe we're on the eve of destruction." - Barry McGuire, "Eve of Destruction" (written by P. F. Sloan

By this time tomorrow, the United States will be led by the 45th President, Donald Trump, arguably one of the most divisive incoming Presidents in American history based on his incoming approval rating, the lowest of any new President in history.

There are those who might also argue that the new President is perhaps the most egotistical and narcissistic man to ever occupy the White House. In the immortal words of The Eurythmics, who am I to disagree?

For most of the nine years I have irregularly posted to this blog, and for most of the previous 217 posts I have published, I have stayed away from politics and religion. While I will likely continue to leave religion as only the rare and occasional topic, I expect politics to become more prevalent, and the reason is the new man behind the curtain, Donald Trump.

I recently read an opinion piece in The Atlantic that argued the possibility that Trump may end up as one of the most corrupt presidents in our history. That notion could be dismissed as mere hyperbole were it not for the fact that it was written by John Dean, the man who served as counsel for the only President ever to resign from office, Richard Nixon.

According to Dean, Trump and Nixon share some of the same authoritarian tendencies. The difference being that Nixon held many of those tendencies in check. The early indications are that Trump does not have that same level of self-restraint. From the article:
To Dean, these moments suggested a functioning sense of shame in Nixon, something he was forced to wrestle with in his quest for power. Trump, by contrast, appears to Dean unmolested by any such struggle.
Dean goes on to suggest Trump may find himself embroiled in a Watergate-style meltdown similar to the one that forced Nixon from office. Says Dean, “he’s carrying loads of potential problems into the White House with him.” He goes on to say: “I don’t think Richard Nixon even comes close to the level of corruption we already know about Trump.”

So, those who feel Trump will be a disaster as President can look forward to an early end to the Trump Presidency, right? Not if Dean is correct in his assessment of how things have changed in America since Watergate.

According to Dean the checks and balances system has been weakened by "partisan paralysis." For evidence of some of this paralysis at work just look back to the government shutdown and near shutdown, along with the constant gridlock in Congress over the last several years.

Much as many argue we have become desensitized to violence by the plethora of video games, Dean believes we have become desensitized to political scandal. After Watergate, Dean says America was on high alert. But now, according the article, "that culture of vigilance has so eroded that it’s nearly impossible now to envision a sin so grave, or a revelation so explosive, that it would lead to the ouster of a sitting president." Says Dean, “the Trump campaign is an interesting measure of how high the tolerance has gotten for a public figure’s misbehavior.”

An indication of how little we seem to care about even the possibility of impropriety with regard to a Trump presidency can be seen in the reactions of many to the choices put forth for Trump's Cabinet. The fact is that few, if any supporters are concerned by the fact that most of the nominees either have worked against the agencies they are now supposed to lead or are rich, like Trump.

The proposed head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, has sued the EPA a number of times on behalf of companies opposed to EPA regulations even though ten-percent of the children in his state suffer from asthma, a condition exacerbated by pollution.

Texas Governor Rick Perry, Trump's proposed Secretary of Energy, wants to shut down the agency. Secretary of Labor nominee Andrew Puzder has opposed labor regulations designed to protect workers (and also seems to be a fan of gridlock, saying "the less Washington does, the better". Secretary of Education nominee Betty DeVos supports voucher programs that divert taxpayer money from public schools, has no idea or apparent decision on the decades long proficiency vs. growth debate with regard to assessment, and does not appear to believe in uniform enforcement of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Other nominees, such as Housing and Urban Development nominee Ben Carson, who has criticized regulations designed to combat segregation in housing projects, seem equally dangerous. (This op/ed piece in The Baltimore Sun outlines Carson's criticisms and the arguments against those criticisms.")

For me, the biggest danger of a Trump presidency may not be Trump himself but those who seem to blindly follow him. Many of them profess to be Christian, yet the man they support is no more Christian than a pine tree and possibly less so.

One comment I read this morning on Facebook is indicative of the support that concerns me. It read, "I thank God he chose this man to help save this country, and saved us from doom." After reading that, all I could think was a) God really does have a sense of humor (something I've long suspected since learning Jimmy Swaggart and Jerry Lee Lewis belonged to the same family tree), followed by b) God must really hate us, before concluding with c) we can't blame God for Trump. This is on us.

These same Christian Trumpeters seem to conveniently forget one of Christ's most important teachings, "love thy neighbor as thyself." Either that, or they are full of self-loathing.

To my mind, there is nothing inherently Christian about any of Trump's Cabinet nominees. "As you do unto the least of them, so you do unto me" seems to fly in the face of the positions these nominees have taken. The Catholic church teaches that we are supposed to be stewards of God's creation. Among other things, that seems to mean protecting the environment, not opening up federal lands to additional energy exploration.

The next four years promise to be divisive, confrontational, controversial, and contentious. They will, however, get off to a rousing start on Saturday with the Women's March on Washington and the affiliated marches in the individual states.

The battle lines appear to be drawn. They are not, however, drawn along the moral lines many religious people would have us believe, at least not in the way they think. The lines are moral, but they are drawn along the lines of right and wrong, as in what is right for all people, what is right for the environment, what is right for the children, what is right for all faiths, and what is right for the least of us.

Instead of fighting to "make America great again" (a slogan Trump took from Reagan, by the way), perhaps we should focus on keeping America great, part of which includes celebrating diversity, promoting fairness, working to help the elderly and the poor, ensuring all Americans have access to and receive affordable health care, and not providing additional wealth and tax breaks to those who already have the most.

If America is to be and to remain great, the majority of people must benefit, not just a handful at the top. Putting a billionaire in charge and appointing a handful of wealthy people as his advisers and Cabinet members does not seem the best way to ensure that the greatest number of people possible benefit.

Let the battle begin.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

#218 - A Year To Forget, A Year To Remember

In many ways, I will not be sorry to see the back of 2016. The year got off to a rocky start with the death in January of David Bowie and continued on through the double whammy deaths of Carrie Fisher and her mother, Debbie Reynolds.

In between, a number of famous and important people left the scene, and a minority of Americans succeeded in handing the keys to the candy store (and the nuclear arsenal) to an rude and overbearing reality TV host. It's as if The Truman Show (the Jim Carrey movie in which his entire life is fodder for reality TV and he's the only one not in on it) has been flipped on its ear, the script pages mixed with those of Panic In The Year Zero (the 1962 Ray Milland film about a family which must learn to survive in the aftermath of nuclear war) to give birth to some sort of Nightmare on Elm Street revision in which the nightmare is all too real.

I have little in the way of expectations for positive change from the incoming administration, and based on some of the names on the transition team and those being bandied about for Cabinet posts, I doubt I'll be pleasantly disappointed.

I am lucky in that I do not expect my life to be negatively impacted much by the Trump presidency. My fear is that millions of others will not be able to say the same.

Based on the rhetoric coming out of Washington since the election, attempts will again be made to balance the budget on the backs of the poor and the elderly. This, even though those two groups make up a smaller portion of federal spending than military spending, federal subsidies, and tax breaks for large corporations.

I expect to see racism become, if not more prevalent, more visible and overt over the next four years. The change is already taking place as evident in the turning of a family's outdoor Menorah display into a swastika. The incoming President may not be a racist, but I believe he is an enabler of such behavior.

This last year, quite frankly, sucked in a lot of ways, and I could continue to lament what happened and outline my fears regarding what lies ahead. Instead, I will hope to be wrong and will hope that in 2017 fewer people than I expect will suffer a rolling back of rights; that fewer people than I expect will be excluded from the safety net that Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security were created to provide; and that more people than I expect will find love in their hearts for people who are different from themselves.

Happy New Year, everyone.

Friday, December 23, 2016

#217 - A Holiday Wish

Just a short post to wish everyone a wonderful holiday season. If you are traveling to visit friends and/or family over Christmas, may your journey be safe and uneventful, and may your visit be filled with wonderful and lasting memories.

It looks like our Christmas may well be a white one. Several inches of snow fell in the Boise area throughout today, much more than that, I'm sure, in the surrounding foothills.

Regardless of your political or religious beliefs, I hope this holiday finds you safe, happy, and healthy. Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, Happy Kwanzaa. As is said during the Catholic Mass, Peace be with you.