Desensitizing the USA – Trumplandia

Photo credit: Geoff Livingston on Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

I have a confession. I used to respect the office of the president, no matter who held it. I no longer do. Respect must be earned. Even worse, I used to believe our checks and balances would get us through anything. I am questioning this now. Our Constitution is only as good as the voters who choose people to uphold it, and they seem too easily swayed by fame and “fortune,” too easily conned by an adulterous cheat who claims to uphold Christian values.

We have undergone a year-long desensitization in the U.S. toward all things ugly and mean. There is no longer any shock value to what our president says about anyone or anything, regardless of what those in the media would have us believe. For me, the shock came during the race for the presidency, where he mocked a disabled man and, in true middle-school bully manner, gave ugly nicknames to his opponents. He apparently, through his wealth and power, quashed stories of his philandering and sexual predation, but we knew. I thought right would prevail and people would choose decency. I was wrong.

Now my reaction is only sadness.

How low have we sunk as a country that we are willing to push all this man’s indecencies to the side and accept him as our leader? He’s not even a good leader. He doesn’t inspire or pull people together. His vitriolic speech and tweets divide and anger the many who disagree with his gated-community vision of the world, and guess what – they are not all people of color. He pulls on a trucker cap and speaks in an uneducated slurry of superlatives, the con man who tells us to trust him. Is this a good sell for people?

I don’t understand.

Sometimes I see Donald Trump with the eyes of a parent or a teacher. I am both. I have seen these behaviors before. Kids who are starved for attention will try with any means possible to get it, and if they are not noticed for good behavior, they will pour on the bad. I don’t think our president ever got the tough love response of ignoring the temper tantrums that would have helped him develop a deeper character. He’s a paper cutout, a simplistic, greedy man who, like a child, is all about himself. His willingness to “help” our country is only insofar as it helps or boosts him. He is not one of us, no matter how many red hats he puts on.

I long for the day when I can respect the office of the presidency once again. May that day come soon.


For my evangelical friends who believe this wolf in sheep’s clothing, let me leave this here for you. Wake up.

When wealth is lost, nothing is lost;
When health is lost, something is lost;
When character is lost, all is lost.
~Billy Graham

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New Year, New Hope

I vow now that the end of 2018 will not see me sitting on my couch watching a movie, just waiting for the sands on the year clock to run out. May 2018 be a year of renewal. May it bring with it a dedication to truth and authenticity, honest, heartfelt conversations, and clarity of thinking in the path forward. May the ghosts of all the years past not throw chains around this new year, and may patience turn to decisiveness.

To 2018!

Photo credit: maxxtraffic on Foter.com / CC BY-SA

 

The Extravagance of Being

This is the season of giving, of depleting the savings accounts and trying to balance the scale between giving and receiving, of cordoning off time for family in the midst of a giant collective shove to propel the economy into the black for another year. It’s a season of rising joy, a half bell curve, where the post-holiday reality check smacks you like a fall to the pavement. Gifts received graciously, excitedly, are quickly used, worn, and eaten. Time passes, and those non-consumables are ultimately relegated to the back of the closet or the top shelf to gather dust before being hauled to the local donation center, making space for the cycle to begin again.

But what of the intangible.

My niece received the ultimate Christmas gift, or maybe she gave it, depending on your perspective. Her holiday plans were interrupted by a trip to the hospital to deliver her first child. It’s a gift we’ve all experienced on the receiving end. It’s a gift that holds such promise and expectation of growth and renewal, of successes, of love and bonding. It’s a gift often taken for granted until it’s gone.

And gone it will be all too soon. This Christmas season also saw the loss of a dear sister-in-law to cancer, the end of a life well lived.

Life and death.

Our existence on this ball of rock suspended in space is a tremendous gift. The place we occupy in space and time is unique to us, and to us alone. We may collect friends and family to walk the path with us, but their vista is different, and they may tread easily where we have cause to stumble. We grow up seeing thing with fresh eyes that cloud over with time. We begin with the excitement of the new, learning instructions for how the world works, until for many it becomes mundane, old, used, and we merely exist until we don’t any more.

But if we look closely, there is extravagance all around us. The heady scent of flowers in the spring that bring the buzzing, industrious bees in their quest for nectar. The small molecules of water that are so constructed as to hold onto each other as they ride the wave of gravity toward the ocean, bringing us fresh mountain streams and scenic waterfalls. Basalt, sandstone, and granite tower over us, ever so slowly shifting and moving, only to then crumble and fall, reminding us of our impermanence in this ancient place. The transfer of gasses within our lungs, the beating of our hearts, the plasticity of our brains, all miraculous gifts that we take for granted until they are gone. The capacity for love and forgiveness that strengthens ties and creates a web of safety and security, tendrils of which creep outward in random acts of kindness toward strangers. Extravagance. Just look to the closest planet and compare – then immerse yourself in it.

In Search of a Holly, Jolly Christmas

Yesterday we got our tree.

I scraped my snuffle-nosed, chilled self up off the couch, out from under the warm blanket, woke Maverick from his lazy, Saturday afternoon nap, and together we joined Mr. A on a trip to a local tree farm in search of the perfect tree. There used to be six of us wandering out in the cold, pointing to different ideas of perfection. Now there are three. Soon there will be only two. (I see a Noble Fir in the future.)

In about 15 minutes we had our tree chosen, cut, loaded and paid for, a very quick and efficient trip, a small-sliver reminder of the joyful family times we used to enjoy at this time of year. I should be happy, but I’m feeling rather melancholy.

I have two kids who’ve moved to different states and one stubborn Goose who has decided he doesn’t celebrate Christmas. (I’ll be slipping him a copy of Dicken’s Christmas Carol.) Maverick is left to hold the banner for the offspring branch in this family tree, and he prefers his room to the common area. I am starting to understand how that holly, jolly feeling can be obscured by a dark cloud of unfulfilled expectations. At the same time I am confronted by a social media storm of carefully curated photos of happy, close knit families enjoying the holiday preparations together. Time for a Facebook break.

Maybe I will find my holly, jolly Christmas yet.

Maybe when my system beats back this cold.

Maybe when my Sunshine arrives for a 5-day visit.

Maybe if I can convince my Scrooge McGoose that Christmas is about time with the people you love.

In the meantime, the tree is up and taking up half of my living room. In the spirit of going through the motions, it’s time to decorate.

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Dancing in the Dark

Golden sunlight pierces a rift
In draperies drawn closed,
Warm photons passing through floating motes,
To land upon a fallen streamer lying
Coiled in a graveyard of listless balloons.

For a brief moment the hovering dust
Swirls and eddies
As a figure slowly sways through the light,
Stocking feet shuffling
Back and forth,
Back and forth.

Eyes closed in reverie,
Softly humming,
Moving in time,
Her graying hair shifting loosely
Around thin shoulders,
As she sways
Back and forth,
Back and forth.

Arms opening wide
As if in expectant embrace,
She slowly twirls
Out of the light
And resumes her swaying
Back and forth,
Back and forth.

The balloons scuttle heavily out of her path,
Carried on disturbed air.
Streamers whisper as they form new entanglements
On the wooden floor,
And as she makes her latest pass,
All becomes quiet again
As she continues
Dancing in the dark.

What’s on the Menu of Life?


Photo credit: Thomas Hawk via Foter.com / CC BY-NC

Life can be
Two all beef patties on a sesame seed bun,
Wan, plain, and always the same,
Served up with the requisite colorless potatoes
And washed down with an artificial cola drink,
Often eaten on the run,
A daily fare
Lacking in substance
And flavor,

OR

Life can be
Apples and brie,
Red curry paste,
Tom Kah Gai and Dim Sum,
Shared experiences,
New and exciting,
Exotic and strange,
Stuffed with nuanced flavor and
Always to be savored.

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Photo credit: Foter.com

Resist

There’s a whisper growing louder
(Have you heard?) –
Voices lost now being found
Sweeping up the scattered words,

Whipped by robust winds –
They are landing in the streets.
Upon people of all walks of life
They’ve found a pulsing beat

The heartbeat of America
A promise to deliver
As immigrants and native souls
Create a human river.

Words splatter over painted signs,
And rise from voices strong
Of dedicated people
Who sing their country’s song –

They sing of lofty principles
Inscribed on fragile paper,
By men of foresight long ago
Lest they dissipate like vapor.

These words are seared upon the hearts
Of freedom loving folk,
We are all created equal
And won’t accept the yoke

Of stubborn inequality,
Of silencing our voices.
Remember soon the season comes
When we renew our choices.

Until then we claim these words,
We use them as our tools,
Of building our foundation
That precludes your silly rules.

We stand together strong and proud
And raise collective fists
Declaring our autonomy
And pledging to resist.


Join us. https://www.indivisibleguide.com/

A New Day

It’s a new day, America.

I watched our new president’s inauguration speech this morning on YouTube/PBS. Being the stubborn person I am, I refused to watch it live and increase any potential ratings. As I watched, and you must watch to get the full effect, I started hearing ominous background music in my head, the kind that comes at the start of The Hunger Games or any other movie where you know the politician in charge is up to no good and you’re all going to be screwed.

The gist? We’re going to make America great again, damn it. How are we going to do it? Well, with police and military, protectionism and patriotism (read nationalism). In this speech we found out that the blood of all patriots is the same color regardless of the color of their skin. (Do I need to add that the blood of everyone else in the world is also the same color? Such rhetoric.) We’re going to end the “carnage” of inner city drugs and gangs and make sure Americans are first.

I don’t know about you, but I found the use blood and carnage in an inauguration speech horrifying, especially given the tone. This is not your Obama hope and inclusion speech.

America, I fear there are dark days ahead. Women will march tomorrow in solidarity, sending a message that our voices count to a man who claims to be for us, the people, but has a penchant for sexual assault and misogyny. And it won’t just be women marching, but the men in our lives who support us. We won’t be silenced.

But I imagine they will try.

One part of the president’s speech rankled me.

At the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America and through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other. When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice.

I consider myself a patriotic person. I am not a flag-waver, singing “Proud to be and American” at the top of my lungs. I’m a quiet patriot. If you come after my country, I will be there to defend it through words or whatever implement I have on hand. But I understand that in our country, there is room for dissenting views. That’s the essence of the First Amendment. What will constitute a “total allegiance” to the USA, and who will decide what loyalty to our country means? For example, to me, loyalty to our country means honoring the free press and the constitutional amendments. It also means working with the system and not refusing to even hear a supreme court nomination. It means listening to our intelligence community and giving credence to the work they risk their lives to provide. I imagine under the Trump administration, “total allegiance” will take on a more sinister tone of agreement with the powers that be. I hope I’m wrong.

Our allegiance is to the United States of America, to its institutions and its Constitution, an ideal put to paper that we must defend against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Yet we must be very clear about what that threat is. Burning a flag is deplorable, but not a threat to the greatness of the United States. Clamping down free speech is.

It’s a new day, America, a day to ask yourself if you are willing to risk exposure and speak up against any and all attempts to destroy our freedoms? Stand up. Speak up. Don’t risk losing those rights.

Happy New Year

It’s New Year’s Day, or in the words of astronomer and Pluto-killer Neil deGrasse Tyson, “A day that’s not astronomically significant…in any way…at all…whatsoever.” (via Twitter) Our Gregorian calendar construct, however, gives us a restart button, a chance to change out the months of before to newer, more hopeful ones, ones in which we will finally lose weight and go to the gym, in which we will be kinder or read more books, and ones in which, by golly, we’ll get those projects finished. We party to ring in the new as we sweep out the old.  As we raise our glasses in toast and give hugs all around, we look to the future with optimism. Fresh starts are wonderful, hopeful occasions. May your New Year be everything you hope it to be!