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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Almost There

It’s been a year unlike any other I’ve experienced in my lifetime, a year of uncertainty mixed with sadness at people of faith trampling the values I’ve held so dear for most of that lifetime – humility, kindness toward others, community-mindedness, selflessness. It’s been a year of selfishness and greed, a year where stewards of the land circle the wagons against an imposing army of extraction industries. It’s been a year of vindictiveness and anger toward people who are content with letting others live as they see fit (pursuit of happiness, anyone?) and dredging the rivers of cash to more fully fund the well-funded. It’s been a year of statues over people, of incompetency at the highest levels, of America’s dirty laundry flying for the world to see.

And I’ve been hiding.

A good friend of mine, a sensitive, caring woman who would raid her pantry to feed anyone, was beset with a auto-immune malady after the election of Donald Trump. Her system couldn’t take the stress. She has finally found balance and peace through nature, and after about six months her rash went away, allowing her to re-enter her social circles. I didn’t have an auto-immune response, but I do feel like a turtle who has pulled into her shell of self-preservation. No writing to speak of; no words were there. Just stress and more stress. Instead I turned to my photography – visualizing the world I want to surround myself with, a world carefully created and preserved by dedicated conservationists.

The year is almost over, and this funk I’ve been in, this fog, is lifting. I still wake every day with the stress of not knowing how my world might be upended. I fear war for the first time in ages. I have a constant finger on the pulse of our institutions, whose failure might affect my mixed Hispanic-American family. I wonder daily if 1930s Germany could happen here.

But a shell is a confining place to be, and my creative muse is pushing at the boundaries. It’s lean, starving, hungry – and the muse must be fed.

Share Your World 8/14/17

Here are my answers to Cee’s questions for the latest Share Your World:

When you leave a room, do you turn the lights off behind you or keep the lights on throughout your house most of the time?

I keep the lights off, and the habit is so ingrained I’ve been known to turn the lights off on my poor showering husband. My dad helped create this habit with his constant reminders during my youth. I more recently read that the biggest impacts on the family electric bill come from the hot water heater and the furnace, and with low energy bulbs throughout the house, I’m not sure I really need to be so diligent about the lights.

What do you feel is the most enjoyable way to spend $500? 

I just got back from a foodie visit with my son and daughter-in-law. I would definitely spend it trying new restaurants with friends and family.

Complete this sentence: My favorite thing to do on my cell phone is…

I don’t have a favorite. I do enjoy having a mini-computer available all the time. I enjoy taking pictures, even if I have my DSLR hanging off my shoulder. I love being connected to my family and friends. I also love being able to Google anything! I think I’d be lost without my phone at this point.

What inspired you this past week?  Feel free to use a quote, a photo, a story, or even a combination. 

I just got back from a visit to Charlottesvile and DC. I was overwhelmingly inspired by walking in the footsteps of our Founding Fathers. I toured Monticello and learned about our conflicted Thomas Jefferson, who believed that all men were created equal and apparently opposed slavery, yet owned hundreds of slaves himself. I walked through the rotunda of the University of Virginia and reflected on the ideals of Jefferson that his newborn democracy should have an educated population of citizens to support it. (I am a teacher and a firm believer in public education.)

In DC, I walked through the halls of Congress in awe of the grandeur and history of the place. At the end of the tour, our guide, an older woman, related being evacuated and running from that very building in fear on 9/11 as a plane approached. She said that as she ran, she looked back over her shoulder and saw smoke rising from the Pentagon. She later learned that her husband’s office was ground zero in that attack, but shared that he had not gone to the office that day. She impressed upon us the somber knowledge that she worked in the number one terrorist target in the country, but also how important it was to show strength and not fear. I was not the only person in tears hearing that story in that great setting.

The day we were in DC was the same day the KKK rally was happening in Charlottesville. We were getting updates via Facebook, text and Twitter as we toured. It struck me that at the same time that was going on we were walking the mall in a giant crowd of people of every race and color, listening to many different languages being spoken. A rainbow of humanity was sitting on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on the same day a group of white men beat a black man with poles and another angry young man bore his car down on people standing up for the rights of all.  I read the words of Lincoln from his second inaugural address and thought that imagining the world he lived in was not as far a stretch as it should have been. And just this morning I heard echos of Reagan, Bob Dole, and Bush Jr., excerpts from speeches strongly and definitively denouncing white supremacy and the KKK, only to be saddened by the tepid response of the current resident of the White House.

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What inspired me? In the past week I walked in the footsteps of one of the authors of our founding documents. I read the words of another great leader who sought to rectify this situation. I sat on those steps and gazed out upon a mall that was the scene of a historic march for civil rights.

And I wondered, isn’t the time for KKK rallies long past?

And lest you think these outsiders represent Charlottesville, I can tell you as an outsider myself that I found the town charming, educated, and progressive, which is why that darn statue is coming down in the first place.

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Aren’t you glad you asked?


As always, thanks to Cee for the chance to share our worlds. Thanks for reading. I wish you all safety in these troubling times. We do live in a great country.

In memory of Heather Heyer.

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Damage

As spokes of a wagon wheel of old
They radiate out from the center,
Intentions played out in actions,
Cruel words spraying out in torrents of hatred
And fear,
Until those who would seek to curtail the damage
Are flailed by ever loosening,
Wildly unstable shafts,
Radiating out from the center.


RIP brave souls who stood up for all that is right and human on the Max train in PDX last Friday. They came from divergent backgrounds, but a common humanity.

53-year-old Ricky John Best
23-year-old Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche.

We should also not forget the surviving hero, who also put his life on the line. Thank you for stepping up, Micah David-Cole Fletcher. (21)

 

Blocking the Opponent

Let me start off by admitting that I’ve never been much of an athlete. I tried track in high school and got 4th out of 4 by hanging back to encourage a teammate during the mile. (She had the nerve to sprint ahead of me at the finish!) I was the kid shooting granny-shots in middle school basketball during the last 5 minutes of a winning game. So maybe my view is skewed, and maybe I have this wrong, but allow me an attempt at an analogy.

I remember during that middle-school basketball experience learning how to plant my body in front of my opponent to impede his progress. I don’t remember the name of the move, but I do remember that it was risky. Placing yourself in front of a charging, basketball-wielding player intent on hitting the goal might cause you, upon contact, to go flying across the court. It was also tricky. Not fully planting your feet would cause a foul call upon you. Your job as defense was to plant your feet firmly and road-block your opponent.

Progressives are now playing defense. Not only that, but we are playing against the team that is known for playing dirty, and they’ve probably bought the refs. But we can use and must use this play.

It’s time to dig in our heels and not chase down the players. It’s time to plant ourselves firmly in front of the player with the ball and not move. He may, and probably will, get around us, but hopefully we’ve given the blockers time to move into position to successfully throw the ball back to us. The opposition may score a few points, but this is a game we must win. Our democracy depends upon it.

Resist


Photo credit: marcn via Foter.com / CC BY

When confronted with the Holocaust, one question many of us have is why didn’t the German people see this coming and stop it? Sane people recognize that Hitler was a madman. He somehow managed to pull people into his cause, to harness the energy of darkness and squelch the light. He was given license to commit atrocities against millions of people in a dark cloud of torture and killing that hangs over humanity to this day. So why didn’t the German people stop it?

Maybe they didn’t see it coming.

I remember as a child playing outside all afternoon. The sun would be going down and twilight descending over the land, but we could still see, so we remained outside. Only after coming into the light and looking out did we realize how dark it had actually become. This is what is happening to my America right now. Twilight is descending in the form of bans and firing of the acting A.G. It is enveloping us with the inclusion of an avowed white nationalist as a major player on the security council. Darkness is encroaching with attacks on our free press. For the moment, we can still see, but for how much longer.

Someone recently told me she couldn’t understand why people are protesting. She made a comment that good people had jobs and couldn’t be leaving their jobs to spend their lives protesting, insinuating that protesters are not working people. I pointed out that when a cause is sufficiently important, even working people make the time to protest. I live too far away from a major airport, or I would contribute one of my days off to joining in to protest the Muslim ban (or travel ban, or whatever alternative reality label you want to slap on it). I recognize the injustice of the EO, and I will add it to my ever-growing list of things to stand up against, policies that are not reflective of our American identity of leadership in the world and inclusion (ultimately) of our immigrants.

May we learn from Hilter’s Germany. Resistance begins with us.


As I finished typing this I got a notification that the senate had approved Mnuchin and Price without Democrats present by suspending the rules. Welcome to your new America. I encourage you to support your free press. Subscribe to a newspaper. Support the ACLU. Above all, resist.

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.

They’re Here

Mercilessly they came,
Gnashing their teeth,
War whoops televised over broadcast news.

Slyly they came,
With a wink and a nod,
Manipulating words and ideas through the airwaves.

Smugly they came,
Tweeting their way into power,
Lambasting the good and worthy throughout the internet.

Slowly they rose,
Climbing on the willing backs
Of those already bent from daily pressures none of them would ever face.

And a chant rang out,
“Lock her up” and “Build that wall,”
Inoculations activating a hard shell of resistance…

To ideas…

To community…

To differences.

Joyfully they came,
Looting and pillaging their aim,
As the shining city on the hill sat vacuously waiting.


In response to The Daily Post’s prompt: Pillage

Happy Holidays

I have to keep reminding myself that it’s the Christmas season. It could be the insanity of the past few weeks of planning, preparing, and packing, the 1,250 mile road trip, a graduation, a wedding, and/or anxiety over what I view as a disastrous election result that have stripped me of my usual Christmas cheer. Whatever the reason, I am caught off guard when someone wishes me best wishes of the season.

I’m oblivious to the lights lining the street, winding up trees and framing unfamiliar shop windows. I don’t see the happy shoppers bustling through stores on their mission to find the perfect gifts. I look back at the pictures of my son’s wedding and suddenly realize there’s a Christmas tree there.

Christmas. The season of cheer. Of generosity.

On my Facebook feed amid the sweet personal stories of grandchildren and funny memes reminding us of the bigger things in life, there was a comment related to Governor Kate Brown calling for a French revolution and bringing back the guillotine. This was yesterday. Happy Holidays. Twitter is full of vicious reminders that their guy won, that I should just get over it. Merry Christmas. Exit polls tell us that 80% of Evangelicals voted for a man thrice married, a man who has demeaned women, who has defrauded people of their hard-earned money, who lies constantly, a man who is stirring the pot of world instability before he even takes office. Have a blessed holiday season.

Don’t get me wrong. I am happy. Thrilled. Proud. My eldest graduated with honors… in science! He now holds a degree in physics and astronomy. I also have a new lovely and intelligent daughter-in-law who loves that son. At this moment my close little family surrounds me, and I am grateful for their warmth.

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But outside my little bubble the world has ominous clouds building on the horizon.

And I have to keep reminding myself that it is Christmas.