Thursday, January 26, 2017

Look over there!

This is all going one of two ways — and either way, you lose. Unless you can do something about it.

I still don't know what to do about it.

But I'm on fire to find out.

Either you believe:
  • God stopped the rain right before Donald Trump delivered his inaugural address Friday
  • Three to five million illegal votes were cast in the general election, depriving Donald Trump of a just popular vote victory in addition to his Electoral College win
  • God resumed the rain as Donald Trump finished his address
  • The inauguration was most viewed, best attended inauguration in the history of the tradition. Period.
  • You and I suffer an American carnage
None of these is true. All are proven false, even semantically. All are lies, repeated by Dread Pirate Trump and his parrots.

They are not even very important, though the continued lie about the illegal votes persists as much as it intrigues, because voter fraud hangs heavy in this election, but not in the way Trump declares.

If you believe all this obvious why-even-try lying, and more (such a firehose of lies these days!), then you and I lose. You are a frog boiling, and you don't know your end is near. I do, and I'm watching, more frantic than I was nine paragraphs ago to find out how to fight this insanity.

You are doing as egregious sycophant Lamar Smith told you, that you should get your new from Donald Trump directly, rather than from the news media. Mr. Smith is a Republican Congressman from Texas, and someone who makes decisions about science and press policy in Congress.

Your froggie life will have boiled away before you realize your lost jobs that Donald Trump said he'd rescue are not coming back, that they have already been lost to automation and shareholders' need for squeezing profits from your company.

Creating a new economy and new opportunities? Not so much. Easier to sell you on the old economy that has already long gone. Too bad for you.

Your health care will become tatters, not that it will matter to you, in your boiled state. But it matters to me and so many millions. Something really good is replacing Obamacare, you will have heard while dying. But nothing will replace it, nothing good anyway, not for you. Just as long as all traces of Obama are gone, that's what matters to Dread Pirate Donald and his Parrots, and everyone following him into the fallout shelter. They could rename it, erase Obama's credit, and fix the flaws while so many millions kept their coverage, and maybe it would even get better. But no. The powers that be don't care, and they hope you boil away before you get boiling mad about it.

By coincidence, the top 1 percent will get tax breaks with the repeal! Imagine the odds!

Either you believe this glorious fountain of the most obvious bullshit ever spewed — or you don't.

You still lose.

The Washington Post ran a postmortem feature on the White House Goings-On Saturday night, how Donald Trump returned from the last inaugural fete (probably a happy dance — for him, anyway — with his clearly distraught wife Melania), and was so enraged to see coverage of the women's marches across the globe, and the suggestion that his inaugural crowd didn't match up — so enraged he wasn't getting his due as the once and future king! — that he made his press secretary Sean Spicer rush out to the media in a cartoon suit and school them on what we now enshrine as "alternative facts."

As much as I respect the Post for its unrelenting examination of Trump and his "presidency" (hey, Trump got to do it with "intelligence!"), I will offer that it is way off in this assessment.

It's not the only medium calling out Donald Trump's narcissism, terrible temper, ego — even suggestions of mental illness — but I am suspicious.

Donald Trump knows exactly what he's doing. More plausibly, forces behind the curtains and doors in the Oval Office know what they're doing, especially how to work Donald Trump like a lever for their fascist, authoritarian aims. Trump knows what they're up to, and may be in it for the big payoff somewhere down the road.

A disarming opinion by a writer for the Caracas Chronicles says Donald Trump is like Hugo Chavez, the late totalitarian ruler who left Venezuelans with the oil-poor chaos they live under now, where people stand in line all day in hopes of toilet paper, and catch whatever grain spills from relief trucks while the military profit from the rest on the black market. Come to think of it, Hugo Chavez also said he was giving back Venezuela to the people.

So did supervillain Bane, in the Batman movie, The Dark Knight Rises.

Hugo Chavez was not stupid, writes Andrés Miguel Rondón, and belittling him and raging against him didn't take him down. Doing so just gave him room to mass-label his opponents, the people, as the enemy, and turn them into cartoons, and turn power against them.

Or even better, to ignore them — as our Republican power elite are doing right now to you and me, even you boiling frogs. None of the Republican leaders meeting with Trump yesterday seemed particularly perturbed by Donald Trump's voter fraud claims or the use of alternative facts. Mitch McConnell, honorable servant of the people, said there could be other sides to any argument. Two plus two could mean just about anything, you see.

Rondón suggested it's better that our leading opponents of Donald Trump use his weight against him, like a judo move, and be among the people, and be with the people, and truly know their concerns, and separate Donald Trump from the people in this way. To give America back to the people, truly, and not in some nationalist phrase that means its opposite.

That's a patient play, and maybe it's right. But I don't think we have time. I have a feeling this cluster bombing of bullshit, this widespread deployment of clampdowns on government agency communication and removal of climate change information, this renewing of oil pipelines, this closing borders to refugees from Muslim countries and threats of Muslim registry — this whirling hurricane of the most ridiculous, cartoonish lies — are a weapon against us.

All this is camouflaging some mad race Dread Pirate Donald and his puppet masters are embarking on, and they're frantic to get it done before we boiling frogs and their dry but doomed witnesses find out.

Investigating massive voting fraud! And finding out whatever Donald Trump wants to find out, so he can suppress voting further, but call it free and fair! Maybe trademark it! Publish lists of crimes by immigrants, and use it to restrict Muslim Americans! And that's just what we know of!

I will never forget John Steinbeck's opening line from The Moon is Down, a novelette of the Nazi capture of a Norwegian town. Never forget it since the day in 10th grade I first read it:

"By ten forty-five it was all over."

Watch the skies.

Thursday, January 5, 2017


So, it's Thursday morning, and Donald Trump hasn't revealed to us what he knows that no one else knows, about alleged hacking and manipulation of the U.S. election. Like he said he would.

"You'll find out Tuesday or Wednesday," Trump said Saturday at the New Year's Eve party he hosted at one of his resorts.

That was yesterday. And that was two days ago.

We still don't know. Because Trump doesn't know. He knows he doesn't know. Because Trump doesn't care. About anybody but Trump.

In two weeks he'll be our president. In name only.

"And I know a lot about hacking," Trump said at his party. "And hacking is a very hard thing to prove. So it could be somebody else."

I thought, if nothing else, Trump would produce the guy from the bed in a bedroom somewhere — the guy Trump has repeatedly said could be as likely as Russia or China to have screwed with the election.

But what he produced — as you and I and everybody else, including Trump, have known all along — was nothing else.

Because is a liar. He is a liar and a manipulator, scaring hell out of citizens and corporations alike. Citizens united, indeed.

What Trump is NOT is the thing, above all, we need in our president. Someone to trust.

I can't believe anything he says.

Trump's lies are how he has defrauded businesses and voters, how he has put the leader of a foreign power over the integrity of our own intelligence sources and the intelligence of the American people, how he makes money from the office he will hold.

Mine isn't partisan griping; mine is a lament for human decency.

No need to retrace his transgressions. They are legion, half-baked fresh every day.

Which is why this transition looks like a takeover, looks like a takedown, smells like a breakdown.

So many people I know bid bitter goodbye to 2016, that it sucked, that it took with it too many of our most cherished celebrities.

Yes it did, but here comes 2017. The living are going to envy the dead.

Thursday, December 22, 2016


For all the daily sucker punches making America great today — the Kremlin collusion, the nepotism, the pay-for-play schemes from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the tweeted slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, all the blatant lies repeated into truths — I will miss a small noble thing most of all.

I will miss the president being presidential.

Barack Obama is presidential.

[This is not about his being president, which is another writing entirely. Though I fault President Obama for failings — notably public education — as I would any president as is my right as a citizen, I fault his foes far, far more, for their cruel hypocrisy against our president. They have twisted their blatant intransigence into something they think of as noble, and have managed to stick Obama with blame for their own failings.]

At times of tragedy and times of wonder, Barack Obama is one who speaks for our shared grief and awe. He stands at the podium, as he has done far too many times than is fair or acceptable, for all those times of massive crushing violence against innocents, and reminds us we are united in these states, in these times. We are together; at least we feel, in this gathered moment, that we are, even if we aren't really.

President Obama makes the words his own. Some are indeed his own, and some the eloquent choices of writers who know his voice, and he speaks them as if they and he are one fiber. He speaks his truth.

President George W. Bush also — sometimes — spoke with eloquence, but so woodenly you knew the words weren't his. Good for him, being wise enough to speak them, to know the weight of the words carefully chosen for him. George W. Bush reached his acme after 9/11, when he spoke through a megaphone, his arm around a firefighter, amid a pile of rubble that used to be the World Trade Center.

Bush let the firefighters and rescuers know that the nation stood with him. Had he also let the crowd know that his administration would soon use this horror as pretense to lead us into 15 years of misguided brutal war, that would have been refreshing and disarming in all meanings of the word.

Bill Clinton was almost too presidential in this regard, so at ease with words that he often overacted them, hammed over them. He had precedence in Ronald Reagan, the Great Communicator, who not only had the choice of the choicest words, but knew how to deliver, a master propagandist.

George H.W. Bush had a tough act to follow, and didn't very well. At least he read the words before him, stiff though they were, tumbling from his mouth.

Donald Trump is not presidential. Not in any meaning of the word.

Can you imagine him presiding at the next great national tragedy? Try to imagine Donald Trump speaking words of comfort and hope as we consider the aftermath.

He will have none to give, nor would he know how to give them; nor will he care to give them. He will instead leverage the moment for some new loss of liberty, some new broad brush of blame against some new group. He'll vindicate himself as having been correct about this tragedy — pick any tragedy, which he can sell as an I-told-you-so — and froth his followers into some new course of extreme action. For our protection, of course.

Trump will not speak with the poetry we will long to hear. He might have someone who can write that poetry, but he will not speak it. He will barely speak complete sentences, chopping them up with needless digressions, usually about his greatness and rightness.

Donald Trump is "interested in two things and two things only: Making you afraid of it and telling you who's to blame for it," as Aaron Sorkin's movie president, Andrew Shepherd, said of his conservative arch-rival, in The American President. "That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you win elections."

Donald Trump will have made the country a slow-motion wreck by then, but I will miss the charitable important act of a president being presidential. It is gone.

Now I tire of writing about Donald Trump, tire of drawing orange pieces of him, tire of paying attention to him, though I pay I must, to keep a wary eye.

As palliative, I instead repeat, for this season, my favorite moment from Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," the instructive moment when Jacob Marley's ghost appears before Ebenezer Scrooge.*

Weighted down by the chains and change-boxes that mark his own selfishness in life, the ghost of Scrooge's business partner has come to warn Scrooge of the horrible burdens he too will suffer in the afterlife. Scrooge will forever drag the "ponderous" chains he has forged in life, if he continues to hole up in their counting house, attending to business rather than charity.

“But you were always a good man of business, Jacob," Scrooge volunteered.

"Business!' cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. "Mankind was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The deals of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!” 

Remember the good, which once was, and can be again. 

*Watch Frank Finlay's version of Marley's ghost in the best version, with George C. Scott as Scrooge. Finlay's ghost is desperate and despairing, frighteningly frantic to make Scrooge see his errors.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016


Forget "post-truth."

Forget "xenophobia," or "fascism" or "kleptocracy" or "oligarchy" or "emoluments," or any of those candidates for Word of the Year, so strange and tangy with menace, that goosestep across your tongue these days.

The true Word of the Year — and for more years than I may be able to stomach — is "with."

Such a simple word, with — so familiar and modest, almost invisible. A preposition that in almost all cases denotes accompaniment, harmony. Togetherness.

Except when it spurts from the mouth of Donald J. Trump. From Trump's mouth, with is a chilling weapon.

In his use, with means opposition, as in this morsel you may have missed last week, when Trump was in Iowa, frothing up yet another thank-you rally, still running for president.

You will be shocked to learn he was fuming over a new criticism, this time about how he'll supposedly drain the swamp by refilling his cabinet with millionaires and billionaires, crony corporate titans:

"One newspaper criticized me: 'Why can't they have people of modest means?*'" he told his rally crowd. "Because I want people that made a fortune! Because now they're negotiating WITH you!"

Not "negotiating for you," as I read so many — too many — media outlets quoting it, as if they assume Trump made a semantic mistake. Fortune Magazine substituted the word for in brackets, like a Band Aid™® over what he actually said. Or the media used "for" in desperate hope he misspoke, that these henhouse foxes are negotiating for you, on your behalf! With your welfare and interests in mind! That must be what Trump meant!

But that's not what Trump said. Nor what he meant.

He said, "Now they're negotiating with you."  

With, as in "against."

Trump didn't misspeak. He's the greatest businessman in the history of the world, of course — as he'll tell you. He's the zen master of the deal, everybody knows. Negotiating is his thing.

How do I know Trump said what he meant? To quote our own glorious leader, "I know words. I have the best words."

So President-elect Trump is amassing a cabinet of contrarians, who not only seem loathe to run the executive functions for which they have been appointed, but who have been chosen for that reason.

We get, among others,
  • An education secretary with no experience, but lots and lots of money, who is against education, unless you can afford it, and wants to pick and choose who gets educated.
  • An attorney general whose experience with civil rights is selective at best. Guess who it's selective for?
  • A housing and urban development secretary, with no experience, who ignores the breadth of social safety net that enabled his self-made self to get where he got.
  • An energy secretary who would lead the department he wanted to eliminate during his own bumbling run for presidency, even though he couldn't remember its name.
  • An Environmental Protection Agency administrator who has demonstrated he thinks his agency is a nuisance that impedes taking profitable resources.
  • A health and human resources secretary for whom health care is a choice if you can afford it.
  • A secretary of state who runs his own virtual state already, and smells of money oil.
  • A national security adviser who has disparaged Islam and helped disseminate the most ridiculous and reckless of fake news.
What aren't fatcats in Trump's stratosphere are retired generals, or presidential hopefuls who stumbled on the campaign trail when Trump tripped them, insulting them as they fell.

It's Eisenhower's nightmare warning of the military-industrial complex, sitting around one table, holding their departments hostage, ready to negotiate with you.

They'll have the butter, and the guns to guard them. What do you have in trade?

Better education? Nah, we're thinking of going private with little accountability. We'll call you if we have a seat available for your kid, but probably not.

Civil rights? What color are you? What gender? Who do you love? By the way, what religion?

Health care? How long can you hold your breath?

Fresh air, clean water? Do you own any mineral rights? That'd be helpful. Love those mineral rights.

Freedom? Stand by. We might need them back. You know, to protect you.

Frankly, you don't have much to interest Trump in a trade.

Down continues to be up, and right wrong.

I finally figured out what the Trump phenomenon is all about: To use vulgarity he'd recognize, Donald Trump is pissing on our backs and calling it rain.

All our backs. Whether you're for him, against him, don't know, that's rain.

His minions spend their waking hours in spin, telling us so.

"Yes, that's rain!" says Vice President-elect Mike Pence, when he dismisses Trump's ridiculous statement that millions of people voted illegally, "I think one of the things that's refreshing about our President-elect, and it's one of the reasons why I think he made such an incredible connection with people all across this country, is because he tells you what's in his mind, tells you what's on his heart." Even it's untrue.

(The popular vote has Hillary Clinton with 2.8 million more votes than Trump. Still counting.)

"It's raining!" says Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway, asked if Trump's lies, Twitter™® attacks on individuals and misogyny are presidential behavior. "Well," says Conway, "he is the President-elect, so that's presidential behavior."

"It's raining!" says Trump surrogate Scottie Nell Hughes, when she declares, "There's no such thing, unfortunately, anymore of (sic) facts. And so Mr. Trump's tweet, amongst a certain crowd — a large part of the population — are truth. When he says that millions of people illegally voted, he has some — amongst him and his supporters, and people believe they have facts to back that up. Those that do not like Mr. Trump, they say that those are lies and that there are no facts to back it up."

Whatever Donald Trump says, goes. What he believes is true.

I'm not so innocent as to believe we don't already live among lies, elaborately made and disguised, around for so long we forget they're there. It's how we get by. It's how banking and finance works. It's how the haves have, how we fight wars, how we ignore atrocities at home and abroad, and still get to call ourselves exceptional.

But now we've entered the Age of Blatancy, where even the hope of a better way, based on facts, becomes mere mist in this thing Trump calls rain.

His cabinet, this would-be wrecking crew, these hostage negotiators. They're ready to negotiate with you.

Don't worry, Donald Trump is with you. As long as you're with him.

*When Trump assumes the role of his critics, do you notice how he leans back, tucks in his chin, purses his lips and lowers the register of his voice, very much in the way Alec Baldwin impersonates Trump on Saturday Night Live. Maybe Baldwin should sue.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Normal eyes

My mom is dead, which is good. These terrible days would have broken her heart all over again, so painfully.

Hillary Clinton was her candidate. I seem to remember she called her "my Hillary" or "my girl." I understand she was sooooo upset when she lost the nomination in 2008 to Barack Obama. I don't understand quite why.

We spoke once a week or so from afar, but about everyday stuff, not politics. At the time I was drowning in my attempt to become a teacher, and when I could crane my neck for a glimpse of the outside world, it was in fascination at the idea Obama could be president, so diametrically opposed from a presidency of questionable and brutal war.

What goes around, comes around, with venom.

My mom, Bonnie Jean, didn't like Obama. Again, I'm not sure why, or why she particularly liked Hillary Clinton. Maybe it was simply that she would be the first woman president, or she did not find Obama genuine.

Nor am I sure what my mom would have thought of Obama's presidency. She died a week into his first term. I imagine that she would have admired his effort to wrest the country out of a recession, but would have rankled at continued war. There would be no pleasing her with him. I imagine she would have given him hell. Mom was at a time in her life when she had a mind to tell someone exactly what she thought, and plenty of time and a computer to do so.

To me, she embodied the Jenny Joseph poem, "When I am old," the ode that inspired the loosely organized organization known as the Red Hat Society, to which she belonged. She was the woman in the poem who would "run my stick along the public railings/And make up for the sobriety of my youth."

But as hard and as faithfully as Mom would have berated Obama, she would have harangued his enemies — the Republican leaders who stymied Obama's every effort, the Fox News pundits barking baseless propaganda at his ankles — so much harder.

And Donald J. Trump — the president-elect should be glad my mom is dead. He'd be no match.

For awhile anyway, then I imagine eventually she would despair at this surreal, unreal, untrue time. She would be so worked up she could hardly talk.

She'd see what I see, the latest being the astounding "thank you" rally President-elect Trump staged last night in Cincinnati, one of several to take place in the swing states he won.

He is truly still running for president, rather than getting ready to be president. He is running down "my Hillary" still, riling his rally crowd into the Pavlovian reaction of "Lock her up! Lock her up!" Still! He is amping his base over the new nonissue of flag burning, of radical Islamic terrorism, the utter bullshit of what he knows his followers want to hear.

Trump is still describing his swing-state wins — while the popular vote stands at two-freaking-point-five million more votes for Hillary Clinton, and counting — and literally pointing to the "dishonest" press who said he couldn't win. We have heard all of this before. Many, many times.

His rally came complete with a public humiliation of a protestor, who "doesn't vote. They never vote!" Trump pronounced. And the people believed!

I will not be surprised today to hear new stories of crimes in the name of hate.

Oh, and by the way, said Trump at the rally, we must come together as a nation.

He has a funny way of showing it.

My god, I can hear my mom saying, when she'd have found her tongue again, is he governing by Beer Hall Putsch? Is this our new presidency, staging rallies to whip up his base?! Can we not see how this rise of despotism, the measured steps, the grooming of we, the people, for this man's rule?!

Hell would have to be paid, right about now, by my mom, in a flurry of letters, so many letters:
  • To Steve Bannon, champion of the white nationalist movement, now Trump's adviser
  • To the proposed cabinet of Trump's billionaire beneficiaries, whose money won't cover their egregious inexperience and delight in making their world safe from us. They are draining the swamp by the girth of their fat bellies
  • To Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, whose plan to obstruct President Obama these last eight years worked too well, leaving us Trump
  • To Rep. Jason Chaffetz, chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, who had hearings lined up to attack Hillary Clinton over her emails, but not a whit of consideration for Trump's staggering global conflicts of interest
And that would have been just a warmup. She'd have laid most of her unrelenting vengeance at Trump, who she'd have seen, as I do, that he's taking our country into danger as he speaks of safety, and separation has he talks of unity.

No email server could have contained my mom's fury at all this hypocrisy, this new normal.

Normalize. Normal eyes. Oligarchy. Gaslighting. Kleptocracy. Fascism. A lover of words, my mom would have rolled these, some new, others resurrected, over her tongue. And spat them out again. The new normal of words.

Even with all this nonsense, what would have really crushed my mom is what's going on near where she grew up in North Dakota, the Standing Rock Sioux and supporters standing against the Dakota Access Pipeline.

I wouldn't have been surprised if my mom had tried to join the encampment against the pipeline. She was raised on stories of the Mandan people near her hometown of Washburn, who sheltered Lewis & Clark and the Corps of Discovery during a terrible winter 114 years ago. She cultivated an affinity for native people, and drew away from the Catholic Church in which she grew up, upset at its complicity against native cultures.

Energy Transfer Partners, Phillips 66 and law enforcement in North Dakota would know my mom's name, for all the missives she would have fired at them, full of choice words.

She'd have stood with Standing Rock, wondering what has come to this country, people being driven again from their land for short-term profit.

As do I.

Rules don't apply

Dear President-elect Tru–

Sorry, still trying to ease into this odd concept. President-elect Trump. President-elect. Trump.

[Okay …]

Probably doesn't matter, anyway: You won't be reading this. I'm not really writing it to you. On this Thanksgiving morning, I'm not writing to anyone but myself

Dear President-elect Trump,

Are you still running for president? Because it seems like you're still running for president.

It seemed like you were running when you met this week with editors and reporters of what you had called the "dishonest" and "failing" New York Times. You opened the meeting with a long recitation of your victory and how many people came to your rallies and how many speeches you gave in a day toward the end of the campaign. Maybe no one has given so many speeches in a day like that, you said in your superlative best/worst/highest/lowest way.

You told the assembled news staff:
"I think I’ve been treated very rough. It’s well out there that I’ve been treated extremely unfairly in a sense, in a true sense. I wouldn’t only complain about The Times. I would say The Times was about the roughest of all. You could make the case The Washington Post was bad, but every once in a while I’d actually get a good article."
I never thought I'd say this in a literal sense but — who died and made you king?
Did your daddy never tell you he loves you? It's like all of this is about getting approval from someone, anyone, who isn't related to you, paid by you, using you or sponging off you.

It's like you want The Times to run headlines like in cartoonist Jack Ohman's latest lampoon of your ideal newspaper, with a picture of you (natch!) pushing merchandise under stacked banner headlines:
You railed against TV news executives and anchors at a meeting before that, called them on the carpet for not being nice to you. As if.

The meeting with The Times almost didn't happen. You tweeted®™— falsely! — that The Times changed the meeting rules on you, so you canceled. "Not nice," you tweeted.©®

Then you met after all, and ended up calling the "failing" Times "a world jewel."

You demonstrate two points here:
  • You are the archetypal politician, telling people what they want to hear, when they want to hear it, for your own purposes
  • You are indeed, as CNN host Fareed Zakaria pointedly called you, a bullshit artist
You don't care about truth or facts and can't be held down by them. Whatever is, is what you say it is.

Convenient for you, hell for the world.

What does it tell you that you twice demanded an apology from the cast of the "overrated" (your tweet) Tony- and Pulitzer-prize winning musical "Hamilton," which urged Vice President-elect Mike Pence to govern the country for all Americans?

Your bullshit tweet said the cast "harassed" Pence, when the world could easily see, by numerous furtive videos, that the cast stood together in a line and the actor playing Aaron Burr read from a statement, calmly and elegantly.

It tells me you don't understand your new job in this republic. Not the governing part, anyway. The branding part, yes. So far, you seem to regard the presidency as another deal done, prime real estate snatched, the Trump brand elevated big league.

What does it tell you that, while you blustered into the "Hamilton" issue on your own, The Times editors had to press you into denouncing the National Policy Institute, led by alt-right white supremacist leader Richard Spencer, which met in Washington D.C. to hail your victory, complete with Nazi salutes?

You acted as if you didn't know about them, just as you did with white nationalist and perennial candidate David Duke:
"I don’t know where they were four years ago, and where they were for Romney and McCain and all of the other people that ran, so I just don’t know, I had nothing to compare it to.
"But it’s not a group I want to energize, and if they are energized I want to look into it and find out why."
Yes, you had better investigate. Very complicated, this thing.

This all tells me you are fear itself.

And/or you don't know what you're doing. Making America great again, whatever manic and magical thinking that has ever meant.

You've made this country unstable and uncertain, even among those who have voted for you. You don't seem to stand for something, so we fall for anything. Except the wall. Apparently you're still gonna build the wall, and Mexico will pay for it.

Oh, and a tax plan. I read two credible sources on your simplified income tax, with fewer brackets. Married taxpayers with children and daycare costs get tax breaks, not much change for other groups. The biggest tax break would go to the wealthiest .1 percent of taxpayers.

How's that for bullshit?

You just named as your Secretary of Education a woman, Betsy DeVos, who is quoted in the book "Dark Money," that her family is the leading donor of soft money to the Republic Party, and expects influence with her millions, in order to achieve "honest government."

Either that's startlingly refreshing or just plain Trumpian frightful.

Drain the swamp, you say.

Bull. Shit.

Your chief administration strategist, Steve Bannon, champions the alt-right white supremacist movement as editor of Breitbart News, and has said he is a Leninist eager to destroy the state.

Bannon?! You and your chief of staff Reince Priebus told The Times. He's never been anything but nice to us, never said a racist thing to us!

Makes me think of words I came across this week, attributed to poet Michael Rosen:
"I sometimes fear that 
people think that fascism arrives in fancy dress 
worn by grotesques and monsters 
as played out in endless re-runs of the Nazis. 

Fascism arrives as your friend. 
It will restore your honour, 
make you feel proud, 
protect your house, 
give you a job, 
clean up the neighbourhood, 
remind you of how great you once were, 
clear out the venal and the corrupt, 
remove anything you feel is unlike you...

It doesn't walk in saying, 
"Our programme means militias, mass imprisonments, transportations, war and persecution."
You don't seem to see a problem with being president and running your businesses — for which there doesn't seem to be any clear rule because there has never been, well, you.

If someone wants to stay in your new Washington, D.C. hotel — great hotel by the way, built under budget, you never forget to say — because your name's on it, whaddaya gonna do about it, am I right?

If you don't see a conflict with that, if you don't see the conflicts and compromises and limitations and blunders that can cause with this country's role in the world, you are alone. Except for those who are related to you, work for you, use you or sponge off you.

You make children cry. Children who wonder if you, in your caprices, will decide they shouldn't live in this country anymore. Families who wonder if you will subjugate them solely by how they worship.

Your chief of staff, Priebus, said you won't rule out a registry of Muslims, that there are some problems with Islam.

What does it tell you that, at an interfaith Thanksgiving service I attended last week, a member of the Methodist church that hosted the service, stood from amid the congregation with the need to tell a leader of the Muslim community here, "We're with you, we're with you, we're with you?"

What does it tell you?!

You're not ruling anything out. You'll look into it. Deportation? Registry? Waterboarding. We'll see.

President Obama suggested we wait, that the presidency has a way of maturing the president.

Two weeks, wait's over. We joined the American Civil Liberties Union (you actually get a card!). I went to the interfaith service, an idea I've always approved of from afar, since the extreme application of our worship has often resulted in hate and war and suffering.

The fight spreads to too many fronts now. Civil liberties. Freedom of speech. The environment, global warming. The economy. Civility.

A Muslim woman at the interfaith service said, "Maybe some good can from this, in ways that we cannot now know."

I'm awake now, Mr. President-elect. And I hope that's a good thing. I will do what I can to act as a citizen, for the good of this great nation.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Sore winner

Should the new president of your country make you feel, "Uh oh!?"

No, the president shouldn't.

Yet holes have opened in me, the wind whistling through, and gravity has loosened its grip, unevenly, on my feet. I read the same sentence over and over yesterday afternoon. I rechecked meager tasks, just to feel like I was doing something until the day was over.

The day needed to be over.

I'm the last bastion in a new variation of the Martin Niemöller polemic against fascism, that begins, "First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a Socialist …" and ends, "Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me."

I'm at the end of that line, in among the last they would come for, the only kind our new president has not insulted and mocked in his ascendancy: A white male. I don't think he's insulted Protestants specifically, or even Catholics, poor specimen though I am. Almost everyone else, though: Mexicans (Latinos by extension), the African-Americans, women, Muslims, Jews by tangential code in television commercials and retweets, immigrants. Almost everyone else he has invited others to scorn and deride and blame.

Our new president.

What he has said and done has now been endorsed and enshrined in the most powerful office in the land.

I have escaped the scorn as a white male, but I can't escape this — this waiting. This feeling of … dread. For everyone.

Nothing so global has felt like this in my adult life. Even the tragic events of Sept. 11. Holes went through me then too, but they filled, and the world moved forward. Forward into tragic war, still fought, but weirdly, 9/11 had a feeling of ending.

A vlog by Luke Bland, an American expatriate in Finland, whom my son and his fiancee followed and used in their decision to study there, posted a video yesterday all about the election. At one point, Finnish coworkers stood around an office TV screen, and when the new president complimented Hillary Clinton on a hard-fought campaign, one of them bowed toward the screen in sarcastic exaggeration. The world watches, even more puzzled

"I'm just waiting for what's coming," Bland told a coworker in yesterday's vlog. Waiting. From all the way in Finland.

A swimmer from Ghana who corresponds with me on occasion expressed sadness and said, "We are hoping for the best."

Before this, no presidential transition I can remember caused me to feel any worse than business as usual, life going on. Even President Obama's historic election did not hit me in any particular way until I took a job as a teacher and witnessed the untrammeled joy of this moment — posters, streamers — of the school administrative staff, most of them black. It made me think of the great personal devotion I've read that many Americans held for Franklin Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.

This, though. This is "Uh oh!" This is What Will Happen? And When? And When Will It End? And none of it feels like hope.

How much of this wall will be built, and at what cost in money and blood? When will the deportations begin? When the sanctioned attacks on immigrant communities, when the escalating war with a new or simmering enemy, in a show of the new president's self-proclaimed unpredictability?

What's to become of our free press? Second Amendment, sacrosanct. First Amendment? Not worth the paper it's printed on. And justice for what's it worth to you?

When will the many threats be carried out, the revenge come due?

I know I'm not alone, which may feel like a sort of hope. Most of the people I "know" on facebook™®, my only real social media, for whatever reason feel the same. Yesterday the posts didn't even have to mention the election result, but the subject was clear. Swimmers were trying to rinse themselves clean. Some offered favorite songs as a kind of antidote, or puppy videos. Others posted lyrics without any context, such as:
Hey now, hey now
Don't dream it's over
Hey now, hey now
When the world comes in
They come, they come
To build a wall between us
We know they won't win
Crowded House
But recipients knew.

Donald Trump rose to office with few detailed plans, little apparent understanding of world affairs, but an intensely brilliant understanding of what would raise the ire of the already angry. I listened to Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams, of all people, supposedly an expert at persuasive techniques, describe the new president's brilliance at this skill, of beta testing catchy insults before his supporters ("Heartless Hillary" or "Crooked Hillary?"), of evading facts with purpose and precision, and getting people to imprint those insults on their intended victim with each new actual or perceived misstep.

I get that folks are angry and frustrated. I don't feel represented; I feel like I hand over my vote like allowance to an indifferent overseer, and I am ushered out through the side door until next time. I understand the angst that the government we have is not the government we should have; that it should serve us, not the other way around. I get that money and power flow to the few, and we live and work below.

I get that change should come. This, though, this is not that change. This is not the eradication of entrenched elitism and favoritism and policies that benefit the few. The rigged economy is not going to unspool under the man who dances in its ratlines.

This is not revolution. This is "Uh oh!"

You say our president will be different in office than on the campaign trail, but his surrogates said time and again, "Why change what's working?" You say our new president will be held in check by our system of government. But the House and Senate remain Republican.

You say the president is an outlier whom Republicans will suspect and rein. I believe our president is Republican ideas unmasked and unvarnished, finally spoken explicitly, ending decorum and restraint.

But I have not been a participant in the process, either. My voting record is full and unbroken, but that's all I've done as a citizen. Even in this moment of great test, I voted and nothing more than donate some money. I did not think would be such a great test, but instead a wearying joke we could stop laughing at Nov. 8.

(Even satire, that rich and voluminous corrective salve in our jewel of free speech, seems to have lost its punch in this new and strange time.)

I need to be that participant now, even if, especially if, I'm late to the tea party. I have stood by, and now I can no longer. I dread the restrictions and limitations to come — which will no doubt happen in the name of liberty — and I want to be ready to work against them. I must stand with those under threat.

Right now I can't listen to any more words from our new president. I tire of hearing his voice, and we'll have four more years of it. But I know I need to. I need to, in his words about something different and cruel, "figure out what the hell is going on."

Damned if I know.