Snowflakes

It’s been a snowy February here in the Northeast. But that’s not why snowflakes are on my mind.

It’s because I’m puzzled by the pejorative use of the word by the Alt-Right to describe Liberals (or Libtards, as some of them like to say). How did snowflakes come to have this alt-meaning?

In Missouri in the early 1860s, a “Snowflake” was a person who was opposed to the abolition of slavery and who valued white people over all others. You’d think that our Aryans of today would then be inclined to embrace the term.

But like the current President and the news sources he finds credible, history’s realities seem to be of little interest to our Alt-Right brethren. So they’re not making this obvious connection to the etymology of snowflake.

And I fear that they will also be deeply offended by my use of an elitist word like etymology, so for that I want to apologize right up front and supply the definition.

Etymology: the origin of a word and the historical development of its meaning.

The Urban Dictionary has a lengthy and inconclusive definition of snowflakes. Sounds like the term is used by the left to insult the right and by the right to insult the left. In both cases, it seems intended to describe a person who is seen as overly sensitive and fragile. A far, far uglier connotation, and one with roots in the Alt-Right, is of the ash falling from the sky above the concentration camps in Nazi Germany.

I have been called a snowflake and a libtard by several people on Twitter, and a quick check of their profiles was chilling. Seething with hatred, they were definitely in the Alt-Right camp. In all cases, I couldn’t resist one pithy (to my mind) retort. Then I blocked them, because it definitely seemed the safe and sensible thing to do.

But reflecting on the word snowflake as it might apply to the Alt-Right, I do see a kind of fragility there. I’m not saying that they aren’t terribly dangerous people. But they really seem to be, fundamentally, emasculated males, howling with hurt and fury.

They construct an alternative world in which they are powerful alpha types. Then any threat to that flimsy construct is met with viciously attacking energy (along with alt-facts to back it all up).

Donald Trump is a pathetic-yet-powerful (for now) example of this. It’s fascinating to me that his masculine prowess was so blatantly questioned during the GOP debates. I mean, Little Marco really zeroed in on Donald’s Achilles Heel. And Donald, snowflake that he is, couldn’t take it — couldn’t let it be.

The theme (size and prowess) continues, as he is compelled to inflate the size of his crowds, his ‘victory,’ his deals. And his core constituency pretty much lives and breathes in the same fragile, alternative reality as Donald does. They enthusiastically agree about the size of his whatever, and in exchange he promises them a return of the lost greatness that they feel they deserve — a place where they are powerful, too.

He frames it like it’s the American Dream. But it isn’t. It’s a cheap, dark, facsimile — an Alt-American Dream, if you will. And basically, Donald is ripping off all the snowflakes who trust him. It would be sad — I’d actually feel bad for all these duped snowflakes — if the hatefulness they condone weren’t so intolerable. But it is, and I don’t.

So, today it was warm. There’s a feeling that spring is coming. Snowflakes are melting away. In a few weeks, we’ll start seeing the ground again – start seeing what’s underneath. Alt-reality gives way to reality. It has to. It’s not sustainable over the long haul. Snowflakes melt and spring comes. It’s just the way it works.

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Grappling with Trump

Witnessing Donald Trump’s unpredictable, illogical, uncivil and deeply disturbing actions since he took office is an experience that’s difficult to describe, let alone assimilate. I’ve seen nothing like it. There’s no ‘American’ place to put it.

Comparisons to Watergate don’t work for me, because with Nixon, as conniving and manipulative as he was, there was some feeling of living in a shared reality. So, chillingly, it’s comparisons to the Germany of the 1930’s that has more resonance when it comes to Trump. A LOT more resonance.

How?

Well, for starters, there’s the fact that citizens of this country who are not white Christian males are seeing their rights called to question, if not outright violated.  This is built on a pathetic foundation of lies, starting with the distorted idea that white Christian males are a victimized group and also a group that is entitled to be treated better.

Make America Great Again

There’s nostalgia for a past when things were better (for white Christian  males) and a belief that this is how it should be. And this is founded on a lack of education, a lack of empathy, and a lack of any sense of real history.

Instead of an actual awareness of and learning from history, we have this illusory, Halcyon nostalgia that Hitler milked then, and Trump and his minions are milking now. They lather up the right, fueling their feelings of entitlement and of having been wronged. They point to an enemy or enemies, promise to oust them  – and that’s how they gain and consolidate their power.

So in Trump’s regime — like Hitler’s, the only people who aren’t going to be targets of hate are white Christian males. We see T-shirts proudly calling a presidential candidate a cunt and trumpeting “Lock her up!” We see immigrants, African-Americans, Native Americans, Muslims, Jews, journalists, and the LBGTQ community targeted. We see racism emboldened and unleashed.

And we see the acolytes of the Alt-Right placed in positions of power.

I am not naive about racism in America. We have a long, long way to go. But having a white supremacist as a senior advisor to the President is an in-your-face move that sends clear messages to each and every one of us.

Like Hitler, Trump talks in black-and-white terms when nuance is accurate and is what’s needed. Nuance doesn’t serve him. He talks about “bad guys” and “bad hombres.” He decries “fake news” like the NY Times. His goal is to cut off access to real news by undermining trust in anything other than what emanates from his Twitter-feed or from Breitbart.

And the GOP? The GOP has itself tied in knots as it tries to decide whether to prioritize the good of the country or of the party. Look to history, Paul, Mitch — that would be my advice to you.  Look to history and grow some. Put your legislative agenda aside and use this time to dethrone a dangerous madman.

And for me? I keep looking around and thinking, how did we get here? Trump lost the popular vote, yeah. But a whole lot of people voted for him.

People who carry a lot of anger and hatred. People who believe they have been wronged and deserve retribution or recompense … or a return to a golden past that was built on the backs of other people.

I know there’s got to be more nuance here than I tend to see. I know I need to listen and try to understand. But I also know that there’s a line. Trump is over that line. His administration is over that line. Nothing normal or okay about it … so Democrats, do your damnedest, and hopefully the GOP will come along.

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666 Fifth Avenue

trump pyramid symbol

Here’s Trump signalling the Illiminati … just like Hitler did. Duh!

This is the address of Donald’s wealthy-as-hell son-in-law’s building in NYC. 666 Fifth Avenue.

Could it possibly be made any more clear? The Lord is sending a message, people.

666 is the mark of the beast and we shouldn’t be messing around.

Here’s a very thorough compendium of Trump’s myriad connections with the beast … and this doesn’t even include the small matter of his beastly personality.

NOTE: The photo I’ve used here comes from the post I cited above, which is found on a fascinating site called The Hyper Texts.

So, anyway, this didn’t just start with the Donald. No, others prepared the way and the universe attempted to warn us, but to no avail.

Indeed, Ron and Nancy Reagan (direct antecedents of the current administration)  apparently took the trouble to hide their connection to the Antichrist (according to Wikipedia). When moving to their home in Bel-Air after the 1988 election they deftly covered their tracks by changing their address from 666 St. Cloud Road to 668 St. Cloud Road.

I’m not joking, people, this stuff is real.

And Jesus said, “‘Having eyes, do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear?’ And do you not remember?”

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Dear Melania

Walk away, Melania

Walk away, Melania

We were talking about you at work today and, truth be told, we were feeling sad for you.

Have you seen the videos and photos being posted on-line? The ones comparing Obama’s body language with Michelle to the way Donald is with you? There’s an interesting article about this whole body-language thing that you might want to take a look at. It will probably feel weird to read it at first. But I think you’ll ultimately find that it confirms a lot of your feelings – perhaps feelings that you’ve tried to hide, even from yourself.

Of course, there’s that viral GIF of your husband turning and saying something to you at the Inauguration. I’m guessing that you’ve seen it and that, again, it resonates with your inner feelings. You are smiling so glowingly at him as he turns toward you. Then he speaks and turns away and it is painful to watch how our face changes – how sad you look.

And that’s what I want you to know, Melania. We see how bravely you work to smile when the photos are being taken, But then you look so terribly sad, lost and unhappy when you think no one is watching.

Here’s the thing. While it may seem awful to you, to think that millions and millions of people are watching, there’s a different way to look at it. An alternate way, if you will.

The truth is that a lot of those people watching this unfold — people just like me — really empathize with your pain.

I admit that I don’t care for your husband. But that’s not why I am writing today.

He clearly is not someone who treats you well. It’s impossible not to see it. Literally everyone sees it, except for the people who voted for him, of course. (And even some of them are starting to waver.)

So this is the time, Melania. This is your time. If there ever was a perfect moment for you to get away from him, this is it.

Why?

Well, for one thing, he is, right now, so busy and preoccupied with Twitter and the size of his Inauguration and everything, he might not have a lot of energy for putting up a fight.

But the biggest reason to do it now is that you’d have well over half the population of the US … and the entire WORLD … rooting for you. It would be amazing. Bigly.

Forget support, you’d have people cheering you wherever you went. You’d be bigger than Princess Di — I really think so.

And you know what — you’d also be making an important statement to women about bullying. Remember, that’s the cause you said you’d be working on in the coming months.

So Melania, how about starting your work off with a big bang. Tell the man with the comb-over and the tiny hands that you no longer wish to be treated disrespectfully. You can do it quietly and with dignity — then stand back and watch the tweet-storm — and soak up the applause.

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Places Where Things Have Happened

Everything that we humans experience happens at a particular place and time. The world is teeming with layer upon layer of human experiences — large and small, memorable and not.

There are intersections, stretches of sidewalk, rooms in buildings — you name it — all freighted. There are places that I walk through unknowing, where others pause, remembering a face, a conversation, a joy or a pain.

Layer upon layer.

I think about  a bedroom in Pennsylvania. There my mother woke in the middle of a long ago January night. She was in the throes of an asthma/heart attack that took her life. Now someone else lives in that house and sleeps in that room.

Places where things have happened.

It’s not always big, life-altering things, either. Everything we’ve touched, every singular moment is a kind of anniversary. Take an early spring evening on the deck listening to the first peepers and watching Caleb and Ruby explore the field. This happened once and is layered on this dawn-lit deck, along with birthday celebrations and snowstorms — moments piled through decades of seasons.

If we could be geologists of the invisible, what would we discover?

 

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Waiting for the Washing Machine

washing-machineYup, that’s what I am doing. We have a new washing machine being delivered between 9:30 and 11:30 AM today, and I am here trying to use the time wisely.

One thing I am sure to do is interact with other appliances. Seems an easy and appropriate activity while waiting for the Sears guy to drive up the driveway. So, I’ll unload the dishwasher and get the coffee ready to drip aromatically at its appointed hour tomorrow morning. Then what?

I can’t vacuum, because then I won’t be able to hear him arrive. I can’t walk the dogs … can’t leave the house, when it comes right down to it.

Okay, I’ll move on to taking ornaments off the Christmas tree (yes, it’s true, we haven’t done that yet).

10:25, so, what’s next? What’s left?

I’d think deep thoughts,  but it feels a little weird to put something like that out there, and then do it. It’s an awful lot of pressure.

Deep thoughts are better when they bubble up naturally and seemingly effortlessly. Then they just pop up into the air like spring daffodils, or maybe like little tiny geysers, if you live in Utah or Iceland or New Zealand.

But here in Canterbury it’s almost 10:35 and no washer yet. It makes me nervous, this waiting. Ruins my morning, if you want to know the truth of it. Having someone coming sometime — but I don’t really know when — is a little like waiting for a geyser to erupt.

As someone who had way too much unpredictability to deal with at way too young an age, I am very sensitive to these things. Once the guy arrives it’ll be fine … but the waiting is just killing me.

10:40 … and okay, maybe I am exaggerating a little bit. Or not. I keep looking over my shoulder and down the hill. When will the truck turn up the driveway? Everything is ready. There’s really nothing for me to do, but this small encroachment … no, the waiting for this small encroachment … is stealing my morning from me.

Whatever is going to happen, once it is happening, is something I can deal with. But before it happens, apparently I struggle mightily and don’t know what to do with myself. I’ve never observed the process this closely. I’m in suspension and I don’t like it. I have time here in my hands, and I don’t know what to do with it — not at all.

10:45 and I’m thinking this probably has something to do with mortality. Doesn’t everything?

There, a deep thought … now back to the Christmas tree!

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You Can’t Go Home Again

Foggy Road

I nearly always have Thomas Wolfe somewhere in the back of my mind. No matter, really – it could be much worse (and quite often is).

Such a fraught and freighted word, home is. Simple, stolid – just one syllable. Nothing fancy about those four letters, but oh the dramas and dynamics they’ve got space for! Whether home conjures a warm haven where the smell of baking bread wafts from the kitchen, or a seething breeding ground for neuroses, or something in-between, one thing is universally true — you can’t go there again.

Okay? So let it go. You can’t go back, so just let it go. Not so easy though. If you can’t go home, then where the heck are you supposed to go?

It’s a quandary and a quest that’s downright Biblical. It stretches from Abraham and Moses right to the present day, as squabbles about ‘home’ persist in the so-called Holy Land … and on borders just about everywhere.

The Beatles appear to have weighed in, back in the early 70’s. That Long and Winding Road sounds like something that’s leading a wanderer home. But whose door is it? Did they really say your door? Someone else’s door? That seems weird, and all those folks talking about building border walls aren’t gonna like you showing up at their door, no suh!

So let’s take a step back. Don’t they say home is where the heart is? If that’s true, then it sounds to me like home is actually something inside of you. Seriously, think about it. If your heart is somewhere else, aren’t you likely to be experiencing some kind of a medical emergency?

I’m not getting very far with this. (And by way of confession, this is actually an old draft that I’m ‘refreshing’ today — so there’s that.)

I often remind myself that the journey of life isn’t linear. Learning certainly isn’t. More layered, I’d say – more like geology – or the popular metaphor of peeling an onion.

But one part of it really is linear – the part that involves letting go and moving ahead. Having goals and direction is linear, at least when you are moving.

And you have to let go to keep moving. If you don’t let go, then you are tethered. And tethered, your movement will be in a circle.

So, what does that have to do with ‘home’ — and where does that leave us?

Well, it sure seems to me like home’s gotta be inside, or you’re bound to be always moving in a circle. You’ll be holding on and looking outside for a place or a feeling — something that happened once. It’s in you — it really is. You just can’t find ‘out there’ again.

…the dark ancestral cave, the womb from which mankind emerged into the light, forever pulls one back – but…you can’t go home again…you can’t go…back home to the escapes of Time and Memory. You Can’t Go Home Again ~ Thomas Wolfe

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A Man of Integrity?

scales-of-justiceFBI Director James Comey over-stepped his bounds this past summer in discussing investigative matters with the press and sharing his opinions, above and beyond the findings. Now he has done it again, breaking with longstanding protocol and adding a nebulous bombshell (Should we call it a dirty bomb?) to the mix 11 days before the election.

There was very little substance to what he disclosed, and he did it on a Friday — leaving things open for a weekend of speculation and spin. Both the Clinton and the Trump campaigns have demanded fuller disclosure – for widely divergent reasons. This is a can of squirmy worms that is going to be with us for a long time coming. And, according to this piece in Newsweek, it actually has very little, if anything, to do with Hillary.

There’s an excellent piece about this in the New Yorker. The Justice Department has very clear directives about NOT doing precisely what Comey just did in an election season. And the New Yorker piece includes numerous examples of the Department’s decisions to hold back.

So this feels like it could be yet another example of members of the GOP believing that their values and concerns trump (yes, trump) fair play. No doubt Comey has been under incredible pressure from the right and the conspiracy theorists and Clinton-haters. He already went too far this summer in trying to explain himself, and he set himself up for more of the same pressure by caving the first time … so now he is doing it again.

There’s this commentary, quoted in the Washington Post:

Matthew Miller, a former Justice Department spokesman in the Obama administration, said the FBI rarely releases information about ongoing criminal investigations and does not release information about federal investigations this close to political elections.

“Comey’s behavior in this case from the beginning has been designed to protect his reputation for independence no matter the consequences to the public, to people under investigation or to the FBI’s own integrity,” Miller said.

Miller and other former officials pointed to a 2012 Justice Department memo saying that all employees have the responsibility to enforce the law in a “neutral and impartial manner,” which is “particularly important in an election year.”

Miller said he had been involved in cases related to elected officials in which the FBI waited until several days after an election to send subpoenas. “They know that if they even send a subpoena, let alone announce an investigation, that might leak and it might become public and it would unfairly influence the election when voters have no way to interpret the information,” Miller said.

He’s described as a man of integrity, but to my eye it looks like Comey is protecting his butt. If he didn’t reveal this pre-election and it came out post-election he’d be tarred and feathered by some. But that’s why there are longstanding protocols and practices. In fact, it’s reported that the Attorney General expressed her preference that he stick with protocol and he rejected that advice.

So, he actually went pretty far out on a limb to do this. He had cover (protocol and the AG’s expressed preference). And (as noted above) he chose to do it on a Friday, which I find interesting.

Whether it’s simply to protect his job and his reputation with the right, or whether it’s to affect the election, or some kind of a nifty conglomeration of both, is something only he knows. And if I had to guess, he’s probably got himself so convinced that he’s correct and acting from the moral high ground that neither of these two possibilities is a conscious thought in his mind.

But, then again, maybe this has all just moved Mr. Comey closer to early retirement. CNN has now called for his resignation, in another interesting piece.

Speaking of ‘retirements,’ though … is anyone else f**king tired of the way dudes like Anthony Weiner and Bill Clinton undermine the women in their lives? I mean, really. Maybe it’s time for Hillary to separate, too. Just sayin’.

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Forget Putin-Trump is Obama’s Puppet!

mouthThe conspiracy theorists are finally catching on to what’s happening with this year’s election – and just in the nick of time. The short story is this:

The whole Russia/Putin puppet thing is a ruse concocted by Obama, the CIA, and (it goes without saying, the calumnious Clinton’s).

It’s pretty complicated, but I have it on very good authority that Mr. Trump is part of a truly diabolical plot by the US Government to rid itself once-and-for-all of the Alt-Right True Believers and the Tea Partiers.

In their view of themselves, the Alt-Right and Tea Party have been trying valiantly to bring this nation back from the brink. And, like so many who suffer from varying degrees of paranoia, their fear-driven actions in the service of their delusions eventually bring about the result that they have been expecting all along.

I’d call it genius on Obama’s part if it weren’t so disturbingly cold-blooded — allowing thousands of extremely credulous people who follow anyone with a loud voice and a simple message — to stumble like sheep toward their collective demise. For an idea about the groups that are being targeted by this plan, click this link and check out the map.

The plan, hatched early in the Obama Administration,  has been to use Trump to incite the Tea Party and Alt-Right, first to excitement and then (when Trump eventually loses the election – as he has always intended to do), to violence. These eruptions of violence will then give the US Government an excuse to stamp out these groups of über patriots. And as these patriots well know, this is something the self-satisfied and self-serving Establishment has been itching to do for decades – really since Kennedy was in office (and Ted Cruz’s father helped to kill him).

Many on the right have long been suspicious and have long railed against the evil intent of Mr. Obama and his minions. But they have been slow to realize and assimilate the incredible cleverness, scope and reach of his plans. In short, they underestimated him (bigly).

And now, while the alarm is finally being sounded, it might just be too late. But let’s back up. How has this actually come to pass?

Well, months ago Ted Cruz, as stalwart a conservative as we’ve got in this devolving nation of ours, outed Trump as the closeted Liberal that he is. There’s plenty of evidence in the media, illustrating Trump’s left leanings, right down to his long-time friendship with the Clinton’s.

Unfortunately, Cruz’s truth-telling was lost in the strong response to Trump’s carnival-barker rhetoric on the stump. He was masterful, offering buzzwords and bogus plans to incite the right and get them to buy into this unlikely campaign. (This is how diabolical Obama is — he even used someone named Trump to create this trumped-up plan. Open your eyes, people — the clues are all there!)

So, hold that thought, and then couple it with the fact that anyone with half a brain can see that Trump has run a campaign so inept that he appears to be trying to lose.

What does that leave you with?

Well, on the one hand you’ve got a lot of fired up Trump supporters who:

  • Were called ‘deplorables’ by Hillary.
    • She parses everything she says. She’d never have said that unless scripted by Obama. Get real, people!
  • Are being told that the election is rigged.
    • So, even though Trump, working for Obama, has colluded strenuously in his own defeat, his core base is going to be infuriated on November 9 and spoiling for a fight.

This is the tinderbox that Obama has been waiting to put a match to ever since he was first sent here by Satan to lay waste to the American Way. Here’s how it will play out, if all goes according to plan:

  • Trump will not concede defeat but will use his platform to complain about the rigged system.
  • This will further incite his followers, who will take to the streets.
    • Meanwhile the liberals and elites will eat bonbons, drink champagne, and celebrate their victory in their gated communities.
  • Obama’s Government will then, in the chaos that ensues, take the opportunity to wipe out as many of the clear-eyed, clean-living, freedom-loving, Tea Partying, Alt-Right, white people as it possibly can.
    • Trump will be safe (he’s in on it, after all),
    • But folks like Richard Spencer might not be, so we’re really witnessing the death of true patriotism … a frightening prospect, as I’m sure you’ll agree.

It’s that ugly – and it’s that obvious.

Once you begin to see the patterns, they are everywhere.  Read Breitbart, people… the one news source worth your time.

(I’m kinda thinking I could write for them, whaddya say?)

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The tragic romance that shaped Meryl Streep’s life | New York Post

I’ll start writing my own posts again soon, but this caught my eye and I thought others might enjoy this insight into Meryl Streep’s character. A formidable person, indeed … and this makes me want to see The Deer Hunter again …

In 1978, a young Meryl Streep was on the verge of becoming the greatest actress of her generation. She was also about to lose the love of her life.“She doesn’t talk about it much,” says Michael

Source: The tragic romance that shaped Meryl Streep’s life | New York Post

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Why Is Rush Limbaugh So Afraid of Lesbian Farmers? – NBC News

Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh sounded the alarm bells about the “Obama regime” sending lesbian farmers to rural parts of America. But what’s really behind his concerns?

Source: Why Is Rush Limbaugh So Afraid of Lesbian Farmers? – NBC News

Well, of course poor Rush is afraid. Fueling phobias and pumping up paranoia is his bread and butter. And you can read his rantings (as well as some cogent analysis/response) at the link above.

Our nation created and sustains the likes of him …and it’s not like he’s new. Folks like this joker have been around forever.

Sadly, though, the internet and 24/7 news seem to supply more oxygen to these dudes. Why is NBC posting this ridiculousness on their website? Because people (including me) will click the link. It’s that simple … and that discouraging.

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Why Comparing Bernie and Hillary is Like Comparing Apples and Oranges

Apples and OrangesI think I’ve finally figured out a big piece of what’s been bothering me about the Democratic Primary. It has to do with comparing Bernie’s and Hillary’s voting records as if they are comparable, when I don’t think they are.

Bernie is running as a Democrat now, but throughout his political career, he has not been a Democrat.  Yes, he has caucused with the Democrats, but that’s substantively different from being a Democrat.

Having a party allegiance means working from within a party to help frame its platforms and policies, support its candidates, and try to maintain hard-won gains (often incremental) against the incursions of the other party. It makes me think of the ‘sacrifices’ one makes when one gets married and has a family. You have responsibilities and commitments that have a profound effect on the landscape of your choices and on the decisions you make.

Bernie’s record is undefiled by Party concerns. I doubt that considerations like trying to help other Democrats get elected factored into his choices a whole lot. And people generally would expect him to vote far to the left, being a Socialist from Vermont and all. You aren’t surprised when he votes against the war in Iraq or for Gay Marriage. And don’t get me wrong – it’s great. I agree with his votes and I applaud him for his consistency … but I’d argue that those votes were possible because he was unencumbered by larger commitments.

When Hillary votes for or against something that vote is taken in a different context. Some might call that calculating … I see it working within the system to get things done. When you’re working as part of something you might have to compromise your own personal views for the good of the whole. Bernie has not done that.

So for him to come now and use the power and machinery of the Democratic party to run for President strikes me as disingenuous. For him to compare his record to Hillary’s as if they were actually comparable is disingenuous.  Bernie’s purity was largely possible, I’d argue, because he chose to be unencumbered by an affiliation to one of the major parties.

Who knows how Hillary would have voted, had she been a Socialist from Vermont who caucused with the Democrats when she wanted to. We can’t know. Hillary chose to work within the party and throughout her career has been more measured, more cautious and, yes, more compromising.

AND she has evolved.

AND she has gotten things done.

We don’t know how she’d have voted on things, had she chosen to go Bernie’s route … but I do think she’d still have voted for the Brady Bill. That’s the last thing I’ll get into, because it continues to really puzzle me.

Bernie seems to have pretty consistently voted his conscience and values – against the Iraq debacle and for other things that I mostly agree with. I think he’d say that on these really important issues he isn’t swayed by polls and such. But on gun control his votes are suddenly all about representing his rural constituents. Really? Do you want to have it both ways, Bernie? I’ve not yet heard an answer on this that doesn’t feel like an evasion … and it’s puzzling and discomfiting … a big inconsistency in someone whose bread and butter is consistency.

I truly don’t understand.

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Bonfires

New Year's Eve Bonfire-2016

New Year’s Eve Bonfire-2016

I seem to love bonfires.

It’s not nascent pyromania, at least so far as I can tell.

But the more I reflect, the more I wonder. What is it about fires?

New Tear's Day Bonfire-2016

New Tear’s Day Bonfire-2016

They’re warming, and there’s something so alive about them.

And I love the work involved in getting a fire going – the gathering, the cutting, the building.

Oh, and there’s also the aspect of tidying. When I gather wood for a bonfire I’m ‘tidying’ the woods and that appeals to my sense of order.

As anyone who lives with me knows, if you leave a water-glass on the table and leave the room, and it’s there for more than @ 30 minutes it’s likely to get ‘tidied’ — much to the annoyance of some in my life.

Summer bonfire at the lake.

Summer bonfire at the lake.

Over the years I’ve tried to curtail that energy. Guess there’s a sense in which I’ve moved it outdoors, where it’s less likely to interfere and create unnecessary dynamics.

So, yup, tidying the woods and creating combustible conflagrations appeals to me on all different levels. I love the exercise of it … the upper body workout and then all those delicious steps!

Skyfire-Portsmouth 1/30/16

Skyfire-Portsmouth 1/30/16

Each fire is different, too. What they have in common is that they provide a gathering place, which I like. And it’s an easy place – a social place – a contemplative place.

No demands or expectations at all. You can chat or you can just stare at the fire … it’s all good. No pressure.

There's always a place ... and no, I won't tidy it up ... you're safe!

There’s always a place … and no, I won’t tidy it up … you’re safe!

Oh, and you probably need a cooling beverage, too.

And if it’s wintertime and there’s snow on the ground, you’ve got the perfect place to set it!

Yeah … fires … pretty neat!

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Bernie-A Luxury We Cannot Afford

I’ve been mulling this for a long time, and I share it with all due respect to the Bernie supporters out there. People who are principled and whose values I, in very large part, share.

I like what Bernie says and in many, even most ways I agree with his take on what’s wrong in this country. I love the idea of free college education and of universal healthcare. But I do question how he could possibly do what he is proposing. And I still don’t get his stuff on gun control. For someone so outspoken on so many fronts, why not be outspoken about that? (I feel like he is hiding something behind his ‘constituency’ — but I digress …)

My main issue with Bernie is summed up in the title to this post. He’s a luxury. Voting my radical/liberal/feminist conscience and values is a luxury. When the country is so fractured and the likes of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are suddenly making George W. Bush look like a wise and measured statesman, it’s a luxury to risk even the tiniest possibility of their being elected.

Ralph Nader represented the same kind of luxury back 16 years ago. Yes, he offered clear, pure ideas and an alternative to the political system as we know it. AND he was a luxury that gave us the ‘gift’ of Dubya and by extension 9/11, the Iraq War, and all the divisive turmoil that has followed.

What if Al Gore had been elected in 2000? Would fewer people all across the globe have died? Of course we can’t know – but it’s hard to imagine that things could have been worse had Gore won. And I suspect they would have been better.

And I just really, really, really don’t want us to be looking back in 2020 or 2024 and saying, “What if Hillary had been elected in 2016?”

Posted in Politics | 7 Comments

My Subconscious and David Bowie

BowieSo, I woke up this morning and the first words that came to me were, “I’m a blackstar, I’m a blackstar.”

Like so many, I felt very deeply touched by David Bowie’s death. His music, his personae, are both woven into the fabric of my life and our collective lives. His genius, at its best, taps into things that connect and move and challenge and yes, also disturb us all.

So anyway, I was hesitant and I thought about it before I checked out the two videos Bowie released to go along with his last work. What would they hold? How would they impact me?

Blackstar

David Bowie’s Blackstar

The music alone is melodic, timeless-sounding, haunting. It’s got that familiar Bowie voice – and is packed with the kinds of lyrical leaps and surprises we’ve come to expect from this genius. I wish I’d started with just the music, so I could have let my own images take shape.

Instead, I started with the two videos that were widely released – Lazarus and Blackstar. After I heard that he had died, I very much wanted to see him. I bet he knew that would be the response – and that the visual images would be an important part of people’s first encounter with these two compositions.

So I am thinking that these videos were crafted very carefully, with the knowledge that they would be the last. And both are powerful, unsettling, and mesmerizing. They both insinuate their way into your subconscious (well, at least they did into mine).

The music is in me now. And I am so curious about things I can’t know. What did he intend? Is there a dark meaning here? And just how are the Illuminati involved in it all?  😉

And then I’m also left with another set of questions – much more personal (and therefore often of much less interest to me).

They are questions about  what this music and these images awaken in me. What dim and disturbing memories does it all tap into. What yearnings and fears? What doorways and openings are being offered here, for me to explore?

How about you? What might you find? Are you game?

Here’s Lazarus …

And here’s Blackstar …

And to help things along, here is a review from the New Yorker (that predates Bowie’s death and adds a postscript at the end) … and here are the lyrics to Blackstar:

In the villa of Ormen, in the villa of Ormen
Stands a solitary candle, ah-ah, ah-ah
In the centre of it all, in the centre of it all
Your eyes

On the day of execution, on the day of execution
Only women kneel and smile, ah-ah, ah-ah
At the centre of it all, at the centre of it all
Your eyes, your eyes

{Bridge I}

Ah-ah-ah
Ah-ah-ah

In the villa of Ormen, in the villa of Ormen
Stands a solitary candle, ah-ah, ah-ah
In the centre of it all, in the centre of it all
Your eyes
Ah-ah-ah

{Bridge II}

Something happened on the day he died
Spirit rose a metre and stepped aside
Somebody else took his place, and bravely cried
(I’m a blackstar, I’m a blackstar)

How many times does an angel fall?
How many people lie instead of talking tall?
He trod on sacred ground, he cried loud into the crowd
(I’m a blackstar, I’m a blackstar, I’m not a gangstar)

I can’t answer why (I’m a blackstar)
Just go with me (I’m not a filmstar)
I’m-a take you home (I’m a blackstar)
Take your passport and shoes (I’m not a popstar)
And your sedatives, boo (I’m a blackstar)
You’re a flash in the pan (I’m not a marvel star)
I’m the Great I Am (I’m a blackstar)

I’m a blackstar, way up, on money, I’ve got game
I see right, so wide, so open-hearted pain
I want eagles in my daydreams, diamonds in my eyes
(I’m a blackstar, I’m a blackstar)

Something happened on the day he died
Spirit rose a metre then stepped aside
Somebody else took his place, and bravely cried
(I’m a blackstar, I’m a star’s star, I’m a blackstar)

I can’t answer why (I’m not a gangstar)
But I can tell you how (I’m not a film star)
We were born upside-down (I’m a star’s star)
Born the wrong way ‘round (I’m not a white star)
(I’m a blackstar, I’m not a gangstar
I’m a blackstar, I’m a blackstar
I’m not a pornstar, I’m not a wandering star
I’m a blackstar, I’m a blackstar)

{Bridge III}

In the villa of Ormen stands a solitary candle
Ah-ah, ah-ah
At the centre of it all, your eyes
On the day of execution, only women kneel and smile
Ah-ah, ah-ah
At the centre of it all, your eyes, your eyes
Ah-ah-ah

{Outro}

Posted in Random Thoughts | 2 Comments

Neighbors

Great Trees

Great Trees

Here’s a quick thought that came and stayed with we while I took Caleb on a morning walk in the woods: We’re all neighbors.

Bear with me, because there’s an interesting twist here, I promise.

The thought is an amalgam of two things that have been on my mind lately – borders (because of the recent, controversial song of that name by MIA) and my Dad, whose death anniversary was yesterday.

The MIA song arises, according to her, out of a questioning of the borders that we create – as nations and as individuals. Why do they exist? What do they truly represent? What do they keep in and what do they keep out?

So there’s that.

And then there’s my Dad, who died 21 years ago yesterday. One of the things I notice, when I reflect on him, is how much my thoughts and feelings about him have evolved through those 21 years. My life experiences have profoundly affected my perspective and I know they will continue to. So, in some very real ways, my relationship with him has evolved and will continue to, as long as I’m alive.

Which brings me back to the idea of borders – and who we think of as our neighbors.

Obviously, the people who live nearby are my neighbors. But why have I created a border when it comes to neighbors? Why draw a line between the living and the dead?

So today I’m thinking that those who’ve gone before, those I carry in my heart, are my neighbors, too. Invisible … maybe secret, even, but neighbors nonetheless. I’ll not be running into them when I go to get the newspaper or run to the store … or when I walk in the woods.  Ah, but then again, who’s to say I won’t?

Enjoy this from Sweet Honey in the Rock … a gentle busting of borders.

 

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Meditating

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Stillness

So, I set a goal for myself to meditate every day – starting at the beginning of December. I’m using my Habitbull app to track my progress (yep, apps intrigue me).

They say it takes 66 days to create a well-rooted, new habit – so I have a ways to go yet. But so far so good … and the reinforcement of creating chains that reflect daily follow-through seems to keep me entertained.

The meditating has been interesting. Just as when I’ve settled in and done this before, I notice how all-over-the-place my mind is. This morning I meandered from stocking-stuffers to killing rats (more on that in another post, I promise). I was constantly bringing my mind back from its wanderings to the task at hand — breathing in and breathing out.

The other thing I noticed was how much time I spent thinking about what I ‘should’ be doing or what I needed to do. That was a path that it was much easier to get lost on. And several times it almost had me stopping so I could get busy ticking items off my to-do list.

Now, those thoughts almost never come up when I am playing Words With Friends or wandering around Liking things on Facebook. The waiting tasks are still as pressing (or not) as when I’m meditating, but I am oblivious to them. Same thing when I’m watching football — although I’m often doing something on my iPad at the same time.

It just makes me realize how disconnected and distracted I am — and how this is a more or less constant state in my life. It’s not that I’m not distracted when I’m on Facebook. But the fact that I don’t even notice it tells me that when Facebooking I’m even MORE disconnected from my life than usual. Layer upon layer of distraction.

Feels like I’ve developed a habit of disconnection. And while I’m not sure what to make of it, it certainly gives me pause and makes me want to get my feet more on the ground.

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Learning to Relax, and New Habits

So, it’s nearly time to head back to work after a long span of time off. Delicious. And I also feel very lucky to have a job that I like – and that affords me a living wage as well as the feeling that I am doing something worthwhile. But unscheduled time still has to be about the best thing going.

One of the things that I learned about myself — perhaps most especially when I was entirely alone up at ‘the lake’ — was how difficult it is for me to relax. When you’re busy you don’t notice it – but alone, with absolutely no demands on my time, I found myself often thinking that I “should” be doing something else or more of whatever I was doing.

2015-11-17 16.22.12The sunset is a great example. So many gorgeous sunsets and sunrises … and I was almost uncomfortable in their presence. How could I appreciate them enough? I’d take a photo … then go back outside five minutes later to take another. But what was I trying to do or get? Could I not just sit still and let the beauty wash over me and appreciate it and let it be?

Apparently not. There was something more that I should be doing or thinking or feeling.

To my way of thinking, “should” is not a word that’s a happy accompaniment for any sort of a vacation — or any moment of my time, for that matter. But there it was, quietly insistent. And I can’t blame anyone or anything else … it was coming from inside of me!

So, I’m gonna be keeping an eye on that in the days ahead. Just observing how often I start to relax, only to be jolted to attention by that impulse, that “should.” It’s a habit of longstanding and I’m glad to have noticed it so I can set about changing it.

And since it’s a habit, I started thinking about what I could replace it with. Meditation came to mind. Simple and of the moment – the idea is to relax and do nothing. To just focus on my breathing is a perfect answer to my “should.” So I am making a concerted effort to meditate more.

Writing is another ting that I did a bit of on my vacation and would like to continue … another habit to get back into. And then of course there’s exercise. The older I get, the more I notice how much ground I lose when I take a few days off and stop exercising. So maintaining and building capacity is high on my list. The FitBit has helped on that front, and there’s lots more to do.

So, guess what? Being the geek that I am, I was very pleased to find an app that is aimed at helping you develop new habits … reinforcing them by giving you a place to set goals and track what you’re doing.

It’s called HabitBull and it’s looking like a fun way to give myself a boost toward getting healthier, digging a little deeper, and letting myself be still in the moment.

I’ll keep you posted … blogging, after all, is one of the things I’ll be tracking.

Posted in Living Skillfully | 6 Comments

Yes, By All Means, Let’s Expand the War on Terror

Terrorism, according to Merriam-Webster, is “the use of violent acts to frighten the people in an area as a way of trying to achieve a political goal.”

It’s what we witnessed with horror in Paris this past Friday. The world is riddled with terrorism and it’s heinous. There’s no arguing the point.

But I have a huge problem with the bellicose outcry from those who are all about bombs and borders. If that’s the answer to terrorism then let’s at least expand the war so we go after all the terrorists … not just the ones who aren’t Christian or aren’t Jewish or aren’t us – whatever ‘us’ is.

So yeah – let’s go after the KKK and the neo-Nazis. And oh yeah. let’s go after those folks who believe it’s okay to murder doctors and bomb clinics in order to impose their values on women and achieve their political goals. Let’s go after the right-wing, ‘home grown’ terrorists who have killed significantly more of ‘us’ than ‘they’ have.

Despite public anxiety about extremists inspired by Al Qaeda and the Islamic State, the number of violent plots by such individuals has remained very low. Since 9/11, an average of nine American Muslims per year have been involved in an average of six terrorism-related plots against targets in the United States. Most were disrupted, but the 20 plots that were carried out accounted for 50 fatalities over the past 13 and a half years.

In contrast, right-wing extremists averaged 337 attacks per year in the decade after 9/11, causing a total of 254 fatalities, according to a study by Arie Perliger, a professor at the United States Military Academy’s Combating Terrorism Center. The toll has increased since the study was released in 2012.

Oh, and then there’s this – for those who think that terrorism is our main threat:

Meanwhile, terrorism of all forms has accounted for a tiny proportion of violence in America. There have been more than 215,000 murders in the United States since 9/11. For every person killed by Muslim extremists, there have been 4,300 homicides from other threats.

Surely more guns will help solve THAT problem – because look at how well it’s worked to date!

Interestingly, it sounds like the government’s hands are tied when it comes to the militias and white supremacists and other dangerous folks who fly great big “Don’t Tread on Me” flags and call themselves “patriots” and have huge caches of weapons and ammunition and hate Obama and walk amongst us. Apparently, though they have killed and continue to threaten to kill, they can’t be arrested or tried as terrorists.

So that’s partly why I want to expand the war on terror – those people really scare me.

The other reason has to do with a more inclusive — and I think equally meaningful — definition of violence.

“Violence” or to “do violence to” — according to the OED — means “to damage or adversely affect.” So we’re not just talking about sudden death. Maybe we’re talking about slow death. Or perhaps that species of damage that stunts and contorts the soul, or takes years to have its effects fully appear.

This introduces a whole new category of terrorism — doers of violence. So, I’d sincerely like to expand my war to these terrorists, too! They are doing more violence to the good citizens of the USA (and the world) than any of the groups that we are so worried about.

I don’t minimize the damage done and the losses suffered at the hands of groups like ISIS. But these other ‘terrorists’ are operating on a MUCH larger scale. The havoc they wreak is insidious, long-term, highly profitable, generally socially acceptable … and as lethal as the activities we decry from ISIS et al.

Who are they?

  • I’m talking about folks like the NRA and the gun manufacturers they support in the guise of protecting people’s Second Amendment rights.
  • I’m talking about the big banks and the big insurance companies and the big pharmaceutical companies and the big oil companies.
  • I’m talking about the fast food chains and giant food manufacturers that offer non-nutritious-or-worse food at ‘affordable’ prices.
  • I’m talking about the insurance companies and the Monsanto’s and the Halliburton’s of the world.
  • Hell, I might even be talking about the NFL!

Who has destroyed more lives and done more damage to the USA than the tobacco companies? Their profitability is a boon to their shareholders – and at what cost? It’s self-interest run amok. Blindingly entitled … and it’s the same for the rest of them – each in their own way.

But I know we’ll never actually label these folks as anything other than upstanding citizens. These are powerful groups with powerful lobbies. We won’t even call them evil-doers, as Dubya used to like to say about those other terrorists – the ones who look different from ‘us.’

But I surely do wish we would — call them what they are, I mean.

It would be, at the very least, cleansing.

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Memories

Johnny Mouse

Johnny Mouse was a favorite!

Visiting with my sister last night we got to talking about some childhood books.

These are ones that were read to us – as well as a set of books that we got to see once a year when we went to our Great Aunts’ house for New Year’s Day dinner.

Funny – it’s the illustrations that I remember most clearly, not the stories.

The images evoke times, places and people long gone. Other voices, other rooms.

So now I’m here in this old house while the wind whistles and sings as it comes off the lake, tending the fire and thinking about those books and the humans who held them.

Raggedy Ann

Raggedy Ann isn’t as clear a memory.

Guess I’m thinking about legacies, ultimately. Reflecting on how complicated they are and how, as I get older, I find myself coming at my history with more compassion for (most of) the players – and more of an appreciation for the mysteriousness and the daily-ness of the lives we weave.

I mean, looking back there was drama and fear and hurt – things that go to my core – things that shaped me in ways I’m still exploring. And at the same time there were laughter and happy surprises — warm times.

And there were hundreds upon hundreds of bills paid, sandwiches made, diapers changed, lessons checked, stories read, appointments made, appointments kept, shoe laces tied, waste-baskets dumped, clothes washed, clothes hung on lines … and on and on.

Wooden Willie

Wooden Willie I definitely remember … but the stories? Not so much …

It’s a great big mixed bag and I no longer have one summative idea or assessment of the whole thing.

And maybe it’s not compassion or wisdom that drives that so much as my realization that I really wouldn’t want anyone making any ‘summative assessments’ of me!

Whatever drives it, I think I like that I’m outgrowing any need to make pronouncements.

That definitely leaves a lot more space for the truth to gently emerge and let us glimpse it once in awhile.

Moments of grace – usually they surprise me – always, they are a boon.

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