Feb 28, 2017

February 28, 2017: State of Disunion, Politics of Greed,

Caesar Disgustus ascended the dais tonight to address both houses of Congress and the nation. 

Feb 27, 2017

February 27, 2017: Orange Julius, Caesar Disgustus,


"Donald tRUMP is much more than a national embarrassment; he is a national obscenity"
                            ----from "The Quotations of Chairman Joe"


Feb 26, 2017

February 26, 2017: Support and Rememberance, To the Ramparts, Seeking Ablution


On Saturday, January 21, I took part in a demonstration.  For weeks my daughter had been talking of taking part in the national 'women's' demonstration scheduled for the day after the inauguration in Washington D.C, and had gone online in search of a more local event which, she had hoped, I would be able to join.  The closest event being planned turned out to be in Grand Rapids and she decided that it might be too great a reach for the old man and dropped the subject.

Later, while perusing my email, I encountered a missive from one Caitlin Maloney from the "Courage Campaign" with the heading "Women's March on Washington: The pussy grabs back". How could one resist such an appeal?  Indeed.  I found myself irresistibly drawn to participate once again, to take to the ramparts and register my protest; to become part of the resistance. 

Accordingly, I looked up the information regarding the particulars of the event in Grand Rapids and decided that I, too, would join the march. 

The event was held on Saturday, January 21, at the Fountain Street Church.  For those not in the know, Grand Rapids'  Fountain Street Church is a venue which has hosted everyone from U2 to Winston Churchill and has long been a rallying point for those seeking expression.  Originally constructed as a Baptist Church it became, decades ago, nondenominational and has accordingly become an institution giving free expression to a range of religious and non-religious points of view. 
I made my arrangements and arrived at ten in the morning as the event was getting underway.

I made the journey alone.  Upon arriving I found myself wondering about the narthex of the cathedral where the organizers had placed several tables upon which were items for sale.  I found myself spending ten dollars on a sign reading:

IN THIS HOUSE, WE BELIEVE:
BLACK LIVES MATTER
WOMEN'S RIGHTS ARE HUMAN RIGHTS
NO HUMAN IS ILLEGAL
SCIENCE IS REAL
LOVE IS LOVE
KINDNESS IS EVERYTHING

I purchased the item as a means of making a contribution to the cause as well as to have a souvenir that I could then pass on to my daughter who was, at that very moment, in Washington D.C. taking part in the center-stage event around which several hundred local protests were organized. 

As I wondered about, a woman approached me from behind and, taking my arm, pulled me aside to inquire what I was doing there.  I was a bit taken aback by the approach thinking that perhaps she had mistaken me for an errant tRUMP voter who, now seeking ablution, was now about the business of assuaging his conscience if not, by making a rare appearance in church, appealing now to a higher authority lest the grim reaper arrive before forgiveness is bestowed upon this lost soul.  I gently explained that I was here in support of my daughter who was now taking to the ramparts in the nation's capitol.  She seemed satisfied with my explanation and I could discern in her countenance that forgiveness was not in order and that I was indeed welcome into the fold.  I then walked about a bit, took my sign to my van for safekeeping, and then returned in time to find a place in the pews as the event got underway.

There was a bit of poetry reading, including a choice by Langston Hughes' I, Too, Sing America" followed by someone about to set up and sing some protest songs when someone once again tapped me on the arm.  I turned to find that the same lady who had buttonholed me earlier inquiring if I would mind being interviewed on local television.  I followed her out of the church into the daylight and was introduced by a channel 8 reporter for WOOD-TV of Grand Rapids.  I was led to a nearby stairway where she set up the camera and, standing behind the camera she asked her first question:

"As a white man", she queried, "what brings you here today?"

I was a bit taken aback.  Has 'identity' politics come this far? Nonplused, I soldiered on. 

"As a white man for sure," I responded, "but also as a father and a great grandson..."   I then went on to explain that a century ago my grandmother and great grandmother who were area organizers for the Woman's Christian Temperance Union and, along with my great uncle, demonstrated for women's suffrage; and that indeed the struggle, now well more than a century old,  continues today.  In their remembrance, and in support of my daughter who was at the ramparts in D.C., I am here today.  Indeed along with the more than 280 others who had left Fountain Street Church and traveled to D.C. by bus from Grand Rapids earlier in the week. 

I then joined the march from the Fountain Street Church to Rosa Parks Circle located at Campau Square.  As we approached our destination a certain de ja vu overwhelmed me.  It had been nearly half a century since I walked these streets and took part in a political event and as I looked about and registered what had and had not changed since that distant spring morning in April 1968, I could still hear that voice in my ears. (1)

"There are places I remember
All my life, though some have changed
some forever, not for better
Some are gone, and some remain.  --The Beatles "In My Life"

I had started out earlier in the day quite alone seeking only to add my support by my participation in an event that would involve, across the country, many millions of people.  I ended up, quite by chance, on the local news.  It is indeed strange how these things sometimes evolve; hard to know what life has, at any given time, in store.  I had set out in search of an event only to find myself confronting not only my turbulent age, but my own distant youth.  My daughter had been right.  It was indeed quite  a reach for the old man. 

---------

(1).  See previous post: April 11, 2008: A Sunny Afternoon at Campau Square, "There aren't any Republicans Here, Are There?", Great Leaders Don't Grow On Trees




 

Jan 31, 2017

Dec 31, 2016

December 31, 2016: Life is Made of Patterns, A National Obscenity, No Worse than the Rest


And the pattern still remains
On the wall where darkness fell,
And it's fitting that it should,
For in darkness I must dwell.
Like the color of my skin,
Or the day that I grow old,
My life is made of patterns
That can scarcely be controlled
. “   --Paul Simon

As the election approached, the nation was presented with two grotesque spectacles: the first being the Chicago Cubs in the World Series; the second another, and hopefully the last, presidential contest featuring two bona fide “Boomers” in what became a national embarrassment, a national obscenity, a borderline pornographic contest for the presidency of the United States. 

Much has been written in these columns about the Chicago Cubs (2), a franchise that has, over the decades, made a complete mockery of excellence, indeed an ethic of mediocrity.  That baseball should affront us with the spectacle of the Cubs in the World Series was bad enough, but coinciding as it did with the national obscenity that was, hopefully, the last such contest featuring two legendary members of the “Generation of Swine”, one could clearly sense that the universe had come unhinged; that the natural order has been stood upon it’s head; that, indeed, the last had finished first. 

I began to suspect that something was amiss when the Cubs got off to a great start and held their position atop the National League Central Division.  This anomaly coinciding with the rise of a common carnival barker to the Republican nomination for president of the United States had, by midsummer, cast an ominous pall over the cultural and political landscape.  One began to fear for the worst.  One found oneself beating back the demons by reasoning that the Cubs had, after all, made it as far as the division playoffs, indeed the National League Championship Series, and the Republic survived; and, of course, the nation survived Nixon.  Still fear and loathing swept across the land as we went to the polls in trepidation.

After a series of bruising “debates” during which issues were substituted with what became a series of mud-slinging contests and in which the Republican nominee serially stalked the Democrat on stage, and paraded out a line of women her husband had allegedly abused in effect telling the nation “look, they're no better than I am”.  In the hands of the “Boomers”, the election had degenerated to the point that “Why Not the Best”(3) became replaced with “I am no worse than the rest”.  Both candidates, appealing to identity politics and serial accusations, had lowered the bar to such a level that, in the end, nearly half the voters stayed home.

Not all was quite lost, however.  Trump was demonstrating himself much more adept at alienating voters, doing his level best to lose this election.  As the election approached the polling numbers began to narrow but it was thought that Hillary would, in the end, tough it out.

So as Major League Baseball presented us with the obscenity of the Chicago Cubs in the World Series for the first time since the entire world waged war (and the best players were in the service), and the poll numbers began to narrow, the nation went to the polls and held its collective breath.  As Cleveland took a commanding 3 to 1 lead in the series it had seemed that the country was going to narrowly miss a national catastrophe.

Indeed Nate Silver, the legendary political prognosticator, declared in a headline a week before the election  with Cleveland leading three games to one that Trump had as great a chance of winning the presidency as the Cubs had of winning the world series, roughly one in four.  We all took a deep breath and then exhaled. It was a short-lived relief.

The Cubs then went on a winning streak.  I told my family that this was a serious omen, and that coming with the observable shifts in the planetary magnetic poles and the fact that this economic recovery has reached its historic limits, a Cubs’ victory would certainly mean Donald J. Trump would enter the White House.  I was, of course, dismissed as an alarmist; my audiences failing to see the connections, although historiographer Ken Burns would, I believe, immediately see the obvious.  And, indeed just as the Cubs ‘ran the table’ and won the series, Trump on election night took that very narrow path still afforded him, after he had twitted his way into near oblivion, and ‘ran the table’ by taking enough states to win the election, while decisively losing the popular vote. 

I had seen it coming.  The broader outlines were certainly there for anyone to see.  All Trump had to do, I would, on Facebook, incessantly remind my Democratic friends, was go to the old ‘rustbelt’, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and promise to tear up those trade agreements.  Actually following through is another matter, but by simply promising to do so any candidate could communicate to the afflicted at least a recognition of their plight. This area of the country had been longing for someone in the political elite to at least see and recognize what is before their very eyes. Whatever the ‘solution’, both Bernie Sanders and Trump in separate ways addressed the savaging of the Middle West by this headlong ideological neoliberal movement to globalize the economy.  The Democrats, in acts of inspired stupidity, worked to defeat Sanders and in so doing closed off any viable Democratic alternative by nominating a candidate who, being ‘present at creation’ so to speak, and, in effect, promising more of the same. 

So, as we gathered before our televisions on election night the commentators, fully convinced of the inevitability of the Clinton Restoration, began the night by demonstrating what a long shot this was for Trump and prognosticating how or even if the Republican Party would survive in the aftermath.  Then, one by one, in a near repeat of 2000, the nation watched as Trump and his Republicans ran the table. 

And so with the Cubs now champions of the world, the magnetic polls in uneasy flux, the economy slowing, the global agreements on climate change now in limbo, and Trump and his crypto-fascist, knuckle-dragging minions about to enter the White House, the foundations of the republic can be heard to crack. I suspected as much when the Cubs rose above their natural station.  I could see the reaction in those about me, as if it was some kind of tin-hat conspiracy theory.  However, I earnestly retorted, “go ask Ken Burns what is the relationship between baseball and America, he did a series on it”.  In any case it isn’t any crazier than most of the ‘documentaries’ one encounters these days on Hulu or Netflix.

Some things are bigger than any of us; some things are bigger than all of us.  There are patterns we must follow. 

_________
(2) See
http://wandererandshadow.blogspot.com/2008/05/may-4-2008-celebrating-century-lessons.html  for discussions on the influence of baseball, and the Cubs.


(3). “Why Not the Best” was the title of the campaign biography of Jimmy Carter published in 1976.  

Nov 29, 2016

November 29, 2016: Failed our Institutions, Circling the Bowl, Trumped the American Dream


 
Many people are now saying that our institutions, our political system, our media, our schools, have failed us.  I disagree.  I think that we have failed our institutions.  It was the “Boomers” who have made a pig’s breakfast of governance, who have set the tone.  It is we the people, led the “Generation of Swine”, that has opened the nominating process and then failed to show up to vote leaving the field to the knuckle-dragging ideologues be they Neo-Cons, Neo-Liberals, or the unwashed Teabaggers to seize control.  It was we the people, led by the “Generation of Swine”, who have stopped READING—newspapers, books, magazines—in favor of catching the latest meme now swirling through the “Internets” like so many turds circling the bowl.  It was we the people, led by the “Generation of Swine”, who have failed our educational institutions first by defunding them in favor of vouchers in order to finance the equivalent of the “American Madrasa” in the form of parochial and “on-line” education and thereby electing ourselves out of a well-rounded education.  It was we the people, led by the “Generation of Swine” who have been about the business of transforming our universities into glorified voc-ed centers thereby sacrificing the well-rounded citizen in the singular pursuit of money.  It is we the people, led by the “Generation of Swine”, that have failed our political system by supporting candidates who universally denigrate the very institutions they seek to join.  It is we the people, led by the “Generation of Swine, who have compounded the error by imposing term limits on public service thereby sacrificing experience to the lobbyists and the special interests they represent, and by imposing limits on the ability government to tax.  It is we the people, led by the “Generation of Swine” that having made an ethic of the individual we now compound the error by genuflecting before the altar of ignorant innocence. 

Our institutions are what we make of them and our ancestors bequeathed to us solid institutions that by and large performed the task of providing the greatest good for the greatest number.  Yes, there always has been and continues to be need for improvement, and the history of this country has been a history of struggle to achieve the ideal enshrined in our constitution to “create a more perfect union” in part by “providing for the general welfare”. 

But this generation, the “Generation of Swine”, have gone about the business of vandalizing our institutions by making continual war upon governance.  The mendacity of the swine has now Trumped the American Dream.  We are about to pay a heavy price and we have no one to blame but ourselves. 

 

 

Oct 8, 2016

October 8, 2016: Time It Was, Preserve Your Memory, All That’s Left Me


Katherine Camfield  b. December 11, 1959  d. October 8, 2015

“Time it was
And what a time it was, it was
A time of innocence
A time of confidences

Long ago it must be
I have a photograph
Preserve your memories
They’re all that’s left you.”


                        “Bookends” –Paul Simon