Monday, November 13, 2017

Congenial-speak #55

A Slow Death

Is the republic happy? I sincerely doubt it. A year ago those under-appreciated forgotten rapscallions who crawled from the lattice work like termites with a bone to chew threw something at the fan that I think they really knew would not stick. In doing so, they unwittingly (or knowingly) left the door open a crack for the least desirable. They let in so many arcane symbols of our unsavory past that it was hard to see any shred of validity to what their red hats claimed, that it was not just a platitudinal herring to cross a line, to look noble as they gave the republic away to a billionaire celebrity, a former Dem...igoge who played upon their rouge-like stupidity. The had an alternative, an alt-left, even an alternative left candidate to someday delete the right and its self-indulgent philosophy.
Beginning with—oh, Jesus I suppose—the closer society got to really caring for one another, I mean beyond your odd charity, really working together as a whole, the person is either killed or cast aside in favor of—this time—the exact opposite. Lincoln tried to bring together a country, purge it of slavery, and he was killed. Kennedy tried to bring the nation together, equate black with white in unprecedented integration, he was killed. His brother espoused agendas of John, he was killed. Martin Luther King dreamed of a day when one would “be judged not by the color of his skin but by the contents of his character.” He was killed. John Lennon sang about peace. He implored us to imagine a world in which there was “nothing to kill or die for...” He was killed. There is definitely a pattern here, a fear of that old Cold-War bug-a-boo. . . SOCIALISM. The Marxist fear that someone at some point may have to give up something, make the fairest of concessions in order to “build a more perfect union for ourselves and our prosperity.” That echos fro my past, from Schoolhouse Rock. I think it was from the preamble to the constitution. Lest the billionaire CEO of the giant insurance company (yes Virginia, they do still exist under the ACA) forget that they got there by playing a third party role. They got there by decades of exploiting illness and misfortune of the middle and lower classes. In fact, a few people I know are pharmaceutical representatives. Now, I don't know how high they are on the food chain but as a member of the middle-class I can say I made their boss. Without millions like me buying their inflated drugs—that may inflate me causing me to buy another drug—they would not be in the tax bracket that was designed with loopholes.
I recognize the independent senator from Vermont, the man who one day in 2015 walked out of his office and declared that “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.” On February 1 the following year, in Iowa, as I turned as old as the number of cards in a deck, he lost the state in the primary to his Democratic rival by two votes. It was early on and I really saw a chance for economic equality, for the current iteration of the story that had been the death nail for so many of his predecessors. He'd been low profile (I had not heard of him before 2015) he was no Paul Wellstone stumping on the senate floor, as I gather is often how it goes, to an audience on-demand. He was the wave maker, the instigator, the dark horse who had not the weight of the baggage ($$) of his rival. He was the first of the last of the grass-rooters, a horticulturist who grew things the way nature intends—from the bottom up. I was among the thousands who offered $20 to his campaign, to exist as a seed in the grass destined NOT to grow up like a Roy Moore. I received my “feel the Bern” coffee mug. At 52 I had a place alongside legions of millennial, voters I saw at my caucus who could be my children. The progressive message, the alt-left, the alternative to mainstream Democratic ideology was out there, placing its neck yet again on the well-whittled and selectively heard stump.
“The loser now will be later to win...,” sang our poet of the '60s, Minnesota's sound-geist to the movement to end war and bring civil rights to society. A parable of workers even claims in the bible that “the last will be first and the first will be last.” A prophesy? Something to put in the bank for another 240 years like a savings bond? Was your bible wrong Mr. Moore? What are the chances a pre-1970s Dylan, a Jew, would paraphrase a quote from the bible? It's just been a battle between the red and blue since the Civil War. Since Lincoln, the last in line, as he was shot in his theater box, as the first Republican to realize something was wrong. He realized that this nation could not survive half slave and half free. Over 600,000 died, black men fighting for their freedom, for democracy. They fought to hold the union together.
It is 152 years later and the loser of the Civil War is as close as it's ever come to winning, maybe even at breeches too immoral for Jeff Sessions (see 11/11 SNL sketch). But I fear (I laugh) that the forgotten Who fans that were fooled again in 2016, who were taken by a money laundering, tax evading New York hustler, a bone spurred charlatan who figured our that the best way to defraud the U.S. government was to act like he was presiding over it, have mortally wounded the elephant in the room—and everyone knows the penalty for that. As it lies bleeding in capitol halls, as tortured as the metaphor it created, a not-so-silent grassroots army of the democracy—the blue—has judiciously gathered to rip apart its carcass. Republican senators are leaving, bowing out or retiring, finding that screwing America won't be any fun if the paradigm shifts. McConnell, the man who looks like the Big Bang Theory's Sheldon when he was forced to smile, and Ryan won't support a child molester in the senate. A handful of blue states won big last Tuesday, electing a transgender legislator and taking some business from bathroom contractors. But Democrats should stay humble and not repeat the general election last year. Remember when everyone saw many “paths” to 270 for Bernie's successor and none for her opponent? Now is the time to merely sit back and watch the seeds grow. Now is the time to cotinue to defend democracy. Now is the time to watch the GOP poison itself more and more.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Congenial-speak #54

When eagle talons
hold pigeon holes

“Give democracy its day in court,” he said in 1967. On a trip to California, months into his Dump Johnson campaign, New York Congressman Allard Lowenstein began the long search for a candidate to run against Johnson/Humphrey as an anti-war candidate in the 1968 presidential race. He saw hippies exercising their first amendment right, assembling to protest the Vietnam war in ways that were not constructive. He meant that their forms of sometimes violent, dangerous, shock-valued protest were in the end counter-productive. He cautioned the difference in opinion should not be at first a protest, an us against them confrontation, but a display of constituents. Those against the war should show that they were willing to play politics, to uphold the constitution (which is somewhat more than the government could say from the beginning) rather than simply tear at it, burn flags, take a knee or hang people live or just in effigy.

Fifty years later we find ourselves giving democracy its day in court. However this time a rotten war is not the issue, it is protecting the rights of millions while an insane narcissist tramples out a constitution he's never read (at least further than “we the people”). Two thirds of the country has (for the most part) been non-violent for the past 253 days. This administration began side-stepping democracy before the last inaugural balls had descended. Any kind of democracy that I've known, that the founding fathers intended, as the Greeks conceived has come out of the Oval Office since January 21, 2017. Many of the numerous executive orders, coming almost weekly at the beginning, made if for no other reason than to recklessly tear away at his predecessor's policies, have been given many days in court. This is not the way government should work. But then you get what you pay for. You get what the electors say, not the populace. Democracy is given its day in court. It needs its day in court because democracy was given its day in court. Because the constitution had a clause, rarely invoked with the scope and necessity it was on December 19, 2016 to count the electoral votes, we now need to give barely perceptible democracy its day in court.

Any legislator worth his or her salt will agree the Vietnam War was unconstitutional. Johnson violated a constitution he'd sworn an oath to defend. All but two legislators who voted for the Gulf of Tonkin resolution were guilty of the same violation. They gave Johnson that “blank check” to escalate the war to the point where it was a vicious cycle, producing jobs for the undertaker around a staring contest daring the other to blink. Five decades later democracy is just as fragile, just as subject to convolution. Saving it, remedying it when its very foundation is threatened is a meticulous course that takes time. Most presidents for example, unless the legislative majority opposes them, use the executive order judiciously, as a last resort. This president, who has the majority (but really, did he ever) signs EOs like a voluntarily ambidextrous primate eating a bushel of bananas.

Middle America has endured a lot in political history. The past 253 days has tested their resilience and compromising ability to give democracy its day the most in my lifetime, which was beginning around the time of Al Lowenstein's advisement. Upper America, well, they have theirs. They are, most often, the problem. Lower has been something America sometime forgets, or they think they are forgotten and may buy into the rantings of the candidate who says that there is “trouble right here in River City, tells his African-American friend he has nothing to lose. I am humbly from middle America. I spent my childhood watching, sometimes participating, as many middle Americans gave democracy its day. The result, arguably, upper got knocked down a peg, lower moved up one, maybe more. We are in the middle, mitigating with democracy as a trusted tool that has, believe it or not, a service record of occasionally tapping that vein in America that sees beyond the needs and wants of the few. It finds the channel that can distribute America's GNP so all will feel its effect

In a PBS series about John Adams there was a scene of a man being tarred and feathered, run out of town on a rail. It was brutal stuff to watch, painful, humiliating, violent, humorous—it had it all. It was definitely what would be seen today as cruel and unusual punishment. The tarred man was a colonist, but an impostor, a deviant who upset the balance of things, the democratic foundation Adams and others of the time were trying to birth. The eighth amendment had not yet been written to protect this outcast, this dissident who refused to give anything constructive its day. Currently, and under Bush, water-boarding was or may well be used as a permissible deterrent in the military. This would fall under cruel and unusual punishment. The current man in the WH owes a lot to the constitution. He is there because democracy, against the preference of over 3 million, was given its day.. He wasn't and isn't tarred and feathered, run out of D.C. on a rail because of democracy. He does not understand, woefully missing the irony, the contested, antiquated, long-debated auspices that put him there.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Congenial-speak #53

Hearing Equilibrium


A reviewer stated that my book Ten Years and Change: A Liberal Boyhood in Minnesota lacked balance. I lacked balance, still do. That is the essence of ataxia, the chronic neuro-muscular condition I write about in the book. The reviewer found an imbalance between history and poetic memoir. I thought it was a fair and honest assessment of the book, and I somewhat agree with that reading. I could say that it was some contrived literary device, done intentionally to illustrate my own imbalance in every page after the MVA I write about in 1971. I use the years of therapy, the thousands of steps compiled as I walked with my dad on one side and a Northern Minnesota lake shimmering through trees on the other. It wasn't intentional or even conscious. I was what I wrote, how I wrote then. It was the final product of numerous revisions, of months of personal and professional editing. The balance of the book's substance was the culmination of months of deliberative divisions.

A writer chooses his words, his style, and hopes they can mesh with his voice. He hopes that his voice will translate well to his audience, that the style will resonate with them as well. A writer writes a line to tell, to show the way though a needle's hole, clear-eyed to a book's whole. With Ten Years and Change: A Liberal Boyhood in Minnesota I felt compelled to provide information that could be universally embraced, such as the 1969 moon landing in chapter one. That one worked, fortuitously, delicately and latitudinally slicing through history and poetic memoir. In that respect, from the opening first person narrative, “In 1969 I spent my first summer in cabin land,” I think it is one, maybe the only, chapter that got it exactly right. It is smooth, fluid, no coloring outside the lines of writing memoir, poetic or otherwise.

The point of the book (as I constantly reminded myself) was memoir, to artfully, perhaps poetically, convey the energy and occasional convergences of the nation's growing pains and mine. I set out to tell my parents' story, and the stories of the DFL Party members who dissented from their party to end a war their president refused to end. They supported their own anti-war candidate, Minnesota senator Eugene McCarthy. It wasn't a general history lesson, those books are out there already. They are, hopefully, textual and dry by comparison. I struggled to find a comfortable balance between the two, a copacetic compromise with which I and a general audience could live. A writer can't please everyone, as much as a politician can't. The review claimed I got bogged down with facts arduously, and I must say, compellingly researched. I agree in many cases the history was gratuitous and the book could have told its story without them. I felt I had to establish a base, a reason the Vietnam War grew incrementally less credible. I needed to explain why in 1965 with the entirely illegal offensive air and ground campaign Operation Rolling Thunder the war began to lose support. This political action affected my parents, the DFL, and coincidentally began the month that I came into the world. I felt a background of the Diem regime, for example, was necessary in the chapter of my book where I tell about my mother's involvement in the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF). I thought it was helpful to the reader, it provided a context, to tell why it was crucial that he went to Washington D.C. in November of 1963.

The Gulf of Tonkin incident and its confounded resolution may have been done to death. I cut out at least four paragraphs detailing events, true or false. I became obsessed in the feeling that I needed to explain this government trickery , this deception, this doctrine of political spin that essentially enabled Operation Rolling Thunder and the perpetual dispatch of troops thereafter. I thought it was important. I saw it as arguably the key, the “blank check,” that set American politics—and the jungles of North Vietnam—on fire. Without that card to play, without the conflict it caused with its contested repeal, history would be very different and, by extension, my story and the DFL's story.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Congenial-speaks #52

The Semantics of Prepositions

Donovan sang about him. Everyone has given it some thought, what goads him along, what he is really fighting for. They may even ponder how he sleeps in his bed, what words whisper to his prayers after he has fought an unpopular war. “He's five-foot two, he's six feet-four.” All revere the universal soldier fighting for his country. He'll—or she'll—fight for Canada, France, or the USA. They'll fight for Iraq or Afghanistan. For 10 solid years the USA fought for South Vietnam, and before that France fought for them. As Americans increasingly saw Vietnam for what it was and some left for Canada, the Canadian soldier fought with the USA for South Vietnam. Australia, New Zealand, and the Philippines fought with the USA for South Vietnam.

Two years into WWII, on December 8, 1941, Congress declared war on Japan in response to their attack on Hawaii the previous day. From 1898 to 1959 Hawaii was a US territory. Those brave, loyal, dedicate soldiers were, without hyperbole, “fighting for the USA.” They did give their lives for their country. On December 11 Hitler, with little consultation (sounds familiar) declared war on the US for what he saw as “a series of provocations by the US government when the US was officially neutral during WWII.” Those soldiers were, by extension from repelling the Japanese, fighting for the USA, dying for their country. They were also fighting and dying to stop Hitler and Mussolini from annexing most of Europe. They were fighting to halt a genocide of Jews and other ethnic groups. They were fighting with Russia, France, and Great Britain.

Wars are owned sometimes. The devotion to them is increased, loyalties more fierce. Obviously every minute man fighting at Lexington and Concord, at the siege of Boston, at Ticonderoga, straight up to Bunker (Breeds) Hill was fighting to have a country of their own. Every corpuscle of blood spilled, every musket loaded and cannon ball shot from 1775 to 1783 was for America, not the United States of America, not yet. Men fought for their country—either the 13 American colonies or Britain. Loyalist, or Tories in revolutionary terms, remained loyal to the crown. They were colnists, but not dissidents. Apparently they would have been happy to continue to, for instance, pay taxes to King George III. What was said for these people? They comprised about 80 percent of the colonists who went to Canada, the Bahamas, or back to Great Britain after the war. During the American Revolution wars with Native Americans continued. They were small battles or uprisings, skirmishes that were more or less contained. From 1777 to 1794 history notes the Cherokee-American (Chickamauga) War. I guess one might say the blood of former Englishman was spilled for their country, for its expansion, for MANIFEST DESTINY. The Cherokee were just fighting for their land. Consider this. If loyal Americans, determined to concieve a nation in liberty two and a half centuries ago, had not fought the natives the phrase “for his (or her) country” would not be worn on the sleeve of every recruiter, senator or Commander in Chief who casually watches soldiers go in harm's way. The words could not bear their hyperbolic residue as solemnly, so committed, so honorably.

Shots rang out, signaling men to fight for the USA, on April 12, 1861. Seven states, LA, FL, AL, GA, TX, MS, and SC were NOT fighting for or with the USA. The Confederate States of America was never recognized as a North American country. From that first battle at Fort Sumter, which they won, until they lost the Battle of Palmito Ranch May 13, 1865, those “rebel” soldiers fought for their unrecognized country. They fought for slavery, to be able to enslave Africans whose unpaid labor was vital to their states' economies. Their flag waves, free of wrinkles (along side a swastika), ironically because people fought for our country, 152 years later. The Union, the 25 states and territories, was fought for, in every sense of the words. In the four years of the Civil War 365,000 men died for their country, for our country. Had they not, America would be, well, a lot worse I'm sure. Over 600,000 gave their lives to settle the question of slavery. The Confederacy lost and, with it, slavery. The victory did set in motion the freedom for decades of marches, violent and non-violent protests that ultimately secured rights and legislation. Those small, arduously crafted victories, leading all the way back to the big one in 1865 (the defeat of the Confederacy and the 13th Amendment), have lost much of their initial impact, if the laws remain at all, in the last nine months.

It is noble. It is honorable. It saves face and adds humility to a service man's loss. It is consoling to the grieving to know their loved one did not die in vain, to say banally “he died for his country.” In one sense it is true, not in a literal sense though. All those who chose to go to Vietnam, who went when the draft notice came, or their lottery number came up were serving their country, and whatever your politics or views on that war are, that is honorable and worthy of a lot more respect than what I've heard many of those guys initially got. They went when their government called them, when questioning presidents was just becoming popular and necessary. But to say they were fighting for the USA is really a false statement. They were, as was France before them, fighting for South Vietnam, they were fighting with the ARVN army. And, if you give credence to the domino theory, they were also fighting for Thailand, the next country in the line. In one case I heard a kid, barely 18, ran to enlist in the army in 1964. He hungered for a real taste of war. He got it after intentionally screwing up a relatively safe position he was sent to the front lines. He was killed in 1966. By 1968, after Tet and the bulk of America realized the quagmire Vietnam was, when they realized the lies and corruption and hopelessness this kid's sister fought her own dissonance. She knew the war was wrong, illegal and immoral, but did not want to dishonor her brother. She could not let him die in vain. In the end she found a way to honor her brother while making her objections to the war clear. To say any of the 58,220 military fatalities were for America, in the sense America was defending itself (as was the case December 7,1941) is wrong. It sounds good, it would have sounded better than what the current POTUS was finally UN-empathetically compelled to say to the grieving mother of a slain soldier in Niger, but it is technically not true.

Maybe it is just easier to say that. It is simpler to boil down the logistics, motives, outcomes, and ethical implications of war into one easy to recycle interchangeable phrase, “he died for his country, fighting for the USA.”


Sunday, October 8, 2017

Congenial-speak #51


Return to the Lab

How did America ever get such a good reputation? Who ever implied that we could do no wrong, that this is the type of government to which everyone should aspire? It is an existential decision, a want, not a need. Their are other options; Socialism, Communism, anarchy, monarchy—all pale, to us, in comparison. Lately though, as the current administration appeases and appears to want to emulate Putin's tortured ruse of a democracy with 24 percent of Americans continuing to support it, when they actually seem to want that kind of oligarchy, I wonder about the blueprints. I wonder whether they need to be scrapped, or seriously tweaked (and, as luck would have it, we have the perfect man in the WH to tweak or grab things). I think it is time to examine the template for government, the 241-year-old “experiment” whipped up by mad scientists during that sweltering summer in Philadelphia. Are those 24 percent the renegades that finally broke away from the control group, the subjects against whom the premise of democracy was tested for its validity? I am left thinking that maybe, after 12 score and 1 year, in the turbulent wakes of constant abrogations, in the light of contemporary media fascinations, it failed. People cannot live together with only marginal differences, irregularities that don't test the very laws that said people had a voice in making. Turns out we are not the nation “conceived in liberty” Lincoln said we were during the greatest divide in history to precede this one. As evidenced by, most recently, the 2016 campaign we fall far short of any dedication or even complacent commitment to “the proposition that all men are created equal.” Not even close. Only privileged misogynist white men who convincingly bellow YOU'RE FIRED! and can grab women by the short hairs because of it.

I never fell for it. I was never a fan of over-compensatory flag waving, genuflecting, of actually crossing a stage to hug and kiss a red, quite and blue cloth. I feel it is basic respect, courtesy perhaps, to stand during a playing of our anthem, but hollow displays of patriotism by xenophobes only cheapen the whole idea. How could America, land that I loved (but am now seriously reconsidering), allow a bigoted angry man who has disgraced every race and group in America to become president. Where is the curator of this “experiment?” If it were some kind of nuclear experiment the reactor would be in meltdown mode, sirens would sound incessantly and technicians would be screaming “the humanity!” as though a firey zeppelin were plummeting to earth. There has to be some oversight committee, a coalition whose sole purpose is to step in when Frankenstein becomes unhinged, when Godzilla breaks his chains, climbs the Empire State and starts swatting at airplanes. I think this is an emergency, an anomaly, a “democratic arrest” situation. It is not a garden variety Republican, fathoms from an Eisenhower, a Reagan, even a Bush. It is not even a credible third party, definitely not anything that belongs anywhere near America, some kind of oligarchical mutation. It is the stuff of horrific science fiction—genre dystopia. I never fell for it, not as I was introduced to the half-truths (if even that) of government growing up with Vietnam, and certainly not now. I vote, go to my precinct caucus (or last time a step further), pay my federal tax, pay for schools and roads that, as a non-driver, I don't use. I see the whole picture, not just what I want or need to see, not just when my team is winning. I see and recognize the possible long-term worth of my opposing teams' wins, I take them for what they are worth. However I have never fallen victim to the pablum, the myth that America is number one, numero uno, hands down. Sure it is an admirable goal, worth entertaining, but I think it is foolish to boast about it. Now it is coming back to bite America in the ass, we look foolish. Merkel and May are either laughing, rolling their eyes, or feeling sad for Americans. Now, each day of this administration we are getting further from being the best. It's the opinion of at least—seventy-six percent of the country. The rest, frankly I don't know in what universe THIS is great, good, or even better. Like I say, success today is existential. Do the mantra. Echo TR, echo TR, walk softly and carry a big stick. America has developed more of a limp, as of late. One leg is a lot shorter than the other, and that metaphor could be as tortured as the “democracy” Putin offers his people.

In many ways America has pigeon-holed itself. The mad scientists from yesteryear created a set of rules, a template designed to test time. Through the ages the constitution has been amended with well-debated arguments having achieved a consensus in all 50 states. Only once was an amendment rescinded, was it accepted by enough of a consensus in all states to over-turn the amendment and foster one to again be tested by time. It never came close. The 18th amendment (effective January 1920) prohibited the sale and transfer of alcohol. The 21st amendment (effective December 1933) repealed the 18th. Prohibition encompassed, facilitated and necessitated 13 years of bootlegging and speakeasys. It spawned a decade of getting around the law, subverting rulings enough of the populace made to make them a federal mandate! America's pastime isn't baseball, it's making laws and then finding ways around them, ways that don't always work, depending on what color your skin is. Here's a radical thought: Constitutions, manifestos, pre-ambles, grocery lists could become outdated. Take the second amendment to the constitution. Has anyone read the history behind this? I have. It has its roots in the English Bill of Rights passed in 1689. King James bestowed upon his Protestant subjects (no doubt the P in what WAS) the right to “have arms for their defense within the rule of law.” With that right the early English settlers, in what could only be destined to become America, set about making certain guidelines to properly, responsibly use that right, possibly to avoid a time when gun violence can be found in America on any given day. They used it for:

  • enabling the people to organize a militia system
  • participating in law enforcement
  • deterring tyrannical government
  • repelling invaders
  • suppressing insurgencies (rumored to have included slave rebellions)
  • facilitating the instinct to defend oneself

To me, contrary to the amendment as it is written (in the 1791 drafting), the last bullet point does imply individual gun ownership. All people want—or need—to see to placate their (I guess) insecurity, cod piece, ego, the incomplete clause “. . .the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed,” period. To appreciate the full meaning of the second amendment one must somehow, in an equitable fashion, mesh those words with “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state.” I was codified once. The bill passed by congress, written by scribe William Lambert, had more dependent clauses. The version written by Thomas Jefferson simply stated, in two clauses, the right and what it was for: “A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Semantics, minced words. TJ knew that people would be looking at the words for hundreds of years, twisting them to their wants or needs, wrapping the flag ever tighter around them and their guns until a simple way to assemble a militia to protect whatever state existed was contorted, perverted into a sanctimonious card to play. Notice arms is capitalized. Is this so it is not confused with anatomical arm? Then one could say to a gun-happy citizen, this only means feel free to run around in a tank-top. See, Jefferson thought of everything.

America was conceived in liberty once, in the later part of the 18th century. It was, almost existentially conceived to be unequal, with many groups, ironically those who largely built it, being kept at bay, not equally reaping its rewards. Then, sometime in the 20th century (60s) the giant woke up, Frankenstein became unhinged, and ever since the implicit paradigm shift has been ignored. Programs worked to alleviate the disparity, programs failed. One side tries to bring equality, the other invents ways to subvert them, twist words to their favor, or currently—well. . .the uneven playing field is at a 90ยบ angle. A man is a man, far from infallible (although the current one in the WH would choke on those words). Many have tried to tame the beast called America, pulled the levers behind a curtain. Some have had great success, depending on whom you ask. All had foibles, even Obama. Although, unlike some, I know he would be the first to admit it. Men have tried, so why not try a woman. As some candidate said last year, “what do you have to lose?”

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

congenial-speak # 50

Last words to be Later

There will be time later to play politics. Time to wage a weak and empty war of words that go nowhere, pre-destined to go nowhere, while a veil of substantive thought a prayers go—somewhere. That is fine, it is necessary to grieve. It is not always a science, a five tiered plan of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Neither is politics. It is worth considering, however, when Sunday's shooting in Las Vegas is the 273rd such casualty in the 275 calendar days of 2017 according to Newsweek. A Republican senator, when pressed yesterday for a political narrative, sidestepped. He danced around (like some projectiles were going toward him) and said “There will be time later to play politics.” Is this where kicking the can down the road happens? Sandy Hook, Aurora, Virginia Tech, Oregon, Phoenix. . .a US congressman nearly killed. Same story, thoughts and prayers, maybe a moment of silence, vigils, maybe protests, some glib political placate debate, disingenuous discourse, and the NRA wins the day. The simple mom and pop club that began during reconstruction with the purpose of promoting firearms training is allowed to obstruct legislation that might have a shot at saving a life or two.

I can see Speaker Ryan still, lauding the applause in the House as he stated their unity after his colleague Steve Scalise was shot. I recall an airy, gun-powdered sentient voiced, thinly hinted at, that perhaps that tragedy was the straw that broke the camel, the pin that stuck in the chamber. That was less than four full months ago. How soon we forget. Was that a sufficient time to offer thoughts and prayers before doing something that may actually prevent a killing, not just balm the wounds after the fact, applause the responders, the bringing together of people? I agree that it is a beautiful thing, admirable, worth noting, commendable. But we see it, we did the humanity test and they passed with flying colors. We saw it after 9/11, we saw it in Boston, we saw it in Orlando, and we saw it Sunday. And no, that will not stay in Vegas.

It is time, I'd say, after 59 dead and 527 injured, to have a dialogue. Lobbies be damned. Is there not a point at which the preservation of American lives, of children, of families, of veterans, supersedes the contextually distorted right to own a gun, a simple gun as were available in the late 18th century? So far people have mended fences—offenses. They've—well Republicans actually—allowed themselves to become amenable to grief on an almost monthly basis. They applaud how each assault tests our resolves as humans living in a lawful society. Is the current man in the WH the second to ballyhoo law and order? Why is it the ones who site law and order as a model for their campaign the ones who seem to achieve the least of it, or did I answer my question? I have yet to hear him call out gun violence, address the problem for what it is, admit that it's been out of hand for a long while. Last month in Chicago there were a total of 330 people shot and killed, or wounded, by guns, oh and I must add, and the people that wielded them. He did it with an uncharacteristic amount of fanfare. Obama's law preventing guns from being sold to mentally ill people was reversed by Trump. The ruling by Obama required added people listed as receiving social security checks for mental illness to a national background check database. It came in response to the 2013 Sandy Hook Elementary shooting that left 20 first graders and six adults dead. Had the ruling gone uncontested, had it not been repealed in favor of conciliatory thoughts and prayers, the well-practiced and alibied way of avoiding the issue, 75,000 names would now exist in the database. It's a tale as long as the NRA's conception itself: The cogs in gun wheel houses complain their 2nd Amendment right is being infringed upon, gun control advocates praise rulings like Obama's for making it more difficult for someone to purchase a gun who is apt to use them with fatal intentions.

Las Vegas is apparently a invitational well-spring for gun shows. Shows? Exhibitions? Like Sinatra or any member collectively of the Rat Pack? What a racket, a scam, a subliminal assault and exploitation of the power of Vegas. Circus circus showcases beautiful women hanging in compromising positions (at least that's how I remember it from 1983). Buffets showcase food. Casinos showcase gambling and kino girls. I went to an MGM Grand show that featured the Way-past-his-prime conniptions of George Carlin. It boils down to a matter of personal opinion but, at the end of the day, the long convention table, what existentially constructive beauty does a gun show display. You can dress them up however you want, give them fancy names, wrap them tight in red,white and blue, but they a still instruments of death basically designed to kill people. How did Stephan Paddock get 10 suitcases of guns up to the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel, past security (I was stopped for one dulled ceremonial sword I had won at a bodybuilding competition)? Are people proud of their gun collections? Are they compelled to show them off, much as people who go with their rag-tops to car shows? Fine, if they are old, historically significant or rare guns they keep under lock and key so junior makes it through puberty, by all means, organize a gun show. You have been taken in, though, by the biggest fraud since—PT Barnum.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Congenial-speak #49


Bringing Coals to San Juan


Who knew part of America is an island surrounded by water, lots of water. There was the man who thinks he is a president explaining geographical logic and formations. Could it be that he thought out loud, that this was the most he thought about the logistics of getting food to Puerto Rico? Did we actually see the gold encrusted wheels try to take the rare bend toward being remotely presidential? If so, what would motivate him? They don't vote. If they did it probably wouldn't be for him. The golf club there is second-hand (Trump only lent his name to it in 2008), and couldn't be much of a concern to him. And, the lack of a response expected of one's president may be colored by—well—color. That and, I'm spit-balling, contemporaneously learning that Puerto Rico is a US territory.

How can that compare to the mentally easy and politically high stakes game of taking on the NFL? Reprimanding a handful of black athletes who choose to “take a knee” or link arms during the national anthem is less contentious than helping a desperate mayor of San Juan. By recognizing, or even admitting his ignorance of, Carmen Cruz Trump is not in his me zone. He risks the biggest fear of all; something not being about HIM, for HIM, or benefiting HIM in any way. He'd be a fat cat on a window ledge hanging by its claws with only 1 (at last count) political life left, and this cat is too fat and stupid to land on its feet. He blew any chance of any redemption by responding to his base in Texas and Florida in the wakes of Harvey and Irma. It wasn't a page from presidential compassion 101 but, for Trump, that's probably as good as it's going to get. Where's there a trace of altruism, evidence of true compassion, no monetary, political, or racial motives? He went to Houston expecting to see his core red red-meat eating voters back in 2020, #2 pencil in hand, ready to fill in HIS oval on the ballot.

Not even close. Not even in the arena to be an issue controvertible to a self-righteous ploy to wrap in a flag and press (as one would coal to diamonds) into votes. They kind of went down like dominoes. Black. . . white. . . you get the gist. The statement those players are making. Even if they have personally benefited from the American experience, they are using there place to stand up, or down, for the thousands for whom America has offered a less than positive experience, an America that evidently, in 2017, values their lives as little as it did in 1905. Trump get mad. He tweet at NFL owners. He say fire those players, “YOU'RE FIRED” he blasts, invoking his first Apprentice right. Another arrow in the core red-meat-seeking quiver. They are UN-American. They are disrespectful of veterans of foreign (and domestic) wars. Watch that pot/kettle thing. Does the name Khan ring a bell in Trump tower NY?

God is reprehensible. God is not in ally in any way, shape, or form. A natural disaster has no culpability until after the fact. Until the pallets of water and food are found to be inadequate from donors who have no where near the resources your alleged government has. All Trump can do is try to stay within his physical and mental capacity, play to his strengths, tackle the issues that are not life threatening—particularly his political one. So, as Mayor Cruz “does something she never thought I'd have to do” and takes a knee, begs for assistance, Trump just tweets. He spins toward HIMSELF. He has diluted Sarah H. Sanders and acting DHS muck Elaine Duke into playing ball his way; beginning with singing his praises.

Congenial-speak #55

A Slow Death Is the republic happy? I sincerely doubt it. A year ago those under-appreciated forgotten rapscallions who crawled fro...