Strolling

We had a chance to take a walk in a garden recently. After a year of basically hunkering down and avoiding the world, our limit was reached and we went to the Missouri Botanical Garden the first weekend of May. It was so good, so surreal, and so necessary.

Consequently, a couple of shots.

 

 

 

Another New Look

I do this from time to time because (a) I’m bored, (b) I’m curious, (c) something breaks, or (d) I want people to think I’m engaged, paying attention, and updating because, you know, I’m trying to be current or relevant or…

Yeah, whatever. I’m never sure what it is I’m trying to accomplish when I switch themes.  Probably the equivalent of Spring Cleaning, only not as physical.

I any event, I’ve been doing the usual gaping in dismay at the national (and state) political scene, trying to find something to say that might make it all fit an understandable set of parameters, and the last couple of posts I wrote about it were attempts at explaining larger forces. That’s my way of dealing with the world, trying to comprehend, describe, and thereby put it in some form that allows me to make sense of it.

This time? I’m watching the Republican Party turn itself inside out and for the life of me it doesn’t make any sense. I mean, they’re trying to gain leverage by aligning themselves with a proven liar, a mediocre businessman, a berserker, an anti-intellectual, a boor, a sexual predator, a supremacist, someone with the verbal skills of a third-grader who has no sense of history and seems distracted by bright and shiny with no regard for worth and substance. I cannot help but think he’s got a black book on these people that puts Nixon’s enemies list to shame. But then, I look at the last four years and can’t help but think that, even if he had, he’s just not capable of using it. Not well.

So my best response usually is, WTF?

So far, Biden is doing exactly the right thing. The job. He’s not getting drawn into making comparisons, denying allegations that have no substance, responding to the kind of shallow gotcha polemics that can do nothing but make everyone look stupid. He’s not rising to the bait. And his spokesperson, Psaki? Brilliant. If they keep to this, at some point the GOP will finally crawl up its own rectum and suffocate on the nonsense.

One point for all you folks who may be on the fence about the GOP: McConnell has declared his intention to follow the same program he did with Obama—block everything he can, no matter what. That means the GOP will do nothing. Nothing will be accomplished that they can take any credit for.

In his case (McConnell’s), I believe this is because he is frankly not smart enough to know when he’s punching himself—and his constituency—in the face.

All in all, we have reached a point where there is, in fact, nothing left to say concerning the post mortem of the previous administration.  I can think of one or two things that came out of it all that have some merit, none of which I can honestly attribute to any kind of studied comprehension on the part of the ex-president:  We’ve been talking for decades about China and the need to address the violations in trade practices and so forth and, ill-aimed as it may have been, that shot was fired. From what I’ve seen so far, the Biden administration is not rolling back aspects of that which may do some good. It needed to happen at some point. It was a start. There were one or two moves in the Middle East that were not horrible and something can be built on it, but moving the embassy to Jerusalem was perhaps ill-advised. It may, however, have unforeseen positive consequences. It was a bone thrown to the far right of the party.

Not much. Certainly not enough to justify the tidal waves of stupidity that flooded the country from twitter and the administrative butchering our institutions received. Not enough to make the level of civic ill-ease worthwhile.

Not enough to forgive the unparalleled wreck they made of our pandemic response. And before anyone shouts “But this was unprecedented!” let me say, yes, but the previous administration had put together a response playbook which was basically thrown in the trash. Work done by even earlier administrations in anticipation of something like this was ignored as well. Preparatory groundwork was laboriously done which these people didn’t understand, wouldn’t spend the money on, and therefore faced a challenge which they subsequently mishandled. It’s amazing to me more people aren’t dead. But the damage is ongoing because the final injury done was to validate stupidity. People who feel empowered to dismiss fact and science and reason because they were told not to trust anything coming from anywhere but the president (even though very little actually came from him) will continue to thwart efforts to contain this epidemic. We may not achieve the kind of herd immunity we need or could have, not because we don’t know how but because people refuse to cooperate simply because.

Well. Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest.

I haven’t been writing fiction lately. I have a novella in the queue at Analog, but I don’t know when that will be coming out. I’ve got a few short stories that are making the rounds. And I’m shopping for a new agent. I’ve been here before, but I’ve never been here when I’ve been this tired. I have one story I’ve been laboring at for months now. Partly, this is a time issue. Partly, this is a recovery issue. The holiday season just past taxed me to my limit physically. I’ll write about that some other time. I’m 66. I don’t bounce back like I used to, although to be honest I think I’m doing pretty well for a 66-year-old. I still get the gym, I still put in a full day’s work, I’m still alert. But I’m no marine. Partly, also, there’s a certain amount of discouragement attaching to all this.

I put my photography galleries online for the purpose of selling my visual work, but to date I’ve gotten very thin response. I’m not sure if people realize they can buy the work available.  I’ll be revisiting that whole thing in the coming months.

I’ve had both my shots now. I’m officially vaccinated. We were lucky not to have gotten ill. It will be nice to be able to go out again, but I doubt anything will be normal for a while.

My father is in a home. None of us wanted this to happen, but it did. He’s 90. Mom is coping as best she can and we’ve been visiting her more regularly. Things are murky in that area. No matter what, nothing will go back to what it once was.  Seems to be the theme of the last few years.

This has been a catch-up kind of post. New look, a state-of-the-union statement, so to speak. I may be writing more personal reports in the coming year. Stay tuned. And I hope all is going okay with you.

The Undoing

Here is a fact. The Republican Party, at the state and local level, is engaged in a purge. With a few exceptions, the apparatus is ousting members who do not support Trump. Anyone who has spoken against him, who will not support the Big Lie, who wish to move the Party away from him, are being removed from offices, barred from positions of responsibility, and pushed out the door. They’re welcome to call themselves Republicans but if they will not throw their lot in with the Trump cult, they are being treated as unreliable and untrustworthy and being removed. This goes all the way up to congress, where Liz Cheney is engaged in defending herself from exactly this.

One might say this is delusional on the part of those rallying to the former president, but we see people who publicly denounced Trump’s allegations about a fraudulent election now joining in on the big purge. Delusion is one thing. This is something else.

The comparisons to the Nazi Party have been going on for a long time, to the point that it has become almost a cliché. But it is valid to look at how such organizations operate historically and compare. This is is very much how such things go. In order to guarantee lock-step conformity, any independent voice, anyone who might hold conscience above program, has to go. The organization cannot afford the muddying effect of actual diversity of opinion in its effort to achieve its goals. In this sense, the GOP is becoming an antidemocratic organization. Along with the systematic attempt to enact voter suppression laws in state after sate, no one should doubt that this is a party bent on achieving unquestioned dominance of our civic institutions.

To what end?

That’s been the question for me: just what is it they wish to see?

I don’t think it’s subtle at all. They want this all to be Theirs. Even conservative supporters of such things as Social Security and Medicare seem to be joining the effort to undo those things. Every time someone talks about privatizing one of these programs it is entirely an effort to exclude. Even as some talk about expanding the GOP, making it more inclusive, the policy agenda the party pursues is one of stripping the government of the power to represent all the people. When you privatize something, you basically say that anyone can have these services if they can afford them. Pay for play. What about those who can’t afford them?

Too bad.

The twisted logic on display suggests that those who can’t afford to play are not Americans.

While no one has actually said those words, it is fairly obvious from four decades of programmatic reduction of common service that this is the ethos. No money? Gee.

But they have been thwarted often enough that what we see now is a last-ditch attempt to shore up Party Purity and make it impossible to mitigate the worst effects of what seems to be an attempt to destroy all safety nets and render all movements toward a more egalitarian society impotent. Basically, if certain people cannot choose who to exclude from services they feel they rightly deserve, they will dismantle it all so no one can have them. Then, afterward, when they have control, they will rebuild them with exclusions already in place.

We’ve seen this before, most clearly in school systems.  We’re seeing it now in voting restrictions. Party spokespeople have stated clearly that if voting rights are made more accessible, more egalitarian, the GOP will be at a disadvantage.

There is a deep admission of elitism at the heart of this that goes beyond simple competitiveness. These are people who believe they are chosen to be the only true Americans, and all these other…people…are the unwashed, vulgar, below-the-salt commoners who need to be shown their Place.

Pointing out what they’re doing to them does no good.  They know exactly what they’re doing and see nothing wrong with it.

Trump is meaningless, even to them, as anything other than a point of focus.

This is more dangerous than anything we’ve seen since the Depression. It is dangerous because the message has appeal to people who can’t fathom why they have to share something with strangers who don’t look like them, talk like them, think like them. It has appeal to people who think being an American entitles them to being superior. It has appeal to people who think taking care of everyone only means there will be less for them. It appeals to people who harbor resentments and think if only they could do something about those people over there then life would get better. It appeals to people who think if they hand their conscience over to the self-appointed vanguard of a New Order, that order will make sure they can keep their property. It appeals to people who, while perhaps being circumspect about their sentiments, actually feel a little bit safer every time a black man is killed by a cop.

The GOP is currently dominated by people who seem to believe that they alone know what being American means and in order to see that vision into dominance are willing to destroy everything that mitigates the damage elitism does in a country they feel is rightfully theirs and only theirs.

Right now, the various philosophies that have sustained them since the Seventies are being held up to review and seen wanting. The economic program known as trickle-down is being openly criticized and more people see it as a failure. Their record of gerrymandering and voter suppression is a public disgrace. It’s unraveling on them. But. It would not take much for them to simply regroup, abandon any attempt at soft-selling themselves, and just taking the forum. We cannot rest on the limited success of the last election, not while it’s still being challenged by the lies. It will take a few more elections to return our institutions to sanity.

In the short term, it may well be that Liz Cheney and a few others could form the basis of a new party that may well finish the destruction of the GOP as it now stands.  I’m not sure that would be any kind of a fix in the long run, but it might give us all the breathing space to find the common ground we’ve had yanked from beneath our feet and exorcize these demons of disunity.

I don’t know. Have a care. As Wellington said once, “it was the nearest-run thing you ever saw in your life.” That, I think, is what we’re facing.