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Brag

It’s two days past Valentine’s Day. There’s a blanket of snow on the ground and I’m at home with my best friend. I wanted to take a little time to brag about her.

I met Donna in 1979 (correction, I am informed it was January of ’80), started seeing her in 1980, moved in with her by the beginning of 1981, and we’ve been together since.  She is, simply, my best friend.

Of all the things she has done for me, the one that mattered most was that she simply accepted me.  For who I was (whatever that may have been at any given moment) and supported me in anything I wanted to do.  When she discovered that I wrote, she read what I had done and encouraged me to pursue it. That led, of course, to everything since. I wonder sometimes had we known how difficult it would have been, would we have done it. The writing, that is.

But it would not have mattered to her, not much. If I had really wanted to, she would have done what she could to help.

And help she did. I have friends, but I do not think I’ve ever known one so limitless.

For a time, I still thought I might pursue the photography.  We actually did the ground work to open a new lab once.  But the more the writing took hold, the less interest I had in that, even though I was good at it and when it came to Day Jobs, it was one that supported us for almost 30 years.

I’ve written about her before, but I wanted to say more this time. We’re coming up on 41 years. To be honest, it took me a while—longer than it did her—to realize what we had, to come to the conclusion that she was the One. I’d been through a very bad break-up and I was gun-shy, tender in spots, and unwilling to either hurt or be hurt again, so I was, perhaps, too cautious.

She waited. And every year since, I’ve had cause to be grateful.

We’ve lived in three places. She had her own apartment first, and I moved in with her. (When I told my parents, dad’s reaction was “It’s about time.” They knew before I did how important she was.) Then we found an apartment on Grand Avenue, where we solidified, partied, laughed, made plans. It was from that apartment that I went to Clarion in 1988.  Six weeks away, the longest we’ve ever been apart.

We took each other for granted. Both of us, with the other. Any relationship that lasts any length of time will have that about it. In a way, the fact that you can do that is a testament to how much trust—unspoken trust—you have with each other. But we always realized it and compensated and renewed what we had.

If this begins to sound unreal, forgive me. Some things, when reduced to words, do seem improbable, unlikely, too good to be true, pretentious.  I can’t help that. It is easier to make tragedy and pain convincing sometimes more than joy. More difficult is to make contentment and safety sound either convincing or compelling, but that is a failure of the language and the culture in which we live, one that prizes shock over calm, at least when it comes to what entertains us.

So we celebrated another Valentine’s Day together, our 40th.  I think she still loves me. Always best to check. In any event, she’s here.  She is my home.  It is one of my motivations to make her proud of me, to make her feel safe with me, to make her laugh, to help her.  We are very different when it comes to talents and proclivities. (It is best we clean house and so forth apart from each other.)

This lockdown has been a struggle. In some ways, we’ve had to find new strategies to not get on each others’ nerves. As time passes, it wears. But then, it occurred to me recently that we haven’t had too much trouble with that.  We’re…comfortable…with each other.

There’s not a lot of activity in the going out department. We have movies. I’ve taken up reading aloud to her, so we share a book simultaneously.  It’s a pleasure.  But boy, when the worst of this passes, there are places I want to take her.  She is a private person and doesn’t like to show off, but I like to let people know how special she is.

I have always found her incredibly sexy.

So here I wanted to brag. I have a partner, a companion, a sweetheart, a lover like nobody else. Remove her and you lobotomize me. If I am anything in this life, it is because she found something and breathed life into it and said “Hey, you should do this.”

My parents recently celebrated their 67th anniversary.  They had known each other a year or so before marrying, so let’s say almost 69 years for them. I like the idea of spending another 28 years with Donna. It will not be dull.

We travel well together and have been many places and will be many more places. It is a journey I relish. Even the strange new worlds of imagination have given us many places to visit together.  (We started going to science fiction conventions in 1982. We even tried out costuming a short—very short—while.)

I’m rambling. I’m feeling nostalgic. For the past, certainly. I like the idea of Quantum Leap, being able to dip in and out of our timeline at various points. I’m trying to think if there’s anything I would change. Minor stuff, to be sure. Regret is part and parcel of engagement, if for no other reason than you can’t do everything you want to do, no matter how little sleep you get.

So I’ll wrap this up now. I’ll leave a couple more pictures below. I appreciate your attention.

I hope you all have found or will find your lifelong valentine.

 

Have a good life.

 

 

 

 



Picture For A Sunday Afternoon

When I was a kid there used to be a number of “movie” shows on television. We had three major networks and a couple of local independent “affiliates.” Paltry choices compared to today, and yet there always seemed to be plenty to watch. As older films became available to lease by networks, these shows proliferated. The Three O’Clock Movie during the work week, then later some prime-time selections, but I always remembered the Picture For A Sunday Afternoon as my favorite.

It was nostalgic, even then. And kind of arty. We saw a lot of films that didn’t have much to do with Oscar winners or things like that.  And it was all in glorious black-and-white, because we didn’t have a color set. Even if we had, most of these films were from the Forties and Fifties and were shot in black-n-white.

I have always loved black & white photography. I even have a slight preference for pen-and-ink and charcoal drawings. The one time I had a conversation with the late Kelly Freas, he and I both geeked out on the superiority of black & white illustration.



Empty Thunder

In the aftermath of the Civil War (once also called the War of the Rebellion), many people were certainly concerned, uncertain, and baffled about the future. The purpose of the war had been the preservation of the Union. That statement, that explanation, however, contains within it manifold intentions and issues with which we evidently struggle to this day.

Chief among them being the question, Union of What?

Lee’s surrender at Appomattox gave a formality to the end of the war which was deceptive. Hostilities raged on in various places for years. Look at any war and it is obvious that formal declarations of surrender, victory, etc, are only that—declarations. State intentions. Conflagration continues in the aftermath, small conflicts, what we call brushfire wars, go on over unresolved questions of territory, national identity, ideology, all to some extent driven by the refusal to acknowledge that it is over.

If we look at the events of this past January 6th and take them as evidence of a civil war, then it might be legitimate to say that the successful inauguration of Joe Biden marks the formal end of that war, and it would be about as true as any other such declaration. It might be well for us to examine all the elements of that event to see where it might lead.

Firstly, is there a Civil War?

Let’s look at the prior one and see how it compares.

Our Civil War was fought over the issue of slavery.  (Issue number one, among many “issue number ones” this time, is the accuracy of that claim. Despite the wishes of naysayers, it is indisputable that the secession movements of the 1860s were centered on that one issue. They said so themselves. The desire to claim otherwise in recent years is one of the hallmarks of our current difficulties and in a significant way the reason the current movement lacks any credibility.)  Dress it up any way you like, slavery was the issue. I can say this regardless of claims to the contrary even without the written proof by the hands of the secessionists by a simple formula. States Rights is the less odious claim. But States Rights to do what? To be a state? That right already existed and was not under threat. The drive to secede must therefore have been spurred by a sense of threat to a perceived right that was at issue. The “state right” under threat was the right to hold human beings in chattel bondage. Period. That was the defining issue for those states, that they claimed the right to maintain the one institution that they saw as essential to their very identity, i.e. slavery. 

All through the Trans-Atlantic Slave period, there were people arguing that slavery was immoral, inhumane, and ultimately despicable, so it was not that they didn’t know any better, it was only that those practicing it believed in their own self-interest more. Inasmuch as we regard this as at least in some part a class issue, the assumed superiority of the slaveholders is demonstrable across social lines. If they could have found a way to enslave the poor of any ethnic group, they would have (and in many ways did). The racist aspect becomes evident when the clearly-stated and institutionally pernicious differences between the various forms of bondage are examined.

How does this relate to the present?

That desire for self-superiority has never been fully dealt with and drives most if not all of the current politics informing those who participated in the insurrection on January 6th.

What the states that formed the Confederacy possessed that the present agglomeration of socially and economically disaffected reactionaries lack was a concrete set of conditions over which to separate themselves from the Union. Concrete but ultimate insupportable. Slavery as an economic system had limits, and was reaching them. The only thing that would have allowed the South to maintain the system in any economically sustainable way was expansion and that was severely threatened politically by the actions of the North. Even without that, the South was in many ways trying to maintain a dying system that could not be sustained either environmentally, morally, or economically. At some point it would have become clear that the slaveholders would not have been able to afford to maintain the system. The returns were already trending in that direction, hence the urgency in expansion. They were on the long road to bankruptcy. Outlawing slavery outright would have brought that about much sooner. 

By comparison, what do the present crop of the disaffected have to fear?

Going down a list of issues, few have the kind of concreteness faced by the antebellum elite. And yet, there is a similarity that is tragic in much the same way.

The casualties (on both sides) of the Civil War fell most heavily upon the poor. Men drafted into service to fight for a cause of which they had no real stake. The average Confederate soldier did not and never would own a slave. 

In the same way, the people in Washington D.C. who invaded the Capitol are not and never will be independently wealthy.

And yet in both instances they were coopted into fighting for those whose ranks they could never join—in both instances, the rich.

Before going into that, though, consider the issues presently fueling this movement. Most of them are entirely fabricated. QAnon is entirely nonsense, and yet it has dangerous momentum. The libertarian aspirations on display are at most distractions. The protests against LGBTQ rights are informed by the worst kind of misapplied identity tropes. Abortion is the one issue with any real traction and even it is projected in opposition to secularism and questions of gender equality which on their face require one to ignore so many ancillary realities as to be little more than antiquated prudery dressed up as a moral crisis.

These are all wedge issues, existing for only one purpose—to divide people into camps that can then be manipulated into fighting each other. Reasonable solutions are available to answer differences of opinion, but they are cast as betrayals to some kind of fundamental morality and undermines American Exceptionalism.

The tagline for the movement gives it away. Make America Great Again.

That begs so many questions.

Now, this is the kind of thing that seems to annoy the reactionary the most, the request for definition. They know what they mean, and see your inability to understand what they mean as a sign that you are part of the problem. That you would ask the question automatically defines you as their opponent in a struggle for the unquestioned emergence of the wonderfulness they support. It should, it seems, “go without saying.”

It must be asked, though—what good is anything that cannot be said? And is the lack of definition just a mask for that which has no reality?

Greatness, however one defines it, is only legitimate as an emergent property. If it is a set goal, with predefined shape and expectations, it is both unachievable and illegitimate.

Those who seem to be Trump’s loudest and most energetic supporters seem not to understand this. They seem to regard Greatness as a prize to be won, a condition with evident benefits that can be bought, a state of being understood by the adulation it commands. This is clear in Trump’s case by any casual look at the produce of his life—if it looks great, that’s enough, never mind what substance it contains. He is, above all, a promoter, and the promoter never has to produce, he only has to sell. The “promotion” comes into play when what is being sold is not quite what it is claimed to be.

Consider: the insurrectionists invaded the precincts of the Capitol. They invaded, they took the halls, the floors, had run of the building. They rushed in there believing they were about to achieve their goals. And then what? They acted like children. They wandered around, they collected trophies, they took selfies. 

They had no plan.

What if they had captured some congresspeople? Some were clearly prepared to arrest those they had been told are the source of their disaffection. What then?

What demands might these people have made? And on whose behalf?

Many are now lamenting how they had been misled. They blame Trump, certainly, but that misses the point, which is that had they not prepared themselves to be misled, he would never have been able to draw them in. They were there because they wanted to be.

But wanted to be for what?

Among the various signs on display, a variety of bigotries were evident. Antisemitism. Ethnic exclusiveness. Libertarian protestations. QAnon messaging. As one digs through the morass of ideological motives, it moves from ancient hatreds to contemporary fantasy. A melange of distortions, absurdities, and petty insecurities. It is not difficult to find ample information to debunk and delegitimize each and every position. But it has all found common ground among people who would rather attack the institutions defined for them as their enemy than consider reexamining the bases of their disaffection.

One woman recently charged by the FBI posted about her intention to find Speaker Pelossi and “shoot her in the friggin’ brain.” This is evidence of a profound disconnect with any reasonable picture of reality. 

Again, though, the question must be asked—over what?

So far, no one has been found with any after-takeover plans. Nothing has been revealed about the intended replacement of current institutions with something different. Given that the complaints about the government have become surreal and that of the people who chose to go to Washington and who participated in the insurrection, an answer to this question is a bit more than academic. The stated intention to abduct representatives (not only federal but state officials), in some cases kill them, in every case render the government as it is unable to function requires an explanation. And at some point at least an idea what would take the place of what would be destroyed.

Instead, we see the fire and fury and no plan. No intention to govern in place of. No one stepping up to the plate with a set of ideas on what to do instead of what has been done. 

Largely, this is because we have a method, a plan, a set of procedures here to put forward changes. It’s called an election and representative democracy. The insurrectionists seem unable to make that work for them. Essentially, because they cannot get what they want, they feel the entire system is a failure and should be burned down.

But what it is they want, other than not to have to deal with what is? 

If this were only a problem of a rabble it might not be such a problem. But in fact, the Party that presumably represents them the most—the GOP—exhibits the same frustrating condition. They block, they oppose, they condemn, the filibuster, they deny, they appoint judges, challenge legislation, and except for one tax cut after another, they do not put forward substantive plans as a Party to replace what they clearly seek to tear down. So the model is there, writ large, for the rabble to follow. Just tear it all down and the “right thing” the thing that will “Make America Great Again” will simply emerge.

For decades now we have been subjected to an erosion of public trust and a decimation of public programs fueled by the antagonistic politics fomented by people who are increasing their market share by virtue of the violence and division created with the intent to destroy. It was learned long ago that chaos can, in some instances, allow profit-taking at an elevated rate. Greater prosperity across the board can be created only in periods of greater unity and cultural amity, but that is neither fast nor easily funneled into the narrow channels that currently feed the so-called 1%. We have been led to places where it seems the only rational response to change and to people different from us is exclusion, intolerance, hatred, and rebellion.

The pot boiled over. We have just been through a battle of the current Civil War. 

And for what?

As odious as the institutions the Confederacy sought to defend were, they were substantive. There was something to them. They needed to go, but the battle was not over fantasies and mirages.

This current battle is over…

“I don’t want to.”

There is a petulance about it all that, despite the intensity of violent imagery and posturing and the cacophony of belligerent rejection, cannot be denied or ignored. Anti-maskers trying to make their refusal to cover their mouths and nose for the sake of public health into a First Amendment issue, which it is not. Anti-vaxxers trying to elevate folklore, self-entitlement, and ignorance to the level of responsible citizenship, which it is not. Anti-immigrant sentiment couched as “border security” rather than what it is, bigotry and the tribal howl of fear of the outsider. Anti-tax sentiment that somehow assumes that taxation is the chief impediment to an economy that will allow greater prosperity, which it is not. Anti-safety net, pretending to be a principled stand against “socialism” rather than a species of political resentment toward people believed to be receiving aid “unfairly,” which is really just class envy and fear of losing privilege.

Petulance. We have a civil war going on over petulance.

There is no plan because any plan can only be another version of the same set of systemic resentments that are presumably the current problem.

All thunder and no rain.

For those who understand this, those who for a long time have been tolerating the lies, the targeted destruction, the flouting of all standards of evidence, and the assumption that all opinions are of equal validity, it is perhaps time to stop allowing the space for it. Nonsense is nonsense and the more it is allowed to go unchecked, unchallenged, and unaddressed, the harder it will be to find solid ground when we need to come together.

There will be no secession this time because there is no Lost Cause at the heart of this. There are only the Lost. The problem is, they are armed and they are angry and they believe that as long as they can shout reason and reality down, then they are right.

Now that Trump is off the playing field, they are milling about and feeling betrayed. All they had to give them focus was him. A blowhard who played them for the benefit of his brand. 

His entire legal team has just quit on him. There is nothing left for them to make any bank on. It is a hollow cause, devoid of substance, and yet of such density that it will suck those still in attendance down into a mire to drown. 

The question now is not, what did they actually think they were going to do? but rather, what are we going to do with them now? Millions of people, many of them the likes of Representatives Greene and Boebert, believe in substanceless conspiracies, false theories of government, and the apparent right of people to separate themselves from everything in order to live according to standards that are only supportable within a community, the very kind of community they reject, are among those believing in…

Well, that’s the problem. Believing in what?

We have four years to figure this out before it all comes back to try this nonsense again.



Old (New) Image

I’m getting acquainted with the new scanner and having to learn its tricks. File size being one of them.  But.

There are some images a photographer goes back to again and again, trying it one more time, reinterpreting, finding a new or better way of bringing it out.  This is one such.  From New Mexico

Enjoy.

 

 

 



We Have Toys

Finally, after two trips into the wilds of computer land, I have my new scanner, all set up and ready to go. Below it my first scanned image.

 

I will get better at this, once I learn the various buttons on the new ‘chine. This is an old image, a 4 X 5 negative. To my pleasant amazement, the detail is still astounding in these things.

So in the space of a week, I have the ability now to once more make use of my (huge) library of negatives (only 50 + years of photography), and I have sold a new story—a novella, no less—to Analog. Not a bad start of a year that could have turned out a lot worse.



The Day After The Rebellion

Mark Twain (presumably)* said that if one does not wish to appear foolish, it is best to keep silent rather than open one’s mouth and remove all doubt. Sound political advice as well.  Advice far too many Republicans failed to take.

I say “failed” but really, they didn’t fail in this—to fail at something implies you tried to do something but just couldn’t make it work. No, they never intended to do anything else.  They’ve been riding high on a rhetorical wave assuming their quasi-populist Everyman shtick would stand them in good stead with the voter, who they clearly believe is an idiot.

Trump appeared to be a godsend to a category of charlatan that believes the voter should be ignorant, unaware, preferably stupid, so that the voter will never interfere with what the charlatan intends to do.  In this case, conduct business that excludes the average voter from any say whatsoever. Partly, this is a species of elitism, assuming the average person cannot possibly understand the things done at a high level. Mostly, this is a desire to act without oversight, rule without criticism, and enjoy power without accountability. Behind the screen Trump supplied, the GOP has become a party of clerics tending to the mysteries of the temple, jealous of their access to the secrets of state and success.

The average American, if I may speak generally, wants very simple things—security, a feeling of place, and access to degree of self-determination.  It is, I think fair to say, a slate of expectations neither party has been adept at supplying, because the one thing that underlies all of this is a recognition of human equity and the rights incumbent thereto. Equity and rights, in the simplest terms, are power. And power is the one thing the powerful will not willingly share.

But we’ve been trying to move in that direction.

Since shortly after World War II, the powerful have been trying to maintain their privilege. They found a method and have been applying it consistently, basically fomenting resentments between groups of people in order to create the conditions whereby their mouthpieces could win elections and achieve positions from which to serve the powerful. Too abstract? Let me put it this way: the Koch Brothers and their associates have seeded resentments and aggravated disparities (many of which they themselves created) in order to achieve their tax agenda. They finally produced a block of Americans who consistently voted against their own best interests because they were convinced they were voting to preserve their “values” and their “country” and their “heritage.” All the powerful (i.e. the rich) wanted was lower taxes.

Which translates into power.

They probably did not wish to foment a rebellion.  Rebellions are fickle things and as likely to get the powerful killed as anything else. No, they wanted to keep the country at a simmer, disrupting coalitions that might become effective counters to their agenda.

Now, this does not require conspiracy.  All it requires is a set of common interests and goals. No secret meetings to lay out complex plans, just dinner and conversation and tacit agreement among equals, as it were. We tend to overcomplicate such things here as a matter of narrative consequence, that things which can unfold of their own accord must necessarily be done by the machinations of a cabal.  The reality is more banal and harder to manage, which is the nature of institutional predisposition. This is the basis of institutional racism. Institutional sexism. Institutional classism.

They were managing. Since Reagan, the flow of wealth has gone pretty much in one direction, till today it is, without exaggeration, obscenely uni-directional.

But then it went a step too far.  The simmer went to a boil and now we have a mess.

What we witnessed in the Capitol is the result of finally losing control of that narrative. In recent years we have seen a number of the primary movers pull back, deny they wanted this. Trump was supposed to be their puppet, but once off the leash, so to speak, he was anything but. And he fed the beast till it came to our political doorstep and demanded meat.

There are those who argue that this is all a matter of style—look at what he has accomplished rather than at the façade. Fair enough. But then we must take the next step and ask:  have these accomplishments happened uniquely because of him? Would they have happened under anyone else? The hallmarks—his brag points—have been the Wall (failed), Muslim ban (mostly failed), the tariffs (not complete failures but hardly raging successes), and the withdrawal of troops from the Middle East. Did any of these depend wholly on him?

A response to China has been in the works for a long time. The hammer blow he brought down did as much harm as good. But any president with congressional support could have begun this. He started a trade war which has had, at best, mixed results. The Wall was one of the most ill-advised acts in recent memory and served nothing but to feed the resentments and prejudices of his base, at exorbitant costs, diverting moneys in possibly illegal ways from other projects that would have had more efficacy. It will fall down of its own (sections of it already have) and overall fail to address a problem that has been allowed to fester because of the optics and campaign material. Withdrawing from the Middle East has become fraught with ethical and moral peril, but again, the draw-down was begun by Obama. The ban on Muslims….well, that was simply pandering.

Everything else, most of which goes on beneath the surface of the public gaze—not because it is secret but because it is complicated and not very sexy and only bores people—in any administration, depended on a civil service that he has decimated by categorical firings, departmental closures, and the appointment of sycophants who have no clue how to run the bureaus they have been charged with overseeing.  Betsy De Vos?  Her entire purpose was to hamstring the Department of Education and lay the groundwork for private education for profit.  Why is this bad? Because the one place where some kind of egalitarian recompense can start and possibly succeed is public education. Private education doesn’t care about that, whether admitted or not.  It cares about who can afford it, which is by definition anti-egalitarian.

In summary, the only thing that has made Trump unique is his vitriol and his “populist” cheerleading of the worst aspects of our culture. The proof is in what has happened in the Capitol. He egged them on with false claims of voter fraud (the most debunked lie of recent times) and when it got out of hand he urged them to go home with a familial “We love you.” We love you? Who, may I ask, is this “we” of which he speaks?

Trump has always been about the brand, the optics, the soundbite, and the ratings.  He has run his office like the set of a reality television show and as long as the news was covering something that was consequent upon his actions, this was success. It didn’t even have to be favorable coverage, in line with the old adage that even bad press is good. Armchair diagnoses abound regarding his personal problems—sociopath, narcissist, what have you—but it all comes down to someone who cannot abide being ignored. The price we’re paying for his insatiable need for attention is an unstable union, an endangered democracy, the humiliation of the country in the eyes of the world, and the highest debt in history.

And at the end of the day, he is the de facto leader of a cult that has no point. The mob broke into the Capitol, drove congress out, did some pillaging, and then…what? They had no plan, no goal, no end game.  Nothing but the clichéd rantings of the self-afflicted burdened with illusions of oppression. Like their idol, all they seem to want is to be noticed.

I knew a man once who before our eyes became a Nazi. He had stepped onto the path of conspiracy-driven alternate-history myth and little by little it ate into him. He could not seem to grasp where the lies and reality parted. He was not unintelligent. In fact, he had gifts and had he applied himself in more productive pursuits he could have been a success at life. But he chose a path that for some reason fed his insecurities, teased his suspicions, and made him feel, however absurdly, that he Knew The Truth. It empowered him in a way he could not reject, like a drug addiction. Going any other way would have meant…I was never sure, but perhaps dealing constructively with reality was simply too mundane. It would not have made him feel special.  Finally, his wife left him, took the children, he lost his home, and the last I saw of him he was handing out Nazi pamphlets outside a Steak’n’Shake poorly-dressed and wearing an armband with a swastika.

Such delusions eventually empty the soul. Like a narcotic, they seem to make the user feel wonderful, in control, superior. Then slowly it becomes apparent there is nothing to sustain the user and little by little vacancy supplants substance, stupor replaces awareness, and decay overcomes growth.

Listening to the “protestors” it is clear they have nothing but the moment.

It would be easy to see them as victims, but we should not. Victims have no choice, their circumstances overwhelm their will. These people chose this path.

False comparisons abound. Blame is being heaped on Antifa, BLM, all the social justice movements. This will not stand scrutiny.

But scrutiny is being assiduously avoided.

We have tolerated a condition wherein legitimate authority has been conflated with demagoguery, disinformation, and jingoism, to the point where we see that a significant part of our society has simply been allowed to reject reality in the name of their well-nurtured grievances and unexamined prejudices. We have seen idiocy and delusion take the stage with reason and responsibility as if they are equal. We have primed ourselves for this moment, perhaps thinking that somehow in the contest, that which is worthy of trust will somehow emerge, like a boxer from the ring. Well, it doesn’t work that way. Left to its own, idiocy and delusion can outpace and overwhelm reason and, for a time, displace reality, unless we choose the latter and confront the former.

Finally, Trump, in my view, represent—embodies—everything we must stop admiring and see for the destructive perversion of American values he is.

With that said, I believe he should be forthwith removed from office and his enablers stripped of their powers and charges of insurrection and sedition be made against the perpetrators of the four year fraud we have lived through.

And those who turned out in record numbers to vote this election cycle, do not ever fail to show up again.  This has been enabled as much by the apathy of the voter as by anything else.

Have a better 2021.

____________________________________________________________

  • My mistake. Abraham Lincoln said this. But I will leave the original as an example of what to do when one misspeaks.

 



Onward

We stayed up till past midnight, so heard the revelry, stepped outside in the cold and saw some beautiful firework bursts, and retreated back inside where we toasted each other, wept, laughed, and made stabs at promising to have a better year. Some excellent bourbon and he late hour and I feel a bit…strained.

But it is the first of a new year, and while I am not much for symbols, I respect them to the degree that they enable rather than encumber.

This morning, we had this:

 

Tomorrow? Who knows?  I exhort you all to find beauty, turn away from bitterness, do something fine in the world, and indulge your dreams (where possible).  Harm none, smile a lot, and be the solution rather than the obstacle.

May we find ourselves on the far end of this year with our friends, homes, and sanity intact.



And So It Is Christmas

Late thoughts on one of the strangest Christmas Days I’ve experienced. Strange in that the world has become strange and yet, in here, inside our home, it is so warm and normal, that the strangeness is made even more so.

I worked Christmas Eve, which is not unusual. Short day, not much business, which turned out to be usual, too. But the store is still shut to foot-traffic. We who worked gathered briefly before closing and just exchanged looks and a few wishes for good weekends, all of us sharing a sense more of having been through battle than merely holiday retail. The barrier between us and our customers took a toll. All of us were immeasurably worn. We have done good work, we served, we filled expectations, and provided…but my word, are we beaten up.

But we are also fortunate. Left Bank Books is still open, and we survived. So many other places have not. I have no idea what 2021 will bring, but we are going to be there to see.

I count myself fortunate that I have my partner. We have each other and a home and in so many ways have found ourselves lucky.  So many others are not.

No matter what happens in the coming year or two, it is clear that we must remake our collective appreciation of community. We will weather this time, but I suspect it is not a one-off. More of this is ahead. We will have to confront it in ways which 12 months ago may have been unimaginable. Things Have Changed.

But we have what we need to manage and do well. We have an abundance of each other, no matter where we are, and this year, today, perhaps was the time to look at where we are and take account of what we have and construct a better way of being.

In any event, no matter what label you use, what name you give it, my wish is for all to be well and embrace love and banish the fear, which is only a symptom of feeling abandoned. We may be isolated, we may be spending today in company with fewer people, but we are not alone.

And as long as we believe tomorrow is worth greeting, we will find each other and all the ways we can create wonder, for ourselves and each other.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Peace, Joy, and Fearlessness.



Forward

The electoral college has confirmed Biden as the new president. With all the carping and challenging and spleen-venting of the outgoing administration, one must pause for a few moments to consider their reaction had this much drama been generated when Hillary lost. It was certainly possible for the electors then to vote in defiance of the outcome announced in the November election. It is so constructed that they could choose to take a stand and since Clinton did win the popular vote, there would have been nothing technically wrong with them saying “No, we’re not letting this one through.”

There have been close elections in the past where this might have happened, but another consideration comes into play, that of maintaining the credibility of our institutions. Nixon opted not to challenge Kennedy in 1960.  Gore let it go in 2000. Better to let things proceed even by such slim margins than risk shattering the balances in our systems.  However one may feel about that, it is not the worst attitude to take.  It leaves things in position for the next election.

The one variable that matters is voter turn-out.

It was recently pointed out to me that it appears votes don’t matter, because look at the polls. Seventy percent of Americans want MediCare-for-All, and have for a while, yet we don’t have it. Why? Well, when the average election only seems to get 50-some percent of people to the polls (and midterms are much lower) it hands the obstructionists the ability to deny a majority—a majority which failed to show up.

But we can rehearse all those arguments later.

The question now is, how do we move forward in this current situation? The Senate is still controlled by the GOP. Even if both Georgia senate seats flip in January in the run-off, the Senate will be 50-50, with Kamala Harris as the tie-breaker. The House is Democratic, but if something isn’t done to ensure high turn-out in two years that could change.  How does President Biden move us forward?

And to what?

I have been reading a new biography of John Maynard Keynes, the first superstar economist. Interestingly, he never started out to be an economist. He was a mathematician and a political analyst. He did not approach economics as a specialist field but as an underappreciated aspect of the total political and social landscape. One thing struck me: he for years attempted to make economics comprehensible to the average citizen. He pitched his language at accessibility. And the more he did that, the more he was shut out from the corridors of power. He didn’t get “in” until he changed tactics and started sounding like an academic.

He had to appeal to the priesthood.

This is the thing that grates on the sensibilities of people. The attitude that they cannot comprehend the complexities of government, of society, of the minutiae of civilization, of politics.  While there may be some truth in this, it is the attitude that is offensive. Here in my state, we have just seen a provision stripped out by the “elect” who chafed at the notion that the citizenry actual understood what they wanted.  Clean Missouri was an attempt to end gerrymandering.  People understand how destructive it is.  But too many people in the state legislature knew this would eat into their power, so they finally coupled its repeal with another measure that made it easy for voters to undo what they had already voted for.

This kind of thing infuriates people.

We should demand changes in procedure. One thing, it would be worthwhile to stop the practice of adding riders to bills. Riders are often poison pills. Even when they aren’t, if something is a good idea, it should be recognized on its own merits. Adding unrelated measures to bills muddies things up too much and risks the voice of the people being muffled.

I find myself beginning to agree with term limits. I’ve often felt these were antidemocratic, but I’m beginning to think they might cause people to pay more attention instead of just trusting that the officeholder who has been there for umpteen years is doing fine simply because nothing has happened to bother you. Times change, situations change. Representation should change to keep up.

I dislike filibusters, but I see their usefulness at times. We should however require that more than one politician is required to mount one. If an officeholder can’t get two or three colleagues to support it, then perhaps it should not be allowed.

Usually, I believe, fairly innocuous and simple changes will suffice to make things run better.  We have gotten so used to looking for the blockbuster change, the hammer, the bunker-buster, thinking that only Samson in the temple can make things better.  We forget that Samson was blind and that huge changes are often less effective than they purport to be.

Among the other things I would like to see, is prison reform. We should rid ourselves of private prisons. That has become one of the worst ideas we’ve ever embraced. When profit is at stake, justice takes a back-seat.  I would like to see comprehensive drug reform. Drug addiction is an illness, just like alcoholism. We should treat it as such. In places where this is becoming the accepted wisdom, prison populations, crime, and death by overdose have all gone down.  Treatment not punishment.

Of course, we love us some punishment here.  For a self-proclaimed nation of freedom-lovers, we punish like crazy. Punitive measures to address social problems have been with us practically since the beginning. And of course, it’s not universal. People with enough money don’t receive punishment.  So in a way, what we really want is for people to keep their bad behavior hidden, clean up their own messes.  Combined with a toxic love of retribution, this has given us the largest per capita prison population of any so-called free nation in history. And we’re willing to pay for it. Solving the problems that create the conditions that lead to this state of affairs would cost a lot less than we pay for policing and the courts and incarceration.

Of course, that would require us to view communities as entities, whole and diverse, and get over this balkanizing idea that Different People don’t belong. But that might lead to immigration reform that makes sense and a retreat from this persistent evangelizing that sorts people into categories and makes us all vulnerable to manipulation.

Just some thoughts. But for now, we have a new president.  Let’s see what we can do to make the next four years constructive rather than keep indulging the blame game.




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