Politics, Pandemic, and Bills Coming Due for Trump

I can’t recall another time in my seventy-five years when I felt so utterly separated from other people, partly due to the pandemic, but even more so due to political division. The great divide we’re experiencing in America now has not been seen since our Civil War of the 1860’s. It is a political and social phenomenon that has been too underestimated by profiteers and political hacks who wish to downplay a division so wide and deep that narrowing it will take all the guile, compassion, honesty, and common sense that we have left to do battle against a smug rancor that has not even been imagined since Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy of the 1930’s. The past year has brought into clearer focus the terrifying greed and self-aggrandizement for a maniac of mammoth narcissism, who in the eyes of his willing worshipers, seems to be God Himself, who can do no wrong.

Facts no longer mean anything to too many (especially Republicans) who insist upon downplaying the violent coup of January 6, 2021, that very nearly turned our nation into a Nazi dictatorship with absolutely no regard for law or our Constitution and the peaceful transition of power by American voters. The main figure of this despicable disruption and the creator of the pack of lies that almost destroyed democracy was none other than Donald Trump, who makes even Benito Mussolini look like Mr. Rogers. Now too many continue to wear blinders to this man’s two-faced criminal behavior, who lives in terror of having to pay back many millions of dollars he has borrowed over several years, money that he was able to borrow only through lies about his actual worth. The presidency means little more to him than a safety net in which he can feel protected against any form of justice that has been pursuing him for quite a while. This tower of narcissism will remain a very dark spot on our national history if his armies of gullible worshipers don’t wake up soon to make things right.  JB

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Another Season Ends

Christmas for me never comes to an abrupt ending. I have friends who take down their holiday decorations on December 26, while I keep mine on display until Epiphany (January 6). One of my former students (Dan Novakowski) kept up all his elaborate Christmas decorations (including several full-size indoor yuletide trees, covered with hundreds of beautiful ornaments) throughout the year. I unabashedly milk the season too (though not to the extent that Dan did) for every drop of joy it can provide, including its music and cookies. The warm glow of the season lingers after the last candy cane is consumed and the final tree ornaments with the front-door wreath are taken down.

This shouldn’t sound like bragging or puerile behavior in me or anyone else who embraces that season with similar ardor. Rather, it should sound like what it really is, a melancholy reluctance to let go of a true warmth, social receptivity and benevolence that seem to fade all too soon after the last ornament is packed away in the attic. We all know better, but the speed and impatience of “modern” life always seem to return, like the Grinch sneaking back after the glow of the season fades, and the frantic pace creates a kind of blur in our lives until the next yuletide glow returns next year.  JB

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The Covid War and the Soldiers Who Oppose its Victory

For better or worse, Democrats are “in power” at this time, which has left a bitter taste in the mouths of Republicans, many of whom have become bad sports and poor losers in the game of politics thanks to their former leader. Their principal cry seems to be “You can’t tell me what to do!” as though the political landscape has become something of an absolute monarchy. This point of view comes into frightening focus when we look at the Covid vaccinations, but if we go back in history, say to the America of The German Measles epidemic of 1918 or the plague of Polio a bit later, people still believed in medical science as an aid to avoiding illness and death. That faith saved millions of lives.

It wasn’t as much a contest about personal choices, because we still believed in science and medicine as bulwarks of safety in the face of any pandemic, instead of the suspicious hunches, called “American Rights” by too many of the untutored. This alignment between medicine and politics has created an aura of suspicion that has already cost millions of lives, because too many people have become hand puppets of their political leaders, almost as though the whole problem has become some kind of national sports event between two teams, each trying to win kudos…one side based upon ego, the other side based upon a true desire to save lives and protect the nation from destroying itself through its own unbending egotism.

Wearing sparkling blinders instead of masks has created another civil war, but the soldiers on one side are dying upon the crumbling principle of being politically loyal to their party. Even their children are paying the ultimate price for this self-righteous egomania.

I wonder how history books will describe the past two years in terms of deaths and political posturing. It’s not going to be pretty.   JB

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September 18 Demonstration in D.C.

The trickle of visitors left over from the January 6 demonstration in the nation’s capital was pretty much what I expected in terms of its message. The self-righteous determination on the faces of carriers of our American flag reminded me of the looks on the faces of Germans carrying their Swastika flags in the 1930’s. It was almost as though having an American flag legitimized the white power message that has lurked behind every other such demonstration for the past four years in a transparent attempt to announce that the nation really belongs to them and them alone. They will never understand or respect the differences between democracy and oligarchy, because they actually favor dictatorship, as long as it comes from their own icon and only for their purposes.

It saddens me to see people abuse the icon of our flag, making it their own symbol of lies and oppression in the guise of freedom for only the chosen few (their few). “With liberty and justice for all” seems foreign to them, the operative word being “foreign.” It remains a comfort for them to continue believing the national election was a fraud (no proof…just the former president’s wishful assumption and assertion, as a worse than poor loser), despite his extraordinary track record of lies and rancor. There is somewhere here the material for a remake of The Pied Piper of Hamelin, and remember what happened to the rats in THAT story!   JB 

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Thoughts on Aging

As I age, I find it more and more challenging to recall very quickly the names of even those people and things that used to be second nature to me. There is no sense of panic from this phenomenon, because all my friends and family who are my age (75 or older), seem to experience this same characteristic of life’s period of mellowing, which we all try to share, often through humor, whenever possible.

I sometimes liken the memory function to index cards we once used in libraries in order to locate information we wanted or needed. It often takes a moment to find the right one, and as we age, the number of those “cards” increases exponentially until it seems that there are millions of them, and that finding the one we need at any given moment may just take longer. Teenagers usually have only three of those cards at hand: sex, food, and cellphones, rendering their filing systems much faster, if not as rich. Maybe too, the image of a lightbulb above a person’s head works. The problem comes when the bulb eventually begins decreasing from one hundred Watts to seventy-five on some days and before coffee, down to fifty for us elderly folks.

Finally, it makes sense to me that as the elder generation, we can be sympathetic enough to share whatever “Wattage” we may have left to light the way with patience and compassion for each other. There also remains a lot of experience and wisdom on all those little index cards, too much value to discard in favor of mere speed in a world obsessed with velocity.   JB

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America in Retrograde

It seems that a very large number of American adults are enjoying visits back to their teen years in a massive tantrum, the logo of which is “You can’t tell ME what to do!” regarding the state of the nation’s health and well-being. Rejection of scientific knowledge and medical expertise about the Covid virus seems to be giving many misinformed citizens a national sense of comradeship in an expensive and dangerous ego trip that is now creating an alarming increase in fatalities. Knowledge and expertise are being shunned by those whose vanity and political resentments over the last election are taking precedence over the very lives of even their own families under the terrifying delusion of “You can’t fool ME!”

Of course a certain amount of doubt and suspicion about anything in books or news is healthy, but when it becomes the controlling message of an evil and egomaniacal tyrant like Donald Trump and his armies of clueless worshipers (many of whom seem to have had their brains surgically removed), the nation has a serious problem, one that will remain a dire peril until truth has some chance to triumph again for the national good.


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Family Feud… On A National Level

At one time or another everyone needs to reduce something to its lowest terms. Most of us want clarity and simplicity in understanding daily occurrences. What happens in our nation’s capital, a place where vagueness is often a way of life for Congress, that group so gifted at casting a sheer verbal veil over issues and their solutions? Having observed friends and even members of my own family reach boiling points, I’ve tried at times to reduce all the lacy hyperbole down to basic explanations for angst, at least for hyper-Republicans, whose bitterness over The Orange Man losing the election has raised their blood pressure to explosive levels that could clear a dining room, even without anything being said. If I had to reduce their anxiety down to one thought, it would be their profound concern that somewhere, someone at this moment is getting something for nothing and freeloading on the labor and income of Republicans everywhere. Of course, none of them would phrase it quite that way, but their postings on Facebook, the innuendos in their conversations, strongly imply their distress over those spendthrift Dems in D.C.

The view of “pure” Republicans (if there is such a thing) on abortion is also a tad contradictory or illusory and illogical in the desire to ban abortion, because “it kills innocent humans.” Well, folks, so do chemical spills and gun rampages in our schools and shopping Centers. So does starvation because mothers can’t earn a sufficient wage, even working sixty hours per week, and that parents don’t always have access to affordable healthcare. Yet politicians continue to interfere with family planning choices and have blithely opposed every attempt at safety regulations, gun control, raising the minimum wage, etc. Such hypocrisy would be laughable if it weren’t so smugly tragic.

On most other political issues, my views are moderate enough that I don’t have to fear having an apoplectic seizure over our Thanksgiving dinner with extended family, but it does seem at times that we as Americans are being manipulated like marionettes by some dark, sinister power out there, hell-bent on creating another civil war as our possible downfall.  JB

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Politics and Gullibility

As I watch the faces of Trump supporters on television news casts, I am generally both alarmed and fascinated by the blind but powerful allegiance they show through their determination to sanctify everything Trump says and does, as though he were a saint, come down to bless and rescue them all from some terrible and corrupt enemy. The irony that he is concerned only with his own needs, desires, and power never seems to occur to the starry-eyed crowds, as the empty puppetry by Trump continues, unabated. His crowds remain as enthralled as children ready to sit on Santa’s lap.

This phenomenon is not new. There have been other Rasputins throughout history, ready to cash in on gullible masses of unquestioning worshipers, enthralled by bitter invectives against some invisible enemy, along with anyone else who won’t believe totally unsubstantiated lies. Trump knows well that kindled rage (sparked by sarcasm and name-calling) provides an adrenalin rush for those who are desperately searching for scapegoats to blame for their own unhappy lives in which they feel a paranoid bitterness about being cheated in one way or another. Trump fans the flames.

The Me Me Me culture in our nation only intensified during Trump’s years in office and seemed to soothe segments of our nation who believed some Americans were getting more “rights” than they deserved. This unfounded rage finally left the United States Constitution in tatters during the January 6 insurrection, watched by the entire world as the most shocking bit of lawlessness since before the American Civil War.

There have been too many people with toxic influence that ended in death and despair based upon the egomania of leaders whom mentally or emotionally weak groups followed. I don’t see any way for this mass hypnosis to abate or end until more people wake up enough to see Trump for who he really is, a sick, egomaniacal fraud, who would sell his own grandmother for a gold watch.  JB

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On Religion

It is with some effrontery that I need to make some comments about faith and organized religion from a very personal view. I’m certainly not a scholar on the subject of any of the many systems of faith on the planet, but I grew up in a protestant faith that was excruciatingly specific on what or whom should be worshiped and in what manner.

As a teenager I became more aware that there were myriad systems of religious thought and practice, all of which had some merit in influencing the behavior of the most savage beast on the planet (man) and his inclination to treat his fellow creatures rather badly in the wider picture. I very actively and devoutly practiced a protestant faith for many years until I was almost sixty and moved from Indiana to Colorado, where I was in a remote location away from churches. Any religious fervor I then experienced came from nature through my views of the mountains, other creatures, along with sunrises, sunsets that seemed to bolster a sentiment that there must be a “creator” to have produced such splendor and beauty. I know it wasn’t exactly scientific.

Religious rites were no longer part of my communion with nature and whatever I imagined was a creator that might care about a species that was supposed to adore Him through formal rites in certain places on Sunday mornings and in prayers anywhere else too. It was a singular but effective religious experience I had “alone.” There were not rites or requirements. Ritual came from my craving to be in nature with my own thought about what it all might mean.

In terms of religious practice, I became something of a spiritual hermit whose relationship with creation itself became unforced and completely personal. I did miss the sharing of such deep emotion with other supplicants that I had enjoyed most of my life, but I found that my personality and inclination was fashioned for some other way to seek what might be eternal, if there was such a thing.

Of all the rules I ever encountered regarding religious practice, “Love thy neighbor as thyself” was the one that rang true with no sour note. I’m not a hermit, and I have good friends with whom I share many inspiring experiences socially and in nature. The control that formal religion has exerted for the past two thousand years has gradually changed its aura for me, and my deep feeling about faith is that, finally, it is very personal and can be shared if one wishes to share or receive it. The rules, if there are any from a creator, are very broad and compassionate, and I fancy that I have found my niche in that vast conglomerate of religious laws and demands that give structure but not always inspiration to us humans. Fear has no place there. I suppose some would label me an agnostic for my very nebulous views, but then humans like charts and diagrams to rein in their doubts with what they need to see as clear data and “facts.”

Our relationship to the planet and its inhabitants is everything. Knowing right from wrong doesn’t depend upon formal religion. If it does, its record is quite sad. Formal religion is not always a control for the good. It’s often just a “control” used too often for the benefit of judging people unfairly by standards that no longer matter in the broader scheme of things, leaving behind the sad remnants of human relationships and lives. In the end I believe that kindness, generosity, and compassion are not just the province of formal religion, but we have a very long way to go in order to find our way.  I know that I certainly do.  JB

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Our Collective Search for Truth

Like most other people, I try to get news about our nation and the rest of the world from varied sources that I’ve come to trust. Most people believe that their info comes from reliable sources, especially when those sources encourage and confirm already established prejudices and points of view. The distance between liberal and conservative outlooks can be vast, leaving the two extremes as distant from one another as distant solar systems. I think, for example, of differences between CNN and Fox (Faux) News and am amazed by the reliably smug quality of the latter’s delivery of turning each item into some level of martyrdom over which viewers are expected to become rabid in their condemnation of whatever target the network has invented for that day. The result is too often a cult of dangerous, harmful misinformation and misplaced rage amid a deplorable absence of factual data and where innuendo becomes entertainment.

I sometimes believe that Tucker Carlson should be doing stand-up comedy until I remember each time that it is already what he’s doing. The problem is that his many gullible fans actually believe everything he says. That exciting adrenalin rush is apparently too stimulating to sacrifice. It’s where the ratings, power and money are.

Yesterday an acquaintance was complaining about the money President Biden was wasting on the $1400 stimulus checks in this time of uncertainty. I then asked the fellow if he had, in good conscience, returned the money to the government. His reply was the expected, “of course not.” He then whined about the anticipated hike in grocery prices, so that I said that when all the little price hikes of his groceries came to $1400, he could (should) in good conscience then begin to gripe about Washington’s over-spending. He, of course, didn’t see the intended humor in my comment, but I told him that by the time those price hikes reached the amount he had been given, we would probably have a new president anyway about whom he could complain regarding something else.

In any event, our new American civil war continues with little end in sight until rabid Republicans (not all are rabid) decide that we are actually one nation, all of us with the same leader in a united republic, where the Tsar was overthrown in 2021.  JB

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