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.

JB

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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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Me, Me, Me

I don’t know how, why or when the “Me, Me, Me” movement began to flourish in our nation. The 1980’s revealed such an ethos, thanks to TV shows like Dallas, but the surge seems to have reached some sort of peak during the past four years. The adrenalin rush of superiority it gave Americans led to a new level of pseudo-superiority and isolation upon the world stage for our country, and not because of the Pandemic alone. The monstrous ego of our president during that time dazzled many Americans into believing that we owned the planet and that no other countries mattered except those with heartless, conniving dictatorial leaders like Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-Un and anyone who was White. Demeaning others through snide insults through innuendo and braggadocio became the stuff of America’s new personality, accepted and even adored by his gullible worshipers. The president even bamboozled people into believing he was a religious zealot. They fell for the whole package of rubbish, as long as he swung a Bible in the air or hugged an American flag. That’s really all it took.
There was the constant flood of “Tweets” that his followers drank up like cheap wine in a ghetto, his face and bitter swagger consuming television news every few minutes. He made Don Rickles look like Mother Teresa to the point where at times it seemed to diminish the oxygen supply of political discourse. The resident leader became a cult figure to his blithe and unquestioning followers. He was a Svengali who knew all the right buttons to press at just the right times, exploiting fears, real or imagined. His greatest asset was paranoia itself, wielded like a sword. His speeches were always filled with catch phrases like, “many people are saying,” or “everyone says.” But HIS opinion was the only one that mattered. He had the apparent swagger and unswerving confidence of Benito Mussolini or monstrously conceited Adolf Hitler from the 1920’s and 1930’s.
Some still cling to his model for what they feel is the essence of actual leadership, which really funnels down to unswerving egomania that is mostly carny show stuff with little or no substance than fake bravado, more entertaining through its making fun of any skeptics. He made Roman emperors Nero and Caligula look like rank amateurs when it came to colossal vanity.
Now that the show is pretty much over and we’re facing national issues under a new leader who is finding his way without the shield of a grotesquely oversized ego, or a nation that is not anywhere together on anything anymore, or the stage farce that merely tried to distract attention away from shared national problems, through tantrums and insults, reality is finally setting in.
I hope that the old issue of background checks for lethal weapons can come about through a wider understanding that legal, safe gun owners will remain perfectly fine keeping their weapons. No one is trying to dissolve the Second Amendment. The moronic myth that all weapons will be retrieved by the government is pure rubbish, and the rumor mongers know it. Such nonsense and unreasonable fear is what continues to make Republican senators huddle in terror against telling anything resembling the truth. Their muteness will mean only more unnecessary slaughter, while they sit quietly twiddling their thumbs in silence even during the next pointless gun massacre of the innocent. JB

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The Long Road Ahead

There have been times recently when I hardly recognized The United States as being my country. The far-right white-Anglo Saxon, Bible-toting hordes have become almost too easy to satirize. They seem to have done all the work for me. Their smug, self-righteous, myopic views have become so extreme at times, that they make even William F. Buckley seem like a screaming liberal. The tightly woven fabric of their narrow convictions has created a dichotomy of religious rhetoric mixed uncomfortably with guns and violent verbal abuses aimed at those who don’t always agree completely with them.

Jesus is no longer really the symbol of the far right American political ethos. Christ has been quite unceremoniously replaced by Donald Trump, whose screaming vulgarity and empty promises have beguiled his base into thinking we can actually go back to the 1950’s whiter-than-white society. The Christian cross is still part of white religious symbolism, but it has devolved into rather a violent weapon or battering ram used to injure and control rather than to comfort and protect. This has not gone unnoticed by other nations overseas. The joke has become ugly and threatening to our entire history as a republic.

Our laws and Constitution were assailed on January 6, 2021 by smug, would-be-heroes, who turned out to be the usual street thugs who would happily have turned our government into their personal venue for as much control as that of any tyrannical third world country.

To0 many have happily devoured a diet of conspiratorial, blood-boiling tabloid “news” by masters of duplicity, like Tucker Carlson and Rush Limbaugh, whose fear-factor techniques have made them very wealthy men, who feed upon the dismay and ignorance of a huge swath of the American public. Even some of my own relatives have come to believe only the most scathing critiques of the far-left. Some of those folks are cousins, who would think that Cotton Mather was too liberal. Their entire political ethos is based upon the conviction that there are liberal factions behind every door waiting to pull the wool over our eyes to turn America into a nation of spendthrift libertines, who scoff at any kind of morality. Their views are always prepackaged, neatly and scathingly composed (complete with photos) to raise the blood pressure of the unwary. It’s all really too absurd, but it does provide that adrenalin, roller coaster rush that is pleasing to a mind that has become so self-righteous that Fox News and its ilk become what they believe is their only lifeline to reality. Even Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini could not have accomplished such a feat of imposed fear and suspicion in such a short time. Of course, they didn’t have the mass media that now wafts its messages constantly over the airwaves.

I’ve not given up, despite the armies of opposition that surely lie ahead during the next few years. I still believe that America can and will find a balance and regain its sanity. If not, Costa Rica is looking pretty good to me.   JB

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Day of Delusion

January 6 (Epiphany for Christianity), 2021 will go down in history as a turning point in American democracy. It was a day that will be remembered for self-righteous indignation so extreme that it will echo the mob rule of Italy and Germany of the 1930’s. All semblance of order and reason were replaced by mob mentality that grew only stronger as the fervor of a mock-religious egomania created a false sense of heroism in battering down doors, smashing windows and generally desecrating the halls of democracy in favor of temporary , puffed-up swagger.

One of the most offensive images that day was of some hysterical individuals using a large wooden cross around which some of them prayed for “victory” as though Christ himself must be on the side of the holier-than –thou thugs who were using that symbol of peace, love, and compassion to cover up the ignorant, cruel violence they had already wrought on the grounds and in the building itself. That religious blur made the mob believe that the citadel was being saved in the name of something other than the desecration of democracy it actually was.

Mindless malevolence ensued, of course, leaving in its wake its twisted path of hate, racism, physical assault, death, and the false sense that they were actually doing something heroic and that any form of martyrdom would be just fine on the evening news. Rather, those events will leave an ugly scar as smug and shameful as if they had set fire to The Constitution and Declaration of Independence.

On the world stage, our country, for many, now resembles in too many ways the dictatorships of South America. It is almost as though our most glorious ideals of democratic governance had been discarded in favor of those who believe that loudness, bullying, vulgarity, and disrespect for equality and compassion for one’s fellow citizens must rule the day. They have, of course, been taught by a master of deceit with big gestures that puff up egos by denigrating other citizens and the rest of the world.

“Never be so focused on what you’re looking for that you overlook the thing you actually find.”  Ann Pratchett

There are currently too many who are afraid to take a stand against what occurred that day (and subsequent days), shrinking away from truth as though they would be turned to salt by looking directly at it. The president’s denial of any wrong doing does nothing but place a thin shroud over all our past attempts and successes at rendering our nation a “…land of the free…with liberty and justice for all.”  JB

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How Easily We Forget

Like many other Americans, I sat transfixed, terrified and enraged at seeing the Capitol Building in Washington assailed by mindless, violent thugs in their narrow, self-righteous attempt at overthrowing a government that over the past four years has increasingly become the personal property of a man whose insidious, though accurate, instincts have attracted and controlled armies of dissatisfied citizens who live in terror that our nation might actually belong to all its citizens, regardless of race or color. The fear that something might be stolen from them has grown almost to the point of civil war, even though these people and the President himself would furiously deny that their hateful rhetoric is in any way racist.

I think of Italy and Germany of the 1930’s under Mussolini and Hitler whose bigotry was the basis of fear and unrest, the flames of which were fanned by those leaders to promote suspicion, terror and, finally, shameless mass murder on an unfathomable scale, which many of the criminals from last week’s embarrassing drama in the USA would be too ashamed actually to admit really even occurred. Such denial, self-righteous egomania, and aggrandizement made it easier to flout law and order for their own megalomania, which had been bubbling under the surface for years until what they deemed a “strong leader” fomented unrest through his army of psychotic marionettes, controlled like the pawns on a chessboard.

Blind mob rage created the terror and destruction they hoped for, leaving an ugly scar on the democratic process at which they scoffed for their own egomaniacal purposes…naïve gullible armies of them (like ants), seeming to believe absolutely anything the President said or even implied, as though carrying the American flag was what made them patriots. History repeats itself, sometimes very painfully for those who either forget it or want to use it for their own selfish purposes. So it goes, sadly this time with an army of spineless, gutless Republican lawmakers, cowering in their little comfort zones of what they deem their power and money. History will not look any more kindly upon them than it will upon the Brown Shirts and Black Shirts of eighty year ago in Europe. My hope now is that history books will not leave out the greed and utter treason of those who have shamed themselves over the past weeks (four years) and rendered our country a nation of fear, greed, suspicion, bigotry and utter shame on the world stage.  JB

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2020….Entombment with Netflix and HBO

To say that I’m relieved that 2020 is over would be a vast understatement, as I’m sure it would be for most of the people I know. Phone chats and computer communications aside, it was a lonely, painfully isolated year during which even brief chats with neighbors over fences and hedges were social events of convivial importance. My face-to-face communications were few, making even Silas Marner look like a sparkling socialite by camparison. It’s sad to me that one of my most convivial experiences last fall was a visit to Walgreens for my flu shot, after which the nurse and I chatted happily for almost twenty minutes, laughing as though we had just polished off a bottle of Champagne.

When I took the dog to the vet for his booster shots or when I went to my doctor for a check-up, wearing a mask made me feel like a bandit, but my chronic bronchitis sadly made it necessary to take every precaution, as I am now 75 years old and could be snuffed out like a candle if I caught the Covid virus, and there was also the discomfort others might feel had I not bothered with a mask anywhere in pubic. The political ramifications were silly but real from time to time. The look of “Are you one of THEM?” became somewhat laughable on one hand but sad on the other.

In any case, I know that the calendar changing from 2020 t0 2021 is mostly symbolic and doesn’t mean that we’re out of the hole yet, despite the vaccines, which seem to be experiencing rather a slow start anyway. Being overly confident is still dangerous for many of us. Bravado means nothing but a vain pose, particularly with the new strain of the virus, which is no more lethal but is much more easily transmitted.

Regardless, I see light at the end of the tunnel, though I can’t yet tell how long we’ll be winding our way through that tunnel to experience the fullness of that light. Thank goodness for books, crossword puzzles, DVD’s, Netflix and HBO. They’ve spoiled me through distraction and escape when I needed them. The news about the vaccines was almost enough to make me try a cartwheel in my front yard, but being hospitalized for hurting myself that way seemed too embarrassing a prospect, so I went back into the house. When the Covid nightmare ends or is officially under control, I want to party in the streets with family, friends and neighbors again. I’ll bring the wine!  JB

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