Sunday, September 9, 2018

America's Fault Lines: How Trump Thrives




I haven't written here for a long time, but it's not my fault.

Somebody's to blame and I'm going to find out who it is.
 
I'll check on it and get back to you.  I promise.

So, we're good?  Okay, moving on:

Donald Trump is president of the United States (I know!) and the reason he's president is because  nobody in the entire country cared about the little people left behind when the gazillionaires took over until the billionaire with bigly ideas came along.

We might have had Hillary as president! Think of that! Thank goodness for those emails! Nobody liked her, anyway.

More than a year and a half in, Trump is still president but it's okay because the Democrats are wusses and it's a tough world out there. Nobody likes them, anyway.

Trump is a congenital liar and a verifiable weirdo but a whole bunch of Americans seem to like that in a president. It can't be them. It must be us.

Vladimir Putin might be pulling Trump's strings but Obamacare is dead in the water and poor people won't be allowed to game the system, so that's something. Right?

They're separating refugee families, kidnapping their kids, losing them and adopting them out, but it has to be done to send a message that asylum in America is not available to brown people.

We have to put up with Trump and his regime because if we don't we might be stuck with judges who just don't get it that atheists, non-Christians, gays, blacks, browns, blues, women, poor people, sick people, and all-around non-Republicans don't have a place here, either.

The stock market is up! We're doing great! Okay, maybe not you or me, but that guy over there is ecstatic. Well, no, of course he's not one of us, but look how happy he is!

The UN, NATO...those outsiders are sucking us dry! And how about that China, folks? North Korea? Venezuela? Iran? England? France? And now CANADA! It's a good thing Trump came along when he did. You have to admit, nobody handles those foreigners like our guy.

Big guns, massacres, and the NRA. It's America. We have a right to shoot ourselves up, no matter what the second Amendment says about well-regulated militias or some such.

Flint, Puerto Rico, New Jersey? Terrible what happened to them but can they quit whining? After all we've done for them?

Lots of people are writing bad things about Trump and his administration. Just awful.  Books, articles, essays, blogs...all against the president the most like Lincoln on this earth. This man who has the best words and hires the best people and who alone can fix us. The American press--enemies of the people--can't stand his success.They're so jealous.

And then there's God. God has taken to shining His countenance upon Donald Trump. I'm having a hard time with this one, too, but the people saying it swear on their dog-eared bibles that that's what God has told them. So let me ask you--has God ever spoken to you like that? No? Me, neither. I rest their case.

But the kicker is abortion. Yes, lets just say it. It's the be-all, end-all perfect scapegoat and the thing that cements Donald Trump in his cushy digs inside our White House.  If we could just eradicate abortions we wouldn't be where we are right now.

But everybody loves the president. He's the most successful president ever.

EVER.

And if he's impeached it's the voters' fault for not voting to keep him safe from Democrats.

Democrats who, we all know, are wusses, snowflakes, losers, and getting meaner by the day.  Really, really crooked, those people.

The whole thing is silly. There's nothing wrong here. It'll be fine. It'll be better than fine. It'll be so great!

As Dear Leader says--and I quote: "Stick with us. Don't believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news. What you're seeing and what you're reading is not what's happening."

So in closing I'd just like to say I'm not responsible for anything you've just read here. The truth is, I hardly know this person. Met her once or twice. Maybe had my picture taken with her. But that's it.

(Cross-posted at Crooks & Liars and Medium)

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Hanging On To Our Independence on the Fourth Of July



This year, 2018, has been a trying one, but I don't have to tell you. This Independence Day feels like the last of the best for the country I love and have called home for 80 years. It's hard for me to celebrate when I'm in a constant rage over the barbarism the Trump regime inflicts on us hour by hour, day by day.

Their particular form of gleeful inhumanity (See Jon Stewart) is a desecration of all we honor and hold dear in this country--and it's only getting worse.

This is not the New America, it's not Trump's America, it's not Old Testament God's America, it's a corruption of the constitutional, democratic social order we're still working to get right.

They want to erase all we've accomplished and start all over again, turning our attempts at democracy into a toxic combination of oligarchy, theocracy, and kleptocracy by establishing what must look to the outside world like a stunningly insane kakistocracy.

It's not going to happen.

The United States doesn't abduct children from their parents, it doesn't collude with our enemies, it doesn't smash safety nets and social norms, it doesn't turn a middle class into peons, it doesn't deliberately dumb down generations of kids, it doesn't deny its citizens health care or safety measures, it doesn't sell off treasured public lands, it doesn't abide rank stupidity or vicious hate among its chosen leaders.

We have a long history of resistance to tyranny, and this is the day we've set aside to recognize our independence and our self-worth. Until now, we've never had a president who so hated all we stand for he spent hours of each day in the White House sending messages meant to demean and insult citizens and leaders of the country he is supposed to lead.  Never.

When we declared our independence from England in 1776, we sent a message of defiance to a certain king who, uncannily, sought to force us into the same kind of submission Donald Trump is working to do today.

It reads in  part:
The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world. 
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them. 
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only. 
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures. 
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people. 
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within. 
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands. 
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers. 
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries. 
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance. 
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation: 
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world: 
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent: 
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury: 
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments: 
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever. 
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

It's almost as if Trump and his enablers took these parts of our Declaration to mean this is how it should be done.  It's not the first time they've gotten the workings of our government wrong.

So on this July Fourth, let's mark this day the day we gain our independence from Donald Trump and his kind--the day we say "no more".

We've been through this before; we can do it again.




Sunday, June 24, 2018

Trouble at the Red Hen



I've been thinking a lot about the Red Hen controversy--about whether Stephanie Wilkinson, the owner of the restaurant, should have told Sarah Huckabee Sanders to leave her establishment. No guesswork for me.  I'm on the side of Stephanie Wilkinson. 

I've heard the back-and-forths, the calls for civility, the need to allow everyone the ability to at least eat a meal in peace. I get it. I'm not completely on the same page as those people who ran both Kirstjen Nielsen and Stephen Miller out of  Mexican Restaurants last week. I understand their rage but I can't get behind them. Could be an age thing. Could be that I'm more inclined to hit them where they work and not where they eat. (Though eating at a Mexican restaurant right after lying about being mean to Central American refugee kids takes some whatever-the-Spanish-word-is-for-chutzpah.)

But when I read Stephanie Wilkinson's explanation, I found it both honest and poignant. 
“I’m not a huge fan of confrontation,” Wilkinson said. “I have a business, and I want the business to thrive. This feels like the moment in our democracy when people have to make uncomfortable actions and decisions to uphold their morals.”
Her main concern was for the feelings of her employees, some of them gay or immigrants, and she spent many crucial minutes asking them what they wanted her to do before she finally asked Sarah Sanders to step outside. She did it privately, not wanting to create a scene, and she didn't insult, lecture, or demand. She simply asked Sanders to leave, explaining to her that she felt her restaurant had certain standards to uphold and Sanders didn't fit them.

I love that she gave her employees that much respect, no doubt knowing the impact this might have. She didn't broadcast it, an employee did, but there was no guarantee Sarah Sanders wouldn't have done it herself. Wilkinson had to know this would be big, but she did it, anyway.

I'm not a big fan of attempts at public humiliation. I think too often the reasons for doing it, as admirable as they may seem, get lost in the ensuing and often phony uproar over civility and manners. But we're at a point where civility and manners are only expected from one side--our side--while their side sees any attempt at decorum as an exploitable sign of weakness. 

For the past two years we've been battered by nastiness and outright hatred. We're still being told to turn the other cheek, as if that's what it'll take to make us smile again. It isn't. Turning the other cheek doesn't feel good. This feels good.

Asking Sarah Sanders to leave a restaurant won't hurt her feelings. It won't affect her psyche.  But our rage over lost children and terrorized parents has to have an outlet. Cheering the ousting of a hated member of a hated president's cabinet is a moment we might need. It doesn't make us "just like them". It makes us human.

(Cross-posted at Crooks & Liars)

Friday, June 22, 2018

The Children are Lost and Someone Must Pay

The stories coming out of Texas this week are horrific and heartbreaking. They're so far past maddening they've now entered territory where heads explode.

No other way to put this: our government has been kidnapping refugee children and hiding them all across the country.

They move them in the dead of night and won't say where they've gone.

They refuse to open detention center doors to concerned government officials--the ones who haven't gone over to the dark side and show no signs of budging.

They won't allow outside cameras or recording devices, releasing instead their own sanitized versions of nice places to incarcerate terrified children.

They hang "Dear Leader" posters on the walls, showing a smirking Donald Trump alongside a bizarre, irrelevant quote from his book, "The Art of the Deal". ("Sometimes by losing a battle you find a new way to win the war", in both English and Spanish.)



We know now that, long before Jeff Sessions told those families they're going to have their kids taken away if they didn't stop fleeing the dangers in their own countries to get to the Land Of The Free And the Home Of The Brave, they were already taking kids away from fleeing refugees.

Now they have over 2000 of them--some as young as eight months old--and it's as if locusts suddenly appeared in their fields, out of nowhere, thousands of them, all at one time. What is happening??

It's as if the plan to forcibly remove children from their refugee parents ended at "forcibly remove", followed by TO BE DETERMINED in the middle of a whole lot of white space.

It's as if they thought nothing bad would happen if they forcibly removed small, helpless human beings from the people who love them and care for them.

It's as if they thought...

You know where I'm going with this, right?

They didn't think.

They didn't keep accurate records. They know where some of the children are, but not all of them. They sent them off to dozens of locations across the country without a fool-proof paper trail or electronic trail or any other kind of trail, and now that the cockamamie plan to steal kids away from their parents has been whomped to bits by millions of furious, vocal Americans, along with hundreds of members of the press, the clergy, and by God, Congress--all clamoring to know where the kids are-- they've been forced to admit they just don't know.

In a tone so nonchalant you would think they were talking about missing Kleenex boxes, they admit some of the children--the small children they kidnapped in broad daylight, along with the older ones who came alone many months before--may never be found.

They're okay with that. In fact, now that the crisis is over, now that they've stopped ripping children away from their families, their job here is done.

Lights out.

So today we're on a tear to find those kids. Everyone from governors to mayors to social workers to battle-scarred reporters to those of us who do our best work on Facebook and Twitter--everyone is trying to reunite families who have been torn apart by an American government getting off on teaching terrified refugees a lesson. We're so angry we can barely stand it.

But what worries me now is the tone set by the punditry. The return of those children is the talk of the town. Every TV pundit is putting together panels to discuss everything from long term psychiatric disorders stemming from separation and incarceration (almost guaranteed) to whether or not Melania meant the kids when she wore the jacket screaming I really don't care. Do U? on a flight to visit the detention centers (who the hell knows?).

On every panel someone reminds us that there will be some kids who will never (not may never, will never) see their families again. Everyone nods in agreement. Yes. They'll never see their families again.

Sad face, everyone.

And then they move on. They MOVE ON.

I haven't heard a single person talk about punishment. Kidnapping is a crime. Terrorizing refugees is a crime. Sending children off to vanish without a trace is surely a crime.

Who's going to jail? Is anybody in trouble for this?

Not that I've seen. And I want to know why.

(Cross-posted at Dagblog, Medium, and Crooks & Liars)




Monday, June 11, 2018

Why it Means Something When De Niro Says it

You could spend many wasteful hours going back through at least 30 years of my public utterances--blogs, essays, articles, comments--but you'll never find an F-bomb in any of them. That's not me. It's not my most hated word--that would be the C-word--but it's right up there.

I shake my head a lot, signalling uninvited disgust at the thousands of times I see it on Twitter, on Facebook, in blogs, in real life. I don't get how "F--- you!!!" adds to any argument, other than making the user feel mighty, mighty good. It's used so much it's lost whatever luster it might have had.  As slings and arrows, they're even kind of laughable.

But last night at the Tony Awards Robert De Niro dropped the F bomb--twice--against Donald Trump, and I, an audience of one in my own living room, found myself cheering like a maniac.



So what's the difference? The difference, as I see it, is in context, power, and visibility.

Context: Trump had just come off of a lunkheaded one-man burlesque at the G7 Summit held in Canada. At the meeting where leaders from the top industrialized countries gather to work on equitable alliances,Trump's dual roles as chaos creator and spoiled brat became clearer with every word and deed.  The Ugliest American embarrassed us once again, and put us in a far weaker position world-wide than any president had ever done before.

Trump is headed today for talks with the North Koreans. It's a clown show, with Dennis Rodman as the frontman. Trump will know in seconds whether or not it's going to work, because "It's what I doooo." The two dictators will have a private 45-minute sit-down, again unprecedented, the need for secrecy way too suspicious.

Then there's that whole flap about refugee kids in cages, literally torn from their parents' arms, all in the name of "new and tougher immigration policy". The program is so rotten the UN's Human Rights Commission felt compelled to condemn the United States of America for "arbitrary and unlawful separation of family life...a serious violation of  the rights of a child".

It adds up.

Power: Robert De Niro is a world-famous actor known for his no-bullshit take on our politics. Every one of us would have been surprised if he had taken the stage and said nothing. He did what he came for, and he did in New York City, where businessman Trump is and always has been a pariah. De Niro did it in front of an audience of creative mavericks there to celebrate the freedom to dream, to endure, to interpret the human condition. Trump--no surprise--is the antithesis of all they hold sacred.

Visibility: De Niro got a standing ovation. How awful if he hadn't, coming off of that powerful performance by the still-grieving students from Parkland--those same students now working to bring the NRA to its senses before more children are killed, and getting ugly heat, even from members of Trump's administration. The optics were inescapable: De Niro could have been every furious parent, every furious student, every furious human being capable of horror at the violence perpetrated on us all.

The ceremonies are broadcast all around the world. Millions of people saw De Niro pump his fists and say those words, and, for everyone who sniffed "blasphemy", claiming, bizarrely, that it could only help Trump, there were countless others who did as I did--cheered the hell out of it. Pumped! We were pumped.

We need that kind of anger, that kind of power, that kind of visibility, and let's face it--it means more when it comes from a celebrity than when it comes from a policy wonk or a relative nobody. Celebrities have sway. They get quoted. Their names and faces mean something. Witness the fuss this morning over what De Niro said. We're talking about it. Not just the words but the reasons for them.

And that, my friends, is a Big Effing Deal.



Saturday, June 9, 2018

Democrats, Get Fierce

President Roosevelt signing the Social Security Act, on August 14, 1935. Attending were: (L-R) Representative Robert Doughton (D-NC), Senator Robert Wagner (D-NY), Representative John Dingell (D-MI), Representative Joshua Twing Brooks (D-Pennsylvania), Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins, Senator Pat Harrison (D-MS), and Representative David Lewis (D-MD). (Library of Congress)

Five months from now, on Tuesday, November 6, we Democrats will have what may be our one and only chance to slow down the runaway Trump train. Maybe even--and this is just a "maybe"--stop him dead in his tracks. It could happen. It should happen. But will it?

Living in the real world as I do most of the time, I'm frantic, I'm worried, I'm hyped, I'm scared. Some days I'm beside myself with anxiety. Most of it comes from the awful realization that Trump is still president and the GOP is still pretending everything is hunky dory, but much of it comes from the Democrats and their wistful insistence that TrumpCo is so bad it can't possibly go on much longer.

I'm a life-long Democrat, but whenever I'm wistful it's because I'm longing for the good old days, when Dems were primarily the protectors of the poor and disenfranchised, the champions of the working class, the supporters of unions, the caretakers of our lands, and the nemeses of the power brokers.

The people who took on those tasks weren't wimps, they were fighters. Fierce fighters who knew their missions were the right ones and didn't veer from their convictions. Sometimes they won the battle, sometimes they lost, but we always knew where they stood. They stood with us.

The Democrats spent decades, starting with the Great Depression in the 1930s, working to better the lives of the lower and middle classes, while the other party, the Republicans, didn't. Every social advance came from the Democrats, against a predictable onslaught of opposition from the Republicans. And it goes on. So how is it that the Republicans now OWN us, and are--true to form--working against us? How is it that the Republicans are winning?

I'm no expert but I submit the Republicans are winning because the Democrats are losing. And the Democrats are losing because they've lost touch with the very people they traditionally fought for. If people think you're not fighting for them, they're going to look somewhere else for help. Even the people who brag about pulling themselves up by their non-existent bootstraps want to see strength and purpose in their leaders.

Strength and purpose, as we've seen, can work against them--it's what every bully has going for him-- but they'll take it over the pathetic bleatings of even the most goodhearted wimps.

We should know that by now, yet over on Twitter our Democratic leaders spend a lot of time warning us about what Trump and the Republicans are doing, making it seem as if it's OUR problem and not THEIR problem. Last I looked, we elected them to be the leaders. We chose them and we're paying them far more than most of us make. We expect them to work at taking care of this.

I want our Democratic leaders to get over their inferiority complexes, their need to mind their manners, and get fierce. FIERCE. Instead of hiding behind that hill over there, lobbing threats, they need to put on their battle gear and go headlong into the front lines.

They remind me of the commercial where robbers take  over a bank and the guy telling the customers they're being robbed isn't there to help them, he's only there to tell them a bank robbery is in progress.

This current American regime is so corrupt our mouths hang open 24 hours a day. Our hearts race, our blood pressure rises, and those sputtering variations of WTF, our reactions to everything coming out of the White House, are beginning to sound canned.  

And the Democrats wring their hands and shake their fists and wail along with us.

Trump, no secret, disdains the work that goes along with being president, but he's crazy about his role as Grand High Poobah. His performances are comedic nightmares, black with bile, but it's the crowds he's after. He puffs, they cheer, he drinks in the star power.

His ignorance is astounding, his every Twitterance is maddening, his love affair with Russia is dark and dangerous; his followers, including all but a handful of Republicans in congress, are deliberately oblivious...
 and still the Democrats have to worry about winning elections.

The Democrats should never have to worry about winning elections. The Democrats are US. The Republicans are THEM.

So my message to my party is this: Democrats, get fierce! This battle is worth fighting. Don't be distracted by mosquitos buzzing around your ears. There be dragons out there. Swords at the ready. Attack!

I mean it!

Attack!


(Note: This isn't the first time I've had to say this. I challenged my Dem family in October, 2014, showing them the error of their ways. Long before Trump. Did they listen? Well, not to me. But you'll notice I don't give up. You shouldn't, either. Winning this time isn't an option. Our lives really do depend on it.)

(Cross-posted at Dagblog and Crooks & Liars)

Monday, May 7, 2018

Let's be Honest. Anti-Abortion Doesn't Make You Pro-Life.

I'll get right to it: I'm on the side of every woman who chooses abortion as a solution to what she considers a problem in her life. I don't need to know her story. I don't need to insert myself in her decision-making. I don't need to be judge and jury as she goes through the act of aborting a fetus.

I do need to support her decision against those who chant "Abortion is murder" and "Baby killer!" I need to let her know her worth is not any more, any less because her choices about motherhood are different from someone else's.



 I can  do this without hesitation, without equivocation, and I do it as a woman who worked hard at conceiving my three children, never once considering abortion as a solution for an unwanted pregnancy. I can do this because it's not about me. My own life, my own feelings, my own sense of right and wrong, has nothing to do with any woman's decision to abort.

So let me speak directly to those who throw out that phrase "pro-life", as if aborting a fetus is the be-all,end-all of life as we know it here on earth. If you insist on inserting yourself into any woman's life, deciding for her that she must carry a fetus to term, you can't, in all that's holy, stop there.

If you force a woman to bear a child she doesn't want, it should be on you to insure health, wealth, and happiness to both. The real sin is in turning your back on her once your interference brings about the outcome you were hoping for.

Children don't raise themselves. Women don't suddenly become Mother Mary at the birth. Real life doesn't suddenly become wondrous or heavenly on the appearance of a baby.

You can't possibly understand the factors in a woman's life that would bring her to a decision to abort. It's clear you don't care. That's how you lose your case. You don't care.

 We could spend the rest of our days defining life: When does it start? What makes it precious? Who gets to decide? None of it helps the woman who finds herself pregnant with an unwanted child.

You need to stop. I'm a mother who loved that life--reveled in it--and I'm begging you to stop.

Too many of you have used abortion as the single issue bringing you to the voting booth, and, for the most part, your choices have been piss-poor. You've put people in power who are intent on controlling our lives from birth to death, who are working to deconstruct every comfort, every gain, every protection, and you've done it without any deep thought beyond putting an end to abortion.

Abortion won't end. Closing clinics, forcing women to wait, to get permission, to endure indoctrination--none of it will stop abortions. Praying won't stop abortions.

You know what affects abortions? Free, readily available contraceptives for both men and women, economic stability, sex education, free or inexpensive child care, work schedules allowing for parenthood, a promise to value every single life, regardless of color, creed, or nationality. All of that. In many cases abortion is more than a right--it's a necessity. Whatever the reason, the woman and her doctor get to choose. You don't.

You must know by now that Planned Parenthood provides essential services to millions of women and families who wouldn't otherwise have access to obstetric or gynecological health care. You know that abortion or abortion education is an infinitesimal part of their work. You choose to believe the lies. You cheer when clinics close. You need to stop.

If you voted for Donald Trump or any other slug purely because you thought they would bring an end to Roe v Wade, you need to recalculate. How is the sanctity of life better under them? If your personal life is okay, what you do about the suffering of others under this regime is now your obligation. It's on you to prove all life is precious.

If you can watch poverty programs disappear and health care become increasingly for-profit, knowing it's the children who will be harmed most, you need to tell me how you can do that and still insist you care about the child.

If you can watch mothers and children being torn apart, separated, because the mother dared to want a better life in America for her kids--if you can watch that and do nothing, you've lost any chance at staking a claim for decency.

Life begins in the womb but can thrive only in a culture where kindness and humanity are the norm. If we were ever there, we're swiftly moving away. You must see that. If you care more about fetuses than you do about the lives of people trying to exist, to survive, in a world turning against them, you need to stop. This can't be who you really are.

_____________

Cross posted at Crooks &Liars.


Sunday, April 22, 2018

Earth Day: A revisit

Today is Earth Day in America.  The first, 48 years ago, was a big deal.  It was 1970.  We were in the mood to celebrate the earth and to warn against the destruction of our natural places.  Now we're watching again as our supposed caretakers are licking their lips at the thought of all that land open to rape-for-profit.  

I wrote and published this piece eight years ago so you'll note some outdated references.  I present it again today as a history, a warning, and a celebration of Earth Day.  (You'll notice I've avoided updating it to reflect the Trump administration's wholesale attacks on our lands and our environment. It sickens me to a point so far beyond the usual heartburn I'm admitting here and now that I'm just not up to it.)

The earth is our only home.  We owe it to her--and to ourselves--to keep her healthy. At some point we have to heed the warnings. We're at the stage now where the earth would be better off without us.
On April 22, 1970, 20 million people, 2,000 colleges and universities, 10,000 grammar and high schools and 1,000 communities mobilized for the first nationwide demonstrations on environmental problems. Congress adjourned for the day so members could attend Earth Day events in their districts. The response was nothing short of remarkable, and the modern American environmental movement took off.
My major objective in planning Earth Day 1970 was to organize a nationwide public demonstration so large it would, finally, get the attention of the politicians and force the environmental issue into the political dialogue of the nation. It worked. By the sheer force of its collective action on that one day, the American public forever changed the political landscape respecting environmental issues.

Sen. Gaylord Nelson, Dem. Wisc - Founder of Earth Day.
Created by Walt Kelly for Earth Day, 1970


I remember that first Earth Day, April 22, 1970.  The scope of it was astonishing and really surprising. It was a grassroots movement in the best sense of the phrase, and we all felt good about it.  (Most of us, that is. The day after, The Daughters of the American Revolution branded  the Earth Day commemoration "distorted" and "subversive".  (It didn't help that the first Earth Day happened to fall on the 100th anniversary of Vladimir Lenin's birth.)

What Gaylord Nelson originally proposed was a nationwide teach-in on school campuses.  He chose April 22 because it would fall after Easter break but before final exams.  It was spring.  The earth was renewing itself.  Environmentalism was gearing up and in motion, and it was a fine time to give the earth a day.  Richard Nixon was president and, while he didn't participate in any of the day's events (maybe because a damned Democrat came up with the idea), he was actively talking about attacks on the environment and the steps the government would need to combat them.  Pollution was a big issue already, and steps had been taken to de-smog the cities.  It was working.  (Nelson had actually talked to JFK in the early 60s about the need to draw attention to the environment, and a day to commemorate had been thrown out there then. Nothing happened.)

Industry was king, and the environmentalists, alarmed at water, ground and air pollution levels, were talking to brick walls (when they weren't batting their heads against them).  In 1962, the year Rachel Carson published "Silent Spring", 750 people died in London's smog.  In 1965, four days of inversion held down a cloud of filthy air that killed 80 people in New York City.  In 1969, Cleveland's Cuyahoga River caught fire. Earlier that year, an oil platform six miles out from Santa Barbara, California, blew out, spilling 200,000 gallons of oil, creating an 800 square mile oil slick that settled on 35 miles of California shoreline.  Almost 4,000 birds were killed, along with fish, seals and dolphin.

Enough had finally become enough, and under Lyndon Johnson and a congress that could see clearly now (even though the rest of us were still lost in a choking, eye-watering, salmon-colored, man-made smog), we saw a Clean Air Act, a Clean Water act, a National Wilderness Preservation System, a Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, a National Trails System Act, and, for what it was worth, a  National Environmental Policy.

That all changed, of course, when Ronald "A tree is a tree" Reagan became president.  For the Department of Interior, he chose James Watt, a notorious anti-environmentalist, to head it. He chose Ann Gorsuch, another determined anti-earthling, to head the Environmental Protection Agency.  What a laugh that was--or might have been, if it weren't so serious.  They were chosen for the same cynical reasons George W. Bush chose his department heads--so that regulatory agencies could, from the inside, be forced to stop regulating.

Gale Norton, GWB's choice for Secretary of Interior was called "even worse" than James Watt, by the Defenders of Wildlife.  I shuddered over that one.  I remembered James Watt, and I thought nobody could cause as much havoc on our little section of the earth as that little man did.  I thought we had learned something along the way.  I thought all those Arbor Days and Earth Days and global warming warnings had taught us all something.  Some of us obviously weren't listening.

But now we're in the era of Obama and former Colorado senator Ken Salazar is the Interior secretary.  The jury is still out on him; his voting record was either for or against the environment, depending on what I'm assuming was the alignment of the stars or the fullness of the moon.  I don't know.   But he's showing signs of bucking the oil industry, and he isn't necessarily doing what his naysayers thought he would, so I'm willing to cut him some slack for a while.Lisa Jackson is the current head of the EPA. She's a chemical engineer, which seems like a start, and she said this in Newsweek:  "The difference between this administration and the last is that we don't believe we have an option to do nothing."  I like that.  But she seems to think there's no cause for alarm over offshore drilling.  That makes me more than a little nervous, considering the above-mentioned Santa Barbara incident, and the 11-million-gallon Exxon-Valdez incident, and today's oil-rig explosion off the coast of Louisiana.  (I hope she remembers that the EPA is 40 years old this year, too.  In fact it's a few months older than Earth Day--all the more reason for it to be the designated caretaker.)

This Earth Day,40 years after the first, got a lot of play in the news and on the internet, but I was hoping to see crowds out there giving it their best.  I didn't expect teabags, of course, but what I wouldn't give for a sea of tie-dyes and peace signs and flower garlands. . .

The aroma of Pachouli...

All those things I thought were pretty silly in the day are looking downright good to me as I take note of the day we promised to give Earth a chance.


Sunset where I live

 "Sometimes I wonder if Lewis and Clark shouldn't have been made to file an environmental impact study before they started west, and Columbus before he ever sailed.  They might never have got their permits.  But then we wouldn't have been here to learn from our mistakes, either.  I really only want to say that we may love a place and still be dangerous to it.  We ought to file that environmental impact study before we undertake anything that exploits or alters or endangers the splendid, spacious, varied, magnificent and terribly fragile earth that supports us.  If we can't find an appropriate government agency with which to file it, we can file it where an Indian would have filed it--with our environmental conscience, our slowly maturing sense that the earth is indeed our mother, worthy of our love and deserving of our care."
Wallace Stegner, Where the Bluebird Sings to the Lemonade Springs

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

In the Year of the Woman We're Going to Need Each Other


Women's Liberation protest, 1971
Enlightened women of America, if I say we're at our most vulnerable right now, right this minute, and our gains are becoming losses, would you be tempted to smack me down?

Would you rush to remind me of the Women's Marches, the "Me Too" movement, the multiplying numbers of women seeking public office?

Would you send me links to maybe a dozen men whose careers have now ended, thanks to women coming forward about sexual abuse just last year alone?

I hear you. Now hear me:

Donald Trump, a serial sexual abuser, is our current president. Congress, led by a Republican majority, is still overwhelmingly male, many of them open chauvinists. ( Out of 535 members of Congress, only 106 are women--22 in the Senate, and 84 in the House.)

We're the only gender who can make babies, yet it's still left to men to decide how we control the process.

Red states outnumber blue states and women's rights are in danger in every one of them. Free contraception is looked on as a sin or a waste of good money. Kentucky could become the first state without a single abortion clinic. Many others are down to one or two. Planned Parenthood is under siege and may not make it this time.

Dismissing and disrespecting women's lives is back in vogue. It happens every time we gather in large groups and make too much noise.

And yet there are millions of women who don't or won't see what the fuss is all about.

If you ask Republican women why they vote the way they do, their answer, overwhelmingly, is "abortion". Nothing else matters, as seen by their approval of Donald Trump, the poorest choice for president this country has ever seen. Trump, the former pro-choice advocate, saw early on where the sun does shine and did a complete 180. The women still supporting Trump refuse to believe he lied for their votes.

We could argue all day long about the shortsightedness of protecting fetuses while ignoring the needs of our living children, but the fact is, millions of women will vote for inadequate, unqualified, impossible men as long as those men say the magic words: "Pro-life".

Even proof of sexual abuse and domestic violence isn't enough to sway them. Even threats to give to the rich and sell out the poor won't slow them down. They see nothing beyond abortion.

We should hate those women for their blind loyalty to the forces working against us.

We should hate the women who didn't vote for Hillary for opening the door to Trump.

We should hate Hillary for not winning.

We should hate that our decades-long work on equality and worth is about to become so much dust in the wind.

But if we waste even a minute honing our hatred to such red-hot degrees, we use up energy we're going to need going forward. With all the bad news, with all the setbacks, we're gaining momentum. Women's voices are being heard.

If we divide into factions, we'll lose.

This is not white women against black women, it's not progressive women against centrist women, it's not young women vs old women. It's all women against the forces that work to hold us down.

We're going to have our differences. We're going to want to steer each conversation our way, to stress what's important to us. To you, to me, to her. We can't do that yet. It'll have to come later. Right now we have to work together, without bias, without prejudice, without ego.

And we're going to need leaders. No movement ever succeeded without strong, mission-oriented leaders. The ones we choose won't be perfect. They shouldn't have to pass purity tests--we've had enough of that--but they're going to have to speak for us in inclusive, powerful, charismatic ways.

They don't have to be celebrities in their own right, but they'll need to be wise, articulate and, most of all, riveting. They'll be competing with shlockmeisters and celebrity noise--those folks the mainstream media lust after, no matter how much they claim otherwise.

I don't know who they'll be and I'm not up to making predictions. We'll know them when we see them and we'll raise them up--but not so high the mission will get lost in their celebrity. They'll have to weather brutal storms, assaults on every aspect of their past, a constant parsing of their every word.

 My choice, for that reason, would be someone already seasoned--already past all that--but I'm open to new voices, to new ideas. We need to talk about this now, reasonably and honestly, and we need to keep the anger down.

It's the Year of the Woman. Momentum is on our side. Now we get to prove who we really are.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

While Trump is Stealing the Show his Cronies are Stealing us Blind

I'm sick of hearing Trump, seeing Trump, laughing at Trump, agonizing over Trump. I'm sick of Donald J. Trump, the squatter in the White House, making a mockery of our presidency.

He's a president like a third rate comic spoofing the highest job in the land would be president. His stake is only in drawing an audience; he has no feeling for what the real job would be like. It's  beyond his capacity to get that deep into the role, and nothing says he has to. He revels in his "free to be me" rhetoric and the crowds keep on coming.

A president, no matter his politics or biases, has to, at some point, recognize he's the leader of a country and not just the spokesman for his base. Donald can't do that. He snuggles into his base, comfy and worry-free, and if there are people screaming for his head on the outside, they're really, really bad, aren't they?  (Chorus: We love you, Donald! Donald: Thank you! Thank you very much! Me, too!)

Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call,Inc.
He came into politics as a reality star and he'll go out as a reality star. One quick read of his off-the-wall, stream-of-consciousness, look-at-me, CPAC speech the other day cements any claim that his main concern is, always has been, and always will be how people react to Donald Trump. (The transcript is here.)

  He's not speaking to his country. He's not even speaking to all Republicans. He's rallying his fans.

This one small section, distilled in a couple of paragraphs, is the essence of Donald:
"So, thank you, everybody. You’ve been amazing. You’ve been amazing. What Matt [Schlapp] didn’t say, when I was here 2011, I made a speech. And I was received with such warmth and they give, you know, they used to give, I don’t know if Matt does that, he may not want to be controversial, but they used to give the best speech of CPAC. Do they still do that? You better pick me, or I’m not coming back.

But — and I got these — everybody, they loved that speech. That was, I think, Matt, I would say that might have been the first real political speech I made. It was a love fest, 2011, I believe the time was. And a lot of people remembered and they said, we want Trump, we want Trump. 
And after a few years, they go by, and I say, 'Here we are. Let's see what we can do.'"
Trump runs his 24-hour-a-day clown act as a distraction, and the GOP loves him for it. While he's on stage they're free to go about their business--which has nothing to do with our business. They're putting in place right wing judges who hold life-time positions, cozying up and giving unprecedented power to gun lobbyists like the NRA, dissolving long-standing protections for women, children, minorities, the sick, the poor, and the working class. We barely recognize ourselves anymore.

We have real problems that need grown-up intervention. Trump is not going to be that grown-up. They can slap any label they want on him, including POTUS, but he'll never be anything but a callous showman doing a bad imitation of a real president.

November is coming. We need to work on getting our people elected and throw those bums out.

We need to work at ending the obscene profits currently the deciding factor in every aspect of our lives, including health care.

We need to repair our crumbling structures, our roads and bridges.

We need to convince our allies we're capable of more than saber-rattling and meaningless flag waving.

We need to work at keeping our children safe from killers with assault weapons.

We need to have some pride.

We don't have time for the kind of mind-numbing side show Trump, the GOP, and yes--the Russians--have been forcing on us. The media's fascination with Trump's silly shtick has to stop. I don't care what he says, I care what he does. When he's not trying to destroy programs and departments we've held sacrosanct for half a century or more, he's busy filling every top cabinet job with agenda-laden, know-nothings famous for their cruel streaks. His administration holds the record for the most scandals ever to come out of the White House, and barely a year has gone by.

We have to stop treating Trump like the best copy ever and get back to reporting on the things that matter to Americans with the most to lose. He's a distraction we can't afford. He's a joke gone on too long.

(Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars)