Tuesday, January 31, 2017

No, I Won't Quit

I'll be the first to admit that one of the reasons I haven't been as active here as I've been on Facebook and Twitter is because chaos--even planned, organized chaos, as we've seen coming from the Bannon White House--is exhausting!

But there's another reason. Lately I've been raging on in short spurts because it's all I've got. I'm going in for surgery in two days, but I'm confident it'll only be a temporary setback.  The anticipation, I'm hoping, is far worse than the actual deed and the aftermath. The tests, the paperwork, the ups and downs--it's nothing compared to what's going on in my favorite country in the world. (And then there's this: I have Medicare and a good supplemental, ensuring very good care.  Millions of Americans can't say the same. When I get out of this I'm going after those self-serving, self-absorbed bastards forcing us to stay at the very bottom of the list of civilized countries providing health care for their citizens. There must be a limit to our patience; people are hurting and dying because of them.)

We've worked too hard to build this nation. We're not going to let it go up in flames simply because the notion of a celebrity president going rogue was too seductive to turn down.  We'll get back to sanity, no matter how long it takes or how we have to get there. 

And me--I'm not done yet. I want to be there right along with the rest of you, fighting the good fight, storming the walls, voices raised in battle cries heard round the world.  (We'll be doing that, right?)

I'll be doing it at my keyboard but you can bet I'll be doing it. 

See you soon.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Thoughts on President Obama's Last Day

It saddens me to have to write this, but today marks the end of Barack Obama's eight-year term as president of the United States. (You'll forgive me if I don't mention what else is going on today.) 

It also marks the eighth anniversary of this blog, Ramona's Voices. I started it in 2009, during the afternoon of Obama's first inauguration. I'd been playing with the idea of  launching a political blog for months before I actually did, but I had no idea when I woke up that morning that some time during the day an idea for a blog would come to me. 

I began taking notes and at some point the notes began to look like a blog post.  This wasn't my first blog so I knew how to set up Blogspot and buy a domain name.  I called it "Ramona's Voices", first because it was getting late and I couldn't think of anything else, but second because I knew I couldn't carry an entire political blog all by myself and so would be relying on pulling in quotes and links from people who actually knew what they were talking about and could put words together in ways that looked pretty good.

 It was Obama's energy, his promise of hope, his call for citizen duty. It set millions of us on a path we thought would surely pull us out of the muck left behind by the previous administration. In some ways it did, but the disappointments built up early: Obama's cabinet choices leaned toward Wall Street and more of the same. The Democrats held the House and the Senate for two full years and squandered their power by capitulating to Republican demands and ignoring the rising threat of outside influences like the Tea Party, the NRA, and the Religious Right.

Looking back at my blog posts over the years, I see I wasn't especially tough on either Obama or the Democrats. I'm okay with that. There were plenty of other writers who relished going on the attack against everything they did. I chose to see them as family members who needed some guidance, a push, a nudge, a smack upside the head.

That wasn't always popular, and I admit there were times I was too easy on them, but I chose, instead, to concentrate on the Republicans--something I sorely wish the press had done more often. I saw the Democrats as the good guys--and still do. I saw the Republicans as a scourge against humanity--and still do. I had no idea how bad they could get, and now the proof is before us:  Donald J. Trump, a purported billionaire with a penchant for lying, for cheating, for vendettas, a man with no knowledge of the workings of government and no interest in learning, a man who sees the highest office in the land not as the ultimate in public service but as the ultimate in power, is about to become our 45th president.

I'll miss President Obama, but until recently I had no feel for exactly how much. At some point during the last few months Obama's star power changed from shine to dazzle. His appearances drew breathless crowds. His speeches rose to such oratorical heights he left us cheering while dripping with tears. Did he change, finally becoming the leader we thought we were getting eight years ago, or is the contrast between President Obama and the prospect of a President Donald Trump so stark he couldn't help but come out the better man?

I think, during this past year and especially after that shocking November loss, Barack Obama woke up to the fact that millions of people across the country still lived in fear and desperation. His dream, it seemed, had all but died. Whether is was racism, classism, or the years of lies and ruthless interference, the job did not get done. It wasn't that he didn't try--it wasn't that he hadn't pushed for equity and unity and economic stability--it's that he didn't push hard enough, and the demagogic rise of Donald Trump, the most unlikely, unlikable presidential candidate in our history, proved it.

I'm not suggesting the Republicans had no blame in all of this. In fact, much of the blame falls on them. Wages remain low, social programs have been gutted, health insurance has descended into chaos, and our middle class is still far behind--mainly because of them. So how did they win? They won by promising to fix it all--all that they have broken will now be fixed--by them.  They talk a good game, they play on fears, they push the right buttons, they lie, cheat, and gerrymander. They win.

Obama made mistakes. He didn't seem to understand the need for economic populism, he ignored the plight of unions, he did nothing about off-shoring and outsourcing, he advocated for unpopular trade agreements, he pushed a flawed health care system that often caused more problems than it solved. In that sense, he may have opened the door to demagoguery.

Still, Barack Obama's presidency was not in any realm a failure, and may even be a greater success than we even realize. It may not have lived up to its promise, but I doubt any presidency does. His ideas, if not bold, were positive and honorable. He worked hard, he brought us eight scandal-free years, he gained respect throughout the world.  He was forced to work with the most adversarial congress in modern history. From the start they announced there would be no bipartisan teamwork. Their mission was to thwart him at every turn and they didn't disappoint.

To the president's credit, he was never vindictive, never appeared bitter. He believes in hope. He believes we can do this. What role he'll play now as a private citizen is anybody's guess, but he'll be with us. His voice will be heard. He's a man who believes in tradition and in obligation and in country. He may no longer be president but his presidential mantle will forever be with him.  We can count on that.

So thank you for your years of service, Mr. President, and for your amazing grace.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

First Things First: If You Want to be One of the Good Guys, Act Like It

First we have to accept that Donald J. Trump will become the president of the United States on January 20, 2017. Against our better judgement, and in spite of our many protests, members of the Electoral College signed off on it and now it's a done deal. While we might call it many things--and we have--we haven't been able to prove enough hanky panky to make it illegal or even illegitimate.  It's going to happen.

So, okay, we hate the idea with a passion so rabid it's almost to the point of destroying us, of killing us, of making us eat and drink stuff that's bad for us late into the night when we can't sleep because we know that unbelievable excuse for a human being is going to be president and we can't do anything about it.

As Democrats, liberals, progressives--whatever--we should be used to not having control over anything coming out of Washington, but because we're Democrats, liberals, progressives, we live on hope. We think it WILL happen because it SHOULD happen. Because we're the Good Guys.

I can't stress enough that we're the good guys. We're going to need to keep repeating that to get us through the days ahead, and I'm going to be here doing just that, making a pest of myself, because I believe it so strongly. I have faith in us. We want what's best for the country--even for those clueless Americans who voted for Trump and keep supporting him as if he's just a normal guy who isn't really going to do all those bad things it looks like he's planning to do, by God.

The Trump presidency will be every bit as bad as we think it will be. Maybe even worse. But first things first: We've spent the last 18 months trying like hell to counter the attacks against everything we hold sacred. The things we hold sacred are still there, except now they're even more vulnerable, even more in need of our undivided attention.  So no wimps allowed. No whining. No carrying on about how it should have been, could have been, if only we had. . .

Got that?  Good. So let's get something else straight: The attacks on Hillary, Bernie, and anyone else who doesn't fit your idea of political perfection--they have to stop.  Hillary and Bill are going to the inauguration: get over it. Bernie is about to hold a rally: get over it. Chuck Schumer is going to be a pit-bull against the Republicans but there's that thing about Israel: get over it.

This isn't about your disapproval or your disappointment, it's about our survival.  We have bigger fish to fry, and they don't include the people in the trenches beside us. We're not all going to agree on strategy and some of us may even stink up the place, but if we don't fight this madness together the whole country will suffer. Keep that in mind the next time you want to sniff about some inane item wafting up to your pristine pedestal, forcing you to post or tweet in all caps ABOUT HOW AWFUL IT IS!!

What's awful is that Donald Trump is about to become the president, the Republicans are about to own everything from the House to the Senate to the Supreme Court to the majority of the states, and everyone from the Russians to the Religious ultra-right to the NRA to the KKK are gloating about their own part in making it happen.

What's awful is that we haven't yet convinced the press that they have a responsibility to report the unvarnished truth; that it's cowardice to hide behind ratings or paychecks or popularity while the country suffers from their silence.

What's awful is that millions of people will choose to go along and will fight us every step of the way. They'll work to undermine even those programs designed to help them and their own families. They'll choose to blame us when things go wrong because it must be our fault. Their propaganda machines say it's our fault, so it's our fault.

So first things first: Accept that Trump will be president. Accept that our ideas will be displaced, our goals will be postponed, our fears will be realized. Then recognize our true enemies, remember that we're the good guys, and let the battles begin.