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Milestone or Tipping Point

Our daughter once said, “Dad, you are like like Forrest Gump, you keep showing up where history happens.” That was in the summer of 2008, after we had been interviewed by then-Senator Barak Obama and his wife Michelle. It was a stop in Columbus, Ohio on his campaign. My wife Jane, and I were Legislative Advocate volunteers for AARP and the Obama Campaign contacted AARP wanting a retired couple of modest means to chat with Senator Obama about his tax policies. After being vetted by the Campaign staff, we met with the Obamas at an Assisted Living facility on Karl Road in Columbus, where for about a half an hour we chatted with the Obamas and then-Governor Strickland. Then we sat on the dais behind the Senator during his press conference. Needles to say, we were impressed that he had really listened to us and even quoted from our conversation in what he said.

Jennifer had known that as a young seminarian, I had participated in the Selma to Montgomery March in 1965, so she identified me as Gump-like. She knew that these milestones marked meaningful stops along our life’s journey.

Today, we are all showing up “where history happens.” The Trump administration, by its fascist, white nationalist bent, is turning America back to its liberal past. The recent deaths, at police hands, of African-American men, most notably George Floyd, has our country gazing over its left shoulder.

Milestones pop up regularly for individuals and even families as life’s journey extends. This time though is not a mere milestone . We have happened upon a tipping point in our nation’s history. To change the metaphor, we are at a major crossroad. Baseball catcher and philosopher, Yogi Berra, advised ‘if you come to a fork in the road, take it.’ If we do not take this left fork, we shall be citizens of a failed State, diminishing in status, effect and the commonweal.


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Is Anyone Paying Attention?

The language of our Declaration of Independence sounds afresh in news casts, and social networks.

“The history of the present King of Great Britain…” echoes the behavior of the POTUS.

“He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good…” The POTUS insists that making it easier for our population to vote will open flood gates of fraud, although there is no evidence for such an assertion.

“He has endeavored to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for the Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither…” The POTUS’ obsession with preventing access to our borders has just such an effect.

“He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to Civil Power…” Conference calls to Governors of States, Rose Garden rants and Bible-waving photo-ops by the POTUS do threaten Martial Law.

Great Britain’s King was held responsible for “cutting Trade with all parts of the world.” Today’s newspaper reports that China will cease imports of US pork and soy beans in its trade war with the POTUS, thus threatening US agriculture.

“He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us…” In every State, in cities large and small the voices of the unheard have irrupted from demonstrations to destruction and the POTUS can only demand tougher responses.

“When, in the Course of human events… such has been the patient sufferance…it is their right, it is their duty…” to oust such loathsome administration.

Is anyone paying attention?


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Release Prisoners

We in Ohio have a far-sighted, effective Governor. It pains me to acknowledge that a Republican Governor can have those adjectives attributed to him, but he puts the welfare of people ahead of his party winning. Dewine’s decisions to put our State on lock-down, in contrast to other leaders in other States, puts him way out in front as a leader.

Governor Dewine has another good idea; early release of some of Ohio’s prisoners to lessen the threat of prison-wide virus infestation. The suggestion is to release some of those convicted for non-violent crimes. That makes sense, ethically and politically.

A pause though before that action is taken … a pause long enough to sanitize the empty cells and dorm spaces. Then fill those prison spaces with those who are responsible for the spread of Covid-19 resulting in close to 15,000 deaths in the USA. Begin with the Denier in Chief who insisted that warm weather would put an end to this mild chest discomfort. This administration has enough sycophantic Cabinet and staff members hanging around to fill all the beds thus vacated and sanitized. Include as well those who have exploited the supply chain for masks, gowns, and other Personal Protective Equipment for their own personal or corporate gains.

My best guess is that releasing murderers would not turn back into society criminals responsible 15,000 homicides, and it is certainly true if they were elderly prisoners.

Of course this will not occur as we are no longer a Nation of Law.


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I was awakened this Saturday morning by noises coming from our kitchen, noises like a dishwasher being emptied by a woman disturbed. Somewhat fearful that my sleeping in might be the occasion, I tossed on my white terrycloth robe, the one that makes me look like a polar bear cub, and tip-toed into her view. She was in a rage, even tears swelling in her eyes. Through those tears her endearing greeting assured me that I was not the problem.

She had turned on MSNBC to hear again that the Vindman brothers had been fired by POTUS, our Criminal in Chief and that the Mob Boss had recalled Ambassador Sondland.

For many of us living out here in fly-over country, tear-stained rage is about our only response. Yes, we could contribute to one of the endless solicitations for money to elect a replacement for POTUS or to fund a cause that will bring sanity back to our country, but we’ve already given to our senior-pension-Social-Security limits. Any suggestions for the likes of us?

Trump is a very sophisticated sociopath-politician. He has no capacity for empathy, knows only his own stunted adolescent desires and is an expert at gaining followers from among half of our neighbors who somehow feel themselves threatened by the other half of us. Shades of  Heinrich Himmler and Josef Goebbles!

When I wrote that paragraph on a scrap of paper after breakfast, she said, “Post that, just reading it gives me a way to articulate my rage.”  OK, I’ve published it. Now what? Do we just wait around for a 21st century version of the Reichstag Fire? Can we expect soon to see people who have been adjudged to have opposed POTUS wearing emoji patches on their clothing identifying them as enemies of the State?

The man in the White House is either a deliberate criminal or a very high-functioning, mentally ill individual. Either way, I came into this world under FDR and I sure as hell do not want to go out under DJT!


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The Fault Dear Brutus

When Shakespeare has Cassius say “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars / But in ourselves, that we are underlings.”, Cassius wanted to prevent Julius Caesar from becoming the Roman monarch. Monarchy has already been asserted in the USA and the fault is not in our fate but in ourselves.

As if it were not sufficiently ironic that a State-sponsored prayer-breakfast is held in a country founded upon principles of separation of Church and State, the President in that event mocks and defies the very fundamentals of religious tradition. As the pundits on ‘Morning Joe’ opined this morning, when half of our neighbors support this President, the soul of our nation is at risk.

I am afraid, dear Brutus, that the answer is not to attempt a revival of religion across the nation to recover that soul. It is a perversion of religion that has brought us to this moral miasma. The evangelicalism of the 18th century colonies has been perverted from a ‘nature’s God’ equalitarianism to what at the time of the Revolution was a British-loyalist insistence upon oligarchical authoritarianism that predominated from establishment Anglican pulpits. Today’s evangelicalism has lost almost all touch with the teachings of the Jesus whom they pretend to follow. After a bit over two-hundred years Desenters have lost the war.

What needs to be recovered is not a recovery of faith but a renewal of the philosophical bases of American republicanism.


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A Sucker Born Every Minute

Wikipedia says:

“Barnum’s biographer Arthur H. Saxon tried to track down when Barnum had uttered this phrase but was unable to verify it. According to Saxon, “There’s no contemporary account of it, or even any suggestion that the word ‘sucker’ was used in the derogatory sense in his day. Barnum was just not the type to disparage his patrons.”[1]

Photo of P. T. Barnum by Charles Eisenmann

Some sources claim that it is most likely from famous con-man Joseph (“Paper Collar Joe”) Bessimer,[2] and other sources say that it was actually uttered by David Hannum in reference to Barnum’s part in the Cardiff Giant hoax.[citation needed] Hannum was exhibiting the “original” giant and had unsuccessfully sued Barnum for exhibiting a copy and claiming that it was the original. Crowds continued to pay to see Barnum’s exhibit, even after both it and the original had been proven to be fakes.

Another source credits late 1860s Chicago saloon owner Michael Cassius McDonald as the originator of the aphorism. According to the book Gem of the Prairie: Chicago Underworld (1940) by Herbert Asbury, McDonald was equipping his gambling house known as The Store when his partner expressed concern over the large number of roulette wheels and faro tables being installed and their ability to get enough players. McDonald then allegedly said, “Don’t worry about that, there’s a sucker born every minute.”

Well, it is a useful phrase no matter its author. I thought of it this morning as “Morning Joe” carried news clips of the crowd streaming into another Trump Rally. Among those interviewed, most were proud of having had their suspicions confirmed by “Q” and “Q-Anon.”

The level of ignorance among the American populace seems to be growing like a raging brain cancer. Truth is probably otherwise. In all likelihood, ignorance is not more prevalent than ever but there may be a couple of contemporary reasons for it to seem so. We live longer now than we did decades ago. Suckers live longer too, so it may seem that they’ve increased. Social media and the Internet can now draw larger crowds than a Barnum ‘barker’ could assemble patrons to see the Bearded Lady.

So it is probably same crowd flocking to be fascinated by a similar fake attraction. But they certain do look like my neighbors.


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The Old Lamplighter of …

Sammy Kaye, with vocal by Billy Williams, had the most popular version of the song about the time I was in the first grade in 1946.

By the 60s, The Browns made it a country pop hit.

The song is a sentimental stroll along memory lane as we observe the Lamplighters turning on the gas-powered streetlamps at dusk and extinguishing them when the sun came up.

“Gaslighting” is not about sentimental journeys. It is about vicious plots to destroy. It comes from a movie in which a husband maliciously turns the gas lamps off and on while trying to convince his wife that she is crazy for thinking she sees the lights flicker. He wants her institutionalized and out of the way.

Gaslighting is telling you that you are delusional for believing what you plainly see.

In the current Congressional hearing, phase one in the Trump impeachment, the Republicans have developed group gaslighting to a theatrical art. The President’s high crime( high as in above and more serious than codified law) of using diplomatic conversation for personal political dirty tricks did not really happen, those gaslighters insist. You are delusional to even think so.

And if their gaslighting cameos do not convince you, those congresscritters are rehearsed with lines labeled ‘whatabout,’ with which they want to get your attention to turn stage-left (OK, stage-right) to focus on some supposed distraction.

The only thing missing from the Republican burlesque cabaret is scantily clad women and Barr on stage singing Mack the Knife.  It is song and dance, but it is not entertaining.


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Quid pro quo

I recently exchanged a riding mower for $500. There was nothing wrong with the transaction, except maybe I let it go for a bit less than it was worth. I didn’t need the mower any more so I had something to trade for something. Something for something. This for that. If I were into Latin I could say ‘quid pro quo.’  It is the simplest three word description for a transaction. You have something I want and I’ll give you something you want for it.

There is no question that a businessman become U.S. President does not understand that concept. If perhaps, you do not agree that any businessman would know the meaning of the phrase and the process it describes, can you possibly doubt that a U.S. President who understands all negotiations as transactions could not know what he is doing in a ‘something for something’ conversation.

President A: It is my hope and expectation that we can obtain more of your military equipment.

President B: Uhum, and I have a favor to ask. Could you expedite an investigation in your country of one of my political opponents?

What could possibly be simpler to understand? Something for something. This for that.

On July 26, 1920, H. L. Mencken wrote in the Baltimore Evening Sun: “As democracy is perfected, the office of the President represents more and more closely the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, an the White House will be occupied by a downright fool and complete narcissistic moron.”

That ‘great and glorious day’ has arrived! Mencken’s wit has been appreciated for a long time but it has taken nearly a hundred years for his clairvoyance to be proved. Can a ‘complete narcissistic moron’ be impeached? I hope so.


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Shift Happens!

No, I have not erred in titling this post. I have not misspelled the first word. Yes, that other phrase is often appropriate, but what I want to say is a kind of counter response to that other phrase.

It is now 4PM on August 26, 2019. Fifty-seven years ago, within the past thirty minutes, Jane’s pastor asked us to plight our troth and spoke the words that announced us husband and wife. Nineteen thousand eight hundred and five days, plus the leap days in the leap years, we have been married. That is nearly five hundred thousand, nearly half a million, hours!

I am not the boy, nor is she the girl who answered those questions and spoke those promises. We have changed. She no longer appears to be the wasp-waisted nymph, nor do I appear the trim, flat-topped lad of 1962.

We have changed. Who can identify the metamorphoses? Neither of us can. We have each noticed the differences. We have even welcomed most of those new selves our partner has become. And those we’d rather not have had to greet, we have accepted or just ignored.

Perhaps that is a part of the secret to a long and happy marriage. We have both, with little more than a nod, pledged that troth over and over again in a kind of serial monogamy.

I am glad to have experienced what the Buddha identified. Nothing remains the same. Shift happens.


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