Sep 272018
 

This is a Quebec Government poster hung on bulletin boards around school since the beginning of term. It seems a good found-reminder that, yes, we expect 17 and 18 year-olds to know that assault isn’t acceptable.

 September 27, 2018  Reflections
Sep 052018
 

And as a follow-up to my last post, my wild guess is that this op-ed was written by a Pence proxy and announces to the few republicans needed to support impeachment that there is a safety-net in place, that the back-up team is ready, and that they can act to save the party.

Et tu, Mike?

If this were a cheap novel, that’s how I’d write it.

 September 5, 2018  Reflections Tagged with:
Sep 052018
 

The New York Times has just posted an anonymous editorial by an “senior official” inside the White House claiming to be part of a “resistance” that is working to save the country from Trump.

Some thoughts.

This “insider”—who could be anyone from Mike Pence on down—tells us nothing new really. Yes Trump is incompetent. Yes the White House is toxic and chaotic. But that really isn’t news to anyone who’s been paying attention. Neither is this whistle-blowing. Trump is surrounded by people as unprincipled as he is. Some are making moves to save themselves where the rest of us can see. But this isn’t rats jumping ship. At best, it’s one rat checking to see if they can make some space for themselves and some friends somewhere under the seat of a life-raft. Not for now. For later. And just in case they need it.

To which I say: it takes quite a trick to come off as a cheaper and more cynical than Trump and his still-loyal toadies, but this writer manages it.

Whoever wrote this is a coward in the service of a full-on criminal-become-president and they are attempting to rewrite that service as something principled and heroic. I don’t actually know how to respond to something so base. I mostly feel contempt because if what this writer states is true—and we’ve more or less known that it is for awhile now— and if they do care about the country then the only ethical, moral, reasonable or honorable thing to do would be to go to Congress, to testify on the record under oath and to try to help fix the problem.

That’s not what this person does though. Instead, they continue to work for Trump’s administration, they speak out but only anonymously in order to protect their job, and they do this for the most craven reason imaginable.

As they write:

Don’t get me wrong. There are bright spots that the near-ceaseless negative coverage of the administration fails to capture: effective deregulation, historic tax reform, a more robust military and more.

But these successes have come despite — not because of — the president’s leadership style, which is impetuous, adversarial, petty and ineffective.

“I Am a Part of the Resistance”

Which means, once unpacked and translated:

Even though this entire piece is written to say that Trump is a danger to the U.S., to the world, and to the very ideals of enlightened democracy and even though we (i.e. “the resistance”…but not the leftist resistance, eww) must thwart Trump’s impulses and instincts at every turn, and  even though we want you to admire us for doing so, we are staying on as tools, and we are hiding behind anonymity because Trump’s ongoing shit-show has given us cover to effectively implement our own extremist partisan agenda. We’ve largely dismantled the EPA and clean energy initiatives. We’ve hobbled health care. We’ve stolen and transformed the Supreme Court. We’ve served up huge tax cuts to our donors and future employers, and we’ve done all of this while acting tough and pretending to be super patriotic as we used the money for grandma’s social security checks to buy more guns. In other words, despite what you’ve heard in all the negative coverage—which 50% of the time we are totally okay with, because “fake news”—this administration is a huge success, HUGE, and we’re standing behind it everywhere except in this op-ed. And yes, we’re continuing to cross things off our backers’ bucket lists as fast as we can. So “Go Team!”

But back to my point, obviously Trump is very mean and very bad, and like you we’re all focused ONLY ON THAT even to the point of stealing a paper from his desk once. You’re welcome. And we want you to know that when we’re not using Trump as cover for doing everything we’ve dreamed of doing for years but couldn’t, we are also definitely resisting him, reigning him in and saving you—and the world—from him. (Because he’s such an idiot, right? I know. Tell me about it! And we have to live with him EVERY DAY! Can you imagine?)

And that is why we’re writing: to let you know the good work we’re doing so that when he’s gone and there’s no more cover and we all have to stand up and be counted either as cronies or as part of the resistance, we can be counted as part of the resistance. And then we want to shuffle off into Crony Valhalla as members of Pence’s campaign team or maybe as consultants for Big Oil or Big Coal or Big Pharma or maybe even as a commentator on a cable news show where we will provide “balance” by offering hack partisan “insight” in order to make the media “fair.” When we do one or all of these things, we hope that you will remember our heroic struggle on your behalf and be grateful.

My takeaway:

Trump is to the current crisis like HIV is to AIDS. He’s the disease, but not what kills you. It’s the cancers and the parasites—like whoever wrote this op-ed, and like the people who will glory in it as proof that the White House is rotten and stop there, and like those who will take comfort that there are “good people” inside the administration fighting the good fight (praise be Jesus for using even the wicked!)—it’s these cancers and parasites that are killing a country made weak and vulnerable by Trump’s presidency.

I’m angry.

 September 5, 2018  Reflections Tagged with:
Jul 032018
 

The Buddhist notion of Karma isn’t about payback. It’s about the awful reality of being tied up in contingency. We choose. We act. There are consequences for us and for others and these have consequences in turn. So bit by bit moving through our days we build a life and as it takes shape we have to live it out. This is karma. The cage of good and bad consequences from our past that becomes our horizons.

The tragedy—the awful terrifying tragedy of it all—becomes clear when someone builds an unlivable life for themselves over the course of years and then are stuck with it and have to live it and there’s nothing anyone can do to get them out of it.

 July 3, 2018  Reflections Tagged with: ,
Jul 012018
 

The last time I was in Mexico was in 2013. Presidential elections were underway, but I didn’t really pay attention, reducing them to a funny story about being refused a beer with dinner because of the dry election laws. Now five years later, I’m back, and Mexicans are again voting for their president. This time though it’s hard not to think about the people heading off to the polls and impossible to see it as funny.

The Beav and I are in Guanajuato this Election Day. The late morning sun is bright, the sky clear, and the houses stacked in twisting rows across the mountainside shine with color. The streets are busy with buses, taxis, cars and people heading to work or mass or the market. The smell of roasting meat and charcoal fill the air. So little of what I see of the life here seems to depend upon the American Dystopia to the North. Yet back home, we generally take it for granted that Mexico will face north.

I don’t know anything about the politics here, don’t know what’s possible or best. The fact that the peach I bought at the public market came from the States makes me think I’m ignorant even of the extent of my ignorance.

Yet sitting here I wonder if (and blindly hope that) the people voting around town might say “enough” and look south, leaving their northern neighbor to play the racist fool by itself.

 July 1, 2018  Reflections Tagged with:
Jun 232018
 

The news from South of the Border (yes, that’s you, US of A) now operates exclusively in a rhetorical mode I’d call “the premature superlative.” Each day, an “-est” blares out from the news—the cruelest, the dumbest, the meanest, the rudest, something—and each day’s tomorrow reveals that in fact that day’s news wasn’t the cruelest, the dumbest, the meanest or the rudest, that the new day’s news is in fact worse, that the bottom (if there is a bottom) is deeper than anyone had suspected and that people are worse than anyone feared.

Sitting here north of the border, the horror show is unbearable to watch (but who can look away) and terrifying to think about. When Doug Ford swept the Ontario elections, I felt doomed, felt that the madness was infectious. Where the States goes, so goes the world. Or so it seemed.

It’s tough now to read the bleakness and resignation of my summer 2016 post on Trump’s prospects without wondering if, despite my careful hesitations and hedges, something in me understood my own family enough to know what was going to happen in that Fall’s election. Reading now with hindsight, I sound like a drowning man looking up at the small circle of sky visible through the water’s surface hoping to see a hand reaching down to pull him to safety.

Which brings me to Pride Month and the image sitting at the bottom of this post. I first posted it that same summer. I’m posting it again now because the idea that a presidential candidate—any candidate—actually circulated it seems like something pulled from a utopian fiction. After all, in the time since I first posted it, we’ve learned that I don’t even have the right to order cake anymore. I mean I can order and maybe get one if I’m lucky, but it’s not me who decides.

That’s where the States are today, and it’s sick-making to think about it.

 

 June 23, 2018  Reflections Tagged with:
Jun 192018
 

Crawling under
Electric fence
Isn’t easy,
but he’s too short
To step over.

Barbed wire’s better:
He can push it
Down, hold it. Still
It can tear clothes.

 June 19, 2018  Reflections Tagged with:
Jun 162018
 

The worn trail leading past the cow fence to the pond
Lay between the live oak and the old woman’s door.
To go to the fields or to the pond was to go to her.
To come back from either was to come back to her.

She sat on a lawn chair in the shade on bare dirt.
She talked as she looked out at the blinding light
That seared the grass in the open field beyond
The leaves and the shadow. She watched as cars
beyond the grass slowed at the break where
Paved road yielded to grated clay and sand.

The boy sat in a chair she kept ready by her own
As she told stories. Once he asked about the oak,
Was it alive? “Yes!” she said, “And always talking,
Always swapping tales and gossip with the wind.”
Eyes dancing wildly over a smile, she wondered.
“I wonder what that old tree knows on you?”
Another time she told him the name of god.

The boy and the old woman talked in the long heat,
Listening to the chorus of bugs and frogs calling
For the night as the afternoon stretched the shadows.
Then the live oak took a breath, small and sighing.

Another. Then it reached out and up and swept down
the breeze from the retreating sky. The oak swayed
As it sang softly whispered lullabies of cool nights,
Songs of bright stars. It psalmed dew-soaked grass.
It promised the morning. And then morning again.

 June 16, 2018  Reflections Tagged with:
Jun 122018
 

The old woman talks her way
around the pond slowly, speaking as
Her eyes and hands jump about.
The boy walks along and listens.

As she walks round the far side,
The old woman spots a young tree
Bound to the glossy black water
By a thin cord. It cuts the bark pulling
Green out from beneath the soft gray.

“That line’ll kill that tree,” she says.
Then she says they ought to save it
And the boy leans out to catch the line.
“Don’t fall in!” she says.
“There might be gators.”

The knot is small and tight.
She pulls at it, then the boy pulls.
They take turns. Between them, working,
They get it loose, coil it up, leave the line
In a pile in the grass beside the tree.

“Is the tree okay now?” he asks.
“That tree will be fine,” she says.

And so the two set out again round the pond.
She says still all that she sees, while he listens
To the sky whispering to the trees and the grass.

 June 12, 2018  Reflections Tagged with:
Jun 112018
 

The small boy asked to dig a hole.
So they gave him a shovel,
Showed him a place under
The far branches of the live oak,
And let him be.

The dirt was sandy, not clay,
Grey-black and cool to the touch.
When the level ground was to his knees,
He felt he was getting somewhere.
He dug that afternoon, fast and deep.

Minutes or hours later,
He stopped digging, done.

Hot and tired but proud too,
He asked for a camera, took a picture.

Years later pasted in a book the print showed
Brown and broken leaves scattered beneath sun
Falling through the branches of the tree above,
The tall shadow of a boy stretched beyond the frame,
And the dirt that wasn’t there.

 June 11, 2018  Reflections Tagged with: