And The White Lion Roars

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Category: media

The Last Thanksgiving

And the white lion roars!

Way back on August 8, 2016 I posted an essay called “Cassandra’s Curse.” In it I talked about my fear of a Trump presidency, his love for dictators, his penchant for obsessing over revenge against anyone who dares criticize him, and on and on. I predicted Trump would hold a ceremony  in the Rose Garden in which he tears up the Constitution and declares himself President for Life. And I was treated very like Cassandra, some people telling me to calm down, that there are controls in place that would prevent that from happening. So I tried. I watched as he picked up campaign personnel who have known racist, misogynist, anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant histories which parroted his rhetoric in speeches and rallies, and some of whom have arrests in their histories for domestic abuse. He kept saying ever more incendiary things about all these groups. More and more borderline (maybe borderline) stories came out about his business dealings, more and more stories about his excessively shallow, contemptible objectification of women-even calling his wife a “fat cow” when she was pregnant with his child.

So I pretended I was being calm, as advised by people who love me. But in the last year I have been terrified for this country we all love. Terrified by the newly emboldened white racists, who have carried out nearly 1,000 acts of violence against minorities since November 8th. Terrified by the very smart people who didn’t care, though they plainly knew, that Trump lies as easily as breathing. And even more, terrified by his words and the people with whom he surrounds himself. And his cavalier dismissal, or straight up denial that he said many of the things that were plainly on video or tape. And the people, even those very smart ones, who listened to those denials and said it didn’t matter. When his disgusting behavior toward women was exposed, those people said it was just “boys being boys.” Sometimes of them even claimed they said worse things about men. I’m not sure it would have helped to mention that he was running to be president of the most powerful country in the world in the last two centuries . 

November 8, 2016 was a cool, dreary,  rainy day in North Central Texas. It was also my very ill and frail father’s 77th birthday. My husband and I had already voted during the first week of early voting, thinking that we could skip the long lines on election day, but the lines were a bit longer than usual for early voting. I had a conversation with two other women in line with me at the polling place, and I couldn’t help saying, almost jubilantly, that a large turnout usually bodes well for the left. One of the women nodded, smiling. The other one looked a little ‘stricken’ and turned away from me. But on election day I was twisted in a knot, hardly being able to focus on work. We took my parents out for dinner to celebrate Dad’s birthday, then went home to watch the returns. We were both tense and worried about the results. I guess the long lines for early voting weren’t enough to convince me that it was in the bag for Hillary Clinton.

I was not a Hillary supporter from the beginning. I was a Bernie Sanders supporter. I proudly sent what little money I could to his campaign, and proudly wore my Bernie t-shirt. I remember one Saturday night wearing it to get some things at the grocery store, and this very handsome young man with long dreadlocks pointed at my shirt, smiled, and gave me a thumbs up. I wore it to a doctor’s appointment  on Super Tuesday, primary voting day in Texas. The doctor asked me if I thought Bernie could win. I told him, “Probably not in Texas.” During the primary season I kept hearing about worrisome low turnout among democratic voters. There was supposedly a “movement” of Bernie Sanders supporters who were young, enthusiastic, and gearing up for a progressive (metaphorical) revolution, in which health care would be considered a right, not a commodity for profit. Workers would be honored instead of exploited for the singular benefit of their billionaire bosses. I’m not one of those “millennial” voters, but I was a true believer in that revolution, but afraid that the stereotypical low democratic turnout would abort the revolution in the womb. I was right. Secretary Clinton won the primaries handily, and became the democratic nominee. I switched my loyalty to her, though her t-shirts were too expensive, and she had enough money to beat pretty much anyone. But I always had a gnawing in my gut about Mrs. Clinton. While there hasn’t been a candidate anywhere near perfect (though he’s NOT perfect,) since Baraka Obama. She had SO much baggage. Though I can’t explain why, there is a sizzling hatred of her on the right that makes them willing to do very sinister things, and spread sinister, vicious lies about her. She was a political “player,” which is needed in Washington, unfortunately, because being able to negotiate with the other side and get things done. I don’t care about her response to her husband’s affairs, that is between husband and wife. Infidelity is too common, and people are so separate and individual that no one can tell anyone how to react when they learn of the infidelity. Some people stay together and work things out, some do not. Either is fine, and I wish anyone going through that trauma well. But there is no denying that Secretary Clinton is treated differently. No one in the media criticizes men for their voice, their clothing, hair and makeup styles. No one criticizes a man for being ambitious, career obsessed, and unyielding in seeking their dreams. But Mrs. Clinton was, and when combined with Trump’s words and actions toward women tells me that the United States has not “come a long way baby” when it comes to equality.

My husband and I got more and more nervous as we watched the returns come in. Trump was doing well in Southern states, as expected. Mrs. Clinton was winning the states everyone knew she would. We are early to bed and rise people, but we couldn’t stop watching. I had a couple of cocktails, he had several cigarettes. We got quieter and quieter. When 11:30 came around I tried to go to bed, but I immediately turned on the TV and kept watching from bed. I dozed around 1:00 A. M. or so, but when my husband came to bed I lifted my head, “Well?” “All the votes aren’t counted, but he won.” I slept fitfully until around 4:30, and went to work in a fog. I was quiet, which my coworkers noticed, but didn’t understand. Our supervisor stopped by later and asked me what was wrong. I just mouthed “the election.” She got it, but said it will be okay. By the weekend I had decided that this was the way it will be, and, like it or not (decidedly NOT!) I had to figure out a way to get through it for at least the next four years.

However, I found myself staying in the November 9th fog as Trump made speeches that terrify me, and advisory picks who matched his campaign rhetoric. Racist, homophobic, anti-immigrant, only one religion should be free in America, anti-Medicare and Social Security advisers and potential cabinet picks were constantly in the news. Now and again, in quiet moments I found that tears would run down my face as the newly empowered republican congress immediately began talking about reducing overtime pay, the Affordable Care Act and all the LGBT protections that were enacted in the last two years. When Thanksgiving came I was alone a great deal, cooking and getting ready for the holiday. I found myself crying as I baked, and even sometimes when I walked the dogs, despite those few days in which I tried to resign myself to a Trump administration, with republican control of both houses of congress. Oh, and one already empty Supreme Court seat. Sometimes my eyes filled with tears as I worked at the office, and I was grateful that my cubicle is not visible to the others who sit in the office with me. This was not a case of being a “bad loser.” I know how to be a good loser, and a gracious winner. But this was not an election like any other, and my belief that the consequences of it are unimaginable cannot be shaken. 

Thanksgiving turned out to be a good day. My youngest sister, with whom I am very close, was in town with her entire family; hubby, three grown sons, one daughter in law, two precious toddler granddaughters that the family had not yet met. There is nothing like the laughter of children that can lighten the spirits of two elderly parents and their middle aged children. My sister also brought her two dogs, who are very nervous and not very social with either other people or other dogs. As people arrived the dogs would just bark, and not come near anyone. After lunch I, fancying myself a “dog whisperer” of sorts, went to the backyard and sat, ignoring the dogs ( a trick I learned on some dog oriented TV show years ago.) According to that show, if you are nonthreatening, and ignore the dog long enough, it will eventually give in to curiosity and come check you out. In this case, I don’t know how much time was needed for these guys, but eventually my sister came out to join me for a chat. I told her that I was having a happier Thanksgiving than I expected. She and I had talked about what is to come in the United States a few times since the election, so she knew I was speeding toward despair; she was too, and for the same reasons, which were not all about the president, but congress and the cabinet as well. I told her we needed a good Thanksgiving because it was probably our last one as a free people. She responded with a bit of annoyance, saying that I really needed to calm down and not be so dramatic. But I couldn’t be talked down this time. And in the nearly three weeks since, my despair has only deepened. As revelations about just how deeply, not only Trump, but many of his cabinet picks, are in cahoots with the Russian government of Vladimir Putin, and the number of generals who have Russian ties are filling his cabinet, nothing at all in the last month has happened that gives me any reason to “calm down,” or trust that the way “the system” will protect the country from real danger. Some of the particular generals he has chosen have committed acts of treason, and not been prosecuted. Many, as I said, have ties with Putin, and have been very vocal in their anti-Islamic rhetoric. It has been revealed that the Federal Bureau of Investigation knew that the Russian government had hacked the emails of the Democratic National Committee, and dumped those emails to the public, but did nothing. Apparently so did some of the republican leadership, but they did not want Hillary Clinton to be elected, so they did nothing. The Russians also hacked the emails of the Republican National Committee, but did not dump them, though the republican emails allegedly contained just as much ugly stuff as the democrats. Now the Russians have all that information to use as leverage and get their way in the republican controlled government of the United States. Let me be clear, the newly elected government has been colluding with a hostile foreign power to the detriment of our existence as a nation. If a strong man (Trump) is surrounds himself with generals who agree with his positions, all the arguments that the military would never go along with the president tearing up the constitution and and installing himself as a dictator are a little less convincing in December than they were in August. Just as much of a concern is the choice of FOUR Goldman-Sachs officials as cabinet members. It hasn’t been so long since the Great Recession of 2008, which was the result of bad behavior by banks and investment houses all over the world.

I love this country. I love having the freedom to express my views, and the right of anyone who wishes to express their disagreement with my view (and the occasional contempt.) I love that we have the ability to vote for president and some of congress every four years, and the freedom to worship or not in any way we choose. I love that the press is free to, though this year they most certainly did not, expose the dangers our democracy faces from dangerous men. As an aside, I truly hope that the press has learned a lesson from their dereliction of duty in the thrall of “good stories that entertain.” They made an entertainer president, with no regard for the truth of his ties to dictatorial governments, or his rhetoric regarding the Bill of Rights.

So, I hope everyone had an excellent Thanksgiving. I hope whatever holidays are celebrated this winter are happy. The irony is that the winter holidays are, from every part of the world, celebrations of light, from the beginning of modern humans, when the daylight stays longer, and agrarians can begin to work the land again, but the new government in the United States of America is happy to operate in darkness. I, for one, truly believe that this may be the last holiday season that working Americans, the “Middle Class” will spend as a free people. We had a good run, but it’s over.

Defining Parameters

And the white lion roars!

When I read up on how to make a blog successful, the advice givers almost always say to post something every week. I clearly do not do that, though I do try. Sometimes it is because there is just so much going on that I am overwhelmed with how to digest it all into this space. Sometimes it is because of a lifelong fear of what other people think of me. Sometimes it is because I make comments in other places that some people that I love seem to take as a personal attack, which makes me reticent to express opinions. In particular I am told that when I make comments about religion, I think everyone who believes is stupid, or my comments are too general and not all religious people are “like that.” But here’s the thing; I was brought up in a very fundamentalist environment, and while I was always a secret skeptic, I tried extremely hard to believe what I was taught. The consequences of not believing were just too egregious to me. I remember in the mid-eighties having dinner at my youngest sister’s apartment, crying. This was the beginning of the time that I started to lose my fear of vocalizing my doubts, at least in certain company. I said to her, “If anything we were ever taught is true, I’m going to hell now.” Who wants to go to hell for eternity? Who wants to spend eternity separated from light and love? And so, somewhere deep inside of me is a longing for it still to be true, and maybe some envy of those who do plainly have experiences that support the spiritual and mystical. I would love to see a ghost. I would love to have an experience of God in some form. But it has not happened for me. Some say I need to have faith first. But some part of my “self” can’t do that. As one of my scientific heroes has said, I don’t want to live by faith, I want evidence. I am fascinated by stories of paranormal experience, and the religious mystics, but again, I am envious and skeptical of their experiences. I do not believe that religious people are unintelligent or foolish. I know many religious people who are definitely neither. I simply do not share their belief or experience, and thus I am interested in what they have to say, I want to know what it is like to experience these things. I also get that life can never be completely rational. There are some things that can’t be explained by science. But the big thing here for me is that science is okay with admitting that it can be wrong when new evidence is presented. Religion is an exercise in certainty, which can be dangerous. If one clings to answers that have been disproven, they become angrier and angrier when evidence that refutes that belief is shown. That kind of anger can lead to intifadeh. Or crusades. Or terrorism against the places that dispute whatever belief is being questioned.

That said, I do have some ongoing problems with the Judeo/Christian/Muslim teachings, and some of the current violence going on in the name of God. These actions are mostly being conducted by Muslims and Hindus, but Christians and Jews have done their share of violence, and continue to do so, but not at the same scale. When I criticize religion it is often Christianity that gets the nod, because that is what I am most familiar with, and in the United States it is currently the majority religion. If there is a news story about any religion except Islam, it is most often about something within the Christian spectrum. One of these in recent months has been the County Clerk of Rowan County, Kentucky, Kim Davis. Since SCOTUS legalized gay marriage on June 26, 2015, fundamentalist Christians have been up in arms about how it violates their religious freedom to be expected to provide any kind of service to gay people. Ms. Davis has refused to issue marriage licenses from her county and has even been jailed on contempt charges for this, and has become a cause celebre with fundamentalist candidates for president in 2016. After she created a huge storm over her refusal, she started going on the morning talk shows to defend herself and her beliefs. The press had uncovered that she has been married four times, plainly against biblical rules, and that she even became pregnant out of wedlock, and cheated on her last husband with her current one. When confronted with how unbiblical her lifestyle has been she retorted that those earlier ‘sins’ were forgiven because she was not saved then, but now she is forgiven. She is not the first Christian I’ve heard to use this argument. “Once a person is saved, all their sins are forgiven, past, present and future.” How convenient for them. The trouble I have with it is that there were many people involved in her past life. The husbands she cheated on, her children, etc. The people who preach this particular gospel do not feel any amends are necessary, nor is it necessary for them to try to live by biblical principles. Whatever they do, they are forgiven. Adultery, theft, gossip, alcoholism and drug addiction-with all the pain and destruction it causes; all forgiven. I once knew someone who had this belief, who was basically a terrible human being, and he treated his widowed mother horribly! I asked him about that, and he said it doesn’t matter, he’s forgiven. But I’m pretty sure it mattered to his mother, and to Kim Davis’ ex-husbands, and on and on. And to the family of a murder victim whose murderer found Jesus in prison. Here’ my idea, as someone who is fairly familiar with Twelve Step Programs, I believe that before these people get to use the “I’m saved and forgiven now,” they must make amends to the people they’ve hurt.

I have been involved in some conversations recently with some people I know who are supporters of the so called “Gospel of Prosperity,” which is SO popular with many upper middle class white people these days. The notion is that if you are obscenely, ostentatiously rich, it is proof that you are ‘good with god.’ It is a disgusting perversion of the New Testament, but it just keeps being started up again by preachers who hammer this message to their congregations Sunday after Sunday. I will never defend these predators, who are really the only ones prospering from this defamation of the bible they claim to believe literally as having been written directly from the hand of god. The thing I discovered though, when researching for this post, some, if not most,  of these preachers grew up poor. So at least we can get enough into their psyches to understand why bling and money and houses, etc, drive them so hard. They are still a blight on society, adding to the owning stuff = success, therefore, if I own lots of flashy cars, flashy clothes, private planes, etc,it only proves what a good person I am. If you don’t have all this, then get right with god and you can have it too. The thing is, though, that in said bible, Jesus had much to say about being good to the poor, and the orphan and widow. And yet the people who attend these ‘mega-churches’ buy in to the political rhetoric that says the poor are lazy do nothings who just want handouts. The poor are demonized, the rich are lionized, and our society gets further and further away from the Declaration of Independence’s claim that “all men are created equal.” There is no longer equality in this country, and the lies about why are being reinforced by the religious side and the political side. But it isn’t working for everyone, and someone needs to figure out why and how to fix it, instead of becoming so entrenched in the notion that “I have mine, fuck you.” This whole notion enforces the reasons why I disdain religion. I’m not angry at God, I don’t believe he exists; how can I be angry with him? But I do have many troubles with religion and its excuses for not following what it claims to believe.

Enough heaviness. I usually start with some questions about cultural things that make me wonder about stuff. One thing that I’ve been meaning to ask for some time has to do with the financial crisis in Greece. I’m curious what can be done about it. I’ve never been to Greece, but I’ve never seen a photo of Greece that didn’t take my breath away. So I’m left to ask the European Union (EU) what they would like Greece to do to start making more money. Should they build factories? Would their rocky shores and ancient building even permit such endeavors, or would they prevent construction and crumble to pieces from it? Would we want those coastlines and historic sites destroyed by buildings, people moving in to take jobs in a new construction industry, and the attendant pollution? There are so few beautiful places left; what should Greece do about this conflict between creating more revenue for the state and maintaining it’s beauty and history? I don’t have an answer, but I wish there was one.

Finally, I remember in 2012, immediately after President Obama’s reelection, I emailed several news stations and opinion sites suggesting a moratorium on discussing the 2016 race until now, November 2015. They ignored me (Whaaaaaat!) But now we are a couple of months away from primary season. I will admit openly to being a Bernie Sanders supporter. I have had a few people say to me that they are surprised I’m not a Hillary Clinton supporter, and instead of arguing it out I just tell them that if she gets the nomination, I will vote for her. The republican side, however, appears to be one giant embarrassment after another. In particular Jeb Bush, brother of President George W. Bush, son of President George H.W. Bush. I’ve been saying for weeks that I get the impression Jeb doesn’t really want to be there. There may be a few reasons why, but my theory is that his “people” told him he was inevitable, and now, with so many republican candidates, he is actually having to work for the nomination. He seems to believe that he shouldn’t have to convince anyone that he is the one for whom they should vote. And so he is surly and inarticulate, and seems to dig ever deeper holes every time he speaks. The other is Dr. Ben Carson, alleged retired neurosurgeon. I say alleged because this man seems frighteningly uninformed about anything remotely resembling life and reality. I know doctors. I work with doctors, and I  have some doctors in my social orbit. While they all have their own individual personalities, some quite quirky, some nerdy, some fairly “normal” seeming. But each of them can demonstrate that they were at least remotely qualified to enter medical school and achieve the hard requirements to become a medical doctor or surgeon. Some are down to earth and open to all kinds of other people, some believe themselves to be gods, superior over anyone with less education and expertise. But all of them can hold a reasonable conversation, except Dr. Ben Carson. They all seem to be proud of their accomplishments as is; they don’t have to make up all kinds of stories, as Dr. Ben Carson has done. I’ve heard it said the he has embellished his childhood thugishness in order to make his autobiography, Gifted Hands more of a redemption story. It reminds me of a guy I used to know who was a competitive body builder who went to youth groups and churches to share his story and demonstrate his strength. I challenged him about it when I learned that he used steroids; he made no bones about his reasons, “If I go into a school to tell the kids that my relationship with God made me successful at weight lifting, and I’m not built up enough, they won’t believe me.” He truly didn’t get that he was committing a terrible fraud. And so is Ben Carson, when he lies about being offered a full scholarship to West Point, or having stabbed people as a youth, or got into fights as a young man in school. And when he then complains that the media is being unfair by researching his past he is being disingenuous because he asked for this. He chose to run for president-he wasn’t drafted by the party on the twelfth ballot of the convention. He claims that lots of people told him he should run for president because they so admire him. But during the months before he announced, he should have had ‘his people’ or his exploratory committee look into what it would be like so that they could be sure he was ready for this. Who remembers Laura Bush saying that one of the things she dreaded about her husband running for president was the awful things people would say about him? Hell, all Carson had to do is read some conservative papers and websites and talking heads to see how viscerally and viciously President Obama has been attacked. If he were an honest man, he would admit that President Obama has had it worse than anyone-EVER! And a close second is Hillary Clinton whose every breath and fart are investigated as a potential crime or scandal. Every word out of either of their mouths is disseminated to hell and back to check its veracity, or to find evidence of plans for a Black Panther take over of the government and execute all white people. My conclusion is, that after listening to Ben Carson all these months, he is a fraud. This man who is being pushed out front of the republican party’s so-called “clown car” is not the man who was the first to separate conjoined twin who were connected at the brain. This man is not educated, and certainly couldn’t have made it through medical school. And while I realize that he is the less offensive black man that the conservatives can use as proof that they are not racist, he is not anything else that they are saying he is. I want someone to investigate what happened to the real Doctor Ben Carson. What did this man with the violent and fabricated past do with the body. Someone should look into this.

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