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Another gray, wet, cold Sunday morning here in paradise. The sun lately seems like a stranger who, on those rare occasions when it appears, I have a vague recollection of once seeing. It’s grim and has me gazing out my window, hoping that the ghost of Tom Joad, like he had somehow stepped right out of The Grapes Of Wrath, might emerge out of the darkness set against the distant pines. This weather puts me in that mood, that grim feeling of that we need somebody to stand against the darker forces of this world.

Tom Joad, as dark and ill-fated a character as he seems, still gives me hope that there are still people out there who won’t turn a blind eye to injustice and inequality. People who haven’t been numbed by their own self-interest and comfort. They don’t have to be heroes, just plain people with a sense of decency and an unwillingness to turn their back to the wrongs they witness.

We sure could use some more Tom Joads.

Here’s my Sunday morning music. It is, of course, The Ghost of Tom Joad, from Bruce Springsteen. Have yourself a day– good, bad or indifferent– and if you see Tom Joad, tell him I am looking for him.

 

 

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A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.

— Dwight D. Eisenhower

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I wrote a whole long diatribe about the murder of Jamal Khashoggi the journalist that was an a Permanent Resident of the US who was beaten, tortured, killed, and dismembered at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.

But I am not going to run it. I’ll spare you that. I just want to ask a few questions.

What principles do we as a nation hold sacred?

And is now the time when we forever abandon these principles and values?

I say forever because once ideals and principles have been sacrificed, they are lost forever. You can’t buy them back with any amount of money or jobs or defense contracts or material things.

Things can replace things but nothing can replace lost honor and respect.

Every day we are sacrificing more and more of the honor, respect and moral authority that we once held. This was built on the “bloodtoiltears and sweat”– in Churchill’s words– of those who sacrificed through the past centuries to make this a better place.

To create a legacy that was always bending towards a more perfect union.

Is now the time to squander that legacy?

Is now the moment in which we push all honor off the cliffs of time?

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“America is the wealthiest nation on Earth, but its people are mainly poor, and poor Americans are urged to hate themselves. To quote the American humorist Kin Hubbard, ‘It ain’t no disgrace to be poor, but it might as well be.’ It is in fact a crime for an American to be poor, even though America is a nation of poor. Every other nation has folk traditions of men who were poor but extremely wise and virtuous, and therefore more estimable than anyone with power and gold. No such tales are told by the American poor. They mock themselves and glorify their betters. The meanest eating or drinking establishment, owned by a man who is himself poor, is very likely to have a sign on its wall asking this cruel question: ‘if you’re so smart, why ain’t you rich?’ There will also be an American flag no larger than a child’s hand – glued to a lollipop stick and flying from the cash register.

Americans, like human beings everywhere, believe many things that are obviously untrue. Their most destructive untruth is that it is very easy for any American to make money. They will not acknowledge how in fact hard money is to come by, and, therefore, those who have no money blame and blame and blame themselves. This inward blame has been a treasure for the rich and powerful, who have had to do less for their poor, publicly and privately, than any other ruling class since, say Napoleonic times. Many novelties have come from America. The most startling of these, a thing without precedent, is a mass of undignified poor. They do not love one another because they do not love themselves.”

Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five, 1969

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The above was written almost 50 years back by Kurt Vonnegut. I first read my now worn copy of Slaughter-House Five about 45 years ago and re-read it a number of times in the years that followed though it has been decades since I last read it. When I came across the excerpt above this morning I realized how much it informed and shaped my views on the world.

And how little this country had changed in the 50 years since.

If anything, this loathing of the poor or just those who may not be doing as well as ourselves has accelerated as the sheer numbers have grown due to a population that is now roughly 70% larger than in 1969. It provides some explanation for how the poor and middle-classes could somehow stand behind that thing now lurching around our White House. He is everything they would normally detest: a privileged, loud, rude elitist who flaunts his good fortune and mocks and derides those he sees as being beneath him. Who brags about dining and playing golf with the wealthiest people and hates to shake the hands of the common folk out of fear of their germs. An amoral man who is a known liar and a cheat, especially when it comes to bullying those with little sway who have worked for him.

The why of this is in Vonnegut’s words. It’s the same dynamic that allows people to get angry at the supermarket when they see someone in line ahead of them, especially a person of color, using food stamps. You can see them seething, almost mouthing the words welfare queen. These same people would have no problem with a man, especially a white man in an expensive suit, accepting billion dollar checks as a bail-out for the mistakes of these same men.

Maybe that is what we are seeing, common folks glorifying their betters, as Vonnegut put it. Except this person, this so-called leader, is not their better. He is a glaring symbol of the very worst of their qualities. He is well beneath them if they would only look beyond the cheesy gold patina.

To put it crudely: a gold-plated turd is still just a turd.

And even more than that, he is compromised and beholden to several other nations now.

And these same folks, by extension, are compromised as well. They have forsaken their principles and beliefs for empty promises that were never meant to come true. They would turn their head to corruption and possibly murder so that a wealthy man in a nice suit could make some more money.

It was true in 1969 when Slaughter-House Five came out. It’s true today.

Time to read the book again.

Art here tomorrow. Promise.

 

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I don’t care much.

Actually, I do care. That’s just the title of a song that is a favorite of mine. It’s from Cabaret but it does have relevance for our current time. The play dealt with people who turned a blind eye to the growing authoritarian regime that was taking over Germany in the 1930’s. The cabaret was a symbol for those people who just didn’t want to take a side, didn’t want to think about right or wrongs. People who just wanted to have a good time and hope that things would just work out without them.

Wanted to believe that they didn’t have to care much.

That belief, thinking that one could just ignore the coming atrocity without being touched, proved to be less than effective. Ask the 60 or 70 or 80 million folks who died in WW II.

Let’s not make that same mistake. As appealing as it might seem, you cannot hide and just think that things will work out. There is a great darkness clouding our planet right now, one that is built on the aspirations of authoritarian regimes. The murder of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi and how our administration responded so pitifully yesterday is yet another omen of this creeping darkness.

You must stand against these dark changes because they are taking place at an ever accelerating rate and the window for putting a brake on a would-be authoritarianism is closing. And those who stand with the authoritarians will do most anything to keep their march of darkness moving forward.

Life might be a cabaret but the there is a price to be paid. Vote. Get involved. Make your voice heard.

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The painting at the top is an older painting from 2001 called Three Before the Storm. It fits my mood today. Here’s the song I Don’t Care Much performed by Alan Cumming as the Emcee.

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Thought I’d keep it simple today. The song for this week the classic Bad Moon Rising from Creedence Clearwater Revival. Feel free to read any symbolism into this that you feel is needed. It had meaning in 1969 and it might be different circumstances, but the warning is still relevant today.

I worry that there is a reckoning of sorts coming soon and I know I am not alone in this, even when I look over to the right wing. I have read several things in the past few days from conservative thinkers, people who you would think might be gleeful for the changes of the past two years and the far right swing of the Supreme Court, who are experiencing this same ominous dread, who sense this is coming to a head soon.

There are too many omens and too many events falling into place to ignore.

I fear that it ain’t gonna be pretty, folks.

And no matter how deep those among us bury their heads in the sands of distraction and try to ignore what is happening, none of us will come out untouched. We all will lose something before it’s all over.

Like the song says:

I hope you got your things together
I hope you are quite prepared to die
Look’s like we’re in for nasty weather
One eye is taken for an eye

I will leave it at that and promise to be more uplifting tomorrow. But for the time being, have a good day.

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On this road there are no godspoke men. They are gone and I am left and they have taken with them the world. 

― Cormac McCarthy, The Road

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You know you feel bad when you take to the awful beauty of Cormac McCarthy for comfort. But when you get the sense that the world is about to be set on fire, if it is not already ablaze, he seems like a natural choice.

I would much rather be referencing another book, like JFK’s Pulitzer Prize winning Profiles in Courage. that describes the brave stands taken by Senators which changed the course of our history. But as we now know Senatorial courage is only a myth now, some form of mythical quality from a long lost time.

The idea of someone with the power to affect change stepping forward to so without regard to their own personal benefit is something we may never see again. And what a lost opportunity it has been for someone to cement their place in history, to speak truth to the rampant dishonesty and corruption we are witnessing.

Instead we see cowering and mealy mouthed half explanations or full-throated deceptions that are disingenuous at the very least. No, there will be Profiles in Courage written from this time about those who sit in the majority. So long as they believe they have shelter, they would rather see the world burn than stand against the illegitimacy they helped create.

Like the fools they are, they somehow think that the flames won’t reach them, even as they stand among the fury of the fire.

And the world begins to smolder…

 

 

 

 

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Control!

I so much want to comment on what is happening right now. Comment is not the right word.

Vent. Spout. Bellow.

But, unlike the Supreme Court nominee, I will maintain my composure.

Alice from Dilbert’s office shall be my role model today. 

Hope you can control your fist of death.

If not, use it responsibly and effectively.

 

 

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