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Yesterday, I watched a man painfully talk about his son being shot down in the massacre at the Borderline dance club in Thousand Oaks, California. It was painful to witness the form of pure and primal grief he was expressing with his cries and his heaven-sent moans.

It was a moment that most of us hope with all our souls we would never have to share on a national platform.

He wasn’t alone. 12 died, mostly young people along with a 29-year police veteran who quickly responded to the shooting. All of their families were forced to go through that same gut wrenching agony and sense of loss.

It was the deadliest shooting in–wait for it– 12 days. 

It had been only 12 days since the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting that killed 11.

I am hoping the death total from this latest shooting stands as the most for the rest of our lives. But this America so I am not confident in saying that it will even last another 12 days. I may not be exact in this figure but I believe it is reported that there have been 307 mass shootings here in the 314 days of this calendar year.

American exceptionalism, my ass.

Then I wake up this morning to see the tweet from the NRA where they tell doctors to “stay in their lane” and stop talking about gun control.

Yeah, the doctors who are often wrist deep in the blood and gore of gunshot wounds should shut their yaps and do their jobs

Patch’em up or sign the death certificates.

Perhaps they should thank the NRA for job security they provide in the form of the multitude of victims coming their way?

American exceptionalism, my ass.

I can’t offer any answers. I am just angry and tired of the carnage. And especially tired of those who say more guns are the answer and that grade school teachers and rabbis and bartenders and dishwashers and cabbies and every other person in this goddamn country should be packing sidearms.

I just know we can do better. When I think of American exceptionalism I am saying that we have that ability to rise up and do better.

That is, if we want to. And maybe we won’t have the desire and will to do something truly tangible until this scourge touches every family, every school, every church, and every public place.

Until we all experience the sheer and awful agony of that father yesterday.

Maybe then we will be better, will do what is right and necessary. Then we might be able to see ourselves as exceptional.

Until then, I say American exceptionalism, my ass.

Here’s the title song from the 1993 album Across the Borderline from Willie Nelson. I chose it because it’s a beautiful song but mainly because it contains Borderline to honor those folks who died in that club. The song was written by Ry Cooder and has a message and tone that is so pertinent for these times. The phrase broken promised land just jumps out at me.

Give a listen. Maybe tomorrow we can get back to art…

 

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“I don’t look to the teachings of Jesus for what my political beliefs should be.”

–Jerry Falwell, Jr., NY Times Interview

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I think the quote above from Jerry Falwell, Jr. pretty much sums up the importance of this election. If a man who has based his whole life and persona on the teachings of Jesus is willing to set them aside for political expediency, there is a lot at stake. Not being able to adhere to those teachings– concepts like compassion, charity and truth– to uphold his political preferences says even more about what we are facing.

Today’s election is, above all else, a referendum on whether we continue to follow our worst inclinations into the ditch of history or whether we can steer ourselves back to the road we have long followed, one that marks us as a generous, compassionate and welcoming people.

We cannot survive long as a nation that is based on policies that reward greed, hate, fear, corruption, victimization, and deceit.

A lot of people say, “Sure, all of these bad things are taking place but look at the economy, look at the numbers!”

Myself, I knew that when this president* came into office that he would be able to ride the strength of the then percolating economy for maybe two  more years before it began cycling downward. The GOP made a calculated risk in enacting a massive tax break that was designed solely for the wealthiest among us, believing that supercharging the economy for the short term would blow them past this election before the consequences of such an irresponsible action would begin to appear.

But the bill will soon come due. The economic signs are appearing now. Tax revenues are down. Deficits are ballooning. Job growth, while still fairly strong, has lessened in the past two years and will continue to do so, partly because with decreased immigration, there is not the available population to sustain continued job growth.

To think that an economy at the apex of its cycle is enough to overlook the damage being done to our nation’s citizens along with its reputation and honor is a massive mistake.

Today is an opportunity to begin to set things right. It is a chance to shock the world and forcefully tell the other strongman autocrats out there that we reject their worldview.

To show that we deserve to be the beacon of hope once again.

To say that we can be better than this.

Vote.

Vote blue.

Shock the world awake.

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We are coming up on the final weekend of what promises to be a pivotal election in the history of our country. It is ugly right now with a president* spinning out of control, spewing a constant and wide river of lies, fear mongering and racial slurs, both of the dog-whistle and overt variety. It is a campaign based only on fear, division, and threats, one that needs to create enemies to fear and despise. Instead of of offering a unifying vision, one party looks to aggressively suppress the vote. There is not a positive vision or an iota of hope involved. It is a tremendously dangerous onslaught and it is positively un-American and un-democratic.

It made me think about my own beliefs and how I was viewing this election. I found that while there is fear and anger driving my response to this election cycle, it is my liberal beliefs that still inform my actions. They are overwhelmingly positive positions that aim for greater equality and an even playing field for all people in this country. They are positions that are looking ahead to a better country and a better world for everyone, not just the wealthiest and the privileged.

Positions that say how we treat the least among us says the most about us.

It reminded me of a post from back around this time in 2012. It lists how liberal thought has created most of the benefits of modern life that many of us now take for granted. These are things that were accomplished through brutal, and sometimes lethal, battles fought by those with progressive ideals.

This country’s greatness is based on the idea of the idea of America and that is a product of progressive thought.

You must vote in this election. To not be involved is to cede your future to others who may have a darker future in mind. I can’t tell you how to vote. You vote for the future you want. I will tell you that I am voting for a more hopeful and inclusive future. Progressive and looking forward.

Here’s my post from 2012:

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Republicans have been accused of abandoning the poor. It’s the other way around. They never vote for us.

–Dan Quayle

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I don’t know why I used the quote above from Dan Quayle except that it made me laugh when I stumbled across it. This has been a particularly long and tough political season and Quayle’s clueless words made me step back from it a bit to give a chuckle. As though the poor owed the GOP something!

Though I consider myself an independent, I am definitely liberal in my political leanings and always have been. There have been points in my life, especially now in the time of the ideologues, when liberalism has been portrayed as some sort of anarchistic/atheistic/communistic movement with the word liberal being thrown about  as an insult. That bothers me because I have always been proud of the accomplishments of those people who came before me who carried the banner of progressive thought with honor.

Early Suffrage Poster

They were extraordinarily brave people who spoke out against the outrages of the day that stood in direct contradiction to the liberal belief in equality and liberty for all. They were the abolitionists of the 1800’s fighting the heavily moneyed institution of slavery. They were the suffragettes  who fought so that women might have voting equality and the union organizers of the early 1900’s who fought for safer working conditions and fair pay and  against child labor. They were the people, the anti-Fascists, who stood against the authoritarian movements of Europe in  the 1930’s and 1940’s. They were the civil rights activists who marched and died so that civil rights were for everyone. They were the environmentalists who brought back the clean water and air we now enjoy. There was a time not too long ago when clean water and air was not a sure thing.

They were the people who sought to clean the stains of these inequalities from our flag and in every case they came up against conservative opposition. There was always a group who tried to maintain the status quo, to protect against what they felt was an attack on their America, even though their America was one based on injustice and inequality. Can you imagine an America without these ideals that Liberalism has championed, a world where the conservative thought of the day had somehow persevered? Sure, it’s easy to say that slavery would have ended or that women would have received the vote anyhow on their own but there was no guarantee. Just the fact that it took until the 1960’s that a hard won Civil Rights Act was enacted is proof of that.

Think how your own life might be different without liberal thought and action. I can guarantee you that it would not be a better life or a better world.

Damn right, I’m a Liberal.

Vote for a positive future. Vote Progress.

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We have become more and more numbed to the cascade of horrors that seem to take place on a regular basis here. But this week seemed worse than most, marked by dark and deadly deeds around this country. These acts were not done by 9 year old Honduran girls struggling on a highway 1000 miles away. Nor were they done by women who protested the Kavanaugh nomination nor blacks who demanded justice in the legal system. Nor was it football players kneeling on the sidelines during the National Anthem.

No, these were done by white men based on irrational prejudices and hatreds which allowed them to frame themselves as somehow being victims.

This week:

Two black adults were shot down in a Kentucky supermarket. The killer had attempted to enter a predominately black church just before he came to the supermarket. Fortunately, its doors were locked.

Early in the week, multiple pipe bombs were sent around the country to mainly political leaders who had spoken out against the actions of this administration. The man responsible was a fanatic follower of the president who attended his rallies and adorned his van with all sorts of right wing propaganda memes, including pictures of many of his targets with the cross-hairs of a gun superimposed over them. He was a rabid defender of the president* on social media.

Then yesterday, horror of horrors. Eleven Jewish congregants were killed by a gunman in The Tree of Life synagogue in the Pittsburgh neighborhood that Mr. Rogers called home. 6 other people, including 4 police officers, were also wounded by the man who had a history of hate speech in his social media accounts. In our long and bloody history, this was the deadliest shooting of Jews in America.

And in the midst of this horrible week, we had a president* who proudly proclaimed himself to be a nationalist at a rally. The term nationalist is most often associated with groups that believe in and demand a purely white racial identity for one’s country. They view all other races as being inferior, as being threats to their place in the social hierarchy. Undeserving takers.

They see themselves as victims and these others as scapegoats on which responsibility for most any problem can be heaped. While they believe that  nationalism is a term of strength, it is actually a term of weakness, of a culture of  seeing oneself as victim.

This is well known information, not obscure in any way. When he used that term, when he glorified that word, he knew what he was doing. He knew what triggers he was pulling among his base.

And if his ignorance is genuine, he is unfit to be in the office.

Regular readers know where I stand on that subject.

There is no coming together moment in sight nor do these nationalists desire that. This nationalist  president* continues to shamelessly spew a steady stream of incitement and an ever increasing litany of lies even as these tragic events unfold. He continues to portray himself as a victim even as he falsely poses as a strongman. He simply does not have the ability or the desire to unite this country.

And those who helped him get to this point– the moneyed interests and congress– are too invested, too implicated, and too morally weak to stem this tide of division. They will offer thoughts and prayers but nothing more.

Nothing.

The events that took place this week feel as though they could be the starting point for a new period of even greater horrors to come. At this point, our only recourse is to vote for a sweeping change in the government. That is the only chance we have to change the course on which we have been set.

It might well be our last chance.

Vote for change. If we don’t, the blood will be on all our hands.

Okay, this Sunday morning music is The Weight from The Band and The Staples Singers taken from the film The Last Waltz, directed by Martin Scorsese. Have a quiet Sunday and take a few moments from your day to think about those lives lost in Kentucky and Pittsburgh. And remember, you still have the power to change this.

Vote.

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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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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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We have become a nation of expediency.

Virtue, benevolence, and doing what is right has been set aside in favor of choosing to do what is easiest in the short term, even if that very thing is known to be harmful in the long run.

Theft. Corruption. Lying. Intolerance. Ignorance. Injustice. Inequality. Cruelty. Selfishness.

I think most of us agree that all of these things are bad. Except when it serves our expediency.

We are normalizing these things, accepting them because they somehow address some short term concerns. But once accepted, these things are hard to shake off. They become part of who we are, become identifying markers by which we are known to the rest of the world.

We are soon– if not already– going to be widely known for our cruelty, our selfishness, our injustice and intolerance. We soon shall be seen as a nation of corruption, where our promises no longer hold any weight and we are not to be trusted. Soon to be known as the nation that ignores facts and science. A nation that turns it back on the suffering of our neighbors and mistreats those who seek our help.

And all this lost for mere expedience. We have known what is right through the years and have generally moved forward with the promise of a more perfect union, as our Constitution describes it, as a goal.

But we stand at the crossroads now. We can either move straight ahead as a nation of virtues or continue on our current detour that is leading us to corruption, ignorance and intolerance. That path may look rosy now but the final destination may very well break our souls.

The current ruling party has become the party of expedience. They are displaying that they only care for what is right for them for the next election cycle. Every day, they normalize behavior that chips away at our national identity and show that they are willing to sacrifice all virtue for their own selfish, short term purposes.

We still have an opportunity to get back on that higher road on which we once traveled but only if we all band together and demand a return to virtues like truth, equality and justice. Like education, the rule of law, benevolence and righteousness.

But it will take a mighty effort. No expedience here, folks. No excuses. You can’t take a pass this time unless you are willing to admit your complicity when the whole thing burns down. And if history teaches anything, that is the where the current road leads.

So, just vote. And like Willie says: Vote ’em Out.

 

 

 

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