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Posts Tagged ‘Current Events’

I am not feeling celebratory on this Fourth of July.  I have strong feelings about the ideals of this nation and the recent events here challenge my belief that those ideals can prevail or even merely hold on. There is just a bit too much irony in today celebrating our independence from what we viewed as the grip of cruel tyranny in 1776. We are weakening our country when we accept cruelty and selfishness as an aspect of our governance and national character. And make no mistake about what I am saying, selfish cruelty is weakness and we are witness to that currently. Here’s a post from several years back that I run every now and then on this day, speaking to our better ideals. Enjoy your 4th.

Jasper Johns “Flag”

Another Fourth of July.

Parades. Picnics. Fireworks. Red, white and blue. That’s the shorthand version of this day. The actual meaning of this day is much harder to capture, probably more so for Americans than for those from other countries who view us from a distance. I think we sometimes lose sight of the idea and ideal of America in our day to day struggle to maintain our own lives. But even that struggle is symptomatic of the basis of our nation, reminding us that anything worth preserving requires work and maintenance.

For me,  America is not a static ideal, a credo written in granite that will always be there. It is vaporous and always changing, like a dense fog. But it is an inviting fog, one that is warm on the skin and invites you in with hazy promises of possibility.

And maybe that is all America ever was and will be– the promise of possibility.

Maybe it is the sheer potential of a better and safer life, the possibility of remaking one’s self, that defines our ideal America. We are at our best when we are open and inviting, offering our opportunity and empathy to all. We are a long way from our ideal when we close our doors and try to capture the vapor that is America all for ourselves. It is not ours to hold– we are simply caretakers of an ideal, one that brought most of our ancestors here.

Maybe this doesn’t make any sense. Since it is such a hazy thing, this amorphous fog that is our ideal, we all see it in different ways. This is just how I see it.

Here’s a video of the song America from Simon and Garfunkel, as performed by David Bowie. This is not a flag waving, chest thumping anthem but it speaks as much to the meaning of the American ideal in that simple chorus — all gone to look for America— as the very best Sousa march.

Have a good day.

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Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is an absurd one.

-Voltaire

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[I watched a few minutes of interviews with some backers of our president* at his rally last night. I was struck by their absolute confidence even as they spoke words that were far removed from reality. This certitude worries me. How do you establish a working relationship with someone who simply denies all tangible proof that is contrary to their beliefs? It reminded me of this post from five years ago. My uncertainty now is much as it was then.]

Much of my work seemingly has a journey or a quest as its central theme. But the odd thing is that I don’t have a solid idea of what the object is that I am seeking in this work. I have thought it was many things over the years, things like wisdom and knowledge and inner peace and so on. But it comes down to a more fundamental level or at least I think so this morning. It may change by this afternoon.

I think I am looking for an end to doubt or at least coming to an acceptance of my own lack of answers for the questions that have often hung over us all.

I would say the search is for certainty but as Voltaire points out above, certainty is an absurd condition. That has been my view for some time as well. Whenever I feel certainty coming on in me in anything I am filled with an overriding anxiety.

I do not trust certainty.

I look at it as fool’s gold and when I see someone speak of anything with absolute certainty–particularly politicians and televangelists– I react with a certain degree of mistrust, probably because I see this absolutism leading to an extremism that has been the basis for many of the worst misdeeds throughout history. Wars and holocausts, slavery and genocide–they all arose from some the beliefs held by one party in absolute certainty.

So maybe the real quest is for a time and place where uncertainty is the order of the day, where certainty is vanquished. A place where no person can say with any authority that they are above anyone else, that anyone else can be subjugated to their certainty.

To say that we might be better off in a time with no certainty sounds absurd but perhaps to live in a time filled with absolute certainty is even more so.

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These are the times that try men’s souls: The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country but he that stands it NOW, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly:–‘Tis dearness only that gives everything its value. Heaven knows how to set a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed, if so celestial an article as Freedom should not be highly rated.

…It matters not where you live, or what rank of life you hold, the evil or the blessing will reach you all. The far and the near, the home counties and the back, the rich and the poor, shall suffer or rejoice alike. The heart that feels not now, is dead: The blood of his children shall curse his cowardice, who shrinks back at a time when a little might have saved the whole and made them happy. I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. ‘Tis the business of little minds to shrink; but he whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves his conduct, will pursue his principles unto death. My own line of reasoning is to myself as strait and clear as a ray of light.

Thomas Paine, The American Crisis, December 1776

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Today might be a good day to pay attention, both to the events of this day and to the words of Thomas Paine written at a another crucial point in our American history. His words apply to any time.

There have always been and always will be sunshine patriots who will wave flags at parades and enjoy the benefits that this country offers without thought or sacrifice. But now is a time to look hard and think long. To gather strength and speak clearly and loudly. To assert truth.

Paine said it best: The heart that feels not now, is dead: The blood of his children shall curse his cowardice, who shrinks back at a time when a little might have saved the whole and made them happy.

Pay attention, people. Your heart needs to feel NOW.

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Is there not some chosen curse, some hidden thunder in the stores of heaven, red with uncommon wrath, to blast the man who owes his greatness to his country’s ruin?

– Joseph Addison, Cato, 1713

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As much as I want to, I am not going to comment on the ridiculous speech, if you want to use that word for this thing that aired on our nation’s airwaves last night. The speech and the “crisis” to which it referred were nothing more than a calculated distraction from the constant flow of emerging information that is providing more and more clarity in the investigation into the current squatter who resides in our White House.

Yesterday, a clerical error by the lawyers for Paul Manafort, the onetime campaign manager for this squatter, provided yet another puzzle piece, one that filled out the overall picture a bit more, letting us see that we may indeed be dealing with actions that are truly traitorous to this nation.

It is now well beyond anything we have dealt with at this level of our government at any point in our history. We are in uncharted territory.

Treacherous territory.

I wrote about the possibility of this type of treasonous behavior here a few weeks back in a post called Circle of Traitors. The painting at the top, which reflects the subject of that post, Dante and Virgil in the Ninth Level of Hell, is from Gustave Dore who is better known for his popular engravings.

I am not going to go on anymore this morning. I just want you to consider the actions of traitors and how they have been viewed through history. The line at the top from Joseph Addison has Cato, the noble defender of the Roman republic and its people, railing against the coming tyranny of Julius Caesar, whose actions ultimately led to the downfall of the Roman Empire.

The person who would willingly betray the interests of the people they have sworn to serve in order to fulfill their own egotistical desires does not fare well in the end.

Nor does the country or empire that allows such a creature rise to power.

Keep your eyes open, folks. The circle is coming closer.

 

 

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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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Don’t like to mention my dreams too often here but I woke up this morning from one where I had just put on an album on an old record player and the first song was Frank Sinatra singing the Aretha Franklin classic Chain of Fools, a song I am pretty sure Sinatra never covered. He did a pretty good job with it in my dream.

I didn’t have to think too much about where this dream originated.  Watching the craziness that goes along with this completely dysfunctional White House and everything that is related to it, especially the ongoing Russian investigation, is mind-boggling.  The ineptitude, greediness and sheer ignorance  that reveals itself on a daily basis is totally nuts, especially yesterday’s manic meltdown on national television by Sam Nunberg, a former aide to the person some folks still consider to be the president of these United States.

You can see it all beginning to crumble and fall apart before your eyes. It’s like sitting in a huge stadium where the entire field is filled with standing dominoes. As you watch nothing seems to be happening for the longest time. Nothing is moving. Then at the edge you notice a tiny shift and suddenly dominoes are falling in what seems to be large chunks in every direction.

As all of this is happening, the obnoxious stadium announcer is yelling over and over, “Fake News!”

And in the blink of an eye, it is over.

I have a feeling that is what we are watching at the moment. The tiny shift at the edge of the pattern has taken place.

The dominoes are tumbling.

So, first thing this morning, I  get into the studio and find a version of Aretha’s Chain of Fools with the lyrics shown.  As it plays, I am struck how the words of the song could apply to the people who thought this was a good idea in the first place, those folks who voted to turn this country into the world’s largest dumpster fire. Fools backing a fool and a liar.

The chain of fools- and I think I am being kind to say that they are just fools- has been broken.

Couldn’t find a Sinatra version so give a listen to Aretha and pay attention to the lyrics.

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November 5, 26 dead so far in the Sutherland, Texas church shooting.

October 1, 58 dead in the Las Vegas shooting.

September 10, 9 killed in a Plano, Texas shooting. You probably don’t even remember that one.

And I’m not even mentioning the truck attack last week in NYC. Who knows what December will bring? I would like to believe that we won’t end the year with a bang but… well, you know.

I’m watching coverage of this latest shooting and I already feel that it is being pushed to the back of our collective consciousness. These events are normal now. They have their own pattern, their own rhythm and cycle that they follow, one that we have witnessed hundreds of times before.

So many times that the horror we feel is beginning to feel feigned, just thrown out there as an surface act of civility while in our minds we have already began the process of forgetting.

Unfortunately, even when we turn away, it’s hard to find evidence that we aren’t living in a mad world. And there is no solace in the empty words of our titular leaders, an administration that is treating this country like a company that it acquired in a hostile takeover. That’s where the new owners come in and liquidate any viable assets for themselves, leaving the company a broken shell.

You know, it’s going to be a year since the election in just a couple of days and I firmly believe that the actions of this administration have exceeded my fears. I thought they would be a little more discreet in their underhandedness but it seems like every day they reach a new level of audacity and corruption, both real and moral, that is breathtaking to behold.

And some of us still defend them. And this acceptance, this normalization, provides a perfect backdrop for our acts of violence against each other.

Just another day in this mad world.

I played this song six months ago in a different context but on the all too many days like this, I find it running on a loop in my mind. It’s Gary Jules’ version of the Tears For Fears song, Mad World. Interesting video. Have a good day and don’t let this mad world become your normal.

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