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Posts Tagged ‘Current Events’



“They are all in the same category, both those who are afflicted with fickleness, boredom and a ceaseless change of purpose, and who always yearn for what they left behind, and those who just yawn from apathy. There are those too who toss around like insomniacs, and keep changing their position until they find rest through sheer weariness. They keep altering the condition of their lives, and eventually stick to that one in which they are trapped not by weariness with further change but by old age which is too sluggish for novelty. There are those too who suffer not from moral steadfastness but from inertia, and so lack the fickleness to live as they wish, and just live as they have begun. In fact there are innumerable characteristics of the malady, but one effect – dissatisfaction with oneself. This arises from mental instability and from fearful and unfulfilled desires, when men do not dare or do not achieve all they long for, and all they grasp at is hope: they are always unbalanced and fickle, an inevitable consequence of living in suspense. They struggle to gain their prayers by every path, and they teach and force themselves to do dishonourable and difficult things; and when their efforts are unrewarded the fruitless disgrace tortures them, and they regret not the wickedness but the frustration of their desires. Then they are gripped by repentance for their attempt and fear of trying again, and they are undermined by the restlessness of a mind that can discover no outlet, because they can neither control nor obey their desires, by the dithering of life that cannot see its way ahead, and by the lethargy of a soul stagnating amid its abandoned hopes.”

― Seneca, On the Shortness of Life



I was reading an article that referenced the essay De Brevitate Vitae ( On the Shortness of Life) from the Stoic philosopher Seneca that written sometime around 49 AD. The passage above really struck me because it seemed to describe the dissatisfaction so many people have with their lives and the actions that result from this.

I can’t quite put my finger on it but it feels like the underlying current of what we’re seeing take place these days in this country. I have tried to discern what the desired outcome for the insurrectionists is or what drove them to act as a violent mob and I keep coming up with blanks.

What do they want?

They are not the downtrodden nor poor. They are not voiceless or without political power. There’s a high probability that most of them have livelihoods and assets that place them well above that of the average American. They are not trying to gain rights for themselves or others that have been denied. They are not fighting injustice.

And if they succeed, they have no plans for a future. Certainly not a future that will be in any way better.

All they have is anger and dissatisfaction with their lot in life. As entitled and privileged as they are, their lives lack purpose, lack meaning. It is a spoiled and bored existence, devoid of real consequences for bad behavior and fortified by the highs and unreality of video games and action flicks combined with conspiratorial bravado and cosplay costuming.

And that’s a recipe for disaster. 

This is just an observation this morning. Like I said, I am not sure I have a finger on what really is behind it. I am just trying to understand it so that I can begin to make sense of what I am seeing.

Still not there.

Here’s a topical song, Unsatisfied, a favorite of mine from The Replacements and their great 1984 album Let It Be.

Be careful out there and have a good day.



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We are living through a revolt against the future. The future will prevail.

–Anand Giridharadas, The Ink, January 15, 2021



The words above are the final line in a what I believe to be a brilliant essay from writer Anand Giridharadas that was posted a couple of days ago on his blog, The.Ink that bears the heading We are falling on our face because we are jumping high. I hope you’ll click on the link and read this short essay.

In it, he observes that the chaos that we are experiencing is not the chaos that often comes with the beginning of something but is actually the sort that comes with an ending. I have also felt for years that we were watching of the death throes of a certain type of power and control, that those who were predominantly white and male felt they were entitled.

We are falling on our face because we are jumping very high right now. We are trying to do something that does not work in theory.

To be a country of all the world, a country made up of all the countries, a country without a center of identity, without a default idea of what a human being is or looks like, without a shared religious belief, without a shared language that is people’s first language at home. And what we’re trying to do is awesome. It is literally awesome in the correct sense of that word.

This is one of my favorite passages from this essay. To be the country we desire it to be, one that offers equal hope for each of its citizens, is enormously difficult and unlike anything ever done. No nation has ever aspired to so diversely share its rights and governance among all the groups that make up its citizenry.

There are massive challenges and it will not be easy. And in a nation whose default setting is easy, that means we will have to do much more than than that which we normally are accustomed to doing. We will have to work and scrap, to strain far beyond what we believe our limits to be. 

But if it succeeds, we all benefit, all boats are lifted and we all become part and parcel of something great, something unique in human history.

Something of which we can all truly be proud.

Please give Mr. Giridharadas’ essay a read. It is short but potently hopeful. Definitely worth a few minutes.

For this week’s Sunday Morning Music, I am going with a recent tune, Tough to Let Go, from the Drive-By Truckers, whose last couple of albums have been dark and timely.  I think it says a lot about what we are seeing in the chaos of this struggle between those who look to the future and those who want to hold onto an imagined past. Our beliefs, even when we can see that they defy logic and fact, are sometimes tough to leave behind. They continue to haunt us and dictate our actions until we can fully separate ourselves from them.

It’s tough to let go. But it has to happen.

Do something good today.



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Well, we’re still standing.

It was a historic day that gave us examples of those who see themselves as being part of something bigger and doing what is necessary even though it may not be expedient. It also gave us a view of those who represent us in the worst light– narcissistic and self-serving– letting us know that there are still difficult days and more repercussions ahead of us.

But, all in all, it was a good day for democracy. 

Amidst the hoopla of the impeachment hearing and vote there were images that really brought the gravity of the moment home for me. They were mainly of the National Guard troops who were summoned to the nation’s Capitol to defend it against the insurrectionists and seditionists that  stormed it last week and threaten to do it once more.

Troops were bivouacked there for the first time since the Civil War. There were hundreds, maybe thousands, scattered through the Capitol hallways and public spaces as they tried to find space to sleep on the marble floors there. Their presence stood in stark contrast to the desecration of the building perpetrated last week by the rioters. There were numerous shots of the troops taking in the statues and artifacts displayed, many with deep reverence as they looked.

I thought the shot below of black troops posing respectfully with the statue of Rosa Parks created the greatest amount of contrast to the violent and destructive images from last week.

These troops were there for the right reason, out of duty to country. The insurrectionists of last week were there for the wrong reasons, that their prejudices and beliefs in unfounded and illogical conspiracy theories somehow entitled them to attack and destroy the very foundations  of our democracy. 

There is a reckoning ahead in this country. We must rid ourselves of the toxic stench of white supremacy that has long plagued this nation. There can be no unity so long as those who preach hatred and intolerance of others are allowed to roam the halls of our nation’s capitol. There must be a stand made against the bigotry and intolerance so openly on display.

There can be no tolerance of the intolerant.

I refer you to a blogpost from a few years back that I wrote on Karl Popper and his theory of the Paradox of Tolerance. It basically says that, even in an open society where free speech and belief is the rule, if you don’t stand up to those who champion intolerance at some point, if you tolerate those who would harm or take away the liberties and rights of other citizens, then you risk being destroyed by your tolerance by the intolerant.

That might be where we are right now, where are tolerance of the intolerant is at an end, that they have went beyond what we, as a free and tolerant society, can accept.

We shall see in the days ahead.

Stay safe and have a good day.



National Guard Troops Posing with Rosa Parks Statue

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For they sow the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind.

Hosea 8:7



‘Everybody, sooner or later, sits down to a banquet of consequences’

— Robert Louis Stevenson



I don’t usually use Bible quotes to open my blog but this was such an obvious equivalent in meaning to the Robert Louis Stevenson words above that I originally intended to use that I decided to go with it in conjunction with the other. 

Actually, the Stevenson quote is not a sentence he has ever put to paper or spoke, to the best of my knowledge. It’s one of those online citations that catch on and become forever attached to a personality.  This misquote is, however, distilled, from words that Stevenson really did write, this from an 1887 essay, Old Mortality.

This is the bit from which the misquote is derived:

Books were the proper remedy: books of vivid human import, forcing upon their minds the issues, pleasures, busyness, importance and immediacy of that life in which they stand; books of smiling or heroic temper, to excite or to console; books of a large design, shadowing the complexity of that game of consequences to which we all sit down, the hanger-back not least.

In the essay before this excerpt he speaks of an older man walking through a graveyard, looking at the monuments, wondering if that was all that remained of a man’s life when he was gone, the only shadows of lives lived. He then above points out that our creations are the real shadows of our lives, that they speak better and with greater complexity of the part we play while alive. The part where he points out that nobody is exempt from participating in that game of consequence called life. Even those who try to stay in the shadows, the hanger-backs as he calls them, are engaged in this game.

Through the years, Stevenson’s game transformed into a banquet which is basically saying that we must eat the meal we prepare.

We reap just what we sow.

Actions have consequences.

And today we may witness a singular day of great historical consequence. The actions of the past four years, the past year, and the past few weeks may come to a head this day, bearing the consequences of the actions of this past period of time.

It may not be an endpoint and it will no doubt have actions that will have consequences of their own but for now a mighty wind has been sown and its whirlwind approaches.

The banquet table may be finally set and we must eat the meal we have put together.

Every one of us.

We will get through this. 

Here’s song from Rival Sons that is basically paraphrasing both these quotes as far as karmic hammers go. It’s Get What’s Coming. It might be  setting the tone for today and the coming weeks for those who will be called on to answer for their actions: When it comes back around you’re get what’s coming.

Pay close attention. It’s going to be a day.



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Good and evil both increase at compound interest. That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance. The smallest good act today is the capture of a strategic point from which, a few months later, you may be able to go on to victories you never dreamed of. An apparently trivial indulgence in lust or anger today is the loss of a ridge or railway line or bridgehead from which the enemy may launch an attack otherwise impossible.

― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity



Good and evil both increase at compound interest.

Think about that for a minute.

Think about examples from your own life that you may recognize.

Speaking for myself, I will admit to having made both good and bad decisions in my life. The good ones lifted me higher and allowed me to experience the better things in my life– the victories as Lewis puts it. The good decisions generally came from looking outward, from considering someone other than myself. The good decisions began an upward spiral.

On the other hand, the bad decisions almost always resulted from selfishness ego, and anger.

I spent much of the first half my life making bad decisions. And it did indeed compound. The plummet on the downward spiral quickened and each level lower was worse than the one above it. It seemed as though there was no way to stop it. It was dark and awful in those times and places.

Without going further into my personal experience, I believe we are seeing a group of politicians and their followers who make up a substantial portion of the public who are in the midst of a downward spiral, one that is increasing at compound interest. 

I watched the newly released video yesterday showing the crowd on the steps pulling a DC Metro Police Officer from the doorway and dragging him down the stairs by the back of his helmet. A photo from the attack is above. He was tasered and beaten, one attacker pounding on him with the flag pole holding an American flag. Fortunately, that officer survived the attack.

I don’t know how anyone could watch that video and not be shocked or infuriated. It shook my day.

It was evil at compound interest– naked and pure.

It was based on absolute lies and bad decisions, from the very highest levels to those at the bottom with blood on their hands. 

And unfortunately, we are all– ALL— still trapped in this dark downward spiral because there are politicians and their followers still unable to recognize that they are making one bad and evil decision after another. And like my personal bad decisions, theirs are also based in selfishness, ego, and anger, with little thought as to where their actions might ultimately take them. 

They don’t see that they are the very antithesis of patriots. They don’t understand that they are the spearpoint of a movement that would result in a fascist dictatorship that would ultimately eat them as well. A fascist dictatorship that will ultimately fail and fall as they always do, often in a bloody purge brought on by disillusioned adherents of the movement. 

That misguided yet evil spearpoint is still there. They are still plotting, making evil decisions as they are shielded and egged on by their cohorts in power who still believe they can somehow ride and selfishly profit from the wave their riotous followers are creating.

That is yet another bad and evil decision by the power hungry.

Our peril as democratic nation compounds so long as there are no consequences, no accountability, for these people. There can be no unity or move forward until this happens. Those who incited and enabled this must be removed from their positions of power now. There is no shrugging this off and just moving on as though this were a mere aberration, a blip on the screen.

No, there must be accountability and action now to stop further compounding of this evil.

Now.

They hide behind the shield of politics but this is not political. This is life and death, right and wrong.

Good and evil.

I have intimately known good and evil. I choose good but know that we must first rid ourselves of this evil before we can move upward again.

Be careful out there and think about your decisions. Do some good in your own lives, please.

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“A Time For Reckoning”– Currently At the West End Gallery



We’re barely ten days into the new year and it’s already fed us a heaping helping of the darkly dramatic.

We’ve had elections with enormous ramifications, a seditious president*** booted from nearly all social media, a coup d’etat in our National Capitol that left five dead, and, to top it off, an out of control pandemic that is crushing our health system in some parts of the country. Hard to believe something that is killing 4,000 US citizens a day– and will most likely hit 5,000 in the coming weeks– has been under our radar in recent days.

Such is 2021 this far.

There are ten days until the Biden inauguration.

Ten days. Ten days that may test this nation in a way it has not been tested in anyone’s living memory. 

I do believe we’ll make it through. It won’t be pretty and we won’t come out the side with all 340 million of us holding hands and singing Kumbaya. But we will persevere.

There have been calls for unity from some of the very people who fed into– and profited from– the madness of the insurrection effort that took place this week and still still remains a threat in the coming days. They are somehow demanding from one side of their mouth that it is incumbent on the incoming President to unite us while still trying to push their lies and conspiracies with the other. 

It can’t work that way. You can’t have two contrasting sets of perceived facts, especially when one is grounded on baseless, wild conspiracies and outright lies.

Plus, even if you wanted to appease these insurrectionists, what could you give them that make them willing to unite?

I have absolutely no idea what they want, other than the overturning the results of an election that has been deemed by state and local leaders of both parties across the land as being as fair and transparent an election as we have ever conducted. But other than that, what do they want? They have no discernible ideology. It’s not about gaining rights or righting real wrongs or grievances. 

Their only grievance, the only way they seem to have been wronged, seems to be that they didn’t get what they wanted and won’t accept the fact that there are many more people who don’t hold their opinions.

Honestly, I don’t think they could tell you what it would take to make them happy. I don’t think they know. They just have a blind anger and a sense of grievance that is constantly being fed by leaders who profit from it, both financially and politically.

Look at the people who have fed these conspiracies. They have no ideas, no plans, nor cares for the betterment of all the people of this land. They have blind ambition and a craving for money and pure power. They will say anything, they will outright lie, they will spread any falsehood and conspiracy in an effort to gain and maintain power. No act of blatant hypocrisy is beyond these people.

Unity requires honest discussion based on common sets of facts. You cannot have unity with these kind of leaders* on the other side of the table. Disagreement with one another is acceptable when you can trust that both sides are being genuine in their arguments. But when one side is disingenuous and still spouts lies to incite their followers, unity is impossible.

And that’s a sad and dangerous thing. For all of us.

Sorry. I had no plans to write this this morning. I was simply going to play my normal Sunday Morning Music selection but this just fell out.

Getting back to regular business, here’s a new song from John Fogerty that speaks to the sadness of the moment. It’s titled Weeping in the Promised Land. It’s a pretty powerful song and video.

Pharoah keep a-preachin’ but he never had a plan…

Be careful out there.



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“A prudent man should always follow in the path trodden by great men and imitate those who are most excellent, so that if he does not attain to their greatness, at any rate he will get some tinge of it.”

― Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince



Character matters.

I have written this before. The words, the actions, and the manner of the leader of a nation are tremendously important. They shape the words, actions and manner of the nation.

Think of the great and revered leaders of our past. Abraham Lincoln. FDR. JFK. MLK. Even LBJ in those moments that mattered. All were fallible men with human flaws, yet for the most part all spoke in aspirational terms, for the betterment and elevation of all people. Their words, their actions, and their manner gave us a template for behavior.

What we are experiencing now is the result of the words, the actions and the manner of a person unfit to lead this nation, a man who does not seek to elevate all the citizens of this land. He and his apologists and enablers, especially those in power who take their cues from him, have set a divisive tone, one that pits us one against another. 

His ugly manner, his crude behavior, his hateful words, and the embrace of lies and lurid conspiracies with no basis in reality have taken hold in his followers. This along with his selfish and narcissistic behavior have become the template for his followers. They exhibit the same selfish, illogical and uninformed thinking as their leader.

I have asked how those who have stood behind the president can justify their support for a man who deals exclusively in lies and hate speech. I have been told that while they don’t particularly his “style,” they endorse his actions. 

This is a justification I have never understood. This Machiavellian bargain is totally unacceptable because, for those who lead nations, “style” matters. Style comes in the form of their words, their actions and the manner in which they treat the totality of their citizens. It is character.

You can’t accept his actions without accepting the whole of his character. He and the wreckage he has produced are a result of those who thought they could pussyfoot around his style, that they could somehow rationalize away those many ugly parts of  his character in exchange for a few things that they coveted for their own benefit. 

Well, it doesn’t work that way, folks.

It’s a package deal. 

In for a penny, in for a pound” as the saying goes. 

Everything in his character, including his racism and acceptance of white supremacy, belongs to those folks now.  

Some will say they never saw this type of thing coming, that nothing pointed to this sort of thing happening. 

My response to that, as our next president likes to say, is Come on, Man!

It has been in the open and in plain sight since long before he was first nominated to be the Republican candidate in 2016. It was written in his words, his actions and his behavior in the years he has been a public figure. Nothing in his character suggested he would be anything but a disaster as the leader of this country.

He even pointed out plainly that this time was on the horizon for this nation under his leadership. In his inaugural address in 2017, he promised us American Carnage.

That is truly the one promise he made good on.

Character matters.

Once you accept the deal to overlook the character of your leaders, your own character becomes attached to theirs. It goes to the quote at the top from The Prince, the classic written in the 1530’s by Niccolo Machiavelli that gave the world the phrase The ends justifies the means. While there are many who hold this as a principle, Machiavelli advised people to try to follow great men so that they might attain at least a tinge of that greatness for themselves.

Conversely, we are tinged and marked as well by our bonds to the horrible and the evil. 

We know what this man is– a cheap gold-plated shell filled with lies and hatred.

Those who were attracted to appearance of his shiny surface in the past now carry his tinge.

Those who support him going forward have adopted his character.

And character matters.



“The vulgar crowd always is taken by appearances, and the world consists chiefly of the vulgar.”

Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince



 

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That millions of people share the same forms of mental pathology does not make these people sane.

― Erich Fromm, The Sane Society



Wow. Just wow.

There are a lot of different connotations for the word crazy.

It’s used to describe pathological insanity.

Or used to describe situations that are wild and excessive, beyond the norm. That party was crazy!

Or it can describe enthusiasm. I’m crazy about pie. And I am crazy about pie, by the way.

Or it can describe foolishness. I was crazy to think there would be pie.

Or annoyance. Your talking about pie all the time is driving me crazy!

There are probably more. But almost any use of it could be applied to the phone call that was released yesterday. I am not going to get into details, which are all over the news if you’re not yet aware, except to say this is not pie crazy.

It is crazy crazy. Dangerously crazy. Criminally crazy.

The terrible thing is that it’s been this way for the last four years and way too many people have twisted themselves into pretzels and diminished their own integrity in trying to explain, justify, and rationalize their continued backing of this man* and his administration. But the craziness of the revelations of this weekend provide a strong and fitting exclamation point to mark the end of this presidency.

Those who continue to back and believe this man* and the multitude of conspiracies associated with him at this point might want to pause and examine their own state of mind and their personal motivations.

Perhaps ask themselves, “Do I want my name forever associated with this kind of crazy?” They might want to take note of the words at the top from Erich Fromm

History will note their decision.

Unfortunately, this is not yet the absolute end and exclamation point to this presidency***. There are still fifteen days of escalating craziness ahead as this man* tries to hold onto the power and protection of the office. If you don’t think this is a dangerous moment, note that yesterday’s crazy antics overshadowed the release of a letter signed by the 10 living former Secretaries of Defense stating that the elections have been decided and that the military should not under any circumstance be involved in any effort to overturn the results. Not something you see under more normal and saner circumstances.

Yeah, crazy days still ahead.

Here’s some good crazy– no, it’s not pie— to cleanse your palate. A little Patsy Cline with her legendary rendition of the Willie Nelson classic, Crazy.



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You can climb a mountain, you can swim the sea
You can jump into the fire but you’ll never be free
You can shake me up or I can break you down
Oh, oh
We can make each other happy
Oh, we can make each other happy
We can make each other happy
Oh, we can make each other happy

Harry Nilsson, Jump Into the Fire



First Sunday of the new year. This coming first week of 2021 may well be one of the ugliest and most dangerous and undemocratic in our history. There is a lot of treachery at hand from those who would abuse our system and rile deadly passions among the populace for purely selfish gains. While I don’t know what might happen in the coming days, I believe we will survive this stress test. We may take some dings and who knows what lasting damage might be done, but we’ll get through.

We’re at a point where words from anyone, let alone mine, won’t have much effect so lets play the first Sunday song of the 2021. Fittingly, it is Jump Into the Fire from the late great Harry Nilsson.

The complete lyrics are above in all their glory. Among his many talents as a songwriter, Nilsson had a genius for taking simple songs and making them memorably powerful. For example, his CoconutYou put de lime in de coconut, you drink ’em bot’ togedder/ Put de lime in de coconut and you feel better— is a one chord song.

One chord. Even a musical moron like me could play it.

Anyway, here’s the song. The little triptych at the top is from way back in 2002 and is called Waiting For the Fire, a not so subtle commentary on the coming weeks.

Have a good day.



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“Culmination”- Now at the West End Gallery



Each man is always in the middle of the surface of the earth and under the zenith of his own hemisphere, and over the centre of the earth.

-Leonardo da Vinci



As we count down the last four days of this excruciatingly long year of 2020, I was looking for a a painting that had to do with the endpoint of things. I immediately thought of the piece shown here, Culmination, that is currently at the West End Gallery.

Its title came about because I saw the path in it as being the trunk of a tree with the paths going off each side as its limbs. The Red Tree at the top was the endpoint of this tree much like each of us are in our own genealogies.

Genealogically, each of us sits at the very top of a pyramid where everyone below us in that pyramid has endured wars, illnesses, pandemic and plague, persecution and imprisonment, and even slavery and holocaust just to get us to this place and time. We are the culmination, the very pinnacle of our family tree. 

For now.

Eventually, we are just part of the trunk with a branch that goes on and on. Or one that breaks off and abruptly ends.

I thought this piece would fit well with the end of this year. So many of the things that came to bear in this strange and awful 2020 were the culmination of events, lives, and organisms that developed and grew– and often worsened– in the years and decades before.

They all seemed to converge to make this year feel like an endpoint, a culmination of some sort.

For some, it was the ultimate endpoint, maybe the end of days as the evangelicals call them. For some, it felt like the end of democracy was all too close to its end here. And this year certainly felt like it marked the end of civil discourse and civility in general.

And of course, for hundreds of thousands of families, the pandemic brought an end to the lives of all too many loved ones. 

2020 was a year that sits atop a pyramid of horrors and atrocities. Hopefully, as it draws to a close later this week, it’s a position it maintains for a long time to come. The year that pushes it further down this monstrous pyramid is not one I wish to endure.

Have a good day, okay?

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