This sentence could be completed in a number of different ways. This is my blog however so I’m going to complete it like this:
The Sum of our collective ignorance can be defined like this:
On Black History Month – “Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I noticed.” – Donald Trump speaking in 2017 about a notable historical figure who is actually dead, and who has been dead for over one hundred years. I suppose one must ascribe Trump’s misuse of proper English to his “degree” from the ivy league’s?
On Gun Rights – “You can look at what the Constitution says, which is what I do.” said Republican Senator JohnBarrasso of Wyoming after his vote to remove the restriction on gun purchases and ownership by individuals with severe mental impairments. I certainly feel safer knowing that highly unstable individuals are not permitted to use the banking system but damn it, they can get a gun! GO‘MERICA!
Lastly, something you’ve GOT to have if we are going to survive the next 4 years of this presidency. A New Wine Purse!
When I was in the second grade, I was placed in a “gifted” program at my elementary school. While I might dispute the validity of that somewhat vague term today, as an 8-year-old this became a few different things to me. On the one hand, it was an opportunity for me to get out of my regular classroom one day each week and go do some things that were actually interesting to me (later it would involve getting on a bus and going to another school building for a day each week). On the other hand, for the first 2 years, it set me up as a target to be picked on and harassed by the various playground bullies I so loathed and ironically whose parents eventually persuaded the teachers that their bully kids were “gifted” too once we got to about the 5th grade.
That first year though was pretty amazing. The way the program was set up, each kid involved got to choose a project that they would then work on over the course of a semester. We would utilize the library, take
field trips, and our parents and teachers would help us learn as much as we could about our chosen topic. At the end, we would give a presentation of our research, complete with models, dioramas, slide shows, and whatever else and we would do this all in front of our peers. It was my first venture into the world of public speaking and for a shy kid, the presentation itself came with all kinds of anxiety. None of it was warranted but 8-year-olds don’t think like that.
When I was 8, I was enamored by outer space, and astronauts, and rockets. My parents had bought me a book about what the “future” might look like. It was complete with pictures and verbal descriptions of giant space stations, villages on the moon and on Mars, flying cars and all sorts of other really cool inventions. Many of them were not all that plausible but looking back it wasn’t really about the plausibility of those concepts becoming reality. It was about opening a child’s eyes to what reality could be. I wanted to be an astronaut. I wanted to do all the things described in this book. For my first project in this “gifted” program, I choose to do research and a presentation on rockets. Those were the vehicles on which I would be able to fly into outer space to my orbiting space colony and from there I’d be in a position to visit
other planets and maybe even other galaxies. I studied early technology, I learned about Robert Goddard and the significant advances he made in rocket technology. Around this time (early 80’s) a show appeared on PBS called Cosmos. It was hosted by Carl Sagan and it was a fascinating series of TV shows dealing with everything from the origins of life on earth to putting some perspective on the Pale Blue Dot we called Earth. To say the least, that series was not only about the things that fascinated me, it became the foundation for my continued love of science, astronomy, discovery, and even photography. That show also introduced to me a man who would later in my life become somewhat of a hero to me.
Carl Sagan was at best agnostic. He was criticized many times for his views on religion and God but he never dismissed the idea that the laws of our universe were not simply illusions. He was incredibly bright, level-headed, philosophical, and even existential. And he was a Pulitzer prize winning author. I’ve read some of his easier books and the most notable thing about his writing is that his words flow so easily. He’s one of the few writers I’ve encountered who can make a single sentence that many English teachers would criticize as a huge run-on sentence and present it as a lusciously flowing and descriptive novel. He had the eyes and the vast knowledge to see reality in ways that were far too complex for many people and today his legacy remains one of forsight and deep thoughts and sadly, still too complex for a lot of people.
I recently came across a quote from his book “The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark” which, even though it showed up in my facebook feed as a Meme, provides some insight in to where his thoughts were then, and what we are seeing in politics right now.
I have a foreboding of an America in my children’s or grandchildren’s time – when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness.
It is with that, I am reminded that resistance of authority that is uniquely unqualified is important, resistance to a situation where submission to ignorance cannot become the norm. We must reflect on our history of that very resistance. We must, as a society seek the truth of our reality and we must not allow our progress as a species and as a nation to regress into the darkness of ignorance and submission. Carl Sagan foresaw our current Trump disaster and we cannot malign and push back the heroes who will step up to defend our progress on this Earth. We have a responsibility to get in the way of those who claim to speak for us when they do no such thing even when they behave like toddlers, unfamiliar and unaccustomed to not getting their way.
I still want to fly to outer space and live on a space station, and drive a flying car. I will not submit my dreams or my fears to the decimation of progress.
Here we are on the second full day of the new Trump Administration and I’m writing like I’ve not done in years. I think I’m inspired to do this sort of thing when there is uncertainty in the air and when I want to express things that I might not normally say verbally out in public. I’m a pretty solid introvert by nature but I don’t mind expressing my views in appropriate circumstances. So here are a few things that have happened in the last 48 hours in the Trump House.
This is pretty scary though at this point I’m treating everything I read with a grain of salt. Scientific discovery is something I would consider to be one of the bedrock foundations of our country. Through it, we have established the most advanced research facilities, care facilities, and healthcare systems in the world. Through it, we have discovered important things from the far reaches of outer space to the depths of our oceans and everything in between. This country has led the way for a century in scientific advancement. Since Trump and his ilk apparently base their lives on #alternativefacts, clearly they have an interest in preventing the public from knowing what our tax dollars fund in the scientific research arena. So much for that cancer cure which nobody will know about now until after the drug companies are finished raping us.
Just hours after Trump was sworn in as our 45th president, certain things began to disappear from the whitehouse.gov web site. Among them, all mentions of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender advances made by the previous administration. I’m not freaking out about this one yet because if I recall, the same sort of thing happened when Obama took office. The web site was scrubbed and subsequently replaced a few weeks later with a revision. That said, Trump has made no friends within my own community through his administration picks. Some of his chosen people are, by public record, some of the most virulent anti-gay forces in politics today. These people would like nothing more than to wipe out anything and everything that was accomplished over the past 8 years under Obama, including marriage equality. Should this start to become apparent we are fortunate to have people who are actually competent on our side.
On Tuesday, surrounded by men with small dicks, Trump re-imposed the “global gag rule” which had been had been last in effect when Ronald Reagan was in office. In short, this rule effectively cuts off all funding for any NGO around the world that provides abortion services even if those organizations provide abortions with their own funds. While I’m not a fan of abortions (why would anyone be?), I am a strong supporter of women having the right to seek them out where they might be performed safely and with the interests of both the mother and potential child in mind. This rule reeks of religion and misogyny, written by men who have absolutely no idea what it means to be a woman. I can’t pretend I do either however I will say as a non-procreating man that the world is too overcrowded as it is. If we are suddenly going to criminalize abortions, then can we at least make a rule to knock off a few of these politicians in office who want government hands out of EVERYTHING except this. Maybe a 1 for 1? I don’t believe in abortion as a form of birth control (education works far better) but for the love of god (who’s God doesn’t matter), there is no man alive who could possibly understand the vast number of reasons abortions should be legal and safe. With this rule now in place, it’s only a matter of time before these folks usurp the rule of settled law in this country and start grabbing as much pussy as they can, after all, they won’t have to pay out the child support judging from the lack of morals seeping out of Washington.
With people now in power who have clearly never seen the benefits of any sort of Art’s education, threats have been made to de-fund the National Endowment for the Arts, The National Endowment for the Humanities and at least 15 other small beans federal agencies or programs in their attempt to “balance” the budget. Entities such as CPB and the NEA are clearly corrupt because (gasp) they enjoy about 500,000,000 (2016) in funding from our Government in the form of grants. That’s way too expensive they cry, as though the nearly 598,500,000,000.00 (53.71%) of government spending on our Military is somehow justifiable. Yes, that’s 598.5 BILLION in 2015 out of the discretionary spending of the United States. Priorities matter. If things keep up like they have over the past 2 days, we’re going to need that Military money to keep the rest of the world from blowing us all sky high! Let me give you some perspective dipshits: Of the 17 programs or agencies on the cutting block, they cost each tax payer a WHOPPING total of $22.36 per year. I’m quite sure that’s a good $10 less than the shitty 2-hour movie you just sat through at the iMax theater.
Like everyone else, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about politics and about where I fit into our national discussion. In my last post, I outlined my early opposition to Donald Trump who, despite my opinion, I still must refer to as President because that is how our institution works. Simply giving him that title does not compel me to swear my allegiance to him or to the policies of this country.
Yesterday during my short breaks at work, I spent some time marveling at the massive crowds demonstrating around the country. I flipped through my Facebook feed observing that nearly all of my female friends and their partners and children were taking part in these demonstrations. Empowerment matters for a variety of reasons and it was clear that this movement, this resistance, has strength.
I’m posting a quote below that I found buried in one of the comments to a Facebook Post about these demonstrations. I think it’s important to understand history and context as we go forward. The ideals of our democracy are important and I am certainly not beyond making the next 4 years debilitating for those at the top. In a huge country among millions of people, it’s easy to lose one’s place. It’s easy to believe that your voice is irrelevant, that nobody else is listening, that you’ve been left behind in some existential movement. Tipping points do not occur without provocation and provocation cannot occur without intent. One of the great things about the type of democracy we live in is that collective groups of people can create change. We’ve been there before. Our history is rife with movements that forced positive change. We are not yet beholden to a dictator and we do not have to tolerate a speedy transition from our democracy to a plutocracy which then becomes only a short step to autocracy. It is through complacency and simple disbelief that we allow that sort of transition to happen right beneath our feet. Clearly, there are millions in our country right now who want to be sure we don’t go down that path and I include myself with them.
I listened as they called my President a Muslim.
I listened as they called him and his family a pack of monkeys.
I listened as they said he wasn’t born here.
I watched as they blocked every single path to progress that they could.
I saw the pictures of him as Hitler.
I watched them shut down the government and hurt the entire nation twice.
I watched them turn their backs on every opportunity to open worthwhile dialog.
I watched them say that they would not even listen to any choice for Supreme Court no matter who the nominee was.
I listened as they openly said that they will oppose him at every turn.
I watched as they did just that.
I paid attention.
Now, I’m being called on to be tolerant.
To move forward.
To denounce protesters.
To “Get over it.”
To accept this…
I will not.
I will do my part to make sure this great American mistake becomes the embarrassing footnote of our history that it deserves to be.
I will do this as quickly as possible every chance I get.
I will do my part to limit the damage that this man can do to my country.
I will watch his every move and point out every single mistake and misdeed in a loud and proud voice.
I will let you know in a loud voice every time this man backs away from a promise he made to them.
Them. The people who voted for him.
The ones who sold their souls and prayed for him to win.
I will do this so that they never forget.
And they will hear me.
They will see it in my eyes when I look at them.
They will hear it in my voice when I talk to them.
They will know that I know who they are.
They will know that I know what they are.
Do not call for my tolerance. I’ve tolerated all I can.
Now it’s their turn to tolerate ridicule.
Be aware, make no mistake about it, every single thing that goes wrong in our country from this day
forward is now Trump’s fault just as much as they thought it was Obama’s.
I find it unreasonable for them to expect from me what they were entirely unwilling to give.”
For a number of years, I’ve tried to avoid discussing politics within the realm of my various blogs. I’m not the type of person who enjoys conflict and really, who am I kidding? Most of my readers are already members of my own choir. Occasionally, however, I’ve received emails or comments from random strangers who either agree or disagree with my assessment of the world. I enjoy those because all said, my world is pretty small. I enjoy a healthy debate about issues. Not the “I’m right and you’re wrong” sort of debates but the type where the debaters have an actual clue what they are talking about. Having said that, it’s appropriate that with the inauguration of a complete lunatic occurring tomorrow, it should be known that I did not vote for Mr. Trump nor do I in any way accept the outcome of the 2016 election in the United States. Since my web sites tend to get recurring hits from various Ukrainian and Russian web bots and script kiddies, I just want to make sure all readers know that I am a US citizen and I have a vested interest in the politics of my country. So then what do my politics consist of?
I voted for Bernie Sanders in the Michigan primary this year. It was the first primary election I had voted in and this year I felt I really needed to be sure and do it. In Michigan, we don’t have a requirement to declare a party affiliation. I’ve always voted for the Democrat in most elections but that doesn’t really mean I don’t have a few “Republican” view points. I also like and support Capitalism but that doesn’t mean that I can’t support aspects of Socialism. Bernie sort of fit into the middle of that. To be honest, I really had no major issues with Hillary Clinton and would have been proud to cast a vote in the primaries for a career politician with a habit of making cronyistic men uncomfortable. In the end, when it was election time, I did cast my vote for her since Bernie had been beaten off the ticket. It was a tough choice for me and in the end, I’d have been happy with either one of them as president. That’s not how things played out.
Tomorrow, January 20, 2017 our country will swear in a man who I first met in person when I was 13 years old. As this blog progresses, readers will pick up various bits and pieces of my past through my story telling. This story is pertinent and should be recorded at least for posterity. Back in 1988 I was in a choir and we had been shuttled to upstate New York to perform at the then sprawling estate of (Lady) Brooke Astor. For what it’s worth, the Astor Estate has now fallen into disrepair and that’s only slightly sad because it was a beautiful home in it’s day. For those not in the know, Wikipedia describes her as an American philanthropist, socialite, and writer who was also chairwoman of the Vincent Astor Foundation. If you still don’t know her, it’d be a good idea to brush up on your American History and read about the Astor name and legacy. In short, she had some bucks and lots of friends in very high places. Myself, I didn’t really grasp that or care all that much at the time, this engagement was just another concert for someone important in hopes of getting some financial support. We were told to be on our best behavior and that our little soiree mattered because we were singing for some very important people. That instruction can be a little complicated for a group of 25 pre-teen boys to get their heads around but we knew what we needed to do because we had done it hundred times before and so we silently got on board with the adult’s request.
I can say with certainty that there are few things that older women like more than watching and listening to angelic little boys sing. When we arrived at the estate we were taken into a parlor (pictured) where we would eventually be singing various Americana selections and we were told to walk around and socialize with those who had gathered. It was then we found out who some of the guests were. Two individuals who stood out to me were Malcolm Forbes and Donald Trump. I knew of Forbes because he had a magazine with his name on it (and was rich). I knew of Trump because his name was plastered on a big golden building on 5th Avenue in New York City. The first thing that struck me about this dynamic duo was that neither of them really looked or behaved like the rest of the “dignified” (and shall we say older) men attending this event. Mr. Forbes was wearing a tie but Mr. Trump was sporting a casual pink pinstripe shirt with the top several buttons undone and a sportcoat, also unbuttoned. It was notable to me that many of the other folks were in more formal attire. Both men had a drink in their hand when I was able to introduce myself and shake their hands. Both men left an impression on me. It wasn’t a star-struck “WOW I can’t believe I just met Donald Trump and Malcolm Forbes” impression either, it was pretty much a “what the fuck did I just see” impression.
The picture to the left shows both Malcolm Forbes and Donald Trump along with the Headmaster of my school and 4 of my classmates. Even at 13 years old I had pretty good idea about what it meant to be a decent human being. Trump didn’t fit that image for me (Forbes really didn’t either) and skipping ahead now 30 years later, he certainly does not match up to my image of a decent person in 2016. I just couldn’t fall in line behind a man who thought it was somehow appropriate to dress down at a formal fundraising event I went to as a kid and I absolutely can not get in line with a man who today has the audacity to “grab em by the pussy” and laugh about it. I get the whole celebrity culture thing but for God’s sake, even gangsters know what a tie is. Because Trump could not bring himself to at least pretend to have a little class and dignity the image of meeting a misogynistic dirty old man stuck with me. Trump entered my field of vision every now and then throughout my growing up years and into adulthood. Whether it was another story of a failed Casino or another bankruptcy or the image of an angry wanna-be blond man sitting in a board room chair that was very clearly too big for him telling kids my age that they were worthless human beings on his TV show, he just wasn’t a believable or even a likeable person. Over the years he continuously struck me as someone who cared very little about anyone but himself. Someone who didn’t have the sense of self to understand that the world didn’t and shouldn’t revolve around him. Someone who, even 30 years ago, could barely put together a coherent sentence and who now we will have the pleasure of watching him fumble his way through State of the Union addresses, embarrassing everyone in America along the way. So, reflecting on my own personal experiences with our soon to be president, there was no way he was going to get my vote. Sadly, my vote against him didn’t matter.
We left the Astor’s Estate that day in a formal double line still wearing our concert attire. While we were waiting to board the bus, as boys tend to be, a scuffle broke out, complete with hitting, tears, and a boy on the ground. Two of my classmates had quite enough with each other, folders were slapped out of hands, music was strewn about on Lady Astor’s driveway and our choir director and manager were distraught with this scene that was unfolding in front of them. There’s always one right? The fight was broken up and we were quickly moved on to the bus and for the next 3 hours we were intently and loudly schooled about what exactly our place was in the world and how expulsion from school was a very real and looming threat that we all needed to think about really hard. We sat in silence for the rest of the way home reflecting on our childish inadequacies, something not entirely lost on me today. The choir got its check and the world kept turning.