Angels Among Us

Who are we in this moment of history?

According to three different polls, fortunately a vast majority of us still seem to be capable in the Trump Era of being outraged at the latest assault against our system of values.

That makes us the Moral Majority on this day.

Even the most conservative of Republicans willing to give carte blanche to Donald Trump seem to find the sight of children in cages abhorrent.

Hallelujah. For now.

Because I am afraid it won’t last.  Not as long as Trump can find the next spectacle to shock, awe and amaze us. He enjoys it.

I am also afraid it won’t last because at the signing of today’s executive order saying families seeking asylum won’t be separated for the next 20 days, Trump felt the need to go round the table so everyone could offer him high praise for rescinding an immoral policy he himself instituted.

So long as the GOP now sees it’s primary job as ministering to the fragile ego that is Trump’s, their will to govern and produce legislative results will be sapped and drained.

Trump is exhausting that way.

Unless one actually becomes co-opted into his alternative universe.  Then they just become evil henchmen, a la Devin Nunes  and Rudy Guiliani.  Kirstjen Nielsen and Nikki Haley.

Except for Stephen Miller. Sadly he seems to have been born without a soul.  Which makes him the perfect soul-less mate to his former mentor, Jeff Sessions

None of this will solve what is broken in our immigration system.  Nor will it resolve the fact there is no plan in place to reunite nearly 2,000 children already taken by DHS with parents who may be thousands of miles away or deported back to their countries of origin.

But at least for one day out of the more than 500 that Trump has been POTUS, we sided with our better angels.

And tomorrow a baby won’t be ripped from the arms of a nursing mother by the party of family values.

Love, Lonliness and Loss

The desire to be loved is a powerful thing.  It can drive your heart to believe it is making the right choices even when your head is telling you you’re not.

I don’t know whether loneliness drives this desire or whether the desire to be loved -and the not having it- drives the loneliness.

Perhaps they are part of the same infinity sign that is the lot of the soul. I just know I have had these feelings since childhood and they have never been completely satisfied, at least not so far on this earth.

Oh I have had moments, but they have been fleeting. Even in my relationship with Christ it is not an ever abiding presence which I can count on feeling.

That insufficiency is on my part, I am sure, and not on His.

Confession is supposed to be good for the soul.  I don’t know about that. But at least it is honest.

So this is where I confess, dear reader, that I went back and let myself get caught in the Fisherman’s net.  Because he knew how to talk about love as if it were a sacrament, and abiding love between husband and wife is the only one that seemed so out of reach to me until he came along.

Yes, I ended up losing money to him.  Not that I could afford it.  But that’s just money. It comes and goes, ebbs and flows on the tide of life’s fortunes,

I gained something though. A new closeness to my son, as I explained what had happened and why to him.  It was the first time I had talked about my depression to him, about the moments when I wish I could simply disappear from the world so the pain will stop. About how tempting that bottle of pills really looks.

A non-believer, he said something to me that made a lot of sense from his world-view. He said “Mom, I don’t remember anything before I was born, and I won’t remember anything after I die.  This is it.  This time is what I get.” So even when life is at its most difficult for him, this is the thought that sustains him.  That this is the what is.

I pray that he is wrong in his conclusion, that there is an eternity through communion in Christ that does await us if we can keep faith with that thought.

But I recently read something that gave me a different perspective on what Christ’s eternal presence means.  It means that the Christ who lives through us now and will live in those to whom we bring Him is an eternity of its own if we are willing to reach out and share Him.

In that regard, my son is very right. This is the time I have been given to share the Jesus within me with others.

Perhaps I will never be so lucky as to do that in the sacrament of marriage in the fullness of faith as I have come to know it.

I just know that was what I had to offer the Fisherman.

And though he gained some dollars from me, he has lost that time of communion with me and the Lord he had professed to believe in.

And he is poorer, not richer, for it.

Death Notes

It seems surreal that people like Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain would commit suicide.

Yet it also feels very familiar.

You see I tried it once.  And occasionally the idea still tugs at me, even though my life has been blessed at times in ways other people might envy.

It has never been golden, but my life has had its share of silver linings.

Yet that has never made me feel like I “belong.” I have seldom felt that with those who have peopled my life. Even those closest to me. Sometimes those I have loved most especially.

I don’t know if I am this way due to nature or nurture.  In personality tests, I always come out as “melancholy” in temperament.  I am a watchful person.  The slightest perception of displeasure or annoyance I see is a blip on my emotional radar headed my direction.

If I value your opinion of me, it is like a knife to the heart.  If I don’t, it is confirmation that I am right that you dislike me. Either way, a gap exists between us I fear will never be bridged.

If I am imperfect in any way, it is a negation of my very being.  I cannot stand to watch people see my flaws  I live in desperate fear they will find them out and spread the word of my unworth.  If I had a leper’s shroud, I would hold it very tightly round me, hoping for invisibility.

Yet there are times when there is a definite disconnect between the manner I project and how I really feel inside.

I can make a show of self-confidence that doesn’t really exist.  I can fight to make my ideas heard, to prove myself the only person at the table with the right point of view.

Yet I am very insecure.  If people only really knew.

At my worst moments, I am either completely raw – like a hurricane has ravaged me to my core – or totally blank, with praise and compliments rolling off me like rain sliding down a window pane.

Either I take too much in, or I take in nothing at all.  It is disconcerting to on the one hand feel too much too deeply, and on the other hand be numb to any positive feeling.

I had a boss once who said that every employee was like a finger plunged into a bucket of water.  Remove the finger, and it was like you were never even there.  Your presence would be displaced by the water rushing back toward itself.

The displacement your presence made was relevant only so long as you were in the environment.  Go away, and it is as if you never were.

I think that is why my writing has always been so important to me.  It is the one part of me that is indelible, that claims my existence, that says I was here and I had something uniquely my own to say.

Yet I procrastinated for years to put my poems together in publishable manuscripts.  I was so afraid they were words put together in a melody that would never make anyone else’s soul sing the way they did my own.

But I finally did it.  For as long as the Library of Congress exists, my manuscripts will be there on a shelf somewhere; my ISBN numbers catalogued.

Visiting my parents’ grave site for the first time in 20 plus years last May, I learned that names and dates on headstones fade.

But words put down on paper have permanence, if only for the moment they are thought and given form.

It is a slender thread to hold onto for someone who doesn’t always feel like holding onto her own life.

But it is better than being completely untethered by gravity at all.

 

 

 

Inequality Under the Law

Before falling asleep last night I -surprise- watched a movie.

No, not a Turner Classic, but a Netflix film starring Jeremy Renner called “Wind River.”

In it he plays a Fish and Wildlife services tracker helping an FBI agent ( Elizabeth Olsen) hunt an 18-year-old woman living on a Wyoming reservation and gone missing. He has found her body, and they are searching for her killers.

While chilling, the story told didn’t get to me nearly as much as the statistic cited at the end.

It stated that “While missing person statistics are compiled for every other demographic, none exist for Native American women.”

Think about it. As a country, we are saying that a class of citizen is so lacking in value to us, we do not care what happens to them.

This movie wasn’t made in 1917, but in 2017. Just one year ago.

This morning on my Twitter feed,  I was treated to the photo of a 10-year-old boy, crying and handcuffed in front of a police car unnecessarily.  He was “misidentified” by police.  He was black.

As I write this, Republicans on Capitol Hill have finished a conference on DACA.  They remain as split on what should be done to remedy this issue as ever.  Some cannot abide a pathway to citizenship for young people of brown color who have been raised and educated here, who consider this country their home and who have much to contribute to its future.  All because they are brown and their parents risked everything to give them opportunities they themselves never had by crossing a border.

Yes, yesterday Alice Marie Johnson, a black woman incarcerated for life for a first time drug offense, received a Presidential commutation of sentence that freed her to join her family.

But only because a famous white woman with the cachet to get into the White House pled her case, not because the Trump Administration has come up with a comprehensive plan for a prison  system so broken it perhaps should be razed and rebuilt.

And only because a rich white man – Charles Kushner – committed a crime that cost him a few years in prison and his privileged son, Jared – who happens to be the President’s son-in-law – also pled the case because he feels his father was unjustly found guilty. Ergo Jared has a new- found passion for prison reform that had his own father not been jailed would probably not even register with him.

I have read enough history not to have illusions ours is a perfect country. It never has been.  It never will be.

But I have always believed that we are a country that strives in each generation to be better than we were. To be more democratic in our principles, more inclusive in our lifestyle, more dedicated to the proposition that every person has the right to be treated with dignity, compassion and equality.

I just wish our country were being led by a President who believed in these things too.

 

 

 

The Real Definition of the Trump Era

Antidisestablishmentarianism.

When I was a kid, this was generally considered the longest word any of us knew existed. The ability to spell it made you the school genius.

But at nine or ten years old, it wasn’t a word of which any of us knew the meaning. It was just a big, cool, long word to say. Kind of like “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.”

Yet of all the words defined by the Dictionary, antidisestablishmentarianism most perfectly fits the description of the era in which we live.

Antidisestablishmentarianism is defined as “a policy or attitude that views a nation’s power structure as corrupt, repressive, exploitive, etc.”

Ironically, it seems to be every citizen’s view about our government these days, whether one supports Donald Trump’s Presidency, is opposed to it, or has managed to stay blasé on the subject.

With his rally cries of “drain the swamp,” Trump clearly speaks to those who view our system of government as corrupt. While I would argue that any government is inherently corruptible, that doesn’t mean the entire structure – and its functionaries – are inherently corrupt.

As in any environment, the culture developed by leadership plus the personal morality of those involved can result in systemic corruption.  Or it cannot.

Those in the anti-Trump #Resistance movement ( full disclosure, I am personally resistant to Trump’s Presidency) would say his administration deserves this title based on its exploitive nature, particularly as it stems from the Trump family’s monetization of the Presidency while in office.

All Presidents and high level officials ( even lower level employees) cash in on the cachet of having walked in the halls of our nation’s power and of having rubbed elbows with those who wield it.

But never have our policies ( such as bailing out China on the ZTE issue) so collided with Trump business interests (the nearly same day approval of Ivanka Trump’s Chinese trademarks for her eponymous fashion line).

She has not divested herself of -or put into blind trust- her own business interests, yet holds a White House staff position and highest level security clearance. Nor has her husband, Jared Kushner, of 666 Fifth Avenue fame.

But in fairness, neither has her father. And he is the President. Reservations at the Trump Hotel in D.C., everyone looking to curry Presidential favor?

Which leaves us with the word “repressive” in the definition.  While we are not there yet, we certainly have a President that would love to be repressive with regard to the First Amendment.  And a GOP that has a membership that would like to repress certain civil liberties that have been fought for and attained over the decades.

The word “regressive” is not listed, but for this administration, it should be.  In a technologically interconnected world, the isolationist trade policies of this administration, and its unwillingness to continue with thoughtful, forward-looking agreements with our allies on issues like the Paris Climate Accord, are indeed regressive.

Calling Canada a national security threat? That’s just plain old dumb.

And just for the record: I will argue that the Attorney General is the nation’s highest law enforcement figure in the land. And Congress creates the laws. The President can sign them into law or veto them, but Congress still has the power to override the veto.

Presidential powers may be broad, but they are not limitless.  I don’t care what Donald Trump’s attorneys posit in a memo.

None of this is what the Founding Father’s envisioned for our nation.  Their ghostly figures are, in fact, wandering the halls of national power, shaking their heads and moaning a warning in the same way Marley warned Ebenezer Scrooge of the folly of his business tactics.

And blood is seeping up from the ground of our national cemeteries.  It is the blood spilled by those who have died over the past 200 years to defend our Constitutional freedoms and democratic ideals, both at home and abroad.

But Lady Liberty still stands in New York Harbor, her torch held high for the world to see.

I am placing my hope in her and everything she represents.

 

 

Paul Ryan’s Chalkboard Cindy: A Tale of Tax and Tariff Woe

Am I the only one who cares that things are getting worse for Chalkboard Cindy instead of better under the “winning” strategies of Donald Trump and the GOP’s economic, tax and trade policies?

Maybe it is because I once was somewhat akin to Chalkboard Cindy that I have so much empathy for this simple cartoon outline introduced by House Speaker Paul Ryan early in his PR campaign for the tax cuts enacted in 2018.

Ryan suggested Cindy was a single parent with a salary of about $30,000 per year. In my experience, that is the salary of a fast food restaurant manager or an executive assistant at an Atlanta regional business. Plus modest benefits.

He said Cindy could expect about $400 in tax savings.  I figure this as the equivalent of $7.69 per week in wage, or about a 19 cent per hour raise if Cindy were working a 40 hour per week job ( which, in low-level, exempt management positions, I -er- she, didn’t/doesn’t.)

At first I figured Cindy could get a new set of tires for her car. Then, remembering I paid about $1,000 for the new set I put on in 2015, I downgraded Cindy to a set of re-treads. Or one brand new tire.

But with gas at close to $3 per gallon as of yesterday, I must further downgrade Cindy’s situation.  Her tires, I am sure, are all bald, forcing her to drive in a dangerous situation, especially given nearly two weeks of tropical style rain showers.

Should those tires fail her on a drive to work, or she have an accident due to hydroplaning, Cindy becomes potentially unemployable.  If this happens, she may seek public benefits like food stamps, Section 8 housing assistance and Medicaid benefits. She goes from self-sustaining to welfare “queen” in a heartbeat. Or rather a tire mishap.

Providing she hadn’t already availed herself of such public benefits due to her already low salary and parental responsibilities.

Now we are headed into a trade war with our two closest neighbors over products our factories are no longer tooled or staffed to make at an ability to sustain product demand and at a cost that will keep consumer prices attractive.

But we will give China a bailout on ZTE by lifting a ban on using U.S. technology imposed because the Chinese cell phone maker has dealt with FIVE countries under U.S. sanction: Iran, North Korea, Cuba, Syria, and Sudan.

Trump is doing this because it will throw too many Chinese workers out of employment ( along with the fact that, according to dallasnews.com, “The tech industry is a vast and intertwined network of developers, designers, distributors and the like” worldwide.)

Plus it can be “ a technological feat to navigate this network while also complying with American sanctions,” the news site adds.

What about Cindy’s job and how she has worked herself sick in order to support her child by driving around in the rain on bald tires for an extra 19 cents an hour?

At what point does she matter to Trump, Ryan, et al?

Maybe that was why Ryan made her a chalkboard outline instead of introducing a real-life Cindy during his PR campaign.

Because they don’t care about Cindy – or many of the rest of us.