Voting in My Dreams

First, I voted early yesterday – hooray!

Then today I woke up dreaming that I worked for Donald Trump, entertaining pets. Except he has none. Weird.

And he was staying in this big, white house – not The White House – and I was advising him that he needed to fly in a gardener to mow the lawn because the grass was weedy and high and it made the house look inelegant for a President to live in.

The pool needed cleaning up too.

Any psychologists out there – have a field day with the dream analysis. And yes, I really was in the midst of dreaming this when…well, nature called.

I love Mother Nature.

I don’t ever recall having had a dream like this before after casting a vote, regardless of whether or not the person I voted for was on the ballot, won or lost.

Except this election IS about Trump because – well – he makes everything about himself. Even when it shouldn’t be.

He MUST steer the national conversation all the time, because if we aren’t talking about him, I think he would cease to exist in his own mind.

Such as when he tweets his “expert” advice about how the World Series should be managed on a day a man took an assault rifle and several other rapid fire guns into a Synagogue and killed 11 people.

His own grandchildren are Jewish; just a reminder.

You would think it would have given him sober-minded pause that was genuine.  It seems not.

(I am no baseball fan, but if someone has pitched seven perfect innings, as the manager, might I not think his arm should have a rest? Especially with more games in the series to be played? Just seems kind of a, well, rational decision to me.)

The point of all this is that I am tired of Trump permeating my thoughts to this degree. Neither Barack Obama nor any of his predecessors ever did.

(I do admit to still being angry at Bill Clinton for all the lying about Monica Lewinsky and the way he called her “that woman,” as if he played no role in what happened between them.  There was about 9 months of hellishnish the country didn’t need and his family didn’t deserve.)

Ah, Presidents. What are you going to do.

Vote early.  Vote absentee.  Vote provisional.  Vote Election Day.

Just vote.

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I Am Satisfied

For those in my cadre of blog followers and curious Twitter readers who have been wondering where my spiritual side has disappeared to amidst recent political posts, let me assure you it is still there.

I continue my ministry activities, which have lessened in leadership positions and increased in worship service, as I am now a Lector, Cantor and occasional choir member at Mass.

I am still active in a social outreach ministry as a mentor, take the minutes of Pastoral Council meetings and lead a study group focused on Marian and Divine Mercy subjects.

My prayer life has suffered inconsistencies, though I speak to Jesus in my head and “at” him to the Divine Mercy image on my altar at home.

Still, this has more to do with personal struggles right now than my social activity regarding politics on Twitter.

It seems I am always running away from Jesus at the times I should be running faster towards him.

That has more to do with my desire to self-isolate when times are tough than a lack of faith or desire to pray. My secular self triumphs over the spiritual in these moments.

And of course, I still struggle mightily with auto-immune dysfunction that has run headlong into aging.  So, to those who don’t mind doing so, please send up a health prayer for me as I am going through a particularly difficult time right now.

Still, on balance, my blessings are greater than my trials.

And my virtual “pen” is still mine to wield.

Yesterday I wrote that words echo down the ages, though I doubted my own would. I say that because I am not a famous person, nor particularly profound.

But I have written poetry that has touched some hearts. I am satisfied. I have tweeted thoughts that have been “liked” or retweeted by a few famous people. I am satisfied. (Not because they are famous people, but for the size of their social platform and the number of others they reach.)

I also have more than a thousand Twitter followers with wide platforms of their own.  I feel “heard.” I am satisfied.

I have a loving family, loving friends, a solid roof over my head, a fairly new car in the drive, food in the fridge, an elderly cat who is living comfortably with palliative care.

I am satisfied.

“My soul is satisfied,
My soul is satisfied;
I am complete in Jesus’ love,
And my soul is satisfied.” *

*Daniel S. Warner, 1893

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“The British Are Coming” and They Are Us

I know I spend too much time on Twitter and that my words may be little more than shouting in the wind.

But sometimes words echo down through the ages.  Not that I believe mine will.

Words have always been my own two-edged sword: my saving grace and my weapon.  “The pen is mightier than the sword” is a motto in which I deeply believe.

Words matter.  This is why so much time and attention is given to what a President says; for its tone, its intent, whether actions and words align.

So as much as Donald Trump may hate it, his words will continue to be parsed, examined, questioned and – yes – criticized.

It goes with the job of being President.  If Trump didn’t have such an “I alone can do it” mantra, there are four past Presidents alive today with whom he might commiserate.

Sometimes my words on Twitter are too impassioned.  But only because my passion for the salvation of my country has never been as urgent as it is now.

I fear for it as I did when I was a child. I remember pictures of the Cuban missile crisis being beamed over our black and white console TV, the Russian ships moving inexorably toward Cuba, the footprints of missile sites being shown, the intonation of Walter Cronkite’s words.

I was only seven, but that is old enough to comprehend when life as you know it might be forever altered.

Our country was in danger; that was all the knowledge I needed.

Today I feel much the same way as I watch TV footage of the shooting of the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.

It follows a week in which more than a dozen pipe bombs were mailed in an assassination attempt against top former Democratic officials, including two past Presidents, a VP, Secretary of State, Attorney General, sitting Congress people and an actor.

Right now, I would say I don’t recognize the country I live in, but I have seen this before: it is an amplified version of the Civil Rights, anti-Vietnam and Watergate eras at one in the same moment.

I know the amplification comes from having so much choice in cable channels and social media platforms.

But it also comes from an inability and an unwillingness of those governing this country to reach across the aisle and come up with real solutions for the problems that beleaguer us.

Perhaps with my Twitter feed and this blog, I am part of the amplification problem.  I don’t know.

Trust me, there are plenty of other things I would rather be doing than this. It is neither a peaceful nor stress-less way to spend one’s time. I would rather cuddle up, watch a movie and drink hot chocolate now that winter is nudging at the door.

But inside, I feel like I am one of many Paul Reveres spreading the warning that “The British are coming.”

The problem is, this time the British are us.

(Photo from srcalifornia.com on Pinterest)

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Our “Better Angels” Have Fled Us

I cannot believe on a day when two past Presidents, a past Secretary of State, a former Attorney General and a former head of National Intelligence were targeted with mailed pipe bombs, our current President is going through with one of his WWE-style campaign rallies in Speaker Paul Ryan’s state of Wisconsin.

More unbelievably, those awaiting his arrival are continuing to chant “lock her up.”

Human decency has been aborted by those who claim to defend the right to life.

There are fewer “better angels” among us any more because the GOP is no longer the Party of Lincoln. Or even of Reagan or either Bushes.

We no longer live in the “United” States Lincoln gave his life to preserve. He also gave his life for the Republican Party. And it has taken that gift and treated it as if it were trash.

For what? Tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations? Control of the Supreme Court?

Well congratulations. It has only cost us everything else we have ever been or aspired to be.

I am so angry at where this country has landed in just two short years. The only thing I have left to cling to is the knowledge I DID NOT VOTE FOR THIS.  I refused to give my vote to Trump and departed a GOP voting record that stretched from Reagan through Romney.

I refused to sell my soul or dilute my vote by giving it to  someone other than Hillary Clinton. Do I think she was a perfect choice? No. But I could clearly see she was the much better one.

I am equally angry at the GOP’s Congressional leaders and every member of the Republican House and Senate.  Cowards, enablers and opportunists all.

(Apologies to Jeff Flake, Lisa Murkwski, Ben Sasse and Marco Rubio – you have your moments, but you are each complicit too.  You are not consistent in trying to stop the great evil you know is befalling this nation.)

I am aging.  In a few decades, I will be dust.

But my son and daughter-in-law, my nieces and nephews and their children will still be here.  I fear for their futures.

All I can do now is Vote 💙 and pray.

I hope the majority among you will join me.

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Melting Dreams

I don’t remember the exact quote from Hubble’s essay. It was something about how things had always come too easily for his protagonist.  That he lived in a country of ice cream dreams that were melting. Or something like that.

If Robert Redford’s character didn’t say that exactly in The Way We Were, he should have. It would have been prescient.

Because we have been a country of ice cream dreams. And we are melting.

I don’t remember too much about the 50s. I was a toddler. My memories start pretty much at kindergarten.  I entered First Grade in 1960.

Everyone had a shining vision of our country then.  The American dream was still possible even for a poorer family like mine.

In my family, the arguments were about the Chicago Cubs versus the Detroit Tigers versus the St. Louis Cardinals.  Politics didn’t enter into our daily considerations except in a Presidential election year.

My mother, anti-Catholic though she was (boy would she be mad at me now!), she LOVED JFK.  We were not a Goldwater family either.

In fact, the only political argument I remember before Trump was one I had with another Fourth Grade student. Her family was FOR Goldwater.  Maybe most in my small town were.

Hey, it was Northeastern Indiana.  Fort Wayne was the “big city.”  Corn was growing everywhere.  I knew only a couple of people rebellious enough to smoke pot in high school.  I wouldn’t even drink 3.2 beer from Ohio!

Of course my parents were against “hippies,” even if I can remember watching Laugh-In with my Mom.  We watched Gunsmoke and Perry Mason too.

Most startlingly, she let me watch The Defenders during the season TV first aired the word “abortion” in a script.  It aired in 1962 ( I was seven) and was called “The Benefactor.”  It was a storyline about lawyers defending a doctor who performs abortions.

I guess my Mom was more progressive than I thought.  Then again, like I said, I was seven. She probably didn’t expect the program would make an impact on me and thought the concept would go over my head.  But the show did and the word didn’t.

Maybe it was because I grew up being told that my birth mother didn’t want me.  So the idea of someone not wanting their own child has always been a scary proposition to me.

So yes, I believe life begins at conception.  Since I was seven. And I believe in human dignity across life’s spectrum.  For everyone, regardless of race, sex, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, sexual identity, age, and all that jazz.

I think Jesus is with me on this one.

Contraception might be another matter.  I believe in the use of condoms, for reasons of health as much as anything.  And I have no problem with scientific advances that allow infertile couples to have children.  Though I wish more people would consider adoption, too.

I can imagine a person being so worn out from chronic or a devastating illness that they might choose to end their life.  I personally don’t believe in prolonged efforts to extend life. I believe in natural death.

So I am liberal in some regards, more conservative in others.  I guess I am a political unicorn, that vanishing thing called a centrist.

This year, for the first time in decades, I will #VoteBlue.  As I told a friend this morning, I would rather bring a conservative perspective  on abortion to a party that gets all the other human rights issues correct.  Sadly, that is no longer the GOP in the time of Trump.

I hear so many people say they don’t like his style but they like his policies.

When you have to give up every value of human decency just to have tax cuts for the rich and corporate America, that is a bridge I choose not to cross.

When you dangle the lives of DREAMers like a cat toy that you intend never be “caught” because it is too good a political weapon, that is a bridge I choose not to cross.

When you are okay with human vivisection because the Saudis MIGHT buy weapons of war from you, that is a bridge I choose not to cross.

When you pull out of a nuclear treaty with Russia on a whim and start talking about expanding nuclear armament and starting another Cold War that could turn hot,  that is a bridge I choose not to cross.

When you say the press is the enemy of the people and celebrate a Congressman who was convicted of misdemeanor assault against a journalist, that is a bridge I choose not to cross.

When you are willing to give cover to a President and say he was just kidding when he brings that incident up in celebratory fashion at a rally, that is a bridge I choose not to cross.

When you are willing to let the President pepper the people with daily lies, obstruct justice, violate the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, that is a bridge I choose not to cross.

When you are told peaceful protesting with signs is “mob rule” while Nazis march with Tiki torches in Charlottesville and get a pass, that is a bridge I choose not to cross.  Especially when one of the Nazis runs over and kills a woman.

When our kids can’t go peacefully to school unless their teachers are armed, that is a bridge I choose not to cross.

When the richest country in the world wants to make healthcare, education, homeownership and retirement a benefit for the privileged few, that is a bridge I choose not to cross.

Fortunately, mine is a faith that says when my conscience tells me a preponderance of evidence shows a candidate does not value the total experience and dignity of human life, even if that candidate is anti-abortion, it is okay to vote for the candidate who isn’t.

While some Catholics think we are a one-issue Church, our universality fortunately is proof we are not.

And when your ice cream dream of your country has melted, you have to vote to save it to keep the authoritarian sea at bay.  That is the bridge you must cross.

And your vote is the only life-preserver you’ve got.

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Desert of the Spirit

Like most of the world, I am aghast at the horrifying death of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.  The horrible way in which he is presumed to have died is unthinkable – yet it happened.

Unlike President Donald Trump, I don’t think Khashoggi “appears” to be dead.  I am certain of it.  The reporting has been too consistent on the details from all credible sources that are not Fox News. ( As a former reporter, let me assure you that the way journalism works, the more media outlets that confirm and report the EXACT same findings, the LESS the likelihood that news is “fake.”)

Meanwhile, Fox evidently is helping spread conspiracy theories to defame Khashoggi, as if that somehow makes it justified to kill another human being by vivisection.

Because of the many horrible ways to die, to be cut apart while still alive has to be the equivalent of being burned at the stake or crucified.

But Trump cannot internalize that horror.  At a rally in Montana tonight, he gloated in the admitted  misdemeanor assault Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-MT) visited on a reporter by clotheslining the journalist while Gianforte was running for Congress.

But somehow is it is the Democrats – not the Republicans – who are the “unruly mob.”

Trump’s violent rhetoric will someday visit violence on a journalist on our own soil. If he finds it “unfortunate” that the world is taking notice of what Saudi Arabia’s rulers have done to Khashoggi, he will wither under the glare of attention that will be focused on him should a death of a U.S. reporter be committed on our own soil.

When a supposed Christian leader goes on the 700 Club and says that arms sales to Saudi Arabia are more important than murder, you know that God is doing a face plant emoji at the total desecration of the Ten Commandments by those who proclaim His Word to millions on TV.

“Thou shalt not kill” is pretty specific and unambiguous on God’s list of the top ten things in life you shouldn’t do in order to live according to Divine Law.

In fact, when it comes to weapons of war, God’s own opinion about war and its weapons is made plain:

“And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.” (Isaiah 2:4)

One cannot help but hope that one day God will rebuke a President that places so little on the value of a human life and so much on an arms deal that hasn’t even gotten beyond a statement of intent – as well as a televangelist who clearly feels the same.

For theirs is a desert of the spirit where God’s commands are covered by the sands of war’s spoils.

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Aging Backwards

Like Benjamin Button, I am aging backwards – at least politically.

As one ages, supposedly one’s politics become more conservative.  While I voted Republican for many years, I now find myself – two years into Trump’s Presidency – wondering how or why I ever could.

Perhaps it was spending too many years in the lower level echelons of staff management positions in corporate America.  Most especially in my days at Pacific Gas and Electric in media relations and other PR positions.

While the company certainly courted politicians of both parties (I was among a group of PG&Eers to have drinks with John Kerry in a San Francisco hotel bar one evening), during the 80’s when I worked there, the internal political preference was decidedly Republican.

For example, the SF Corporate Communications group was in awe of itself at being able to claim Caspar Weinberger’s daughter on staff.  I don’t think it would have mattered if she put in a lick of work or not, they were just so happy to cite the association.

But when I think back on what the GOP itself really stood for in terms of policy and practice, it didn’t match my id on social justice issues, especially after the Tea Party came to power.

But then again, I was more busy living my own life than in thinking about the fate of the world back then.  Decency and democratic ideals did not seem quite so imperiled as they do today.

Even Reagan could use the words “shining city on a hill” and sound genuine about it.

I also wasn’t active on Twitter.  It has put me back in touch with my journalistic roots.  I take personal offense when Trump calls the media “enemies of the people,” even though my press credentials from California show them to be from 30+ years ago.

It was a time in my life when I felt what I was doing – even in the journalistic microcosm of a community newspaper – counted for something larger than myself.  It felt like I was of service, the way I do now in my Ministry outreach work through Church.

My personal idealism feels revived and more akin to how I saw life as an 18-year-old embarking on adulthood.  I feel more clear-eyed in my political thinking again, the way it felt before all the compromises of living and earning a living set in.

At 65, I have nothing left to prove and no one to impress.  It is a new mantra I am trying to hold onto because it frees me to do what I really want to do and express how I really feel.  I am once again authentic, like the Velveteen Rabbit after its furry coat has been made shiny.

I am also evolving and exploring things like Millennial political thought.  Yes, I realize I am part of the gerontological group they feel is depriving them of a future.  Baby Boomer = Bust to them.

But those who have been made politically aware by school shootings and other societal ills remind me of my generation in its youth, before we became prosperous and  satisfied with the quo of our status in life.

I pray the same does not happen to Millennials as they age.  Even if they have killed off Kraft food cheese slices.

So I guess that adage about never being too old to learn something new is full of truth.

After all, I am even following Taylor Swift on Twitter now.

Aging backwards should be interesting.

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After Kavanaugh: Warrior’s Pose

It is Sunday night of the Kavanaugh confirmation weekend.

I have been to Mass.  I will do yoga before bed.  I am ready for some spiritual healing.

But I am not ready to give up.  I am not willing to stand idly by and let Donald Trump ruin the principles and institutions on which this country was founded.

As the current party of power, I am not willing to let the GOP – now the Party of Trump – take us all down the Vichy path.

We already know where that path leads. To an authoritarianism based on one’s skin color and place of prestige in society.  To fascism, which my Dictionary app defines as “a governmental system led by a dictator having complete power, forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism, regimenting all industry, commerce, etc., and emphasizing an aggressive nationalism and often racism.”

We aren’t completely there yet, but we already hit many notes along the political scale:

  • A dictator having complete power.  While he is not there yet, Trump admires dictators much more than those of representative governments.  And with the GOP controlling both the House and the Senate; with a nominally Republican Executive Branch;  and with the Supreme Court now shaped in the image of Mitch McConnell and the ideology of the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation; Trump certainly has more power available to him than one would have supposed in 2016 when he was first sworn in.
  • Forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism. While we are not yet at the point of “disappearing” journalists and leaders of government institutions, we have a President who will denigrate anyone, anytime, any place, so long as he can get the crowd to scream ‘lock her up” and get them to laugh at the expense of a survivor of sexual assault for their entertainment. (GOP women, if you think this one day won’t extend to you, you are kidding yourselves.) Now women who march in protest, who confront Congress in its halls to register their positions on issues that matter to them are “mobs.”  It would be one thing if it were just Trump doing this. But McConnell, Senators Lindsey Graham and John Cornyn and others have followed him over the cliff. And they think somehow they won’t be crushed on history’s rocks for doing it.  Then of course, there are the “enemy of the people,” aka any reporter not working for Fox News. No need to belabor that point.
  • Regimenting all industry and commerce: With his tariffs and trade wars, with his desire to restore industries that long ago passed from the economy, Trump is trying to return us to our manufacturing past.  But that is not our future. Nor is it the way the free enterprise system works. Nor can we put the global genie back in the bottle, despite trying to destroy things like net neutrality and every trade agreement of the last 70 years. As our economic opportunities have evolved, the world has become smaller in its interconnection of the supply chain. Trump is trying to re-forge it. I am just wondering what products and services we will do without going forward because companies cannot get the materials or intellectual talent we need.  Perhaps we will all be eating soybeans for breakfast, lunch and dinner going forward. Start ginning up recipes for their use, oh ye chefs.
  • Emphasizing an aggressive nationalism and often racism.  Well, when your slogan to your European allies is “America First,” and you have actually turned Canada into an enemy, I think that covers the “aggressive nationalism” pretty well. And when you are dogged about building a physical wall on our southern border when what is really needed is greater cyber security walls, well, your eye is on the wrong ball. Speaking of balls, scapegoating NFL players for kneeling quietly in protest during the national anthem to protest high-profile shootings of 12-year-olds like Tamir Rice because he was holding a toy gun…yes, that will likely create racial division and stoke tensions. We don’t even need to revisit Charlottesville.

I know all these things have been written about before. And there are plenty of better educated writers on the subject of totalitarian governments than I with more comprehensive credentials  and experiences than my own.

But if I, a 65-year-old retiree sitting here in my suburban Atlanta living room can see the eve of the destruction of the Party of Lincoln, why can’t its leaders?

I don’t know how to make all this stop. All I can do is prepare myself spiritually, mentally, emotionally and morally for what is to come:

  • To be willing to speak at the risk of being labeled a “witch” by Vladimir Putin and to protest while alleged to be paid by George Soros. ( Gee, don’t I wish!  It is tough living on fixed income. Anyone have his number?)
  • To be told that because I stand in solidarity with other women who have been sexually assaulted and harassed, I am either “trailer trash” according to Graham, or part of a radical mob ( McConnell.)

One thing my spiritual life has taught me is to have faith, show mercy and pray for God’s grace and provision.

What I have re-learned in the last two years is the power of my voice, my vote and my convictions.

What I have learned from history is that one never gives up and never gives in to a government that would suppress its citizens in any way.

Especially from a podium at a rally that has the air of a circus of hate, rage and derision.

Especially that.

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