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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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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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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90 Day Challenge: Days 33 & 34 Unity of Truth Or A House Divided

“To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.  Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)
We are living in an era where facts and expertise are being increasingly disregarded.
We are living in a country where one political party is relying in faith on a man who claims “I alone can do it” while feeding us a daily diet of falsity.
Ironically, this is the political party to which Evangelicals and “conservative” Christians tend to gravitate. (Full truth disclosure: until 2016, I was among them.)
That they place such blind allegiance in any human being is idolatry.  That they would think someone who says “I alone can do it” is operating in a state of truth and grace is delusional.
The truth is we are a “body” politic, just as we, as Christians, are the “body” of Christ.
In their wisdom, the Founding Fathers made us a federation of states who are supposed to come together for the common good of ALL – not to stack the deck in favor of the privileged few.
It is the same discipleship principle we are to use as followers of Christ.
Just as we as believers give ourselves to Christ, we as citizens give ourselves to the nation – not to the Oval Office holder. He is not God
The purpose of the Executive Branch of government is to ensure the administration of the laws enacted by Congress, and to secure the nation from outside threat to its existence.
But even the President cannot declare war without the advice and consent of Congress.  It was meant to be this way.
We are a representative government, not the tool of an autocrat to secure his power and wealth, to dictate how this country should or shouldn’t be defined – by its borders, inclusivity or toleration.
For those of us who believe in Christ, there truly was only “one man” who could save us.
And he has already done it.
Any other person who comes along and claims to be “savior” is either a false prophet or worse.
We have had one too many of those recently, imho.
And we have him because somewhere in the course of our country’s history, we slowly gave too much of ourselves to other Presidents before him.
It is time to return to the roots of what representative government truly means.
That can’t come from the fringes or the dark web conspiracy theorists. The blood of the body is not pumped from the fingertips, but from the center, where the heart resides.
We must go back in order to move forward.  We must remember what it is like to agree on the common good.  Yes, that takes that dirtiest of political words – compromise.
But we will be better off as a nation for it.
Because, as Lincoln so famously intoned:  “A house divided against itself, cannot stand.”
Either we re-learn how to stand together – or it all comes crashing down.  It is our choice.
We alone can make.
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A Third Political Party: Now Is the Time

Our government is not operating quite as the Founding Fathers intended.

But it is not beyond correction. Yet.

They intended ours to be a system of checks and balances so that no one branch of government held more power than the rest.

That is difficult to do in an era where one party holds all power and are cowed by the rhetoric of the leader of the Executive Branch to speak out and balance his actions so that they do not lead us to an “Imperial” Presidency.

Which is why perhaps it is time for the formal founding of a third political party.

Both the GOP and the Democrats have shown there are deep divisions within their ranks that make them unable to exercise the bi-partisanship and willingness to compromise in the governance of a country too large and diverse to hold onto extremist left or right views and accomplish anything of benefit for the people.

And as Abraham Lincoln so eloquently said, ours is to be a country “of the people, by the people, for the people.”

And too many of the people continue to be disregarded in the political environment we have experienced since the 2010 midterms.

I would like to see the idea of being “moderate” or “centrist” in your political views stop being anathema.

By being thoughtful, by not being rigid and at the far of either ends of the political spectrum are we to find the only chance that the way we govern benefits the greatest majority of the people.

I realize that an established third party with genuine political clout leads us more into a parliamentary style of governance. But other countries do it and retain their democratic values.

This is different from claiming to be an “Independent,” which is an individualistic stance that says “I will vote for whichever party I feel is best reflecting my personal preferences, beliefs and needs” of the moment.

It will not lead to good governance.

Only when we recognize that as a country, we are also bound together as a community -as diverse as that community is- will we ever get back to a state of rational government in the United States.

Thomas Jefferson, who wrote the Declaration of Independence and helped craft our Constitution, said this about governance:

“The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only object of good governance.”

FDR said “The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and senators and congressmen and government officials, but the voters of this country “

But perhaps it is Mark Twain who offers the most practical view of all: “Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.”

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.

 

 

Firing a Priest

The prayer petition of Rev. Patrick J. Conroy, SJ, that Congressional leaders heard sometime before voting on a corporate tax cut that will explode the deficit was not that different from those I frequently hear at Mass in the Atlanta suburb where I worship.

That he invited an Imam to offer Muslim prayer is consistent with the ecumenism I have seen practiced in my own and other area Churches.

That a priest is not qualified to speak to the needs of families is an interesting argument for his dismissal. However it flies in the face of the gravity the Catholic Church places on the Sacrament of marriage and the role of the family in the life of the Church as the body of Christ.

It is also laughable considering it has been a mere three years since Pope Francis attended the Church’s World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love and the incubator for our system of government. (This meeting will be held in 2018 in Dublin.)

Simplified, the Catechism says this about family: (2204-2206) “The Christian family is “the domestic” church…The Christian family is a sign of the communion of the Trinity. In procreating and educating children the family reflects the Father’s work of creation. The Family must pray together, read God’s Word, and Evangelize.” (2207-2208). “The family is the original cell of social life. The stability of family relationships constitute the foundations of a society.”

Yes.  Priests who spend years in seminary and often pursue higher level master’s and doctoral studies are inculcated with the centrality of family in the Christian life.

Speaker Paul Ryan clearly dismissed Fr. Conroy for a reason.  But I doubt it was legitimately any of those outlined above.

Perhaps he was laying ground cover for his successor, who – if not a Democrat – will likely be a highly conservative member of the Freedom Caucus with an evangelical bent.

Ryan is good at carrying out actions that shouldn’t be in keeping with his Catholic moral sensibilities. I could point to any one of the many scandals of Donald Trump since he became POTUS where Ryan should have been critical and wasn’t; but there are too many and I don’t know where to start.

Perhaps they thought a Catholic firing a Catholic priest had better optics than an evangelical House Speaker doing so at a later date.

It doesn’t.

Trump’s Thin Red Line

This afternoon I had a 3 hour nap with my cat that I guess is illness related because I got lots of sleep last night.

I have not felt good since I returned from Texas Sunday.  I presumed it to be the flu, but the high pollen count is also a possible culprit.  I just know I and a few other friends are not doing well right now.

I fell asleep to news chatter about the Mueller investigation and awoke to the same.  It seems Trump hasn’t dropped a bomb on the investigation -or Syria-yet.

After more than a year of news reading and watching  on this subject from multiple sources, I feel I am fairly up to speed on its various threads. Lord knows there are enough of them to stitch a crazy quilt.

But I think it comes back to a very basic question I have heard several times today: if Donald Trump has done nothing illegal, what has he to hide?  Why is he so angry and so anxious to fire someone -anyone- to make the Mueller investigation stop?

He has a government spokeswoman proclaiming today that the court-ordered raid on attorney Michael Cohen crossed the imaginary “red line” Trump himself drew, as if he is the legal mapmaker of this Department of Justice probe.

But if Cohen-as Trump’s private attorney-acted in the Stormy Daniels matter without his client’s knowledge or consent, as has been posited, why isn’t the person Trump angry with Michael Cohen? This is outside the legal parameters of client representation.

I would be angry at any lawyer that acted without my consultation or consent. Why isn’t Trump?

The sideshow to this matter was Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony before Congress because, of course, it is related to the scraping of Facebook data by Cambridge Analytica, the Robert Mercer owned data analysis company used by the Trump campaign. (Aside: remember that Mercer bankrolled Trump’s campaign heavily and was inextricably linked to Steve Bannon, who owned shares in Cambridge Analytica.)

The most pertinent question I thought asked was if there were over lap between data collected by Cambridge Analytica and Russian targeting wherein voters that delivered Trump’s Electoral College victory in swing states were concerned.

In other words, were those 77,000 people targeted by Russia propaganda provided by Cambridge Analytica that may have influenced their votes in the election, making Trump President?

Is Trump’s Presidency a legitimate one? Is the idea that it might not be what drives him to be insanely angry and unable to focus?

Or are there other illegitimacies he is afraid this investigation will uncover?

Either way one thing seems clear to me – we, the people, have the right to know what lies beyond Trump’s red line.

 

The Gun Death of Innocence

I had planned to come home from Mass tonight and write about the incredible joy I felt at the honor of helping distribute ashes for Ash Wednesday tonight.

As it turns out, I was in such a rush to get to Mass, I had forgotten to turn off my TV. I knew there had been a school shooting in Florida, but I had seen a news scroll that had shown one dead.

At 9 pm, by the time I talked to friends after a long and crowded service and got some food to bring home for a late dinner, I walked in to hear there were 17 dead in the 18th school shooting  in the U.S. since the start of 2018 alone.

And my joy disappeared. All I could think of was the little babies and toddlers whose foreheads I had marked with the Sign of the Cross this evening. I don’t know any of their names ( we have a large, bi-lingual Church).  But I pray for all of them that they do not grow up to experience as teens what those students did today in Florida.

I saw so much innocence tonight at Church. And as the I-phone clips of the shooting and the interviews of the teachers, students and parents unfold across my TV screen,  I see the death of innocence too.

We can ask God “why.” But we also already know the answer. We love our guns too much. We value our privilege to own one far greater than we value human life. Our political machine loves the moneyed-oil of the NRA more than it cares about those victimized in our gun-obsessed society.

Bullets mean more than souls.

It is time for our elected officials, for gun fans, for all of us to ask – who in our society really needs semi-automatic and automatic rifles to protect their homes, to hunt animals in the woods? Just because we can have them, should we?

Why are we so afraid of thorough and complete background checks for the privilege of gun ownership if we have nothing to hide?  Why is it so inconvenient to wait a week or two to take possession of a weapon for that background check to be complete? I have waited longer to get a doctor’s appointment!

Why do we require people to take driving classes for the privilege of being on our streets, but not to carry a gun in public spaces?

Why do we allow people to carry those guns in a concealed manner so we don’t even know they have them?

We know these questions and we already know the sane answers to them.

Yet we let the insanity continue.

The real question is why we continue the insanity.

 

 

 

 

My Sister Is One of Donald Trump’s “Victims”

It is with my sister’s permission that I write this story.

Monday, she called me, upset.  She had opened her mail to discover that the Blue Cross-Blue Shield insurance that she was paying about $12 a month for had gone up in January to $1,500 per month – more than her house payment and far more than her $8 per hour CNA job allows.

She was confounded and I was angry.  This is a result of the instability of the insurance market due to Donald Trump’s “maybe I will, maybe I won’t” make payments to health insurance companies as required by law under the Affordable Care Act.

This leaves companies like Blue Cross Blue Shield “projecting” its needs – more than likely based on the presumption Trump won’t pay, as he is deliberately dismantling the ACA using every tool he and the Republican Party can come up with to deny healthcare to the poor and working class in the United States.  Somehow, this will make us all “great” again.  I am still working on figuring the “how” of that one out.

Her problem is compounded by the fact that she lives in Texas, a “gray” state that did not take the Medicaid expansion option when it had the opportunity to do so and help people like my sister, who cares for three people in her household:  my quadriplegic niece, who was head injured in an automobile accident when she was 15; my half-sister Jackie, who became brain damaged after a high fever caused by viral encephalitis when she was 29; and my 11 year-old grand-nephew, who lives full-time in her custody.

She is one of the people Paul Ryan’s “Post Card” tax dream has hurt, not helped.  She is hardly the “welfare to work” candidate the GOP thinks is so misusing the Medicaid system (again, she can’t get it).  She is the person the GOP claims it is working for.

Instead, she found out just how far they are willing to leave her behind.  She did not vote in the last election, but vows to vote in the upcoming one.  I will be holding her to that promise.

She asked me to do an Internet search for her and was lucky to find a policy for about $250 per month that sounds as if it will afford her the protections she needs and enough doctors in her zone to have a good choice on who to care for her.  Still, that is roughly 25 times higher than her current rate.  And it will make a tight budget that much tighter.

I am proud of her for keeping up her insurance; you see, before the ACA, she was one of those people who didn’t carry insurance, because she isn’t much on going to the doctor.  She is one of those “plow on” people, no matter how much it hurts.

But, because she “had” to, she took out an ACA policy and over the past couple of years has had the much needed “wellness” check-ups every woman should have.  It also helped when a rabid raccoon attacked her in her driveway, although she still has co-insurance and deductibles she is paying on for that accident, which was no fault of her own.  The raccoon just came out of nowhere while she was enjoying a few moments of sunset on the patio of her carport.

Which is why everyone should have health insurance.  Because who could predict a rabid raccoon would bite you?

And because the rabid raccoon in the White House and his like-minded GOP buddies  will not care about our health care needs going forward.  They have already shown us that.

My sister is their example.  And Medicaid is next on their chopping block.  Our Medicare and Social Security won’t be far behind.