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Trouble with the Trump Transition? You’re Not the Only One

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The guy occupying the Oval Office isn’t the only one having trouble with the transition to a post-trump world. 

When I asked my Facebook friends whether anyone else was feeling unspeakably tired, the response was a resounding “Yes, yes, and yes.” People spoke of migraines, tension, and a sense of unreality, but mostly exhaustion. How else could we feel after being anxious, grieved, and/or outraged for such a long, long time? 

Even if we were engaged in “normal life,” we knew that all was not well. Not by a long shot. The president is a walking diagnostic manual of multiple mental disorders. Still, many also spoke of feeling “ecstatic” and “liberated” and being able to breathe deeply and sleep soundly for the first time in four years. So it’s both/and. Ecstatic and exhausted. Still grieving, but profoundly relieved.

#Irrelevant

This transition period is fraught in its own special way. The president is mostly quiet — golfing, watching TV, occasionally rage tweeting: “FRAUD!!!…THEY CHEAT!!!….RIGGED ELECTION!!” But you can tell  his heart’s not in it anymore. He is like a caged, wounded beast. His suffering is palpable — it feels pathological, like everything about him. He mostly hulks in the corner and sulks, occasionally lashing out ineffectually from behind his bars. (Won’t it be a fine day when Biden removes all the barricades trump has erected around our White House?)

I know trump is still the president, he still has the nuclear codes, he is still firing every effective and ethical civil servant who comes to his attention in these last days. Yet I feel he is increasingly becoming background noise. Irrelevant. And so my mind and body are relaxing in stages, little by little. I think this explains my daily mood swings. My brain chemicals are sloshing side-to-side so much that it’s dizzying. 

One day, I fear that trump is encouraging violence between Proud Boys and Antifa so that he can declare marshall law and at long last have his beloved military parade in the streets. The next day, I meet my neighbors at the local farmer’s market, buy some kale, cabbage, and sweet potatoes, and also some flowers and a stupidly expensive bottle of local Cabernet Franc. (The orchardist told me that Franc grapes are the “daddy” of both Cabernet and Merlot, so it’s got to be good.)

Getting outside, laughing with other people, and spoiling myself brings me back to our new reality. 

Yes, COVID. Yes, rampant racism. Yes, our democracy is shockingly fragile. But donald trump is done. The voters have spoken, and spoken loudly. Even though he continually tweets that he is “just getting ready” to reveal “massive fraud,” he is history. 

And speaking of history, hidden in his twenty morning tweets today is a plea for “historians” (in quotes because I guess he doesn’t believe in historians) to recognize that COVID vaccines were discovered under his watch. Perhaps he’s thinking about his legacy? Is reality getting through? More shall be revealed. 

New Head Space

For now, please take of yourself. Drink lots of water. Drink good wine, if you partake. Sleep late. Go outside and move your body. Eat chocolate. Treat yourself to flowers or books or whatever makes you happy. Breathe in. Breathe out.

Because amidst the darkness that is COVID and the national security risks caused by the man-child’s refusal to allow a peaceful transition, there is also room for happiness and joy and relaxation. As his yammering fades, there’s a lot more space in our heads for peace and goodness. We deserve that. 

And may we use our new-found head space to engage with the January 5th Georgia run-off election so that those same voters who rejected trump will continue to reject ugliness and division by denying trump’s enablers a majority in the Senate. Make a difference, here.

Just imagine if the Congress could once again do the people’s work! 

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” — John 1:5

The Eternal Election Night

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The last four years have been interminable. The year 2020 itself has lasted four long years. And now we have entered the Election Night that would not end. Several people have requested that I write a blog post in response to what is going on, even a friend in New Zealand. I’ve never had such requests before, so I’m trying to comply.

I find I’m up against some challenges, one being that I’ve just returned to Maryland after four months of hiding from COVID up at my place in New Hampshire. I drove on Election Day because I hoped there might be a pause in the wilding trump supporters who have been harassing people, stopping traffic, and trying to run Biden buses off the road. My car is plastered with liberal bumper stickers, plus it’s a communist hybrid. Thankfully, it was a quiet drive. But I’m all discombobulated and can’t find anything in the wreckage I’ve unloaded from my car.

Also, as I mentioned in my last post, WordPress has instituted a “new and improved” blog platform that everyone seems to hate, and I haven’t had the time or inclination to learn how to use it. Blogging is not the simple act it once was. I can revert to the old platform, which worked perfectly well, but it would cost me $300. So there’s that. 

And finally, I don’t much feel like writing. My head is jangling, filled with all kinds of brain chemicals I’m not used to. I don’t have a TV, so usually don’t see commercials or hear the stress-inducing manic music most of America lives with. But the networks are graciously allowing even plebeians like me to livestream this week’s mayhem, so here I am, hooked. I’ve been glued to my computer screen since I arrived home at 8 p.m. election night. I watch the red & blue vote tallies not move, as I flip back and forth between MSNBC and CNN and FOX (my first time ever watching the latter — it’s kind of fascinating).

The Narrow Path

Last night I wisely unplugged and went to a prayer practice circle held on the grounds of my church. We used the Welcoming Prayer, which I’ve blogged about before. I recognized and welcomed my fear and anxiety and anger, and then I released them to God. 

It was harder to let go of the grief that I’ve discovered underlies it all — grief for my country, for humanity, for the planet. Grief feels good and right, even holy. No matter who wins the election, the fact remains that nearly half of America thinks it’s OK to have a president who cannot tell the truth, who promotes violence and racism, gasses peaceful protesters, denies science, and gleefully puts the profits of coal companies ahead of human survival. Grief is appropriate.

Biden’s path to electoral victory is narrow, and trump’s is narrower. But the narrowest path is the path back to basic sanity and civility for our nation. If Biden becomes president, it’ll be a steep and dangerous climb. If he doesn’t? Well, you see why I can’t write about this.

What we know so far . . .

I Will Not Enable trump’s Psychological Warfare

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I have experienced some psychological trauma in my life — not nearly what some people have survived, but enough to know what it feels like. What happens to your brain and body. I felt the nausea, pounding heart, headache and disassociation from reality last night, as I watched the so-called “presidential” debate.

When I woke this morning, it was all still there, plus a sense of panic because my cat had escaped and spent the night outside with the wild animals in the pouring rain. Perhaps she felt safer out there than trapped inside with the abuse and vitriol emanating from my computer.

I read a quote this morning that put our national nightmare in perspective for me:

“The president is engaging in psychological warfare against the American people — as tin-pot dictators do.”

— Tom Nichols, international affairs expert

(Tin-pot dictator: An autocratic ruler with little political credibility, typically having delusions of grandeur.)

No Trespassing, trump

So today I choose not to further expose myself to his abuse. He will not be in my head or my heart today. I’m staying away from screens, except perhaps to post pictures of colorful leaves or my cat (who came in for breakfast). There’s a part of me that wants to stay engaged, to watch the war on Twitter, the disbelief from the pundits, the rage on Facebook. It feels like therapy, in a warped way. Only it’s not — it’s enabling. I won’t listen to him, I won’t allow him to disturb my peace.

I’m making pancakes from scratch for brunch. I might build a fire even though it’s sixty degrees. I’m going to read my Bible and my Mary Pipher book, “Writing to Change the World,” because we each have to use the gifts we’ve been given. And I’m going to write — perhaps make progress on my unlikely essay about what trump can teach us about spirituality. Maybe I’ll edit some poetry I’m working on, or plaster my dining room walls with easel-sized Post-Its and start mapping out my memoir in bold colors. I’m stalled in my early thirties.

I’ll light scented candles and drink copious amounts of tea. I’ll cuddle up in a blanket and treat myself as if I’m having a sick day. Because I kind of am. But I know the cure. I’m with Joe Biden on this one:

 

“Will you shut up, man?!”

Choosing Peace

Hope for People & the Planet: Don’t Mourn, Organize!

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I’ve  been feeling a little hope lately, which is scary. “Don’t get your hopes up,” my mother used to tell me. Well, why the hell not? I’d be just as devastated either way, if the current president ends up staying in the White House.

The thing is, trump is (literally) banking on progressive people in this country feeling hopeless and helpless. Because hope, even a sliver of it, may lead to action. It can lead us to make phone calls or write letters or call our legislators.

If we feel it makes no difference and we’re doomed, we will just numb ourselves with social media or TV or alcohol or chips or outrage or whatever it is that allows us to survive these perilous times. Worst of all, we may not make the effort to vote if we think it doesn’t matter. Especially if trump has made it more difficult and confusing to cast a vote.

Our Health and Heritage Under Attack

This week, buried in the on-going chaos that is America, there was news of the trump administration’s final preparations to sacrifice to the voracious Oil God, one of America’s most sacred and iconic wilderness areas: the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. Since his election, trump has taken direct aim at our natural heritage of wildlands and wildlife, and he’s undercut programs that promote clean air, clean water, and climate stability.

It’s mind-boggling how quickly he has reversed our nation’s progress and dismantled much of what I spent my thirty-year environmental career doing. This is not about me, of course, but I have to say, it hurts. And many of the people I love and served with in the environmental field have also been stunned and demoralized.

One of the longest and most intense battles of my career has been the effort to protect the Arctic Refuge from oil drilling. So when I heard the news of how close we are to losing this treasure, how trump is trying to make sure this pristine wilderness is destroyed before he leaves office, I will admit to hopelessness.

But when I wailed about it on Facebook, my dear Sierra Club friend BB wrote in response, “Resist. Organize.” He says that a lot lately. But this time it sunk in.

The Arctic Refuge
Photo: Natural Resources Defense Council

You and I Can Make a Difference

I immediately poured my pain and passion into a letter to the editor of the Washington Post to share what I know of what’s at stake in the Arctic Refuge. Off it went, and the next day The Post called to say they wanted to print it. I was so excited! You mean, I can still do something useful? I am not powerless? I can do more than march in the streets waving signs and yelling till I’m hoarse?

I desperately needed this reminder that we *all* have everyday tools that can make a difference. I’m talking to YOU! I challenge you to find something that you feel passionately about and write a letter to the editor, preferably responding to something they have recently printed. Below is my letter :

♦♦♦

“I am sickened by the Trump administration’s last-minute effort to sacrifice one of the country’s most sensitive and iconic wilderness areas to oil drilling [“Drill plan for Alaska refuge is finalized,” front page, Aug. 18]. Most Americans will never take an Alaskan bush plane north of the Arctic Circle to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Yet a clear majority opposes drilling there, honoring our nation’s generous tradition of setting aside irreplaceable parts of our natural heritage for future generations.

As director of the Sierra Club’s public lands program during the 1990s, I was privileged to visit the refuge and to celebrate the annual porcupine caribou herd migration with the Native Gwich’in community. These hardy people depend on the caribou for food, clothing and tools, just as they have for thousands of years, and their spiritual and cultural traditions revolve around the animals. They call the caribou calving grounds in the Arctic Refuge “Iizhik Gwats’an Gwandaii Goodlit,” meaning the sacred place where life begins.

 

President Trump’s desperate push to desecrate this precious and pristine piece of God’s creation before Jan. 20 dishonors indigenous culture, denies the climate crisis and gives the definitive answer to the question we have been asking for four years: Is nothing sacred to this man? No, nothing is.”

♦♦♦

And here’s a note (edited) I just received about easy and safe ways you can help make sure there is hope for the future:

  • Make calls: share your enthusiasm and hope with potential voters. You could be the reason why someone votes for Biden/Harris.
  • Download the Vote Joe App: This organizing tool allows you to reach out to organize your friends & receive updates from the Democrats.
  • Join Biden for President’s volunteer Slack: Connect with Joe Biden’s campaign and learn about the latest volunteer opportunities. You’ll meet other volunteers as well — virtually, of course!

In the words of the martyred union organizer and songwriter, Joe Hill:

Don’t Waste Time Mourning, Organize!

Courtesy: Alaska Conservation Foundation

Awakening From the Trump Nightmare?

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I’ve had the strangest feeling lately, sometimes several times a day. I feel happy. I’m just going about my business, chopping fresh summer squash and tomatoes or brushing my newly adopted kitty Alice, when all of a sudden I realize there’s an underlying happiness. I’m not sure what this is about, but I have some ideas.

You can brush my tummy. No, really, go ahead . . . trust me

Life Right Now

Several things have happened. For one, I’m staying longer term at my beloved country house in New Hampshire, away from the COVID hotspot near DC where I live most of the time. Four months instead of six weeks. So there’s less anxiety. I am still very careful, but I don’t feel as if I’m taking my life in my hands when I go to pick up cat food. At night I watch stars, listen for owls, and hope to see the shadowy shape of our local bear. During the day, I sit on my deck and gaze over the same meadow that my grandmother and my mother gazed over, waiting for the wild turkey and deer to show up.

The Meadow

I also got off my last prescription meds after losing seventy pounds. In my journal I wrote: “Last prescription med taken. I am the Queen, the boss, the winner, the smartest, best, rockingest human on earth. Just so you know.” (That last sentence has the ring of a presidential tweet, doesn’t it?) This is a long-time goal, and I’m feeling really good about it — so good that I went to the local sandwich shop and got two scoops of my favorite ice cream, peppermint stick. First ice cream since December, and it was beyond delicious, especially topped with hot fudge and caramel sauce.

Hope At Last

Lastly, there’s Kamala. I’ve already told you how I feel about her. I am under no illusion that the pollsters have a clue what they’re talking about. I am nowhere near complacent after 2016 and with all the voter suppression going on. The stakes in this election are literally life and death, COVID, healthcare, climate chaos, police brutality. Even more so if you happen to have been born with brown or black skin.

Still, there’s a tiny tinge of hope where there was none a few months ago. Perhaps America will step up. I don’t know. But we might.

Tears, All the Tears

Last night was unexpectedly weird. We knew it would be weird, being the first virtual convention in history. What surprised me was my reaction. I was in tears within minutes. I often cry at “America the Beautiful,” but I never cry at the National Anthem. Too militaristic for me. Not so last night. I started crying when all those regular old American people began reading the Preamble to the Constitution, was in full flood by the time Biden’s grandkids read the Pledge of Allegiance, and then all those faces, young hopeful faces singing the anthem! By the time we got to Bruce Springsteen’s inspiring song, The Rising, I was drenched.

 

Watching the videos and listening to the heartfelt speeches, I proceeded to run through all the feels in short order: deep sorrow, anger and rage, hope, fear, even trauma. Especially trauma. What we have been through and continue to suffer, as individuals and as a nation! I love America so much. I texted my friend: “I hate what he has done to us!”

And you know what? I feel happy about those feelings, all of them. It reminded me that Melanie’s still in here. All my feelings are still alive, despite having had to put a lid on them for the past four years. I mean, you have to build up defenses against the constant atrocities and the dread, especially if you’re a sensitive sort like me.

I felt my defensive numbness starting to melt last Sunday at the Quaker meeting I attend. A woman rose to remind us that New England Quakers are celebrating three hundred sixty years as a faith community working for justice and peace. “And two years ago,” she said, “a new light was lit when we began meeting here at Orchard Hill. I am constantly amazed at the light.”

I found I was crying. All the lights, all the amazing lights.

A light was lit at Orchard Hill

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5

Celebrating Biden/Harris, Hope, and My Blog’s Anniversary!

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I initially opened my laptop to write a quick blog post on Joe Biden’s choice of Kamala Harris, and to say how excited I am about watching the Democratic Convention next week. I think Senator Harris is without a doubt the best choice. Warren would likely be a better VP from day one, given her experience and expertise, but it would have been a big mistake to choose another white person well into their seventies. It’s 2020. In this day and age, there is no excuse for that.

Though it will be a steep and messy climb out of this cesspool America has plunged into, I think there’s a chance the two of them can restore dignity to the White House and civility to the national conversation. Without that, we cannot tackle zero-hour issues like electoral integrity and the climate crisis. At the same time, I expect and hope that the progressive wing of the party will keep agitating for a more just and compassionate society.

OK, that’s what I was going to say initially. But then a powerful deja vu led me to a big realization — this month marks eight years since I started Writing With Spirit!

Woo-hoo, hooray, and haroo, you guys!

 

EIGHT YEARS!!

And THANK YOU to my 5,301 followers! I really, really appreciate EVERY ONE of you, I seriously, absolutely do!

 

There’s a reason for the deja vu. I started this blog right here at my grandmother’s house in New Hampshire where I had come, and have come again, to write. (The house is now my own, but it will always belong to Beedie).

Quiet Hills

I never intended to include so much politics in the blog, but it happened to be convention season when I began blogging, and — well, I am who I am, a political addict. Even as our current national nightmare threatens my emotional stability and mental health, I can’t stop watching the train-wreck.

So it happened that eight years ago, I wrote two brief blogs about writing and then launched into politics on August, 29, 2012 while watching the GOP convention:

“I’ve always been a convention addict, ever since my Dad decorated me with Barry Goldwater buttons, handed me a little American flag, and plopped me down in front of a black-and-white Zenith television with a box of Lucky Charms. I was hooked – everyone wore funny hats and brandished signs and tossed balloons and generally acted like children; but at the same time I felt grown up, watching politics with my family. It’s all they talked about at the dinner table. I belonged. Four years later at age thirteen, my friend and I plastered ourselves with bumper stickers and leapt around intersections like cheerleaders, shouting, “Humphrey, Humphrey, he’s our man, if he can’t do it, Muskie can!” (By 1968, I had discovered the teenage joy of ticking off your parents, and I’ve remained a life-long Democrat.)

Energy, engagement, belonging, purpose. That’s what politics has meant to me. But last night {watching the GOP convention} I didn’t get any of that . . . The first century Roman philosopher Seneca said, ‘As long as you live, keep learning how to live.’ Sometimes that journey is a process of elimination, of shedding old behaviors or interests that you adopted for whatever reason – to survive a chaotic childhood, to please a partner or parent, to feel significant, to belong. So maybe I won’t be watching the Democratic convention. Maybe I’m done.

Who am I kidding? I’m still fascinated by politics, even if it’s more like watching a car wreck than a country at work. I like to think that, like me, America is on a transformative journey, learning how to live. Maybe eventually we’ll decide to drop behaviors that don’t serve our common good. Perhaps we have to see how low we can go, before we can start climbing our way back up to constructive civility. So, yeah, I guess I’ll keep watching the extravaganzas. It’s my country, and besides, the Democrats usually have better hats.”

Well, just wow. Eight years ago, I thought we were in a hole. I was bemoaning the lack of “constructive civility.” Who could have foreseen such a debacle as the past four years? Yikes.

Believe it or not, I still think that America is on a transformative journey. We have now seen just “how low we can go.” And I can’t wait to watch the Democratic convention, even if there won’t be hats this year! 

I smell hope.

#BidenHarris2020!

Lenten “Silent Saturday” in the Time of COVID-19

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I’ve never quite known what to do with the “Silent Saturday” in between Good Friday and Easter. The day between the darkness of unspeakable evil and the dawn of a new life and hope for humanity. In the time of Jesus, his friends and family gathered together in grief, fear, uncertainty, and confusion. This wasn’t how it was supposed to end. Jesus was supposed to lead a revolution against the oppressive power of the Roman Empire, he was supposed to usher in an era of justice and peace for all. And instead, he was dead and here they were, huddled together, hiding out from the authorities and praying desperately for — what? They didn’t even know.

The followers of Jesus didn’t know what was to come, and it wasn’t looking good.

Not Looking Good

This whole COVID-19 period feels like a long, drawn-out Silent Saturday. This isn’t how it’s supposed to be. We can’t trust our government, and it even seems to be working against us. We can’t trust their numbers, their plans, or their motives. We huddle together on Zoom, uncertain and powerless, some of us grieving, some of us afraid. Some of us pray; some of us simply hope because we can’t believe in prayer. We know this is an in-between time, but we don’t know what’s next.

During Silent Saturday, we wait.

In the Christian tradition, after that desperate Saturday came redemption and resurrection on Easter Sunday. I have faith that now as then, the love of God is too great to allow darkness and death to prevail, that love will win. I don’t think that the means or the timeline are always God’s will — I won’t get into theology — but I do believe that love is stronger than all the excrement the world can throw at it.

It is true that a whole lot of people are going to die, especially if the president is stupid enough to “open up America” in the middle of this pandemic and send his true-believers out into the streets to spread infection.

But how’s this for a resurrection story? Most sensible people will continue to stay home. Competent governors and health officials will work with civic-minded businesses to pull together a reality-based plan and non-mythical resources that gradually turn around the infection and death rates.

Then there’s an election in November. The majority of Americans were not fooled by the misinformation in trump’s daily “press conference” rallies and hold him responsible for the testing/resources fiasco. He loses, bigly.

With the economy and our health care system in shambles, President Joe Biden and Vice President Michelle Obama (I know, I know, but just imagine!) have a clean slate. Together with younger progressive leaders, they end voter suppression so this never happens again, and we build a more just, equitable America from the ground up. A Green New Deal creates a massive jobs program, and we become a world leader in climate solutions.

Happy Easter, a day early!

Light in the Darkness

Can Democrats Agree to Disagree? Apparently Not.

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My incredibly adorable two-year-old neighbor just stopped by with her mom and presented me with a baggie of walnut mini-muffins. Her mother eyed me warily, knowing of my obsession with politics (like anyone who has known me for five minutes), and said, “How are you feeling today, happy or sad?”

I was stumped, surprised to realize that I did not know! I am certainly feeling a lot of feelings, but I’m not sure I can label them. Could be lack of sleep, sitting in bed with my laptop and watching Super Tuesday returns till the wee hours.

“Mixed,” I finally said. “Mostly sad, I guess, because I don’t think we can beat trump without unity, and I don’t see how either of these candidates in this climate can get us there.”

“Enjoy your day,” piped the incredibly adorable two year old.

In Search of Unity

I was told this morning when I posted an article on Facebook about the need for Democratic unity and the importance of reaching out and building coalitions that I was spreading “Republican talking points.” OK, then. I myself haven’t heard anyone in the GOP talking about the need for Democrats to unite and broaden their coalition, but whatever.

I fear that Democrats just aren’t in the mood to unify. We’ve all caught the trump disease: it seems that respect for others is a thing of the past.

Bernie & Biden: Never the Twain Shall Meet

I don’t see Bernie bringing the left-of-center and center together because many of his zealous supporters can’t help insulting and sometimes vilifying baby-boomers, moderates, people desperately seeking post-trump stability, and basically anyone who does not agree with them. Bernie comes across as a divisive person, he just does. He has to stop wagging his finger.

Here’s what one Facebook friend says: “Watching CSPAN over the years, both Sanders and Warren ‘show up’ as confrontational, acerbic, and aggressive. They both remind me often in their finger -pointing techniques of my overly pious Catholic school teachers. I honestly cannot stand that type of public oratory, self-righteous to say the least.” 

Meanwhile, many of Biden’s supporters aren’t excited about him, they just think he has the best chance of beating trump and that he promises a quiet place where we can heal for a few years. He talks about unity and normalcy and decency. That’s awfully appealing to a lot of people right now, but it doesn’t necessarily get anyone out knocking on doors and trying to persuade their neighbors to vote. And the word “normalcy” is a bad word to some, meaning corporate domination, racism, sexism, etc. 

Biden clearly represents the past, and many of us are done with the past. Still, to many voters, Obama/Biden days seem a hell of a lot better than the present situation, and a good starting point to move to the future. You may call this fear or you may call it pragmatism, but please don’t call it evil. 

Everybody Get Together

The argument that young people and other disaffected Bernie voters wouldn’t ever vote for Biden may well become a self-fulfilling prophecy in the echo chambers of social media. So far, younger voters aren’t turning out in the primary the way we had hoped, but they are surely needed in the general!

And now, their anger and frustration at the way the primary process works — carefully timed endorsements from influential people, coupled with second-tier candidates dropping out and coalescing around a popular candidate who most closely reflects their views — leads to cries of #RiggedElection!, which will further suppress the Democratic vote in November. That’s why trump is bloviating about the process being “rigged against Bernie,” and it’s why Russian bots try to undermine faith in our electoral process. 

Our process is most definitely flawed. It’s hard to deny that voter suppression efforts are aimed at people of color and lower income neighborhoods. And money runs our politics, plain and simple (though three cheers for Billionaire Bloomberg being unable to outright buy the nomination).

Both of our top candidates are definitely flawed, as well. And am I mad as a hornet that our choice is between two very old white guys? You bet I am. But friends, neither Bernie nor Biden comes close to being as flawed as the atrocity that sits in the Oval today. Let’s get it together, folks, literally.

Enjoy your day.

Two very old white guys

“Come on people now, smile on your brother

Everybody get together, try to love one another

Right now.”

The Youngbloods, 1967

*** Disclaimer: all opinions my own. No Republican talking points included ***

What September 11th Means To This American

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September 11th: we call it the “National Day of Service and Remembrance.” Honestly, I’d rather not remember that soul-shattering day in 2001, except for the surreal sense of oneness and belonging — the connection, concern for others, grief for the state of the world — dare I say universal love? I do want to remember that. There were beautiful tributes at American embassies worldwide, thousands of flowers and flags and candles and cards. And of course we remember those first responders, many of whom are still paying the cost of their sacrifice. No wonder this date is dedicated to unity and charitable service.

The world loved America that day, warts and all. Even this old hippie drove around with an American flag tied to her car antennae for months afterward. Remembering the unity and big-hearted patriotism that surrounded us in the weeks after 9/11 makes me feel homesick, wondering how we could have fallen so far so fast. The seeds of division and nationalism that plague us today were already planted and well-rooted in 2001, but they were easy to ignore if you were a privileged white person such as myself. I was busy.

Now, though, there’s no denying it.

America is desperately ill, and the seeds of evil have grown into gnarled trees of corruption and greed and white nationalism. Our president and his cronies are intentionally feeding and watering those trees. Evil is flourishing right out in the open: we have a mentally unbalanced, strongman authoritarian seeking dictatorial power with the complete compliance of the once “Grand Old Party.” There may be violence if he loses, he warns, as he stokes the fires of anger and fear at his hate-fueled rallies.

I barely recognize America anymore. She never really was “one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all,” but at least we all wanted her to be. Now the strongman tells elected officials of color to “go back where you came from.”

But here’s the thing: I still love America, even more than I did when I tied that flag to my antennae on September 12, 2001. Her founding ideals may have become a mockery, corporate money may have damaged democracy beyond repair, and greed-driven climate denial may spell the beginning of the end for our species. But that “liberty and justice for all” thing? That’s still worth pursuing and defending with all we’ve got. Good-hearted women and men have fought for those ideals for hundreds of years, some in uniform, some in courtrooms, some protesting in the streets, some being martyred. Their spirits live on.

So on this “Day of Remembrance and Service,” let’s remember what this country stands for. Let’s commit to speaking up when we see racism and injustice in our daily lives. Let’s commit to educating ourselves fully, to admitting and learning from our mistakes, to voting, and to teaching our children to vote. Let’s march in the streets to protect one another, and let’s get involved in the upcoming election.

“Don’t mourn, organize!”

Joe Hill, songwriter and union organizer executed by the state of Utah in 1815.

In Remembrance

 

 

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