Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Preparing for Trump

The Practice of Dispassion

            As the fateful, I mean, inauguration of Donald J. Trump grows ever closer, I realize I must find a way to keep my wits in the spray of hostility and intimidation coming from the other side, whose triumph reminds me of an old saying, “The only thing worse than a sore loser is a sore winner.”
            But for my own good I have begun the practice of dispassion in dealing with people who attack me. I need to disarm my own buttons.
            I’ve been taking to leaving comments to articles I read online. In an article in the Jan. 9 web issue of The Federalist, writer Julie Kelly proposes that “alarmist” climate-change scientists are “the real deniers” and will soon get their comeuppance for all their fake science funded by government grants.
            The glee-tinged threat is that they’ll all lose their jobs when Trump cancels their phony research projects.
            I felt compelled to leave a comment. There were already a couple hundred posted, so my impact would obviously be negligible, but I did it anyway, saying that even if you don’t accept climate change there can’t be much doubt that human activity has impacted the planet in a negative way and we really ought to stop doing it.
            I thought that was a fairly dispassionate reply.
            So far I’ve been jumped by five different thugs...I mean, readers. One suggested that if I don’t like it on this planet, I should go find another, and good riddance. I replied that I’d never said I didn’t like it here. I said I thought we ought to quit polluting it.
            Another said climate change has always been part of Earth’s history and that humans and animals are adapting to each other as the critters move into our neighborhoods and live off our leavings. Therefore humans are part of an ecosystem that is always in transformation. There is no catastrophic climate change, just natural adaptation to ever-changing conditions.
            I said the disappearance of countless species before human “advancement” seems to argue against that point.
            The third response pointed to the increase of life expectancy in today’s world compared to the past, arguing that things are better now than in the days of pristine wilderness. To that I replied that they may be better for humans in the short term, but what price do we and our planet pay in the long term?
            A fourth informed me that conservatives are, by definition, conservationists while people like me who belong to the “Church of Environmentalism” want to decapitate Golden Eagles on wind farms just to brag we’ve reduced our carbon footprints. I replied that I wish conservatives were conservationists but I didn’t see much evidence of it, pointing to the Gulf Oil Spill, the Exxon-Valdez, earthquakes in Wyoming, etc. I added I thought his comment rude because he doesn’t know me and I wish no harm to the Golden Eagles, I only want to preserve an inhabitable planet.
            A fifth called global warming “nonsense” and said there is no contradiction between wanting to preserve the planet and denying climate change. I said that was exactly my point, except I don’t agree global warming is nonsense but that makes no difference if we agree to clean up the planet.
            So far, thankfully, I haven’t heard from anyone else. That doesn’t mean I won the argument, of course, but it means I had the last word, that I didn’t make anyone mad enough to keep it going. I’m glad for that because I don’t want to fuel anger, either in me or in others. But I don’t want to be silent while people are saying important things that I don’t understand, don’t agree with, or find offensive.
            My worst enemy in this practice is the concept of “I feel strongly....” That needs to be examined because feelings may be legitimate but they may also lead to inaccurate assessments if they are not regarded dispassionately. That is, without the influence of “I feel strongly.” The “I” in that construction may be out of order, and in my case often is. Feelings are important, but when they overtake the mind they are as dangerous as when the mind tyrannizes the feelings.
            Dispassion is setting all duality aside to consider carefully what the other person is saying before framing a reply. It’s attempting to understand while not necessarily agreeing. It’s an aspect of self-control.
            Many Americans on both sides of the aisle which has become a battlement are out of control. They see the other side as looming monsters and rise up in righteous rage or break down in paranoid hallucinations. I understand, because I too feel threatened by this new regime. None of us on the liberal side was ever happy with the streak of conservatism and religious revivalism which defines a good bit of the American character.
            But the other side was just as terrified when Obama was elected. Two sides, both wanting to take their country back.
            Which country are we fighting over?
            Unless I take in arguments dispassionately, carefully considering what I hear while keeping tight rein on my knee-jerk survival fears, I’ll function in a state of war. In this case, civil war.
            Is that what we’re still fighting about? That “Northern War of Aggression” against “The Southern Way of Life”?
            I’ve always been a conscientious objector, even before Vietnam. I don’t want to fight, I don’t want to defend myself against my past. I’d rather surrender with a clear conscience than live with the nightmare PTSD.
            Yet I reserve the right to disagree. Dispassionately.
            That is my mindful practice these days.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Trump's Press Conference

Is He Really Serious?

            With Trump’s first press conference since July, we now know we’ve entered a bizarre world where entertainment has finally merged completely with reality. What can we call it?
            Reenterality? Enterealitainment?
            The President-elect of the United States is poised to come into office declaring what amounts to war on the U.S. intelligence agencies and the international press. He faults the agencies for leaking bogus information about his business deals and after-hours exploits in Russia, and he excoriates the press for reporting it.
            If this were a movie, we might be on the edge of our seats. We wouldn’t know what to expect. Whose side would we be on? The CNN reporter who made an ass of himself shouting questions that it was obvious Trump would not acknowledge? Or the man himself at the podium, turning every aspersion cast on his character back upon his accusers while promising to make everything better than it’s been in America for a long time, and to do it practically overnight?
            At a certain point I have to step back and run a sort of diagnostic on myself.
            Q: Has America ever been a real democratic republic, as the founders intended?
            A: No. There have always been powerful factions trying to limit a full democracy of one person, one vote and even citing the founders as their authority to do it.
            Q: Is Trump really a threat to our democracy, as many people warn?
            A: No. He can’t really get away with false claims and lies forever, even within his own party.
            Q: Is this really a coup d’etat by the right wing of our nation, which has long plotted to reverse our social gains going back to the New Deal?
            A: Uh-oh. That could be. But it’s an imperfect coup because the President is unstable.
            This is where Enterealitainment gets creepy, but if I were writing the script from here I’d have that instability at the top implode and, like the Towers on 9-11, the whole party which supported that top, essentially trying to control it and use it for its own ends, would collapse under the weight of its exposure and fall into the abyss of a lost identity.
            The Democrats in my script are not too far behind that chaotic scenario, as an elected minority tries to hold the ship of state steady on the course as we’ve always known it, pounded by storms that rock the very Earth on her axes. And then the Democrats split apart and fall into quarreling factions, as well.
            We’ll need a hero to save us, then—a Great President to rise from the people, the one some of my friends thought Obama would be. He wasn’t, but he could be the One Who Came Before.
            No, no, no, not a Second Coming! The first one caused enough trouble in the world!
            Bottom line: I think the Trump Presidency is a mistake. Countries make mistakes. People make mistakes. They recover. Or sometimes they don’t. That’s the suspense of mistakes. It usually takes courage to recover, especially from the big ones.
            We’ve been making mistakes at the top for a long time—mistakes compounded upon mistakes. Mistakes of hubris, mistakes of lust. Those mistakes are our mistakes. We are all complicit in them, in one way or another. Trump, larger than life, rises from the  consciousness of the Americans who voted for him and, frankly, of the Americans who didn’t, to show us a side of ourselves which very few, according to polls, are that happy with.
            But some of us think that because he’s a successful businessman he will make things better for us, give us a better deal, even if he is a snark.
            I’m drawn right back into my annual one-man show, “The Concise Dickens’ Christmas Carol” and poor Jacob Marley’s after-life torment for his misspent existence. As a successful businessman.
            In short, Trump’s first news conference, where he attacked the people who advise him and the people assigned to keep him honest, doesn’t bode well for the future of his presidency or of our democracy, which Obama the night before pleaded for us to keep alive.
            Whether or not it’s a coup, it’s shaping up to be a schism. And don’t think the real figurehead is Trump. Trump could easily be dumped by the House and the Senate, and then our President would be Pence.
            “Are there no prisons? Are there no work houses?”

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Obama's Legacy

We're on Our Own Now

            Barack Obama's farewell speech Tuesday night was a bitter-sweet affair, especially given the look and feel of the oncoming train of frontiersmen about to disembark in Washington. Current media discussions of the strength or weakness of his legacy don't make the emotional experience of separation any easier to absorb.
            I agree with many on the left who criticize Obama for what seemed like his timidity in breaking with established institutions like the Wall Street banks, the insurance industry, and fossil fuels. I was disappointed with his orders to re-enter the Mideast militarily, his bungling of Syria, his hesitation to take definitive environmental positions, his surrender of a public option for Obamacare. The list could go on.
            Obama governed as a moderate—until the last two  years when he saw there was no hope of getting anything vaguely progressive through a recalcitrant—indeed, a defiant—Congress. Then he began issuing executive orders, making things happen that brought a sigh of relief to many on the Left, including me. Right on, Barack! Stick it to them!
            But all of that could be—probably will be—wiped away with a swipe of the Trump pen, just as it was put in place by an Obama pen. That's depressing to me, to say the least. More depressing is the thought of what might replace the social advances Obama finally made for us when it became clear all Congress had for him was the back of a hand.
            Still, the policies Obama put in place with his “executive over-reach,” as the angry white men (and women) like to charge, are not the principle reason I will miss Obama. I'll miss Obama for what he stands for, and what he articulated repeatedly and eloquently over his entire career, including in his farewell address.
            It is his vision of a diverse America, the Rainbow Coalition Jesse Jackson first brought to the fore when he ran for President in the 1980s. And, indeed, during the Obama years there was a grassroots surge of mingling traditions and races as people got to know each other outside of the comfort zones in which they'd been raised. I loved that!
            A diverse society based on the recognition that we are all human beings—far more alike than different—is a stronger common bond than any differences we may imagine divide us.
            That's what I'll miss—that ease of mingling among Americans of all colors and backgrounds which Obama's election enabled.
            Unfortunately, this was not to the taste of all Americans, and it seems we are about to enter the era of backlash, as if the price we must pay for electing Obama is the return of the White Avenger.
            We'll see. But I feel—or perhaps fear—that spirit of diversity shutting down in our national consciousness as the old American bug-a-boo re-emerges, the myth of the chosen people—white, Christian, and business-savvy with a secret, or not-so-secret, bias against the people they hire and serve.
            Life under Obama was like a reprieve from the oppressive right-wing vision in which military defense against potential enemies is the foremost duty of government, with citizens left on their own to promote their general welfare.
            That's not exactly what the Constitution says our government should be.
            Only Obama held back the faux-Constitutionalists pelting him with legislation to turn back the clock on benefits to the American people. Now that firewall is withdrawing. Will his enshrinement of a diverse society—a diverse world—be preserved?
            It looks as if we're on our own, as the tide turns against us. Practice your swimming. Or get out of the water.

Monday, January 09, 2017

The Real War

It’s Not Just Them

            So it now appears we’ve got to prepare for cyber war. I try to unpack that concept in my aging brain. For my generation the terrifying threat was nuclear war, horrifying enough, but if it didn’t hit your city you could still survive, unpleasant as survival might be.
            But with cyber war you’re sitting with your family at dinner some cozy winter evening when, in an instant, everything goes off. And as the invisible response-in-kind is launched, whole sections of the so-called civilized world lose their infrastructure. Electricity, gas, telephone, water, internet—all gone in an irretrievable instant.
            The elite, of course, will carry on with their generators and back-up systems. We “civilians” will do the best we can, but conceivably in this type of war the modern world as we know it will collapse, and there will be universal suffering for everyone, even the most well-stocked. And who’s to say cyber won’t come home to nuclear in a nervous breakdown of everything we’ve known?
            So of course we must mobilize. We need more geeks, more skilled hackers, more brilliant programmers, more drones, all oriented toward military objectives. A cause! At last we have a cause beyond just finding good jobs and making enough money for retirement (because we all know Social Security won’t last and never paid enough, anyway).
            Is anyone else tired of this? Why, exactly, are we attacking one another? What’s the point, when everyone suffers horrendously as a result of whatever gene causes some people to enjoy—indeed, thrive—on making enemies to defeat, capture, or kill?
            Donald Trump is saying he wants to get along with Russia. That offends even his honest supporters in Washington. Frankly, it doesn’t offend me, although Donald Trump generally does. But I read Crime and Punishment four times, on my own, before I was 21. Dostoevsky, Russian to the core, shaped my conscience and my consciousness in a major way. How can I call Russia an enemy?
            Yet the problems Obama and Putin have had getting along with one another have become problems for us all. How many thousands have died because two proud men, leaders essentially of rival gangs, get on one another’s nerves?
            In my opinion, as a person raised as a pacifist in the most violent, militarized country in the world, we need to look at the way we raise boys. It really makes a difference in how a boy thinks if he’s taught from an early age that violence committed against another is not just unacceptable behavior. It’s damage done to himself.
            But what alternative is there for a boy growing up in a world where he’s expected to be competitive and, if necessary, defend himself and others with violence?
            And now girls are ramping up their defensive skills as well. You can’t blame them. You can’t really blame anyone, violence is so ambiguous in our culture. You almost need a rule book in your pocket to double-check when it’s acceptable and when it’s not.

            If I had conquered my own violent tendencies, I could now give my formula for how you, too, could become violence-free. Maybe I could even charge money for sharing the secret to that exalted state. But that’s not a point I can make.
            I did realize early on, though—around the age of 12—that I had a temper which could get me into a lot of trouble if I didn’t curb it. Because I was raised to understand that violence is an inferior way of communicating, I was able to grasp that my capacity for blind rage was not productive. It didn’t resolve differences, it made them worse. But if I disabled or at least delayed that response to every situation which crossed my will, I entered a calmer state of mind. I encountered patience, a valuable skill.
            But what if I’d not been trained primarily by my mother to forswear violence (my father had problems of his own containing his temper) but learned it as a cultural standard? What if I’d been formally and culturally educated for peace, not for defense against enemies?
            It’s not visionary to say that we need a better way to conduct civilization if we want to lay claim to being a civilized world. That’s obvious. But there is vision in the suggestion that we raise our kids wrongly when we tell them to fight fight fight for their right not just to survive but to thrive.
            What if life isn’t really a fight but an inevitable process of unfoldment as we learn to know and understand ourselves and live together in mutual cooperation, not just because it’s in our self-interest, which it is, but because we want to?
            How do we learn to want to live in peace? That’s the point, I think, which needs to be addressed. To live in peace seems to be a beneficial state of being. What’s preventing us from prioritizing it?
            A big problem, I submit, is our stubborn commitment to the honor and glory of war, a serious human focus largely supported and advanced by the male sex. As a group we haven’t learned the art and, I’m sure, the science of side-stepping the passionate surge of will-to-kill every time someone threatens our quietude, crosses our interests, or has what we want but can’t get for ourselves or for our families.
            But if we would prioritize skills of self-management, I’m sure the enemy on the other side of that red line would look a lot like us.
            It takes courage to go into battle, no doubt about that. But it also takes courage to lay down your arms and walk free with no back-up plan against attack. This is not naiveté. It’s living as though peace is the universal condition and violence but a temporary disturbance, like a growing pain, on the way to realizing a better quality of life.
            And if, defenseless, you get killed or irreversibly maimed? It can happen. No path is a guarantee against tragedy and death. But the risks of death and injury are omnipresent and certainly far more magnified in a society sworn to the sacred cult of the sword.
            The question isn’t either/or but what is best for the health and happiness of our world? I’m proposing, if only for fun, that we pretend we live in a peaceful, restorative dream rather than a nightmare. If enough of us practiced that delusion, perhaps it would cease to be delusional. Or, if not, it would surely be more pleasant than a life lived in constant preparation for attacks from abroad or from thieves and killers stalking our streets at home. I speak from experience.
            The only thing worse than a knife at your throat is the fear of a knife at your throat. And there aren’t enough weapons in the world to defend you from that!
            But you can take on the fear in your mind. Careful, though. That struggle goes deep before it comes out on a sunny beach.
            Even so, it’s the real long war we could all be waging, within ourselves rather than with each other. It’s more effective in defeating enemies, too, and certainly cheaper than an outward struggle with all its waste of life and limb and howls of grief and rage.
            An angry man is his own worst enemy. And I guess that goes for women, too.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

He Was Ready, I Was Not

Did It Really Matter?

            One must accept one’s nature, it seems. In spite of all the formulas for success we’re taught by our parents, teachers, mentors, and peers, we’re bound by who we are, whether we acknowledge that person or not.
            My neighborhood friend and I went to middle school and high school together and were set to attend the same hometown college. But after we graduated from high school our paths separated. My friend practiced memory exercises all summer in preparation for his freshman year. Should I be doing that, too? I couldn’t think of anything I’d’ve rather done less! So I didn’t.
            But I worried about it. There was a right way and a wrong way to do everything, I’d been taught, and my friend seemed to be preparing for college the right way while I wasn’t thinking about college much at all—the wrong way.
            But it wasn’t a matter of right or wrong, as I feared then. It was a matter of following my nature by not preparing for what was ahead, just as my friend followed his by preparing so assiduously that I had to say I hardly knew him any more.
            We both came out of college with honors, but he got the higher ones because, you could say, he prepared for college and I didn’t. And there is something to that assessment. He started his freshman year ready for what was coming, acing his tests from the start. I was not ready. College came as a shock to me, and it took me most of my freshman year to settle in and figure out how to succeed in this new and demanding environment.
            But there was no way I could have prepared for where my nature was leading.
            In that summer when he was memorizing his flash cards I was sweating in a print shop, taking TV Guides off a reptilian binding machine which engorged the printed pages, collated them, stapled them, folded them, cut them to size, and spit them out on a conveyer belt in lots of 25. My job was to scoop up each lot and stack it, one on top of another, on a skid. When the skid was piled high enough, a fork lift brought in another, taking the loaded one away to another part of the building where a crew of women inserted the magazines inside the Sunday paper.
            When I wasn’t working, I was at the swimming pool with my girl friend, who still had another year to go in high school, or I was at her house watching TV with her parents, or, if they were out, exploring each other’s anatomy as we came ever closer to “doing it.” College seemed remote, certainly not a priority for me...yet.
            At the end of the summer, as I was about to leave the bindery to start college, the director of personnel came to see me on the factory floor. He had a proposition for me. How would I like to be an editorial trainee on our city’s daily evening newspaper? It was a program the company ran for promising college students. I’d work part-time during school and full-time over summer, learning the newspaper business from the ground up.
            This was a stunning opportunity for me, one I couldn’t refuse, though it made adapting to college while learning a profession on the side an even more difficult initiation for this ex-happy-go-lucky high school grad.
            Yet there was no way I could have prepared for something I didn’t expect—an opportunity to learn journalism, get paid, buy my first car, support a girl friend, and finally make it to the dean’s list, too! I even played a role in a community production of “A Christmas Carol.” And I went on to become co-editor of my college newspaper.
            Is that success or is that success?
            It’s not my nature to think ahead, making plans to position myself for opportunities. My nature is to wait for the right thing to come to me, then respond. I’ve groped my way to happiness living that way for nearly a lifetime. I see no reason to discontinue the practice now. Besides, I couldn’t if I tried. It’s my nature.
            My old neighborhood friend, by the way, got his PhD and went into academia, as I might have done if I’d been better able to prepare. But the last I heard he dropped out of all that and was writing a novel. I never heard whether it was published.
            Maybe doing those flash cards that summer wasn’t in his nature after all.

Thursday, January 05, 2017

On Harsh Punishment for Children

"One Day I'll Kill  
The Son of a Bitch"

            A new show on NPR, weekdays at 10 a.m., has replaced the legendary Diane Rehm, who’s retired. It’s called One-A and is hosted by a young, energetic Joshua Johnson. Today’s subject: How much punishment is too much for wayward juveniles who don’t yet understand the difference between right and wrong?
            I didn’t fully understand that difference until I’d gone way off the rails in the late 1960s-early ‘70s. Part of my late-blooming sense of morality was caused by the deeply held resentment I felt toward my father, who beat me once too often when I was eight years old, and then again, sealing my contempt, when I was ten.
            I don’t need to go into the details of those rough sessions, but they destroyed my loyalty to either of my parents—him for doing it, her for letting him—and, frankly, I never fully regained that trust again. Feelings mellowed over the years and have healed somewhat since they died. But my distrust of the dominant society they represented—the family is like the larger society reflected in a parakeet mirror—created in me a stubborn determination to participate as little in that society as I possibly could without sacrificing my basic human needs of food, clothing, shelter, and love.
            So I can say from experience that harsh punishments for children, especially before they understand the difference between right and wrong, is detrimental to society. It creates angry citizens. How many Trump voters are former victims of what amounts to child abuse?
            Well, I wasn’t a Trump voter. But I do harbor a simmering anger at the violent men in society who enforce social order over the dissidents and criminals they’ve created with a show of superior force. It’s a sick, repetitive cycle, and it’s spinning out of control, as it has before in the history of the world. Let’s hope it can be interrupted before it takes a world war to expel the bad energy of recent history.
            One way to interrupt it which I’ve found useful is to practice meditation regularly and, while in that state, call up my parents and make my feelings clear. I’ve made some good progress with my mother, who listens more now, but my father is diffident, though he still hangs around. When I call him up, he’s there, but we don’t exchange much specific communication. All I know is, when I think about it, the marks he left on my body still burn, and the anger flames up again in my second chakra as if I were still a little boy sobbing on the floor as the bastard leaves my room, closing the door behind him, while I vow under my breath that when I’m big enough I’ll kill the son of a bitch.
            This is not a good thing.
            I don’t have children, and I’m glad. I knew I wouldn’t be any better a father than he, no doubt passing on what he learned or experienced from his father, which he could never talk about either. In fact, he never talked about his father or his mother. He barely talked about his birth family at all.
            I didn’t want to pass it on—the family violence that caused me both anger and shame which I carried for decades and still feel in my gut today.
            I don’t know how you’re supposed to raise children in this harsh world. But I do know that enforcing discipline with violence does not produce psychological health or well-being. It creates maladjusted people with defensive responses and deep issues involving trust.
            On a brighter note, things got a lot better after I grew up and got out on my own. I was in my late 30s then, a little late, but better late than never.

Monday, January 02, 2017

New Year's Eve 2017

Waiting for the Ball
To Drop

          Just because 2016 was the year it was, I’m sitting here on New Year’s Eve 2017 writing a reflective blog instead of being out on the town madly celebrating. So many things have changed since last New Year’s Eve! The best parts for me so far are personal while in the public world outside I hear alarm bells clanging like they might crack.
          In fact I sometimes rather easily forget the positive because the negative is so potentially catastrophic. It makes personal optimism seem almost delusional.

A Brand New Hip

          My major positive change since this time last year is my brand new left hip the Goddess of Coincidence scheduled for my birthday in August. Now, on New Year’s Eve, it’s a proudly working part of the whole of my vital architecture, gradually and successfully taking back its rightful share of the stress the old hip had passed on across my lumbar area, just to keep me upright and ambulatory.
          But that noble effort was failing. Last Christmas I had to perform my annual Concise Dickens’ Christmas Carol in a rocking chair, staging it as a story told by the fire in front of the Christmas tree.
          This year I played it up on my feet again, staging it to resemble a dance, and I don’t exaggerate when I say that I moved again as I did when I was ten or fifteen years younger. A consummate pleasure!
          That gives me pause as I look back over 2016. A year ago I was headed for a wheel chair. This year I look forward to the joys of increased physical activity—swimming, biking, dancing, walking the beach pain-free, and perhaps creating a new show. That outlook alone gives back to me the vitality that had been slipping away.

A Liberated Eye

          Meanwhile, as I write this, I’m in the middle of cataract surgery. The left eye was liberated on Dec. 29, the right is scheduled for later in January.
          The cataract just removed, the doctors said, was significant, so they don’t find it surprising that my cornea is swollen and sore and my vision is cloudy and, as yet, unresolved. All that will heal and improve, they assure me.
          But already I’ve seen significant change. The difference between my right eye, which reveals the world I’ve grown used to, and my left, sore but cataract-free, is fairly dramatic.
          For instance, the light of the reflected Sun outside is no longer tinged with yellow but is gleaming white. The same is true of our indoor lights—once yellow, now white. Other colors, too, are different from what I’m used to, and always more vivid. I thought the monitor of my old computer was wearing out because I had to keep pushing up the brightness control. Now I find it’s too bright, I have to turn it back to see the letters I type. If I look at our stove top with my right eye alone, it’s yellowed like aging porcelain, but with my left eye it’s white as Mr. Clean. My orange travel cup is not orange, it’s red. My new winter vest is not blue but green.
          Everything, in short, is all new to my clean eye, and if I want to see what I’m used to I just look through the other, for contrast. The conclusion is unavoidable. I’ve been looking at the world for any number of years through increasingly dirty windows.
          The prospect of renewed windows on the world is another cause for optimism as I look out, literally and figuratively, on the dawn of 2017. New hip, new eyesight, promises for new work in the coming year—these are causes to celebrate with optimism, if it weren’t for the bigger picture of a world, from my point of view, headed down every bad path it can find.

Back to High School

          The prospects I see when I look down those paths—admittedly, just prospects, not certainties, for nothing ahead is fixed in time—I see archetypes of high-school authorities from the 1950s rising up shoulder-to- shoulder before me, roadblocks to the adolescent stirrings in my soul, their arms folded across their chests in a definitive collective NEGATIVE to all inquiries concerning the whereabouts of Truth and Beauty in their fiefdoms.
          All they cared about was jobs. Good jobs. As a teenager I never found one.
          In a moment of truth I couldn’t fully understood, I checked “meat-cutter” as my first career choice in a 9th grade preference test. My teacher saw my choice over my shoulder and said, icily, “Is that what you plan to do with all your brains?”
          No, I didn’t want to be a meat-cutter. I didn’t want to be anything yet, I was still just a kid who didn’t know what I wanted to be except I knew I didn’t want to grow up to be like them—dour, resigned,  unhappily employed, suspicious of laughter, severe on fun, and hopelessly unromantic, fixated as they were on making money as the first priority for an acceptable way of life. I saw checking “meat-cutter” as a protest act. Apparently it was effective, for it got under the skin of the appropriate authority. But it cast further suspicion on my background and family credentials. My parents were liberals in a county of Protestant  fundamentalists.
          The prospect of those people who once ruled my provincial childhood world now taking over our country gives me fear and dread. If they’re true to form, people will be divided into good and evil. They may not call it that, but that’s how they think of it. The good obey the masters and cheerfully do what they’re told. The evil do not fit in and, like drowning refugees, are left to fend for themselves. They commonly die in prison or car wrecks or shooting accidents or drug over-doses, outside the purview of the movers and shakers who make the rules and their docile admirers who follow them.

Rules for Life

          These were the society norms which governed the general culture where I grew up in the 1950s. They irked me like a burr under the saddle but I bore them like a Spartan until I came to understand they were rules for life, not just until I reached freedom as an adult. There is no freedom for adults in the structured society of our civilization, and there certainly is no freedom for children.
          But some of us thought we were free or at least there was a chance we could be, not by making money but by losing ourselves in contemplation of the Oneness of all being and generating ideas and art forms from our musings while passing through the culture with only enough money to continue our unique quests.
          Now they’re cracking down, just like high school. Nuclear arms are coming back, oil will be pumped full-speed ahead again, gas will be fracked, earthquakes in Oklahoma will keep shaking, the wilderness and the oceans will be auctioned off to business, women will be forced to bear children of rape and incest as well as mistakes of passion, and there will be no mercy for black-on-white crime.
          And did I mention that children will go hungry and uneducated, old people left to languish with the roaches in urine-stained beds, and three-quarters of Nature’s species will disappear as the chain saw and the fishing net make way for the ascendancy of rapacious human beings unleashed by unregulated greed?
          That’s what I fear is ahead, and oddly enough the only one who can stop it is Donald Trump.

A Desperate Hope

          So now all is in a delicate balance. Yes, the man about to be crowned as King of the World, so to speak, is thought to be on the side of the hard-nosed authorities who resent women and youth and demand obedience from servants and dogs. That’s true enough.
          But he’s not really one of them, as the others of the 16 overthrown contenders would have been, and with his credentials so in doubt, even among his own, the real hope now to keep the uptight fathers out of power is Trump’s intuitive unpredictability. He could channel great innovative change into the world, which never needed it more, or block the worst the paid politicians can do to turn back the clock to white Protestant rule. That may be a desperate hope, but it’s the rational way out to avoid a nationalist take-over of a great idea for a just and prosperous nation by inviting everyone to participate.
          So maybe there’s an enlightened tie between the apparent  contradiction of my personal liberation from long-term physical limitations and the ascendancy, in my opinion, of an alarming coterie of right-wing ideologues and zealous nuts. I can’t blame failing health and strength as an excuse for staying put. I have to participate in the upcoming debacle, like it or not, because the system cured my ills.
          I admit I sometimes wish that heart attack they fixed in 2008 had saved me from all this. I would have died if medicine had been the same as 1940, when I was born. Now I’m less likely to die from heart failure than from falling off a roof, and I don’t do roofs the way I used to, climbing like a monkey up to the peak. Hanging from a rafter to mount a theater light. No more of that any time soon, with my skewed eyesight and still-healing hip.
          But am I kept alive to witness this alarming take-over of the country by the peddlers of severity pretending to be good Christians with their Bible open to Jeremiah, not Matthew five to seven? That bit of hypocrisy is what I don’t get. Judge them by their deeds and see if it’s not a scary thing to stand by as such a team assembles to govern over us with their narrow perspective on the world as a wealth-generating machine for those ruthless enough to get control of it.
          Only Trump can stop them. What will the Emperor do? Which way wave his magic scepter? What stuff is he made of? And of what stuff am I, now that I can walk again and see the true colors of the world?
          These questions posed by the advent of 2017 are why I write a blog on New Year’s Eve rather than party with friends, trusting everything is still the same as it always was. Because it isn’t. It’s better, and it’s worse, and I don’t know what’s coming, only that I can’t excuse myself from dealing with it.