Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Anti-Vaxxers......

 

  So, here we are, looking down the gun-barrel of a fourth surge of Covid-19....and now its not just a deadly virus, it is an even more deadly virus, on steroids, because the large reservoir of unvaccinated people has given the virus the opportunity to morph into the so-called, 'Delta variant'.  It is terrifying some epidemiologists with how readily it is transmitted from person to person.  Some are calling it the pandemic of the un-vaccinated. And, as one looks at the correlation between the soaring infection rates and the parts of the country that have resisted getting vaccinated, it becomes clear that this is an apt way to describe it.

  Over 630,000 Americans have died already.  That, as previously noted here, is over 200,000 MORE than all of those who died during World War II.  The rapidly accelerating death toll has apparently been little noticed by the people who are still insisting that the virus is a 'hoax' and that the vaccines are part of a nefarious government conspiracy to implant nano-bots, in your bloodstream.  These tiny machines will trace your every move and allow the government to completely control your life.  

  When pigs fly....

  The sheer stupidity and the mental dysfunction of true believers of such a conspiracy is almost too vast and abysmal to comprehend.  But, then, we're living in a time when a lot of people have let go of any connection to the idea that there are such things as actual 'facts' and there are facts that have been scientifically PROVEN to be 'true'.  These people subscribe, apparently, to the idea that a fact is what you say it is.  If you think it is 'true', then, by God, it is.  This, of course, plays right into Trump's hand as he plots his return to the Oval Office.  He wants to be the source for what they know and what they believe...and, it will bear little resemblance to anything that the rest of us know is The Truth.  

  Okay, what is The Truth?  Well, let's just do a quick survey of issues.  For starters, it's irrevocably TRUE that Donald J. Trump lost the 2020 election.  Even Moscow Mitch McConnell now admits that.  Not only did he lose it, he lost it by a margin of 7,000,000 votes....way beyond something that could be understood as being 'close'.  Over 60 court cases have established that the election was above board and accurate.

  A second major fact....a GIGANTIC truth...staring us in the face: science is valid when it is approached with respect, honesty and rigorous discipline.  Scientists devote their entire careers to the search for 'truth'. They are held to extremely high standards of proof when they present their findings.  So, when Phizer and Moderna say that their vaccines are 95 and 94% effective, they are not just making that up. And, now we have the ultimate proof that they are correct as we watch poor, deluded people crying for the vaccine as they are dying. "I was so stupid. I should have taken the damn vaccine."said a father of five as he lay dying.  Others beg doctors to give them the vaccine and the docs have to tell them it's just too late.  This truly is a pandemic of the un-vaccinated.  About 99 or 98% of the new Covid cases that are now threatening to overwhelm hospitals in Florida, Missouri, Louisana and other under-vaccinated states....are the unvaccinated.  They are committing suicide by listening to the lies that continue to pour out of Fox, OAN, NewMax and social media.  

  These liars are actually killing people by the thousands. Donald J. Idiot doesn't give a fart in a hurricane that this is what is happening, as long as it renders the country vulnerable to his conspiracies and his lies.  He has every intention of regaining power, and he'll clearly not stop at doing whatever his feverish little brain thinks will get him there. 

  My wife has a massage therapy practice of some 33 years.  She has at least seven long-time clients who refuse to get vaxxed.  The excuses are inane and pathetic.  One person claimed that Biden was threatening them that if they didn't get vaxxed, ".....they will pay for it.".  So, this poor soul took that to mean that the government was going to demand their money if they refused to get the jab.  Well, that's another case of taking language literally when it was meant metaphorically.  Those who refuse to get vaxxed WILL indeed pay...many of them....but it won't be money they lose, it COULD EASILY BE THEIR LIFE.

  I am about done with excuses like, "Well, it hasn't been fully tested yet." Are you shitting me? It has been tested on millions of people across the globe and it has proven beyond any doubt that these vaccines are not only highly effective, they are also very safe. So, let's be clear: you are willing to die on a hospital ventilation machine because you think the government is out to get you.  Maybe you will live to thumb your nose at all of this. Sure, it could happen.  But, what if you are one of those who have a bad trip with Covid, and end up on that ventilator, begging a doctor for a cure that is far too late.  How would that feel, eh? 

The front line in the war against Covid-19 Delta
You do not want to be here.



Friday, July 16, 2021

The GOP has become a 'death cult'

 

   Those are strong words.  What, in reality, is a 'death cult'? 

   Well, let's try to sort it out.  For starters, it is a group of people who have accepted the idea that some of its members...and most of its enemies....will have to die in order to achieve their goals.  A very good historical example exists in Hitler's SS.  The Shutzstaffle, translates as 'the protection squadron', but the reality was ever so much more than merely a bodyguard for Der Fuhrer.  There was a component of the SS intended for that purpose, the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler.  And, they were indeed a small but very elite--even in the SS--body of troops especially trained and detailed to keep Der Fuhrer, safe.  There was also an SS Panzer division that went by this name, but that was a component of the Waffen SS, the military branch of the SS.

   In terms of their overarching mission, the SS was responsible for eliminating any and all resistance to National Socialism.  It was, in essence, a private military answerable only to the Nazi hierarchy and to Hitler himself.  They committed murder with complete impunity and were the instrument of a terror program that really was terrifying to almost all Germans.

He wants to be president for life. He's said so.

    So, here comes Donald J. Idiot, with his grandiose pretentions of becoming a 'president for life' and a full-on dictator.  He needs people who will act as his agents in eliminating opposition to his agenda.  But, this is not Germany in the 20s and 30s.  That was a nutrient rich soup full of societal breakdowns....like, for instance, runaway inflation and unemployment...ripe for despotism.  The country was in such dire straits that it was just a petrie dish waiting for the right 'microbe' to come along.  And, the Austrian corporal was just perfect for the job.  He had the skills to communicate and his speeches were magnetic...unlike Donny Boy, who never gave a speech in which he didn't just dwell on his own complaints.

  What Donald J. Idiot needed to achieve his agenda was and remains very different.  He instinctively knew that he had no case for his leadership unless he could convince a large swath of the population that America is in deep trouble too.  But, to do this in a country where affluence is still very widespread--and legions of people drive SUVs that cost what a house used to cost--it was clearly necessary to weave a web of lies, to create an entire narrative that, while false, was somehow believable....at least by the throngs of gullible white people who feel terrified that they're losing their dominant status in America.  Donny Boy made them  believe that the 'Brown Wave' is coming, and they're going to take over and the country will be destroyed as they attempt to turn it into a Socialist--read 'Communist'--welfare state for the unwashed masses.

  And, if you connect the dots, you can begin to see how this path led to January 6th, the first attempted violent overthrow of the United States government in modern history.  Groups of angry and threatened white Americans have been proliferating at a record pace. You have the, by now, standard MAGA KoolAids, the OathKeepers, the Proud Boys, the various neo-Nazi identified cells, and then you begin to get into the really nutso groups, like QAnon.  The Southern Poverty Law Center catalogs such groups, under 'hate groups' and their list is swelling fast.

   We have already established how far off the deep-end Q is, but they are not alone.  And, now, because the Idiot has stuck to his Big Lie, that the election was stolen from him....despite mountains of evidence that prove it was not....more than a third of the American people believe it was.  They firmly believe that Joe Biden is an illegitimate president, and that the country is in dire straits, even as Uncle Joe does his level best to undo the extensive damage that the Idiot inflicted on it during his four years of mayhem. There was almost nothing that did not receive his destructive attention.  One of the last things he did was to okay the slaughter of wolves on federal lands.  You name it, he shat on it.  That's his style, eh.

  And, now, we are standing here looking over a cliff.  If we are unable to pull together and create enough resistance to prevent it....and that is a big question-mark at this point....we will watch as the GOPs steal and destroy our democracy.  The reams of voter suppression measures they are putting in place at the state level will work.  They will make it so difficult for poor and disadvantaged people to vote that many will quite likely just fail to make the added effort.  The GOPs know beyond any doubt that they cannot win a fair election in which all Americans have the opportunity to vote.  They turned out what they thought was a tsunami of voters....and the Dems topped it with a SEVEN MILLION vote margin.  They are screwed unless they cheat.

  And, cheat they will.  

  Of course, this doesn't really present any kind of moral or ethical challenge for them because they are so used to lying by now that it is like falling off a log.  True. The sites that check facts for a living, Snopes, Politifact, and others....all document that particularly Fox but also OANN and NewMax...lie their asses off.  Fox lies 87% of the time....nary a qualm of conscience about it.  Occasionally, however, somebody on Fox does get tired of all the lies and calls them out.  Notably Shepherd Smith (since left) and Chris Wallace have drawn a line.  But, most of them, even to the point of lying about vaccines and potentially killing people who listen, lie like a rug.  

  So, how can a political party take a position that will clearly result in getting some of its members killed and.....NOT be a 'Death Cult'?  

   

Monday, July 12, 2021

The Precipice we are teetering on......

 

     If you pay any attention to the news you already know that the conservative freak-show, CPAC, is underway in Dallas.  And, it really is an over-the-top gathering of those who love Trump's lies, his bombast and his desire to be an overlord. They overwhelmingly believe that the 2020 election was, as he endlessly lies, stolen.  Despite mountains of hard evidence that it was NOT, they would rather believe a man who lies as easily as most of us breathe. So, he used his speech to this gathering of broken people to lie again and again....about every damn thing.  He's an idiot, but he's THEIR idiot and a hero of the masses....despite all indications that he could give a crap about the 'little people', and has just learned how to manipulate them and get them to think he's on their side against the world. 

This is the face of Evil in our time.

   As one would expect, the speakers are all pushing their listeners to reject vaccination, and the audience is cheering when they wax effusive about how evil it is to ask people to get one.  This is being compared, rather predictably, by Moron Taylor Green, as akin to what the Nazis did during the Third Reich.  One blithering idiot, Madison Cawthorn, tried to sell the idea that vaxxers coming to peoples' doors might mean they would, "...take your Bible,".   

  You have to wonder how stupid he thinks conservatives really are.  So, somebody is going to knock on your door and tell you to hand over your Bible, and by the way if you get don't get vaccinated you will end-up in Auschwitz. I don't know if there is a descriptive pejorative lower than, 'Clown Show', but if there is, it would be applicable here.  

  So, imagine that you live in a parallel universe.  One day the authorities announce that there is a pestilence loose on the planet that will kill millions of humans.  It is invisible, but it most certainly is putting people in dire distress and they're dying in droves.  Then an expert on such diseases announces that vaccines have been developed and if you just go get one you won't die...at least not from this rapidly growing menace.  So, people line-up by the millions and get this 'miracle' shot, and even a follow-up....and, it so happens that the expert was right....people who have this shot are no longer ending up in hospitals and dying.  It really is almost miraculous.  But, there are some nattering nabobs in the population who have decided that the vaccine is actually a plot to take over the planet. Once you get the shot(s), you have nanobots in your bloodstream and the government now has full control over what you think and do.  Eeeeegads! 

  But, those who listen and refuse the shots continue to get sick and die. Many of them, sadly, express their regret that they didn't listen to the experts and get the shot....even as they are dying.  

  So, one must wonder what the agenda is on the part of those who are spreading false information about the shots.  Are they seriously okay with letting people DIE because of their inability to trust science? How is that not the quintessence of EVIL?  To do something consciously that you know will get people sick and even kill them, is, in fact, a good working definition of the concept of 'evil'.  

  This is one more occasion where I am drawn back to Chris Hedges previously quoted essay,   "Welcome to the Asylum", because it bears repeating.  In his opening paragraph, he quotes the poet Louis-Ferdinand Celine, "At times when the page is turning, when history brings all the nuts together, opens its Epic Dance Halls! hats and heads in the whirlwind! Panties overboard!"

 And, this is precisely what you are watching happen at CPAC.  Insanity is operating at a frenetic level in plain view of the world.  People are cheering for speakers who are promoting suicide by telling listeners that vaccinations are a hoax designed to control them. 

  A second even darker theme is being heavily promoted as well:  that Donald J. Fucking Idiot will be reinstalled in the Oval Office next month.  The whacko pillow guy, Lindell, along with the ding-dong pesudo lawyer Sydney Powell, and so many others are all certain that there will be some miraculous shift that will cause this to happen.  Of course, there is no legal means of making this so.  There just isn't.  But, since when do whackos like Powell and clown-prince Rudy Giuliani, stop at facts?  Never going to happen.

  So, what emerges out of this insanity is the idea of a repeat of January 6th but on a more organized and more lethal level.  There are Proud Boys, Oathkeepers, neo-Nazis, and many more...who would absolutely be willing to take over the government by violent coup-d'etat.  Oh, yes they would just love to do that, all the while believing that they are in the 'right' to do so.

 As the title of this piece implies, we are tip-toeing in some very dangerous territory.  If the government and people across the nation do not accept that these forces for evil are multiplying and gaining currency as they do, we could be in for a situation that directly mirrors what happened in Germany in the 30s.  Many Germans were taken by surprise when Hitler suddenly emerged as Chancellor.  The Nazis never did hold a majority in their congress, the Reichstag.  But, they knew how to maneuver and Hitler sucked up to Hindenburg all the while knowing the old war horse was going to die soon.  

  So, a country renowned for it's contributions to science, philosophy, literature, art and religion...became a totalitarian nightmare state in very short order.  Suddenly, it was worth your freedom and even your life to speak against the regime.  You might easily disappear into the 'Nacht und Nebel', the 'Night and Fog' of the terror state.  Once the Gestapo had you in their sights it was terrifying, not merely for you, but for your family, friends and even your community.  Sippenhaft was a Gestapo policy that means 'clan arrest' and so even your loved ones could end up in Dachau or a similar camp. In almost no time at all, there were KZs, Konzentration Lager, all over Germany.  We hear about the huge camps, like  Auschwitz-Birkenau, but there were approximately 2500 smaller camps that constituted a 'feeder system' for the large death camps.  It was a true nightmare.

 And, we want to believe that nothing like that could ever happen here.  In fact, most Americans cling somewhat desperately to the concept of American exceptionalism, that means such bad things might happen to a lot of countries....but, no way could that ever happen in the good ol' USA.

  I am telling you here and now that this is NOT TRUE. Not only could it happen here, we are well on the way to it happening.  The idiots who believe in QAnon and worship the most corrupt and immoral leader to ever emerge in American politics, also do not think it's wrong to steal elections, even if you need to do illegal and immoral deeds to make it happen.  They are not just so stupid that they deny science and believe in the Idiot's lies, they are utterly without morals that demand any level of honesty, kindness, service to the greater community and are, on top of it all, devoted to the idea of White Supremacy.  Oh, yes, they are.  Although most of them would deny it, it's just a fact that has been proven over and over again by their actions in the near past. 

  TIME TO WAKE UP AMERICA!  Never mind smelling the coffee, you need to smell the rot that is consuming the core of conservative America.  You need to make your voices heard and to get engaged. The time is past when we can watch what is happening in the halls of congress and simply shake our heads.  There needs to be a sense that this is a genuine EMERGENCY and keep it coupled to the facts of the matter.  

1. Conservative far-right Americans are willing to kill democracy.  No exaggeration at all!!!

2. They will do anything, legal, illegal, immoral and even violent...to do this and gain control of the country, despite being a minority.

3. Large numbers of these people are racist, mysogynist, anti-Semitic, anti-LBGTQ, and and are eager to inflict their beliefs on all others.

4. This is an existential crisis.  Yes, it means that the life of our democratic republic is in dire danger.

  And, if you don't see this, or worse yet, if you believe ANY of the crap that the conservatives are now pedaling, then you are a part of the problem.  



Thursday, July 1, 2021

On Good and Evil....

 


     Most people know by the time they're adults that the world is not a black and white place.  In fact, it consists of infinite shades of grey....and, as an artist I can tell you that the color 'grey' is anything but simple and straight forward.  It is subject to subtle and endless shadings of other colors, i.e. pinkish-grey, violet-grey, greenish, bluish, yellowish...and, that is not even beginning to explore the various permutations of grey that are darker or lighter than 'normal'.  

  So, harkening back to a discussion of 'right and wrong', we come to the realization that life can be a complicated affair and has endless nuances and shades of meaning that only reveal themselves when we stop to really examine a particular situation.  

  In the field of ethics, likewise, nothing is set in stone and able to be counted on for consistency.  Everything is malleable and potentially ready to change in response to external influences.  So, here we are, in 2021, and our sense of what is right and wrong is being sliced and diced in a way that has many people confused.  We are living in a time when, for a wide variety of reasons, people are making ethical choices that seem strange....at least, they do if one puts them alongside the conventions that have been in place for many generations.

  I don't believe for a second that all the people who have taken up the cause of the far-right, Trumpism, and even QAnon....are aware that what they are doing is destructive.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  They are very certain that they are in league with an entire segment of American society that believes they are working to 'save America'.  No, don't start looking for some logical explanation; you won't find one.  How they got so far around the bend is a matter that political scientists and sociologists...and the mental health profession in its entirety....will, doubtless be discussing for a very long time, for generations, in fact.

  It remains mysterious why QAnon has demonstrated such a strong appeal to as many people as it has.  They--the 'Qs' themselves--might not think it is odd, but, the rest of the world is just watching and shaking its collective head.  To recap just how far out there it is:  high-profile Democrats, all of them Satan worshipers and pedophiles, gather in a pizza restaurant in DC to molest infant children, extract life-prolonging adrenal substances (whatever the hell those are....unknown to science, of course) and then they eat the poor babies.  

  Really?

  As I have expressed previously, if I were creating a conspiracy theory that would be competing for the title of 'most unbelievable', it would be something like QAnon.  It's not merely incredible, it's just off-the-scale FUCKING STUPID.  

  And, yet, I promise you that I could find a 'Q' without too much difficulty and when I asked why they have decided that this lame-brain idiocy is 'true', I would get the whole Tucker Carlson riff about how evil the left is and how the Brown Wave is here and about to steal any pretense of freedom from all white people.  They haven't given themselves to this foolishness lightly;  they conform very closely to a 'true believer' viewpoint.  And, along with this flight from reality...they have also adopted some of the views that are now not just ugly and stupid...they are DANGEROUS. 

  Just this morning, on Alternet.com, an article reported that a GOP congressman from Michigan has grown very concerned that he's hearing people in his district talking about directing violence toward their neighbors who voted for Biden.  Yes, it's insane, but that is what is reaching his ears and it seems almost...ALMOST....surreal.  These Trumpers and Qs, and Proud Boys, etc. are actually contemplating SHOOTING THEIR NEIGHBORS...because they see them as the 'enemy'.  

  Holy Cow, Batman!!!  How have we gotten to this place of trying to accept that this is even 'thinkable', much less 'doable'?

  Just knowing that there are Americans out there who would even imagine for a brief instant that shooting their neighbors is a political solution.....to any-fucking-thing....is well beyond unsettling, and well into, "Okay, I'm really worried."  The fact that this is happening across the land...mostly in deep-red states, of course....is a sign that our society is on the verge of collapse. 

  Yes, I know that is a strong statement, but, it is also not really an exaggeration.  If we devolve to the point where such attacks are happening on a regular basis...we are one tiny step away from the second civil war that Tucker Carlson is calling for.  He's not just one more far-right hate monger, with severe mental issues.  He's got a very large following on Fox and they're not going to silence their cash cow, are they?

  I occasionally re-visit Ernest Callanbach's essay: 'Epistle to the Ecotopians'.   Here is a link, in case you would like to read, or re-read, it.

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/epistle-to-the-ecotopians_b_1495948?view=print&comm_ref=false

And, another essay worth reading, that could offer some solace in at least deepening our understanding of what we face and what is happening to us now:  Chris Hedges, "Welcome to the Asylum".

https://www.truthdig.com/articles/welcome-to-the-asylum/

This helps me to realize that I am not alone in looking at society and feeling that we are headed down the rabbit hole.

  "At times when the page is turning," Louis-Ferdinand Celine wrote in "Castle to Castle", "...when history brings all the nuts together, opens its Epic Dance Halls! hats and heads in the whirlwind! Panties overboard!"

  Referring back to the title of this piece, Good and Evil are the anchor points of any civilization.  Either people are devoted to the idea that Good is preferable to Evil, or they are not. But, perhaps the greatest danger comes when people think they're doing 'good', when, in actuality, it is the opposite.  So many on the far right have seemingly convinced themselves that up is down and down is up, that we are now on the cusp of having a society that, collectively, doesn't know right from wrong....or good from evil.

 I fervently wish that I had hope that we are going to come to a mass realization that the only way a society can become 'whole', or beneficial to the greatest majority of its constituents, is for us to accept that we are all in this together. Nothing good is possible as long as there is this significant segment of us who believe that they are 'right' and that they're the only ones who deserve to be full-fledged citizens in good standing.,...and that the rest of us are so unworthy that we deserve to be executed. Amazingly, there are people on the right who have actually said this.....that anyone who has supported Biden is a traitor and all traitors should be executed.

  I suspect they have managed to overlook January 6th as a somewhat  bottomless supply of traitors who tried to overthrow the government of the United States by force. If they want to start putting such people up against the wall and perforating them, that is where they should begin.   Of course, in our topsy-turvy world, the idiots who stormed the capital are painted as patriots and 'heroes', despite the actual truth that they are domestic terrorists.  If you want a second opinion on this, I suggest consulting any of the capitol police who were on the receiving end of these 'patriots' rage.

  

A peaceful gathering of tourists who came to celebrate democracy.......oh, yeah.

 It beggars belief that some in congress have had the balls to claim that the capitol attackers were, "....just tourists", and that they were there on a peaceful mission to make their grievances heard.

  OH....BULLSHIT!!!!  Just stop it!

   This is about as perfect an example of turning reality upside down and inside out as you are likely to find...anywhere in human history.

  Once a society has lost it's moral grounding, and the very concepts of 'right and wrong', 'good and evil' have been decimated to the point where most people can no longer recognize them...that society is veering perilously toward total disaster....becoming a failed society where violence and depravity are the most common coin of the realm.

  Those of us who never drank the cyanide laced KoolAid, can see clearly what is happening.  It is scary and, at some point, will require us to make an effort to stay safe, even in our own homes and communities.  In the meantime, all we can do is voice our opinions, our anger and our disrespect for those who are promulgating this ever accelerating descent into some kind of self-made hell-realm.

  Can we hold onto hope that large numbers of Americans will stand firm and resist this onslaught?  The answer to this question is not clear at present.  



Tuesday, June 29, 2021

The cost of doing the right thing.......

 

   This is a subject that has held my attention for the last half-century.  I graduated in 1970 from Penn State, with a degree in the philosophy of ethics, as a result of needing to know how a code of ethics can be a life-long guide as we make decisions that affect not only ourselves, but our loved ones and all those people we interact with as we make our way along the path of life.  If we become a member of a wide variety of professions, our ethics will also play a pivotal role in determining how we treat people and how we are regarded by others. 

  Take, for example, a person setting out to practice law. There will be daily situations that arise and are asking us to make a decision based not merely on the letter of the law, but on what we 'know' to be right and wrong.  This is true for any medical practioner as well.  In fact, when you get right down to it, almost every occupational path I can think of has moments when a person is split between doing the right thing, and choosing to do something that smacks of being unethical.

And.....Say, are his pants on backwards?

     Here's an imaginary example of a conflict that demands the practioner make a difficult decision:  you are an oncologist.  You come across a mammogram that somehow dropped through the cracks of the information flow in your practice.  There it is, glaring back at you as you realize that this is a major problem....for the patient as well as for you. The results clearly indicate that the patient has virulent breast cancer and that it needs attention as soon as possible. But, you realize that somebody...not clear who...has dropped the ball. If you now contact the patient and explain to her that this was a terrible mistake and that you need to see her right now and plan a course of treatment....it will, almost certainly,  come back to bite you in the ass.  A mistake was made and somebody needs to be held accountable.  Malpractice insurance rates...already sky-high....will shoot up.  But, more than any of these consequences....it could mean this woman will lose her battle with the disease.

  The clear temptation is to bury the mammogram and pretend nothing happened. Done in a sneaky and clever way it could get you off the hook. In this case, as is so often true, doing the 'right thing' means putting yourself in jeopardy, on multiple levels.  It could be a disaster.  But, putting the patient first and accepting the risks that come out of it, is clearly what needs to happen. So, you bite the bullet and do everything in your power to see that this woman gets the treatment she needs and hope that the delay is not a disaster for her.

  Okay, this is a rather dramatic example, but, opportunities of this kind arise all the time as we go through our lives.  It can be a daunting challenge to accept that doing the right thing is going to have painful consequences.  But, consider the cost of doing what you know is the 'wrong' thing.  Unless you are one of those poor souls....like so many in politics these days....who has managed to thoroughly subdue their conscience, you are going to do the right thing, suffer the penalties, and avoid spending the rest of your life regretting that you did not.

  The most obvious ethical arena in our lives is one in which decisions are being made daily that shape how we live, work, manage (or not) to have the necessities, i.e. medical care, food, shelter and all that life demands of us as we live each day. If you haven't guessed already, it is government.  And, we send people to Washington, or to our state capitals, hopeful that they will do 'the right thing'.  Their responsibility is to the people, not to corporations, the uber-rich or to some political philosophy that has plans to take over and run everything according to self-serving principles that always serve GREED in one form or another.  They are not there to line their own pockets, or to build a dynasty and be there long after they should have gone home.  They are there to make life in America more livable, not to make it a more difficult struggle, especially for the impoverished and the less advantaged.

  But, yes, it's pie-in-the-sky idealism to suppose that most congressional representatives are there for the right reasons.  The very nature of our political system pushes a person to make bad choices.  In order to survive and even thrive, a politician needs MONEY....lots of it.  Pols need to raise millions upon millions in order to stay competitive in elections.  So, they need to pander to the lobbyists and the special interests and beg for large donations for their political 'war chest'.  In return, as human nature seems to dictate, the lobbyists and other donors expect the politician to do their bidding when bills come up for a vote.  And, with only a few exceptions, THEY DO.  And, despite the fact that we complain bitterly that this system is broken, and even crooked...nothing happens that has the power to really bring about changes.  

  Big money calls the shots.  And, it has been that way for a very long time.  This might not be such a problem if big money, i.e. corporate America, had an active conscience.  But, in most cases, they dismiss any such suggestions as 'unproductive' and remind us that their first...and apparently ONLY....obligation is to make money for their shareholders.  They remind us that they have a mandate to do so and nothing should get in the way of that.  For their part, investors seem to agree with this mindless and unconscionable position.

  So, in a world where most people do still recognize right from wrong....we are facing a time of transition.  We will either learn how to prioritize doing what is 'right', or we will continue on down the road that the Idiot has so clearly laid out:  doing what serves our own needs and to hell with everybody else.  He models this approach amazingly well.  His sychophantic followers do not mind at all...apparently.....that he lies--almost every time he opens his piggish little yap--that he is sadistic, utterly without shame and willing to violate all the norms of society in order to get what he wants, i.e. more POWER,  and to have it for the foreseeable future.  He is a beast, utterly without redeeming human features...and, that's all just fine for those who have elevated him to Fuhrer status.

hgj

Monday, June 28, 2021

On Wisdom...

 

   It is a word we use frequently: wisdom.  Much of the time we are plugging it into sentences where it has a more or less warped meaning, i.e. "Don't be such a wise guy." Or some such phrase that alludes to the quality of wisdom, but in a peripheral manner.

  So, let's take a look at Wisdom.  What is it, really?  And, why is it mis-used or intentionally perverted  so often? 

  The working definition of wisdom relies entirely on the word 'wise'.  Okay, so what does that mean?  Well, the dictionary I use gives the following: "having the power of discerning and judging properly as to what is true or right; possessing discernment, judgement, or discretion". And that immediately puts us in search of what it really means instead of settling for a bunch of synonyms.  

  'Wisdom', is a quality that some human beings naturally exhibit, while others seem totally devoid of it. It is one of those things in life that you know better by experiencing it than by any verbal description.  Yes, "...you know it when you see it."  But, let's take a closer look at it and at least try to pin it down for those who don't feel they have ever directly been in the presence of great wisdom.

  In my own life, I have been extremely fortunate to have been in the presence of multiple individuals who exhibit wisdom in many different ways. There is one thing, however, that these various forms of wisdom all have in common: they all incorporate compassion in one way or another.  Compassion, as I have expressed here previously--but not for some while, it seems--is a sensitivity to the pain and suffering of others.  A truly compassionate person feels the pain despite the fact that it is not their own. On some level, they are volunteering to help carry another's load.  A compassionate person has little tolerance for people who are intent on inflicting pain on others, whether it is mental, emotional, or physical pain.  The stark opposite of this is a form of dysfunction in which the person has no ability to feel, or even sympathize with, another's pain.  Perhaps the word 'dispassionate' can be applied here. They may see the suffering that is happening, but because it doesn't directly affect them, they dismiss it as irrelevant.  Trump does this all the time.  He asked Gen. Milley why he couldn't just use the military to shoot the BLM protestors after George Floyd was murdered.  Now, that's harsh, eh.

  It is said that Frederic Nietzsche came across a carriage driver who was whipping one of his horses savagely.  It apparently was more than he could bear and instigated a break-down that landed him in an institution.  I have no way of knowing if this is true or not, but it is meant to illustrate that the man who wrote extensively about the superiority of the Ubermensch was not merely a cold and unfeeling philosopher. 

  Among the truly wise souls that I have known, one thing that they all share is this abundance of compassion. They are able to understand what other people are feeling at any particular moment in time, and this allows them to offer support and even comfort to a person who is struggling with a challenge or just life in general.   A wise person sees both sides of a situation in a glance.  Their only agenda is to ease the suffering of people who come to them for advice and encouragement.  Such souls don't seem to have a personal agenda.  They are secure in themselves to a degree that liberates them to have opinions based on facts, observed realities and other peoples' feelings.

  This is much different than a person who filters every little thing through the perverse inclinations of their ego.  I hate to bring the Idiot into the discussion repeatedly, but he's too perfect as an example of what happens when a person is the opposite of wise.  Amazingly, Donald J. Trump is considered wise...I imagine...by the Kool Aids who are not at all bothered by his bald-faced dishonesty, selfishness, avarice, sadism and the crude and rude package that is the man at the tip of the spear that now threatens the further existence of American democracy.  No doubt this says as much about these people as it does the Idiot himself.  If you sign-on to give your vociferous support to an asshole....you are almost certainly a card-carrying one yourself.  Are you listening out there in Trumpland?  You become what you give your fealty to.

a bully at work.....wisdom nowhere in sight

  It does little to point out what a miserable excuse for a human being he is.  Either you can clearly see that he is a stunning collection of human shortcomings....all wrapped in a vain and arrogant man who is actually proud of being so despicable....or you cannot.  The other dominant quality that wise people seem to have in abundance is a willingness to put themselves last.  There is a built-in service ethic that makes them want to help even people they are not personally acquainted with.  A common descriptor, at least here in New England, goes: "Old Bob was a good man....give ya the shirt off his back if he saw that you needed it."  

  People who go through life pursuing selfish goals are almost never also wise people, and very often they are unkind and even cruel to those whom they perceive as standing in their way.  It rarely happens that a wise and kind person becomes a national leader. The qualities needed in the political arena are more those of a gladiator than a saint, so it would be hugely unlikely that such a person would have the ability to practice compassion and a general sense of equanimity in the face of trying times.  Fortunately, we seem to have found a person who is at a time in his life when personal ambition revolves around trying to make the lives of ordinary Americans at least a little easier.  Old Joe may not be perfect, but, alongside the selfish and rude asshole that he replaced he's looking mighty good.

  Another primary quality that is present in wise people, is 'discernment'.  They can tell right from wrong, something that appears to remain elusive in many on the right in politics.  People like Tucker Carlson, Shaun Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and on and on, seem remarkably unable to know that what they are saying is simply wrong.  In fact, quite the opposite: they are more than happy to make up pseudo-facts and add them to their argument--for example--that voter suppression is addressing a genuine problem...which is just another lie. Many of these 'pundits', far from being wise, are so dedicated to the cause of keeping the old, rich, white men in control, that lying is just another very useful tool in their toolboxes.  

  People who can and do discern right from wrong and use this to make decisions about how to conduct their lives, perform their jobs and avoid doing harm to others.  In any given situation, what is 'right' is not hard to discern, but, you have to have the gift of an active conscience to do so.  If you have...as so many right-wingers have....found ways to de-activate your moral compass, all bets are off.  A person who cannot tell right from wrong is a rudderless ship, bound to meet an unfriendly shoreline at some point. 

 

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

In the Garden......

 

     In 1970 a movie was made in Italy, based on a book: "The Garden of the Finzi-Continis". It was the story of a northern Italian family and a circle of their friends who met every Sunday in the family's garden to play tennis and discuss life and the world.  The Finzi-Continis were Jewish and the movie picks up their story sometime in the late-30s...I do not recall the year specifically, but it was long after Hitler came to power and the world was waiting to see what he would do next, so maybe '37 or '38. Below is a link to a summary of the film.  It actually won an Academy Award for 'best foreign language film' in 1972.

  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Garden_of_the_Finzi-Continis_(film)

   The dominant opinion among the members of this circle was that Nazism and Hitler would not amount to much, that they would perhaps create jobs and improve the economy of Germany and thereby the rest of Europe, but, essentially, none of them really felt that Hitler and his party constituted a direct threat to them and their comfortable lives.  There was one young man who differed, and he harangued and cajoled the rest, but never seemed to penetrate their apathy toward the Nazis.  Of course, they were already living in Fascist Italy under Mussolini, but there was not much antipathy directed toward Jews in Italy and at least Il Duce had improved some conditions...and was famous for making the trains run on time.

 As time passes, the Nazis invade and occupy Italy, and ultimately many members of the family are swept up and shipped off to concentration camps.  There is a feeling that they might have avoided this fate if they had believed early on that Hitler and the Nazis were as evil and as lethal as history eventually made clear.

  I sometimes recall this movie because it seems to be a harbinger of what is happening in America right now.  Forces are gathering and there is a sizeable percentage of Americans who are ready to follow them, apparently, into a second Civil War.  I know that sounds hyperbolic.  On some level, I wish it was.  

   But.....it is not.

  It is way too easy to minimize and dismiss the people who invaded the Capitol on January 6th as the lunatic fringe, incapable of doing more than just smashing windows and beating up cops who were completely unprepared for the ferocity that was directed at them on that day. Naturally, the GOPs want to pretend the whole thing never amounted to anything serious at all.  There has been a steady stream of attempts to re-make it into something benign.  Some of the 'brighter lights' in the GOP have insisted that the rioters were just really tourists and were there to complain to their representatives about the stolen election.  

  Apparently about half of all Republicans still think the election WAS stolen.  Despite over SIXTY court cases that were all (but one that was of no consequence) dismissed and the litigants sent packing, often with a scolding for bringing such ludicrous allegations before the courts.

  This is going to be looked back on by historians in the distant future as a time of astonishing lies and brazen efforts to destroy the planet's oldest functioning democracy.  Functioning.....only for now.

  They will be incredulous that people fell in large numbers for such fatuous lies and such clearly insane conspiracies.  Yes, QAnon, but there is no paucity of other lunatic narratives out there either.

  So, here we are, sitting in our very own garden, sipping iced tea and marveling at how weird things have gotten in America.  It's almost too much to take in.  And, it's certainly way too much to accept as a looming reality.  The Civil War ended 156 years ago this year.  Current scholars believe it cost approximately 750,000 lives.  Anybody who still insists that it was fought over 'states' rights' is just playing at history.  It was fought to end slavery and to preserve the union.  Period.  

  Now, we have citizens who feel it is within their rights to destroy democracy.  If a true democracy survives, there will be full participation by Americans of all faiths, races, gender prefs, gender itself....and the GOPs know that spells the end of their white supremecist reign. There will be no way for the approximately 40% of the population to keep calling the shots.  When Americans of all varieties have the ability to participate in voting....without interference....the old, rich white guys will lose the strangle-hold they have had on power for many generations.

They aren't having it. 

  The idea that America will become a truly fair and compassionate democracy is just not on their list of what is acceptable.  The United States has been run by old, rich white guys for all these generations, and despite the infrequent lapses in which the government actually became a liberal force for fairness and caring....i..e during FDRs terms, then JFK's , Jimmy Carter's and finally Obama's time in office.....it remains in the greedy and cold hands of people like Mitch McConnell.  Compassion is out of fashion while these people are calling the shots. 

  And, as you must already know, tax cuts for corporations and the rich are very much in fashion.  Medical care, social safety nets for the lower echelons of society are, well, out of fashion. And, now, this minority of greed merchants are conspiring to keep Americans of color and of different religious and social segments....from being able to vote.

  They are showing every sign of succeeding in putting in laws that constitute modern era Jim Crow laws....perfectly aimed at keeping the minority of conservative and racist whites in power...regardless of what kind of machinations, dishonesty or any means at all, are required to do it.

  Those who believe honesty, transparency in government, and a clear sense that the government is still a functioning democracy,  there to serve all Americans...are going to be very distressed when they realize that the GOPs have managed to set-up a system that cannot be over-turned.  And, they are well on their way to doing this. Don't take my word for it.  Watch clear and accurate explanations of how this is happening by such wise and intelligent souls as Noam Chomsky, Chris Hedges, and so many more.  

  We are, effectively speaking, on the cusp of a sea-change.  It will either turn into a nightmare for all who value fairness and compassion in government....or it will veer away from that fate, ONY IF WE GET OUT AND GET INVOLVED.

  If we remain comfortably sipping our iced-tea as we distract ourselves with such concerns as the housing bubble, the cost of food and other vitals....we will wake-up the day after the mid-terms in 2022 and be both horrified and astonished that the concept of a functioning democracy is now DEAD

...as a fucking door-nail.