Monthly Archives: August 2017

I am fortunate:

• North Korean missiles are not flying over my head.
• I do not have three feet of water in my house.
• I know where my wife and son and daughter are.
• My house is not in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan.
• I did not risk my life to vote in the Kenya presidential election.
• My livelihood does not depend on mining coal or working for Best Buy.
• I am mostly immune to the allure of wealth and celebrity.
• I am not a black man being black in a white neighborhood or being black when a cop is looking for someone.
• I am not a Venezuelan woman, a Saudi woman, a Mormon woman or any other woman treated as if her life was worth half that of a man.
• Medicare for Me is only months away.
• I have never had to explain or hide my sexual and gender identity.
• To unwind, I can have a martini. I am not dependent on oxycodone or heroin.
• I have a good chance of outliving the Trump presidency.
• I still have my mental faculties.
• I can sit here and deal in the trivial as others struggle to survive.
• I have some sense of the important, the falsely important, and the unimportant.
• I can give.

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Writing a blog is not much fun these days.   And so I haven’t been doing very much of it.

One day, we are heading toward nuclear war with North Korea.  The next day, we are heading toward civil war over statues of southern-state generals who fought to preserve slavery a century-and-a-half ago.  And every day, it seems, we are forced to watch as our so-called president stumbles dangerously close to the precipice 0f (or even precipitating) wars of both kinds.

What is more discouraging?  The fact that the founders of our nation were slave-owners? Or the fact that the leader of our nation expresses more sympathy for slave-owners (and those who fetish-honor their defenders) than he does for the descendants of slaves?  I can deal with the former — history was what it was.  As to the latter, we should expect better.

Though he surely didn’t mean to, Donald Trump posed an intriguing question in his latest incoherent press conference.  Trump asked a pool reporter (rhetorically, of course, as he was not interested in a response) whether removing statues of Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee meant that statues of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson should be the next to go.  (The reporter could not answer because Trump bully-talked over her.)

My first reaction — the reaction that Trump intended to elicit — was, of course, statues of Washington and Jefferson should not be removed.  These men were Virginia slave-owners in the late 1700s-early 1800s, almost two generations before our inaptly-named Civil War.  They lived in a far less-enlightened time and they were regarded as great men in their day.  Do they not deserve a “Get Out of Being a Slave-Owner Free” card for their respective roles in founding our nation?

The way Trump formulated it, our choice is between flawed enlightenment (exemplified by Washington, Jefferson, Madison, et al) and flawed honor (Lee, Jackson, Davis, et al) — and since everyone has flaws, the right thing to do is pay tribute to the enlightened and respect the honorable.  Liberty and statues for all.

But the “flaw” at the center of this issue is more odious than just having a bad set of teeth.  It involves the inhumane treatment (and kidnapping and torture and killing) of humans for the benefit of richer and more powerful humans:  our founding fathers and those who followed in their footsteps.  American slavery was no less a crime against humanity than the Holocaust, and we do not tolerate statues of Hitler in our midst — so why have statues of slave-owners?

Statues and other public monuments serve to remind us of our role models and values.   We do not need statues to tell us our history — books and museums are better suited to that purpose.  So let’s donate the statues of our slave-owning presidents and genocidal generals to museums that want to preserve them, where they may be seen by those (and only those) who care to see them.

So my answer to Trump’s rhetorical question is yes — remove the statues of Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson and Jefferson Davis today, and the statues (and images on our money) of Andrew Jackson, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton next.  We can’t change history but we can change who we honor and why.

What to do with all those empty pedestals?  The people who are most deserving of statues are those who actively advanced the ideals our Founders expressed — but only selectively followed — in our Declaration of Independence and Constitution.  So we could use more statues of Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King, Ida B. Wells (suffragist and co-founder of NAACP), Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, William Lloyd Garrison (abolitionist publisher), Roger Nash Baldwin and Crystal Eastman (co-founders of ACLU), Carrie Chapman Catt (founder of League of Women Voters) and Congressman John Lewis.  More importantly, we need more people like them, and fewer like Trump.

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•  Donald Trump: fake president, real prick.  Donald Trump: no leader of the free world, but the world’s cheerleader for vile remarks.  Donald Trump: vainglorious minus the glory.

•  I keep thinking I’ll get Donald Trump out of my system, but he lingers on like a bad case of pinworms.  Not that I’ve had pinworms, but you come up with a better analogy.

•  My wife is furiously typing on her laptop, and she turns to me and asks how one spells unaesthetic.  My reply was, can you just say ugly?

•  My 80/80 Facebook Rule: Even taking into account the 80% of things that one decides  it is better not to comment on, 80% of what remains is still better not to comment on.

•  And the remarks I decide not to post on Facebook?  80% of them wind up in this blog.

•  My spouse often asks me to “dust the tops of things” before company arrives.  I cannot recall a time when I was asked to dust the bottoms of things.  So when you visit our place, please don’t look there.

•  It is my firm belief — maybe even extra-firm — that pillowcases have been designed for planned obsolescence, and zippers are the weak link.   The only reasons I have ever thrown out a pillowcase are because the zipper tab falls off or the zipper gets stuck or breaks down somewhere along its short pillowy highway.  Are zippers made by Chrysler?

•  Speaking of planned obsolescence, what is it about supermarket raspberries?  Once you bring them home, you have (at most) 36 hours to eat them before they start getting moldy, even when refrigerated.  I suspect that someone at the berry packaging plant is responsible for spraying spores on them prior to shipment.

• pork rinds I went to the Southern States farm supply store last week to buy some bird seed.  (They have great prices on safflower seed, a cleaner and cheaper alternative to sunflower seed).  Waiting at the checkout, I saw these pork rinds.  Not just any old pork rinds but microwave pork rinds.  The feeling crept over me that I was out of my element here.

•  I was saddened by the senseless assassination of NYPD officer Miosotis Familia.  Her yet-another wanton and random death was not a carefully-thought-out act of some evil, affluent, philosophical mastermind, but instead the pressure-cooked product of poverty, alienation, neglect, a cacaphony of messages, guns sloshing around like oxycodone, and a culture of untethered survival that most of us don’t even begin to understand.

•  Those of you who would prefer that thoughts expressed here would be happy thoughts: there are times for escape and times for engagement.  Thanks for reading.

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