Some Have It—Most Don’t

There is this strange phenomenon. Maybe it’s uniquely American. We demand that others behave in a manner that’s more ethical, honest, and consistent than the way we live our own lives.

We’ve all heard this ad nauseum: “All politicians lie.” Well, according to Robert Feldman, whose studied how often people lie, we all lie quite a bit.

Then, there is this idea that while others fold like a “cheap tent” when pressure is applied, that you’d be the one righteous man/woman who would be willing to “stand in the gap” for truth. Bullshit!

Do You Have Integrity?

America has elected a pathological liar as president. So what if you didn’t vote for him? Donald Trump is now president and you are going to face the consequences for the actions of 62 million people who decided to inflict their anger and concerns about losing their white privilege, on all of us. Continue reading

The Wind Howled and the Power Stopped

The Great Ice Storm of ’98 is something that’s nice to have in your back pocket, in a “I was without power for 08 days and learned to shit in the woods like a bear” sort of way. It’s nostalgic, something you can dust off and regale hipsters who maybe just moved to Maine, or just bought a house in the country after living on the West End for five years. However, I’m not really keen about re-living it, at least not this year.

I got about three hours sleep Sunday night. I was sure a tree was going to snap off and come through the roof of our bedroom. We live about 100 feet from a cove and the winds were gusting well above 60 miles per hour about 2:00 a.m.

Our gray Chartreaux, Lucy, was troubled all night. She came up to snuggle with us prior to the winds making a sound like a freight train outside our deck door. But, like me, she knew this wasn’t a normal night for sleep. Mary seemed to be okay, as she’s a much sounder sleeper than I am.

I heard a crash around 4:45. This was after I’d gotten up, watched some bad TV, charged my phone and crawled back under the covers at 4:30, just as the power flickered twice and went off. At this point, I wasn’t getting back up.

Dozing off fitfully until the first flickers of daylight shown into the room, I looked out and could see the carnage. Trees had snapped off and fortunately due to the wind driving from the south and southeast, pushed them away from the house. The crash was one of the panes shattering in our double-paned window that looks out from our kitchen nook onto Woodward Cove. At least pane #2 remained intact. Continue reading

On Friday I Went for a Walk

A year ago at this time, Mark had been walking for a week (actually, he was on Day 008), and had been posting videos that we were all watching, as his following grew larger. He was in New Haven, CT, and had just stayed with friends. The day was rainy, but per usual, this didn’t bring Mark down. He’d later walking into a Taco Bell and yell, “I’ve got the hook-up,” hoping to win 100 bean tacos. He didn’t.

As I’ve been watching his daily videos a year out from when they were made, it feels similar to last fall. I’m still learning things (as we all were) and his life and actions make me want to be a better person.

Last Friday, we were at Brown, as colleagues from the library and the school’s literary arts department remembered Mark and touched on his legacy at the school. One of the speakers (I don’t recall which one) talked about Mark and his walk and I jotted down a note to myself, “start walking every week.” What I was telling myself is that I needed to do a walk weekly where I left my house and walked out a certain distance. My intention was to think about Mark and his own walking practice during my own walks. Continue reading

Distancing from Darkness

Over the past few weeks, I’ve received several hand-written notes. These were all personalized acknowledgements of what Mary and I have been going through since Mark was killed on January 21. Often, they touched on the difficult time that this person had in reaching out and the struggle for words that adequately addressed what they thought we are going through.

When people that know you don’t respond, it only compounds the grief and loss that you are feeling. That’s been my experience anyways in not hearing from people that I assume know that we lost our only son—and that we are walking through a valley and have been for more than two months.

As Linda Andrews writes in her lovely and pertinent book about grief and loss, Please Bring Soup To Comfort Me While I Grieve,

When it comes to the topic of grief, many people are uncomfortable and unprepared to know what to say or do. Some people try to say the right thing and others just avoid the whole situation. The effect on the person who is grieving is devastating; feelings of pain, hurt, anger and disappointment prevail. People who are grieving are not in a position to understand this flaw in the human spirit. Continue reading

Losing Love

When a loved one is stolen from you by death, you immediately get clear about priorities and what’s important. Think of it as a refinement process unlike anything else most people will ever experience.

I haven’t been consuming news of late, no longer obsessing over the minutia of the daily cycle of events like I once did. When your son has been ripped from you by a senseless and careless act, the buffoon in the White House and his boorish antics seem trivial. Of course that also doesn’t mean that what’s taking place doesn’t have consequences.

During Mark’s final video, the day prior to being killed by a woman who happened to be a supporter of the man seeking to dismantle the country that I’ve known for 50+ years, he ticked off a litany of things that concerned him about the man who had just been sworn into office as our 45th president.

“We now officially have a president,” said Mark, “that does not believe in climate change. He wants the world to burn so he can profit. We have a president who hates women, who discriminates against women, who physically abuses women. We have a president who hates minorities, who wants to make minorities suffer. we have a president who hates disabled people, who doesn’t want to help people when they are in need. All he wants to do is profit. If you support this man, you do not support human life on this planet, plain and simple. You do not support the future of earth as a planet…”

Continue reading

Our New President

We’re barely 24 hours into the term of our 45th president and it’s clear to me—the next four years are going to be one wild ride! It’s possible that life as we know it in America will have disappeared, with no guarantee that there’s a pathway back to restoring it.

I had to work yesterday, so I only caught snippets of Inauguration Day. I did see the swearing in of Pence and Trump. And then, I got to watch his address during lunch.

I’m not sure what I expected. Perhaps naively, I held out some glimmer that our new president was going to offer his plan for bringing together a divided people. Not even five minutes in, it was clear that Trump had no interest in unity.

No unity here.

Granted, as one commentator said, for followers of Mr. Trump, he serves as a “kind of Rorschach test” in that they tend to see him in whatever way they want to believe about him and various issues. I’d concur with that. Continue reading

Restaurant Food

What makes Americans fear their kitchen stoves so much? Huh?

Well, it appears something is at the root of the rise in eating out. Just last year—for the first time, ever—Americans spent more on restaurant food (and bar fare) than they did on food from the grocery store. The data reflects a pattern hearkening back to our “halcyon” days in America, the 1970s.

Perhaps the paucity of exciting food from the decade when things began unraveling drove a generation to seek their sustenance outside their home kitchens. Experts tell us that much of this is due to females now working somewhere other than where they’re domiciled. I think one assumption that’s safe hold is that Johnny is pretty useless in term of opening a can of beans and throwing some rice into a pot. Or maybe, we haven’t evolved as far as we think we have and it’s still a woman’s job to cook (and clean), while bringing in half of the household income, women’s lib be damned!

Cooking doesn’t have to be a comedy routine.

Continue reading

People and Corporations

We hear a lot of lip service paid to cracking back on corporations. People generally seem to dislike corporations—except when they’re supplying a paycheck, or often, cheap, substandard products manufactured offshore, by exploited workers.

Corporations have more rights now than ever before. In fact, the Supreme Court has broadened the concept of “corporate personhood” considerably over the past decade.

Candidates for president say the darndest things.

Candidates for president say the darndest things.

Mitt Romney, when running for president in 2012, actually came out and said explicitly, “corporations are people.” Justice John Paul Stevens would disagree, as he did in his dissent in the Citizens United case:

[C]orporations have no consciences, no beliefs, no feelings, no thoughts, no desires. Corporations . . . and their “personhood” often serve as a useful legal fiction. But they are not themselves members of “We the People” by whom and for whom our Constitution was established. Continue reading

Ex Post Facto

We are told that we live in a “post-fact” world. If you grew up in a print-based culture like I did (and you actually still use books to round out your understanding of the world), then this is alarming.

After months of brutal electioneering, a candidate has been chosen. He might be the perfect choice for a world where fact and science has been swapped for tweets and relying on his “gut” or something other than his brain for decision-making.

If it was merely our reality TV president relying on something other than fact-checking and data, then jokes and innuendo might be the end of it. However, it’s each and every single one of us “googling” on our smartphones that is driving dismissal of fact. Facebook then amplifies it ten-fold.

Like most nearly every aspect of life in America these days—the problem of ____________ (fill-in the blank) is someone else’s fault. Actually, most of the issues staring us directly in the face could be rectified with a little backbone and character. Like so-called fake news. If we didn’t consume so much of this fucking dreck, then there wouldn’t be a market for assholes like this guy, making shit up in his basement, and laughing all the way to the bank. Isn’t capitalism grand?

Fake news-free, at Curtis Memorial Library

Fake news-free, at Curtis Memorial Library

Continue reading

Elections and Alienation

With the 2016 election clanking to its completion, like a car with a malfunctioning transmission, I’ve taken a different tack the last few weeks—disengagement—imbibing next to nothing from the mainstream. My inner environment has been almost tranquil. Rather than alienation and discouragement, removing myself from the ongoing dysfunctional din of reality has been a positive and necessary corrective.

Just because someone demands that you see the world one, or two ways, doesn’t mean that you have to. Binary thinking leaves you dead-ended, painted into a corner.

If voting mattered...

If voting mattered…

Over the weekend, I picked up several books that seemed to be waiting for me on my local library shelves. These books provided historical context, as well as reminding me of perspectives I hadn’t considered in quite some time.

What I found fascinating in reading about America’s history of radical politics, was the role of European immigrants in bringing socialist, Marxist, and anarchist perspectives to these shores. What I’ve also been ruminating about is why the town where I grew up—with many immigrants from Europe—was and continues to be a place where conservative values reign supreme. This is a topic that I’m likely to come back to at some point. Continue reading