The Day After The Election

Last fall on the day following the election of Donald Trump as president, Mark woke up in a hotel that didn’t have power in some of the rooms. The night before, he went to his room with his room key and flicked on the light switch. Nothing.

The hotel, an odd little place on the side of Old U.S. 22 in Shartlesville, PA, placed their room key envelopes fastened together with an elastic and sitting in an old coffee can. Mark merely had to go back to the front desk and pick another room key.

Sitting along what had once been a major east/west corridor, the interstate usurped this road’s importance. Like many similar roadways that once were important overland routes for travelers dating from the time of covered wagons up through the earliest days of Happy Motoring in America, most have fallen into disuse like much in a nation built around planned obsolescence. Mom and Pop lodging matching the place where Mark spent the night last fall struggle to remain solvent. Perhaps the owners had simply taken a page from the austerity playbook, implementing measures like asking guests to forgo electricity. Mark also noted that there were signs indicating to boil the water prior to drinking.

On his blog, following the election of the worst candidate we’ve ever called president (thus far), he made a connection between the new POTUS and what MAGA might actually mean when he wrote, “I hope the motel where I stayed isn’t an omen for the future of America. Some of the rooms didn’t have power and you couldn’t drink the water.” Continue reading

When Disaster Strikes

When loss hits you, your world is turned upside down. Whether the loss involves death, or in places hit by hurricanes and other kinds of disasters where people are displaced from their homes, stress and the subsequent emotional and physical effects target the victims.

A key element in ensuring health and harboring the hope for longevity requires learning to manage and mitigate stress. That’s easier said when you are observing stress from a distance. When you are in the midst of swirling waters either literally or figuratively, remaining detached and free from roiling emotions and a knot (or pain) in your gut is nearly impossible.

Disasters bring out the best and worst in humans. While now personally acquainted with the personal variety, natural (and national) ones are often magnified by the media. They serve an important function for programmers—ready-made stories that fill hours of air time, with advertisers happy to fork out marketing capital to capture fixated eyeballs.

Speaking of capitalizing on disaster, our sitting president is someone who has done well capitalizing and exploiting the misfortunes of others. I’ve mentioned Sarah Kendzior before. She nails it in this article by Nancy LeTourneau on our Exploiter in Chief being our “ultimate disaster capitalist,” a master at reveling (and profiting, handsomely) when others are in the midst of chaos and suffering. Make sure you click on the links provided in the quoted snippet, too. This isn’t false (or “fake”) propaganda, but a telling measure of the man we elected as our 45th president. He’ll surely find a way to profit from the fates of those in Houston like he has throughout his business career. That’s the Trump MO.

Trump spent his business career eagerly anticipating both social and economic disasters. “I sort of hope that happens because then people like me would go in and buy,” Trump said of the housing crash in 2006. Before that, Trump spent decades exploiting the damaged economies of towns like Gary, Indiana and Atlantic City, leaving them as bad or worse off than when he arrived.

America’s 4th largest city, underwater. [Aaron Cohan photo]

Continue reading

Moving On

I was deeply affected by the events in Charlottesville. Many of the emotions I experienced in a visceral way, were flashbacks to Janaury, when Mark was killed. Another young person, with passion and concern for others, was senselessly killed by someone selfish and self-centered.

While there were a host of stories about Heather Heyer, an activist described in one as “a passionate advocate for the disenfranchised,” there was a sameness and quality to these that all made them read similarly after awhile. Her story deserved more. Too often, Heyer became an afterthought, as once again, media made it about “All Donald, all the time.”

Foolishly, I thought I could add a different context, one that was unique and personal, based upon our own journey over the past seven months since Mark’s death. Continue reading

Hope in the Dark

It’s easy to grow discouraged in this life. Adversity—whether it’s an illness or failing health, economic stress, loneliness or isolation—or in Mary and my case, losing Mark suddenly and tragically: elements like these can grind even the strongest person down, and make them want to give up.

The case can also be made forcefully that the charge that many of us were given when we were young that life in America would be better for us than previous generations is no longer a reality for most. We’ve just elected a president who is at best, a boorish and self-centered man unlike anyone who has sat in the oval office prior. Some believe however, that our current president is an authoritarian with designs on dismantling what remains of our nation’s functionality and crumbling civic and physical infrastructure.

Peggy Noonan, someone with legitimate Republican bona fides calls Mr. Trump, “Woody Allen without the humor” in an op-ed written for and published in the Wall Street Journal. She paints him as a pathetic and weak little man. She’s probably right, although don’t understimate the damage possible by “weak little men.” It’s also far too easy to locate our reasons for despair in one man or a devastating life event.

In the midst of walking a personal path buffeted by discouragement and sadness, I’ve noted how many others are dealing with their own dark journey. In my own grief, I’ve recognized this collective sense of loss all around.  So fellow travelers, why so sad?

Rebecca Solnit is an American writer and activist. She’s been engaged in environmental and human rights campaigns since the 1980s. Her writing is informed by a life lived with boots firmly planted in real life and direct action work, not academic posturing. Maybe that’s why her book, Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities, has made such a strong impression on me over the past two weeks as I made my way through it. Continue reading

Trump Tic Tac Toe

Donald Trump dominates yet another news cycle. How often can one man suck the air supply from the room as illustrated by yesterday’s Trump/Comey media circus, masquerading as functional governance? We seem to have slipped into the political version of Groundhog Day.

Back when Trump was a reality star of sorts, it was kind of funny, in a late-night joke-telling kind of way. Now that he’s president, it’s become fucking scary.

What is it about America that empowers (and emboldens) stupid, doughy (and angry) white men like Trump? They continually feel the need to tell you how great they are, how rich they are, how smart they are, while downplaying the size (or lack, therewith) of their hands.

Dueling white men.

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

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