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Thursday, November 10, 2016

Trump is Bin Laden's Legacy

Like millions of you, I am feeling depressed about the results of the 2016 election. Like millions of you, I am unsure what to do. Writing seems a poor effort in the face of such madness. Like millions of you, I was hopeful that with all of Trump's faults (too many to enumerate), he would surely lose the election and his brand of anger and hatred, fear and racism would be toppled for the sake of a decent, qualified woman who simply misused a bunch of emails. Surely, people would come to their senses and not give him a single state. Surely, "pussy-gate" would have toppled Trump, if not the disrespect he showed a vast majority of American people, veterans, the military, African Americans, pregnant women, etc. Surely the heartless idiocy on display on a daily basis would have weakened his chances of ascending to the White House, that symbol of all that is good in this country, the greatest seat of power for Good.

But what strikes me ironic is that by Trump being elected to President of the United States, the one country that supposedly stood for tolerance, decency, inclusiveness, whose motto was always an appeal to the vast displaced immigrant populations of the world, found a new voice in a man standing for divisiveness, hatred, and bigotry. He is exactly the type of President Osama Bin Laden would have wanted, for he has embraced all that is the worst in us as a country and people. He has revealed the dark underbelly of a United States driven by ignorance and hatred borne out of prejudice and fear and Terror.

Donald Trump is Bin Laden's legacy, for, according to him, to destroy America is to destroy her through fear. Destroy her by terrorizing her people, by making her hate the other and one another. Destroy her by demonizing what is good and decent, letting her believe that goodness and decency are inferior values, as weak values.

By electing Trump to the Presidency, the people who were swayed by his rhetoric of anger, have elected someone Bin Laden would have wanted: The Anti-Christ, an anti-humanist, an anti-Christian, a man willing to lie, cheat, steal, condemn, to get what he wants. Trump might not signal the End of Days, as prophesied in The Bible and Koran, but we are a nuclear strike on the Middle East away from that. Then Bin Laden's project will be complete.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Maybe Sympathy for Trump's Supporters

Let me be the first to say it: I feel sympathy for Trump's supporters. Almost. Lured by the promise of making America great again, they have cast off the chains of long held but seldom expressed sexist, racist, homophobic, and xenophobic beliefs and supported for President a man whose testosterone fueled megalomania, crass bigotry, blatant stupidity, bluster and stream of conscious monologuing have torn open the fault lines of racial divide in this country. In the process, he and they have stooped to conquer.

Unbeknownst to them, Trump's supporters (a hard scrabble lot unwilling to abandon their support in the light of, well, all negativity) have sold their souls by following a great blunderbuss who has by his words flirted with the idea of that great horror of the modern age, nuclear war. They have followed a man who views entire races inferior, religions he deems illegitimate, and the female gender serves as a mere tool to exercise male dominance. They have sold their souls to the worst in themselves at the expense of what their own Christianity teaches. Where is the appeal to the better angels of one's nature? Where is civil discourse? Where are the ideas for a better future based on facts and not emotional opinion? So where does Trump's failed candidacy leave them once he loses and they have wasted their efforts? What becomes of their lowly ideals of divide and conquer, separate and destroy, cleave and damn?

Will the demons they've unleashed shrink back into the dark corners of their psyches, or if after being exposed, will their demons scratch and claw their way at the light, darkening us all? Time will tell. What I know is that Trump's supporters are seldom capable of reflection, or if they are, they must reflect only what is worst in humanity--the fear, rage, shame, and paranoia of living amidst non-whites, immigrants, "job taking Mexicans," uppity women in pantsuits, uppity blacks, uppity Asians all of whom are nothing more than "beaners and niggers," "pussies," "dikes and kikes and camel jockeys" (Sorry for the crass language).

What I suspected back in 2015 when "Don-the-Con" descended the escalator to announce his candidacy has turned out to be the truth of his campaign: Trump's supporters were always on a suicide mission to destroy all forms of progress--social, racial, economic, spiritual. The unexpressed intentions of seeing trump as President was a dismantling, destroying. And he employed the catchy phrase, Make America Great Again, as a code for White Superiority, and perhaps, Anarchy! What is the logical conclusion when he crawls back to his tower with his tail between his legs? Armed insurrection?

God, I hope not.

So, I feel some sympathy for his supporters, the duped, but not much, for they have annihilated themselves. Making America great again should never have been about one man's quest for power, a demagogue articulating a problem that never existed except in his narrow, uneducated mind and the narrow, uneducated minds of his conspiracy theory followers. Making America great should never have been about racism, sexism, xenophobia, the detonation of humanity's core values of decency, inclusion, respect, honor, charity, faith, love, and truth. They should have realized that America was never not-great, just in transition to a better way where "Progress," in the great words of Barack Obama, "takes time and is never easy." They should have realized that America is a social and economic and spiritual work in progress that advances each year by the collective effort of its noble people, and its elected officials who must (if failing) be held accountable to the people's will. They should have realized that to put their faith and trust in a man whose only convincing argument is "Believe Me" should have not just been a red flag but a siren call to run away.  But, I get it. We live in an entertainment culture and Trump embedded the entertainer come politician. People were awed by the "something new, something different," enticed by the glamorous spectacle of the billionaire with his Stepford Wife and statuesque daughter and Patrick Bateman sons, the 1% family's family. People were stirred up to a froth by the hard-talking divisive speech, speech that was visceral, unflinching, unrepentant and ignoble, a man who spoke "from the heart," but actually from the recesses of the unbridled sub-conscious. People had found a man whose Freudian Id spoke to their own buried desires, where penis jokes and the stultification of white pride became beacons and where disparaging POW's. Gold Star families, and the disabled were fair game. Here was wealth (or the appearance of it) shouting to the commoner that the America and the world has gone to Hell. Here was a man blaming "disastrous" trade policies for the loss of jobs and opportunities while benefitting from those same trade policies. Here was a man preying on people's desires, after all he himself said in his book that he "played to people's aspirations." Here was a showman over promising, seducing simpletons with simpleton speech, asking people to "Believe Him," this Pied Piper of the lower classes, this charlatan with the orange skin and full blown hypocrisy and bad hair.

Now that his candidacy is almost over, I wonder, What's next?

I wonder, since we have sunk so low, is there a new bottom where we can sink? At the bottom of the abyss is there still a deeper, darker abyss our moral and political instruments cannot calculate, a new darkness no venerable light can possibly penetrate? So what lies beyond the black hole? And I wonder what awaits us next time around, in four years, what new demon will materialize out of our darkest shadows? What new demon lurks beneath the pits of hell of the now decimated Republican Party, the party of Lincoln that once stood for so much decency and good intention? What prowls beyond the blind patriotism of the Conservative Right whose message seems so out of touch with the modern age of egalitarianism and "stronger together"? Who will their new savior be?

I am afraid to find out. . .

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Inspiration Things

Beside my bed sits a brass fountain pen and inkwell. Beside it a small sheathed dagger used by Sikhs to cut the ceremonial sweet dough after prayer. Books by Alice Munro, John Cheever, Andre Dubus flank a rosewood box containing the ash-remains of my beloved dog Hemingway. A teak box intricately carved with a quincunx design holds various designer wristwatches, their batteries run down. In the same case, above those two wooden boxes, stand more books, hardbound copies with their spines facing out of works by Faulkner, Lahiri, Steinbeck, and others. At the very top shelf is a small statute of Garuda, the bird god of Hindu myth, carved in Indonesia. I am not sure how it came into my possession.

In my bathroom a cream-colored built in cabinet stretches along one wall, flanked by two doors, each leading to the walk-in closet. The cabinet faces a Jacuzzi bathtub that is seldom used. In the bookcase rest more books and objects, for instance a Porsche ball point pen given to me as a gift by my son's godparents, various coins, perhaps wrinkles receipts. A book of poems by Langston Hughes sits alone on one shelf, Hughes's handsome face gazing out at me as I brush my teeth with the electric toothbrush or shave with my safety razor. There are books by Shakespeare, T.S. Eliot, Browning, and Dickinson in the bathroom, because I believe that poetry is a cleansing art, more akin to music and the reveries of revelation than its connection to literature. Poetry is alchemy whose practitioners crack open our hearts so we too feel the richness of nature and love, and the pulsating darkness of death and the void. What thoughts to contemplate after drying oneself off with a bath towel?

On my toilet sits another book of whatever it is I am reading at the moment. This week it is the Collected Stories and Writings of John Cheever. I like to revisit books, books I've read before, because each time I read them I, like so many of us who enjoy reading, discover them anew. We discover a detail we've missed, and it gives us both thrill and frustration: Thrill that we have rediscovered something meaningful that touches our hearts and expands our minds, and frustration that we didn't see it before.

All around my house are books, books, books, and objects, objects, objects that refer me back to places I've been, things I have touched, decisions made, courses traveled, people I have been, and activities abandoned. Nowhere is this more evident than in my writing room ( I loathe to call it an office). A wrapped chocolate cigar announcing the birth of my son, a 19th century surgical device in a corrugated box, a brass lock taken from my parents' house, a pice of anthracite with both shiny and dull surfaces, a fossilized rock in which a trilobite lies embedded, a whiskey flask with the Jolly Rogers skull and crossbones, a postcard of a gargoyle from the Notre Dame cathedral, and a piece of driftwood from a beach in Big Sur. Placed before my books, other objects sit, stand or lie, dormant yet charged with memory. The thrill of seeing them, touching them, holding them, is to ponder the person I was, so they in some real sense serve as portals to other places, other times. They also serve as representations of my subconscious, and things of inspiration.

Though once abandoned, they have landed on my shelves, in my bedroom, and bathroom, and writer's room, they still have use, though to what use I put them solely relies on my imagination, or I may never put them to use. I like to revisit them time and time again, to discover new details about them I had missed before. These objects are a lot like people. I often think that if I don't put them to some new use, they will live only in the real world as mysterious things.

After I am dead, maybe someone will collect them and attempt to infer from them the person I was. They will make decisions about me, then place those keepsakes in a box and set them out by the trash bins. But if these things happen to make their way into stories which others may read, they will be transformed into what TS Eliot called Objective Correlatives, or they may populate a story as simple objets d'art. 

I think they deserve a new life. They deserve to be repurposed, like the reclaimed oak table that sits in my family room. These objects are not unlike the characters and people we pass through, brush up against, live out of focus of the corner of our eyes, people and characters who deserve their voices heard, their eccentricities exposed, their lives entered and reconstituted by a writer's imagination.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Trump the New Arnold?

If the people who have voted for Donald Trump can stop for a moment to reflect upon his words and deeds, would they not see him for what he is? An empty suit. The amount of doggerel that flows through his mouth is enough to fill the Grand Canyon.

Hyperbole aside, I have yet to see his appeal. But there must be something I am missing. So let me try an experiment. Let me empty my head of rationality, of compassion, of logic, of sensitivity. Let me drain my soul of common sense, intellectualism, reason and decency. Let me replace these qualities with pettiness, bullying, melodrama, anti-intellectualism, bravado and bluster. Let me point to circumstances that never existed, rationalize my infidelities, my bankruptcies, my failures as a businessman. Let me deflect criticism about my hiring illegal immigrants, or creating my products in the very countries I now hold accountable for manipulating currencies or sending us their worst, their rapists and drug dealers.

Add a heap of narcissism and sexism, racism and xenophobia, and let me tout my success with manufactured statistics on my popularity amongst "the highly educated, the poorly educated, women, evangelicals, hispanics." Ah, there it is, the ingredients that comprise his appeal.

Never before in the history of this great country has a "politician" surfaced that is so unencumbered by facts as to greed his way to the most powerful office in the world. And for what? To reinforce the warped notions of self, to tout his own masculinity, to increase his own brand.

California tried once and elected a non-politician/celebrity to the governorship after the debacle that was Gray Davis. Arnold all but bankrupted this state. We suffered record deficits, unbalanced budgets, shortfalls, and our GDP shrunk by tens of millions of dollars. We lost jobs. We suffered mightily until Jerry Brown rescued us from the brink of collapse. Do we want to try that experiment on a national scale?

I long for a politician with the grace and magnanimity of a Barack Obama, the charm and charisma of a John F. Kennedy, the compassion of a Jimmy Carter, the soul of a Lincoln, and the courage of a Roosevelt.

Where are they? Liz Warren? Gavin Newsom? Kamala Harris? These people are the future of this country, but only if The Donald never steps foot in the White House except as a guest to a dinner honoring the great liars and narcissists this country has ever produced.