Celebrating a Country with Words

Beautiful and inspirational. Amanda Gorman is only 22, folks. Watch her.

Cognitive Dissonance

They wrapped him in a pretty package
Glitz and glamour, golden words
Written on the fronts of buildings
In his mind, it's all absurd.

They marched him out in front of cameras
He claimed he didn't like it there
Fluttered over onto Twitter
All his grievances to air.

News is dead, except for FOX,
He typed in looming letters large.
Put dissenters in a box
Bound with lies, said he's in charge.

Fighting words at all his rallies,
Never gave an inch of grace.
Lock her up and yes, we're coming
MAGA fists up in your face.

Republicans were first to falter.
One by one the statesmen fell,
Sacrificed on Donald's alter
On the path to Trumpian hell.

Lock her up, the MAGAts chanted,
Led by their besmirking boss,
Leading our first competent woman
To a devastating loss.

"Out with government!" Donald shouted,
"You're the ones to lead this place."
As he smiled inside with glee
Knowing that he held the ace.

"First I'm going to stop the Muslims"
Chaos reigned throughout the land
As students, moms and dad and doctors 
Could not return as they had planned.

Next I'm going to bring your jobs back
Donald said before the crowd,
Pulling out a planted speaker
All those lies were soon avowed.

"You're my people," Donald shouted,
"For you I won't claim a check!"
MAGAts swooned and not one doubted,
But Donald had done stacked the deck.

His golf trips soon were high in number,
Dragging along his secret staff,
Playing US fiscal plumber
His properties earned as Donald laughed.

Not everyone was blind to cheating
Stories ran about Donald's fraud
But nothing stopped the sheep from bleating,
"Donald has been sent by God."

Prayers were lifted in his honor.
Hands were placed upon his head.
As slyly he evaded questions
About which Bible verse he'd read.

"You're my people! God has sent us!"
Trump decreed with forked tongue.
As he separated parents
From their children, oh, so young.

"These aren't people. They aren't like us."
Peering through the chain link fence,
Were small brown faces, wide eyes crying,
Trumpist gain at their expense.

Someone will check him, we all whispered,
Hoping Congress would do their job.
Despite impeaching, no removal.
Congress now ruled by the MAGAt mob.

Coronavirus now infects us,
Spreading wide across the land
Help was absent, supplies lacking,
Just like Donald Trump had planned.

For four long years our country's suffered
Under Trump's despotic reign.
Hopefully we've learned a lesson
To never hire his like again.

Democracy's a fragile system
Meant to be shared by everyone,
Voters at the ballot box,
Not raving madmen with a gun.

So enter science, education,
Civics classes so in need.
With a new administration
Ramp it up with lightning speed.

Restore faith within the system
Build it back up brick by brick.
Teach our children not to fall for 
Chicanery or glitzy tricks.

Lest a people so deluded 
By the Piper's mesmerisms
End up walking off the cliff,
And taking the whole country with them.

Why I Won’t Wear My Politics on My Chest

I don’t wear political t-shirts anymore. It’s not a fear based decision, though that can be a factor these days. Why wear a target in these volatile times? It seems that everyone is packing a gun and bad tempers are more infectious than COVID-19. No, the answer is simple and boring. I’ve made this choice out of respect for the idea of community.

If you read my blog, you know that I don’t shy away from politics. I like discussing current events and how politics weave their way into our daily lives. The difference between this and that is that the reader can choose not to read. They can find something less political or happier out there in the blogosphere. I’m not in their face, whereas if I wear a t-shirt, that statement may unintentionally trigger someone and cause their blood pressure to spike. I won’t know that that’s because of a recent argument they had with their dad. I won’t know if my shirt might instantly remind someone of the reason they don’t speak to their best friend any more. We don’t need this stress in our lives. So if you see me on the street, that prime advertising space on my chest won’t be promoting politics. I’ll probably instead be a walking advertisement for my favorite tourist destination.

This came out of an “aha” moment a few years ago. I had purchased a shirt from Redbubble that read, “Science is not a liberal conspiracy,” with scientific tools lined up in a simple silhouette above. It was kind of cute. It was pink. Not super political, yet it was. I wore it to the local March for Science, where it fit in perfectly. Then I wore it to the local grocery store in my conservative, Trump-supporting town.

There was a man standing in front of me who looked very typical of people you see in my town. It’s a town full of hard working farming and logging families, and it shows in the slight roughness around the edges. I was the slightly rounded, middle-aged, suburban-raised woman proudly wearing my pink science t-shirt. We looked each other over, making our snap judgements before we resumed our silent queue.

The woman in front of us seemed to be having problems at the checkout. For some reason she couldn’t pay for all of her groceries. This man quickly stepped up and kindly offered to pay. I was humbled and felt immediately ashamed by the mini-stalemate that had just occurred. I knew that I had allowed my t-shirt to make me an “other” in his eyes, and I had let my own judgements make him an other in mine.

I relegated the shirt to the pajama pile.

Human brains are lazy organs. They are happy to make snap judgements, to categorize things into neat little boxes. We go along with it. Black/white. Good/bad. Happy/sad. But there is a lot of room in between. Those boxes we like to put people in have nonexistent sides of our own creation, yet how often we keep people there, virtually trapped in the place we’ve imprisoned them. My t-shirt was a wall of my own creation, cutting me off from another person with whom I might have found some commonalities.

I know choosing not to wear a political shirt is a very simplistic approach to a complex problem. I don’t wear the t-shirt, but I’m not giving up the face mask, which has unfortunately become a political dividing line. I am loathe to approach someone with any sort of Trump MAGA merchandising on their person or vehicle. My own brain has categorized them into aggressive, mindless, cult followers. Is that fair? Not necessarily, but it’s exhausting to battle the brain’s natural tendencies, and it often reboots to default. Letting go of the political t-shirt statements might give the brain the rest it needs to tackle the real dividing issues.

This leads me to wonder how the social climate might quiet down a little if everyone just decided to not wear political t-shirts out of respect for community. We might say no to tribalism. Instead, we could take a collective deep breath and talk to people. Tell them what we think is important. Listen to what they have to say. Have a civil dialogue, if at all possible. Maybe then we can start toward finding our way back toward finding what we have in common. And maybe if we choose to wear a souvenir travel shirt instead, we will find we have something other that politics to talk about.

Hamilton and the Preamble

I just watched Hamilton on Disney+ the other night. I know, I know… late to the party. But, man, what a show! I’ve had Hamilton tunes flowing through my head like a fountain, just popping up, over and over, on a continuous loop. It’s not the worst thing that could happen. Occasionally, I’ll pull Alexa into the fun. “Alexa, play One Last Time.” “Alexa, play Hopeless.” “Alexa, play Satisfied.” Let the songs keep on coming.

Hamilton is good theater, but it also speaks to the strong patriotic vein running through me. It’s not a MAGA patriotism of whiteness and big trucks and flag waving and red, white, and blue clothing. It’s more of a patriotism that’s moved by a truly eloquent speech by an elected official or a giant American flag fluttering in the wind. It celebrates new immigrants taking their vows. It recognizes our wrongs, celebrates our small steps toward justice, and sees American exceptionalism as a willingness to keep working for good, not just for us, but for the world. And for better or worse, it keeps me hooked on political news. And it loves Hamilton.

But let’s put Hamilton to the side for a minute and talk about the Constitution.

I was humming Schoolhouse Rock’s The Preamble in the shower this morning. (I see your eyerolls. Have you never done this before?) What brought it on? I was thinking of the clip of the woman in DC who had been maced while trying to enter the Capitol. She was crying. “We’re stormin’ the Capitol,” she wailed. “It’s a revolution.”

I was thinking of the role of government. I’ve heard a lot of MAGA people complain about government overreach, and that the government is only there to provide for defense. Wait a minute, I thought. I pay taxes. My taxes are going to fund a gigantic military complex. I’m not sure I’m completely okay with that. Are they right?

What were the goals of the Founders. Cue Schoolhouse Rock.

(Disclaimer: I am not a constitutional scholar. Not even close.)

We, the people – Okay, MAGA people have that right. It’s about the people. But I’m one of those people, you are one of those people, as are my liberal and independent friends. It’s about all of us. Yes, even the knuckleheads in red caps.

(Oh, and by the way, this person (ME) waited a long time for her turn to tour the Capitol.

In order to – (Stating the goal, here. Pay attention.)

Form a more perfect union union… unity. Not leaving people out. Not races. Not classes. Wouldn’t that mean that the goal is for everyone to have the same chances? Should we be preventing people from voting?

(I know perfect union is in reference to the states, but still…)

Establish justice – Hmmm…. I think we have work to do, judging by the size of the police presence and subsequent tear gassing and arrests during the BLM protests (where no elected officials were in harm’s way). Compare that to the response given to the most recent attack on Congress, where armed insurgents stormed the Capitol, attempting to upend democracy by disrupting the counting of electoral ballots. That’s without even getting into the legitimate issues of the BLM movement.

(Keep bending that arc, America.)

Ensure domestic tranquilityGrade: F- Dear Founders, you might think we’ve come close to this lofty goal. Au’ contraire. We have quite the opposite right now. Our leader is inciting violence. Our leader is calling on people (well, just some of us) to storm the Capitol and tip your well-planned country upside down. It seems we’ve strayed from your goal, but don’t you worry, we’re on it. We’ll have this guy out in… Wait… What?…No 25th Amendment ?…… Impeachment papers will be filed on MONDAY?

We’ll get back to you on that.

Provide for the common defense – Yep. Got that covered. In spades. Well, except for the “suckers and losers” comment and Russian bounties on our troops. But financially, yes. We’re covered.

Oh, unless you’re talking about a pandemic, then it’s each state to itself, and “blue” states… well, nice knowing you.

Promote the general welfare – Do you know what would help promote the general welfare? Making sure everyone had access to affordable food, housing, education, and health care. I’m not talking socialism. Just the ability to reasonably attain necessities.

Secure the blessings of liberty – preserving the rights and freedoms of each of us. Each. Of. Us.

To ourselves and our posterity – Okay, the founders were probably talking about themselves. They weren’t known for being terribly inclusive to those outside their ethnosocial group. But in the time since then, we’ve added civil rights and immigration to our stated goal, and America has been richer for it.

There you have it. My interpretation of the Preamble of the Constitution. (Aren’t you glad you stuck around?)

What’s a really great way to celebrate all of this? Why, with a Broadway musical, of course. And I know of a really good one. Hamilton’s ethnically diverse group of talented actors tell this story of the birth of the USA from the viewpoint of one of it’s original bootstrap immigrants. We all see ourselves in the people who populate this show and the people who created this country, and that’s the beauty of it.

As we move away from the events of January 6th, the United States of America, the great, beautiful, flawed experiment, continues on. The likes of Donald Trump and his minions will not cause her fall.

We are living through history. Who will tell our story?

Hamilton. Watch it. Celebrate America. Continue the dream.

Everything good or bad that was present at the founding, at the roots of the birth of this country, are still present. The fights we had then are the fights we are having now.

Linn manuel miranda

Resist

There’s a whisper growing louder
(Have you heard?) –
Voices lost now being found
Sweeping up the scattered words,

Whipped by robust winds –
They are landing in the streets.
Upon people of all walks of life
They’ve found a pulsing beat

The heartbeat of America
A promise to deliver
As immigrants and native souls
Create a human river.

Words splatter over painted signs,
And rise from voices strong
Of dedicated people
Who sing their country’s song –

They sing of lofty principles
Inscribed on fragile paper,
By men of foresight long ago
Lest they dissipate like vapor.

These words are seared upon the hearts
Of freedom loving folk,
We are all created equal
And won’t accept the yoke

Of stubborn inequality,
Of silencing our voices.
Remember soon the season comes
When we renew our choices.

Until then we claim these words,
We use them as our tools,
Of building our foundation
That precludes your silly rules.

We stand together strong and proud
And raise collective fists
Declaring our autonomy
And pledging to resist.


Join us. https://www.indivisibleguide.com/

A New Day

It’s a new day, America.

I watched our new president’s inauguration speech this morning on YouTube/PBS. Being the stubborn person I am, I refused to watch it live and increase any potential ratings. As I watched, and you must watch to get the full effect, I started hearing ominous background music in my head, the kind that comes at the start of The Hunger Games or any other movie where you know the politician in charge is up to no good and you’re all going to be screwed.

The gist? We’re going to make America great again, damn it. How are we going to do it? Well, with police and military, protectionism and patriotism (read nationalism). In this speech we found out that the blood of all patriots is the same color regardless of the color of their skin. (Do I need to add that the blood of everyone else in the world is also the same color? Such rhetoric.) We’re going to end the “carnage” of inner city drugs and gangs and make sure Americans are first.

I don’t know about you, but I found the use blood and carnage in an inauguration speech horrifying, especially given the tone. This is not your Obama hope and inclusion speech.

America, I fear there are dark days ahead. Women will march tomorrow in solidarity, sending a message that our voices count to a man who claims to be for us, the people, but has a penchant for sexual assault and misogyny. And it won’t just be women marching, but the men in our lives who support us. We won’t be silenced.

But I imagine they will try.

One part of the president’s speech rankled me.

At the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America and through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other. When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice.

I consider myself a patriotic person. I am not a flag-waver, singing “Proud to be and American” at the top of my lungs. I’m a quiet patriot. If you come after my country, I will be there to defend it through words or whatever implement I have on hand. But I understand that in our country, there is room for dissenting views. That’s the essence of the First Amendment. What will constitute a “total allegiance” to the USA, and who will decide what loyalty to our country means? For example, to me, loyalty to our country means honoring the free press and the constitutional amendments. It also means working with the system and not refusing to even hear a supreme court nomination. It means listening to our intelligence community and giving credence to the work they risk their lives to provide. I imagine under the Trump administration, “total allegiance” will take on a more sinister tone of agreement with the powers that be. I hope I’m wrong.

Our allegiance is to the United States of America, to its institutions and its Constitution, an ideal put to paper that we must defend against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Yet we must be very clear about what that threat is. Burning a flag is deplorable, but not a threat to the greatness of the United States. Clamping down free speech is.

It’s a new day, America, a day to ask yourself if you are willing to risk exposure and speak up against any and all attempts to destroy our freedoms? Stand up. Speak up. Don’t risk losing those rights.

They’re Here

Mercilessly they came,
Gnashing their teeth,
War whoops televised over broadcast news.

Slyly they came,
With a wink and a nod,
Manipulating words and ideas through the airwaves.

Smugly they came,
Tweeting their way into power,
Lambasting the good and worthy throughout the internet.

Slowly they rose,
Climbing on the willing backs
Of those already bent from daily pressures none of them would ever face.

And a chant rang out,
“Lock her up” and “Build that wall,”
Inoculations activating a hard shell of resistance…

To ideas…

To community…

To differences.

Joyfully they came,
Looting and pillaging their aim,
As the shining city on the hill sat vacuously waiting.


In response to The Daily Post’s prompt: Pillage

Seeping In

We’ve had a week to percolate
A thousand words to navigate,
It’s up to us to find the truth
That’s hidden in the voting booth;
Cryptic meetings, cracking code
May lead us down a dark, dark road
A small machine that stands alone
While Sally goes to get the phone,
A small adjustment, just a smidge
Is all it takes to burn that bridge.
Now exit polls don’t match results,
But we can take this; we’re adults.
Concessions speech that asks for peace,
And hope, and for a wide release.
We split, and while a segment cheers
Others must confront their fears,
Voices raised in deep despair,
Asking, how can this be fair?
How can a campaign run on blame
By a man who gained his fame
Through TV shows and business fails
Be asked to hoist the country’s sails?
A man who counsels with our foe.
Who knows where this whole thing may go?
But wait! you cry, Hold up! It’s good.
He’s our president. You should
Accept him now. Give him a chance.
To nothing give a backward glance,
Not to the stories where he proclaimed
Our president moot; a crowd inflamed.
Where’s that form?” He asked for years,
A plea that fell on willing ears
Of people who’d been trained to follow
News” that to the rest rang hollow.
Words we’d never heard before
Came crashing through that campaign door,
Pussy grabbing; at fever pitch
Lock her up,” and Trump that Bitch
If we don’t like the way this goes
It’s rigged, the 2A folks will show
The rest of you. We’ll right a wrong
With a seething, stewing, angry throng
Those emails proved that she was bad,
He takes to Twitter, says it’s sad.
You listened, voted, made your choice
And now the people raise their voice.
Which at present they are guaranteed,
As to the future, we shall see.
Appointments from the alt-right crowd –
Don’t normalize. We must get loud.
A son-in-law who must know all,
Now give your congressman a call.
Your civic duty doesn’t stop
Once you make your ballot drop.
Make donations, join a group,
By all means stay within the loop,
Democracy means do your part
And fight for your rights with all your heart.


Here’s a throwback to a great speech by a great American.

Hope. Change. Unity.

Good words. Let’s not forget them, though the times seem dark.

 

Look to our Leaders

Dear Middle America,

I know your heart. I live on an arteriole of your productive farming and logging community. I am surrounded by people whose families are still reeling from mill shutdowns and farmers who scoff at the idea of a 40 hour workweek. I feel your pain. My community has been hurt by changes in our world. Spotted owl stew is still being offered up on the metaphorical menu. I hear your voice. You feel drowned out. You want the country of your grandparents back. Nostalgia is a sweet feeling. It’s the feeling I get when I look back on pictures of my kids and smile at the good old day. But we can’t go back. What we had is gone, morphed, changed, and its up to us to morph and change with it.

Sincerely,
A Fellow American

Maybe in the America of today we identify with the wrong metaphor. The idea of our country being a melting pot originated with a play of the same name in 1908. But it’s a flawed metaphor. It creates the illusion that our identities can be melted down and fused with others. That doesn’t accurately define what this country is. Maybe our country could be better described as a tapestry of rich, intertwined threads. We should exercise care in tugging on those threads, lest the whole fabric of America unravel.

We are a country of immigrants. Some of us came here by choice, some by force. Some of us were original inhabitants of this land and must be wearing a very ironic smile at the talk of taking our country back. Yet here we are, all converging on this point in time together. In light of all of this, maybe it’s time for a little history lesson.

Throughout our short history we have accepted many to our shores. In the early days of our country, citizenship was granted to “free white people” of “good moral character” with a two year residency requirement. That was changed under Adams to fifteen years and back to five under Jefferson. It’s important to remember that during this time forced immigration was occurring due to the slave trade with no prospect of citizenship to this addition to the American population.

As the years passes, our United States was flooded with wave after wave of immigrants fleeing crop failures, social unrest, industrialization, religious intolerance, pogroms, and poverty. Laws were created to admit some and deny admittance to others. Fears that our country would be undermined and taken over by the Germans, the Catholics, and the Eastern Europeans were very real. But has this happened? Have we become an arm of Germany? Has the Pope wrested control of our nation? Or have we have taken these immigrants in and incorporated them into the tapestry of America? Today the descendents of such immigrants are our professors and policemen, judges and farmers, inventors and data entry clerks, though many of their grandparents and great-grandparents began as laborers and domestics who themselves endured the ire of the citizenry. Immigration laws have changed over the years, but what hasn’t changed is the vision of America as a place where people go to belong, where their thread can be woven into history, where their children have a chance to join the great American experiment. (And who among us in not included in the “they?”)

This election has brought a lot of ugliness to the surface. People who don’t look like that handful of pilgrims fleeing religious persecution who landed at Plymouth Rock so long ago, people who are second or third generation Americans are left reeling as they are told to go back where they came from. Even in my relatively sheltered existence, the truth of the Trump effect is hitting home. People who just days ago fit into the American tapestry are looking around, wondering just who they can trust, and it’s up to many of us to hold the fabric of our collective identity together with safety pins. Just try searching the hashtag #Trumpeffect on Twitter to see what many of the people who share this country are experiencing after this election. It’s vile. The KKK is having an outright victory parade. These are dark days. How far have we sunk as a country that any of this would be okay?

News outlets are reporting that this past election had the lowest voter turnout in two decades. The nature of the election may have caused some to sit it out thinking they couldn’t stomach their choices. I’ve heard people say they couldn’t vote for Hillary because she sounded shrill or because they didn’t want to see a woman in charge. This saddens me to no end. I cringe to think that Trump’s speeches inspired the hateful supporters who were shouting “lock her up” and who threatened to exercise their second amendment rights if their candidate was not elected. Some of those people are the ones decrying the current exercise of the first.

For those of you who are watching the #notmypresident protests unfold and are crying foul, those of you who, like me, believe in the peaceful transfer of power, look at who you’ve elected. Look closely. Play devil’s advocate for a moment and consider the arguments of the other side. Think of the possibility that you’ve been hoodwinked, that maybe the version of reality that’s been trotted out before you is not what you’re going to get.

If you are one of the many who wanted to be heard, to whom this was a protest vote in and of itself, we hear you. Let me offer this: Instead of a man who has a history of lies and evasion, who has manipulated the election, who will probably never again be seen wearing a baseball cap, who hasn’t released his tax returns… instead of this man, look to the true leaders of the common man. Bernie Sanders has a history of standing up for us, the people. Look it up. He’s still here, fighting for us. Look to Michael Moore, who predicted this win not because he supports Trump, but because he’s had his finger on the pulse of downtrodden middle America for a long, long time. I’m going to argue that we can’t have a top-down approach at this point in our country. The top has been compromised, including Donald Trump.

We are shaking the tapestry of America by exercising our first amendment right to protest. Like the flag unfurling in a tempest, it ripples and roils. When the storm dies down, we must ensure it remains intact.

I’ll leave you with the whole sonnet written by Emma Lazarus that graces the base of the Statue of Liberty:

New Colossus

statue of liberty poem

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Let’s not let it come to this:


Photo credit: On Location in Los Angeles via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND