Wednesday, November 25, 2020

A Nation Endowed...

              As the United States seeks to repair a sense of nation, bridging division, and return to living into our aspirations we must examine what has happened to our Creator?
        From the first bloom of the republic we've walked with our progenitor, our parent. 
        What has this nation done to God? Where have we put her/him/them? This is a question for those of you with a faith or spiritual life and for those of you who choose to think otherwise. 

            We hold these truths to be self evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.  Preamble to the Declaration of Independence.

            An observation-the men who signed the declaration were certainly not feminists and some of them were lukewarm to God, personally, though there She/He is, in the first sentence of the first act to declare a free nation.

            From the beginning this nation has abided people of faith and those who eschew it. Isn't that how it should be? Tolerant. Though in our more enlightened self, we've come to recognize the sins of our founding. 

            We would be more free, more just, and better in all ways if we would have started differently with native citizens and their beliefs, and if we had not permitted Africans to be made slaves. 

            At a time, and in a world that was cruel and classist, imperfect though we were, we sought a more perfect union.


  birth of a notion


            No one is required to practice a faith, but the freedom to exercise a belief is essential to a free society. It is a principle this nation was built upon. 

            A droll and dear friend, a retired Judge, who presided over the process of American justice and who is a student of philosophy, tells people he is a Frisbeterian. He says when a Frisbeterian passes, their soul goes into a frisbee stuck on a roof some place.  

            From the beginning we've had divisions but despite the differences, our Providential parent was put at the foundation.

            The constitution, the very bones of our republic,  is signed under the sentence 

            “...the 17th of September in the year of our Lord, one thousand seven hundred eighty seven….”

            This is not an exposition on belief, faith or religion. This is to serve as an understanding that an active allegiance to a Divine power is a keystone to our system of government and it has implications as to how we are as a nation. 

        My use of the word God in this post is code for the sacred beliefs of all, however it is said or left unspoken, imagined, known, practiced or worshipped. It is the human equivalence of an understanding of the Divine intelligence to which humans have fidelity and devotion. 

There is, nor ever was, a unanimity. While Europeans came to these shores for religious freedom, they had different ideas. 

Puritans who made Massachusetts Bay their home set up religious communities based on their view of the Bible. They were, however, not friendly to anyone who had a different view.

At the same time Rhode Island was established for the very purpose of religious freedom. In fact Rhode Island welcomed everyone, faith or no faith and it didn’t matter. Quakers and Jews, who had a hard time elsewhere, were free to practice faith as they wished. People with my judge friend's sense of whimsey would not have burned at a stake in Rhode Island. 

Coexistence, cooperation, and mutual respect, work.

 Just to make sure there was no doubt that our Divine parent was in the midst of everything, the first amendment to the new constitution came just four years later and established that congress could make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” it also gurantees freedom of speech, the press, the right of the people to assemble and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances-that is to protest peacefully.

            Bringing this back to the premise, the nation has been built by diversity of people and beliefs, indeed! But always there was a central principle; what we do, how we live, how we treat each other is based on the idea we live in accordance with how God would expect. “…one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” We swear to tell the truth, “so help us God.” The oath of office is sworn on a Bible. 

a kind of secular sacredness

          Over the centuries, the common center of our experiment in democratic republic has been the power we know by many names, according to varied faiths and beliefs. 

          We have become more diverse, multi-cultural and our understanding has more flavor and a diversity of accents.

        While people have been free not to practice a faith, we all have lived according to our constitutional belief in the source of faith, and the even more ancient texts that are at the core of the belief of the major religious groups. 

        Jews, Christians and Muslims share the Ten Commandments that are the foundation of law and principles of behavior. Freedom, justice, equality, divinely ordained if you will, for believers and those who are not. Everyone is to be treated the same.

            So how are we doing? What happened to our Divine guardian in the last four years or so?  Or in the last 50 years? Did someone mug him/her? Did God get fed up with us? 

            Or, have we abandoned the nexus of our nation? Do we merely purport the faith? Do we walk the talk or merely talk it?

            Even those who are agnostic or who claim to be atheist are free to think as such, thanks to our faith in government and the founding document that propounds the importance of living a good life by the measure of a higher standard than merely the doings of we human bipeds.

            As a nation do we put those values first? Or have we turned "God" into an ideological or political tool? 

            I heard a good preacher say, "God is not swayed by our rhetoric or political speechifying?" The principle of strength upon which we premise our right to be a nation, and the guide for the manner in which we will live, has to do with a higher order of things, a power that is just and that knows our intentions. 

        This is not an exercise in esoterica. The last four years have been brutal. The minority president used every opportunity to divide and to destabilize. That most who voted for him believe his lies of election fraud not only marks that we are tribes who draw our succor and knowledge from different places, it demonstrates we have lost our ability to draw to the center. It is evidence of different standards for fact, truth and reality.

        We've always had differences of opinion, but until recently we were able to agree on fact. Donald Trump has spent his life using deception about almost everything. Today millions, most victimized by the distortions of his and their favorite network, believe those lies. That presents a dangerous problem.

        In the early days of the republic James Madison had an idea of public support of churches so a government under the sway of a populist or a mass movement would not be able to restrict or control religious practices and churches. George Washington, a president vastly different from Donald Trump wrote:

“No man’s sentiments are more opposed to any kind of restraint upon religious principles than mine are; yet I must confess, that I am not amongst the number of those who are so much alarmed at the thoughts of making people pay towards the support of that which they profess, if of the denominations of Christians; or declare themselves Jews, Mahomitans or otherwise, & thereby obtain proper relief.” 1784

        We have been able to work it out, to compromise, to act with honor and most of all in the interest of everyone, even with those who hold different personal beliefs. 
    The last 4 years have fanned division, disputed fact, distorted or ignored truth, seen an attempt to discredit the press, despite the provisions of the first amendment. Families, friends, even religions have been victimized, disunited and set at odds. It was intentional, deliberate and unAmerican.


       The competence and mature assurance of the Biden transition has begun to restore and polish our democratic republic, but sabotage, landmines, and carnage left by the irrational and demented Trump years present implications. This is especially so for those who take seriously the bedrock fealty to Divine Providence found in our constitution and governance.
  •       What is a nation with a Divine heritage to make of people who do not believe the Covid virus is real?
  •        Or who flaunt precautions that protect others, including those most at risk?
  •         Or who do not believe the election results?
  •         What does a Godly people think of children pulled away from parents, and forced to sleep on aluminum blankets in cages?
  •         Or of those who approve of political behavior that causes harm, fosters division and hate?
  •        How can a government vested in a Holy Creator fail to legislate assistance to millions who are unemployed, or the 1 in 4 American children who are food insecure, or people who must decide between food, or rent, or medicine?
  •         How is a nation under God to react to a man who desecrates honor, tradition, peaceful transfer of power, undermines belief in our system, perpetuates credibility destroying mass lies? And what are to do about those adore him and believe those lies?

a nation endowed

       A people who call down a God of the ages, who invoke that divine claim, who swear allegiance, and who promise to navigate by virtues of a holy benefaction must answer true- how are we going to rehabilitate? How are we going to bridge the divide? How do we find a truth or settle on fact?

        Abraham Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation is a start.

 He suggested Americans do "humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience...and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and union."

      Healing the wounds of the nation will be hard and challenging, but it is noble and honorable work. It is something every citizen can and should do. 

      In future posts we'll take a closer look.

        In our previous age of division, Lincoln drew strength from the hymn Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory. There are lines in the second verse that push us to be honest about our commitment to truth and justice

       "God has sounded for the trumpet that shall never call retreat and is sifting out all human hearts before the judgement seat..."

        Truth matters. Justice will prevail. It is in the nations DNA.We are the agents.  

      Stay well. See you down the trail.




Tuesday, November 17, 2020

American Beliefs at War


A generation which ignores history has no past and no future.                                                                             Robert Heinlein                                                                        writer, aeronautical engineer  

    The norm shattering of the last four years, as much of an assault on American values as it has been, is coming now to its dark maturity. 

    Beginning with his inauguration he worked to divide America. Now Donald Trump prepares to take America to war.

    The examination ahead will be frank, and difficult to abide so before we begin with a few scenes from a recent walk on the shore. May they be pleasing and soothe our troubled hearts.

History is the only register of crimes and misfortunes.                                             Voltaire

    Trump's behavior since being rejected by a record number of Americans has been to sabotage the nation. People were shocked to learn he explored options for a war against Iraq after replacing top military command officials.

    He continues to violate the Presidential Records Act by destroying files and papers. Some staff have surreptitiously tried to tape and stash documents.

    His delay in transition will only worsen the pandemic he ignored and lied about. It puts our national security on uneven ground.

    Trying to leverage his bent for an authoritarian control of the government he's signaled his supporters to refuse to accept the legitimacy of the new government. His supporters march and violence follows. It is the type of thing we see in some nations and we have seen it in history. 

    The "Brown Shirts" and the Storm Division paramilitary supporters of populist demagogue and madman Adolf Hitler began with demonstrations and street fights in 1924. 

     They were "militias," supporters of a movement leader who demanded loyalty. The appeal was based on grievances, anger  and division.
    Fix in your mind how Trump took over the Republican party by bullying and grievance. Adolph Hitler went from outsider and built a non conventional base of the disaffected. His Nazi movement, a fringe element, gained enough power in the Conservative coalition,  that it could not rule without him. That was in 1932. By 1933 Hitler was elected Chancellor and he dismissed the Parliment.

        The Nazi Party established control of the courts and controlled the judges. Those who spoke against him were run through a mock judicial process. The free press was attacked, opposition groups were run over by Nazi paramilitary. The Dachau concentration camp was built in 1933, others followed and we know the history. The regime lied, repeatedly. 

    The Nazis were specialists at propaganda and image with the intent of brainwashing. They didn't need a Fox News they had Joesph Goebbels a government minister of propaganda.

     Most Fox News viewers fail to know its founder was also a propagandist. Roger Ailes was Richard Nixon's television producer and advisor. Later he worked for Ronald Reagan, to help with spin and party line. He advised the Bush campaigns. 

    Most news organizations evolved from a role of public service. Fox News began with a mission to spin, and to tilt right. That is to be a propaganda mill.

    A document found in the Richard Nixon library outlines the first draft of Fox News. Ailes authored "A Plan for Putting the GOP on Television." The idea was to put party doctrine over fair and balanced reporting over what Ailes said was the "bias" of journalism. Years later it was a cruel irony then,  when Ailes launched the conservative to right wing news network using "fair and balanced" as their moniker. I suspect his karma is still in deficit. 

    Ailes and Trump were a match. Ailes like Trump was thrice married and like Trump a sexual predator. In fact allegations of sexual harrassment by 23 women forced his resignation in disgrace. But he created a monster in America, a "news by flavor" outlet that in truth functions as a mouth piece, a propagandist for right wing Republican politics. But no more. Most traditional conservatives and Republicans have left the party to fight back with their own words and pictures. Fox News helped to kill the Republican party, helping turn it into a Trumpist party.

    Trump, an egoist, learned early he could use TV by breaking norms. People who have studied him, see similarities in his speaking manner to another "right wing crack pot."

    Trump often strikes poses similar to Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. 

    Mussolini was also a narcissist. The pouting face, jutting jaw
   crossed arms and fist making hand gestures are frequent 

     Trump moves. History is always revealing.

The very ink with which history is written is merely fluid prejudice.
Mark Twain

    The scene above, of a Nazi rally should be particularly chilling, especially to those who say it can't happen here.
    That image is Madison Square Garden, 1939.

     "Americanism" and America First were catch phrases of a far right wing to conservative sentiment.

    20 Thousand Americans filled the Garden that night to celebrate George Washington's birthday.

    At the next "Stop the Steal" or "Four More Years" rally, as people clearly ignore the facts, certified even by Trump apointees in government, you may feel a quick retraction of time.
    Street violence is a tool. Another attack on our belief in our system.
      History may indeed repeat, if we are ignorant of it. Ignorance is a fuel for populists. Ignorance is rampant in America now.
       Trump's refusal to cooperate with a transition is a belligerent personal act of narcissistic defiance, but it is also dangerous and undermining.
    He has been a divider for four years. He has worked since 2016 to erode the credibility of our electoral process and our American traditions and norms, which have been a standard for the world, a beacon of democracy. 
    It appears he plans to stay vocal. That serves him personally as he can continue to fund raise. It serves him to have a pulpit from which to spew, to prance and dance and bathe in the adoration of the ignorant. But it also divides this nation. It drives hatred into the heart of the body politic. It is a cancer to the sinews and muscle of the Republic that has held, except for the civil war. And there again the eyes of history are on us.
And so are other eyes.

    Generations of our children and grand children deserve better than what they see in us now. A democratic republic is hard work. But for most of two and half centuries we have observed norms, traditions, respected honesty, searched for fact and truth. Donald Trump does none of that and each day  he remains the toxic being he is, he moves us closer to the battle lines, in our own nation, and unless he is checked, perhaps in some war making effort abroad. 
    We've had our fill of mistaken foreign wars. We've survived a a civil war. Donald Trump is a fuse.
    There is no longer any decent explanation for supporting him, as a citizen or as a member of the Senate. He lost, fair and square. His law suites are without a cause. There is another reason he deserves no support, he is evil.
    Authoritarianism is growing. Trumpism is likely to survive, for a while at least. Fighting that is in our interest, but it will be a detailed process and it involves fellow citizens, abused humans. We'll look at that fight in future posts. 
    The past should be remembered, and the future should be honored. 

    Stay safe. Stay well. Be vigilant.

    See you down the trail.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

American Petulance


      Historic passages are fraught with peril even when intentions are honorable. American history is presently being cast in the shadow a mad tyrant and his coterie of cowards making pact with our enemies. It is a time of subversion and carnage.  


       President-elect Joe Biden was understated when he called Trump's behavior "embarrassing."  However you describe it, it is also dangerous. 

    Several national security and military experts have emphasized periods of transition are high alert times anyway. Trumps decapitating of our intelligence, security and defense communities is irresponsible and in some minds, traitorous.

    His behavior remains unAmerican as he continues to defy norms and intentionally seeks to undermine citizen's trust. He has no respect for the traditions that have given this diverse and rancorous nation a sense of center and cohesion.

    This is the first transition in 220 years that has not been honorable. He is the first president not to concede. That should tell everyone he is exactly what was said of him in 2015; Unfit, unqualified and lacking character. Now the loser is like a petulant punk and so, he is bent on destruction.  Sadly he has allies.                    

republican extinction
    Honor and decency have fled the Republican party and today it is nothing more than a gaggle of spineless accomplices. That is bad for the nation, destructive of the party of Lincoln and ever more a brownshirt and nazi like cult. 
    I take no pride in warning here 4 years ago we were witnessing the rise of an authoritarian regime, a slow moving coup borrowing from how the nazi's brainwashed a German nation. Others saw it as well. 
    It is important to know history and to pay close attention to the complexity of governance and to watch social norms. As a nation we have failed on this last point. Some of us were chastised for our take down of Donald Trump and the refusal of Republicans, those in office and those of rank and history, to call out the man who cares only for himself.
    Senate leader McConnell was technically correct in saying there are "options available" to the president, but there was no truth in the Trump allegations and McConnell knows that and he could see the American public soundly rejected Trump.
    McConnell is a hollow soul, there is only duplicity, greed, and a sycophant's cancerous black hole where there should be a heart. Honor and decency would be like a silver stake. He is a jackal in human form and a racist to boot.
    Bill Barr has so anguished Department of Justice professionals, past and present as to give rise to a sentiment that drawing and quartering would be an apt sentence for this delusional behemoth in horn rims. He is Trump's personal beast of burden as they lumber and hulk their way on a path of shame as they rape and bludgeon lady liberty and try to steal America.

where is courage
    How many times in the last couple of years have you heard someone ask, "what is wrong with the Republicans?"  I have wondered why some in the senate, traditionalists, have not yelled "enough is enough!"
    Trump took over and now rules the republican party. Politicians fear him. They worry he will sick his frenzied cult following on them by supporting an opponent, cutting off their life support to stand next to the till as Trump Inc. plunders public money, gives it to wealthy friends and to himself, destroys American credibility, rips apart our nation, plays the Russian stooge and dances with the devil.
    I've been reminded I should be about reconciliation and lowering the volume, but just in case no one sees what's happening here, I cannot hold my tongue. At least this leaves a record to surf algorithms for my grand kids. 
    I understand there are philosophical, political, and analytical differences. I get that people have their favorites and reasons for liking or disliking candidates. There is so much poison in the political system it is a challenge to navigate the truth, and facts. 
    Trump does not respect truth and is ignorant of many, many facts. So, regardless of your "politics," if you were one of the 70 some million who voted for him, you have ignored the truth and are ignorant of glaringly public facts. You may not like the other candidates or the other party, or their sense of things, but at least they are in touch with reality. You cannot make that claim of Donald Trump. To ignore all that he has done and all that he is doing now would have made you a good candidate to have been one of the supporters of the Nazi and fascist movement in the last century. You are how history goes so dark, and how human decency and logic is overwhelmed by madness and ignorance and grievance. 
    By the way the tax fraud who pretended to be an executive, the liar who bullied his way into leadership of the Republican party, the sexual predator who blundered this nation into ripping apart at the seams getting sick by the millions, and making the world unsafe by playing with dictators, lost the election. And you know what else, he will soon owe Russian mobsters and others some hundreds of millions in loans due, because he's the guy wrote "the art of the deal."
     Oh and there are several jurisdictions who have some legal questions to ask him. So, please for own sanity say to "the Donald," you're fired! The rest of us have. We have to live together and jointly should send Trump to the ash pile of ignominy. 

     Stay safe. Stay vigilant.

     See you down the trail.


Saturday, November 7, 2020

American Gratitude-Thank You Women

 she landed it!

    The Women's march that began as a spasm of reaction to the 2016 Russian assisted and colluded election ends this weekend with the celebratory outbreaks across America.
    The resistance to a criminal administration has been motivated time and time again by that movement. 
     We'll spend a lot of time reading the entrails, analyzing the demographics, trying to understand and explain the vote. The early take, women won this election for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. They were the bedrock of activism, political organization and most importantly they delivered the vote.
      Hats off to many women, Secretaries of State, and voter registration and vote count managers who we saw interviewed repeatedly as an anxious nation awaited.
     A movement that mobilized in 2016 was joined later by the women who organized BLM.  It was an historic vote turn out and we thank the women who provided the spark.

    Congratulations America, listen carefully and you can hear Lady Liberty sigh in relief.

     See you down the trail.

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

America in Waiting


                    President Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site Indianapolis courtesy photo

    As America waits I share history and sentiment. I spent a lot of time at this wonderful historic site, serving on the board and eventually as president of the Benjamin Harrison Home board of directors. There is a connection to where we are now.

        Harrison was elected in 1888, defeating Grover Cleveland in a campaign that had its share of controversy and dispute. Harrison, who had served in the Senate, lost the popular vote by 90 thousand but won the electoral college 233 to 168. Almost 80% of eligible voters, some 11million, cast their ballots.

    Harrison was an advocate of civil rights and voting rights but America at that time was not ready. It would be another 32 years before women were extended the right to vote. Harrison spoke often in favor of African American rights. Most modern Americans know little if any of Benjamin Harrison, who's Grandfather was William Henry Harrison, the 9th President. He was also the great grandson of a name sake who signed the Declaration of Independence. Dispute over tariffs cost him his re-election bid, as he was defeated by Cleveland, the man he beat four years earlier. His one term is a rich tapestry of an emerging American nation on the cusp of the 20th Century.

    Watching recent campaigns painfully serves to inform how poorly educated we Americans are about our history. The last 4 years has been a catalogue of ignorance and lies. If we knew our history, perhaps we'd be better citizens. 

    The 2020 campaign will be studied as an oddity. There will be volumes to come but already Tom Friedman writes the US is the loser in this election.

    "We have just experienced four year of the most divisive and dishonest presidency in American history, which attacked the twin pillars of our democracy-truth and trust." Friedman wrote and I agree.

    My Irish friend Jack, a devotee of US history and culture, wrote to me on election day with a powerful assessment I share here.

    This could be a day of days or the end of days.

I expect Joe Biden to be elected with a significant majority in the Electoral College and a big majority in the popular vote.
However, if Trump is re-elected the American people will not be able to claim that they did not know what 4 more years of Trump will entail, even if the Democrats take the Senate. They will have chosen corruption, moral bankruptcy, division, lies, lies and more lies. The US will be shown to no longer be a democracy. It will be a plutocracy, put in place by the Supreme Court (Citizens United), enabled by the Supreme Court (the evisceration of the Voting Rights Act) and by a once great political party, the party of Lincoln; a bandit country in which people armed with weapons capable of firing 60 rounds a minute can invade a state capitol without hindrance or consequence (Supreme Court on 2nd amendment; a justice system which is getting more and more unjust; a country in which civil rights are in retreat; a country which is a pariah in the world; a country which is reaping the harvest of a criminal lack of investment in public education and no investment in public health (socialism!); a country in which the First Amendment right to protest will be suppressed by troups, whether federal, National Guard, ICE or other; a country where the media have been captured by the plutocracy (Murdoch/Fox 'News', spreading like a malevolent virus across the nation, shutting down local newspapers, radio and television); a country where JFK's 'Ask not what your country can do for you...' would be laughed at... I could go on. We all could. The list is endless and the 'appalling vista' (Lord Denning in Bermingham 6 appeal) would become a rooted reality in a once great country, a country to which the free world (does it exist anymore?) looked for leadership.
It is staggering that it has come to this but, as many have pointed out, this did not start with Trump, it has been many years in the making.

Let's pray that Biden's election will be the first step in the re-building of the USA, a re-building that will take generations, a re-buildng that so many good, decent Americans of all political hues deserve.

    It is truth and logic. I am embarrassed at America's decline in the eyes of the world. I am embarrassed by Trump, his destruction of the Republican party, and those who support him and condone his attack on truth and trust. His gains for his partisans are not worth the destruction he has rendered.

   It troubles me this nation has descended where millions can condone unAmerican and boorish behavior by a man who is ultimately a Russian stooge playing a starring role in sowing division, discord and eroding our confidence and trust in who we are. He did it for his own aggrandizement. It is a fact that we cannot dismiss. And as we pick through the next four years and beyond, it is a recent history we must account for. He fueled it for gain and greed and we are a divided people.

    There is work to do, rebuilding the United States, despite ourselves. We hope the days of the divider, working only for his base, are over. We need a uniter, a healer, a president for all Americans and a leader for the world. 

    For the time being, stay positive. Catch up on your sleep.

       Thanks to Bruce, the editor.
       See you down the trail.