Where to Start?

Note: I’m posting about my political or social justice activities thoughts each week. It’s not an invitation to debate in the comments sections. If you yell at me online, I’ll just delete the comment. If you’d like to have a conversation about any of my ideas, I’m pretty easy to find. Let’s do it in person. I’ll buy the first cup of coffee. We’ll get along famously in person. In return, I promise not to yell at you online, too. Internet comments don’t solve anything.

Although it wasn’t the most active week for me, I was struck by a few thoughts that might shape how I view the impending Trump administration.

  1. Propaganda. A lot of people are calling it “fake news.” From now on, I’m going to have to call it like I see it: propaganda. So full of lies, so full of unrelenting awfulness of pretty much every stripe, that to call it “fake” or simply “clickbait” is naive. I’ve read some articles this week about what motivates these propaganda sites, and the common denominator seems to be an immense amount of advertising money. They are dangerous. There seems to be very little difference between what is found there and some more common examples of propaganda.
  2. HERE and HERE are two links to lists of propaganda sites you might want to peruse. I haven’t checked every one of the sources, so my keyword will be watchfulness. I must study where my news is coming from. I suppose there are some who will argue that we can’t trust any media source, but I’m not one of those people. The newspapers I subscribe to are The New York Times, The Boston Globe, Seacoast Online and The Nation. The news websites I’ve been visiting are: ProPublica, NPR, Mother Jones, Slate (HERE is an excellent article about what the roadmap forward may look like), and Salon. Newspaper sites I’ve been visiting include: The Des Moines Register, The Salt Lake Tribune, The Los Angeles Times, and The Kansas City Star. I’m sure all of these publications will draw ire from someone. That’s fine. What I would suggest is that it is imperative to read as much news from as many sources as possible. None of these sites are propaganda sites, no matter what their individual points-of-views or editorial flaws may be.
  3. I’m still astounded by the amount of craziness I see in the comment sections or pretty much any news article. It’s like the country has been holding back vast reserves of craziness and the levee has broken and it’s all flooding into the comment sections. And I know it was bad before. It just seems exponentially worse. Trump’s victory has emboldened those at the very edges in new and profound ways (THIS for example). It’s difficult to disengage from commenting. For instance, my school, The University of New Hampshire, came under fire this week from some alt-right hit squads for what a couple of our professors said in personal Facebook posts. You would have thought our faculty was burning copies of the constitution on T-Hall lawn. Our president issued a statement outlining our school’s commitment to dealing swiftly and severely with incidents of hate speech or hate assault. That’s a no-brainer, right? Isn’t that the way it should be? We had an African American student spit on and our response was to say, “these are things we will not tolerate.” But to read the comment section on our Facebook page? You’d have thought we were some vast liberal enclave that was systematically beating Trump supporters and expelling anyone who didn’t vote for Hillary (one commenter actually posted the latter). None of this, it should go without saying, is true. We are a relatively large and complex state university with students representing all points of the political spectrum. The worst thing about the comments is that it was glaringly obvious that most of the posters hadn’t even read the statement from the president. I can only assume they were working off of “hunches” about what a bunch of elitist college folk might say about hate speech. Worried about what colleges are doing to the kids? Come take a class. Come find out what is really happening.
  4. The one thing I haven’t done yet is make phone calls to my elected officials. I don’t know why this has been difficult for me. Mostly, I’m better on the page and I’ve never liked talking on the phone. But that’s a cop-out. I’ve read that letters and emails get filed and looked at according to some algorithm. So this week, I will try to do better to get on the phone. It’s a small action that I should get used to. It seems like I’ll have the opportunity to make many such phone calls over the next few years. The first phone calls need to be about the group of extreme (insane?) people filling out Trump’s cabinet. Throughout the election, I thought over and over that “he can’t get any crazier than he already is” and yet he did. Now, I keep thinking that “he can’t pick anyone worse than the last person he picked.” But he has. It’s an appalling group of people. It’s says something that the mention of Mitt Romney as a potential Secretary of State calms me somewhat.
  5. “Fidel Castro is dead!” That tweet from our President-Elect is a four word proof that the man isn’t qualified to lead our country. No matter what you think of Castro, of his politics, of the violence of his revolution, of his country, of communism—to write with such obvious glee about the death of a head of state is not normal. There are maybe a thousand ways to acknowledge in 140 characters that Castro had died that would have been more sensitive to Cuba, the Cuban people (including Cuban immigrants who are understandably anti-Castro), and the international community without pretending that he felt Castro was a great leader or person. Here’s one that I thought of in about twenty seconds: “Despite the differences between us, I extend sympathies from the US to Fidel Castro’s family and country at the time of his death.” Can Trump be any less articulate? Can he be any more coarse? I would say no, but I fear he’d prove me wrong. I know that there are voters who voted for Trump as a representative for change—but does change mean that we aren’t able to speak like grown-ups? Whatever you may think of him or his policies, President Obama has been one of the most eloquent and dignified leaders in my lifetime. The prospect of Trump comforting a community after a mass shooting (Potential tweet: “If they had guns, maybe they’d be alive! Second Amendment!”) or after a natural disaster (Tweet: “Sad. So much property damage. Weather is unpredictable.”) is so disheartening. This is just one of the many reasons a Trump presidency cannot be normalized. There is no normalizing a man with no shame.
  6. Books: I’m reading John Lewis’s Walking With the Wind: A Memoir of the movement. HERE is a link to the book on Goodreads, if you’d like to see what it’s all about, or perhaps read along. I figure we are beginning a new phase of the same movement so it’s important to understand the larger picture.
  7. Thanks for reading. More next week.

Retreat.

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Because it is temporary

And fleeting, I cannot spend my time

Angry, seething at the news of the world. 

Yesterday, I read a review of Sarah Palin’s war on Christmas book and wondered how we got a place where she has a book contract. For hours, this thought rolled around in my head. I read some reports on the disastrous implementation of the Affordable Health Care Act. I read about the awful tragedy in the Philippines, mother nature one again proving our smallness. Of all the news I read throughout the day, not one single article offered any solution to any problem. Complain, blame, scream. 

I have to retreat from the news nearly every day. I’m not talking about retreating from the world, about being uniformed, ignorant, naive. I have to retreat so that I may become a better part of the world. When I am caught up thinking: Sarah Palin is a writer; the Republicans are ruining our country; we are helpless in the face of nature–I am doomed. 

So retreat. How can I tend to my garden? 

So retreat. How can I help? 

So retreat. Disengage from the broken. 

So retreat. Find the path.

So retreat. Sweep forward.

So retreat. Listen. 

So retreat. Breathe. 

So retreat. Invent. 

So retreat. Create. 

So retreat. To live. 

Just a Backpack

Someone left a bag in my classroom yesterday. Just a regular backpack resting on the floor next to the table where I stand or sit. My bright and observant student, Shay Goodine, recorded the moment:

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Fear

Teacher evaluations. The long sway of his braid as he turned to face the class. A wide blue dappled mug on the table, his watch facing up, a pile of books. A small backpack beside the leg of the table. No one had noticed. Something left behind.

He stopped midsentence. Picked up the bag.

Is this anybody’s?

Classmates searched each other’s faces.

He put the bag aside. Began a thought, then put it down. This is stupid, but I’m looking in the bag, he said.

A few student’s chuckled nervously, quietly.

Just a backpack, he announced. Stupid, but, these days… he muttered as he turned back to face the class.

Fear. The hush of still breath.Waiting. Wonder. When did we wonder like that? How did that wonder steal in our windows in the last years, creeping into our sleeping ears and into our everyday brains? Check the back pack.

A moment of fear in this grown man. Braid swinging. Just a back pack. Just a back pack.

#Blazing into the #newyear…wait… do I really have to blaze?

I’ve been slow to update my site recently. I posted nearly 160 blog entries last year–a number that surprised me. In December of 2011, however, I didn’t post much. Here’s what’s been on my mind.

My father-in-law. He’s been with us for over two years. He’s now started in-home hospice. Dying is an absorbing event. I’m grateful to have the chance to go through it now, as an adult. I doubt it will be the last time.  Although I’m not the primary care-giver, and our lives are full around Jack’s hospice life, there is a very definite pull of energy toward the back part of house where his room is. Three years ago, we renovated the final section of our house for just this purpose. It hasn’t been easy, but what about life is easy? And why should it be? Of all the two-bit planets in this two-bit galaxy, ours happens to support conscious life. The chances of that are staggeringly small. It’s a miraculous thing to ponder, but there’s no reason to believe the miraculous should be easy.

Also, on the total other side of the spectrum, my cassette adapter for my van stopped working and now I have to listen to the radio. My friends say, “Try NPR”–and that’s all well and good–but I don’t like talking on the radio. When I’m in the car, I like music. Now, down from the thousands of choices available to me on my iPod, I’m stuck with classic rock stations (unless Grace is in the car–and then it’s KISS 95’s All Hits All The Time). Not really having listened to rock radio in nearly 20 years, I was surprised to find that the songs are exactly the same. Seriously people–how many more times do you need to hear “Light My Fire” or “Break on Through” by the Doors? Me? I never, ever need to hear those songs again. And yet I’ve heard them both three times each in the last week. Give me “Peace Frog” once every ten years or so and I’m good with the Doors. Are the boomers so stuck in those old songs that they can’t bear to not hear the Doors everyday? And don’t get me started about Zeppelin. I’m in the car about twenty, thirty minutes a day tops and I’ve heard: “Stairway to Heaven” (two times), “Black Dog” (three times), “Misty Mountain Hop” (a great tune, admittedly, one time), “Fool in the Rain” (three times) and “Achilles Last Stand” (one time). Seriously? Is there some blood deficiency that requires Page/Plant infusions thrice daily? Even Robert Plant must hate how much he’s on the radio. People need to get out and find new music. Or maybe I should just bust the radio. It’s hopeless.

Also, it’s on in NH, I suppose. By “on,” I mean lots of republican volunteers calling looking for my vote. It’s ghastly. Newt the philanderer called today (his proxy, at least) and wanted to know if I could count on his vote. Not unless his name is Obama. Mitt called too. Mitt has shiny teeth and oily hair. I don’t care about his religion. His insistence that our country is the greatest in history galls me. He wants to shovel money into the military and also cut taxes. He talks about being married to his wife like it’s been a prison sentence. At least he hasn’t screwed around on his wife because he loves his country so much (Newt). I’m sure Santorum will be calling tomorrow trying to gauge my fear of gay people (the scary, scary gay agenda). Ron Paul called too. To all them, I just say no.

So, that’s the beginning of this year’s blogging for me. I’ve been feeling a little under the weather for the last couple of days and today, as I was starting to feel like myself again, I had the spark of an epiphany. Each winter break (teaching at the University of New Hampshire, I get an unbelievable break)  I go into my time off thinking of all the things I have to “do.” I always have a list of things I need to get done. I’ve been a list maker all my life. I never, ever, ever get the list finished. It’s a pointless endeavor. I’m going to try an experiment for the next three weeks: I’m not to try to get anything done at all. Just going to see what happens when I stop trying to make anything happen. I’m going to attempt to live my life fully, but I’m not going to make lists, I’m not going to try to accomplish anything per se. Just going to live and breath. And do lots of hot yoga.

#priorities #ridiculous #shameful

Can this be true:

Urban Meyer to Make $40 million Over Seven Years to Coach Ohio State

An Orlando TV station has furthered the Urban Meyer to Ohio State story.  Whether Local 6′s sports director, David Pingalore, is credible is in question, but this story has gone from simmering to full-burn. Here’s what Local 6 in Orlando is reporting: Sources told Local 6 that former University of Florida head coach Urban Meyer has agreed in principle to become the next head coach of Ohio State University, and will be introduced in the coming days. According to Sports Director David Pingalore’s sources, Meyer has agreed to a seven-year, $40 million deal. Urban will reportedly make $5.71 million per year, making him the highest paid coach in college football.
Are you kidding me?
If it is true, our entire country should collective hang our heads in shame. It seems to me to be proof of everything that we have backwards in our nation. That figure, if confirmed, is obscene. In fact, even if the number was mis-reported…say someone forgot to put the decimal point in and it should be 4.7 million. Even then, the figure is obscene. How can it possibly be justified? It can’t. No one who isn’t saving lives or feeding the hungry deserves that sort of payday. But we accept ridiculous sports salaries as part of our culture. No wonder we are doomed. Yes, I said doomed. If this is our “norm,” then I don’t see how we aren’t doomed. Good luck future generations. You’re going to need it.

#Polidiocy

Two female republican senators have endorsed stripping and posing nude in order to pay for college. Apparently, Elizabeth Warren (dem) (who is running for Scott Brown’s (rep) seat in the US Senate) quipped about Scott Brown (who posed naked for Cosmo to help pay for college) that she did not, in fact, take off her clothes to pay for college. Brown responded, “Thank God.”

Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and Susan Collins (R-ME) came to Brown’s defense and said that it was wrong of anyone to mock the “hard” choices people make whilst attempting to meet the ends. Brown, they seemed to imply, had entered the seedy world of nude naughty bits because life had dealt him a tough hand and he was simply trying to put food on the table. Here are their quotes:

Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) said in a statement published in Politico, “It’s inappropriate to make light of his personal circumstances, or to disparage or belittle him for the decisions he made to improve his life. Scott is one of the best guys to work with in the Senate, and I am proud to call him my colleague.”

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine): “It’s wrong to mock anyone who had to make hard choices to overcome tough obstacles.” She added, “His story is no different than millions of Americans who are doing everything they can to make ends meet.”

College students in both states rejoiced at the news. Many female students were heard to exclaim that they could now freely “work the pole” at establishments like Gents Only and Boobs-R-Us in order to pay for their tuitions. Male students quickly flooded phone lines to like minded establishments and publications, trying to secure immediate improvement to their financial situation by revealing their junk for all the world.

This policy shift marks a stunning departure for the more conservative senators. One of Ayotte’s assistants hinted that Ayotte would soon reveal a wide number of stripping/sex-industry related reforms to her agenda. “We need our kids to be educationed,” the assistant said, “and now that these two brave senators have boldy accepted Scott Brown’s wang in a nearly three decade old issue of Cosmo, we believe the states can more fully withdraw from the funding of higher educations as more and more students make hard choices that will see them disrobed and displayed for cash like never before.”

 

All Week I’ve Wanted to Write Down My Thoughts On Bin Laden,

But I haven’t been able to focus.

They said the President was going to speak

To the Nation at ten-thirty. By eleven,

The story had escaped. Within the hour

A crowd had gathered to cheer and chant

U.S.A over and over in front of the White

House and the President still hadn’t stepped

Through the doorway and cut sharply toward

The podium, feet steady as he approached us

With the news. He kept it simple, his

Speech, and did not gloat.

The images of 9-11 returned

Unbidden. Would the killing of this

Man in his hideaway mansion ease

The trauma we’ve been living

With ever since?

I wanted to address this all week, but

Found no easy answer. Would the world

Be better without Osama Bin Laden?

Yes, without a doubt. Would cheering his

Death, or any death, bring solace?

And if not solace, then at least some

Satisfaction or a sense of justice? Would

This mark the moment in which we

Retrieved our soldiers from their dusty,

Endless mission? Or, to the contrary,

Would this draw us deeper? Would it

Matter to the tens thousands of dead

On both sides of the world? Our soldiers

And their soldiers. Our innocent and

Their innocent? Would the rich,

Mostly white, millionaires that run the

Country finally stop acting like first

Graders fighting over who controlled

The jungle gym?

Or would this secretive operation, much

Like 9-11,bring us together for a brief

Moment only to return too quickly to our

Daily lives of distraction? Would we—I—

Use the emotional pull of this sick and

Sickly man’s death as a force to remind us

Of our fragile station as mortal animals?

Would we feel released from those fears

He symbolized? Or would the symbol

Simply migrate to another boogeyman,

Another face long and dour beneath

A turban, another face to hate? And

Who would we have to kill to release us

From our national fear and hate? And

Even if we killed everyone, would that

Be enough?

All week I wanted to address these

Questions in writing. I only know where

I’m going if I write my way there. But

What I’m left with tonight, are the same

Questions I couldn’t answer before. Still

No answers. We cheered, or wept,

Or continued grieving, or relived some grief

Packed away, but is anything

Different today? Will it be?