The delicate interdependence that is nature also protects democracies. But it is difficult to recreate once eradicated.
A tall shadow controls my autumn pond.
It moves on long legs and will stare and wait.
After the late March ice had come and gone
And the exchanged songs of the frogs that mate,
The lily pads rise through the clear water
To shelter the colonies of black tadpoles
That are born as eggs, like pupiled eyes, pure,
And, like the rest here, uncompromising souls.
The summer heat reveals the baby fish
Spawned by the survivors of last winter.
By August it is like my winter wish:
Blooming like some Eden, ready to enter.
The heron knows nothing of what I mean.
By noon it will have picked the pond all clean.
“Week 38” from An Accidental Diary
(Available now on Amazon in paperback and Kindle.)
Can you hear? Paul Revere is calling!
I have always believed that the genius of America is derived from the ability of its people, from all walks of life and differing backgrounds, to talk together and educated each other.
I am not alone on this.
In the 1830s, almost 50 years after America was founded, Alex de Tocqueville, a visiting French diplomat wrote: “The greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults.”
The way America has “repair[ed] her faults” and ensured its greatness has been “we the people” talking together and educating each other, and with the collective credibility of our conversation we voice our conclusions with our votes.
The founding fathers universally opposed political parties.
They feared that political parties could act as intermediaries for the voice of the electorate. I would argue that the political parties have now evolved to protect only themselves.
Our elected representatives are heavily funded by the political parties and rewarded with better health and retirement benefits than those whom they represent. They vote in lockstep with the party interests.
Recently the political parties have divided us through gerrymandering, voter suppression, and by defining the issues of our conversation, and we are polarized.
The parties relentlessly continue to further increase their power and our polarization at our expense. Most recently, in 19 states they have limited our collective voice, which is the vote. The parties now just fight each other for dominance rather than represent their constituents.
The polarization of America threatens not only our greatness but now even our democracy.
We no longer talk to each other to repair America’s faults.
We the people are not the enemy. The Political parties are.
So what do we the people do?
First, we pass the deadlocked voting rights legislation presently pending in Congress, which would curtail gerrymandering and preserve every American’s right to vote.
Second, we must regain our obligation to share our collective conversation and educate each other from our differing experiences.
Sixty years ago, John F. Kennedy spoke to the nation and said “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.”
What is asked of us now, other than to pay taxes, which we avoid as much as possible? That’s about it. With little or no responsibility to our county, we have become entitled, lazy, and self-centered.
The Second World War brought us together as we marshaled our resources to protect democracy and the free world against the fascist states of Germany, Italy, and Japan. These countries lost their freedom from the inside when they let totalitarianism take over. In contrast, the American people worked together side-by-side, talked together, and came out of that war as the most prosperous nation in the world up until now.
What if we each agreed to a universal commitment to serve the country for just one year to work together side by side, talking together and in so doing eradicate the political parties’ polarization which now separates us?
The 2022 election, one year away, will set in stone for ten years the gerrymandering and voter suppression which has been imposed on us. We the people must take our government back now or perhaps lose it forever to the power brokers that were once middleman and now are our kings. We are not their servants.
But that’s not all we have to do. We have to individually accept the responsibility to talk to those who are our perceived enemy and not lecture each other but listen and learn and become great again.
I have been blessed with critics of my points of view on this blog and on more than one occasion I have asked to meet them and buy them a beer. In each case, I have made a friend with a different political perspective, and an American friend at that.
We are not the enemy! We hold the genius of America in our hands if we will only embrace our responsibility and get rid of those who would make us slaves to their superiority and greed.
It is time to raise up before it is too late. It’s up to us to protect our democracy and our country.
Wake up! Paul Revere is calling.
New Hampshire’s motto was and remains “Live free or die.” Back in the early 1960s, when I was ten, I came to believe it was America’s promise to itself.
My parents took the family to the White Mountains in the wilds of the Presidential Mountain range, to a tiny house that looked up into Tuckerman’s Ravine near the little town of Randolph in northern New Hampshire.
The morning after we arrived, our family dog came back after a night out with a mouth full of porcupine quills.
When we arrived the night before, we had discovered that the only phone was affixed to the wall in the kitchen and was a party line. So, the next morning, we had to ask the operator to give us the number for the veterinarian and we had to count the rings to know if her return call was for us or someone else when she connected us.
We soon learned that the party line did not stop people from picking up the phone and eavesdropping. My father would preface a conversation by constantly asking “please get off the line… Please get off the line.” Eavesdropping on the phone was a social event but — when requested — the clicks could be heard and the line would become clear. It was part of the social code.
The other notable social activity in Randolph was the picnic on the 4th of July where everyone in the community, including us, enthusiastically gathered to play charades. The charades were just an icebreaker to encourage interaction and conversations between strangers. All the eavesdroppers must have been there, but I remember that everybody was welcome to celebrate our democracy in that community.
As I grew older and watched the passage of civil rights legislation and protests to end the Vietnam War on black and white TV, and the rise of “Me Too” and “Black Live Matter” on the web, I always returned to my childhood memories and to that motto that I believed was America’s promise to itself.
I try to keep imagining what the residents of Randolph, New Hampshire back then would have done if the telephone company was quietly gathering everything from purchasing information to political beliefs to sell to secondary consumer markets and even to political parties, and if politicians used this information to make marketing calls, agitating these customers to increase profits.
So, must I now reconcile this my old memory of the respect for personal privacy, which was honored at the request of my father on a party line by our neighbors who also welcomed us into their picnics and to celebrate our democracy?
Would the citizens of Randolph have been quite as complacent as America is now?
Would they have required a whistleblower to go to Congress to explain Facebook‘s assault on their privacy?
No, that’s been obvious all along.
Would they need a whistleblower to explain that Facebook has, for its own gains, divided the country as a platform for false information of all forms in the name of more corporate profits, despite the damage it may have done?
No, that’s been obvious all along.
I have to get over my childish imagined ever-growing flotilla of tractors with extra pitchforks for other patriots rolling out of Randolph, gathering in its assault on Washington.
I have to get over my childish imagination that they would have already left town and gone to defend the Capitol back in January after it was assaulted.
They would be there, defending the Capitol, and who knows? Once they figured out what was happening, perhaps they would’ve attacked the White House. Or maybe they went down to protect voting rights or protest political parties that grow more radical, unifying a misinformed public in order to maintain their own political power.
Once I gave up these childhood memories it is now good to realize we struggle everyday to be free. It is the imperfect process which we must follow. It is what we must do.
“The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.” — H. L. Mencken
September 12 is H.L. Mencken’s birthday. He was a wonderful provocative opinionated Baltimore Sun newspaperman who was definitely not politically correct and loved to piss off everybody. Times such as these require we celebrate six days early.
Though I could never match him the only way to celebrate him is follow his lead. Please accept this as all in good fun.
My celebration is in two parts.
Extra! Extra! Read all about It! Where in the Constitution is the freedom of choice?
“Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.” — H.L. Mencken
Let us first consider American “freedom of choice,” which has been heavily relied on by anti-vaxxers and the intellectuals on Fox News.
Let’s start with a little history. In the mid-1950s, my mother joined all the other mothers back then who lined up their children for the new polio vaccine and thereafter for mumps, measles and who knows what including all kinds of booster shots. It was so long ago there were “pin cushion” jokes. Back then, people had sewing machines and pin cushions.
Yes! These were the days when tattooed people were not afraid of needles and vaccinations were not considered to be secret government IQ tests.
It wasn’t perfect but I am sure that many of us are alive today because our “Rosie the Riveter” mothers, fresh from their patriotic duties and the sacrifices of the Second World War, grabbed their first graders and put them in line.
It was a civic duty that their children were safe and also were not spreading any infectious diseases. I guess today they would be blamed for not looking out for #1.
This is not to say I have given up on the present.
I was very happy when almost every anti-vaxxer to whom I talked refused to tell me where this “freedom of choice” is located in the Constitution. But was saddened that nonetheless they said it was “in there someplace.”
Unfortunately, after a careful review of the Constitution, I discovered “freedom of choice” is in fact from a short-lived Burger King advertisement. The fact that it was short-lived seems to indicate that most of these Americans preferred uniformity in their Whoppers.
When I argued that perhaps freedom of choice at least requires a concern for others and it was inappropriate to disseminate misinformation and cited my mother as an example, I got nowhere.
For my back-up authority for both proposals I asked If they recognized these names: Marc Bernier, Dick Farrel, Tod Tucker, Jimmy DeYoung Sr., and Phil Valentine? I pointed out that they had two things in common: they have all made a fortune as anti-vaxxer talk show hosts and they have all died of COVID. I can’t even imagine how many people they took with them, as the numbers continue to multiply.
Extra! Extra! Read all about it – Are we back to deputizing bounty hunters?
“There is always an easy solution to every problem — neat, plausible, and wrong.” — H. L. Mencken
As you already know by now the Supreme Court’s decision last week finds no constitutional problem with Texas bounty hunters receiving up to $10,000 for reporting anyone who “aids or abets” an untimely abortion.
The Court’s decision sidesteps the right to privacy of a woman which remains constitutional in Roe v. Wade but lets stand that bounty on anyone, including nurses or doctors, who make any effort to help her.
These developments will be obviously universally supported by our fellow Americans since recently we love and elect presidents that have acted as cowboys in the movies or have been on reality TV.
Nonetheless, I think that the current Supreme Court is showing us the way to solve all of our current problems if we just support the constitutionality of this decision and embrace its wisdom.
There seems to be no constitutional reason we cannot employ bounty hunters to ensure our personal freedoms, cut unwanted government protections, and also cut taxes.
Consider traffic safety. What a wonderful way to get rid of police expenses and cut the costs of enforcement. We can eliminate road rage by merely reporting on bad drivers and collecting the bounty.
Our federal and state highways could be a reenactment of the carnival game Whack-a-Mole or a video game and advertising will increase substantially for drive time traffic updates. It will be great for business and prevent us from having to raise the minimum wage.
This opportunity has no limits! We can finally all be safe if we each are bounty hunters reporting on each other for any violation of any law. There may be one problem though: how do you collect the bounty if there are no police to enforce it?
But once again the current Texas Republican Party and the current Supreme Court helps us understand that the second amendment has been there all along. We the people finally will be the “well-regulated militia,” which the Supreme Court has previously ignored.
If you think about it, we can even eliminate election fraud if “we the people” police them. We can ensure fair elections and “stop the steal” if we have televised shootouts between the candidates.
Let’s give credit where credit is due. These are the new breed of Trump Republican that have modernized the party. Completely different than my old Republican heroes like President Eisenhower, Chief Justice Warren, or Senator Charles Mathias for whom I was proud to have worked for when people from both parties worked together for the good of the nation. But that was the old Republican Party.
I apologize. Mr. Mencken made me do it. He was born in 1880, so on September 12th he would have been 141 years old and almost half the age of our country.
“If, after I depart this vale, you ever remember me and have thought to please my ghost, forgive some sinner and wink your eye at some homely girl.” — H. L. Mencken
I am not worthy. He was politically incorrect but he still can shock you and make you laugh. Hats off to my friend David R. So, let’s get this party started!
I have decided to knock off for the next few weeks to enjoy the summer with the family. But before I do, just for the fun of it, let’s play devil’s advocate and irritate everybody.
Hey! Where are all the baby boomers protesting the January 6th “Stop the Steal” Capitol takeover and why aren’t they demanding an investigation?
And where are all the baby boomers protesting the misinformation being used by the Trump Republicans to take back the Senate and the House in only sixteen months?
The baby boomers divided into two groups back during the Vietnam War. There were those that were drafted and went to the war and those who went skirted the draft somehow and protested the war. Both sides claimed to be patriots.
The patriotism of the war protesters has always been tinged with a possible conflict of interest. Did the protesters prefer college rather than risking their lives at war? Still, their patriotism has always been secure because the war and its purpose were so mismanaged and the country was so misled. But…
But where are these patriots when our country and democracy are being threatened as it has rarely been before? Was that not an insurrection at the Capitol and is “Stop the Steal” not an ongoing attempted take over the country?
Is this not an issue that is far greater than the Vietnam War?
Those that criticized the protesters back then painted them as spoiled comfortable middle-and-upper- class brats who only thought of themselves and cared not for those who went in their place to possibly die.
What if the boomers are and always have been America’s selfish generation?
Let’s all pretend that it’s gonna be all right. The investigations of Trump will build and fill the newspapers with the same drip, drip, drip of sustained conversation as happened with Nixon. And slowly the big donors will drift away and the Trump party with its roots in Newt Gingrich and southern racism will finally die. And the Trump Republicans who only represent themselves will fail to take back the Senate and the House and gridlock the progressives as they did with Obama.
As the baby boomers drift into old age, don’t worry, it’s gonna all work out. Like the bumper sticker says: “The one who dies with the most toys wins.”
Still, it does make you think that maybe self-interest and the responsibility of patriotism was too much for my generation.
So what the hell is irony?
Perhaps irony is when you consider that the descendants of those who came from the previously enslaved may set the standard for the preservation of our freedom.
Last week I again listened to Amanda Gorman’s poem at President Biden’s inauguration and then to her TED Talk about how poetry is political. She points out that when totalitarian leaders take over, they burn books and imprison the creatives to silence alternative voices to their propaganda.
Today, I read a blog post by Heather Cox Richardson, the brilliant Boston College professor, about the courage of Frederick Douglass as he risked his life to secure his freedom. He was a tradesman in Baltimore with a relatively safe life compared to other slaves of his time, but he risked his life for freedom to become the leader he became.
He got on a train from Baltimore to New York with false documents saying that he was free to travel as a freeman. Once he left on that train, he was either going to get off in New York or he was going to be imprisoned and shipped to the Southern states and his likely death.
It must have taken incredible courage and determination to get on that train. He risked his life for his freedom.
As I read the news today, I am convinced that we are at a turning point for freedom in the United States.
The Republican party stands for nothing but itself, its authoritarianism, and Trump. It is unrecognizable and unreconcilable with its past.
There is a high likelihood that because of the propaganda, the falsehoods of “the big lie,” and the Republican southern legislatures that have curtailed the right to vote, the GOP will win dominance in the House and perhaps the Senate in 2022.
If we each do not act now to protect this democracy over the next year and a half, we will lose it as we know it.
I think of what it will take for all of us to get on the train.
But I fear we do not know what we are losing.