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Thursday, January 21, 2021

This Morning

Last night I went to bed without fear of what I would find when I wake up the next morning. 

Last night I could sleep, secure in the knowledge that the president would not pick a fight with another country. I could sleep, knowing that the president would not encourage a crowd to attempt to overturn the government of the United States.

Last night I slept with the knowledge that the federal government is once more in the hands of compassionate, ethical, educated adults who have the best interests of this country at heart. I slept knowing that this president will not use the power of the office for his and his family’s personal gain.

This morning I awoke to a government staffed by experienced, knowledgeable people rather than with those who have pledged their fealty to the president or bought their positions with large campaign contributions.

This morning, as a new administration spends its first full day at the helm, I believe this president is eager to try to right the ship of state that has come so close to sinking. Just a few hours after taking office, he signed 17 executive orders to undo some of the damage done by the previous president. More will come. Once again America will engage with the rest of the world, working with, rather than insulting, our allies. We will no longer need to fear backroom meetings with the leaders of nations that would do us harm. 

This morning I awoke to a nation led by a president eager to lead on behalf of the American people, not only those who support him. Will he do things and take actions with which I don't agree? I'm sure he will. Will he make mistakes? Of course he will. He is human, after all.

But this morning, for the first time in four years, I woke up without dread of what the president will do or say.  I woke up to a new day and with hope for a better future for a damaged, hurting nation.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

A New Beginning

Today America is reborn.

Today a new, compassionate administration begins. Joe Biden was not my first choice as the Democratic candidate for the highest office in the land. I wanted someone other than another old, white man. I preferred Kamala Harris (our new vice-president), a woman and a person of color and the daughter of immigrants. Or Pete Buttigieg, a gay man and a veteran. Or Andrew Yang, an Asian man. Or Julian Castro, a Hispanic. But we got Joe Biden, and I am OK with that. At least we have the first female vice-president. And Biden is a good man whose faith is an important part of who he is.

Biden has a long history in politics, but he has not lost sight of his humanity, his humility, his compassion. He understands personal loss and grief, having lost his first wife and baby daughter in a terrible car accident many years ago, and his adult son to a brain tumor more recently. As a US senator, he commuted by train from Washington, DC, to his home in Delaware every day so he could tuck his sons into bed each night. Unlike his predecessor, who never once expressed condolences or sympathy to those who lost loved ones to the coronavirus, Biden and Harris held a brief, moving ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial to honor all those lost to the virus. This was their very first stop upon arriving in the nation's capital.

The new administration has inherited a mess from the previous corrupt, self-serving, lying administration. Some of this mess is the result of gross incompetence, while the rest was deliberately created by a vile, vindictive man. The damage done over the past four years will not be undone easily, but at least we now have a president who listens to science, who cares about America and her citizens, and who has plans to confront the pandemic and other issues that face our nation.

For the first time in four years, I didn't get up this morning wondering what evil things are going to happen at the hand of the president. For the first time in four years, I have hope that America can once again become the leader of the free world. I know I won't have to listen to this president insulting others. No longer will I feel a need to mute the television when the president speaks, nor will my middle finger reflexively point to the screen. I know that this president won't taunt and insult the leaders of other countries and bring us to the verge of nuclear war

This country is in for a long, uphill battle to undo and repair the damage done during the past four years. The country is more deeply divided than it has been since the Civil War which ended more than 150 years ago and whose scars still remain. I know the new president will do things with which I will disagree.

But I am, for the first time in four years, optimistic that we now have leadership that wants to move America forward, that cares about doing what is right for the people of America, that wants to help the nation heal. How refreshing it is to see leadership that can smile and laugh and enjoy life. Gone is the dour, scowling ex-president and former first lady, both of whom always looked as if they had just consumed something sour. And I find it encouraging that the new president is bringing his two rescue dogs to live in the White House. That speaks volumes about the heart of the first family.

Our nation faces many challenges, both domestic, from those who have already tried to overturn the results of a lawful election, and international, from enemies that may try to take advantage of this country's disarray and weakness.

But once again there is hope.


Monday, January 18, 2021

Lessons From A Virus

Like most Americans, I have spent several months under stay-at-home orders.

This been challenging, but not as much as for many people. I have been retired for 10 years, so staying home isn't a huge change from my pre-pandemic life. I now look forward to my in-person trips to the grocery store. The biggest challenges have been, and still are, the inability to travel (all but one trip scheduled for last year were canceled) and the lack of opportunities to take pictures. I have wandered my neighborhood with my camera, but there really isn't a lot of interest nearby.

One lesson of which I am reminded is how lucky I am to live in a sparsely populated state.

I am lucky to live where I do, on a 1/2-acre lot with views of the mountains. 

I learned how totally clueless many big companies are. I now am looking at television commercials and online ads in a different light. Most have always seemed ridiculous (lease a new car for "only" $599/month), but they seem so much more ridiculous now. People are struggling; they can't afford to buy food. And they should rush out and lease a new luxury car for more than $600/month after taxes and fees are added on? Or how about ordering a new car online, sight unseen and with no test drive?

Companies struggling to stay afloat are now offering online ordering of food supplies, but the shipping costs are often as much as the average order. How will that help businesses when people refuse to order because of excessive shipping costs? I wanted to reorder a particular spice blend, until my $16 order came with an $8 shipping fee. No thanks.

Perhaps the biggest lesson is that the federal government under the current corrupt administration is not here to help protect its citizens. Nor are the Republican administrations of numerous states. It's all about rewarding supporters and punishing states that don't bow low enough in homage to the occupant of the White House. Mercifully, this administration will be just a horrible memory in just two days.

Another lesson is how selfish many Americans are. Rather than doing everything they can to help slow the spread of the disease, too many grabbed their assault rifles, marched in the streets, and threatened medical personnel and legislators. Others continue to ignore orders to social distance and to wear a face covering when in public. Far too many pastors have ignored the threat of crowds and insisted on the supposed constitutional rights to cram hundreds of people into a church. There is no 'constitutional right' to not wear a face covering to protect others from a deadly disease.

On the other side of the issue, I have seen more friendliness from random strangers. I have made a point of complementing others, of urging grocery store clerks and pharmacists to "stay safe."

Since the lockdown began, I have seen many more people walking in my neighborhood, some with dogs, some alone, some with a spouse or friend. People almost always wave or say hello, all while maintaining a safe distance. I wonder how many people will continue walking once the lockdown ends. I have gone for daily walks for more than 10 years, since I gave up running. I will continue to walk long after the lockdown ends. It's good for my mental and physical health.

Perhaps the greatest lesson is that we mighty humans, who consider ourselves the greatest of all creations on planet Earth, can be devastates by a thing as tiny as a virus. This virus appeared out of nowhere (or was it created in a laboratory?) and to date has killed 398,000 Americans so far, and more than 2 million worldwide. And experts predict the worst is still ahead.

Sadly, we humans are still learning this lesson the hard way.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Just Plain Tired

You know, I am just plain tired.

I'm not so physically tired despite sleeping at most 6 hours a night. But mentally and emotionally, I am exhausted. 

I am tired of this pandemic. I am tired of people refusing to wear masks and take other simple steps to stop the spread of the virus. I am tired of the chaotic and inept response to rolling out coronavirus vaccinations. I am tired of being told the time when I can get vaccinated is being pushed back yet again.

I am tired of people who leave their dogs' poop all over the road and on walking trails. I am tired of seeing trash everywhere in my nice neighborhood.

I am tired of Trump, of Republicans and conservatives trying to rewrite history and overturn an election. I am tired of politics in general and of a political campaign and political controversy that have gone on forever. I turned off the news early yesterday because I just couldn't watch yet another story about the pandemic or about last week's insurrection.

I am tired of doctors' offices that don't return patients' phone calls. I am tired of not being able to travel. I am tired of winter and cold weather. I am tired of watching television. I am tired of reading. I am tired of being bored. I am tired of 'social media' and its platforms for hate, lies and misinformation. I am tired of technology such as the Internet and e-mail and cell phones, which despite their usefulness, have become little more than sources of incessant spam e-mails and phone calls.

I am tired of spending my 'golden years,' when I should be enjoying life, traveling and taking beautiful photographs, sitting at home, alone and isolated, watching my country being attacked by a bunch of seditionists.

I am beginning to think we never will have normal lives again, because we seem, as a nation, incapable of doing what is necessary to get this pandemic under control. Too many people, after refusing to wear masks and stay home, now are saying they won't get the vaccine to protect them, and the rest of us, from this deadly virus. Already the virus has mutated several times. The most recent mutation is up to 70 percent more contagious than the previous version. 

So yes, I am tired. So very tired. Congratulations, people. You and your political 'leaders' have turned America into a Third World country.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

An Ugly Sickness Has Emerged

 My heart hurts.

I was watching a news channel a day or so ago, and one of the guests on the program noted that many Americans are stunned, shocked and appalled after watching the attack on America's Capitol.

Someone on Facebook called movement that attacked the Capitol and the legislators working inside "an ugly sickness." That is a fair description. This sickness has infected tens of millions of Americans. In some ways it is more deadly than the coronavirus. This infection has been festering for years, but it has become so much worse during the past four years. And now it is a full blown epidemic. We now have vaccines against the coronavirus, but how do we stop this epidemic of fascism and hate?

My reaction to the insurrection doesn't rise to the level of PTSD, but the shock, anger and disbelief certainly are real. These feelings have worsened as I learn more about the events of Jan. 6. Laptops and tablets were stolen from various offices of members of Congress. A police officer died after being hit in the head (some say beaten) with a fire extinguisher. Rioters searched for Vice President Mike Pence with the alleged goal of hanging him for his failure to override the vote of the Electoral College, something he didn't have the authority to do. Other insurrectionists were seen with plastic zip-ties, suggesting they intended to take prisoners. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is reported to have been a target of particular interest. Feces were spread in the building. The US flag atop the Capitol was taken down and replaced with a Trump flag.

Make so mistake. This was not a peaceful protest. This was not a riot. This was an insurgency. It was an attempted coup encouraged by the president of the United States and his minions. The military, under its recently appointed civilian leaders, refused to send the National Guard to help the beleaguered US Capitol Police. This was a well orchestrated, well planned attack on the very foundation of American democracy. It was not a surprise. There is no excuse for the lack of preparation and for the failed response.

These were not the actions of 'patriots' as the rioters -- and their president -- claim. These were the actions of seditionists, those whose sole intent was the destruction of our system of government. The intent was to give the election -- an election lost by their leader by more than 7 million votes -- to their cult leader and install him as dictator. The intent was to make the country, once again, a bastion of white supremacy and to put everyone else (gays, women, Blacks, Muslims, Hispanics and every other non-white group) in their subservient places. The intent was to give all power to an elite group of extremely wealthy white men.

Does this sound like a patriotic movement to you?

It's OK not to be OK. Some days are just harder than others. I read this online as well, so I can't claim it as an original thought. But again, it's true. I am not OK. I am not OK with a group of armed ruffians trying to overthrow a duly elected government. I am not OK with elected members of Congress aiding and abetting an attempted coup of the American government. I am not OK with these same people then claiming that Democrats should take no action to remove the president -- the same president who incited and encouraged the riot at the Capitol -- because we need to heal the country and work together. Yes, we do need to heal the country. But we also need to hold accountable those responsible for this insurrection, at every level, whether they physically assaulted the Capitol or created the atmosphere of violence that led to the insurrection.

Exactly what is it these anti-patriots are trying to 'take back'? Precisely what has been taken from them? It seems clear that their objective is to make White supremacy the law of the land. Is disenfranchisement of everyone who isn't White part of the plan? Power to a few oligarchs? And exactly what will it take to, in their minds, make America 'great' again? 

America is great when every citizen has equal rights. America is great when every person feels safe and respected. America is great when we once again become a nation of laws.

Saturday, January 9, 2021

This Morning

This morning ... 

I stayed in bed until 5:30 a.m.

I watched the sun climb above the mountain top.

I heard and saw a group of eight or nine sand hill cranes fly overhead.

I enjoyed walking my dog on roads devoid of vehicles and pedestrians.

I appreciated the sunshine and the lack of wind on a cold morning.

I did some writing.

I took my dog for a longer walk than usual.

I grabbed my camera and went in search of cranes to photograph. I didn't find any, but it was fun to look. 

After I got home, I ordered a new silver ring by a local Navajo silversmith for myself.

These are mundane, everyday activities. Many would consider them boring and literally, nothing to write about. But after the trauma and chaos of this week, I value these mundane activities more than usual. Being outside, in nature, on a clear, cloudless, windless early morning with my dog, is a special treat amidst the chaos of daily life.

As I spend my senior years at home during a pandemic without end, I treasure these simple pleasures more and more. No longer do I sit and wait for good things to appear. I must go in search of the good, the beautiful.

If I don't search for beauty, I'm not likely to find it. These mundane activities are how I take care of myself until life improves and I can once again travel.

Friday, January 8, 2021

It Isn't About Politics

It isn't their politics. It's their lack of morality.

A couple of friends have made this comment recently, and I think they are correct. People are free to believe what they will. They are free to support whichever political party best aligns with their beliefs. The world is a better place with a diversity of beliefs and opinions. We may learn something by learning about others' beliefs. But there is a limit to which beliefs I can and will accept. That limit has been reached.

I was raised in a Republican family. I moved away from those political beliefs in early adulthood. My beliefs are not necessarily better or worse than those held by others, but they are decidedly different. There was a time when those who supported different political parties could coexist. They could discuss their differing opinions and points of view. They would seek common ground and compromise. Those days are long gone.

I am generally a live-and-let-live person. But I draw the line at the unwavering, unquestioning, absolute fealty to the cult leader shown by too many members of the Republican party. As a student of Russian and Soviet history, I am well aware of the cult of personality, which is a hallmark of totalitarian and authoritarian countries. Nazi Germany had a cult of personality, as did Mussolini's Italy, Stalin's Soviet Union, and North Korea to this day. The United States has had its own cult of personality since the rise of the current president. He can do no wrong, in the eyes of his slavish followers. Anyone who disagrees with him faces dismissal and even threats.

What we have seen during the past 4+ years is the rise of a cult leader who has no concern for others, whose only goal is self-aggrandizement and endless amounts of praise. If he isn't sufficiently praised by others, he praises himself. His first (and thankfully, last) term is the best in American history, according to him. He alone is responsible for the rapid development of coronavirus vaccines. His inauguration was attended by the most people ever (it wasn't, by a long shot). He is the smartest and greatest president of all time. He knows more about the military than do any of the generals and admirals. He knows more about the economy than do the best economists. Such are his delusional beliefs.

This pompous arrogance leaves no room for compassion. Not once has this president expressed condolences to the families of the more than 365,000 Americans who have -- so far -- died of Covid-19. Not once has he addressed the police killings of several unarmed Black citizens. Not once did he honor the members of our military who died in the line of duty.

And his followers eat up all these lies. They don't question the veracity of his claims. They continue to insist that he has made America great again, but when asked to provide examples of what he has done, they are silent. They are totally lacking in critical thinking skills. They are totally unaware or they refuse to accept that he is using them, that he disdains them. He appeals to their racist and misogynistic beliefs, and because he shares and voices those beliefs, they feel free to be more open about their hateful attitudes. They are emboldened to physically threaten legislators, governors and public health officials whose policies don't agree with their.

To be fair, some Republicans have spoken out against the cult leader. These Republicans, such as Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, still hold to the party's old beliefs, when political differences were about policies and fiscal issues rather than about getting even or firing someone who disagrees or about bragging about oneself endlessly.

What happened on January 6 was an attempted act of sedition encouraged by Trump and his attorney Giuliani. It was as much an attempted coup as anything that has occurred in a number of Latin American countries. He watched the riots and looting on television in the White House, hosting what was essentially a watch party with his family and other sycophants as one of them danced as she watched the destruction. He reportedly enjoyed the chaos, pandemonium and destruction they unfolded. Given the chance, he most certainly would overthrow the government and install himself as dictator. He has already attempted to do this. He and his sycophants in Congress were willing to overthrow the will of the people.
What has happened in this country isn't simply expressions of differences of opinion about political issues. It isn't a difference of opinion about government spending or the scope and role of government. It isn't about foreign policy decisions or how to deal with rogue nations. 
It isn't really about the morality of these people. Rather, it is their utter and complete lack of morality that is the issue. 
I and millions of other Americans have nothing in common with these insurgents. We clearly don’t have shared values. One group believes in the rule of law. It believes in science and fact and equality and equal opportunity. The other believes in blindly following a cult leader that appeals to their insecurities, their racism and misogyny and their misguided hatred of "socialism," although they lack any real understanding of what socialism really is.
The perpetrators of this insurrection and attempted coup -- from the president and his attorneys on down -- must face the consequences of their efforts. Those who participated in the takeover of the Capitol building, as well as the destruction of government property, the theft of mail and other items, and the harm inflicted on police officers -- must pay the price for their acts of sedition.

Anything less is unacceptable.