Category Archives: democracy

the summer of our discontent

She nods me aboard with a smile, letting me ride the train for free. Is she doing that for all sign-carrying passengers, or was it the “Black Lives Matter” bracelet?

I had given myself permission to stay home. The hurting joints. Pretty bad heat intolerance. I’d sent out various missives and received kind encouragements: ‘stay home,’ ‘don’t overdo’.

I dreamt about getting dressed for the rally all night long — looking everywhere for a white shirt, finding nothing suitable.It was probably a 90 second dream.

Still, I wasn’t gonna go. Headed out with the dog in the oppressive heat. It was only 9:30.

But as I walked with Finn, I kept thinking about families crossing the desert in worse heat or riding in airless trucks in desperate bids to reach our border. Running out of water. Coming with nothing. Facing the unknown. It made me almost ashamed. Or rather, it put my anticipated discomforts in perspective.

I would go. Slowly and briefly. That was my deal.

The train cars are AC’d to walk-in cooler temps and yet, beads of sweat roll down my spine. It’s like having a secret. I whip out my sharpie and make my sign. Light flashes on the white poster board from between the passing trees: CRUELTY IS NOT POLICY.

My phone isn’t fully charged and I forgot my hat.

Behind me, two women speak Russian, I think. Across the way, two Asian men tap and scroll, their necks bent. Soon a tatted millennial sits next to me. She taps and scrolls, too.

Is ‘tatted millennial’ redundant?

Now the train is crowded. Passengers climb on at Beaconsfield, Longwood.

The ‘white hairs’ come on with water bottles, hats, and determined expressions. We are getting practiced at this.

A small headache knocks — pollen? dehydration? — but I avoid the water bottle, having arrived at the age where intake has to be balanced with opportunities for output.

I’m recalling Cory Booker declaring that the Supreme Court nomination should wait until after the conclusion of the Mueller investigation.

What criminal defendant gets to pick his own judge?

If the courts go, only the press and the people remain and look what happened to five journalists in Maryland this week.

FUCK YOU MILO. And Fuck You, Sneering Rude But-I-Deserve-My-Cheeseplate Sarah. Fuck trump and his ‘the press is the enemy of the people’ crap.

And now you know which side of the ‘Civility Argument’ I occupy.

It’s all too much. I hope showing up matters, but it’s hard to know. I put one foot after the other and make my way over to Boston’s City Hall Plaza.

CRUELTY IS NOT POLICY.

My sign this week was inspired by a comedian. On Colbert this week, Jon Stewart said to the camera (as if to trump): “and no matter what you do, it always comes with an extra layer of gleeful cruelty and dickishness.”

The Plaza stretches on and on, filled with people and signs, capped by a blue sky.  I can actually hear the speakers, for a change — Senator Markey, Senator Warren, and Rep. Kennedy (all my elected officials). Someone calls them ‘every day warriors’ and it’s true. I’m so proud of them.

I walk the edge of the crowd in a wide loop — probably passing within yards of any number of people I know, but not seeing them. Then I sit for a while under my umbrella.

Before you know it, I’m done. I don’t make myself wrong about this anymore. Just up and leave, doing the Bimini walk in search of refreshment and a john.

The ‘Bimini walk’ is a term invented by a college friend to describe the kind of slow, deliberate walk one does in intense heat.

One foot in front of the other. No hurry. Find a john, get a smoothie, loving my umbrella and my portable shade.

I enter the cool of the Granary Cemetery in what has become a protest ritual — paying my respects to Frank, John Hancock’s ‘servant’. I don’t know why this feels important, but it does. I got a penny of change with my smoothie. Perfect! I have something to leave as a token of respect.

Once on the street again, I see that the march has begun. Tourists pass in Duck Boats and on Freedom Trail tours, thinking who knows what about the spectacle.

Instead of hoofing it to the train, I decide to slow-walk over and join the stream of people heading to the State House. There is chanting. There are signs held aloft.  A massive and raucous jack hammer on the first block offers its own protest — a violent, super-human shuddering at the ground, capable of breaking up old structures. Demanding to be heard. Because I’m open, the sound passes right through me.

There are five-gallon tub drummers. Synagogue groups. Parents pushing strollers. One-time hippies. The ACLU. Indivisible groups. Student leagues.

 

 

Now we flank the Common and I debate when to peel away. A boombox approaches, though of course it’s a blue tooth speaker and no boombox at all — but it’s big and held on the shoulder just like the roller bladers of the 1980’s.

It’s the Rolling Stones. I decide right then and there that if there’s a revolution, I want to them to be the sound track and after hours of noticing my age, something young and vital arises — something I could almost surrender to. But then, Joni Mitchell comes on and my face crumples.

“You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone”.

If I were to kneel and weep, would someone call the paramedics, like they did for that woman undone by the heat, prone on the sidewalk near City Hall Plaza? “We believe it’s a case of terrible sadness,” or “the news did her in, I’m afraid.”

So I head, at last, into the sanctuary of the Common. The shade is a relief, as is the whole parade of humanity: toddlers and their caregivers wading in the Frog Pond, vendors hawking icy drinks, hot dogs, and pretzels, and as usual, that Chinese guy sending haunting melodies aloft from his stringed instrument.


I wade in the four inch water of the Frog Pond and miss my children. Or more precisely, I miss the period of their childhoods. There is splashing and laughter. A boy in a Batman shirt plunges in.

The train ride home is uneventful, but once up and on the leafy street that flanks the tracks, I see my good fortune in sharp relief — in every well-maintained porch railing, in each and every recently painted shutter, and in all the beautifully composed gardens.

Someone lays mulch. A man in a yarmulke and an animated woman talk on the corner.

Heading up the hot, radiant pavement to my car, the Bimini walk slows even more. But I am home in three minutes, where a happy Finn greets me. Per routine, he promptly rounds up the treats I’d scattered and plunks down on a rug to enjoy them, preferring the relaxed atmosphere of my company to anxious separation.

It’s QUIET. Really quiet. Newtonites have gone to their beach houses. It’s summer at last.

And it is, I fear, to paraphrase the bard, going to be: “the summer of our discontent”.

“Hey Hey / Hey Ho / This is what democracy looks like”

Good news

In spite of everything, there is still the vote. There’s no real evidence that gerrymandering or Russian attacks can thwart a major voter turnout.

We cannot expect Mueller to fix things. We cannot rely on impeachment. But we sure can vote.

Vote. Vote. Vote.

(That’s the gist of a Will Stenberg piece on FB this morning).

And protest. MoveOn has asked us to wear white on Saturday.

And now, major machinery is grinding at my neighbor’s so I’m heading into the Center for breakfast.

Protest

Time out from writing today to make a quick trip into Boston to protest the inhumane treatment of families at the border and elsewhere.

My sign wasn’t quite in keeping with the crowd’s.

One of these protests, I’ll get it right.

Many passionate pleas, including this young man who kept asking if our governor, Charlie Baker, could hear us.

And this young woman told a harrowing piece of personal history — about how her grandmother saved more than 100 Jews and also shot a Dutch collaborator in her living room.

Not love

The sight of his fingers and neck repulse me. His sniffing makes my skin crawl. I mostly don’t listen to him speak but when I do I cannot believe how moronic and shallow and disturbed he is. He sounds (and is) impaired.

Did any of you watch his propaganda movie trailer about peace with North Korea? There are no words.

Between the embarrassing G7 and the worrisome Summit with North Korea, there’s hardly outrage left for caged children, a NeoNazi on the Republican ballot in Virginia, the way the assault on reproductive rights is gaining momentum, concerns about GOP disenfranchisement efforts, and Russia’s continued election interference.

The Canadian Parliament unanimously condemned our president with hours of Trump’s departure – highlighting in the most painful way possible the cowardly silence of the Republican Party.

Throw us a bone, courts, and revoke Manafort’s bail on Friday. Please! Something!

Taking stock

Back to the morning pages. Must do. (after an inexplicable and lengthy lapse). Sessions on stationary bike are up to 25 minutes. Must keep doing. (my trick some days? Get on the bike and scroll through social media there instead of in bed. Redemptive!)

The sun is out!

Now for a few “of only’s”:

If only I would give up sugar again…. if only we still had a Congress… if only a crime syndicate in cahoots with a foreign adversary wasn’t destroying our society with a head-spinning rapidity… if only the Dyson vac hadn’t crapped out… if only I were the type of person to follow up on a warranty… if only Salem were 25 minutes closer… if only I were more disciplined. Sigh.

I leave you with this incisive and disturbing article by Rebecca Solnit — heroine to many of you, I know. She articulates where we are in America with terrifying clarity.

The Coup Has Already Happened“.

“Not how you want to start your week” you say? I don’t blame you if so. But it’s not as if every corrupt and destructive thing she discusses isn’t, on some consuming level, on your mind anyway.

Morning List and Queries

Waking to sounds of wind and rain was an accidental blessing this morning.

Leaving i-devices downstairs at night should be a regular thing. I mean, if sanity matters.

It’s nice to breathe through two nostrils.

Whoever said, “You have a nervous system for every child” was wise.

I like that better than, “You’re only as happy as your unhappiest child.”

Thumb typing sucks.

Time was they’d say, “We’re in for some rain and gusts of wind”.

What’s John Bolton’s deal?

I’m sure I don’t want to know.

After hearing a talk about the relative virtues of handwriting and five-finger keyboard typing last week*, what I’m wondering is: are there any virtues of thumb typing with ducking autocorrect?

Millennials don’t answer their phones. Or mine don’t.

Finishing things makes a place to rest and

anything can become a house.

Unfinished things create points of tension.

Which do you prefer — possibilities or closure?

Sometimes I snarl. Example: “you must have a macro for ‘I’ll do it tomorrow'”.

This ‘bomb cyclone’ is just wind and rain. Hunger is a reliable thing. So are some friends.

You can often predict who among your friends will be afraid of dogs, but the ones that love them might surprise you.

It’s not a race. Life.

The questions (and subject of tomorrow’s post) are: how do your manage your news intake and what sources do you rely on?

* Michelle (MsUncertaintyPrinciples — side bar) posted a talk about writing vs. typing last week on FB. It’s by Clive Thompson and it’s on YouTube if this link doesn’t work.

 

you seem restless


Sometimes being a disorganized word-scribbler has its benefits — like when I’m cleaning up and find some random scrap of paper or flip through a long forgotten half filled notebook and land on treasure. Here are a few: the record of toddler C saying he ‘had to pee like ABCD’ (because he may have heard his mother saying she ‘had to pee like you read about’); the quote of him yelling out to the goats at Drumlin Farm: “Hey you gumdrops!” and toddler D’s announcement as his father walked in the door: “Mom got dead fish today!” (trout was on the menu). Whether these scrawled messages point to a place and time I’d forgotten about or inform anew, there’s usually a sense of delight and discovery, and sometimes, synchronicity.

Last week I found this movie quote: “You seem restless but in a permanent kind of way.” I had to google the movie title (“Take This Waltz“) because I’d forgotten it, but I remembered the characters well enough.

“You seem restless but in a permanent kind of way” keeps echoing. I hear it even as I am relaxing on the shores of Rock Pond in New Hampshire. A pretty spot. Quiet. Lots of reading. Some sun. Tasty food, including the first delectably fresh corn of the summer.

But there’s no getting away from any of it. There just isn’t.

In spite of long walks in the woods with “my guys” and swimming two or three times a day, I feel restless and I wonder: is it in a permanent kind of way?


The other quote came from Representative John Lewis and it was simply: “Pray with your feet.”

Newsweek photo of Boston

In that regard, I am so proud of the friends, peers, and other progressives who showed up at Boston Common to counter-protest a “free speech” rally today. They prayed with their feet. This could have gone another way and not just because a huge percentage of Republicans in Massachusetts voted for Trump, but because hate dwells everywhere and has been energized by the monsters at the helm. More than 40,000 counter protesters of all ages and colors showed up.

I’m also proud of the amazing work that the ACLU does.

Off to make dinner. I’ll be back after the eclipse. I hope you all have proper eye protection!

PS. Finished this novel yesterday. Wow did it turn out to be relevant! About a white nationalist and an African American nurse. He has a baby. Baby dies. Nurse is charged with murder. Nurse’s white lawyer comes to grips with her own racism. It goes from there.