Category Archives: politics

What an eight days

Was still awake when K’s alarm went off at five. Ugh. From studying maps of LA and Oroville (to track the progress of the fires), to dispiriting ongoing voter suppression news (it is just the GOP norm now), to the firing of Sessions, I found myself spacing out about appointments and social engagements this week and wondering what overwhelm morphs into. Not despair, I hope.

(Not despair, I hope?)

And what of Mueller? Was he strategic enough to withstand this level of obstruction? Will we be denied? Reading the first linked article below constituted a highlight this week because it credibly outlines why Mueller is likely poised to finish his investigation.

And who thinks our depraved President only went to Paris to meet with Putin? The international shame of him provides a whole other order of gloom.

So I went to a protest. The “red line” one. Not the one in Boston because I was tired. Too much trouble for democracy? Well, maybe. The Needham gathering, though small, offered a shared sense of outrage and worry and could be reached by car without hassle. Get well cards to Ruth Bader Ginsburg were circulated.

Tuesday I worked the polls. Our very civilized polls. It was busy — I gather from old timers, busier than normal.

A pleasant (for a change) visit to Salem came at the end of the week — very little traffic and a cleaner apartment than usual helped (PCA Maria #1 is back, to our shared relief). Doing the Times puzzle together was good, too (the sharing of it. Not this week’s puzzle!)

The North Shore visit came a week after one to K’s father in the nursing home where he is safe and well cared for and nevertheless restless and lonely.

Raking leaves provides ballast. Sanity. Tidying a closet, I can handle. Deciding which project to finish, not so much.

Here’s what I am looking forward to (and then I want to hear what YOU are looking forward to):

News that Grace and family are safe and their property untouched by fire;

The kids coming home for Christmas;

The first snowfall;

The indictments of Trump’s family and Sean Hannity;

The lentil soup I’m gonna make tonight;

Reading the next four hours and 28 minutes (gotta love kindle!) of “A Gentleman in Moscow,” which I am really enjoying.

Reading three articles about the use of dialogue in fiction;

A time when politics does not enter the dialogue here.

How about you?

Article by Ben Wittes: It’s Probably Too Late to Stop Mueller.

P.S. because of the overwhelm, I didn’t finish the draft post entitled “Savor a Little” in which I intended to lay out the impressive Democratic wins from the midterms — all there is to celebrate and feel terrific about. So, I’ll just leave you with this Washington Post article.

The way a narrative can change

So, that I lose things is well known. Recently, it was a blue plastic dog grooming glove. PFFFT – just vanished.

I’d bought it at the behest of Infiltration Advertisement and I loved it! The ads were true! It pulled off fur super effectively while offering the dog a calming petting session. Since Finn is shedding the equivalent of an entire vacuum canister of fur per floor per day, I was thrilled.

I’d last used the glove outside. It was a pleasure to watch the fur float in clumps toward the street, knowing it wouldn’t be gathering along the base of the bookcases or at the bottom of the stairs.

That was before the weekend. I spent Saturday and Sunday looking for it. Had I dropped the glove in the garage, perhaps? Had it joined a coterie of gardening gloves near the back door – a place it likes to socialize now and then? No. And no. It wasn’t in the mudroom or near the side door, either, where other dog things are.

I kept looking out at the front lawn. Hadn’t I, in fact, left it outside?

On our Wednesday walk, to my utter astonishment, I found the very distinctive glove on the road around the block and down the street a little.

It was baffling.

When I found another pair of gloves a few yards away, I thought, “maybe not so weird?” but really — still weird. And then a dead squirrel caught my attention.

Still enfurred, but with skeleton exposed — was it a victim of a car accident or an attack?

Finn and I continued on. Coming back up Daniel Street, Finn was eager and curious about the telephone pole in front of The Ocher House. It didn’t seem that unusual — after all, dogs spend a good portion of every walk taking a rigorous smell inventory.

But then I found out otherwise. Pausing to talk the occupant of The Ocher House, a man I’ve never before spoken to in spite of being neighbors for over 25 years, I offered, “Too bad about the pine.” This was in reference to the recent loss of a majestic 40′ spruce after the house next door changed hands.

He was philosophical, “Yeah we were bummed, but then realized it could’ve been worse. Developers could’ve bought the place, torn it down, and built a McMansion.” Such things are not unusual around here. I then shared how my disappointment about the loss of two neighboring mature oaks had turned into gratitude now that we’d been able to plant a beautiful pine in that corner.

And then, it got interesting.

“I noticed your dog sniffing around the telephone pole,” he began. “Coyotes killed our cat there a couple of nights ago.” Turns out, he’s been tracking their movements for years. Recommended I not walk without a large stick, “or at the very least, an umbrella.”

“Ive seen them too,” I said, but then noted how they don’t come in our yard because of a four foot fence. “Not that they couldn’t jump it. They just don’t.”

Tiring of the coyotes tracking through his backyard, my neighbor had a four foot fence installed along the rear lot line. He described how this actually may’ve contributed to his cat’s demise, because it foreclosed some of her hiding spots.

You could spend a lifetime worrying about unintended consequences. My most recent and morbid version — imagining flying C from California to help his brother in Colorado move next month, only to have both of them die in a car accident. (DAMN YOU JOHN IRVING! See, ‘A Widow for One Year’).

Please don’t worry about me. But these next two morbid thoughts will bring us closer to connecting coyotes, dead squirrels, and Helsinki.

One, I sometimes worry in an abstract and almost self-pitying kind of way that I might not live long enough to meet my grandchildren. Two, I also sometimes worry in an eager and tense sort of way that I might not live long enough to see the full results of the Mueller investigation.

Because I am on the edge of my seat. Trust me!

Here’s what I concluded after my neighbor’s testimony: coyotes strolled through my front yard, smelled Finn on the shedding glove, mouthed it for a while, and carried it around the corner. At the prospect of killing a squirrel or nosing an already dead one, they dropped it in disinterest. Then, they perhaps dashed away at the sight of a cat down the block.

Just knowing what happened at that telephone pole in front of the Ocher House allowed me to construct a plausible narrative for an otherwise inexplicable finding (the glove on the road).

Barring obscene violence or successful anti-democratic acts (i.e. impeaching Rod Rosenstein), Robert Mueller will produce more indictments. There WILL be a report. Manafort’s two trials will take place. Flynn will be sentenced. Maria Butina’s going NOWHERE. Cohen has more tapes. We WILL hear them. Carter Page’s role, the Deustch Bank money, the Alfa Bank communications with Trump Tower, Kushner’s debt and pressure on Qatar, the involvement of the Saudis, Erik Prince and George Nadler, the money laundering Russian oligarchs — it will all come to light. The pee tapes are the least of it. A side show. But someday we’re gonna know a lot of what Mueller knows.

We know corrupt and craven acts took place. We know trump owes no allegiance to any one but himself. But someday we will better understand the whole destructive mess on a coherent time line. How the glove got around the corner and deposited in the middle of the road, in other words.

Mitch McConnell will go down in infamy. Paul Ryan will skunk away, never to reappear. Giuliani will shut up (well, maybe not). There will be such a run on orange poly-cotton blends!

Even though so MUCH is going down the tubes — civil liberties, environmental protections, the soy bean industry, consumer protections, necessary bank regulations, freedom of the press, the possibility of a non-partisan Supreme Court, allegiance to fact, voting rights, American diplomacy, alliances built after WWII and sustained for decades, national parks — I really, really do believe that at some point we will know what happened. Who, what, when and where.

When I learned about coyotes killing a neighbor’s cat, the strange misplacement of our blue glove suddenly made sense. Similarly, our special prosecutor and other attorneys are going to help us construct a narrative.

I can’t wait.

The River Lethe and Mercy

Lately, I’ve had an overwhelming and sometimes irresistible need to sleep — I’m calling it, “the Helsinki Reaction”.

Imagine my shock upon turning over in bed Sunday morning to see that it was 10:30. 10:30! And WITH A NEW YORK TIMES CROSSWORD PUZZLE on the stoop, no less. That was one thing, but then to polish off the puzzle WHILE DRINKING A CUP OF COFFEE and subsequently lie down and sleep some more?

(K. has the excuse of jet lag. I don’t).

Yesterday driving home from Salem in stop and start traffic with a hot summer sun blasting through the windshield, sleep arose as a weird and disturbing possibility. Oh, to close the eyes for just a second! Just a second. This, even with the AC going full tilt. This, even while listening to Pod Save America — a news podcast that I find addictively funny and informative. It’s not normal, this need for sleep.

Aside #1: Jon Favreau is my pod crush, what with that big, big brain of his and the charming space between his front teeth. A fellow fan warms to Tommy Vietor and though I’m less inclined toward blondes, I get it: all those clean cut good looks in a neat preppy package.

(I made it home and don’t worry I wasn’t really gonna fall asleep while driving).

I’ve ticked through the list: am I coming down with something? (no); is it the Sun traveling though my Twelfth House, triggering the Underworld corner of my Grand Cross (perhaps, but this is an annual event and one I often find energizing); could it be my thyroid? (alas, no– recently checked — which is too bad because it’d also account for a recent 15 lb weight gain); could it be the collision of the dew point and scorching temps? (well, maybe? but I’m mostly inside with AC). Wait, did you say ‘collision’? That’s getting close to the nub of it, I think.

When I turn to the Tarot, “Logic” comes up. Three times. Anyone who has a relationship with a deck knows this means: PAY ATTENTION. But Logic? Logic as answer to the question, what do I need, what can I lean on now for succor and strength?

I no longer view logic as mere sturdy upholder of truth and argument, but rather as a potent gateway to mercy and justice. I can thank former NAACP President and CEO, Cornell William Brooks, for that insight.

Aside #2: At the inception of the BLM movement, or to be more precise, at the time All Lives Matter rose up as a stupid and reactionary hashtag, Cornell Brooks made this elegant argument: If All Lives Matter, then perforce, Black Lives Matter (which is to say, if you believe that all lives matter, you should have absolutely zero problem with the assertion that black lives matter).  Conversely, if Black Lives DON’T Matter, then it cannot be true that All Lives Matter (so if you’re siding with “blue lives” at the expense of black lives, you don’t really believe that all lives matter). In the realm of illogic serving up racial animus, it also bears saying that believing in racial equity does not automatically make you anti-police. (I unfriended someone over that asinine argument).

Is this logic in service of Mercy or Justice?

Aside #3: A recent sharp edit by storyteller extraordinaire and generous beta reader, Deb Lacativa, brought this very question into focus. How are Mercy and Justice different? When are they the same?

To those who’d say, take up the arms of resistance to beat back your stupor, I say, not right this second. Did I mention: I want to go to sleep?

When I input my zip code into Swing Left’s ‘get involved’ page on Monday and New Hampshire came up, I thought, “NO! NO! Not going there again.” Getting high school students down the street registered sounds more like my speed especially because I don’t think my day of canvassing in the fall of 2016 made any difference at all, unless you count settling my conscience (which is not nothing and there’s no reason to assume that 2018 would be the same as 2016, but still… ) Post cards. I’ll write post cards. But only if someone hands me a list.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday’s Indivisible phone call, I listened to others’ laudable efforts — one networking with folks from Free Speech for People (drivers of #impeachdonaldtrumpnow on the basis of the emoluments clauses), another collaborating with Quakers on international measures protecting justice, and a third taking part in a celebration with a faith community that has housed and nurtured a family in sanctuary for a full year. This comparison is only to highlight how fucking tired I feel and not to otherwise feel bad about myself.

Okay, so could it be the dog? (Now you can tell me that I’m being ridiculous). But how restrictive a presence he is — making a trip to the beach difficult, causing a visit to my ailing father-in-law to require more planning than I have the wherewithal for right now, making even a trip to Macy’s in Framingham feel like it’s pushing it at times, for Christ’s sake. That I spend my dog-free hours on trips to Salem is just another indignity of that situation and puhleeze don’t get me going on that (yesterday was a difficult one).

Aside #4: It’s a wonder that a creature who imposes such regular restriction also offers salvation, for there I go, twice a day, out into the neighborhood, always the better for it. And later, there he is, modeling sleeping and relaxing as a Correct Way of Being. And, every time I stand at the cutting board, there are his liquid eyes, such attention affirming that we are connected, that he notices what I’m doing, and that he’s learned how to get stuff from me, all incredibly reassuring somehow, even as I’m also lambasting myself (just a little) for making a food beggar out of him.

So, it has to be the news. Of course, it’s the news. Even for this prolonged and shocking shit storm, the Helsinki Summit came as a drastic and soul-wrecking event.

Part II of this Lament: tomorrow. It’s all of a piece but this post is already too long. I promise it won’t just be about politics. Look for words about coyotes, unintended consequences, and how we construct narratives.

A screen grab from almost a year ago

PS The River Lethe is one of five rivers in Hades. Ten seconds of research produced this relevant passage:

“those who drink from it experience complete forgetfulness. Lethe is also the name of the Greek spirit of forgetfulness and oblivion.”

(picture above by Thomas Benjamin Kennington)

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”

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.