Politics and other awkward stuff, View from the Shoe

The Kid Next Door

If this past week showed us anything, it was that you never know. You don’t know what anger, depression, resentment or embedded racism hides behind that typical teen’s grin or the neighborhood crank’s frown. We don’t know what propels a person to grab a gun and take target practice on unsuspecting other humans with a vengeance.

You just don’t know.

This week two more shootings happened, one in El Paso; the other in Dayton. They say the flip side of anger is fear though it’s hard to imagine such calculated, heinous acts by those scared and afraid. Yet, these terrorists are definitely frightened, just not in the way you think. You see, for them the bogeyman is not something that goes bump in the night but the ‘tired, hungry, and poor’ that giant green lady in the NY harbor welcomes. The bogeyman — is the ‘other’.

To be fair, I am afraid, too, not of immigrants but of ‘shadow’ Americans. I don’t want to be scared of my homies but religious fanatics and sycophant politicians who dance for a divisive Puppeteer while raining hateful diatribes like confetti grenades, do the job.

I have grandsons – 5 of them. I know all about the sometimes crazy video games (though my kids keep rein on what the nuggets can or can’t play). But to blame mass shootings on said games is nothing short of absurd. When I was a kid, my brothers played with cap guns and toy rifles, pretending to be soldiers, cops or bad guys. To my knowledge, my remaining brother never grew an interest in shooting up a theater.

Let’s face it – WORDS MATTER. How we talk to and about each other matters. It matters how we frame those who were brought here on slave ships and those who seek asylum from torture, painted as murderers, rapists, and an invasion. White supremacists are dubbed ‘fine people’ and even American born elected officials are told to go back to where they came from. (Brooklyn?)

I agree, that most likely some level of mental illness rendered every perpetrator unequipped to process hateful rhetoric with less than deadly actions. I also agree, that if identified, those people should be treated before catastrophes happen – that is if mental health budgets have not been slashed. But the truth is — GUNS KILL PEOPLE. Period. That being said, knowing people are the ones pulling the trigger doesn’t let gun regulations off the hook. Nor should anyone look the other way as AK-47s are blithely utilized as a mass shooter’s weapon of choice. These economically speedy killing machines have no place anywhere but the battlefield. Full stop. Continue reading “The Kid Next Door”

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Politics and other awkward stuff, View from the Shoe

Not In Kansas Anymore

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Boy, has this place changed, Toto. Some days our America seems as unfamiliar as Oz. We’ve seen odd characters with no brain, heart or courage in abundance but enough about politics. We’ve been in twisty, scary situations before. In fact, history is full of times when the red, white and blue was as divided as the Hatfields and McCoys, complete with messy family food fights.

It’s been said this past election didn’t divide America – it revealed it. Racism and xenophobia are hardly new; they are just more butt naked than we’ve seen them for awhile. Did we think political paranoia left the building when Joe McCarthy did? Ha! We might have been a teeny bit convinced that we made healthy improvements in womens’ rights and sexual choice tolerance, but no. And immigrants? Fear of the ‘other’ is stoked daily, as you wait. Every culture has gone through a purgatory of prejudice and alienation when they arrive on our shores, but, these days, the Statue of Liberty hides her face in utter shame.

For 243 years, America has invented, innovated, inspired and banded together for better. We’ve dominated both outer and cyberspace. Baseball, blue jeans, jazz and rock ‘n roll are as American as too many guns, slavery and the atomic bomb. Everything is big in America – buildings, landscapes, cars, business – and dreams. To many, their dream is elusive along their respective Yellow Brick Roads.

But few things in life are linear – and history isn’t neat.

Over the decades we’ve seen riots, scandals, assassinations, world wars and cold wars. We’ve struggled with healthcare, financial reform, racial strife, taxes and political mayhem. There’s little we haven’t seen. When elections were over, protests were heard, amendments enacted, and we usually went back to business as usual. No matter how politics, cultural roots or societal platforms differed, we united as AMERICA, not a polarized land of misfit toys. Continue reading “Not In Kansas Anymore”

Politics and other awkward stuff

Make America . . .

“America is back”. That was the opening line of a recent commercial, and all I could think was “Really? Where was it?”.

As far as I can tell, America hasn’t taken a trip anywhere, though it has meandered a bit. These last few years, the poor country has been pulled in so many directions, it must feel a little like Gumby. With only days left before the mid-term elections, I have to wonder if America is trying to hide until the worst is over. But then, what is the worst? We’ve certainly seen a whole lot of bad behavior, that’s for sure. If America was a kid, it would have been sent to its room for days. But then, it’s not one kid – it’s millions and where do you send them when they’ve been busy setting little fires everywhere? I’d send them to the voting booth.

America belongs to EVERYONE. Yup, sorry to break it to anyone who thinks only the anointed few get to lay claim, but that’s the truth. Of course, the original inhabitants found out the hard way when new guys (English refugees otherwise known as Pilgrims) pulled up, grabbed the land and all THEY got was a tee shirt and nifty reservations in the middle of nowhere. Didn’t they welcome the Pilgrim dudes, give them corn pudding and help them survive first winters? Sure, but who’s counting. We still make those cheery construction paper feathers to honor them on Thanksgiving, so it’s all good, right?

Patriotism is supporting your country all the time and your government when it deserves it.

Mark Twain

For 241 years, America’s been stepping away, and coming back. We’ve been to war, to the moon and to the polls. We’ve raised the flag, our voices, our fists, and our leaders. We’ve seen the best and the worst of times. We have been and are a great, beautiful land with fierce spirit and big hearts. We fled a monarchy, started a republic, became a democracy and today waffle between them, with some resurgent populism and nationalism thrown in. (we know how well THAT worked out!) Continue reading “Make America . . .”

Politics and other awkward stuff

Divided We Fall

There’s an elephant in the room. In fact, there’s an entire herd. Our country is divided in ways not seen since the Civil War and that divide goes past party, right smack into a giant morass. This land of the free and home of the brave has been steadily careening toward a constitutional crisis and no one seems to know where the brakes are.

Uh oh.

Yes, I know jobs are on a steady rise and so is the stock market. The economy continues its 7-year recovery. So far, so good. But things like incivility, racism, gun violence and moral equivalency are ramping up to unseen levels, too. The gaping crevasse of division has been magnified, in no small way, by the man whose very position is supposed to bring us all together — not fuel a growing turmoil. Under his reign, politics has morphed from that of my parents’ voting climate to a near monarchy. Party has become loyalty to a man, not the law or the values it once held firm. The aura of ‘presidential’ has become a myth as has national unity.

I am proud to be American and always will be, even though, like many relationships, ours can go off the rails sometimes. The relationship can get testy, make you worried and upset, but, like every family’s version of the drunk uncle, we accept it as part of a tribe we love. While we can’t disavow some frankly ugly parts of our American history, we are rightly proud of its multitude of shining achievements, generosity of spirit and so much more.

Your vibe attracts your tribe. Continue reading “Divided We Fall”

Grief is Grief

If You Could See Me Now . . .

14064-woman-sunset-girl-arms-blue-sky-clouds-silhouette.1200w.tnWhat am I saying? Of COURSE, you can see me! An ol’ newsman who never met a story he didn’t want to write or tell? I’m quite sure I’ve been in your sights since the night you died. The question is, what do you think? You’ve been gone more than two years so I’m sure, as usual, you have plenty to say as you watch me traipsing through life each day. You knew me really well, as I knew you, but since that night you left, we’ve had way different journeys and I’m at a little disadvantage. Hanging out in the ethernet, I’m guessing you know more about what my trip looks like than I do yours.

Anyway, you may have noticed that I’ve developed a kind of (even more) offbeat way of being, of maneuvering the world on my own. In those first awful months, it was just about staying afloat, treading very dark waters until I found my rhythm. And though rhythm always jazzed us both, this tune was hardly something dance to. I could hardly envision how I would ever get through without-you life but somehow, I’m still here. When you’re dropped in water over your head, you sink or swim — and I’m swimming. (or something like it. I’m no Michael Phelps).

You can’t be brave if you’ve only had wonderful things happen to you

Here I am,  hanging out in this world and ‘adulting’, as our granddaughter would say. Like all people on the planet, I’m just doing the best I can, with what I have, if you include a personal weird spin. Have you been critiquing this reluctant reinvention? A sweet widow friend you may not have met, echoed that same thought last week, as we joke-texted one night about our packing up Christmas decorations antics. As she wistfully considered her late husband’s appreciative laughter at her fight with her own fake fir, I decided our imagining must be ‘a thing’. That said, if you, my other half, if your new career is ‘wife watch’, here are a few highlights to consider: Continue reading “If You Could See Me Now . . .”

Politics and other awkward stuff

Requiem for Civility

misbehaving-child-750x500Ding Ding Ding! Survey says – America might have a civility deficit. Duh. It appears rudeness, and incivility have become as contagious as the annoying common cold  — and just as hard to cure. Aggressive language, insults, demeaning words flow like waterfalls from mouths of people from political leadership to the neighbor down the road. What could go wrong?!

We live in a hurry up world. From road rage on the morning commute to high decibel restaurant cell phone conversations, behaving badly has become a hallmark of a ‘new’ world. Self-absorbed communication and demands for instant gratification strain common courtesies to the breaking point. They say a fish rots from the head and this political climate brought a nasty stench. The rhetoric of this past election had no small part in the ever-growing, no-holds barred incivility. But, to be truthful, we all have a part in what has grown with abandon. And, as a Senator, who recently stated that we have ‘normalized’ bad behavior, said, “Enough!”.

Rudeness is the weak person’s imitation of strength. Eric Hoffer

How did we get here? Do we have heftier passions than our ancestors? I doubt it. (Does Henry the VIII or the Inquisition ring a bell?) 2,000 years before us, there was still a heck of a lot of bad behavior. Is there more political division now? Monarchy or democracy, there have always been political divides but social media and TV ‘s in-your-face communication reaches audiences of previously unimagined proportions. Fake news, alternative facts, and blatant untruths roll by without impunity and nonchalant arrogance that do little to make us proud. Continue reading “Requiem for Civility”

Politics and other awkward stuff

Under the Big Top

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I never joined the circus. Actually, I’ve never even been much of a fan. Too many rings to watch at once. Too many nail biting high wire acts. Too many animals tethered and tamed instead of wild and free. And the clowns, yikes, the clowns. Maybe I was just a weird kid, but the circus was never a big ‘must see’.

Still, I must say I felt a teeny bit sad when the 146 year old Barnum and Bailey Circus recently pulled up stakes for good. But, hey, even the biggest show on earth would have a hard time competing with the red, white and blue Big Top of — politics.

If, like me, watching more than one thing at a time makes you dizzy, refer to your program and buckle up. There’s enough action under the Big Top these days to make your head spin. Precarious high wire acts. Slights of hand. Tricks that can keep you stranded in the air with no safety net. From acrobats to animal trainers, no one seems to like each other very much but every one is worth watching.

High flying tricks emerge energetically from every spotlit ring. Some are intriguing; others could turn catastrophic in a heartbeat. All the balls are in the air and where they land no one knows – yet. We watch every act with interest or fear, approval or upset. Performers go through flaming hoops or emerge from clown cars. And we’re left to wonder what (or who) is going to bounce off the trampoline. Welcome to life under the Big Top. Continue reading “Under the Big Top”