Sunday, April 7, 2019


GEORGE WASHINGTON WAS NOT A MAN OF GREATNESS because he was our first President; somebody had to be first. Nor was he great because he led the Continental Army; our alliance with France was more responsible for our victory than was Washington’s military prowess. We owe an immense debt of gratitude to Washington for essential two reasons. 

  1. After our independence, Washington was so popular there was serious buzz about naming him king. Yes, he might have been King George I of America and we might have a constitutional monarchy similar to that of Great Britain. But Washington demurred, allowing the new Constitution to be built around an elected leader, a President. 
  2. Washington flabbergasted the kings and emperors of the 18th century by voluntarily giving up power at the end of his second term as President - what political scientists refer to as the peaceful transfer of power - setting the precedent for the orderly transition of Presidential administrations, no matter how contentious and divisive the election may have been. 

Will Trump refuse to leave office if he loses the 2020 election? Might he claim rigged voting and fake election returns? Would Trump accept the title of President for Life (in essence “king”) if it were offered to him? Absurd you say? But absurd things do happen, and, with Donald Trump, the absurd is situation normal.

Friday, December 21, 2018

A Runaway President

     Anybody who isn't worried to death over what the irrational man in the White House is capable of doing has his/her head in the sand. And that could be fatally dangerous. Even many of Trump’s Republican allies are beginning to break out in a sweat. 
     The nightmare, which cannot be ruled out, is that Trump magnifies this budget impasse - or some other manufactured confrontation - into a national crisis, which he then uses as a pretext to declare martial law and suspend the Constitution ... in the interests of “protecting” the American people.
     Before you pooh-pooh this possibility, think on this. We already know, from his own words, that Trump admires dictators and their absolute power; we already know he has no understanding of how government works and is frustrated by the limitations of Presidential power; we already know that he takes all challenges to his outlandish notions as personal insults; we already know his only response to challenges is to dig in, escalate, and put the blame on everyone else but himself; we already know Donald Trump has no restraint or boundaries. These characteristics are a recipe for disaster. 
     You may be clinging to the fading hope that the Constitution will protect us from a runaway President. But our Constitutional protections only work if our nation's chief law enforcer - the President of the United States - safeguards and enforces our Constitutional rights. If Trump, who, as commander-in-chief has America's armed forces at his disposal, decides to ignore the Constitution and attempt a takeover of total power, the cumbersome machinery of the Legislative and Judicial branches may not be able to act quickly enough to stop him - assuming the will to stop him is there. 
     You may choose to believe that the preceding scenario is the product of an overactive imagination, the stuff of politico-thriller novels. But it has happened before, only 80 years ago, in modern, civilized, and culturally advanced Western countries (Germany and Italy, to be specific). So please do keep this in mind: it is far superior to be overly alarmed and vigilant ... and be wrong ... than it is to be naive and complacent ... and be wrong.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

The Term "god" is Not Necessary

            The word "god" represents so many different things to many different people. It's like the word "love" ... cannot be defined. Whatever heals your soul...


          Unfortunately, you're right. God or gods always have been in the eye of the beholder ... which is not the solution but the problem. The god with which blameless children are brow-beaten into guilty submission, the god under which slavery was sanctioned, males kept ascendant, and women denied their reproductive rights, the god under which women are closeted away and beaten for any perceived infraction, the god by which genital mutilation is practiced, the god under which children are denied basic, and sometimes life-saving, medical attention, the god that calls for young men to strap bombs to themselves and murder innocents ... yes, may not be the god of love or cosmic spirituality. But where's the distinction?

          If you allow one person's "benign" beliefs - on the continuum from flower children to those who atrociously behead "infidels" - where do you draw the line? Who draws the line? Could not an almighty god - creator of the universe, keeper of naughty or nice lists, and grantor of eternal life - done a better job at defining exactly what's wanted of his/her/its creations? If a bee sipping a flower's nectar or the touch of a lover's fingertips or a blazing sunset or the smile of an infant "heels the soul," lovely, but why not just call it what it is? Nature or human nature. Why confuse these grand feelings by trying to make them grander than they already are? Neither the term nor the idea of a god is necessary.

          By the way, I wish I could agree with you, because I know you to be a warm and caring person, but the terms "god" and "love" most certainly can be defined. They're in the dictionary. The precise meanings of god and love (yes, in various forms) only become vague and subjective when it suits the agenda of the person speaking those words to be elusive, obfuscating, and expansive to the point of meaninglessness.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

"Fear itself" is to Be Feared

SUNDAY NIGHT I FELT FEAR - REAL FEAR. I was winding down on my recliner, channel surfing, and stopped at a Pen America panel discussion, “On Fascism,” moderated by Jelani Cobb, a writer for The New Yorker. I was tired after a busy day celebrating my wife’s birthday, and the last thing I needed was to inhale the stench wafting out of the White House or to flash on the unconscionable goings-on there. Despite the powerful impulse to change the channel, I watched the end of the program.
The speakers were warning of the very real threat that fascism poses to our democratic way of life. Cobb concluded that this is “primarily a crisis of education. We’ve defunded education to such an extent that people don’t recognize the threat to democracy when they see it.” As a college instructor I know that he is absolutely correct. Many, if not most, Americans have no real understanding of democracy, how it works, and why it needs vigilant safeguarding. For the first time in the many months of continual atrocities emanating from the Oval Office, I FELT FEAR.
Not the in-your-head concern and trepidation that comes from an academic realization that Trump could very well rip this country apart. What I experienced was physical. My legs were tremulous and weak, akin to the sensation one gets standing too close to a picture window in a high-rise building. I became aware of a budding nausea. It may have been a mild panic attack or the “fight or flight” impulse. Who knows, but whatever it was, I was alarmed that I was reacting to hitherto unimaginable events not only intellectually but physically. In short, I became aware that I am scared. Scared of where Trump, unfettered, may take us ... to a fascist nation with a president for life?
Anyone who’s buried his or her head, taking counterfeit comfort in the unsustainable belief that “it can’t happen here,” better pull his head out of the sand and get mobilized ... before it’s too late ... if it isn’t already.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

A Living Nightmare Nears

     In the old days (meaning pre-2017), after being overwhelmed by a depiction of terrifying, dystopian future - as by the film (“1984”) or by the TV series (“A Handmaid’s Tale” on HULU) - one could collapse back deep into one’s chair and exhale the words “Thank goodness that’s not really happening.” Not anymore. 
     Today we are on the threshold of becoming society in which government can decree a lie to be truth and truth to be a lie (“1984’) and one in which the lives of citizens are thoroughly and harshly controlled by a male-dominated government based on hypocritical religious fundamentalism (“A Handmaid’s Tale”). Recent events demonstrate that these nightmare scenarios can no longer be dismissed as far-fetched, futuristic fantasy. 
     If you’re one who’s tempted to sneer at the real and present danger, consoling yourself with the thought “it couldn’t happen here,” do keep in mind that only 80 years ago there were many in one of the most civilized and culturally advanced nations of Europe who were prone to think the same thing - too many of whom shortly after were no longer around to think anything.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018


Those of you who’ve seen my Facebook postings in recent months have heard me wonder repeatedly: “Where are the good Republicans?”  My naive assumption being, while parties may disagree diametrically on the issues, at the core we all want the same thing - the greater good of the American people.  If that ever was the case in American politics, it certainly ain’t now.  
The recent appointment to the Supreme Court of an intemperate and clearly politically biased, not to mention somewhat paranoid, individual, despite the very valid and mostly ignored concerns about his fitness for the hallowed office - and worries about all that his lifetime appointment portends for a diverse America - sad to say, has left me disillusioned (as in stripped of my illusions).  The national Republican leadership has no higher purpose than to keep power and advance a retro rich, white, male agenda at any cost.  Lies, manipulation, distortion, attacks on vital American institutions, like our free press and the FBI and the Justice Department, are all acceptable means to achieve their power-mongering and avaricious ends.  Why did it take me so long to understand, yes, Virginia, there are downright evil people in this world, in this country?  Duh.  
The reality must be faced that there is no reason to believe that the last major confederacy of cold, cruel, conscience-less men - the hierarchy of the Nazi Party in Germany 80 years ago - could not recur, this time here in America.  We have a leader who openly admires dictators.  We have a Republican majority that would gladly appoint him President for Life.  And now we have a Supreme Court which may not be able to stand up to any such travesty.  
All that’s needed now is a Trumped-up national emergency during which Constitutional protections can be suspended for the higher goal of restoring “law and order.”  To quote the notorious line from a film about a human transforming into a monstrous fly:  "Be afraid; be very afraid." 

Friday, January 5, 2018

How do you like being on the butt-end, Mr. Trump?

The man who has lowered the bar on presidential civility and, well, maturity by calling competing candidates and world leaders childish names, disparaging the appearance of women (not to mention boasting about pawing them), telling so many lies that fact-checkers are having meltdowns, et cetera, et cetera, is so stung by criticism, perceived insults, and alleged lies that he wants to stop publication of the Trump inner circle tell-all book, Fire and Fury. He’s sicked his snarling shysters on the author, trying to intimidate him in order to derail release of the book. Trump’s legal storm troopers are making the spurious claim Trump is libeled and slandered. So much for the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of speech.
A President, or any other public official for that matter, cannot be libeled or slandered. A public official is fair game, even for lies or misinformation. If that weren’t the case, almost every candidate for the presidency in recent years would be awaiting sentencing, being guilty of libeling and slandering each other. There’s only one narrow exception, and three things – all of them - must happen for that exception to kick in. 1. It must be proved that the statement about the President is untrue. 2. Then it must be proved that the source of the statement knew it to be false. 3. Then it must be proved that the source intended to do damage to the President’s reputation or livelihood by making the false and defamatory statement. I don’t think Mr. Trump would get past step 1.
There is hardly a precious Constitutional freedom that the current “Leader of the Free World” has not threatened or ignored. We need not delve deep into history to see representative governments overthrown and dictatorships arise. For a long time we have deluded ourselves into believing that the rise of a Nazi-like cabal (or 1984 dystopia) could not possibly happen in America. But, unfortunately, it most certainly can if we sit by idly, turning a blind eye to the goons as our rights are toppled like so many bowling pins by a clueless and vindictive chief executive.