Years ago I spent a week in Paris visiting two friends. I traipsed around Montmartre and beyond, taking in the people, the handsome buildings, and the creative drive of the city. Instinctively I understood why American musicians and writers flocked to Paris in the early 20th century. New York City, my former home, has a creative pulse also. But where the heart of New York borders on tachycardia, the heartbeat in Paris is slower and more sensual, with an infusion of healthy love hormones, strengthened with good food and red wine.
I browsed in the Shakespeare and Company Bookstore. At Notre Dame, I set foot on the stone floor where Joan of Arc might have stood. In her alcove I donated a few Francs for a candle, lit it, and communed with Saint Joan. It was one of the few deeply spiritual experiences in my life within a Christian church. With enough French to get around politely, I ordered food in cafes, and bought round trip Metro tickets. At one point I emerged from the Metro in an unfamiliar neighborhood, trying to figure out which way was north. An older woman came to my aid, asking me, “Quelle langue?” –What language? I smiled. She had not pegged me as American. I wandered along the Seine. Ate ice cream. Sat next to fountains on city park benches. I smiled fondly at gargoyles. I wondered what the story was behind a statue of a man holding his own severed head. From hidden doorways to inviting balconies, narrow medieval streets to the Champs-Elysees –I could not get enough. The French people were warm and funny, and appreciated my attempt at their beautiful language. They had an innate sense of style –even those without a lot of money cuffed their jeans just so, with an attractive pair of shoes and socks that matched. I wore pretty flowing dresses and comfortable flats and walked everywhere, soaking up the visceral engagement of all the senses that is Paris. The city captured my heart.
Just before going back to my friends’ house in the afternoon, my job was to pick up bread and pastries at the bakery. What I brought home with me from Paris, what changed my life, was what we experienced at their home every evening. At about 8:00 we sat down at the dinner table. Wine flowed. We passed the cheese tray, then had a soup, and another entree. Their commitment to sharing food and meaningful discussion for an hour every night impressed me. A more well-rounded approach to life includes a healthy relationship to food –shared with friends and family.
I bring Paris home every Thanksgiving. Mind you, I cook fresh food all year long. But on Thanksgiving I lay out a vegetarian feast in my best china, light candles, and create the combination of conversation and delicious food I found compelling in France. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday –a harvest celebration of old. A time to give thanks for blessings.
This year I’m most grateful for the outcome of the US elections. Just like France, a creeping right wing authoritarian movement is gaining traction. And, like the French, we beat them back. Decisively. Generation Z and younger women come out in huge numbers, motivated by the overturning of the right to an abortion. The potential loss of other privacy rights appeared inevitable. Young people were not having it. In swing states, people voted for Democrats (the only pro democracy party at the moment) for Secretary of State and Governor positions. That’s important, because those officials oversee elections. We need non-partisan public servants in those roles, not election deniers and extremists. Five states put reproductive freedom on the ballot. Even in Kentucky and Montana, people stood up for bodily autonomy. The senate will remain in Democratic hands. Biden will be able to appoint federal judges.
Alas, we are not out of the woods. Millions of Americans voted for Trumpists. The House of Representatives will be run by MAGA nut jobs –by a razor slim majority. It’s a shame that older people –still bamboozled by the lies of Fox –believe MAGA Republicans are the best choice. But because of the pro democracy wins across the country generally, the House will just look like a clown car ride. They want to waste our time and money. Last I heard, Marjorie Taylor Greene intends to impeach Joe Biden and other members of his cabinet, summon Dr. Fauci to congressional hearings, and try for a national abortion ban. The House will disband the January 6 committee, and turn on its members. All theater.
What’s genuinely frightening are the draconian abortion laws in red states. MAGA law makers promise they will get more cruel. Florida went MAGA, due to redistricting, and the Governor’s Anti-Woke law and Don’t Say Gay bill should scare every American. Here in Arkansas, a school board near Little Rock wants to outlaw words like Equity, phrases like White Privilege, and books about slavery or LGBTQ sexuality. History books in Texas are under revision. The other day Trump had lunch with a Christian Nationalist named Nick Fuentes. Fuentes believes in a fascist take-over of the US. Trump, a serial liar and criminal facing state and federal charges, wants to be elected president again in 2024. Quelle Horreur –what horror.
In spite of the upcoming MAGA side show in the House, and red states descending into Christian Nationalist dystopia, the red wave did not break as predicted. And for that we can celebrate whole-heartedly. As the Grand Old Party implodes, we now have no functioning conservative party in the US. May they be reborn –sane.
But we must continue to hope, organize locally, and vote. I have begun with a Jane.org t-shirt and bumpersticker. In states where abortion is illegal, “We Are Jane” translates as “I’m a safe space for pregnant people and I will offer you information about reproductive health care.” In some states those conversations are illegal. Too bad.
I’m grateful to you, my readers. I’m grateful for pro democracy voters, and for women who will not be silenced or intimidated. I’m especially grateful for the chance to take a breath, relax for a minute, to not be so afraid. I planned to put on a brave face if the country went sideways. My husband and I discussed moving to a blue state –or even another country. But no. Democracy won a big battle.
Finally, I’m grateful for a holiday devoted to good food, and sharing, where I can bring Paris home. That city still inspires my heart.
It’s October 24th, 2022. The full color of fall graced us here in NW Arkansas. This morning the rainy gray sky accentuated the gold and orange of the Maples, the red Oaks, and yellow Gum trees. Everywhere this bright blanket covers us, and it smells like leaves –tired of being green.
It was a fine day to vote early. No problems –no armed civilians with assault weapons, no proud boys. Not much drama at all. We aren’t a swing state, after all. Georgia right wing enforcers are thwarting voters by denying signature matches. In Arizona armed men with masks hover near drop boxes, taking pictures of voters –and their license plates– as they drop their ballets. It’s called intimidation.
GOP leaders shout their fear-based rhetoric at a screaming pitch, and the Fox-type disinformation media repeats it. According to them, crime is eating up our cities, the economy is failing, and Biden is a puppet of Marxists. They are pro-Putin. Let me list current GOP plans for America:
-Ban abortion coast to coast. Women are already dying in emergency rooms from untreated miscarriages and non-viable fetuses. Doctors fear prison in red states. The death toll will increase exponentially, as will unwanted children.
-Cut medicare and social security.
-Slow down funding to Ukraine.
-Turn federal elections over to state legislatures, where (Republican) partisans choose electors, not the votes of the people.
-Ban books having to do with LGBTQ sexuality, slavery, or anything GOP censors find uncomfortable.
-Make Don’t Say Gay law federal.
-Revise history books so white people won’t feel bad.
-Install Donald Trump, a pathological liar and criminal looking at state and federal indictments, as president in 2024.
-Reverse student loan forgiveness.
-Reverse Biden’s cap on insulin costs.
-Deny climate change.
-Impose Christian Nationalism, prayer in public school ad nauseam.
-Impeach Biden. Pay back for Trump.
-Bring Dr. Fauci, Anthony Blinken, and Merrick Garland before a house committee. More pay back.
Any one of these things is ghastly. Are you paying attention? You’ll know it if you’re losing sleep, aging faster, and finding yourself beset with nervous tics and palpitations.
Recently the New York Times came out with a poll that scared us even more. After Roe was overturned, Democrats looked good in the polls, favored to win the senate and even keep the house. The other day the Times announced a new poll showing a slight favor for the GOP. All the pundits piped up about the gas prices and inflation, and what democratic politicians were saying wrong. Talking heads wagged their tongues, sideswiped by the magic of GOP messaging.
Very few bothered to broadcast one important fact. The NYT interviewed about 800 people across the country for that poll. That’s it. How many young people answer a strange number during the day? Not many, apparently.
What we are seeing is a power grab from a minority party. White male power is coming to an end, and they want to take down the country if they can’t win. The GOP can’t gain power with the popular vote, so they have figured out how to manipulate uneducated Americans with Fox, employ fear and repression in their tactics, all with a fake Christian veneer that fools gullible people even more. Can you imagine a world where we no longer have democracy? Where right wing extremists run the country, fix the voting to favor themselves, where women have no reproductive rights, and where puppy-killing charlatans like Dr. Oz actually hold seats in the US senate? Imagine Kari Lake as vice president. How about Marjorie Taylor Greene on the judiciary committee? Enter hair twirling, nail biting, and high blood pressure. For many of us full blown mental and physical health issues loom large. Especially young women, forced to give birth without regard for their circumstances.
What I want to say is this: the country is in the throes of menace and delusion. What remains to be seen is whether Americans will stand up to this threat and vote in the next two weeks. About 25% of the population has been taken in by the extremists. They swear Trump won and the January 6th insurrection was no worse than Black Lives Matter protests. One infinitely stupid woman said, “I don’t care about abortion bans. Only 1% of women get raped.” Forget the callousness on display. Where did she get that number? One in five American women are sexually assaulted. That’s more than 1%. Oh wait. If Fox or Newsmax say it –well it must be true. The politicians and media personalities who have brainwashed vulnerable people have committed an evil act. They lie knowingly to gain influence and favor with the cult of Trumpism.
Indeed, when we save our country, we will have to grapple with two big problems. One is dealing with the millions of true believers. In a democracy you can’t just force re-education on people, nor would we want to. How do you deprogram QAnon cult members on a national level? Will we have to wait for the Trumpers to die off? Or do they fall back to the dark corners of the Republican Party to emerge in another incarnation thirty years from now? Liz Cheney, love her heart, suggests that if Trump runs in 2024 the GOP will shatter. One hopes. I vote for Liz to lead a true conservative party. The other problem is the false perception that entertainers are news anchors. Would it help to bring back the Fairness Doctrine? If you call yourself The News, you should have to fact check. Somehow we need to go back to agreeing on facts, even if we disagree on how to solve problems based on those facts. Truth is essential.
I prefer to believe that young people will come out in great numbers in the next two weeks. One in five Gen Z identify as LGBTQ. Women will not accept second class citizenship. They will vote. Soon the GOP bad actors will be revealed for the power hungry ghouls they are, and disbanded. Pushed back. Defeated. Then I can stop writing this series of articles, bearing witness to stupid and crazy.
It’s not just women or LGBTQ people who are in danger. Land masses, melting icebergs, polar bears, whales, wolves, coral reefs –the planet itself– stands to be harmed irreparably. The extremists in the GOP are climate deniers –unmoved by species extinction. This makes me sad as I watch the trees change. This beautiful earthly life is in danger.
Republicans will not fix inflation. Like creeping authoritarianism, climate change, Covid, and gas prices, inflation is a global problem. And crime? It’s higher in red states. Ignore the noise.
Vote. Volunteer. Speak out. Take care of yourself. Exercise. Meditate. Enjoy good food with friends and family. Find your community. Savor the fall color. Play music. Dance. Ask your neighbors how they’re doing. We are all scared. Democratic leaders act like deer in the headlights –that’s because many of them understand the peril. But for all their faults, Democrats still believe in democracy. Let’s save ourselves and the earth –she gives us this bounty of one brief life.
The other day I arrived early to the assessor’s office here in my Arkansas county. It was time to get my new red hybrid registered and taxed. Nobody was waiting in line, so I approached the window. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed a security guard sitting at a desk in the lobby. He was talking to another employee. I overheard the end of their conversation. “Well,” said the security guy, “everything is spelled out right there in the bible. The end of time. It’s all happening in plain sight, just like the bible said it would. All the signs are there.” Then, as an after thought, he added, “Dagumit.” Dagumit sounded like a throw away term. Righteous knowledge of biblical truth animated his tone. The actual end of the world —not so much, worthy only of Dagumit. When you live in Arkansas you learn to live with biblical fundamentalists opining in state buildings. It’s uncomfortable for those of us who are non-Christian, but I accept I’m out numbered here. At least, that’s what I think in normal times.
Today, it’s unsettling. Religious zealots make up one part of the 30% of the country that have become more powerful under Trump. Let me take a moment to list some of the lunacy within this 30%. You’ve got flat earthers, anti-vaccine conspiracy nuts, anti-maskers, election deniers, white nationalists, and QAnon types who believe democrats are non-human pedophiles. Are we looking at mass psychosis? These people are the Trump Base, and they appear to be cult members. They besieged the Capitol next to armed militia members. These are the citizens sending death threats to politicians, judges — or anyone who does not believe Trump won the 2020 election.
Across the country these unhinged people are voting in primaries for people who say Trump won in 2020, for Trump apologists, and for candidates who believe in forced births and forced pregnancies.
You might think —yes, but they are a minority. True. But the Republican leadership has caved to this Trump cult. They will not stand up. Indeed, the best example of how far the Republican Party has strayed from its roots is to look at the most recent Conservative Political Action Committee — CPAC— meeting. They welcomed Victor Orban, Hungary’s authoritarian leader, to the stage. His speech validated the manufactured culture wars. “We need less drag queens and more Chuck Norris,” he crowed, to loud applause. Culture wars are the main platform of today’s GOP. Above the stage the emblazoned words spelled out “We are all domestic terrorists,” a reference to solidarity with January 6th insurrectionists —now deemed martyrs. Outside the convention hall a makeshift cell had been constructed. Inside the cell sat a man in an orange jumpsuit, tears falling down his cheeks. Marjorie Taylor Greene knelt in front of him, holding his hands, and attendees prayed outside the cell. He represented the January 6th defendants. He was the symbol of the unfairly imprisoned victims of left wing radicals —who stole the election. Or so they want you to believe.
What’s their cause, exactly? “I’m a Christian Nationalist,” quipped Marjorie. She thinks all Republicans should call themselves Christian Nationalists and be proud.
Just this week Marjorie’s rhetoric heated up. She’s selling t-shirts that say “Defund the FBI.” Fox and other irresponsible right wing blowhards have been referring to the FBI as the Gestapo. Why? Because they executed a search warrant on Trump’s Florida home. Turns out, their liege Mogul kept various documents —including some top secret and classified. This is after the DOJ subpoenaed the documents, spoke with Donald’s lawyers, and politely made visits to retrieve them over the course of the last year. When the warrant was released to the public, however, it listed three possible crimes including the Espionage Act. It seems the focus of federal investigation was not just about borrowed documents.
Still, the right wing media warned of imminent leftist authoritarian takeover. “If the FBI can do this to a former president, they can do it to you,” said a prominent Fox entertainer. as she pointed a finger to the viewers. Trump riled his followers with talk of a raid, invasion of his house by federal law enforcement. Again, violence was unleashed.
Freshly activated, a January 6th rioter shot into a Cincinnati FBI field office, armed with an AR 15 and a nail gun. He got chased down and killed after he brandished his weapon in a corn field. In Phoenix a group of armed Trump supporters stood outside an FBI office. Far right pinheads are calling for death to FBI agents.
Liz Cheney, an anti-Trump Republican, could not safely campaign in Wyoming to save her house seat due to death threats. The Trumpist won instead.
True conservatives have left the party or have been side-lined. Some have switched to being Trumpist for money and power. Adam Kinsinger calls the current Republican Party “creepy.” Trump says if he wins in 2024 he promises to pardon all January 6th defendants, enforce speedy executions of drug dealers, and fire all non-loyal civil servants in the federal government. Lauren Boebert, one of many Trumpy house members, says she does not believe in the separation of church and state. Election deniers are winning primaries. And the supreme court will decide on a case soon that would put control of federal elections in the hands of state legislatures (not courts or civil servants). Trump could win if he goes unchecked.
The news gets worse. A woman in Louisiana is carrying a baby with parts of its skull and head missing. She is not allowed to have an abortion in Louisiana. A 16 year old in Florida was deemed insufficiently mature to have an abortion, so she will be forced to carry. A mother in Nebraska gave her daughter an abortafacient pill. They both now face charges. Women are checking into emergency rooms with pregnancy complications and not receiving treatment because doctors are afraid. The Idaho legislature decided that saving a woman’s life is not reason enough to allow abortion. Biden had to sign an executive order to facilitate medical decisions in emergencies. The DOJ is suing Idaho.
Now for some hope. Donald Trump is in trouble. The louder the bluster, the more scared he is. The DOJ is moving in, the state of Georgia has him in their sights for election fraud, and NY is looking at his business dealings. Even in the face of potential violence, justice must prevail or we lose democracy.
The best news came out of Kansas. Abortion is protected in the state constitution. A post-Roe referendum appeared on their primary ballot, the first since the supreme court overturned Roe. The voters had to choose whether to take out the abortion protections from the state constitution. The Catholic church and the anti-choice movement sent out texts to voters with the intent to confuse. They said women’s reproductive rights were in danger, so vote yes to protect women’s right to choose. Actually, No was the vote to keep the constitutional amendment in place, in other words, “No, I don’t want to change the state constitution.” And in the red state of Kansas, in the face of obfuscation, in long lines and 100 degree heat —women, independents, and conservatives voted overwhelmingly to maintain abortion rights. “No,” they said. Loudly.
We need more No voting in November. No to Christian nationalism. No to Trump and Trumpism. No to medieval religious laws against women. No to vacillating fearful Republican politicians and fringe cultists who vote for them. No to the Republican Party in their current cruel dystopian form.
Maybe we can vote yes as well. Biden will go down in history favorably. Surely people will approve of the first bill addressing climate change, a bi-partisan infrastructure bill, an executive order to protect women’s reproductive healthcare, a bill to help veterans get the care they need for burn pit exposure, a bill to make computer chips here instead of in China. That’s only a partial list of Biden’s accomplishments. Already we see Democrats (now the only pro democracy party) winning seats in the senate. Can we also keep the house? Can we get our country back on track? I don’t want to keep bearing witness to fascist madness descending on our United States.
Please vote. Unfortunately it’s a binary choice at this point in history. In the future, let’s have a parliamentary system, or four parties. But in November, the only way to beat Republicans is to vote Democrat. Let’s send the Trump cult wing nuts right back to the fringe of society where they can lurk, shunned and powerless. My hope is that one day I can walk into my county courthouse and not feel unsettled by a Christian droning on about the end of the world. “At least Christian nationalists don’t run the country,” I’d say to myself, and smile.
My cultural anthropology professor in college told us about a conversation she overheard between two men from Africa. One was from a patrilineal tribe, the other from a matrilineal tribe. The matrilineal man explained, “Of course the baby belongs to the mother. She carries it, births it, and it’s only right that her family name and inheritance should come down through her.” “Oh no!” said the patrilineal man, “you are wrong. If you have a bag of coins, who owns the coins —you or the bag?” This sums up the different perceptions concerning women in matrilineal and patrilineal societies.
Our society has changed slowly toward more rights for women over the centuries. The musings of the tribesmen seem lightweight compared to what the new radical right has in store for women here in the US. A Supreme Court zealot named Justice Alito has written a draft to overturn Roe v Wade, which would outlaw abortion. The draft was leaked.
If passed, half the country will immediately ban abortion. And because the Republican party is no longer benign, the red state Trumpists are falling all over each other to see who can be more cruel. Some say no abortions with no exceptions. The Texas law encourages vigilantism. Missouri is writing a law that would outlaw travel to a neighboring state to have an abortion. Also in Missouri, the original law made no exception for ectopic pregnancy, which is fatal to the mother. A representative who helped pen the law admitted he did not know what an ectopic pregnancy was. Texas pharmacists, as of this writing, are afraid to fill abortifacient prescriptions for ectopic pregnancy for fear of reprisal from SB8-empowered vigilantes. My guess is a lot of the extremist republicans don’t know or care that, for instance, pregnancy can be fatal to breast cancer survivors. The flush of estrogen needed for developing a fetus is poison to a woman who has had estrogen-receptive breast cancer. She may not survive after that pregnancy.
The ugly onslaught of repressive laws now pivots to birth control. A low IQ senator from Tennessee said out loud that birth control should only be allowed for married couples. A Florida politician wants to outlaw IUDs –he also wants to join Missouri in barring women from interstate travel for abortions.
Alito’s leaked draft references a 17th century English misogynist named Mathew Hale. Hale did not believe rape could happen in a marriage. Women, Hale opined, were formed from Adam’s rib as helpmates to men —how can men rape themselves? In the US, rape in marriage could not be prosecuted until the late 20th century. Oh yes, we have a history with Hale. He also convicted two women of witchcraft and had them hanged. Shades of The Handmaid’s Tale. In the eyes of this man, and his current fanatic followers, women are not fully human.
Mathew Hale, Justice Alito’s words, and the merciless laws being written in the red states leave me with the same queasy feeling as the patrilineal tribesman left me with; women are bags to carry something belonging to men, or the state. We are not more important than what we carry in our wombs.
Let’s dispense with the term pro-life to describe the new right. Forcing a thirteen year old rape victim to carry her rapist’s child is not pro anything. It’s flat cruelty. To forbid travel to another state is authoritarian. Putting the fetus above a woman’s life is misogyny. Announcing that life begins at conception, then imposing laws to enforce this belief is fundamentalist Christian theocracy —not democracy. Once the theocracy takes hold, women, non-Christians, non-heterosexuals —we are all in danger. Whatever the Republican Party is today, it’s not pro-life. A minority of nihilists and fascist friendly right wingers want to hold power. And they will do anything to grasp it. When extremists come to power, women’s rights go out the door. Mussolini, Franco, and Hitler outlawed abortion. Indeed, limiting women’s rights is one of the markers of fascism. During the Trump era, fundamentalist Christians ascended to a majority on the Supreme Court. Under the Trumpist Republican Party, the ultimate goal is a coast to coast ban on abortions.
It’s hard to describe the level of anger, sadness, and fear many of us feel right now. It’s our country. And Roe was a right we grew up with. So was democracy.
So I meditate. Every day. And I relish that moment when all fleeting thoughts recede. And at the end of fretful thinking and regret —all that’s left is goodness. Love. Joy. The act of connecting to that ultimate love exists in every religion. In my own spiritual path we believe this earthly life is sacred. The gods and goddesses are loving aunts and uncles, warm and close. I’m a pagan. Every season offers a reason for joy, for reverence, for acceptance of change. Every celebration ties us to the earth, to land spirits, to our ancestors, and our gods. We revel in the magic of it all. The multiverse is beautiful.
All world religions provide guidelines for being a better person. Even people who aren’t religious can find deep meaning and points of light. One friend, an atheist and alcoholic-in-recovery, pictured her dog as her higher power. Good choice. The judgement-free love of a dog has no equal. Another friend dances to find oneness with the ether. Some people look to philosophy, reason and science for well-being and illumination. A man on death row told me he had never been moved by a religious feeling — until he read Plato.
Now we can talk about the real meanings of pro-life and pro-choice, which are not mutually exclusive.
If your inner wisdom guides you to believe that life is serendipitous, and if you find yourself pregnant unexpectedly, you may want to choose to bring that life into its full mystery and meaning. Or perhaps your love for life informs a decision to end that pregnancy for self preservation. Both are OK. Each is life affirming. Either option may be hard. And women must be trusted to decide. We are not bags.
Right now, at this difficult juncture in our country, we need to embrace what inspires us to love life and make clear choices. What’s at stake here is not just fetuses or a woman’s right to self determination. Our democracy is in danger. The rising tide of callous power-grabbers on the right want to turn us into a fascist-friendly country. Climate change legislation, private choices, access to books and honest history in schools, freedom of the press —all in danger.
Remember the flitting thoughts –those distractions during meditation? The left/right conversation is one. It’s false because it assumes the Republican Party is normal. The pro-life and pro-choice arguments also distract from the task at hand. I have shown that one of the two main political parties is not pro-life. What matters is good people meeting a dangerous moment with grace and determination.
We should harness ourselves to whatever higher power we aspire to. Then we must step forth into the fight of our generation. Vote these fanatics and Trump cultists back to the fringes of society where they can lurk, disgraced and shunned. Other actions may include marching for women’s rights, growing flowers for bees, volunteering for an animal shelter —anything that nurtures life and makes our world better. If the red states turn into authoritarian laboratories, some of us may help women get to friendly states for their healthcare. Maybe all you do is treat others kindly and with respect —and tell the truth. It’s all good. As long as we are aware and engaged.
On June 24th, 2022, Roe versus Wade was overturned by the rogue Supreme Court of the US. Discounting almost fifty years of precedent and against the opinion of the majority of Americans, they forged ahead with a theocratic minority rule by edict. Christo fascism has arrived. Most every woman I talk to feels like I do: half burning anger and half devastated. Men share our sorrow and our outrage. I will continue to write about events as they happen. Will we slip into authoritarianism or will we claw our way out? Nobody knows right now. I hope for the best.
My last article, https://dorianmuse.com/2020/10/16/a-moment-of-truth/, was written before the November 2020 election. It was full of warnings about violence, potential Trump style authoritarianism, and the dangers of QAnon and other Trumpist current event nightmares.
After the election, I wrote a postscript to A Moment of Truth. Trump was repudiated, but not Trumpism. Even so, most of us sighed with relief that the sociopath Trump was gone. We felt sure that since a sane person claimed the executive branch —all would right itself eventually.
Now I’m back to check in. I write to make sense of the world. Indeed, maybe eventually we will begin to see a return to sanity, facts, science, and a rational democracy. But not now. Alas, Trumpism has taken hold of the Republican party. Let me present an overview of what happened after the election.
Trump did not concede. In fact, he fought the election results in one federal case after another. He called state elections officials and bullied them like a mob boss might. “Find me 11,780 votes,” he told Brad Raffensberger in Georgia, a Republican elections secretary. Sixty three federal judges rejected his cases at last count. Republican law makers stood silent as he threw temper tantrums and lost court cases and raised millions from his base. Trump’s gullible, radicalized base believed him. Acting on the belief the election had been stolen, they sent their nickels and dimes to the grifter Trump. Fox news, OANN, and Newsmax spread misinformation about the election, blaming corrupted voting machines and widespread fraud. They even hauled out a dead president from Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, into the hysterical cacophony. Oh yes! Hugo Chavez controls the voting machines, they screamed. We fretted and wrung our hands, knowing violence may be coming.
And violence did arrive. Not just the street fighting between white power and Antifa that has become common. This time Trump and his henchmen riled up thousands of people who had come to DC for a Stop the Steal protest. It was January 6, 2021. The electoral votes were being counted down the street at the Capitol building. Trump, Congressman Mo Brooks, Trump’s lawyer Rudy Guiliani, Don Jr. —among others —riled up the gathered thousands with fighting words about fraud, stolen elections, and fake news taking over the country. Trump directed them to march to the Capitol and help take back the election. “If you don’t fight like hell, you are not going to have a country anymore,” he yelled.
Oath Keepers, Proud Boys, magas, some current and former military, and hyped-up citizens who believed the vote was being stolen —they surged to the Capitol building and descended upon it violently, killing and maiming cops. They broke windows, shat in the halls, carried confederate flags, stole computers and statuary, left threatening messages, howled, and overtook the Senate chamber. Outside someone constructed a gallows. “Hang Mike Pence!” the crowd chanted as they prowled, searching for the vice president who had just refused to overthrow the electoral votes for Biden. They banged on doors, calling for Nancy Pelosi with deadly intent. Congress members from the House and Senate ran for their lives, hiding in locked rooms beneath.
The siege went on for several hours. Trump did nothing. Finally he presented a video urging the rioters to go home, and telling them he loved them. The effort was insufficient and pale, even supportive of the marauders. I suspected he really didn’t want to end the siege. Indeed, eye witnesses would later testify that Trump loved what he was seeing on TV that day, gloating about it. He enjoyed the ruckus and mayhem perpetrated in his name and was loath to end it.
In the aftermath, Trump has continued to lie about the election, sell himself as a victim, and make money. Republicans have embraced Trump as the leader of their party. Anyone who speaks against Trump or the election lie is cast from the family of right wing sycophants —into the prospect of losing primaries and into eternal vilification from Trump and his supporters. Law makers who tell the truth or, say, vote for Biden’s infrastructure bill, face death threats. Decent principled Republicans are being cast aside in favor of nut jobs like Marjorie Taylor Green and Paul Gosar, who support Trump and assume the narcissistic conspiracy-loving mantle that has become the Trump trademark.
Let me bring home this dizzying state of affairs. I report to you from a red state, an artist’s colony in Arkansas. We are a town of creative weirdly wonderful people —which already tells you we are not a typical red state town. Creative minds tend not to jump on personality cult trains. But the support of Trump still crops up in ways that surprise me. A certain percentage of our population are back to earth hippies. Sadly, many of the peace and love generation, the new-agers, have aligned themselves with Trumpism. They go about it by way of QAnon, with anti-Western medicine beliefs. Many of them are anti-vaccine. What was once a fringe left wing belief that vaccines were harmful has spread to the Trumpist right. The sheer number of un-vaccinated people in red states last summer drove a variant of Covid called the Delta to sweep through. Our count now is up to 750,000 people dead in the US, and over 5 million worldwide. And yet, a new-ager at the grocery store the other day droned on about alternative non-cures —Ivermectin, hydroxychloroquine, hydrogen peroxide —anything but that nasty vaccine. One local man pulled away from a hug from his vaccinated friend because, ventured the anti-vaxxer politely, vaccinated people shed their altered DNA. People I used to believe were, at worst, eccentric and misinformed, are now raging purveyors of conspiracy theories. Blithering idiots. And those new-agers add to the growing throng of people who believe untruths. Trump mishandled the pandemic, lied about how serious it was from the start, and created an army of anti-vax and anti-mask warriors. “Donald Trump is a light worker,” said one new age person recently. How disappointing. Not true, I say. Donald Trump is a conman, grifter, and a criminal. The QAnon hippies are going down in history along with magas as misled and errant.
Here are more examples of divorce from reality perpetrated by Trumpists.
The Trumpist governor in Florida, DeSantis, nominated Dr. Ladapo, MD, as the state’s surgeon general. This anti-vaccine MD is associated with a group of doctors promoting Trump’s hydroxycholoquine cure for Covid. The spokeswoman of this group of doctors believes that cysts on the ovaries are caused by women having sex with demons.
Texas’ Trumpist governor, Abbott, has all but outlawed abortion, and created a vigilante system by offering bounties of up to 10,000 dollars to anyone in the country who can track down those who help a Texas woman get an abortion. No clause for incest or rape in this new abominable law. Trump’s supreme court let it slide for now. They may shoot this one down, but Roe vs. Wade is on the chopping block. Women’s rights tend to go downhill with the populist right, or authoritarians.
Trumpists across the country are attending school board meetings. They threaten school board members who promote mask mandates to protect children from Covid. Proud Boys provide a menacing backdrop sometimes. Recently magas have been caught on camera wearing yellow stars as they protest masks, equating the victimization of Jews in Nazi Germany with the victimization of freedom-loving maskless wonders such as themselves. Some laugh at this behavior and say the Republicans have become the new party of snowflakes and cry babies. But it’s worse. I agree with Tom Nichols that the trickle down effect of Trump is a nation of narcissists. How self important and smug to don the symbol that marked you for ghettos and death camps — imposed on an entire race in WWII. How utterly incoherent and devoid of historical factual understanding or empathy. This behavior is simply not laughable. It’s disturbing.
A recent governor’s race in Virginia landed a win for a Republican, who ran on Critical Race Theory. He told parents in Virginia he would ban it. Not sure how you ban something that does not exist. CRT is taught in law school, and in no K-12 school anywhere in the country. But Fox and the right wing Trumpist media have created a myth that CRT is alive and well and trying to make white people feel bad about themselves. So Trumpists are crying about the novels of Pulitzer Prize winning author Toni Morrison. Her books, like any others that speak candidly of slavery or women’s sexuality should be banned —even burned, they say.
What was once a fringe element of the right wing, the white power movement, is now mainstream and normal in the new Trumpist Republican party. Tucker Carlson shouts from his Fox platform about how white people are being replaced. He questions vaccine safety and efficacy. Recently he made a pseudo documentary about the insurrection at the Capitol —casting it as a false flag event (it’s really the FBI and Antifa, don’t you know). He portrays the ongoing trials of the insurrectionists as a punishment directed at being conservative and patriotic. “Prisoners of war” is Carlson’s name for the howling mob members currently in jail. They endure torture, he says. In Arkansas —in all the red states, people spend hours consuming Fox, and they think Carlson is a reporter. In short, an alarming number of Americans believe him, and believe the election was stolen. An effort to re-write history is underway, downplaying the insurrection and painting it as a patriotic rally. Indeed, Trump says the real insurrection happened on election day —with the stolen election —and January 6th was the protest.
What can we do about all this?
Here is where I want to share something personal. I volunteered in prisons for almost 20 years, both state and federal, from low security to high security. I conducted pagan religious services for Wiccans, Pagans, and Odinists. In the federal prison system, because they were white (Odinists), and gang members, I met individuals from the white power and militia movements. The gang members did not bother me a bit. I knew that if gang members showed up then sex offenders would not. As a woman locked in a room with thirty men, I appreciated knowing that. I just let the leaders know that I was not recruitment material and not interested in prison politics and we got along fine. Today, in fact, long after retirement from prison outreach, I’m married to an ex-federal prisoner who was caught up in a white prison gang before he stepped down. Today he is a successful business owner, an artist, and we share a horror of the Trumpist wave. We see it for what it is. We both understand something about the white power movement.
Because of my exposure to the militia and white gangs in the prisons, I had the opportunity to glimpse a world I had never encountered. I didn’t talk politics with the convicts, but I attended events and knew people on the outside who were former skinheads or white nationalists. Most had left the political movements for a more spiritual and constructive life, and I respected them for that choice. Through these friendships and acquaintances, I came to understand more about what motivated people to join such groups. First of all, like most people, they actually believed they were acting in good faith to protect their families. The belief that white people are categorically singled out for extinction provided the motivation. Once indoctrinated, these people became warriors for the white race fighting an existential battle for survival. That’s where nationalists find an identity and a reason to get up in the morning. It’s an emotionally charged movement, loyal and hierarchical. Oddly, the far right leadership, even outside the hate groups and among the more spiritual people, sounded a lot like the new-agers at times. I read articles about how masks cause C02 poisoning, and that the pandemic was planned, and vaccines have tracking devices. Sound familiar? Seems to me the far right as well as the far left have lost their minds. Anyway, this gives us a glimpse into current Trumpist cult members. They are emotional, they aren’t fact checkers, and they believe they are threatened. If the GOP is really going down the white nationalist road, which it looks like they are, we will need to understand what we are up against.
Our nation has a civics lesson problem for sure, but we don’t have generations of time to self-correct that weak link. The GOP may gain power in 2022. Former white power movement people, who subsequently came to their senses, quietly help people walk back from hate. Whether behind the scenes or openly, I hope these people continue their good work. We can take a lesson from them. Walking people back from cults happens individually, person to person.
I understand why some may be hesitant to confront the hard core Trump base —some 40% of Republicans. Actual nationalists and full tilt cult members may appear to be lost causes. The calls for civil war and the blind eager love for Donald Trump is frightening to encounter. Be calm around them. Don’t wrestle in the mud. Stick to innocuous topics. At worst, treat them like children on time out.
If you want to forge ahead, the following are some suggestions.
Anne Applebaum, the author of Twilight of Democracy, has offered suggestions about confronting family members or friends who are Trump Republicans. One of these suggestions stuck with me. Respectfully ask what their values are. For instance, “Is it really in the best interest of you and your family to trust a man who says he likes to grab women by their genitals? Is that in keeping with your values? Aren’t Republicans the party that believes character matters?“
Someone said to me recently, “Tucker Carlson said it, and since he’s a reporter there has to be truth to it.” I replied calmly, “Well, he’s an entertainer, isn’t he?”
When family members spout the Antifa false flag at the Capitol theory, point out that the gallows represents the Day of the Rope, a page right out of a white power book called The Turner Diaries. No —not Antifa.
Take a minute to ask people about their values, and calmly state facts, and call them gently on their inaccuracies. It’s time to consider what each of us can do to avoid the possible death of the American experiment. Confronting individuals is just one way.
Vote. Talk about voting. I asked a young woman about her voting status in the weeks before Trump lost. “My husband does not believe in the electoral college, so he doesn’t vote.” “What about you? What do you think?” I asked. In that moment I made her uncomfortable. Good. I made a point. She won’t forget it.
We live in interesting times, which is disorienting. It’s painful and jarring. One of the two major parties in the US is no longer recognizable, moving toward right wing nationalism under Trump. Donald Trump was the most destructive person to ever sit in the oval office. He still wields power. We may be frustrated by the left in their pursuit of proper pronoun sensitivity and their strange inability to recognize and act upon the rising danger of violence and authoritarianism in the country. But as frustrating as they are, Democrats are still the only party that believes in democracy. Elect people who are non-Trumpist Republicans and Democrats.
The conservative anti-Trump folks have risked their careers and their safety to speak truth about their party. Adam Kinzinger, Liz Cheney, Charlie Sykes, Tim Miller, Bill Krystal, Mona Charon, Steve Schmidt, Joe Walsh, Stuart Stevens —these are a few. Let’s give them the respect they deserve, and listen to their counsel.
Finally, there is hope. A new pro-democracy coalition —everyone from Liz Cheney to AOC —is rising up. We are coming together as a popular front against the rise of autocracy. Principled Republicans are calling out Trump’s lie about the election. A bipartisan select committee is busy uncovering the January 6th insurrection. It turns out it was, in fact, a planned coop attempt —initiated at the top of the Trump administration (stay tuned). People are slowly getting vaccinated, even in red states. If all else fails, protesting in the street actually works. Large non-violent protests in DC alert the world that not everyone agrees with the status quo. They also effectively bring discussions to the dinner table. Democracy works if people pay attention and understand facts. Protesting in the street also gives heart to the participants, and a sense of hope. If Roe vs. Wade is struck down, I will protest. If the Trumpists win power in 2022 and 2024, my husband and I will go to DC and march with the inevitable hundreds of thousands.
In my town, artists continue to create and think freely —and put up with misguided new agers. Fall is breathtaking this year. The red maples and yellow ginkos, and the rust color of the oaks —all inspiring and beautiful. My husband and I are finishing up a mural depicting a magic oak forest. We are animists, and the trees, the cave and critters in our mural reflect our values and beliefs —that the spirit of nature permeates in and around everything, and it’s good. This earthly life is sacred, and I do believe we will eventually be ok. In the meantime, if things go sideways, maybe I’ll see you in DC.
A fly alighted on the carefully coiffed white hair of an otherwise remarkably unattractive man. His red eyes and pasty skin only helped accentuate the dark fly, which lingered for two minutes and three seconds. The man was Vice President Mike Pence. The fly chose the vice presidential debate with Kamala Harris to zero in on his landing, visible to millions watching. Two minutes was the allotted time for each candidate to answer questions —a rule Pence broke over and again. This lent meaning to that extra three seconds. The fly mirrored Pence’s obnoxious behavior, and gave rise to general mirth. The Twittersphere roared into metaphor. Garbage attracts flies, of course. The novel The Lord of the Flies gained sudden popular attention given the dysfunctional relationship between this White House and the people. We now grasp that downward spiral that gives rise to a primitive dictator. Oh, but the comic relief washed over us like a much needed shower. Even news anchors giggled gleefully. This was last week.
You may wonder why this story bears telling. Well, it’s October 2020, that’s why. Cruel facts and circumstances require a sense of humor to get through the next day. Donald Trump, while projected to lose this election by a landslide, has announced he will not concede defeat. His supporters include armed militia members. In the spring Trump directed his followers to liberate Michigan from stay at home orders. Covid was spreading fast. The Governor, a woman who favored strident measures to stop the virus, became a target. Armed right wing protestors hung her in effigy at the state Capitol. Recently the FBI unveiled the protestor’s plan to kidnap and assassinate her — all because she wanted people to wear masks and stay at home for a while to minimize the exposure to Covid. When Donald Trump called, angry armed white men answered. What will happen when he loses the election? He has fallen short of condemning violence from the right, militias, or white nationalists.
Early in the pandemic, Donald Trump knew Covid was potentially lethal, spread through the air, and could affect children, the elderly —anyone. He covered it up, downplayed it, and disdained mask wearing. The damage was done. His followers made news by throwing tantrums in public places, shouting at people, cussing, and landing punches. They ranted about a constitutional right not to wear masks, and that Covid was a hoax —invented to make Trump look bad. From the dark crevices of the fringe came the conspiracy theorists. They found a home in the stampede of selfish, if not stark raving, anti-maskers. Freedom to be stupid hit a new low with QAnon, a pro-Trump theory. In short, QAnon postulates that the Democrats and Hollywood run a child sex trafficking ring , and shoot up with the blood of children. Only Trump can save us all, they say. Flat-earth anti-science proponents, anti-vaccine activists, and misinformed New Age people joined the cacophony, and here is what I’ve heard them say: Dr. Fauci, the top epidemiologist in the country, is an agent of Chinese Communism. Forcing us to wear masks is where it all begins. Covid vaccines, when they appear, will have tracking devices and mind altering components designed to transform us into ‘sheeple’ —their word— as the wave of new world order sweeps away our freedoms. The ‘plannedemic’ —their word— is the home run for the leftist takeover of the world. Donald Trump to this day will not deflate these theories. Hero worship is more fun than flattening conspiracy curves. He still disdains masks. To this day he’s out hosting super spreader rallies for maskless fans. The white house counted more positive Covid cases last week than the country of Taiwan.
Also riveting this year are the Black Lives Matter protests across the country. Police shootings and brutality reached a point of no return and Blacks took to the streets. Whites joined them. All across America, hundreds and thousands of people marched. Although 93% non-violent (the number courtesy of an FBI report), the protests drew Trump’s ire. Trump TV networks, like Fox News, painted a grim picture of violent leftist extremists led by black-cloaked masked Antifa members —coming to a city near you to —what? Force you to wear masks? Undermine the rule of white people? I have never been clear on the end game of these leftist hordes depicted on the Tall Tales of Fox Newspeak. All groups have extremists, including the left. But for the most part lefties are tree huggers. I know. I come from the left. The FBI, in fact, has determined that most violence is from white nationalists and militia. Even so, without regard to truth of actual leftist mischief, The Trump administration sent in unidentifiable goons in camouflage to several cities. Videos of protestors pulled off the street and hauled off in unmarked cars circulated. Trump’s pseudo cops tear-gassed people, and used sticks to beat people. Trump rallied the angry armed white people again with his call to law and order. A seventeen year old shot two protestors to death and was hailed as a hero on Fox News. Trump has never labeled him a murderer. My brother lives in Seattle, a seat of long-standing police brutality protests. A Trumper family member has asked him several times, “What’s happening with the violent riots over there?” My brother tries to tell her that from his vantage point two blocks away the violence is mostly from federal goons and Trump supporters against protestors. It never quite sinks in.
I know something about protests. At age fourteen I attended an anti-war rally in DC during the Vietnam conflict. It was one of the big ones right before the end of the war. Someone lifted me up and I gazed out over half a million chanting, marching people, some brandishing candles. At that moment I knew. People can change things. And we did. The war ended in part because so many people took to the streets.
In the mid 1980’s, hundreds of us protested at the CIA building in Langely, Virginia. We came from the left, the right, the middle. A fervent desire to never see another dictator installed in central or south America united us. We opposed The School of the Americas and American intervention.
During the first gulf war, San Francisco erupted into widespread protests, often led by Vietnam veterans. Spontaneous demonstrations of 5,000 people or more became the norm for a while. Eventually half a million marched down Market Street. The veterans led it. Somehow they didn’t trust the reasons the government gave for that war. I marched with them.
After 9/11 we knew there were not weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and we opposed the Iraq war with good purpose.
I grew up taking American democracy for granted. We believed protesting was patriotic. We cared enough to speak out, to bring our concerns out in the open, to even get arrested. What better way to contribute to a democracy than to participate directly? First the issues have to be laid out for people to see on the news. Then people might talk about it at the dinner table: “What is the School of The Americas?” Nobody can change anything if nobody knows about it. The honest exchange of information and accurate news reporting is part of democracy. Jounalists and TV stations used to report facts, especially during Vietnam. ABC might have been more conservative that CBS in its opinion pieces, but the news brought home the visual devastation and suffering in Vietnam —the napalm, the killing and maiming of civilians —and the beleaguered American soldiers engaged in impossible jungle warfare.
Not once in all my young resistance years did I question the freedom to dissent, to express my love of country by pointing out bad policies. We brought awareness and transparency to national problems. It was the honorable thing to do. “Get in good trouble,” said the iconic civil rights leader John Lewis. We did.
That freedom was never in question —until now. If the election of Biden is derailed, we are looking at the take down of the American experiment called democracy. Instead, our country will resemble a fascist dictatorship. Trump is already talking about “Patriotic Education” in schools. He has ordered federal agencies to stop diversity sensitivity training. Any media not parroting Trump is an enemy — fake news. Women’s reproductive health choices are suddenly in question. Health insurance for people with pre-existing conditions will cease —during a pandemic, I will add, where the Covid diagnosis will itself become a pre-existing condition. Alarmingly, Trump and his criminal cohort Bill Barr are floating the intention to bring sedition charges for protestors who destroy property. In my day throwing fake blood on bombs was called Criminal Mischief and amounted to a slap on the wrist.
Paul McCartney said, “You can judge a man’s true character by the way he treats his fellow animals.” You can also judge an administration, and this one has been cruel to animals. The following is a partial list: high speed slaughter houses that potentially boil pigs alive, or otherwise kills them while conscious; gutting the endangered species act; polar bears drowning from melting ice; wolf packs shot from helicopters, and pups gassed out of their maternity dens and killed; Mustangs out west rounded up and sold for slaughter so cows can graze on public lands —animal suffering brings tears as I write. Climate change denial will be the law of the land under the next four years of Trump. Large swathes of sacred ground and national parks —sold to oil and gas interests. Glorious Leader Trump at the helm with a cult following, backed by armed right wing fanatics, purposely uninformed conspiracy nuts, and big business interests. I see it coming. The sorrow, anger, and fear most of us feel at this prospect is almost beyond words.
How did a con man from Queens with multiple bankruptcies sell himself as a business man worthy of a presidential vote? How did the Republican Party allow itself to be hijacked by Trumpism and by Trump, a man who has tallied over 20,000 lies? This is not an anti-Republican treatise. Indeed, Republicans with a conscience, bless them, are jumping the Trump ship in droves right now. If Biden wins, a big thanks goes to disaffected Republicans who put country over party. I’m an avid fan of the Lincoln Project. Trump, say the wordsmiths of the Lincoln Project, is dangerous and unfit and does not reflect the honor and decency of Republicans. I applaud and support these patriots.
An even more important question is this: how did 30% of the American public, including Republican senators who enable Trump, choose irrationality over reason? QAnon adherents can be dismissed as people with mental health issues. What’s alarming, though, is the underlying mistrust in science . The willful rejection of factual reporting in favor of magical thinking. Discarding common sense in support of the most corrupt president in history. What is this? It feels like an ideological and moral catastrophe. Are some people suffering from a personality disorder where they need an authoritarian to direct them? Is it base selfishness? A lack of education? For the senators, is it about clinging to power?
Friends and family, or any reader who voted for Trump the first time —it’s OK. I can forgive a mistake. But the second time? If you do this, I won’t be able to look at you the same way. Please switch channels. Liberate yourself from the echo chamber of Fox News. Listen to Emergency Room doctors treating Covid patients. To date, 210,000 Americans are dead and it didn’t have to be that many. Bodies piled in refrigerated trucks and buried in mass shallow graves because more people are dying than can be processed —no, not the flu. The virus is still largely a mystery, and appears to affect all ages, not just the old and people with underlying conditions. My cousin has Covid, and her doctor, a 32 year old with no health concerns, lay in a hospital bed for 7 days on oxygen with Covid. The Trump plan of herd immunity is simply a non-plan from a failed leader. Millions will die. Stubborn loyalty to whatever Trump or Trump TV says is not an excuse. Please fact check, and listen to actual epidemiologists. There is too much at stake. Indeed, our country is in danger. Check out the Lincoln Project. You will be in good company.
Our country is unique in the world. We were founded on ideals —not on tribal identity, not on religion. Life liberty and the pursuit of happiness, government by the people for the people —is only possible if everyone takes responsibility. It’s my responsibility to write this essay today, before the most important election of my lifetime. We stand at a crossroads. On one side is a steep precipice. We will fall. The experiment will be over.
My hope is that we choose to keep trying to do the hard work of democracy. I hope we will reject the magical thinking of flat earth non-science, the malignant narcissistic leader, and intentional brain fog —the singing choir of authoritarianism. I will, for my part, never take our American experiment for granted again. And I voted for Joe Biden, a decent character who stands for healing, reconciliation, and a rational approach to problems. This paper is my march on Washington. People can change things. We must.
Laurel Owen October, 2020
Postscript to A Moment of Truth:
It’s Wednesday, November 4, 2020. The ballets have been cast, people have stood in long lines to vote during a pandemic. And the results are trickling in. We may not know the outcome of the count until the weekend. And before us, a tragedy unfolds. Although Biden will likely win the presidency, the victory is narrow. Trumpism was not repudiated. Many Americans voted for a person with a repugnant character for the purpose of ‘owning the libs.’ That appears to be the platform. Thoughtless, mindless, miserably stupid and shortsighted. It’s not about conservative versus liberal. Policy differences do not play a role here, because the party of Trump presented no platform. Indeed, character plays no role here, either. The Republican Party used to be the party where character mattered. That was the past. Trumpism does not care about character, policy platforms, truth, or democracy. Right now, the US president is attempting to steal the election. Last night he announced victory and threatened to go to the supreme court to end the ballet count. No one is paying him any mind —except his blind followers. Here is where things could get dangerous. If people are oblivious enough to vote for a monster, those same people may believe him as he tops his 25,000 lies with the worst yet —that he has won. My fervent hope is that everyone will take a breath and let the votes be counted. In the years to come we will have to beat Trumpism. It won’t be this year. But right now, I think we can, and will, beat Donald Trump.
The world is chaotic. I make sense of my world by writing. An article feels therapeutic about now.
I should begin by saying: I just want to meander in words, because that’s the flavor of my life at long last. Each morning we stroll around a perfectly beautiful lake just a five minute drive from the house. Every season offers a visual feast here, and this little part of the world feels surrounded and infused with spirits. For example, there is the Angel Rock. He has a face, and wings. I fancy him to be the spirit of the park. Sometimes you can decipher an expression on his face, as if he’s predicting the day or participating in your actions and thoughts. Is he foretelling the future? Or does it just feel comforting to acknowledge the possibility that a sentient rock exists? Can he sense life’s rhythms down through the ages —right up to the present and even into my personal sphere? Maybe not. I say hello to him regardless, because he has a face and is ancient.
I have arrived at an inner peace and fulfillment … walking daily around that lake with my partner and our two dogs feels like a meditation in maturing, measuring, seasoning, and depth. And for the record, I do believe in spirits, and sentient rocks.
What is there to say? I have a lot to say, to rail against. So bear with me. Trophy hunting has inched closer to mass acceptance. The presidential sons, for instance, enjoy killing magnificent beasts. What motivates a person to stand with elephant parts for a photo? I’ve never understood, and never will. Actually, the current administration appears to be anti-animal. During the first month of the reign of #45, the USDA blacked out the part of their website dealing with animal cruelty violations. Why? Opinions and theories abound. I wonder if it’s simply because big business holds sway under this president? Anything in the path of big business gets swept away, and animals are the first to fall? I suspect that’s the case.
In my last political essay I mentioned that the confederate flag controversy appeared nonsensical to me. Flags don’t cause people to hate, or to shoot each other. That point of view seems like a long time ago. 2015. Before the news that —wait! —who is running for president? That’s got to be a joke, I remember saying. 2016. David Bowie died in January, then a string of musical icons from my generation followed him. Many of us mourned, continually, all year as one more would die. The dawning realization that Donald Trump was actually running for president sank in. No joke. It was an unsettling year.
Right now I want to say that my defense of confederate flags expanded to include the defense of the artwork of confederate statues —but is in no way an endorsement for the shrill dweeb Richard Spencer and his alt right miscreants. That’s important. I consider them at about the same low rank as trophy hunters. I will turn down both on the dance floor and think uncharitable thoughts about them.
When an elephant or a lion hauls off and kills a trophy hunter I actually quietly applaud the animals. Undeniably uncharitable, but true. I don’t believe in the death penalty. The state should not have that much power. But I do believe that if a wild animal kills a trophy hunter —there is self defense and poetic justice at that moment.
As for Richard Spencer and his followers –they should just be cold-shouldered. They deserve no more. Narcissists hate being ignored. Any attention, good or bad, just feeds a person like Spencer. I think the left has that one all wrong, trying to pick fights with losers.
For the rest of the chaos? The left and the right are currently yelling about who has more powerful sexual predatory men. Which party has more gropers? The other day I read that a woman had been paid to blow the sexual harassment horn about someone from the other side. Something like this was bound to happen. In an atmosphere of partisan finger pointing and misinformation, can the real issue of violence, power, and sexual assault ever come to truth and light? Who is real and who is not? The “Me, too!” movement, while righteous, has become one more tool of the bickering parties. Unwanted sexual advances are wrong, and sexual assault will shrivel even the most stalwart of souls. Most of us have had an experience of sexual assault. I have. But I’m not sure that in an age where an unstable president is telling people that Fox is the only real news —this does not feel like a safe environment to honestly deal with a national disgrace. Though I support the justice of sending powerful men home to think about their bad behavior, I also see the potential for more smoke and haze —more noise— here.
The noise itself is suspicious. What lurks under the flotsam and jetsam of the news? What are we meant to miss? I suspect that there are elements of truth all around, but hidden. The time to be discerning is upon us. What’s hidden beneath the noise, and around it?
What we buy and how we buy it —good deals— consumerism— defines the lives of many people today. The result is hollow and vapid. News is big business, another consumer product. Private details gleaned from our browsing activity –sold to bidders. Big business rules the day, not representative democracy, not clear headed thinking, not science. We have been misled. Indeed, we are lied to –by the left and the right.
This is the point where I despair, and find sustenance in lakeside spirit rocks, the close loving relationship with my partner, and my dogs. People are disappointing right now. It’s not just Trump, or congress, or Trump supporters, or the anti-science, alt-right, or born again Christian types —who are all plenty disappointing. The pendulum inevitably swings and all this will change. My disappointment is in the lack of good manners in the face of disagreement. The use of the word “evil” to describe points of view. The absence of civil intelligent discourse. And the breakdown of social skills in this day of the smart phone. Young people are not learning to dance, or play together in the mud, or love animals, or think logically. Everyone’s opinion is fact, and nobody is listening. Idiocy rules the day. There is no respect —not for animals, not for people, not for other opinions, not for experience.
One solution is a hands-on, small -is-beautiful approach to social and political change. Today I called the chairman of the FCC to voice my support of net neutrality. I care about animals, so my partner and I raise two rescue dogs. I marched on Washington against dog fighting a few years ago. Marching on Washington is a transcendent experience, by the way, and will place you right in the living experience of free speech. Every American should participate in a demonstration. What do we love, believe in, or stand for?
For over a half a century I have lived with passion, appreciating the beauty of the seasons, this earthly physical life. I believe in the power of learning, of reading books, and in the importance of simply showing up for my own life. Every day. Even for shitty days. Life is, above all, worth living. I admire people who raise children to have open minds. Kind people, who live their passion and joy without hurting other sentient beings –they rank high. I admire compassion even though, when it comes to trophy hunters and dog fighters, I fall short. Artists and writers, the antennae of society, push the undercurrents to the fore so we can look at ourselves, and I love them for it. I aspire to live creatively and with daring, and to be graceful, like people I admire.
A bright red sky bit through the morning cold at dawn. I smiled when I got a picture of it. Beauty in everyday life, in a photo of dawn, in an adept turn of phrase in a well worn library book, the sensual joy in taking a good run, playing an instrument, or walking at the lakeside with dogs–these things are important as well.
Heartlessness, cruelty, the vapid noise of liars, and leadership devoid of common sense can not hold sway forever. Despair can not win. The sentient rock told me so.
Douce Dame Jolie was composed in the C14th by Guillaume de Machaut who lived between 1300 and 1377 around the area of Rheims in France. It follows the conventions of the ‘Ars Nova’ style which flourished in France and the Low Countries during the C14th and the structure of a ‘virelai’, a verse of three stanzas with a repeated refrain before the first and after each subsequent stanza.
Machaut was a master of this form and Douce Dame is probably the best known and most performed of his virelai pieces. Many contemporary performers continue to sing versions of the song with different tempi and voice styles but it remains consistently haunting and intoxicating to the ear.
The virelai was one of the three ‘Formes Fixes’, along with the ballade and rondeau which were popular in the C13th – C15th and together with motets and lais formed the basis of secular musical…
Most of us hold in our mind’s eye the kind of person we want to be. Then we spend time trying to live up to that image. Some want to be more spiritual, or more patient. Some people want to be famous, or richer, or they want to be a fighter for causes, or an ideology. Some would like to avoid confrontations, so they imagine themselves submissive –others envision themselves as leaders, decision makers.
For me, gracefulness was the goal. I grew up in a dancing family. Much of what I learned about human interaction I learned from dancing. You always give a firm grip, and put your weight into the push and pull with your partner. You look people in the eye, and you laugh and smile –enjoying the social and physical experience. Life, at its best, is music and dance, a deep rhythm in the multiverse that you share with others. In step. In an ecstasy of movement and patterns. That was my training from a young age. It stuck.
Grace translates into non-dancing situations as firm handshakes, interacting appropriately with eye contact, giving just enough weight (opinions, or points of view) to add balance, and looking for patterns, as in the celebration of earth’s seasons. It also means searching for meaningful connections in the physical and emotional planes. A dancer seeks communion, to hear rhythms of speech, not just words –and the physical interaction with other people in the pleasant cadences of language. Grace is sensual and intuitive.
Much of what I grew up to emulate, as grace, is disappearing. Balance, in terms of world views and respectfully shared opinions, is out the window. Everyone is yelling at each other and using words like “evil” and “dangerous” to describe opposing points of views. Physical connections have diminished with the internet. As has language. As much as I love my Mac, and my iPhone, they don’t convey individual speech patterns in emails or texts.The rhythm has gone, replaced by acronyms and quick bypass words. The emphasis today swings to quick fixes, instant relationships devoid of the dance of courtship, and language cooled down and filtered through electronics. Handwriting, unique as a fingerprint, is no longer taught in schools. Even the actual art of couple and figure dancing has been replaced by modern methods resembling individuals plugged into their own sockets and reacting to varying degrees of electrical charge. It can be fun to dance alone, of course, especially when combined with house cleaning, from room to room. But it’s only with others you learn grace.
The question becomes: How to embody grace in today’s world? I’m too old to develop another image for myself. And I’m stubborn –ask my friends.
As I consider this question, I recall one of my favorite dancing partners, Tom. He and I were enjoying a contra one night. Contra dancing is a line of women and a line of men, facing each other, and the dances involve intricate patterns and movement up or down the set, depending on your placement in the line. We had arrived at a large dancehall in Kentucky. Probably three hundred people were packed in that hall, and about 5 separate sets ( of two lines per set) extended longways from wall to wall. The live band played a reel. It was loud and thrilling. We had the best musicians from around the country –a full band resonating in a hall with warm bodies, and everyone dancing in time.
At some point, once we learned the pattern of the dance, a fluid, trance-like state befell us as we repeated the geometric figures up and down the room. Suddenly, at that moment, the dance grounded itself into body memory. The shift happened. The sync with other dancers, and with each other, transcended linear thinking. The musicians felt the moment too, and the music flowed effortlessly, exuberantly.
Tom and I were so caught up in the moment that we sailed, mid-dance, over to another set. The mistake was honest, as the room was packed. For a moment chaos ensued as we realized our mistake and everyone in our new set had to re-configure to accommodate another couple. But in the end, we laughed, formed to the new set, and kept laughing, and never missed a beat. It was funny. We laugh about it to this day.
So perhaps part of grace is a sense of humor. Disruptions occur every day, much more drastic than our set change that night. But even if I don’t compose myself as readily as on a dance floor, maybe I can still maintain an ability to laugh at myself.
Grace may also include looking for and appreciating new patterns –even if I have to reach a little further to find them today. In other words, I will not be afraid to change arrangements, paradigms, or motives.The body remembers new dances in time. Change is unchangeable and necessary. Nothing is constant. The dance ends, another begins. Partners may change. The reel changes to a waltz.
The good news is the seasons still change in rhythm. That pulse is my religion. And I can still count on two hands the number of people who are close to me, in whom I trust. Connections don’t need to number in the hundreds, as on a dance floor. Natural seasons and cycles, and the polytheistic rituals I observe, provide abounding sustenance –as do my close friends. I take heart in these things.
As for the recent barrage of bad manners, particularly during this presidential election year, from all sides –I don’t know what to do with that. I wish more people would learn to dance, or write, or otherwise communicate effectively. I suppose there will always be people who bang heads together, or can’t pull themselves out of electrical sockets.
Here is what I can do: I will always present with a firm handshake, be attentive to my place in the big picture, as in sets, and remember to laugh if I lose my place for a minute. I can gracefully lend the weight of my convictions with my every step , and love the dance of life. Maybe if I keep offering that love to people, I can create a new dance, one person at a time.
I’ve been interested in ‘archetypes’ for a long time as I am very drawn to myth and to aspects of Jungian psycho-analysis particularly with regard to how we analyse the personalities and character of historical figures.
Often ‘myth’ is classified as something unreal or untrue yet myths also contain the essence of experience and accumulated wisdom or truth carried down for generations and that is why they retain their power to fascinate us. Myth goes hand in hand with the concept of ancient models which are carried in our sub-conscious and applied to our analysis of characters.
‘The term “archetype” has its origins in ancient Greek. The root words are archein, which means “original or old”; and typos, which means “pattern, model or type”. The combined meaning is an “original pattern” of which all other similar persons, objects, or concepts are derived, copied, modeled, or emulated.’http://www.soulcraft.co/essays/the_12_common_archetypes.html