Tragic Nations

Soapbox LogoThe United States of America might be a classic tragedy if we saw it from a historical perspective. The American people would either be victims or villains, no middle ground this time around. Full disclosure, I have always been in the middle, always an Independent who thought both sides had valid points of view and legitimate ideas. In the forty-five years I have been registered to vote, I have missed two Presidential elections. I have voted for Democrats, Republicans and third-party candidates over the years at both a national and local level. I have voted in person and by absentee ballot. This year is the first year I believe every single vote matters. We are voting for the very soul of America; one outcome means the end of our nation as we understand it, the other the potential for something better.

There have been other great nations that have risen and fallen throughout human history; two come to mind as I watch the tragedy this past three-year debacle;

The once-great Roman Empire was brought low by the rise of Christianity, political corruption, monetary devaluation and economic problems, water and food shortages and Imperial incompetence.

The jewel of Asia from 1299 to 1922, The Ottoman Empire was a bastion of religious tolerance, economic stability, arts and architecture. The empire was dismantled by infighting, political intrigue,  conspiracy, and European trade competition, WWI’s final devastating blow.

The tragedy is that those who would lead us are wholly disinterested in history and make no connection to the similarities. I could weave a tapestry with the parallels, the threads of catastrophic human error, ineffectivenesssinglemask and ultimately ego in each. It can’t be just me that sees a trend. Unless we force a change, it will be too late. We will simply be a footnote in history.

We come now to why I have looked at other lost empires and why I think of tragedy when I think of our nation. Truthfully, I believe there is much to learn from history and there is only one word that fully encompasses the state of our nation today, tragic. We started with hopes, grand dreams and obviously many nightmarish problems that would eventually tear us apart. We started with men who wrote the future yet ignored they were building upon the backs of enslaved and disenfranchised people. Today many rise up, they march in the streets and demand justice for the terrible and the terror of not just current indignity, but all that has led to this moment in time. Are they correct in their fury? I have no answer; I am not them and do not have their lived experiences. What I know is we have collectively enabled the roots to rot, we have encouraged the worst of us to rise to the top and have failed to prune the branches to allow the freedom and opportunity to shine equally across all within our diverse nation.  We have continued to deny the truth of our beginnings and maybe hoped someone else would come along and fix our collective problem.

I often think I might be a masochist; I can frequently be found spending more time than I should talking to people across all political alignments. I say I might be a masochist because, at this moment in time, it is difficult to have civil conversations with those who feel so strongly about a subject they are willing to go to war. Yes, I said it and it wasn’t hyperbole or rhetoric; there are those on both sides of the aisle ready to go to war over ideology or, in some cases, insults to their candidate. Frankly, it is sometimes terrifying to engage in conversations, even if it is nothing more than a question of why; nevermind a discussion of differences.

As we draw closer to election day and with many states having kicked-off early voting, the stakes grow ever higher for both sides.  Thus far, record turnouts indicate a tidal wave is building, one that will potentially sweep from high to low through the Administration, Senate and even statehouses and other elected offices. The nation is tired and may perhaps be rising up in a tangible way to demand a real opportunity to right terrible wrongs and potentially avoid a tragic outcome.

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There is still a long road ahead of us, much work to be done, and no guarantees of this election’s outcome. Once before we were fooled into complacency. That complacency was the end of a long game played by the GOP; Donald Trump is the personification of everything that brought down the Roman and Ottoman Empires in one ignorant, egotistical, narcissistic, bloviating package. Mitch McConnell, the real power behind the throne, has seen his dream of a packed federal court system come to fruition under this Administration.

The Trump machine of 2016 convinced enough angry White folk in key states he was one of them. Despite his golden penthouse, his utter disdain for their poverty and their lack of education, their Christianity or their middleclass morals; he hated the same people they hated and acted like they acted, bullied the weak and made fun of those who could not or would not fight back. Over time, he continued to do the same and 38% of those same voters stuck with him, going so far as declaring themselves ready to start a civil war if he failed to win re-election. It didn’t matter what he said or did; there was always an excuse. When I say I speak to those on the other side, some are friends of decades and some are family. Oddly, they will tell me excuse anything, any act, any statement; direct quotes are “Left-Wing Lies” because their news stations are not reporting them. One of my recent favorites was from a New York Times interview, asked what his policy would be should he win:

But so I think, I think it would be, I think it would be very, very, I think we’d have a very, very solid, we would continue what we’re doing. Donald J Trump

If this doesn’t scare you, nothing will. My friends on the Right think this is the best policy; just keep doing what you have been doing; good job.

We have all the makings of a failed nation. No country is ever perfect and we surely have a long ways to go to make right what is wrong today. There is much that must be addressed with clear eyes and a willingness to come to the table prepared to listen first and then begin the real work of fixing what is broken. We all have to acknowledge there is no possible way to fix the a-frame-of-trusthistorical evils this nation was built upon, no reparations that can repair all the harm done. The only real fix is one of progress and future remediation. As a nation, we can address the evil of ‘isims’ in only one way, by making them anathema to all but the very lowest in society, those who have no place and must be rejected.

When we begin to stand up and say no to traitors flags on public buildings and at political rallies as signs of heritage and not for what they are, signs of racist intimidation, then we move our country forward. When we stand up to bullies in our courthouses, our town squares, our media and our highest offices, then we can move our nation forward. Only when we stand up and demand those we elect to our highest office serve us rather than themselves will we move our country forward rather than backward.

Now is the time, do we progress or regress? Do they win, or do we prove we are the people who will save the promise of the United States of America.

Vote because your life depends upon it.

Reality Bites

LVal_01I wasn’t ready, not for any of the realities that are settling around me in these terrible days. I suppose I believed I was invincible and would be ‘exotic’ forever. Exotic was my beloved step-mother’s word for how I looked, not beautiful, not ordinary, not ugly but ‘exotic’. I also believed my body would never betray me and my brain would someday be as valuable as my body. Of course, these things were all fairytales; I always did have a vivid imagination.

Confidence is a grand thing when you are young and can afford it. When you have bouncy houses to fall back into and plenty of friends and relatives to catch you when you stumble. Truthfully, an overabundance of confidence in the young and not quite ready for prime time is a necessary ingredient to success. When we are young, we wander through life fluffing our hair, flexing our muscles and demanding attention for achievements we have not yet truly completed. When we are young, we are thrilled with the monumental triumph of being voted ‘most likely to succeed’ and decimated by our first broken heart.

It is all a matter of perspective, isn’t it? As we age, we gain insight into what is what matters. When we were young, especially if we are women, that first grey hair devastates us; it signals the loss of something we have been Going Greytold is vital to our success; our youth. We stare at that grey traitor for long minutes before we grab our tweezer and pull it out by the root. From that moment on, every morning, we inspect for more. If you have dark hair like me, they are obvious those bright white streaming ribbons throughout your head. Today I keep my hair its original dark chocolate, but this is one of those luxuries up for reevaluation as reality digs its claws into me, striping me of vanity and confidence at once.

I wasn’t ready for what aging meant. There was what my mind and heart thought and there was the truth. These were so distinctly different; I was never able to reconcile them. There was what those who loved me said; brilliant, exotic, funny. There was what society said; pushy, fat, odd, too smart, different. There was what I thought; smart, not ugly, fat, damaged. None of these assessments ever fully aligned; mostly, we agreed I was smart, but in some cases, too smart was a condemnation. I realize now, decades later, it was rarely, maybe never, a compliment. How can anyone be too smart?

Too smart means you intimidate others, not through intent but simply through your existence in the same space as them. Too smart, if you are a woman, means you make others feel small or dumb. Too smart is never a compliment when it is offered by any person in a position of authority. For twenty-five (25) years, I have heard the backhanded compliment of ‘too smart’ and had one woman manager suggest I dumb myself down when interacting with certain peer groups. Looking back, perhaps I would have been better served following her advice.

I wasn’t ready, not for the pandemic, not for another round of long-term unemployment, not for being alone at 63 and not for growing old like this. Honestly, I thought it would all be much different. I had this fantasy in my head, fueled by my overabundance of confidence and the fairytale. I thought at this stage of life, I would be in my last career stop earning a good living, retirement settled and money in the bank. I thought I would be FairytaleCottagehappily ensconced in a relationship with someone who loved me, respected me and thought exotic equaled beautiful and brains were sexy. I thought, because of that damnable fairytale, career and personal would somehow finally have merged into something resembling a life of shared travel, backyard barbecues, friends and family mixed in with laughter, sex and shared secrets.

I simply was not ready for the reality that is pounding me with the potential of losing everything I worked for my entire life. A lifetime of hard work being of zero value on a market that wants bright, shiny and new. Being too smart, too experienced and too damn old is a bitter pill to swallow.  Reality has finally shattered the fairytale I held for decades. Mine were so closely held and so finely built, I weep as they tumble around me, knowing I cannot save even small pieces of them any longer. Now it is merely a question of how to let go knowing I have weeks, not months left before there is nothing more to keep me safe.

Reality settles around me like a miasma of bitterness, and each day I try to push it aside in the hope there will be something that rescues me. I realize this abyss is mine. I allowed this to happen to me. Perhaps I could have prevented it, but I chose differently. I chose others over myself too often. I have nothing left of a safety net. I will soon lose everything which allowed me to keep body and soul protected and some semblance of normalcy around me. There was a time I thought never giving up was important, a sign of strength. I no longer have anything left, certainly not that strength that says I can go another day being beaten down. one_eyeland_desert_woman_by_christopher_wilson_30325

I was not ready for this and do not have it in me to do this; my strength and my will to rise have been battered out of me. I wonder how many others are saying to themselves I have nothing left and nowhere to turn, I am done. I wonder how many others, like me, are saying what now and how will I survive after everything is gone. I wonder how many others ask these questions and find no answers in a world that seems to have become more heartless.

Too smart? I clearly wasn’t ready for this and my brains will not help because they reside in a body to old and I am unable to change any of my history or dumb it down from here. Now, choices are what I cut from a budget already sliced and diced to almost nothing; of course, I know what is next and am terrified.

Yet, I know I have more than others, so I am grateful for my small blessing even in the wake of my terror. I have had decades more than I was supposed to, so I have been blessed. I have known great love and seen all of my family’s next generation grow into extraordinary human-beings, so I have been blessed many times over. I cannot even in my terror and fury say that I haven’t had immeasurable blessings in friends and family over these many years. Even in counting my blessings, as I contemplate where I will be soon, I find I have a difficult time being grateful. I wonder how many of us will survive this intact.

Notorious

The Kaddish Prayer

May His great name be exalted and sanctified. In the world which He created according to His will! May He establish His kingdom during your lifetime and during your days and during the lifetimes of all the House of Israel, speedily and very soon! And say, Amen.

May His great name be blessed forever, and to all eternity!

Blessed and praised, glorified and exalted, extolled and honored, adored and lauded be the name of the Holy One, blessed be He, above and beyond all the blessings, hymns, praises and consolations that are uttered in the world! And say, Amen.

May the prayers and supplications of all Israel be accepted by their Father who is in Heaven; And say, Amen.

May there be abundant peace from heaven, and life upon us and upon all Israel; And say, Amen.
May He who makes peace in His high places grant peace upon us and upon all Israel; And say, Amen.

Justice Bader Ginsberg: March 15, 1933 – September 18, 2020

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Ruth Bader Ginsberg spent her life giving, as a fighter for our rights, as a mother and wife, as a Judge and finally as a Justice on the Supreme Court. She was our shining light, our hero and an asset to our nation. With her passing, we are left with nothing but gratitude. May her memory be a blessing.

We lost a titan, an American Treasure. When the news of Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s passing rolled across my screen on that Friday night, my first thought was, please let this be not true. Then, as it became clear she had finally found her rest, I contemplated the tragedy for her family, the courts and us, the nation she so loved. I considered what it would mean in the coming days and wondered how long after she was laid to rest it would take before the battle for her coveted seat would commence.

I scrolled social media and news for reactions, allowing this loss to sink in. I was heartened and dismayed in equal measure. I was stunned, though I should not have been, when without twenty-four passing, without letting her body cool or her family and friends to process her loss, Mitch McConnell announced to the nation he would fill her seat on the highest court before the next election cycle. To say I and many others were dumbfounded would be an understatement, to find more proof of how far we have fallen saddened and angered me. I was engulfed by fury, just as so many others were at this proof we were not only living with bipartisanship but something on the verge of far worse.

So now we come to the battle for her seat, the battle for the heart and soul of our nation’s future. The President decided to throw all decorum aside and have a party in the Rose Garden. He invited close ‘friends’ and associates and family to attend his introduction of Judge Amy Coney Barrett as his pick to replace Justice Ginsberg. As is the norm at gatherings hosted rose-garden1-gty-ml-201002_1601659831186_hpMain_2_16x9_992by this President, masks were optional and social distancing was not observed. While it may not be factual, the Rose Garden event is suspected of being the epicenter of an ever-broadening circle of COVID-19 infections beginning with the President, though currently, the blame is being placed elsewhere. The one clear thing, ignoring even basic safety protocols, has caused a tsunami of infection throughout the upper echelon of the GOP and those closest to the President.

What else do we know?

We know there are several attendees to the Rose Garden party who have tested positive. We know several people within the Presidents inner circle who were not in attendance have also tested positive. We also know, this man has a complete lack of empathy and an utter lack of concern for any other person but himself and thus continues to put other people at risk. Finally, we know the President continued to move around the country, without precautions and without telling others who may come into contact with him for anywhere from 24 to 72 hours after his first positive test result. Donald J. Trump is a regular Typhoid Mary of the twenty-first century; what should we call him? COVID Potus has a nice ring, but maybe too pompous. Well, something to think about when we have more time to consider the total body count to lay at his feet.

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In the meantime, we have just under thirty (30) days before the election. The current President is pumped up on steroids and telling us to not fear the reaper. Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham are driving hard to approve Amy Coney Barrett through the Senate Judicial Committee and onto a full Senate floor vote before November 3. The problem with this? Two members of the Judicial Committee are down with Coronavirus thanks to COVID POTUS and his Garden Party, Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina). Added to this, Mitch McConnell has delayed the full Senate’s return until October 19, although vowing to move ahead with Judge Barrett’s confirmation hearings despite having three senators out with Coronavirus.

For Mitch, there is nothing more vital than stacking the court, nothing.  On this subject, Mitch McConnell and the President are 100% aligned. Stacking the court may mean their future if the vote isn’t a landslide to remove them on November 3, they will use SCOTUS to declare themselves winners. Neither of them can afford anything less than a stacked court.  This nation’s future depends on a landslide to remove them both from power and save us from future disaster.

In the coming days, so close to the election of a lifetime, there will be many battles to fight. We will see masks come off and we will see the true nature of those who would be kings and kingmakers. Our friends may become angrier, and our neighborhoods more dangerous as we navigate this terrible time in our history. Now is the time where every vote counts. We have to remember no matter the obstacles placed before us, we must not rely on any other person but ourselves to cast the vote that matters. We might lose battles between now and November 3, including the battle for the open SCOTUS seat. We should not be silent; we should not be discouraged.

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Go Vote. Vote early, if possible. Vote in person, if possible. Do whatever you have to do, but Vote as if your life and the lives of your family and friends depend on it.

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