H2O ManH2O Man's Journal
-- Joseph Bruchac
The old man
must have stopped our car
two dozen times to climb out
and gather into his hands
the small toads blinded
by our lights and leaping,
live drops of rain.
The rain was falling
a midst about his white hair
and I kept saying
you can't save them all,
accept it, get back in
we've got places to go.
But, leathery hands full
of wet brown life,
knee-deep in the summer
he just smiledand said,
They have places to go,
(My son was mowing the lawn -- though it really doesn't need it -- when I heard his voice calling me from my work in the garden. There was a toad on the grass. He, too, believes in saving every single one possible, rain o0r shine. Hence, that toad is now exploring my garden, totally unaware that a virus named Donald Trump is threatening the earth. It's back to the garden for me, hoping to see more toads a'hopping about. And, hopefully, I will have a bit more to say on this OP/thread this afternoon or evening. Or night, for that matter, as I've had difficulty sleeping lately. Until then, have a good day .....and keep in mind that every day of life on this living Earth is indeed a miracle! -- Pat)
"Men who fear to make the sacrifice of love will have to fight." --Toyohiko Kagawa
I was pleased to see, before I answered the telephone, the "caller ID." It was my oldest friend, a man I've known since we were three years old, who was my neighbor growing up. As soon as I answered, he put us on "speaker" so that his long-time girl friend -- who was one of our classmates in school -- could participate in the conversation. They were both outraged by the actions of the federal troops in Portland.
Both view this -- and Trump's threat to expand the military occupation of American cities -- in the starkest of terms. As a former Marine, he knows that the military is not supposed to be used against US citizens exercising their Amendment 1 rights. She viewed it as an invitation for militia groups to start kidnapping citizens, similar to the plans of the Committee to Re-elect the President (CREEP) when Nixon was running for re-election in 1972.
"There's a fuck-load of guys like me who won't stand for this," he said. "We didn't serve our country to have a jackass like Trump abuse the military to become a fucking dictator." She, having a much more gentle nature, said that our generation needed to be on the front lines, peacefully accepting the consequences. "I mean, we are old ....what are they going to do? Kill all of us? There are a lot of us willing to sacrifice what few years we have left to protect our country."
Her words reminded me of something I had read long ago, the above quote by Kagawa. It was in the beginning of Thomas Merton's book "Gandhi on Non-Violence," published more than 50 years ago. At the time that I first read it, I was not familiar with the Japanese pacifist and labour activist. In the years since learning of his works, he has been one of the people who has influenced my thinking on non-violence.
Usually, however, when the social dynamics are spinning out of control, I am more likely to turn to the teachings of Gandhi and King. I fully recognize that in the context of the essence of being, I am at most a tiny acorn compared to their giant oak trees. I benefit from reading the books by and about them -- sometimes more than others.
When NYS was dealing with hydrofracking a decade or so ago, a republican state senator refused to even speak to the environmental community. One evening, before I was to speak to a church group, I noticed several frames of newspaper articles on the wall, documenting when as a young minister, Dr. King had spoken there. This led me to begin a huntger strike to pressure that senator to meet with us. It wasn't pleasant, but it worked. (Within a year, the senator was convicted on felony counts, along with his son.)
Yet today, rather than being older and wiser, I find myself being older and much more tired. Two days ago, I had another series of medical tests, with the results coming back yesterday. And now I've got a new prescription, that hopefully works. Watching the news, I am troubled by the goon squads in Portland, and apparently headed to Chicago. I turn the television off, and open my favorite book of King's speeches and writings.
I know that King advocated loving your enemies. I appreciate his explanation of this by way of using three of the six Greek words for "love" -- Eros, or passionate love, Philia, or deep friendship, and Agape, or love of humankind. King was advocating agape, of course, in his instruction to love your enemies. He wasn't advocating friendship or romance with the Bull Connors of society.
I try -- at least most of the time -- to be honest with myself. And right now, I do not feel any sense of love for the federal troops who are violating the rights of citizens as defined by the Constitution -- or for Trump and his administration. I can honestly say that I do not hate them. I feel nothing, which may or may not be worse. It's more like if I see a rabid dog, I neither love nor hate it. Instead, I focus on the danger it poses.
"This world and yonder world are incessantly giving birth: every cause is a mother, its effect the child.
"When the effect is born, it too becomes a cause and gives birth to wonderous effects.
"These causes are generation on generation, but it needs a very well lighted eye to see the links in their chain."
-- Jalal-as-din Rumi; Persian Sufi poet; 1207 - 1273 ad.
My daughter called me from Boston today. We haven't seen each other since the corona crisis started, though we communicate by internet or telephone frequently. She will be coming to stay with me for a week at the beginning of August.
She had just got through putting in a few hours at the law office where she is employed. Today was particularly stressful for her. She had been writing a legal brief for one of the immigration cases she works on. "This is hard enough," she said, "without having the Trump administration trying to make it impossible." It has been particularly hard for immigrants since the shut-sown began.
For a little over two hours, I mainly listened as she talked about a wide variety of social and economic crises that good people are attempting to at least deal with, if not resolve. After visiting here, she will begin working for the president of the Boston City Council, doing outreach to the poor and marginalized people in Boston. I've been telling her that is an important job, with some rewards .....but that it will often be stressful and frustrating, and has a high rate of burn-out.
We talked a little more about two of her friends going through break-ups of long-term relationships. One is a friend from early childhood. My daughter was giving her some feedback, and said, "This is all things Dad has said to me. Maybe you'd want to talk to him." Her friend had her ask if it was okay to call me, which obviously is. I find it nice that various friends of both of my daughters, some of whom had no father figure, like to talk with me about issues that life throws in their paths.
My daughter also asked about one of my uncles, one of two of my late father's thirteen siblings that is still alive. He has been one of the people I've been closest to throughout my life. When my father died, he stepped in as my daughters' grandfather. And, like my father, he opted to avoid medical attention when he knew he was seriously ill, and is now dying of the same cancer that took my father.
After getting off the phone, I looked at a picture of my grandfather's family when they came to the US in 1879. I look like my great grandfather, my uncle like his father, and other living relatives look like my great grandmother or other of my grandfather's siblings. They had their turns, I always told my children, and lived life to the fullest extent possible. Make the most of your turn on this living planet Eart that we call home.
Then I take my son's puppy, a female Treeing Walker Raccoon Hound, out for a walk. I feed the mother cat and her kittens (best friends with the dog), then the chickens and Guinea hens, and then go to the pond to feed the birds and fish. The puppy still gets anxious when the enormous koi come over to eat. She jumps straight up in the air and runs a few feet away. After that, we walkback towards the house, and stop to look at a huge, very old white pine that had fallen while I was on the phone with my daughter. My younger son is eager to chop it up with his ax for firewood for the sweat lodge.
In the house, I noticed a film of Trump's interview with Chris Wallace was on the television. I think of Rumi's poem, and then about Newton's third law that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. There are more than a few clues and hints that this includes in human behavior; for example, President Obama's being followed by the foul Donald Trump.
I hear Trump's voice from the next room: "We won two beautiful world wars." I could fucking puke. There was nothing beautiful in either war. Both had profound effects on the generations of Americans who lived through each war. Vietnam was central to my generation. A younger generation experienced Afghanistan and Iraq, and soon it will be the following generation of kids in the military's.
I think about my daughters and their friends. They've been through 9/11, the yellow cake lies, are fully aware of the threat of climate change, and now Trump, corona virus, and other horrors. They know that there are not "very good people on both sides." They are effect of the good people who have been fighting the Good Fight for generations. Their effect is their response to the Trump-related threats, including groups like Black Lives Matter as well as individuals in every town and city in the country.
"It's important to come to know that this is all there is. There isn't something to attain, there is only something to be." -- Sharon Wegscheider-Cruse
In 1981, Sharon Wegscheider publisher her model for the roles that children play in a dysfunctional family. Her primary focus was the children of alcoholics. The model also could be applied to families where dysfunction was caused by a variety of other issues, from poverty to mental illness to a death in the family.
In the past, I've posted here about how the 1985 movie "The Breakfast Club" used this model to create the roles of the high school students in detention. In the early 1990s, it was expanded upon to include the family systems of religious fundamentalists, rigid political-social dogmat parents, and Narcissistic Personality Disordered parents. And now, in 2020, Mary Trump's book about her uncle has been published.
Mary's father was the second of Fred and Mary Trump's five children. In a rigidly patriarchal family system, he was the oldest of three sons, followed by Donald eight years later. Her father's middle name -- "Christ" -- appears to provide a clue to his father's expectations. For the sake of this discussion, I will focus only upon the roles that Fred Jr. and Donald played. While I have yet to get my copy of Mary Trump's book, watching her being interviewed on ABC and MSNBC illustrated the shifting roles.
Fred Jr. was obviously his father's choice for "family hero." As such, he was pressured to live up to his father's sick goals, which were to serve as a golden projection of the old man's ideals and values. As such, he apparently was witness to his father's emotional abuse of his mother and siblings. Because pain is pain, and suffering is suffering, and Fred Jr. was unable to "save" his other family members, his childhood was perhaps as damaging as any of the siblings.
Eventually he rejected his father's roadmap for his life and being, and attempted to live his own life. This attempt to change his position within the family system resulted in his being cut off. This and the other trauma associated with his life made Fred Jr. at high risk for substance abuse, in this case alcohol. As sad as his early death was, in a curious way, he may have been the least damaged of his siblings.
When Fred Jr. was cut off from the family, Donald quickly assumed the role that he believed would win him his father's love and approval. In a sense, it did win him the approval, although the old man was incapable of love. Despite Donald's ability to be successful in the family business, the father rewarded his utter lack of human emotions by bailing Donald out at literally every failure. So long as Donald was a ruthless, cheating bastard, his father approved of him. He was the "family hero" for his generation.
Most adult family heroes carry, at some level, an emotional ball & chain in that they will doubt their self-value, including in the context of what should be viewed as a success. In order to be aware of this, of course, the hero must be capable of consciously recognizing emotions. In Donald's case, as Mary Trump points out, his conscious emotional range is so restricted, that he is unaware of how this gurgles to the surface with his every attack upon his enemies, real and imagined.
For years on this forum, I have described Donald Trump as a sociopath -- a monster created by a combination of genetics and environment. I've posted a couple of interviews with the author/editor of "The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump," the book of essays by the top mental health professionals in the country. So I was especially pleased to hear Mary Trump talk about those experts warning the citizens of this country about who Donald actually is.
I'm curious if others here have bought and read Mary's book?
"Don't strike at the puppet, strike at the puppeteer." -- Malcolm X
I remember back in the Reagan era, when his Secretary of Interior James Watt, while testifying before Congress, explained his anti-environment positions by saying, " I do not know how many future generations we can count on before the Lord returns ..." For those too young to remember, Watt was a toxic twit who advocated mining public lands. One afternoon, while talking politics with my father, I expressed how much I hated James Watt.
My father, an FDR/JFK Democrat, started laughing. He said that Watt was indeed a horrible person. But, he said in the tone that I recognized as his way of delivering an important message, always remember that Watt and his ilk are lightening rods. When Watts makes an offensive public statement, it is to distract attention from something that Reagan or Bush are doing that they don't want the media or public to focus on.
I learned another important lesson from the days of James Watt. One of my favorite journalists, Bill Moyers, incorrectly quoted Watt as saying, "After the last tree is felled, Christ will come back." Moyers had taken the quote from an article in some magazine from the time, but it wasn't true. Moyers apologized. This taught me that even someone I respected as much as Bill Moyers was capable of making an error.
I made an error last week, in an OP about Trump's claim he aced a cognitive test. Our friend Ms. Toad corrected me. Thus, due to my tendency to question the possibility of making a mistake -- much less a foolish one -- I re-contacted the two individuals I had spoken to for the information I posted. Both laughed at me, and said the same thing: I had only asked about Trump's most recent unscheduled "physical" at Walter Reed. So I wasn't really wrong, I pleaded? Yes, you were, in that you only focused on one incident, and ignored everything else. Tunnel vision is, by definition, an error in perception.
At other recent times, I've learned important things from other forum members. Let me give an example. Recently, I posted an essay asking forum members how they were attempting to increase the number of people who would vote for Joe Biden in November. Over the decades, my interest has been in getting young adults to recognize that, as a group, they can influence the outcome of any and every election.
This includes working with young people who are "leftists." I can identify with those who are rebels and reject the older generations' previous works and current values. I have no problem, for example, with young people who think that past generations have betrayed them by handing down a severely damaged environment. But how to get these young activists to recognize that it is important to vote for Joe Biden?
Our friend PETRUS made an important suggestion. Angela Davis is a legendary "leftist." In recent years, when I've spoken at colleges, I've been encouraged by the renewed interest in and respect for her. And, as PETRUS noted, she has said that we have to evaluate elections in their proper context, and that means we should vote for Joe Biden. PETRUS recommended that I communicate that.
Last week, a young man that I met at St. Lawrence college posted yet another rant on facebook about Biden being unacceptable to true "leftists." When this fellow's parents rejected him for his beliefs and lifestyle, I had welcomed him into my home. Though I haven't seen him in a few years, we remain in contact. So I responded to his FB post by talking about Angela Davis.
His first response was, "I like Angela Davis, but ...." We had a little back-and-forth. Meanwhile, the number of his friends that "liked" my comments was increasing. Eventually, he focused upon the failures of my generation, and noted his generation would not compromise. They were going to build a new society. That echo from the past brought a grin to mywrinkled, ugly mug.
I said to build a new society required starting by building a solid, strong foundation to build off of. My generation did important work in the 1960s and '70s to build the foundation, but too many of us were focused upon the rooms and roof. The foundation, I said, is at the grass roots level, the rooms are the state level and Congress, and the roof is the presidency. If you try to build rooms and a roof on a weak foundation, those walls will crack, and the roof will leak. I suggested that his generation complete the foundation we started, then start laying cinder blocks.
By this time, he agreed, and I thought, "Hey, this works! I've gotta thank PETRUS!" I was especially encouraged by the number of his friends who "liked" my comments.
Today, I saw that he has a new rant, about "old people" who try to use Angela Davis to convince "leftists" to vote for Joe Biden. But he isn't getting any support so far. I went back to the other post, and noticed something I find interesting. All of his friends who "liked" my comments were females. Not a single male. That got me remembering that, at colleges, it was primarily young women interested in Angela Davis. Indeed, my collection of books by and about her are now in my older daughter's library.
While I think the young man is wrong, I hope that the election results are not cause for him to recognize his error. If Trump some how "wins," we'll have more James Watt-types destroying the environment. And the Constitution, that provides protections for young people who rebel against society.
Donald Trump has recently bragged that he did surprisingly well on a cognitive test during his unscheduled November 2019 trip to Walter Reed Military Medical Center. As others have pointed out, if this were true, it would be a curious thing to boast about -- "medical professionals were shocked that I could pass a test!" But, of course, Trump never purposely tells the truth.
In researching this over the last 48 hours, I think that I have learned what actually happened on that November day. What is it that Trump has recently twisted and distorted into a really great cognitive test, the with the biggest score ever? Is there actually some connection between Trump's embarrassing fabrication and reality? Perhaps the tiniest of grains of truth?
Trump was upset when he entered Walter Reed, and became more agitated while inside. In such instances, doctors do what is known as a mini-mental status exam. (Some readers are no doubt thinking, "Yes, of course. A Folstein MMSE." This test measures if the person is oriented, able to pay attention, and involves mental and motor skills. The results help the doctors to determine if there may be a phyical or mental issue involved. In a sense, could be called a cognitive test to make the person more at ease if they are agitated.
An MMSE is conducted in a quiet, well-lit room. The doctor asks a series of questions, with three primary focuses: person (what is your name?), time (what is today's date?), and place (where are we?). The full test includes two pages of questions, although in the crisis evaluations with a psychiatrist that I used to sit in on, it was usually an abbreviated version.
When Trump was able to answer the questions he was asked, the doctor did say, "Remarkable! You aced it!" Thus, Trump's hostility melted away, and he was convinced he had done extraordinarily well. In the diseased regions of his mind, this MMSE has morphed into an extensive cognitive test that documented that he is a very stable genius.
If I were to try to place this in context -- and this is merely my opinion -- it fits snuggly into my previously saying on this forum that a sociopath under pressure can experience episodes of psychosis. Trump's more extreme episodes of aggitated hostility and victimhood are something that I asked Dr. Bandy Lee about in my February 2020 interview for DU. The old boy is deteriorating before our very eyes.
Today's United States Supreme Court decisions may not seem perfect, but they are very good. The best measure of exactly how very good these rulings are can be found in Trump's brat-attack response:
The members of the brain-dead cult will , of course, view this in the context their profit Donald the Trump defines it. It's political, don't you know! But deep within the organic decay of Trump's brain, he recognizes that the two Justices he has appointed are not total lap dogs.
Trump's constant mental state is paranoia, which always leads to his claiming victimhood in his whiney outbursts. He fears what is coming, and will be unable to keep it from seeping into the general election contest. Democratic Party commercials. Lincoln Project commercials. Joe Biden in debates. Nightmares that are as haunting as any of LBJ's.
It with gurgle to the surface in Trump's stream of consciousness rambling when he speaks with reporters, the covidiots at his rallies, and his tweets. This is a good thing. Not perfect, but legally sound, and that is Trump's deepest fear.
The 4th of July means different things to different people. Here is rural upstate New York, for many it means putting up the flag, cooking out, and getting drunk by mid-afternoon. Thus, by early evening, I could hear my closest neighbors in a heated argument while sitting on their deck, with an American and a Trump flag flying. Nothing says "Patriotism!" more than that.
My 90-year old aunt says our area has the same inbred, brain dead culture as the Deep South. My 92- year old uncle reminds our extended family's younger generation that he and his friends joined the military to fight World War 2 in a battle against the same forces that now infect our country. Fight it now, especially by voting in November, he says, before it becomes even more entrenched.
As I watched my son cooking our meal on the fire pit next to our garden, I kept thinking about my uncle's message. My focus was primarily on what I can do between now and election day. Being of simple mind, I always start with Politics 101 for elections: there are three groups -- those who always support you, those who always oppose you, and the undecided. Usually, you work to firm up the first group, ignore the second, and appeal to the third.
But things are anything and everything but normal.
If a family member is out of control due to substance abuse, the family does an intervention. If a person is posing a threat to themselves or others due to mantal illness, there is a community intervention. The Trump cult poses such an out-of-control threat today that we need a national intervention in November.
This includes in every single contest in November, from local to state to national. We need to maintain -- and hopefully expand -- control of the House of Representatives. We are in a position where we can take control of the Senate. And, most importantly, we can crush Donald Trump in humiliating fashion. While I cannot speak for him, I am confident that is exactly what my uncle is talking about.
How do we invest our energies this summer? In my opinion, it is essential that we get as many people as possible to take the steps necessary to use mail-in ballots. It is obvious that this is the dynamic that the Trump cult fears the most.
The other thing I'm focused on is getting those people who have been protesting in the streets of American cities and towns to be registered and prepared to vote for Joe Biden. Many, perhaps most, are already inclined to do so. But I encounter a significant number of young adults who are to the left of the Democratic Party.
Even in my own extended family, I recently had a young adult say, "Oh, that's right. You used to consider yourself a leftist." I fought the temptation to say, "Kid, you have no idea. In your wildest dreams, you couldn't be associated with the people and things that I was at your age." I kept in mind that it is the duty of younger generations to question their elders, even when they are being obnoxious with their ignorance.
Instead, I focus on the threat the Trump cult poses to the Constitution. When young people talk about the sins of the Founding Fathers, I make it clear that I recognize they were imperfect men, with an imperfect understanding of a just society. Yet that Constitution is what has allowed us to progress -- slowly over the generations -- towards a more perfect society. Yes, we are confronted with very serious internal threats today. There is gross inequity. But the Constitution provides the roadmap towards justice. And a vote for anyone but Joe Biden -- or a failure to vote -- is a betrayal of the Constitution.
I'm curious what others think are the most important things we need to focus on this summer? Thank you.
"It's getting better all the time." -- Paul McCartney
"Can't get much worse." -- John Lennon
Isn't this such a strange and dangerous time? Strange for all of us, and more dangerous for some than others. I know what many people of my generation think about 2020, but I wonder about the impact it has on the life-experiences of younger generations. I can say that the actions and responses of many young adults has me hopeful.
At the same time, there are things that catch me by surprise. Nothing Trump does, for I know he is a diseased bag of hot air that blows no good. In psychological terms, he is a sociopath. In theological terms, he is "evil" in the literal sense that he creates mental stumbling blocks that prevent him from being a conscious human being. He inhabits the lowest pool.
I have a friend -- a casual friend -- that I've known since The Beatles released the album with the song quoted above. He is a red neck. I get along good with a lot of the red necks from my childhood, though I do not have close friendships with them. This friend has always lived on farms, and I remember he always missed school on the first day of deer-hunting season.
He believes that the members of Congress from both parties want to take his guns. So he is a Trump supporter. Yet, yesterday he shared a facebook post from my wall, honoring black soldiers. The post has a 1913 photograph of the 10th regiment of the US Cavalry camping in our home town ( the 10th was all black). That got me thinking: in the 50+ years I've known him, I've never heard him say anything racist. Of course, that doesn't mean that he is free from some of the baggage that my generation still has.
I've asked him if he thinks he could have been friends with Trump if we attended the same school? Hung out afternoons, and visit each other's homes on weekends? He knows better. He likes Trump, because he hates Washington, sees that Trump does, and that DC hates Trump. Even the republicans in the House and Senate hate him -- they just fear him.
On the other hand, another friend -- a very close friend of over 30 years -- has always been aggressively anti-racist. I've seen it many, many times. But he has a paranoid fear of Black Lives Matter. His fear is rooted in reports that one of the founders said she is trained in Marxism.
For half of the time that I've known him, he has been a liberal Democrat. But as he has aged, he's become more conservative. Thus, his primary source of information is Fox News. And lately, most of what he posts on FB is a direct result of the Tucker Carlson show an hour earlier.
His liberal daughter and progressive son-in-law try to discourage this. My son says that they are the internet version of "All in the Family." Our old co-workers find his rants troubling, and ask if we need to do an intervention. When he stopped in here a week ago, my son conducted that intervention, focusing on the difference between monuments and memorials. My friend isn't in favor of monuments to the Confederacy, but is worried about "Marxists." (Lions and tigers and bears! Oh my!)
Thus, when he posted a meme about the BLM leaders being "trained Marxists," I felt it would be tedious to explain they are schooled in the arts of community organizing and confrontational tactics advocated by Saul Alinsky. I'm old enough to remember the divide between Alinsky and the "New Left." And we all remember when the republicans attacked candidate Obama for using Alinsky's community organizing strategies -- but not confrontation tactics -- as a young man in Chicago.
Instead, I posted a "heart," as did his daughter a few minutes later. This led to a rant about Marxists. So I wrote, "Ah, now you are attacking Groucho!" He hasn't spoke to me since.
Strange days, indeed!
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