Two & One-Half

THE TWELVE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS DONALD TRUMP HAS TAUGHT ME (Thing No. 2):

The beauty of the symbols of our democracy, freedom, and rule of law.

I came of age just in time to face the draft for Vietnam. I voted for Lyndon Johnson in my first presidential election in 1964. I was an enthusiastic supporter and was proud of his commitment to the Kennedy legacy in civil rights. I was even more in his camp after he signed the voting rights legislation the next year. By 1968, I had soured on LBJ because of the war in Vietnam. That was the year I was drafted. (Disclosure: Not a war hero. My service was stateside.) Until 2020, I looked upon 1968 as America’s worst year during my lifetime.

It was hard to be in love with America during those times. If you didn’t like the idea of torching villages in a country that had the audacity to opt for social and economic policies different from America’s you were told that you could “love it or leave it.” Super-patriots were waving the flag as if they owned it and they dared anyone else to defile it even as they defiled it themselves. Americans who viewed their citizenship as something other than slavish devotion to the policies of Johnson and Nixon administrations were made to feel like outsiders, even in the country of their birth.

Richard Nixon pushed me farther away from old-style patriotism with his efforts to undermine rule of law and set the presidency up as the dominating branch of government. It wasn’t easy to be proud of the symbols of our nationhood during that era. We came to associate patriotism with the pig-like grunts of “USA, USA, USA” that we heard at the Olympic Games. America wasn’t showing its best face to the world.

Donald Trump, oddly, has restored in me that spark of pride in being an American that lived in my heart and mind before Vietnam and before Nixon. I grew up with all the same mythology around the founding that the super-patriots learned as children. After shedding the emotional appeal of the symbols of nationhood during the sixties and seventies, it gladdens me somewhat to have it restored, although I would have preferred another way of coming home.

Trump’s rule has led me to a warm embrace of our tradition of openness to immigration and the welcoming hand we have traditionally extended to folks from troubled countries around the world. It took Trump’s putting children in cages at the border to help me appreciate the importance of America’s role in the world as one people who could extend the hand of freedom to those suffering the oppression and poverty of dictators. And it took Trump’s literally embracing the flag onstage to make me want to take the beautiful symbol of our union into my own care to save it from his lecherous fondling.

To celebrate my return to patriot status, I have purchased an American flag and installed a bracket on a front porch column to let the neighbor’s know that the folks who had the Biden-Harris signs in their yard are as entitled to fly the flag as are the neighbors who still fly a Trump 2020 flag. And just so they will make the association, we are saving it until Inauguration Day to raise it for the first time on the property.

Who knows? At noon I may take it in hand and march around the neighborhood and sing “Hail to the Chief.” I’m still trying to decide.

279 Days in Lockdown: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

First: the bad. We won the election and he won’t give up. Who cares?

And then the ugly. Lake Jackson continues to clean out garages. What else is there to do during a pandemic? It’s nice to see it all piled on the curb waiting for the trash truck. And it usually stays a couple of weeks because few people bother to go to the city web site to check heavy trash pick-up days.

And then there is the Wal-Mart Christmas yard decor. Inflatable characters that usually get disconnected and die on the lawn during the day. But these ghastly guys stayed inflated to inspire the Christmas spirit in the neighborhood. The yellow one must be the Grinch. Snoopy, of course, is recognizable by his dog house. But the one on the right? Is there some connection between Christmas and Dia de los Muertos that I haven’t heard about? Whatever the explanation, it is adds a touch of homeliness to the neighborhood.

But then there are some good things to note on day 279.

There are still geese who make their home at Shy Pond. They still maraud the neighborhood and sometimes attack the children who expect them to be grateful for their offering of stale, freezer-burned bread crusts. But they are natural, handsome and real — and they are not known to be coronavirus vectors.

And there are azaleas blooming in December. Something we don’t often enjoy, even in Texas.

And there is Christmas cactus. Always beautiful to behold. This one is bursting with blossoms and holds the promise of even more.

So there are some things to celebrate this year. Merry Christmas Lake Jackson.

Comparing the 60s with Today: In The Facts

At the request of the editor, I pared this down to the number of words they could publish. I did all my own editing, so don’t blame The Facts for the barbs that are missing. I just felt that they didn’t add anything to what I was trying to communicate. So no more “laughably and contemptibly” inept DJT. Inept says it will enough.

The Facts has a brutal paywall Trump could be proud of. I don’t hold it against them. They are in one of the country’s toughest businesses right now and they have never been more important. So, here is a copy of my Word file. And if you don’t subscribe to The Facts, please do. They make it easy: Go This Way with your credit card. You will be glad you did.

My contribution to the Wednesday, November 25, edition:

I started out to compare today’s protests and politics with those of earlier decades. After attempting a list of particulars, I began to think more of the general trends. Leadership and media seemed to offer the two most prominent differences. With the passing of power back and forth between the parties over the decades, these trends have resulted in the spiraling descent of the Republican party, and our country under its leadership, to where we are today. 

Social media and cable news have changed the quality of reporting and allowed competing versions of political “reality” to develop for self-selecting audiences. We repeat our own version to other like-minded people through social media – the echo chamber effect. People in the 60s and 70s tuned in Walter Cronkite and whatever he said carried the weight of truth. If Cronkite caught a politician lying or taking personal benefit from public office, there were fraught political consequences. 

Legitimate journalists today have been assailed by some politicians and even referred to as enemies of the people by the sitting president. These attacks and his universe of “alternate facts” are repeated and amplified in the social media echo chamber. These systems of competing truths did not exist in the 60s.

Devotion to democracy and the expansion of the electorate was then – in spirit at least – universally blessed. These values have been challenged in the current alternate reality as niceties designed to relegate a once dominant class of citizens (older white males like me) to minority status. 

The movement of women and minorities into roles of power is judged in that alternate reality as the gift of affirmative action rather than the deserved result of their own hard work, intelligence and abilities. It’s hard on the ego to see the world becoming fairer as you, in turn, have to yield some of your own privilege.

We sometimes look at generational cohorts as meaningful units of analysis. My generation, bookended by the Greatest Generation on the older end and by the Baby Boomers on the other, is often overlooked. Those of us born just before the end of WW II are called the Silent Generation. The existential threats of our day were Vietnam and the nuclear arms race, both aspects of the Cold War. African Americans shared those threats and added to them the enduring cruelties resulting from our history of slavery.

The generations younger than the Boomers now face an even more complicated set of challenges, a whole battery of crises in fact, that should be keeping us all awake at night. Most of them are the result of an economy that has pushed consumption beyond the planet’s sustainable limits. Climate change, pandemic diseases, failing governments, human migration, the growth of terrorist organizations (foreign and domestic), wealth and income inequality, unmet infrastructure needs, and a government that is unwilling to meet the people’s needs are all on the list of realities that face young people now trying get educated and join the work force. On top of that, they have to deal with college debt far beyond anything I faced in my generation.

All of these problems can be addressed but they need the focus and work of governments here and abroad. They must lead people to commit to the hard work and sacrifice that can take us into new centuries with the expansion of democracy throughout the world. They must lead us to respect the planet and each other so that all of us can have the one thing we want most – an environment of peace and plenty for nurturing our children.

The other major difference that I see between the present decade and those of the 60s and 70s is our national political leadership. At the time, I could not see any redeeming qualities in Richard Nixon. The public would not tolerate lies from political leaders. Nixon spied, he lied, he connived and covered up. Yet he took his job seriously and he had the grace to resign rather than put the country through any more Watergate agony. And there were members of his party who had the strength of character to confront him with the truth of his situation and the nation’s needs.

President Trump, in my estimation, is inept and uninterested. He has no respect for the presidency or the constitution. And the Republicans in congress offer him no guidance or try to rein him in. I recognize that these points will be argued endlessly by his supporters. In defense of my position, I can only offer my years of study, witness and the close attention I have paid our country’s politics during my entire adult life.  

My hope for Generations X, Y, Z and Alpha, it is that we can instill in them, once again, a devotion to truth, to service and the restoration of a leading role in the world for the United States. Public service can be their gift to their fellow citizens, not a gateway to grift. I hope we can help them to see that running for political office is a high calling and that it should always be done with humility, generosity of spirit and a dedication to our deepest civic values. That was the inspiration my generation took from President Kennedy and Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. They will not find any such inspiration in the White House today.

We have come up short in many ways. But we can pass the torch to our youth with confidence in their ability and the strength of their character. I know some of them well in my family and in my church. Above all else this Thanksgiving, I am thankful for them.

Guest Column, The Facts, November 25, 2020, by the Lake Jackson Citizen

The 60s vs. Today: Comparing Eras of Protest

How I missed the protests of the 60s. Luckily my duty in 1968-70 was in Fort Carson, Colorado. My sacrifice for my country was minimal. And I never mention it without noting the willingness of others of my generation to make the greatest sacrifice in the service of their nation. Will we ever have that kind of national community again? A community in which a draft from the general population can provide the manpower to fight foreign wars in the faith that our leaders may know what they are doing? They didn’t. But, still, my fellow citizens stepped forward when their nation called.

Earlier this week the managing editor of our local paper, The Facts, invited readers who were around during the 60s to send their thoughts about how present day politics differs from what we experienced fifty years ago. I started my own list but abandoned the project as the list got longer and longer. I decided, instead to send him an essay-style discussion of my observations. It is too long for The Facts to publish so I will post it here.

Mr. Morris began his discussion like this pointing out that he was a child when most of the protests were happening “back then”. You may read his column in the facts here

I sent him my reply this morning. It follows:

Mr. Morris,

I thought about your comparison of the 60s-70s protests to those of the present. I started a list of the things that are different and when I got to #15, it occurred to me that what I have witnessed in my 77 years has been a passing of power back and forth between the parties but with a spiraling descent of the Republican party to where we are today.

When President Nixon resigned, the public would not tolerate lies from political leaders.

Media was controlled by commercial interests that, in the case of broadcast media, was subject to regulation as users of the public’s broadcast frequencies. Print journalism was big business, too. They reflected a variety of viewpoints but still reported within the constraints of a journalism profession that valued facts and recognized a single reality.

(Continue to Page 2)

Day 244: Still in Lockdown and Trying to Decide if Things Are Getting Better or Decidedly Worse

His primary rules were: never allow the public to cool off; never admit a fault or wrong; never concede that there may be some good in your enemy; never leave room for alternatives; never accept blame; concentrate on one enemy at a time and blame him for everything that goes wrong; people will believe a big lie sooner than a little one; and if you repeat it frequently enough people will sooner or later believe it.

If that sounds a lot like “your favorite president,” do not be concerned. It is not about him, it is from a psychological profile of Adolph Hitler written for the Office of Strategic Services, the World War II predecessor of the CIA. I know, it isn’t considered to be appropriate in American political discourse to throw around the H word when we talk about the loyal opposition.

The document, written for the OSS in 1943, had been classified and was released by the CIA for publication in 1999. World War II was far in the rear view mirror by then and it certainly did not seem that it could ever be used in American politics except, perhaps, as a guide for citizens who need to be eternally vigilant and on the watch for anyone who would use that model in our own domestic politics.

The above quote appears in the report, A Psychological Analysis of Adolph Hitler: His Life and Legend, by Walter C. Langer,[7][8] which is available from the US National Archives.

Continue reading “Day 244: Still in Lockdown and Trying to Decide if Things Are Getting Better or Decidedly Worse”

Bible Verse of the Day: C’mon Man!

“There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.”

‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭6:16-19‬ ‭NIV‬‬

https://www.bible.com/111/pro.6.16-19.niv

The Democrat party couldn’t have done a better job of picking one to scold and instruct DJT.