Be Prepared To Save America

The country, as we know it, will change dramatically come January 20, 2017. As such, we must be prepared. Already, there are rumblings from the GOP to gut the Affordable Care Act. They already attempted to undermine oversight of the House, but enough Americans stopped them through calls, emails, and letters. Don’t think for a minute that they’ll stop trying to pull midnight shenanigans or hidden attacks on those they deem as “enemies”.

We have already seen that the incoming person to the Oval Office has chosen to cozy up to a foreign government. Heck, even members of his party have done so with impunity. It seems the threat to our democracy will be from within as well as from outside in the coming years. This is why we must stay vigilant. We cannot allow our country to be taken over by a puppet president who answers to a foreign power and ignores his own intelligence agencies.

Here’s how I look at the next 4 years in the US as far as it comes to what we need to do to protect ALL Americans.

1. Make certain you have all the contact information for your politicians from the local level all the way up to the top (or down to the bottom if they’re GOP or Orange Sauron). Use that information to write/call/email/tweet your views and demand to be heard.

2. Keep a file of their pledges and promises and things they say or do and call them out if they screw up or praise them if they do what’s best for ALL Americans. (Use all your information from #1 and social media to do this).

3. Get or stay active, including informed, on all issues from local to state to national. Be heard!

4. Support candidates who will champion ALL Americans and not just a few.

5. When voting occurs, vote. If you don’t vote, you can complain, but you’re part of the problem if you don’t vote.

6. Orange Sauron DOES NOT have a mandate. The GOP does not have a mandate. He LOST the popular vote by 2.8 million votes! Remind him and others of that. If it wasn’t for the Electoral College, he’d not be there. Hold him accountable for special interests and his mouth/tweets.

7. Stand up against ALL forms of prejudice! Do this however you are able. March, hand out pamphlets, call, write, be there for someone who feels threatened, donate to causes, just do something. If not, you’re part of the problem.

Again, stand up and speak up for what is good. Don’t allow prejudices against others for whatever excuses they make to prevail. We are better than that as a country. There is no room for fear or hatred in the US.

Thank youE

Divided

Divided

E Pluribus Unum. Out of many, one. That’s the traditional motto of the United States. A motto that reflects that our country is made up of people from many different lands, cultures, races, religions, and such. It is a motto that states, although you may be different from me, you are okay. You are accepted and acceptable. You are free to be the person you are, love whomever you love, worship however you wish or don’t worship any deity, and that’s okay.

Yet, with this last election cycle in particular, the idea of unity was tossed out like smelly garbage. One particular candidate with his inflammatory rhetoric managed to abolish a sense of unity within the United States. He created what many pundits, including Time magazine, have called the Divided States of America. This is not to say that there haven’t been factors or ideologies that festered below the surface of American society since the country’s inception. Anyone with a sense or knowledge of history knows those ideologies exist and have existed for decades. They came to a head once before as our country waged a civil war. They appeared during the push for civil rights. They continue to appear as we see inequalities in our justice system, our economic system, and other places within our society. We see people still speaking out for justice, such as the Black Lives Matter movement, the Flint water crisis, and the Standing Rock water protectors.

However, what makes the election so much more insidious is that a foreign government helped to fuel the disunity. As has been reported by the CIA and the FBI, the Russian government wanted the GOP candidate to win. Why? It’s more than simply an attack against the Democratic candidate. It’s that the Russian government, as well as other groups and countries around the world know that if the United States is a divided country, then we are weaker. When a country is weak, it is vulnerable. It is that vulnerability that the enemies of the United States wants to capitalize upon in order to either control us or more of the world.

Tomorrow, the Electoral College will meet to make the final decision on who should be the next President of the United States. They have a great deal of pressure upon them to act for the best interests of the United States rather than simply rubber stamp the candidate who received the most electoral votes in our system. They need to realize that that candidate did not receive anywhere near the popular vote as his opponent. Last count was somewhere in the area of 2.8 million more votes were cast for the Democratic candidate than for the Republican one.

2.8 million.

Now, I know that the Democratic candidate has her own issues. I can understand why the electors may not want to allow her to become president even though she won that popular vote. That’s okay. However, what’s not okay is to allow a person as divisive as her Republican challenger to become president either, especially given the interference of a possibly hostile foreign power in the election. The electors of the Electoral College have a choice to make, but they have options in that choice.

They can rubber stamp the winner of the outdated Electoral College vote winner and do so knowing that his tenure in the Oval Office was gained through the interference of a foreign power. Doing so would be easy, but the consequences could be catastrophic for our country.

They can elect his opponent who won the popular vote by a margin that was far beyond most of the popular vote victories in modern elections. She may have her detractors and issues with some voters, but she has the potential of uniting our country once again, plus her votes were not gained through the interference of a foreign power or through gerrymandering or voter intimidation or voter disenfranchisement.

They can choose another person who may have been a candidate who may be able to unify the country. That person could be from either party and a number of names have been discussed who would fit that description.

What the electors must realize is that they have the power at this point to reset our country. They can choose what they think is the easy way, yet risk continued and worsening disunity in our country; or, they can choose another path and create a way toward a more unified country. We, as citizens, need to hope for the more unifying approach. If not, then we need to prepare as best as we can for things far more worse than we’ve already seen.

Thank you for your time.

It’s been awhile

I apologize for not posting anything for the past few months. Part of that was due to trying to get my children prepared for this school year, part was due to trying my best to maintain sanity during the election, part was due to training to run my second marathon, part due to compiling a new book, and part due to the panic and anxiety I’ve been feeling as a result of the election.

Whew!

I did complete my second marathon, but not as I’d hoped. There were changes in the race that were unexpected, including it being much warmer than it usually is in mid-October in Toronto. While my finish time was much worse than my first marathon, the mileage I physically ran was actually longer than an actual marathon. This was due to changes made in when they decided to start closing the course and there being no markings for how to complete the course once it was closed. I chalk it up to being my first ultra-marathon as it was over 26.2 miles by almost 2.5 miles. So, it was my worst marathon, but my best and new personal best for an ultra-marathon.

As far as the book goes, it is a collection of short stories and poems entitled, Fourteen Poems and Five Stories. Many of the pieces in the book are rather dark, but overall, I hope those who pick up a copy will enjoy it. It’s available on Amazon as well as CreateSpace and for order through most bookstores.

Finally, the election. Still trying to wrap my head around how someone as vile as the president-elect could have even gotten the Electoral College numbers needed to become the president-elect. Yet, as I write this, I am hopeful that the recent revelations about interference from Russia and his other shady dealings will cause the Electoral College to veer off their typical rubber stamp of approval and select either Ms. Clinton or someone more unifying than the person whom I shall simply call Orange Sauron.

Last, it is a snow day here where I am. I enjoy the snow, not shoveling it, but the ambiance it gives to the earth. The quiet way it falls and coats the earth in its blanket of white. Almost gives the earth the appearance of being cleaner than it is sometimes.

I wish you peace and hope to write more much sooner rather than later.

Political Extremism

The dictionary defines extremism as “the condition or act of taking an extreme view” and “the taking of extreme action” (-Ologies & -Isms. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc.). It goes further to describe a person who acts in such a way as an extremist or “One who advocates or resorts to measures beyond the norm, especially in politics”(The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition).

We see extremists at work in a wide variety of ways in our world. Most of the time, extremism is associated with groups of people who hide behind a facade of religion to commit acts of atrocity against other people. Yet, there are those who are extremists who use other facades, such as political views or parties, as their means of acting in a manner that is beyond the norm.

One of the problems with extremism is that as it is covered more frequently in the news, it loses its shock and starts to become seen as the norm. We become desensitized to extremism unless or until it rears its ugly head in a violent manner. Even then, to some extent, we are desensitized to it unless it happens to us directly. Then, we become incensed and enraged and demand action to rid ourselves of extremist elements around us. By then, many times, it is too late for the extremism has crept into our mainstream lives and, in doing so, has caused others to see the extremism as a means for their own salvation.

Rather than focus on the obvious example of extremism, that being religion based, let us look to that which is based on politics. They share commonalities with one another even though their mode of operation and existence is different.

What breeds extremism? What causes seemingly normal people to want to follow extremist views? I believe this is a very complex issue and cannot claim to be an expert, but I think some of it has to do with power or at least the perception of power to be gained through extremism.

Some people who have nothing to lose are drawn to extremism and extremist views. They feel that their problems are caused by some entity or group of people who are different from them and, since they themselves feel powerless or so downtrodden that they cannot bring themselves up, they turn to promises made by the peddlers of extremism.

Take a look at the current political situation in the U.S. One particular candidate knows how to peddle extremism very well. So well, that he has managed to become the primary candidate for his political party. If a person looked simply at his ability to govern or ideas, there is nothing there. He leads through intimidation and inflammatory rhetoric alone. One news report mentioned his lack of debate skills during the primaries by saying that he “is active, if not overwhelmingly aggressive, in the first 30-45 minutes. When answering a question during that time, [he] tends to avoid any policy details and has, on occasion, shown a remarkable lack of knowledge on the issues” (Blake). The article continues and says that the candidate then, “tends to fade into the background. He answers the questions asked of him and hits back when someone attacks him. Beyond that, however, he tends to look somewhere between disinterested and sleepy. He does very little to inject himself into the conversation. He is, rather transparently, just waiting for the whole thing to be over” (Blake).

However, when he speaks at his events, he is very much the center of attention and speaks quite long. However, there is not much content in his speech aside from rhetoric that is meant to inflame his most devoted followers. He talks of building walls to prevent immigrants from Mexico, hints at both imprisoning or assassinating his opponents, and makes negative commentaries on refugees. These comments are not policy meant to give people an informed choice as to issues that matter to the entire country, but inflammatory remarks made to people who he knows are most likely led to extremism. While he may not directly tell his followers to discriminate or even consider murder, he does so indirectly and with innuendos that he and his supporters are quick to dismiss and remark that he was simply misunderstood.

It’s a bit like Mark Antony’s soliloquy in Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” where he says that “Brutus is an honourable man”(Shakespeare). Antony knows Brutus is part of the murder, but in order to turn the crowd against Brutus, he first uses the phrase to flatter, then to condemn him. The candidate in question says things such as “…nothing you can do, folks…Although the Second Amendment people—maybe there is, I don’t know”(Corasaniti and Haberman). The candidate did not call for murder, but his words, along with chants often heard from crowds at his events to “Lock her up” or “Kill the bitch”, certainly give the impression that he does not disagree entirely with the suggestion. Add to this his hints at the possibility that the general election will be rigged as being the only reason he feels he could lose, and you have a potentially dangerous situation.

This political extremism is dangerous regardless of which party someone supports. It is dangerous for our country as it lends those who feel they are no longer heard or who fear no longer being in the majority an excuse to act in extremist ways.

That is not how a democracy exists.

It is dangerous because it creates a sense of anger-fueled anarchy simmering below the surface of our society. It only takes people who feel they have nothing to lose who have reached either such a low state of self-control or who are worked into a frenzy by this type of rhetoric for things to become violent.

That is not how a democracy exists.

It is dangerous because, if unchecked by people who are not beguiled by such extremist rhetoric, it undermines the very Constitution upon which our country is founded.

That is not how a democracy exists, but how a democracy perishes.

We cannot allow political extremism to hold sway over our country. We must peacefully and legally stop the extremism. We must get out the vote to stop that particular candidate and those who support him and his extremist agenda in order to save our country.

Extremism is not an American value. It is the value of dictators, tyrants, and those who do not value human rights and decency.

Works Cited

Blake, Aaron. “Why Donald Trump might not debate Hillary Clinton.” The Washington Post. N.p., 9 Aug. 2016. Web. 11 Aug. 2016. .
Corasaniti, Nick, and Maggie Haberman. “Donald Trump Suggests ‘Second Amendment People’ Could Act Against Hillary Clinton.” The New York Times. N.p., 9 Aug. 2016. Web. 11 Aug. 2016. .
Shakespeare, William. The Life and Death of Julius Caesar.

Everything Is Just Fine–A short, short based on a writing exercise

“Hello, Jane.”
The footsteps stopped. If Dick counted correctly, she was at the base of the stairs silently standing there.
“I know it’s you because you the only person who still wears Aqua-Net in mass quantities. The commissary at the jail must have ordered it in special just for you.”
Dick heard the floorboard creak as Jane took one step toward the living room where he sat on the couch. Even though he couldn’t see her, he imagined Jane held a curling iron already heated fully. After all, it was what she used on him so often near the end. It was her punishment for when she thought he lied to her.
“You are you shacking up with, you pig?” She finally said.
“No one, Jane. As much as you never believed it then, it’s still true now. I sleep alone, unless Nell gets frightened, that is.”
“So, how did you get this place?”
“My Uncle Wilbur died a year ago. He left me some money which I used to buy the place and fix it up. It was cheaper that way.”
He heard Jane take another step or two.
If her steps were the same length as they used to be, he thought, she should be just outside the living room.
He looked at the television screen and, based on the reflection of her in the screen, his calculations were correct. The only thing he couldn’t see were her hands.
“Where’s Nell, pig?”
“At a birthday party.”
“Where?”
“Nowhere that I’d tell you.”
“I’ll make you tell me, you know.”
He shivered a little at that, but took a deep breath. It calmed him.
“No, you won’t. I’ve changed a bit since you left.”
“I didn’t leave, you prick! You called the cops!”
“No, I didn’t,” he almost felt his voice crack as he said it, but he maintained control. “The neighbors did. Don’t you recall?”
He turned the television off to better see her reflection in the screen. She hadn’t moved, except to lean against the entry to the room.
“No, you called them!”
“Screaming will do you no good anymore, Jane. No, I didn’t call them. I was too busy running from you and protecting my daughter. I escaped out the door because you were about to, how did you put it, ‘make it so you’ll never be able to me again.’ I convinced you to untie one of my wrists and, when you turned around, I untied the other, ran out, grabbed Nell, and ran the hell out of the apartment and onto the courtyard between the buildings.. One of the neighbors called the cops because I was standing there buck naked and holding my crying daughter.”
“Your daughter?!? I gave birth to that sniveling little brat. You loved her more than me from the start, you son of a bitch!”
“Yes, I said, my daughter. You may have given birth to her, but you sure as heck were never a mother to her, unless it was convenient for you.”
“My, Dicky, don’t you sound all brave after five years? I think I can alter that attitude pretty quickly, don’t you? After all, I was the one who killed that jail guard. Those other two bimbos sure as hell weren’t smart enough to escape by themselves. Know how I killed that bitch? I beat her with her own club, just like I’ll beat you to death with it after I’m done with you. Turn the fuck around and face me, if you’re man enough.”
He turned just enough to see her.
Jane still wore the orange jumpsuit and her face looked older. Five years looked more like ten on her, but that didn’t surprise him much considering how she had been used to pampering herself on a regular basis. He used to have to find creative ways to pay bills due to her habits. Her tastes were expensive, to say the least. He had tried to make things work. He used to attempt to ease the stress she said she was always under with her job by taking care of all the housework, the cooking, the budgeting, and later, Nell. At first, he did it out of love. For some reason, he never thought a man like him deserved a woman like her. After all, he was on the heavy side and a bit passive by nature.
She took those feelings of his and used them to her advantage. It was never about love for her. Instead, it was control. She could control him. Dick finally realized that as she would remind him whose money it was that made up the bulk of their income and whose family was of higher status. He took it all, especially after Nell was born, in the hope that motherhood would change Jane. He also hoped that she’d see his efforts and treat him as the good man that he was.
She didn’t.
Instead, she’d gotten more controlling and jealous of their daughter even. She told him that he deliberately spent more time with Nell than with her. The reality of it was that she was always either at work or elsewhere de-stressing, as she called it, than at home. It was a dinner party for her work that brought things to a head.
Dick had become very capable in cooking and baking with Jane being away so much. A coworker named LouAnn struck up a friendly conversation with Dick and the subject of cooking came up. From Jane’s perspective, it appeared that he was flirting with LouAnn in a way to cheat on her. When she walked up to them, Jane overheard Dick agree to help LouAnn prepare for a party she was hosting.
Later, as they walked out of the party, Jane whispered to him, “Planning to fuck her as payment for your cooking?”
“What the hell are you talking about, Jane? I’m just helping one of your coworkers with a party. Maybe it will bring in some extra cash for us.”
“More like some extra tail for you.”
He was brought out of his thoughts by Jane’s voice. It was closer now.
“What the hell are you thinking about?”
She was now within a couple of feet of him. Dick noticed the club in her hand and the dried splotches of blood on it. Jane stepped closer and raised the club to strike him.
As she brought it down, Dick flung himself off the couch, knocking over the coffee table and his tea. Her attempt to hit him was so close that he felt the wind from the club on his arm as he moved and heard the solid thunk as it hit the upholstery. He ran to his right and into the kitchen.
Jane was close behind him. As he neared the stove, she caught up with him and raised the club again.
Dick grabbed the tea kettle and shoved it into her face. He thought he could hear her skin sizzle as the heat burned into her. She dropped the club and screamed.
“You bastard! You’ll pay for this!”
Dick was already out the back door and off the porch by the time she said the last word. He grabbed the shovel he and Nell used the other say to plant a tree in the yard.
Jane barreled through the back door and launched herself off the porch at him.
He swung the shovel and felt as it connected hard with Jane’s head. He heard the crack of her skull as the metal pierced it and the thud of her body on the patio stones.
Dick stood there for a moment looking down at her. Jane wasn’t moving. He collapsed to the ground.
It was finally over. He felt a buzz in his pocket. It was Nell calling him. He answered.
“Daddy, can I stay the night at Becky’s house, please?”
“But you don’t have your nightclothes or toothbrush.”
“You could bring them to me, couldn’t you, Daddy?”
He looked at Jane’s lifeless body. There were no tears from him.
“I’ll be over in a couple of hours, okay my sweetpea?”
“Okay, Daddy. Daddy? Is everything okay? You sound out of breath.”
“Everything is fine, baby girl. Everything is just fine.”

The Problem of Walls and Weapons

The tragedy in Paris, as well as Kenya and Lebanon, should send reminders of the fragility of human life in our modern age. Instead, it is fostering a growth in a continued movement for nations to erect walls and allow more weapons to be used to separate and kill people who are not like “us”. Think about that for a moment and consider the following.

More weapons will not stop atrocities like the events in Paris, Kenya, or Lebanon from occurring. A common message sent out from certain aspects of society, particularly in the United States, tries to state that had there been more guns in the hands of the innocent people in Paris, then the atrocity would not have occurred. They state this somehow believing it as solid fact. However, one cannot know if that is true or not. While there might have been fewer people killed, there also could have been may more killed in a crossfire between those who committed the atrocity and those who were trying to defend themselves. In addition, it is alleged that those who committed this heinous act were also prepared to die at all cost, including the use of suicide bombs as what happened near the stadium. I doubt more firearms could have stopped the bombers from committing their horrendous acts.

Then there is the call for walls to be built, either literally or figuratively, to keep out immigrants and refugees because it is currently assumed that one or more of the terrorists carried passports from Syria, the homeland of the majority of those same refugees. While it is horrible that this may be the case, what about the thousands more who are not the aggressors, but the victims of the aggressors? There are thousands of people who are fleeing for their lives from the violence caused by ISIL/ISIS. The majority of them are simply trying to survive, not flee to the West to commit violent acts.

Besides, walls don’t work to keep people, good or bad, out. If someone wants to get around a wall, he or she will find a way to do so. Centuries ago, China built a wall to keep out aggressors. It was breached. Each day, hundreds of people cross the walls and boundaries of countries as they seek a better life. Some remain, and some are deported back to where they came.

But there are other walls that become built that are unseen. These are the walls that separate people in a more social sense than a physical one. One wall is prejudice and the other is fear. These two walls are ones that are sometimes insurmountable, not because of their size, but because of how people latch onto them with such fervor. These unseen walls cause us to place barriers between one another. Sometimes, these walls are in the form of words we use to label large groups of people as being bad based on the actions of a few people who look like the group or happen to worship using the same terms as that group does.

Right now, it happens to be Muslims who are being portrayed by media and certain elements of society as being nothing but bad people. They are called terrorists as a whole based on the actions of an extreme few of those who hide behind what is a peaceful religion. The vast majority of Muslims want nothing but to live in harmony within their communities as well as those places where they live among non-Muslims. The majority feels the need to pay for the sins of the few as they are pressured to speak out against acts of terror or be seen as supporting it. Yet, if people from a different religious background commit an atrocity, the innocent of those backgrounds are not pressured to speak out. If a Christian person commits an atrocity, there is no call for all Christians to speak out against it. If a Jewish person commits an atrocity, there is not call for all Jewish people to speak out against it. Only the Muslims. Yet, there are some who continue to say that if they don’t, then they are guilty of the supporting the crimes committed by the few.

The problem is not with religion, it is with people in general. The problem is not with needing more walls, but needing fewer ones.

That’s right, I said fewer walls to separate people. The walls of ignorance, fear, hate, oppression, poverty, war, and famine need to be torn down. In their place, we need to build one thing up above all else. We need to build up our fellow humankind. We need to end wars, and start spreading peace. We need to replace hate with love. We need to eradicate poverty and build plenty. We need to educate others so they may have what they need, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

A recent article I read was one where the interviewer had the rare opportunity to speak with ISIS prisoners of war in Iraq. The vast majority of those who were interviewed did not join ISIS for religious reasons, but for economic and emotional ones. They were starving and this terrorist organization promised them a way out. The terrorist organization gave them someone to blame for their problems, in this case, the West. While some of that is true since, while many of these people’s lives were bad under Saddam Hussein in Iraq, their lives became worse once he was deposed as civil war broke out in their country based on centuries old hatreds. Some joined out of fear that if they didn’t, then they and their families would die.

As I read the article, something occurred to me. The reason why many of these people joined was similar to why people join street gangs. Some fear that if they don’t, then they will die. Others do it as gang life promises them a sense of belonging and/or prosperity. Some join because they are so far in poverty that they need someone to blame and the gang tells them who to blame for their situation. This is not unlike those who voluntarily joined the Nazis in the 1930s and 1940s. It is not unlike those who joined the Ku Klux Klan in the post-Civil War South. It is not unlike those who join militia groups in modern society or other fringe, hate-filled groups. The majority of people who do so are looking for more in their life in some way and the gang persuades them that gang life is the way they can have or be more than who they are.

There needs to be an alternative to this lifestyle to make it stop. Rather than waging war in countries against people, there needs to be a fight for better living conditions. A fight for jobs. A fight for equality for all people regardless of who he or she is or what he or she believes. There needs to be education for all people to understand different cultures and religions as find common ground between them rather than what is different about them. Education is a powerful weapon against hate, fear, and violence. When humankind understands differences, then it becomes harder to fear or hate them. Instead, there becomes a natural instinct to try to see the similarities. But this only occurs with the chance to learn about our differences in a non-biased fashion. It comes with knowing who we are as individuals and facing our fears, prejudices, and ignorances, acknowledging them, and going beyond them to build understanding.

None of this means we have to like the way others are. It doesn’t mean we have to become like who others are. It does mean we must respect our differences and embrace our similarities. We must learn to love one another, whether we like them or not. For some people, this is seen as being too politically correct, as if that is a bad thing. However, it is actually being more humane to our fellow humankind.

Will this end all the problems instantly? No, there is no quick fix as many hope. It took time to build the walls, it will take time to tear them down as well. But it’s worth it.

The late Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” This rings so true for our world today. Peace can only come through light, never darkness. Hope can only thrive where all humankind sees one another as one rather than as many.