Category Archives: News

Not maintaining the standard of conduct

PHOTO BY JIM LO SCALZO-POOL/GETTY

Go read that title again. One more time. Do you get it? This is where we are as a country. We are “not maintaining the standard of conduct,” as I heard a decorated military man so eloquently say on the radio today. He was referencing the Eddie Gallagher situation and other recent high profile pardons courtesy of Donald Trump.

The enlisted personnel who had in cases been convicted and serving prison sentences, had been granted clemency and had their previous ranks returned to them. They had committed heinous atrocities. They were “not maintaining the standard of conduct.”

I listened to a lot of the hearings today and it looks more likely than ever, to me, that Donald Trump just might get himself impeached.

The hostility present in our country, the home grown, domestic, “native” type, is horrendous. I’ve never known America to be so in disagreement about priorities. The divide between the haves and the have-nots is as gaping as  the Grand Canyon. A general lack of connection is evident.

South Rim of the Grand Canyon, Arizona (Photo by Visions of America/UIG via Getty Images)

Watching, and listening, to today’s hearings has been depressing. It’s difficult to believe anything being said. The hyperbole is epic.

I decided to vacuum because I needed to quiet the voices in my head. It’s hard not to think that far too many of our representatives are “not maintaining the standard of conduct.” Their motivations, bilaterally, are suspect. Who are they serving?

The government we currently have is what you get when citizens don’t become involved or pay attention. When qualified people don’t vote, it seems that unqualified people get elected. See: Donald Trump

To those of you with the stamina to watch tonight’s debates – bravo! That’s wildly impressive. As for me, I am burnt out on politics and need a walk, a shower and bed.

We have got to do better than this. It’s time to relearn how to maintain the standard of conduct.

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Filed under aging, musings, News, Observations, politics, stress

The Deep State, Habitualization and the Trump supporter

Every once in a while I hear something, generally on the radio, and it is so damn timely that I’m stopped dead. It can happen in two ways – I hear a phrase or word and suddenly I seem to encounter it everywhere. The most recent example of this is the word “deep state” used when referring to long term, career public employees.

The right has begun wielding this phrase in a negative fashion, despite the popularizer of the term Mike Lofgrennever having presented it in that type of context. His book, titled The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of the Shadow Government, used the phrase to describe the entanglement of large institutions and government and the subsequent lack of ability for politicians to affect meaningful change. “Deep State” was a bipartisan condition, observed Lofgren, a long term Republican who has vowed to not vote republican again until “they demonstrate to me that they’ve purged Trumpism.

Trump and his supporters have elected to use the phrase deep state as “shorthand for Democratic-leaning bureaucrats who want to undermine Trump.” This “out to get us” stance is consistent with other methods of dividing our population which are you used with great success by our present federal administration, as well as those from fascist groups throughout history. When experienced people, be they bureaucrats, journalists or educators, are perceived as the enemy, we’ve got problems, people.

The instance of a term overheard can also serve to succinctly define a phenomena or situation which had been puzzling me, as in what occurred today. Listening to WAMC, I caught a Ted Talk, featuring Khasfia Rahman. The theme of the broadcast was Risk and Rahman described research she had initially begun as a high school student. Fascinated by the tendency of young people, particularly those between the ages of 13-18, to exercise poor judgment when making decisions, Rahman devised a study to explore the phenomena after observing her peers binge drinking, experimenting with drugs and generally proceeding through life in a reckless fashion.

Her question grew into one about brain development. If the brains of teens between the ages of 13-18 were immature and the cause of their risky behaviors, she posited, why weren’t the choices made by even younger people even more potentially hazardous?

Rahman determined that habitualization was the most likely cause of this phenomena. As she explained, young people who are repeatedly exposed to an unsafe or unappealing situation can frequently be observed moving from initial feelings of disinterest and rejection to an openness to explore, and eventually embrace, dangerous and risky activities. 

She provided an example of this behavior relating to tequila shots. As Rahman witnessed, young people with repeated exposure and access to shots of tequila become less fearful of the negative consequences of indulging in illicit drinking and grow increasingly accepting of the experience. The brains of these young actually people change.

I see a similar thing occurring to the brains of people who support the current president. As we are assaulted, seemingly from every angle, by information which clearly demonstrates the complete lack of integrity or qualification of Donald Trump, his followers continue to adapt their beliefs to allow for his outrageous and irrational behavior.

It begins as a denial and then evolves into an acceptance. Faced with evidence of Trump’s corruption, his believers deny the truth with which they have been presented.  After an onslaught of continued evidence, they transition from rejecting the facts, to minimizing the risks involved with ingesting them.

They swallow.

Anyone else need a shot of tequila?

 

 

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Filed under aging, Boys, musings, News, Observations, politics

Scarier than Halloween

With my official June Farms Halloween Party date.

I’m not very good at Halloween costumes. Generally speaking, I gravitate to those that portray a strong fictional character with a pretty dress. In recent years I’ve been Joan from Mad Men, Celia from Weeds and Olive from Easy A. I’m sure it’s not a coincidence that all three of those characters happen to be redheads either.

This year I opted for a real life person to portray – Greta Thunberg. Like Emma Gonzalez and Malala, this young Swedish woman is an inspiration and gives me hope for the future during a time that often makes me feel as if I’m living in a dystopian novel.

The costume was easy – a long-haired wig that I braided, casual clothes and a handmade sign that read Skolstrejk för Klimatet which translates to School Strike for Climate. I wore my costume twice – to a dance party at June Farms last weekend and to school on Halloween. Other than the foursome at the farm who asked me (after I explained who I was depicting), if I really believed in climate change, to which I responded “it’s not the f’n Easter Bunny. It’s real,” my costume was well received. I got quite a few high-fives, none more meaningful to me than those I received from students.

Climate change is happening, people. Human beings are destroying the planet. In my lifetime I’ve witnessed weather that is significantly different than what was once considered normal. It is a crisis and ignoring it, or even worse, denying it, isn’t going to make it better.

When I was a kid, growing up two hours south of where I currently live, it was cold at Halloween. Puddles in the streets were frozen and I remember seeing my breath in the night air as we walked from house to house filling our pillowcases with candy. There were arguments with mothers about the need to wear coats over our costumes, a horror worse than a headless horseman. Leaves were mostly off the trees, after having reached their peak colors earlier in the month.

Yesterday the temperature peaked at 75 degrees, setting a new record for the date. I attended a soccer game that was played under a menacing sky with gusty winds and rain that couldn’t decide whether to spit or pour on us. It was eerie and, unlike Halloween, the changes to our environment and climate aren’t going anywhere. That is some scary stuff.

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Filed under Albany, holidays, News, Observations, politics, soccer, upstate New York

Hearing voices

Driving in my car the other day, I caught WAMC’s Joe Donahue conducting an interview with a woman whose name I didn’t catch, having tuned in mid broadcast. As I listened to the conversation I realized the woman’s voice was familiar…it was my friend, Sally, who works for the University. How cool! I turned up the volume and enjoyed listening to the smart and compassionate conversation about important things impacting college students today, like food insecurity, stress and mental health.

From what Sally said, there are many resources available to assist the population with which she works. The Campus Center seems to be the hub for where students can physically access this support and I hope the various programs in place are able to work to their capacity. They’re doing good work.

I imagine the two perpetrators of last weekend’s mass shootings were each of the age the resources of Purple Pantry and related services are designed to aid. If they weren’t currently students, there were probably community programs to assist with mental health issues available to both young men. I know, from a meeting I sort of* attended at the Savoy last month, that the city of Albany offers referrals to numerous low cost or free counseling and other support systems for those in need and I would think most communities offer something along these lines, right?

Let’s just argue, though, for the sake of arguing, because that’s what we do when we’re afraid and hesitant to make hard decisions, and say that there was no possibility for either of these cold blooded killers to access any resources which might have improved their lives, and potentially avoided the taking of dozens of innocent lives.

Ok, if that is indeed the case, why in the world were either of these two young men permitted to purchase weapons and ammunition that would allow them murder people at a rate of approximately one every 8 seconds? Why are the laws in place so inadequate that a man who caused his high school to be placed on lock down, because of his threats to classmates via lists of whom he wanted to kill or rape, is permitted a few short years later, to purchase guns capable of wreaking that kind of carnage?

I’m starting hear more and more people coming to the same devastating conclusion – this is who we are. This is America, land of the free, home of the gun. If an arguably not for profit organization, like the NRA, and its demands trump the expectation that our children, siblings, parents, lovers and friends should be able to conduct lives in schools and stores and offices and concert venues and festivals and places of worship and not be gunned down…well, I guess it’s time to either own it or fix it. Because next time it just might be you or yours.

A last anecdote – a friend, who owns a local food business and vends at many markets, shared the following:

You can bet that’s my new Starbucks’ name.

 

*The room was packed and I couldn’t get in to the meeting. Closed circuit tv allowed for viewing from the bar.

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Filed under Albany, Local, musings, News, Observations, politics, Rant, Schools

Don’t worry about a thing

Wednesday evening when Stephen Marley sang that lyric I wanted to go there with him to a place where there are no worries. Releasing the weight of worry sounds amazing. All that energy previously occupied with fretting about things beyond one’s own control can be put to use so much more productively. Instead of creating scenarios of doom, our brains could be creating something beautiful. God, that would be such a nice change from beginning the morning with the latest shit Twitter storm and then being consumed with the responses and breaking news for the remainder of the day.

The Right and the Left, along with the Socialists when they’re able to participate in the war of  opinion overload, are producing so much information that it feels like an assault, a mental and emotional injury almost. It hurts.

Turn it off, you say? How does one do that? It feels to me like we’re living a reality that we’ve read about in history books, very pre-WWII. I stay connected to media because I don’t want my grandchildren to ever ask me what I did during these dark and divided days only for me to respond with “I ignored it.” Digesting, processing and trying to understand news and information these days is an excruciating job, but as invested humans we have to make an effort.

I looked around the Plaza and saw so many different and unique looking people, all together enjoying great music on a beautiful summer night. As you might imagine, “Every little thing is gonna be alright,”* is certainly a statement in which I’d like to believe. Maybe I’m focusing on the “wrong” things, universal health care, access to quality education, the acknowledgement of everyone’s equal civil rights, instead of the unemployment rate and the performance of my 403B.

Is it me or are you worried too?

*Confession: I inserted “once Trump and his ilk are gone” after every verse.

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Filed under aging, Albany, concerts, Events, musings, News, Observations, politics, stress, Uncategorized, upstate New York

I want my country back

Nearly every day there’s another anxiety inducing situation or remark delivered courtesy of the incompetent and corrupt Trump administration. There is no end in sight and I’m growing increasingly concerned about the state of our country and what the future may hold. To be perfectly blunt – shit is scary and I find myself frequently on the edge obsessing over the direction in which the President seems to be leading us. It is really bad.

As a librarian, I was trained to evaluate information and seek multiple perspectives on topics and I try to apply those skills in my personal media consumption. I sometimes listen to conservative radio when I’m in the car and have made a point of checking Fox and other media outlets to get the “other side” of the story because I really want to understand their position. I truly don’t want to only absorb opinions that match my own, but when I listen to right wing commentators I feel my heart start to race. How are we interpreting the same actions in such radically different ways?

My only explanation for our divergent viewpoints is differing motivations and priorities. Personally, I’m not particularly motivated to accumulate money, so the purported tax break doesn’t impress me. I’d be much happier having any reduction of my tax burden being redistributed to people who need it more than I. The popular technique of demonizing refugees and other people seeking safety and opportunity isn’t very effective either. I’m not afraid of people who don’t look like me or who have skin of a different color. I’d like to think that I’m evolved enough to recognize that if fear of “other” was compelling me to behave in a particular way towards certain people, I would know that it was a deficit in myself, and not them.

The things in life that are most important to me, my priorities, are things like clean water, breathable air, a stable home, and access to food, education and health care. I’m not interested in building walls. Instead, I want to know why in a country as rich in resources as ours, there are people who do not have their most basic needs met. Why are there families who have to choose between food and medicine? How do low and middle income families ever get ahead? Hard work no longer reliably gets rewarded in our society. How many people do you know who work their asses off 40 or 50 hours a week to, at best, barely hang on to basic necessities?

Speaking of bare necessities, we can agree that these include a place to safely sleep, essential hygiene products like a toothbrush, and linens suited to the environment are essential, can’t we? I’m disgusted to know that employees of the federal government are in a position in which they must either:

A. seriously argue that a blanket is not a required item for a child sleeping on a concrete floor or 

B. actually resist that avenue of thinking and, perhaps, even decry the kind of fucked up logic that is currently being put forth by the Whitehouse and refuse the task.

I’ve always refused to allow fear to be the reason behind the choices I make and resent the Republican game which makes this emotion such a central part of their playbook. I have to admit, though, that I am afraid. Our government is becoming something I’ve never before seen in our country and there does not seem to be a bottom to our fall. I’m tired of hearing about the economy and I don’t care how well anyone’s portfolio is doing. It doesn’t mean anything to me if unemployment is at historically low rates, either. You see, those highs and lows mean nothing if our souls are bankrupt and the expectations for our elected representatives are satisfied by the quality of the people currently in those positions. It’s time to get involved and resist. I want my country back.

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Alabama getaway

I am so tired of the abortion debate. Not like too exhausted to continue to fight for women to have control of their own reproductive choices. No, that isn’t it at all. I mean, like so weary of having to argue with people who believe that they have the authority to dictate what any woman can do with her body. The kind of tired that makes a person angry and liable to snap. Like hangry on a massive dose of steroids. Yeah, like that.

Circa 1982

 

 

To me, taking responsibility for an unintended pregnancy as a teenager meant terminating because I knew I wasn’t responsible enough to care for a child. I had no education, no career and no partner with whom I wanted to raise a child. My life style then was far less moderate than my current one and the pregnancy, as I said, was unplanned. That eventual child would not have been provided with its best start and caring for a infant, with potential birth defects, certainly would have been far beyond my capabilities as a high school student. My choice was the best one in my situation.

It was no body’s* business but my own, and only my soul, if there’s such a thing, will bear the scars of my choice. Just like it’s my body, it’s my karma or damnation. It has nothing to do with you, so don’t try to make it your business.

It’s not about YOU or God. Not everything is.

I’ve never claimed to not wonder, or think, about what that embryo may have grown to become. I’ve always been convinced that the aborted baby was a girl and, after being fortunate enough to birth three sons, I’m ok with the universe fucking with me like that. That being said, I have zero regret about my decision and I truly believe that the energy that was gathering cells together within my body, went somewhere else in the universe. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I have a close female friend who is essentially the same age my child would be and I appreciate that her own mother was in a position to welcome her into the world in a way that I could not. She is a gift.

So, while I’m more than tired of hypocritical politicians, men who seek to exert control over a woman’s reproductive decisions and people who care more about the life of an unborn child than they do of one that is living in horrendous conditions, I will not ever rest on this issue. Promise.

*get it? MY body

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Filed under girlhood, News, Observations, politics, Rant, secrets