Category Archives: politics

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.

Leave a comment

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

Protesting the President on Veteran’s Day

I don’t know about you, but I live in fear of my nonexistent grandchildren. There have been too many times in recent years when I’ve wondered, how I might respond to these future beings when they ask me what I did during the Trump years to register my dissent with this most corrupt presidency. Participating in Monday’s protest in NYC as the President made a speech prior to the Veteran’s Day Parade kickoff, gave me an opportunity to demonstrate my complete and utter lack of respect or honor for the man who I believe is the worst president of my lifetime.

It took a little time for me to locate “my” people. Initially I was on the east side of Fifth Avenue, but I soon realized that the folks in the red MAGA hats were in fact wearing them in earnest rather than ironically.When the woman standing next to me said, “Well, at least we’ll be able to hear him even if we can’t see him,” to which I responded “Everything he says is a lie anyway,” I realized I needed to relocate.

After finally making my way to the “correct” side of Fifth Avenue, the west or left side naturally, I enthusiastically joined in with the chorus of boos. Protesting a president while honoring veterans makes for a challenging situation. Without exception, the protesters did their best to respect veterans, even the uniform-clad one who directly confronted the crowd and expressed his stance that, as Americans, we are obligated to obey and serve the president. Um, no, sir. I politely refuse to blindly follow a megalomaniac (or should I say MAGAlomaniac?).

The turnout in general was smaller than I would have expected, but perhaps the intense security which made crossing the street a six block ordeal played a role. Trump was tucked safely behind a caravan of garbage trucks, which meant we really couldn’t get near him anyway, but I’m confident he heard us.

I don’t really enjoy crowds, but managed to hold my position for the better part of an hour before making my way back downtown to enjoy what turned out to be a spectacular autumn day for a parade in my favorite city.

 

1 Comment

Filed under Events, holidays, NYC, Observations, politics

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?

 

 

Leave a comment

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.

2 Comments

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

Why do the buildings keep falling down?

That was the question that 18 years later I can still clearly hear my 4 year-old son asking me. Nearly two decades later, I still don’t have a good answer.

It was my second week of school teaching in a new district. A vendor with whom I had a scheduled appointment was late and explained as he arrived that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. I pictured some yahoo in a small private  plane somehow making a horrific mistake.

My library’s television wasn’t on, but I did have a computer. The sales rep and I sat down and watched as the second plane hit the tower. I initially thought it was a repeating loop of the first plane, not being able to conceive of two different planes hitting this symbol of New York City. It was unimaginable.

A teacher who taught Participation in Government brought his class down to watch the library’s television and for the first time I heard the name Osama bin Laden. I had no idea who that was, but that teacher became a dear friend from whom I’ve since learned many additional things.

School closed early and faculty and students filed out of the building in a remarkably quiet fashion. Under the bluest of blues skies I drove to pick up my children from their daycare, eager to have them in my arms.

In the days which followed the sky continued to shine inexplicably blue. I drove the NYS thruway west to work as tractor trailers headed south laden with huge generators to provide power to those seeking survivors and recovering bodies of those lost.

In the weeks that followed, people were kinder to one another, voices were softer. There was a sense of appreciation for the heroism displayed by the police and fire fighters who risked their lives. Our country, while broken, was whole. We were United States.

1 Comment

Filed under musings, NYC, Observations, politics

America is not the greatest country in the world

I’m first generation American, a position that gives me, I think, an interesting perspective on this country. I was bilingual until kindergarten when I came home from my half day of school and informed my mother that “this is America and we speak English here.” After that, I no longer was willing to speak German, a genuine loss when I visit my family in the Black Forest where most of them still reside.

Speaking a second language was not considered an asset in this country which arrogantly calls itself “America,” despite the fact that that is the name of two entire continents of which we are only one single country. In contrast, my mother spoke 3 languages while living in Europe, learning her fourth, English, upon arriving here in the mid-60s.

Growing up, we were encouraged to work hard in school because my mother saw education as the only means available to create a life better than the one into which we were born. My brother is a doctor and I hold an advanced degree. We own homes, have retirement accounts, travel, and generally have comfortable lives. In spite of childhoods consisting of a single parent home, Medicaid, and the shame of food stamps and free lunch, we made it.

Through hard work and social programs, my brother and I achieved what in many regards is considered the American Dream. So, why aren’t I more of a believer in the claim that America is the greatest country in the world? Well, it seems like there are quite a few reasons.

The income gap in the United States is outrageous. I don’t know about you, but I will never be convinced that a CEO is entitled to receive a salary that is on average 361 times the salary of the average worker. I’m not suggesting that the rest of the world is perfect, but America really excels in compensating executives at a more outrageous level than any where else in the world.

Do you have any idea how much our country spends on the military? How does the number $649 BILLION sound to you? It’s an amount comparable to the spending of the next eight countries – combined. Granted, this amount is less than what is budgeted for K-12 education,  but it remains an incredibly large number.

Speaking of education, when I was in Greece last month, I spoke with a couple from Scotland and asked them how college “worked” in their country. How much does it cost? Who pays for it? Their response – tuition is free and students are only responsible for related expenses such as room, board and books. The cost of those items can be met with loans, which essentially have an interest rate close to zero with repayment of the loans not beginning until the borrower reaches a certain level of income. Doesn’t that sound a lot more fair and reasonable than our government, which is the largest lender to students, earning interest off citizens trying to improve their lives?

During my travels I’ve been struck by the price of groceries (low) and the quality of public transportation (high) in the European countries which I’ve visited. Access to health care, while not perfect, does not seem to bankrupt families in the way I’ve observed it occurring in this country.

Solar and wind energy seem much more common in Europe and vehicles are more compact and fuel efficient than those found in America. Homes are smaller, not requiring the same resources to maintain, heat and cool. Vacation time is more generous, as are family leave policies when it comes to child rearing, with tax incentives available to soften the blow of losing an income while a parent stays home to raise a child.

America has been good to my family, but it is not the greatest country in the world and we need to recognize that. While it once may have been a true beacon of freedom and opportunity for all, that time has passed. A country which separates families seeking asylum, fails to provide preventative healthcare to the poor and the underemployed and has different justice and education systems for people depending upon the color of their skin really doesn’t sound all that great to me.

Leave a comment

Filed under Education, Europe, ideas, musings, Observations, politics, Rant, travel

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.

1 Comment

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