the midterms are rapidly approaching. the rhetoric is amping up. the tv ads, the phone calls, the billboards, the texts, the email messages, the political mail in the mailbox – all dedicated to sway our vote.
i realize that this is the way to raise money, that this is the way to get one party ahead of the other. many voters will elect to vote a straight party ballot. some will vote without asking any questions. some will vote without any information at all. some will vote for vapid minds, choosing the rough edges of spewed anger, covert scheming. they are voting on a bandwagon – with truth obscured – and haven’t looked past the exterior of the candidates.
i was chatting quite some time ago with a college professor. he was teaching a class three days a week and was talking about his experiences. “anybody can be brilliant for an hour and a half,” he quipped. i laughed, thinking how true that is.
but it’s the long haul that counts. it’s what’s at the crux that counts. i wonder what is in the center of what motivates the candidates we are considering. what is past the exterior, what are the things they affirm, believe in, wish to move forward?
anyone can look pious, even righteous, in brevity, for short spurts of time. but these same pedestalized people can bring to the table masked and unmasked agenda that is riddled with inequality, marginalization, discrimination, divisiveness, violence, a thwarting of social, racial, gender, financial equity all under the auspices of brilliance. it is our responsibility to peel back the layers, to poke through the season-of-midterm blahblah, to examine the intentions, the integrity, of the people we choose – truly, in every arena – to represent us.
how these people manifest in their communication, their compassion, their fairness, their steadfast evenhandedness, their actual brilliance – not the hourandahalf variety – should tell us something important. if a person does not represent the values we uphold ourselves, the ones we would lay out to each and every one of those we love, why would we elect that person to represent us, to reflect us? if our vote was revealed to our loved ones, our children, our family, friends, community, colleagues, would we take comfort, would we have pride, in what was revealed?
for it is in our vote that we truly show what is beyond the exterior. it is in our vote that we truly show what is in our heart.
“will you get to watch any fireworks?” she texted.
our city has spectacular fireworks. for over three decades i have marveled at the extent of the fourth-of-july display over lake michigan, sitting on the rocks along the shore, in the parks along the lakefront, down by where they set them off by the harbor. the fantastic light show goes on for about a half hour, culminating with a finale that bursts open the sky with color.
this city has a festival down by the lake, a carnival in the downtown, food vendors and dock-jumping-dogs and lots of music. there are children with ice cream cones melting on tiny fingers, bubble machines making iridescent bubbles float all around passersby, red, white and blue tchotchkes/chotchkes/chachkis on carts and people, bike parades with flags and streamers. there are hot dogs and brats sizzling, cheese curds and funnel cakes, lemonade and icees and dippin’ dots. there is no shortage of fun celebration and it’s all right there, within walking distance.
but in this day and age…
we won’t be going to watch the fireworks. this will be the fourth year now.
in 2019 we had just moved on island and didn’t leave dogdog and babycat during the display; they were adjusting to a new house as it was and we had no idea how loud the fireworks would be.
the city cancelled the fireworks in 2020; the global pandemic was early-on and there was a healthier respect for distancing.
last year, following the insurrection at the nation’s capitol, along with little to no leadership-held-responsible-for-all-of-that or any accountability, we stayed home.
and in this day and age…
we will stay home again. for the farcical supreme court has begun absolutely dismantling the freedoms that we are supposed to be celebrating. extremism and religious right are suffocating citizens of this country, thwarting the ability to live freely and make one’s own decisions. equality is going the way of centuries ago. discrimination is rising up, like fog on a wind-shifting hot summer’s day over the great lake. gun violence is dramatically increasing and, yet, guns are not limited. the extreme climate crisis is heaved off to the side in favor of big business; the epa is undermined and our children’s futures will feature many more “air quality alerts” than we could ever imagine, not to mention the global warming fallout from fossil fuel emissions. we watch lake mead drop and drop. we read of the po river in italy receding, lives substantially and critically affected. we see that australia is under water and that there are red flag warnings across the southwest – fires will be prevalent as the heat is heating up. the relationships between countries are strained. politics are warped. politicians play on stages of self-agendized blather. there is a lack of responsibility. there is a bigger lack of looking out for the big picture, the long haul, the world that will be inhabited by the children of our children’s children. kindness, consideration, compassion are looked at as weakness. we are flabbergasted at the stupidity. more, we are incredulous at the lack of people to see the stupidity. it seems the more clownish, the more vile, the more popular. it seems that evil lurks. and i wonder about the hypocrisy of watching fireworks while there are people quietly – and not so quietly – undermining democracy. we could ignore it all and go cheer – as loud as my sweet momma used to cheer – at the fireworks. or we could take a pause.
our old backyard neighbor played two things in their backyard. one was the soundtrack for “mamma mia” and the other was an album of john philip sousa marches. never insanely loud back then, both made us smile. a relationship three decades long.
but in this day and age, there are multitudes – truly multitudes – of children in that yard out back, a yard equipped with every single thing any generous public playground might have: full-size batting cage, full-size trampoline, three soccer nets, a basketball court, zipline, fort, swingset, sandbox, large plastic toys, atvs to ride, bikes, balls, bats, rat-a-tatting big toy guns and a new mysterious large wooden structure being built back along our lot line, where they can’t hear it or see it from their house, like most of the other entertainment devices in the large yard. apparently not at all conscious of the it’s-a-neighborhood-you-live-in-a-community philosophy, surrounded by people who have actually resided right here for decades, they play loud music through outdoor speakers so the whole neighborhood can hear – though no one gets a vote on what’s played – and the children have a spicy – and foul – vocabulary and bloodcurdling screams they don’t hesitate to use. demonstrating antagonism seems the way in this land beyond the dead arbor vitae. goodness! when did the rules of neighborhood – the rules of neighboring – change? did they not watch mr. rogers? parents need remember children are always watching their lead. likewise, leaders need remember citizens are always watching their lead. and how precisely did we get here?
this day and age.
we could make a big pitcher of iced water with slices of orange and lemon and grill some (plant-based) burgers, play a little music – at an appropriate volume – and watch our new pampas grass grow. we could admire our newly-cleaned garage or the new green blades growing in the haynet out front. we could paint rocks to hide on our trail or plant a few flowers. we could speed-dial fred rogers. all are quite likely. well, except for fred.
and we could go see the fireworks.
but we won’t.
not in this day and age.
though it will be a statement we make only to ourselves, it will be comforting to dogga for us to stay home.
besides, some things are just too much. in this day and age.
the color that is most associated with freedom is blue. it represents vigilance, perseverance, justice, prosperity, peace, and patriotism.
and, yes, freedom.
in a horrifyingly regressive turn of events – strategized and intended – the supreme court has diminished the freedom of women in this country. we have traveled backwards decades upon decades upon decades. the panting of their victory lap pales in comparison to the collective gasp heard around the world as the united states thwarts its own growth toward equality, toward being a nation held up as an example respecting human freedom-for-all. with no backwards glance of remorse, these justices undermined fifty percent of this sea-to-shining-sea-this-land-is-your-land land.
and so, it is time to climb out of the quiet shells in which we try to peacefully reside and speak up, speak out, shatter the silence. we must hold those responsible who have struck down the rights of women to have autonomy over their bodies. we are on a downhill vector and the rights and freedoms of gender identity, sexual orientation, racial equality run neck and neck in the justice-extremist-whack-a-mole, justices holding hands, religious-patriarchal-supremacist stickytape gluing them together and eroding the separation of church and state they are sworn to uphold. what deity would support such reprehensible action? the color blue – the sky, peace, true justice – weeps. democracy cracking, a fragile idea failing.
“…o say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?…”
robins laid these blue eggs. birds. symbols of freedom. also of hope, renewal, rebirth.
i passed by these words: “try being informed instead of just opinionated.” i laughed and then frowned, thinking it was a great mantra for these times. it doesn’t even need any additional blah-blah. it simply can stand on its own, shining a spotlight on, well, most of us at some point or another.
i was recently reading some writings of noam chomsky, a linguist and philosopher and so much more. he is “widely recognized as having helped to spark the cognitive revolution in the human sciences”. his work is interesting and profoundly thought-provoking. and, he is one of those scholars who have quotes galore attributed to him, smidges of wisdom, tomes prompting controversy, questions that parry ignorance.
“the general population doesn’t know what’s happening and it doesn’t even know that it doesn’t know” is one of these quotes. bracing.
any scroll through news media apps in these times is pretty scary. intense drought, raging wildfires, ferocious storms erupting, melting glaciers and rising oceans, a global pandemic morphing and morphing again but not going away, the rise of authoritarianism in the global world, the attack on democracy and fundamental truths, the support of lies and personal agenda by people in trusted positions, the new climate change report issued by the united nations…the doomsday list seems endless.
we stumbled into a short documentary the other evening about doomsday bunkers. people in south dakota and texas purchasing $35k bunkers and tricking them out into homes in which they live, preparing, prepared. it was kind of daunting to see – these underground homes with pantry rooms full of canned goods, homes with no windows, homes that are more-or-less safe – or at least removed – from all that goes on above ground. i expected to see wily extremists but that wasn’t the case in the short we viewed. these were people who wanted to be ready to go on if all else failed – leaving “all else” to your imagination, easily fed by the horrors we read and watch in the news. i personally cannot imagine living this way. though the bunkers are in a community, the premise is removing yourself from the rest of the world and i wonder what is left of value then. a little more googling and other bunkers emerge – bunkers for the super rich, bunkers that are more extreme. what is really going on here? the things we don’t know.
i used to teach in the state of florida, though i have not lived there now for over thirty years. in the mixed miracle of social media, some of my previous students are friends of mine on facebook and i am delighted to see them in their lives as adults. i am horrified to watch the governor of that state remove protections for the children attending school there, not to mention teachers and administrators and other valued employees of school systems. barring mask mandates, downplaying vaccinations, issuing warnings to remove funding, threatening the withholding of salaries – all power ploys for his own sick agenda, which clearly is not to protect or encourage protecting the residents of his state, his constituents. i don’t understand this. and yet, his actions are mostly undeterred and it is only now that there are some superintendents pushing back, placing lives over one man’s warped authority. i wonder why every parent in the state isn’t lined up, pushing back. had my children been little while we lived there, i would have been appalled by the cavalier attitude about their health and well-being. they – and every single other child in that state – are not expendable. what is really going on here? the things we don’t know.
we’ve all heard the expression “ignorance is bliss.” is it really? is not-knowing the best way to go about living? is getting all hooked-lined-and-sinkered into opinion-land responsible? is watching the circus networks opine and distill truth and hatch conspiracy communal? is it ok to not know what’s really happening and not know that you don’t know? is it prudent – without asking questions – to fetch every bone thrown igniting rhetoric, encouraging vitriol, spewing hate, forwarding inequality, ignoring climate peril, wreaking chaos? even dogdog can discern firestarter sticks from real branches.
the morning dawned crisper and drier than previous days. there is nothing like sleeping with the windows wide open and a blanket on. even dogdog was feeling refreshed. we looked at the weather app. there is a tiny reprieve of the weather of late – yesterday and today. and then it’s going to soar back up into the 90s, with humidity making all the ferns and the basil outside grin.
the fourth of july will be beastly hot – as fourths often are. we may or may not walk to the lakefront. we know it will crowded and this still feels like time to be careful, pandemic-wise. fireworks will culminate the festivities with people on blankets and bag-chairs, with coolers and bugspray. there is a possibility that this plant – on the side of the trail as we hiked – may be our sole firework. and that’s ok.
each morning lately i have awakened around 4. and each morning i hear loud pops. i don’t know what these are. i assume they are fireworks, though i hardly know why someone is setting them off in the wee hours of the night. i hope they are not gunfire, though i’m not sure i would know the difference from a distance. since the violence that erupted in our town last year, merely blocks away from our home, i always wonder now. so i stay awake, waiting to hear if there are sirens. i find it unnerving.
dogdog is not a fan of fireworks; though he does not cower from them, he is clearly nervous. babycat would also be wary, sticking close to dogga and us. i know there are many people who have expressed how nearly terrified their pet is of fireworks. and, in these times we have been through, with the insane rise of gun violence in this country, i can relate to people being wary, being nervous.
i consider this too: fish and foraging creatures ingest the debris from these fireworks, often set off over water or rural areas. loud noises cause wildlife to flee. without plan and disoriented, birds and bees and so many other animals-sharing-earth-with-us panic, bringing undue harm to themselves. they are not celebrating. they are not even understanding. they are in flight mode, scared.
so this year, as spectacular as planned fireworks are, i find myself thinking that it might just be nice to stay in the backyard, quietly contemplating this democracy and all its flaws. we’ll maybe turn on the torches to keep away the mosquitoes and light the firepit tower and watch the flames in the breeze. we’ll play music and maybe dance on the deck. we’ll keep dogdog reassuringly close, sip wine and try to remember last fourth of july and the one before that and the one before that…
we’ll hear fireworks all around us. our neighborhood on the lakefront will be noisy and packed with cars – people who have driven here and parked on all the streets, toting their picnics and rolly-coolers and blankets down the sidewalks.
and i will hope that all will go well all over this country in this celebration of a day – a celebration of things so many seem to have forgotten, things written into the declaration of independence: “we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
when i was a child i didn’t know. i watched fireworks with no sense of irony. i was in awe at the spectacle of the parade and the pomp and circumstance.
denver riggleman said it best, “what is going on?” the chaos abounding in the political arena is the stuff of wildly hysterical hyena-laughter, the stuff of destruction, the stuff of the danger of propagandizing that-which-is-not-true.
the politicians who have lined up behind the current president, the-one-who-lost-the-election, are merely minions being played, little people doing the dirty work of a man who is so immersed in himself he has ignored a sweeping pandemic killing thousands of americans-on-his-watch every single day. without fact, without conversation crossing the aisle, without second thought or conscience, these politicians are cowering to this president for what? a pat on the head? my dog is less needy than that.
as we move through this time, we see professionals who are doing their job with excellence reamed out and cast to the side. we see people who are speaking out against the management of this leadership who are dismissed. we see individuals spoken about with strategic words of malice, gaslighting insinuations of wrongdoing, meanspiritedness at play.
we are left – deliberately – with confusion. as people watching, we are served up narrative, a silver platter full of nothing, expected to go merrily along with it all, to join the crusade, to not ask questions. we watch Power and Control take over. we are appalled at the gall this leadership and his team have exhibited. we are expected to believe him because, well, he is who he is, they are who they are. you can’t see the pedestal but it’s there. his minions have joined him inside his sickness and we, as populace, have been made the stadium audience as this unnecessary wrestling match moves forward, as people are thrown to the mat, as due process is ignored and the foundation shudders.
the headline from business insider magazine reads, “chris krebs firing from CISA (cybersecurity and infrastructure security agency) was evidence of his success.” the united states top department of homeland security cybersecurity official was fired this week after spearheading efforts to protect the democratic process of the election. he spoke to the truth; he exposed the falsehoods, the mismanagement of factual information, the peril to free and fair elections, his ignored answers to questions about an election that was “the most secure in american history.” he was removed. democracy is at stake.
defense secretary mark esper, apparently not loyal enough to a president who seeks not truth, but rather, compliance, was fired early in november, injecting uncertainty into an already perilous global climate. he was replaced. our country is destabilized, put at greater risk.
lt. col. alexander vindman, a national security council staff member, raised his hand and swore to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. after speaking to the truth in impeachment hearings for the current president, he was fired by the president, the same man who was impeached. his error? speaking the truth, citing facts, about a man who demands only absolute alliance, disregarding truth. that man, along with those complicit to him, exacted revenge.
dr. anthony fauci, the director of the national institute of allergy and infectious diseases since 1984, speaking to the truth, the inconceivable and unconscionable peril that this country is facing in the middle of this raging global pandemic, has been minimized and tossed off, threatened with being fired by a president intent on absolute control, absolute obedience. factual information needed to protect a vulnerable populace has been withheld, experts with words of wisdom have been held at bay. more people will contract this disease. more people will die.
“transparency, in a business or governance context, is honesty and openness.”
“transparency is the open sharing of information from a business to its consumers. it creates brand trust, good communication and perceived good citizenship.”
transparency is not the utterance of pretty words. it is not relationship participating in hiding the truth, sweeping it under the rug. it is not silent. it is not intentionally deceptive. it is having hard and healthy conversations, respectfully taking responsibility, navigating difficulty, meeting and addressing problems head-on, collaborating with maturity, eyes toward progress and shared authenticity.
our election process. our national security. the integrity of our leadership. our collective health.
if you look at the leaves on our front lawn in this photograph, you will see splotches of green. this is the path that some incredibly audacious person took walking from the sidewalk to our front brick wall in order to steal our two biden/harris election signs. yes. STEAL.
that morning – the saturday that joe biden was declared the new president-elect and kamala harris was declared the new vice-president-elect – someone had the gall to walk into our yard and take the sign out of the middle of the yard. then that person continued walking – right up to our old brick wall – and took our other sign.
now, i have never had election signs in my yard before. ever. but this year was different and, in addition to a couple other social justice signs, i was proud to have “biden/harris” gracing our home. i was looking forward to rolling one of them up for our special box, a remembrance of this turbulent time.
opening the miniblinds and letting the sun in the front windows i immediately saw that the signs were gone.
what was this person thinking?
did he/she think that they could prevent the inevitable? did he/she think that taking our signs would mean that the election results would shift? did he/she think that stealing from someone else’s property would be ok, acceptable, appropriate? that stealing candidate signs is not petty and immature? is that what this current president has taught them? that their angry opinion and their inflated sense of ego and importance would give them permission to steal? that their bullying would actually change anything? that their malfeasance would warp voting results that have everything to do with actually saving the soul of this nation, of democracy? that stealing signs would stop any new-day-for-america change of this nation toward equality and hope, a trajectory so needed for so long? that they don’t think crybaby tantrums and an obvious desire for retribution undermine the (supposed) value set they proclaim? did it occur to this person that we might have a security camera on the front yard? did it occur to them it is a misdemeanor? did they think that their whiny, pouting, coddled leader himself, all the way from his time-out corner in the white house, would pay their legal fines?
it is apparent that we were not the only target of this infantile and illegal behavior. many other biden/harris signs were gone from yards we had smiled at while passing and the bigger wooden signs that had been erected were pushed over. yes, now there is a display of puerile behavior. to have followed this/these person(s) around our neighborhood, triumphantly snatching signage out of the ground, would be to witness the asinine.
maybe the next time they steal something from someone they’ll smile and wave. candid cameras can be ruthless these days.
oh. and by the way, stealing our signs did not change the results. your guy lost.
“duh” went through my mind when we hiked past this sign on a high mountain trail in aspen. every time we hike – absolutely anywhere – we are nice and we say hi. that seems pretty basic. “what’s with the sign reminder?” i wondered.
most trails in high elevation are shared. hikers trek, mountain bikers bike and equestrians ride – all on the same trails. kindness, mostly, prevails. friendliness, mostly, is at the ready. in this covid-19 time, with some exception, masks are pulled up as people pass each other face-to-face; safety is, mostly, first.
but there is always that element. any where. those who do not share well. those who do not trail together. those who are not nice. those who do not say hi. those who don’t even wave. those who need reminding. those who need signs.
today is – finally, at long last, after an interminable political season – election day.
given the run-up to this day of threats of national security, of people in trucks chasing down buses from the other side, of the president threatening to sic the supreme court upon the election, of mistruths of voter fraud, of concerns about gun-toting and armed observers at the polls, of covid-19 superspreader rallies held by the leader of the free world in a country raging with pandemic, of any number of examples of malfeasance by leadership et al, it would seem that signs might actually be necessary. basic signs. signs to remind people how to be. signs posted in most kindergarten classrooms across the land, from sea to shining sea.
signs that say, “be nice, say hi!”
signs, well, freaking everywhere.
because people are exercising their right to vote. people are having a say in this country that we all share, so that people can trek and bike and ride, metaphorically speaking, all somehow together on the same highways, the same backroads, the same trails, in the same states, in the same communities, the same cities, the same schools and businesses and religious institutions, the same neighborhoods, the same workplaces, the same clubs, the same friend-groups, the same families, across this vast country. people are voting so that their voices are considered, so that they are included, so that they can share in this democracy.
on the never-ending, incessant, ceaseless, uninterrupted, tedious, wearisome campaign trail, maybe the signs would help.