Three suggestions.

  1. Can we tone down the “impeachment!” talk? While I think that is where this will end up eventually, a) it is a long way down the road (it’s not like Trump will go gently into that good night), and b) it makes us look like we are more interested in revenge than justice. Let’s face it, even if we successfully impeach the bastard in a year or two, this is a tragedy for our country, and will lead to further division.
  2. Can we stop ruminating on whether or not it would be for the best if we just let Trump ride out his term? I know Mike Pence is not ideal. I know that in some ways he represents a threat to the country. Trump, however, represents a threat to the entire world.
  3. And something I have wanted to say for a year and a half: can we FINALLY stop talking about Trump’s appearance? Who gives a damn if he’s orange? He’s a fucking psychopath! If it’s not okay to make fun of Hillary’s clothing choices, it shouldn’t be okay to mock Trump’s complexion.

After all, it’s not like there aren’t a lot of other things — substantive things — about him for us to mock.

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Catharsis.

The kids are all, for the most part, gone.

One is home, but working.

One is at school.

One, God help me, teaches English… in Seoul, South Korea. [Yet another reason the Trump presidency has been bad for my blood pressure.]

I am currently taking classes. I am having to adapt to spending lots of time alone in the house. It’s been really unsettling.  But today,  I found a consolation for all that… quiet: it’s possible to scream at the top of my lungs. If you were in the house this afternoon, you would have heard…

“EVERYONE GIVE UP FOR AMERICA’S FAVORITE FIGHTING FRENCHMAN!!!!!”

“LAFAYETTE!!!!!!”… “LAFAYETTE!!!”… “LAFAYETTE!!!”… “LAFAYETTE!!”… “LAFAYETTE!!” and then “HAMILTON!!!…HAMILTON!!!”…”HAMILTON!!!”…..

Obsession. It’s a good thing

Now, to get back to this week’s major project.

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Compassion.

I weep for you,’ the Walrus said:
      I deeply sympathize.’
With sobs and tears he sorted out
      Those of the largest size,
Holding his pocket-handkerchief
      Before his streaming eyes.
Lewis Carroll, “The Walrus and the Carpenter.”

 

Sometimes enlightenment comes from the strangest places.

As can be expected I have been following the ACHA debacle closely.  I have been frustrated by the seeming callousness of some of the supporters of the new bill. Some of them seem dangerously clueless, such as the representative who claimed that people who didn’t need health care led better lives. Some have simply flat out lied to their constituents about how the bill will effect them.

Then there is Representative Joe Walsh. In response to Jimmy Kimmel’s touching recounting of his infant son’s life-threatening heart problems, which if you haven’t seen you should, the good Representative tweeted “Sorry Jimmy Kimmel: your sad story doesn’t obligate me or anybody else to pay for somebody else’s health care.”*

I struggle to articulate the thinking behind a statement like this. Yes, it’s selfishness, but it is also something else. That’s where the Barenaked Ladies came in.

As I sat trying to figure what to blog about this, the BNL song “Bank Job” popped up on my iTunes. In the last verse, the narrator of the story in the song expresses the outlook of many of the people I read about who support Trumpcare, even knowing that it will result in millions losing healthcare:

“I’m all for compassion, just not on my dime.”

You see that a lot.

I have compassion for people who lack insurance,  just don’t raise my taxes — no matter how small the amount of the increase — to help them get it.

We really need to help schools in poor neighborhoods, but I refuse to vote for a parcel tax because my kids don’t go to school anymore.

The poor Syrian refugees face untold horrors, but we need to prevent any of them from coming into the country.

I feel sorry for women who have been raped, but we can’t allow them to have access to Plan B or any form of abortion.

The Native Americans are understandably upset about their water and land being threatened, but we need to build the Dakota Access Pipeline, because it will bring jobs.

It’s tragic that young men die at the hands of the police, but we can’t criticize our men in blue, let alone hold them accountable.

It’s a shame about families being torn apart, but we do need to deport every illegal in the country, including the ones brought here as children who have not known any other country than the US.

So many people claim to be compassionate, but it’s compassion that isn’t on “their dime.” This isn’t compassion. It’s ersatz compassion, seeking validation for being a good person without having to commit to anything. It’s the compassion of the Walrus for the oysters, claiming a moral high ground while consuming those they claim to care for. Pro-tip: anytime someone uses the words “I have compassion for…,” they generally don’t.

Real compassion is muscular; real compassion calls for action.  The truly compassionate say not “I have compassion, but…” but instead “I have compassion, and….”

For a long time, I used to state I had compassion for people who held horrible views. After all, racists or misogynists must have bitterness in their hearts that made their lies miserable, right? Yes, the objects of their hatred are the first priority, but shouldn’t we feel sorry for people who constricted their world in such a way?

I don’t feel that way anymore. For one thing, it’s condescending as hell. For another, this forces me to pretend that I didn’t feel anger or disgust (or even, yes, hatred: I don’t claim to be a good person). Most importantly, it moves the focus of discussion away from where it really should be: on the victims of racism or misogyny.

It’s much better not to pretend to be compassionate. I don’t have compassion for the extreme alt-left (the preferred term these days, rather than Bernie bot), I have fury towards them. I don’t have compassion for Trump voters, I despise some (not all) of them for what they have done to my country. It would be hypocritical for me to claim otherwise.

Honesty is much better than compassion. That way,  you don’t try to influence people to care for others that neither warrant nor, in many cases, want your concern.

*Considering that Joe Walsh (no relation, I’m sure to the absolutely fabulous guitarist for the Eagles) once was taken to court for not paying child support, I don’t think he’s in any position to chide someone else like this. Neither does the Twitterverse — he got absolutely slammed. Not to mention that Walsh here demonstrates a total lack of understanding about how insurance works: every one who has insurance pays into a pot of money, which is then doled out to pay for health care. In a sense, every time someone uses their health insurance, someone else is (at least partially) paying for their health care. It’s appalling how many people just don’t get this.

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Today’s disgruntled political thought.

I am SO tired of election postmortems, from both sides. It’s arguing over who attacked the old man while he is lying on the sidewalk bleeding out.

There’s a time and a place, right? And this is not the time to be fighting over who did what six months ago when we’re desperately struggling for our political our democratic  lives.

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Notes to self:

  1. Just as you have been contemplating a timer to reduce your Facebook usage, you should use a timer to control your news viewing, even though it’s not every day that the FBI director gets canned..
  2. Speaking of Facebook, don’t make snarky and rude comments about friends of friends. Not that you care what the friend of the friend thinks, but you do really care what your friend thinks.
  3. When using a new cleanser, use it only on your face, rather than also on your eyelids, even though it is ostensibly safe for such. That way, when the hives show up, it will only be your face that itches like crazy, not also your eyes.
  4. Don’t use two new products at the same time: you never know which one it was. I really liked both of them, too. I guess I’ll have to wait to find the special product that will make me look like I was thirty-five again.
  5. Having to have someone drive you to school because you are doped up on Benadryl is a pain for everyone involved. Especially since you can’t miss class because you are going to miss two classes when you go to Spain, and you’ve already missed one when you saw Hamilton. Not that I would have missed Hamilton for the world (not even for Spain). You are already having to beg the teacher for one absence over the two allowed. Fortunately, you have a sterling attendance and homework record.
  6. God, class is going to seem long tonight. I just hope I can remain coherent.
  7. Why aren’t you writing more?
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Thanking teachers.

I had a less than stellar childhood. When I look back, I had a lot of unhappiness. School should have been a bright spot, and in some ways it was, but in other ways it was horrible. Some people — teachers — made all the difference.

The earliest teacher of which I have a memory is Mrs. North in fourth grade. In music class, she taught us show tunes: Oliver!, The Sound of Music, and (although it was probably inappropriate for a public school), Godspell. Along with my father, she made show tunes cool, and she is one of the reasons that I have at least one song from probably  a hundred different shows*, not including revivals and movie soundtracks, on my iTunes. I have complete soundtracks from about thirty shows — I purged a bunch about a year ago; before then I had about sixty full soundtracks. (As I said, not including revivals — I have three different versions of Sondheim’s Follies.)

If memory serves, Mrs. North was also the teacher that told my Mom I was failing English because I wasn’t doing the book reports. Given that I read constantly**, and well above grade level, but simply was too lazy to write about what I read, Mom was understandably outraged. (At me, not Mrs. North. In all my years of school, my parents never interceded with a teacher on my behalf, partially because they didn’t need to, but also because they believed that if I was getting a bad grade it was my responsibility to work harder.)

I had Mr. Lindsey in the seventh grade. Mr Lindsey made me feel like I was worth something: that it didn’t matter if I was popular or pretty as long as I was smart. He also had Jeopardy! type games every week covering what we were supposed to have learned. Those games marked the first — and only — time I have been picked first, that people argued over who got to have me on their team. The team I was on always won.

Mr. Lindsey was also the first person to call me Pat rather than Patty, which nickname I adopted with alacrity. (I had never really liked Patty, let alone Patsy.) Pat made me feel stronger, more capable. He also allowed students to  challenge what he said, up to a point, provided that they could back up what they said with a reputable source. Once, he was talking about Mt. Everest being the tallest mountain on earth. I raised my hand. “It’s not,” I said. “Mauna Kea in Hawaii is.” We went back and forth about it a bit, and when I brought in the book on earth sciences I was reading that stated that Mauna Kea, when measured from its base on the ocean floor, was taller than Everest, he admitted I was right. Mr. Lindsey then said “Mt. Everest is the highest point on earth,” and looked at me challengingly. “I never said it wasn’t,” I replied, looking angelic. It’s a bit of a miracle he didn’t thwap me.

Mrs. French was my sometimes cranky English teacher. She taught me a love of poetry, of memorizing poetry, of the sound of the rhythm of the words. She’s the reason that — until my memory got hazy — I could recite all of Langston Hughes’ “Harlem” and pretty much all of Lewis Carroll’s “The Walrus and the Carpenter.” I learned to seek out poetry on my own, from the frantic rush of e.e. cummings “next to god of course america” to the enveloping hidden sadness of Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.”

Then high school. High school was, like it was for many of us, miserable. But there were teachers who helped there, too.

Mr. Oescher was my ideal of a math teacher: he believed in teaching not only the formulas, and how they worked, but also why they worked. A lot of students hated being in his class: he required you to think, not just memorize. I loved having him; I only wish I could have had him for both halves of Trigonometry, even though I got a better grade in Mr. Jacob’s class.

Ms. Kostbar taught Chemistry. I loved Chemistry, and I loved the way she taught it. I was disappointed when the powers that be decreed that they were getting rid of Chem 2 and that we needed to do the class as independent study. (We had to arrange lab time, and do the other work on our own. What can I say? Florida schools at that time were some of the worst in the country.) She also believed in my ability: as a result of some abysmal grades freshman year, I didn’t make Honor Society until my Senior year. Mrs. Kostbar (who was the faculty advisor), was not happy with me: “You should have made it last year. You are smart enough.”

And then there is Mrs. Cogar. I have written about her before; she changed my life, far more than any teacher I have ever had, either before or since. From her I learned to be analytical, but that it was also possible to overanalyze. She introduced me to Frost, and Steinbeck, and O’Neill. If I could only thank one teacher, it would be her. (She would be slightly appalled at my writing these days, though: I use the passive tense far too much.)

There were teachers in college (Alice Robinson, Nina Tumarkin**) and law school (Buzz Thompson, Barbara Babcock) whose classes I enjoyed, were challenged by, and where I learned to think critically.

But my teachers in middle and high school helped change me and shape me into who I am now. They told me it was okay to always ask “Why?” and that facts mattered, and that intelligence was not something to be ashamed of. They taught me to look for the answers other than the obvious, and that challenging authority was good, sometimes.

I thank them with all my heart.

*Full disclosure: a lot of those are on the six-disc set for Broadway: The American Musical, which I got for Christmas about seven or eight years ago. I was delighted; my family not so much.
**Some kids had parents who took away television privileges as punishment. Mine shut away my books (usually to get me to clean my room).
***Even though I got As and A-s in a lot of classes, the grade I am most proud of in all my years at Wellesley is the B+  in Nina Tumarkin’s 20th Century History Class. The final consisted of two questions, one of which was along the lines of “What changes would you make to the Treaty of Versailles so as to alleviate the conditions which led to the rise of Nazi Germany?” Or, more simply, “Rewrite the Treaty of Versailles so it works.”)

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Viva La France!

Viva la France!

While not my favorite European country (Spain holds that honor) I have always loved France. And the French people have now justified my belief that, on the whole, they’re smarter than Americans. (Yes, I know, I’m being unpatriotic.)

So Emmanuel Macron won. Hurrah! Attempts to discredit his campaign by stealing and then publishing scores of documents from them failed.

My favorite part of the whole Macron/computer hacking is how smart the Macron campaign was. According to the Daily Beast, as reported by Daily Kos, * they saw the threat coming and took preventive action. They mixed false items in with the true; they compromised the operation of the bâtards who stole and then leaked their information. They seemed to have learned from the American debacle; they heeded signs that the Russians were seeking to destabilize and corrupt their elections; they took action. (Marine Le Pen getting money from Putin was a sure sign that he was in her corner.)

We can learn from the French. We can stop the meddling in our elections, by Russia and anyone else. I give the Russians this, they’re extremely aggressive and competent at cyber warfare.

I also suspect that even without the efforts of the Macron campaign, the French would have put less credence in the leaked documents than the Americans seem to have.  At any case, they were smart enough not to put a radical Islamophobe in the Presidency.

I would never move to France (can’t speak the language, for one thing; more importantly, I love the US too much), but I am sure glad it’s there. Good going, guys.

*”I’ve read the Daily Beast article, I’m just having trouble linking to it right now.

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