The trial.

The impeachment trial begins.

The Constitutional question seems straightforward enough: did the Framers intend a “January exception” (so named by House Impeachment Manager Jamie Raskin) to the clause requiring impeachment for high crimes and misdemeanors? Can a President wait and commit any crime he wants to in the last few weeks of his term?

Could President Trump really shoot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue and get away with it?

The answer to that question is no, but only because murder is a state crime, not a federal one. Trump may be able to avoid the federal charges but not evade state ones, for the same reasons he can’t pardon himself for potential tax indictments from the state of New York.

I find it odd that this is even a question. The logic of the Constitution here is incontrovertible. Importantly, by deciding when to have it, a complicit Majority Leader of the Senate can hold up the trial until after the President leaves office. Republican Mitch McConnell did exactly that, by refusing to call a special session to have the trial. I find that Republicans now arguing that the time has passed for the President to be tried disingenuous, to say the least.

The Republicans ignore the second remedy available to Congress. Not merely removal, conviction allows Congress to bar the elected official from holding federal office in the future. Does anyone think that Trump will not run again in 2024 unless barred? That he will not claim the election is rigged if he loses? That his acolytes will not again swarm the Capitol in an attempted coup?

Republicans have argued the trial would divide the country. I cannot for the life of me see how the country can be more divided than it is. Instead, a conviction would help heal the bleeding wounds, the naked fear, so many of now carry. The election and inauguration of Joe Biden helped assuage some of that fear, but left open the possibility of insurrection and destruction the next time a Republican (or, to be fair, a would-be Democratic dictator) wins the Presidency.

The forces of destruction might not even need a new cult object. Donald Trump insists on using the Presidential Seal in his correspondence and calling himself “the 45th President,” as though there were not a 46th in office. Were a mob to successfully overrun the Capitol and the White House, they might attempt to reinstate him to his former position. Given the fallout against the members of the House of Representatives who voted for impeachment, and the efforts of the Arizona State Senate to invalidate the results of their election, a lot of Republicans would welcome his return.

The country faces a catastrophe. The worst crisis that we have imposed upon ourselves since the Civil War looms before us.

I have never prayed harder for Donald Trump to die. I would prefer he get struck by lightning while playing golf at Mar-a Lago, but a sudden heart attack or stroke would suffice. The last thing I would hope is that he get assassinated.

The country definitely needs for him not to become a martyr.

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Update, “Fear and Politics.”

For some reason WordPress is not allowing me to update previously postst. It will not even allow me to change the post to draft, thereby unpublishing it.

Update: in fact, as it turned out, in spite of Trump’s previously reported wishes, Trump’s lawyers did not argue his speech was factually correct. In addition to the “you can’t impeach ex-Presidents,” they are arguing that Trump’s words at the rally preceding the insurrection (in which he urged his followers to go to the Capitol and “fight like you’ve never fought before”) were not incitement from protected First Amendment speech.

Really. And once again this raises the question: if this is not incitement, what is?

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Fear and Politics

Predictably, Democratic Senators have called on Donald Trump to appear before the Senate during his impeachment. Likewise, Donald Trump has rejected the request. I have no doubt his refusal arises from his scorn for the Democrats, but just as likely may come from his disdain for the Congress, the separation of powers, the Constitution, and the rule of law in general. Add in his repeatedly stated belief that he, not Joe Biden, is the duly elected President of the United States (the lie he has told so often it seems as though he must believe it), and his likewise less firm but definitely implied belief that the President is above the law, and his refusal to talk to Congress seems less predictable and more inevitable.

I want the House impeachment managers to subpoena Trump. He will not appear, and they will hopefully have him thrown in jail. I rather doubt they will, though.

His defense seems to center around the argument that what he told the mob on at the January 6th rally was factually correct: the election was indeed stolen. My mind boggles at the thought such a tactic might actually work, at least with some Republican members of Congress. They would like to acquit on the grounds that the Constitution does not allow for the impeachment of a president no longer in office, but that’s not what Trump wants. Their chosen method of letting him off the hook might allow for criminal indictment for insurrection, but they probably don’t want that, either.

The Republicans in Congress are nothing if not consistent: Trump matters above all else. They are his party, his toadies, his sycophants. They claim to be afraid of his base, and willingly throw aside any semblance of real patriotism and honor to cater to them.

Take the treatment of Liz Cheney and Marjorie Taylor Greene. Liz Cheney, who voted for impeachment, escaped the vote to strip her from her leadership role in the House by a comfortable margin. Then we have Marjorie Taylor Greene, a woman who espoused bizarre conspiracy theories (Jewish space lasers, anyone?), who approved of statements condoning assassination of Nancy Pelosi, and who in a campaign ad showed herself in front of pictures of several young members of Congress holding an AR-15. She lost her committeships, but it took an act of the entire House (read: majority Democrats) for that to happen. Only eleven Republicans stood against conspiracy and violence. And as one commentator noted, “if her behavior is not beyond the pale of Republicans, then what is?”

The difference between the two votes is obvious: one occurred in a closed caucus session by secret vote, and the other took place on the House floor with all the world watching. Given how hard it is to see how a Republican could support both Cheney and Greene, more than a hundred Representatives split their votes – courageous in secret, cowardly in public. 

Perhaps they fear violence at the hands of the hardest of the hard core Trumpers: Q-Anon, the Proud Boys, the Oathkeepers. God knows Democrats do – especially the newer, more liberal Democrats. On the floor of the House during the debate about Greene, Representative Rashida Tlaib tearfully related how she started receiving death threats even before she was sworn in. 

Imagine what it must be like to go to work every day with someone who just a year ago indicated they would like to shoot you. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has stated that white supremacist Representatives walk the halls of Congress, and she is afraid for her life. Given that Lauren Bobert of Arizona was tweeting the location of Speaker Pelosi as she was being moved to safety, and the reports that a member of Congress escorted people around the building the day before the insurrection, and that the House has had to consider rules levying fines for bringing firearms into the House chamber, AOC’s fear seems completely justified.

We find ourselves in a very dark place, when elected officials let fear guide them rather than principle. That has always been true to some extent, but never like this. I don’t know how we get back to the normal level of political opportunism.

Maybe we don’t.

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Got to keep the old grey cells active.

Learning matters to me. What I have done best in my life was always being a student. I may not have been able to transform what I learned into anything that I could get paid for, but I console myself by insisting that my presence in the classroom has been valuable to my classmates. I don’t know for sure that this is true.

In any case, you have to keep learning, or your brain rots. In order to stave off inevitable decay, I take online classes. Sometimes they even prove useful.

MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) I have taken (from Coursera and edx):

Specializations: 

  • Modern and Contemporary Art & Design (MoMA) (four classes)
  • Good with Words: Writing and Editing (U Michigan) (four classes)

Stand alone courses:

  • Leonardo to Rembrandt to Goya (University of Madrid)
  • Hollywood: History, Industry, Art (Penn)
  • The Age of Cathedrals (Yale)
  • Roman Architecture (Yale)
  • Witchcraft in the Middle Ages (U. Barcelona)Post-War Abstract Expressionism (MoMA)
  • A couple of classes about learning from UCSD

Currently: Race and Cultural Diversity in American Life and History (U Michigan) — just started

Most useful thus far: the Good with Words Specialization (I liked it so much I wrote a thank-you note to the professor)

Most boring thus far: the learning classes

Hardest: Roman Architecture (the material was hard, the final was a bitch, but the project — create a map of your own Roman city — was a lot of fun)

Most interesting: tie, the Good with Words Specialization, and the Contemporary Fashion Design that was part of the Modern and Contemporary specialization

I discover myself running out of humanities classes to take from Coursera and edx. I may need to find other sites, or break down and take something commercially useful, like Python for Everybody.

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Things you don’t ask.

I have family who are Republicans. Some things I just don’t ask them.

Like: Marjorie Taylor Greene is your representative. Did you vote for her?

Marjorie Taylor Greene is the QAnon Representative from Georgia who in 2018 tweeted approval of the execution of Democrats. She liked a tweet calling for Nancy Pelosi to be shot. Her constituents knew her views at the time they elected her, views she has never repudiated or publicly regretted.

I haven’t asked the Republicans in my life what they think of Greene because I am frankly afraid to. I have worked hard to stay on speaking – even friendly – terms with people who hold different opinions than I do, but I can’t overlook someone approving of Greene’s beliefs. Such approval would be a bridge too far for me.

I find it horrible enough that Republicans in Congress refuse to repudiate her. I can chalk their seeming deference to her up to simple cowardice, to needing to appease their base for political purposes. My relatives have no such excuse: they don’t have voters to placate. Knowing that they don’t disapprove of Greene – or worse, agree with her – would destroy whatever respect I had for them on both moral and intellectual levels.

I also don’t ask my Republican relatives if they think the election was stolen. I will not because I do not want to have to hold my temper while explaining the total lack of evidence for what they believe. I might be able to keep my cool while discussing support for Greene; I could not while struggling to explain why what they think about the elections in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Georgia are just flat wrong.

I am sure there are questions they won’t ask me, such as: do you support Black Lives Matter? Or approve of the Democratic bills that would protect voting rights? Or think the stimulus package is a good idea?

We love each other. Maybe that’s because we don’t know everything. That’s a shame: we should be charitable towards each other regardless of our beliefs. I suspect that would be as impossible for them in some cases as it would be for me in others.

So, sadly, we just don’t ask.

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Thirty-five years ago today.

One of the earliest posts I wrote in this blog, in January, 2006, was on the Challenger disaster. It still encapsulates my thoughts about the tragedy.

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Gaslighting.

I was reminded recently of the origin of the word “gaslighting.” For those of you who have not had liberal friends try to explain Donald Trump to you, “gaslighting” is repeatedly lying to someone while acting as though the hearer is losing her grip on reality. The term comes from the Ingrid Bergman movie, Gaslight, in which the husband of a concert pianist, abetted by the housemaid, tries to drive her insane by lowering the gaslight in the house and telling her she was imagining the increasing darkness.

I was struck by a fundamental truth about gaslighting — no one engages in it alone. Other people always aid in the deceit.

We were gaslighted, and not only by Donald Trump.

We heard lies all through the Trump Presidency. We heard lies from the rotating press secretaries. We heard lies from to the toadies who would parrot whatever propaganda Trump was pushing at the time. We heard the biggest lie of all repeated by Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz, and the six other Senators and 149 Republican representatives who challenged the electoral votes in two states in an attempt to have the 2020 election results invalidated. Those Congressmen argued, without evidence, that major election fraud occurred even though court after court had tossed out cases because the president’s lawyer presented no evidence of malfeasance.

For many, trying to understand what was true became hard. Living in a world where those who should have been trustworthy spouted “alternative facts” made keeping hold of actuality difficult. If psychosis means being divorced from reality, then large swaths of the populace might have been psychotic.

Knowing truth meant fact-checking and fact-checking and fact-checking again statements by media figures and elected officials at all levels of government. “Alternative facts” were not confined to the White House or the Capitol: they were spread by governors, mayors, secretaries of state, and others.

The pandemic made the lies told over the last year deadly. Because of them, large numbers of people refused to take the simplest precautions to slow down the spread of the disease. Many Americans died as a result. Many more suffered potentially permanent damage to their bodies.

By its nature gaslighting is abusive. The damage done can be devasting and long-lasting: the gaslighting we as a nation experienced during the Trump administration nearly cost us our democracy. When crazed insurrectionists stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6th, they acted as a result of a vicious and sustained campaign to destroy the peaceful transfer of power, a hallmark of our government. 

The seditious mob that broke into the Capitol were not demonstrating but, as one of them said, “hunting.”  “Hang Mike Pence” echoed through the halls. Miraculously, only five people died, and miraculously no public official was assassinated. By all accounts it was a very close thing.

Those insurrectionists have a lot of company among Trump supporters who believe that the election was stolen. Multiple polls show a majority of Republicans believe – again, with no supporting evidence – that Joe Biden’s election was tainted, his administration illegitimate.

Foiled by an intrepid journalist, the husband in the movie Gaslight did not succeed in his nefarious plot. The housemaid was confronted with her misdeeds, and the concert pianist escaped more or less unscathed. All in all a happy ending.

Too bad the gaslighters in the Trump orbit, unlike the evil husband, succeeded as well as they did.

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Days of infamy.

December 7th, 1941. November 22, 1963. September 11, 2001.

January 6, 2021.

These days raise questions: Where were you when you heard about Pearl Harbor? What were you doing when you heard Kennedy had been shot? Who told you about the attack on the World Trade Center?

How did you find out there was an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol?

In my case, although I was too young for the first two of those dates, I have strong memories (albeit, in the case of the last, recent memories) of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Capitol. In the case of 9/11, my mother-in-law called me, frantic and in tears, saying “Turn on the tv, a plane has flown into the World Trade Center.” (At that point we thought it was an air disaster, not the worst foreign terrorist attack to ever take place on American soil.)

Likewise, on January 6th, the Resident Shrink texted our family chat group with “turn on the news. Senate being evacuated with Trump rioters having got into the building.”

I felt like I did on 9/11 — this can’t be happening here. Not in America. We’re safe here. Except we aren’t, not anymore. Another layer of naive innocence has been stripped from my view of the world. I can see now that America is not exceptional.

In many ways, January 6th is worse than 9/11. The Capitol was overrun by homegrown terrorists, threatening that which is most central to our life as a country. From the beginning of our Republic, our democracy is central to who we are. That democracy has been endangered once before, and it took a war to get it back. (Even today we are not fully recovered from that war and the atrocities which made it necessary. The defenders of the losing side left a long line of ancestors who fight on and who were part of the seditioust mob trying to stop the peaceful transfer of power from one administration to the next.)

In the wake of the attack on our values, I find myself awash in grief and fear. What is going to happen next? Is this just the first salvo in a low-grade Civil War? How many people are going to die?

I do not ask why the insurrection of January 6th happened. I know why, or at least I think I know why. I know that deluded, angry people, egged on by a monomaniacal narcissist, acted on their worst instincts and desires.

We can only hope that they let their violent tendencies go. That they decide to live peacefully alongside their neighbors. I do not think that is going to happen. I think that the country is in real trouble.

God help America.

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Oh my God.

The Russians have won. We have turned into a banana republic.

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Have yourself a movie little Christmas.

Two days before Christmas, I developed a sore throat and congestion. In prior years, I would have taken some DayQuil and returned to cooking cornbread. (It really feels like a sinus infection.) In these times, though, I arranged for a COVID-19 test and have spent Christmas Eve and Christmas stranded in my room. Theoretically, since I have a tv and a bathroom and my family keeps leaving food outside my door, I should be just fine. I’m not, because… it’s Christmas. In deference to my sensibilities, we are not having “Christmas Dinner” until I have been released from quarantine. The Rocket Scientist made a kick-ass prime rib dinner, though.

I am spending time sitting on my bed watching movies on television (mostly on TCM) and on my computer. Herewith a dozen observations:

  1. I do not care that it is set at Christmastime and people have holiday parties and sing carols, any movie that has “Yippee-ky-ay Motherf***er as its most quotable line is not a Christmas movie.
  2. Gremlins, as dark as it is, IS.
  3. I would stack Margaret O’Brien’s turn as Tootie in Meet Me In St. Louis up against any performance by any child actor, ever.
  4. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” with its minor key and sad (original) lyrics, is perfectly situated for where it falls in the movie. The lyrics as reworked by Frank Sinatra (the ones that include “hang a shining star upon the highest bough”) would have been jarring.
  5. While It’s a Wonderful Life may be overrated, Jimmy Stewart’s performance is not. He is masterful.
  6. The Shop Around the Corner remains one of my favorite movies. It is so good, even its vastly inferior remakes are good. That is why every time I run across You’ve Got Mail while channel-surfing I end up watching the whole damn thing, even though I generally dislike Meg Ryan.
  7. I cannot imagine not watching A Christmas Story on Christmas Eve.
  8. Every year I discover new movies to love. Last year I found The Bishop’s Wife (the Cary Grant version) and Christmas in Connecticut (with the criminally underrated Barbara Stanwyck). This year it was Remember the Night, with Barbara Stanwyck and Fred McMurray, showing the marvelous chemistry they had in Double Indemnity. Remember the Night is almost a Christmas noir.
  9. Ah, the Battle of the Christmas Carols: I know that the Alastair Sim version is supposed to be the gold standard, but I much prefer the Patrick Stewart and George C. Scott versions. (The Muppet Christmas Carol inhabits a class of its own.)
  10. When given the choice, I would choose the Benedict Cumberbatch Grinch over Jim Carrey’s any day of the week.
  11. The animated The Grinch That Stole Christmas is better than both of them put together.
  12. The Grinch and A Charlie Brown Christmas should be declared national treasures, only to be shown on broadcast networks, not cable, let alone a streaming service. (I’m looking at you, Apple.) Sort of like the baseball playoffs should be on ABC, not ESPN.

So there we go. I should start hunting down New Year’s movies. With any luck, I’ll be out of COVID-jail before then.

Posted in Culture (popular and otherwise), My life and times | Tagged | 1 Comment

Waiting to inhale.

I’m reading some really … well, let’s just say it’s not literature. I am working through the Merry Gentry novels by Laurell K. Hamilton. They are essentially fairy erotica. (Don’t judge me — ipt’s not Fifty Shades of Gray.)

One of the spells most closely associated with the evil Queen Andais suffocates the victim by taking up all the space so that they can’t breathe. They — Merry, mostly — struggle to force their lungs open as they are surrounded and weighted down.

Donald Trump did that to my brain.

I wrote more before the Trump presidency. I wrote on a more diverse set of topics before the Trump presidency. Although it was bad before, sometime last summer Donald Trump settled into my psyche, taking up all the brain power I could muster.

It seemed that any outrage in the newspapers was committed by Trump, or at least exacerbated by him. Almost anything he would do to destroy our democratic institutions that I could imagine, he did. Abetted by the lackeys he put into his cabinet, he acted in manners that were beyond my imagination. It represents a lack of thought on my part, but I never seriously believed any American president would effectively attempt a coup. (He has supporters that are openly urging him to do just that. Supporters who openly suborn sedition. That scenario showed up in my nightmares, but I never would have thought it would happen in reality. Where are the “lock ’em up” chants from people who claim to have monopoly on patriotism?) He fights a futile war against the results of an election he decisively lost, and uses that as a cover for scorching the earth behind him.

He did everything short of shoot someone in broad daylight on Fifth Avenue.

Michael Cohen warned us. If Donald Trump has to leave the White House, he said, “there will not be a peaceful transition of power.” I thought he was exaggerating; I should have listened to the man who actually knew Trump.

I prayed for Trump’s death before — I pray just as hard for his death now. He is hollowing out government, hamstringing its ability to come on line seamlessly once his presidency ends. Our enemies must be laughing delightedly — especially Russia. He can do so much damage in the next six weeks.

I can’t think. Outrage fatigue and completely founded pandemic fears have crawled into my brain, short circuiting my creative synapses. I don’t want to write about Trump all the time, but I find that Trump (or his much more intelligent doppelgänger, Bill Barr) and the pandemic are all I can think about. At least all I can think about intellectually; writing trivialities about my life still seems doable.

The pandemic brings on thoughts of Trump. About how he could have done so much good, had he only told his cultists that the coronavirus was serious, had he told them that simple measures would help reduce the death rate. How he could have invoked the Defense Production Act sooner and more aggressively, making sure health-care workers had the PPE they needed. How he could have not simply shrugged “It is what it is” when asked about the staggering loss of life.

If he had only told the many who supported him that masks and social distancing and lockdowns, however unpleasant, would save lives, a lot of lives. If he had only pushed for more meaningful support for small businesses, so people who otherwise would be working could support their families.

I don’t want to spend all my energy thinking about Trump, writing about Trump. I want to focus on the rest of the world, or things otherwise than corruption, disease, and death. I want my brain to breathe easier.

Six weeks until hopefully that happens.

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It’s that time of year again…

…that time when I go over my favorite Christmas songs. Because, you know, you need to realize that if I could I would start playing Christmas music in August. Only the threats of my family to disown me keeps me from doing so. There will be a lot of overlap between this list and prior ones. Sorry.

Religious Christmas songs:

  1. Barenaked Ladies and Sarah Machlalan, “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen.” My favorite version of any Christmas carol, EVER.
  2. Pentatonix, “O Come All Ye Faithful.” This song is joyful and all too often is sung almost like a dirge. Pentatonix captures the sheer wonder and happiness of it. I can almost see the angels and the shepherds going forth to the masses.
  3. Josh Groban and Brian McKnight, “Angels We Have Heard On High.” Thanks for this goes to a friend who said to me, “Are you familiar with Josh Groban? He’s fabulous.” She was also responsible for my love of Straight No Chaser.
  4. “What Child Is This,” many different versions. I especially lean towards those which refer to “the virgin” rather than “his mother.”
  5. John Denver and the Muppets. “Silent Night.” Yes, those Muppets.
  6. El Duende, “Gaudete, Gaudete.” This is visioning music, evoking medieval swirling skirts and smoky Yule logs.
  7. Shinobu Sato, “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.” This was used as the processional for my wedding (not this lovely acoustic guitar version, but a traditional organ).
  8. “Go Tell It On the Mountain,” several versions. This is just a great song.
  9. “Simple Gifts,” Judy Collins. I’m not quite sure why this is a Christmas song, but it seems to be. Unlike a lot of Judy Collins’s work, it’s singable.
  10. “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear,” Jordan Smith. The former Voice winner put out a Christmas album a few years ago, and it’s pretty good.

Secular Christmas Songs:

  1. Straight No Chaser, “The Twelve Days of Christmas. This narrowly edges out “The Christmas Can-Can” and “To Christmas!”
  2. The Bobs, “Fifty Kilowatt Tree.” I’m from Florida, I’ve seen trees like this.
  3. Barenaked Ladies. “Elf’s Lament.” North Pole workers unite!
  4. “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas,” either Gayla Peevey (the original) or Kacey Musgraves. My family hates this song even more than “The Chipmunk Song.” That’s not why I love it, but it is a useful side benefit.
  5. Mariah Carey, “All I Want For Christmas is You.” This has nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that I love Love, Actually. No, really. It doesn’t.
  6. Transiberian Orchestra, “Carol of the Bells.” I also really like Lindsey Stirling’s version. On second thought, I guess this is religious music. It’s a little hard to tell with instrumentals.
  7. James Taylor, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” Taylor reverts to the original lyrics of the song, which are more melancholy than those you hear from most contemporary versions. I also love Taylor’s voice.
  8. Dar Williams, “The Christians and the Pagans.” While I question some of the theology presented here, the message of mutual acceptance is needed year round.
  9. Jill Sobule, “Merry Christmas from the Family.” This sounds fun. Dysfunctional, but fun.
  10. Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, “I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm.” It keeps all the rest of us warm, too.

I’ve never considered music from The Sound of Music to be Christmas music, but if I did I would not choose “All My Favorite Things” but Leslie Odom, Jr.’s haunting version of “Edelweiss.” And this doesn’t fall into the category of Christmas, but I love Peter Paul and Mary’s version of “Light One Candle.” I play it all year long, because even though it references a specific holiday it relays a message that is important for all times. “Let There Be Peace On Earth” isn’t a Christmas song either, but it’s on my playlist, even though it makes me cry because it was Mom’s favorite hymn. I know of no one who better exemplified it.

I know this is a Christmas list, but I want to wish all of you a very Happy Holidays, whichever holidays you celebrate.

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Freedom? Safety?

You often hear “social conservatives” decry what they see as an infringement on their right to free speech. They claim that being called a bigot for espousing racist or homophonic or sexist speech has a chilling effect on the expression of their views.

Leaving aside whether or not this is in fact a good thing, freedom from speech has never been freedom from consequences. You say gay people are sinners, I am entitled to claim that the Christianity that you so loudly proclaim is a sham. The truism that the answer to bad speech is to answer with good speech still carries weight in some circles.

Furthermore, the First Amendment was not intended to be about individual response to speech. The amendment prohibited government action. Unless you incite violence or use your speech to otherwise plan or abet crime, the government isn’t going to show up on your doorstep and haul you off to Leavenworth or San Quentin or their local equivalents.

Supposing, though, that their argument had some minimal merit…

Within my lifetime, in places where I have lived, grave consequences attached to being gay. People who supported gay rights, or (God forbid!) outed themselves, were labeled as “perverts.”

There were people who lost jobs. Who lost families. Who were beaten.

Who died.

Where was their free speech? Where were those rights which social conservatives claim belong to all Americans? Being called a bigot is a far cry from the dangers coming out could pose. A component of free speech has to be safety from harm.

Freedom of speech for me but not for thee is no way to run a civilized society.

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Warnings.

The experts are giving us clear advice this Thanks giving: stay home, don’t have your family visit. Their warnings are laced with equal parts concern and incredulity that people would do such dangerous things as fly right now. In some cases, the pundits seem to imply that the people who are traveling must be MAGA-hatters who don’t believe the virus is real or at the very least not very smart.

“Remember, this is temporary,” they tell us. “There is always next year.”

Is there?

We feel some days that we are living in end times. More than a million of our fellow Americans have come down with COVID-19; more than a quarter of a million have died. and the curve seems to be climbing unabated. That’s aside from normal causes of death: cancer, car crashes, heart attacks, suicides, strokes, etc. None of us are vouchsafed a single minute. Tomorrow I could be hit by a bus. The day after, you could have a fatal heart attack.

The nature of the pandemic only intensifies the sense of urgency. If you die from COVID-19 you die alone. And the people who love you are robbed of the experience of saying goodbye in person as you slip from this earth.

We need each other. We need the people in our lives who add depth and love.

I understand this. The Red-Headed Menace and his partner, The Very Smart Partner, quarantined for two whole weeks so that they would be able to join our household bubble for the holiday. I understand the caution, too. Had they not been able to quarantine, we would have simply dropped off the turkey and trimmings on their doorstep. It’s not worth the risk.

I do not want the experts and tv anchors and newspapers to stop warning us. The pandemic is real and dangerous, and we need to be careful so that we can avoid taking this third wave worse.

I just want them to be more compassionate about it.

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Micah

My sister the Trump supporter texted me last night. We didn’t talk politics; instead we talked about my nieces and how my grand-nephew was entering first grade and how that seemed absolutely impossible and how he looked like the Red-Headed Menace.

It brought up for me the issue once again of how to interact with my sister. I know people who would urge me to cut “those horrible people” out of my life. I don’t want to do that. I do love my family, as much as I think they’re wrong. And increasing divisions in this country strikes me as counterproductive. So I think of Micah.

 The verse from Micah in the sidebar has been instrumental in influencing my political worldview. But lately, I’ve been wondering what it all means, especially in the context of today’s political and societal landscape.

Micah 6:8 clearly lays out three requirements for goodly living. To take the last one first, we are commanded to “walk humbly with your God.”  How is one supposed to do that? Is that walking humbly with respect to other human beings? Is it not using God as a smokescreen for things you would do anyway but which you want to wreath with a shroud of sanctity?

I also hit up against what do you do if you struggle with God, or even you don’t believe in God at all. Then the first two requirements for Godly living become paramount.

“To do justice” (also translated as “To act justly”) seems pretty straightforward. You act in accordance with what you understand as the just action to take. You support Black Lives Matter, if that seems important to you (as it does to me). You protest unjust action by the government, even if it’s just a letter to your congressperson. If a company acts in ways that hurts society, workers, or customers, you boycott.

But it also means justice in small ways. You give credit to the coworkers who came up with that great idea. You hold the youngest child accountable for his actions, especially if he tried to fob off responsibility on his older brother. You talk to your kids about justice, and about how privileged they are, and how important it is to always remember that.

You tell the truth as best you can, no matter how difficult.

Do I do these things? No. Do I come close? I try. I have the most difficulty in speaking the truth in uncomfortable situations. I work on it, but I am silent all too often. I never lie, but I bad at confronting people – including my family. (I blame my Southern upbringing for that.) I am struggling with it. Writing in this blog helps: I find it easy to speak the truth, to “do justice” here. And sometimes what I write here gives me the courage to speak out in other places.

And there is “love mercy” (or “love kindness).  I find the difference between the two translations confusing. Kindness is extended to everyone, regardless of status or relationship. Mercy is extended to those who need it: those in trouble, those in need of forgiveness. In some sense, people have to earn mercy. I have always preferred the translation of Micah which called for mercy, and it only occurred to me recently that it was because it required less of me.

But kindness or mercy run smack into justice. I can see where telling someone the truth, even if they don’t want to hear it, can be merciful or kind, depending upon how it is done. But justice sometimes requires anger. Protesting in the streets, speaking out loudly, cleansing a temple – they’re necessary, but how can they be merciful? Or kind?

I will continue to ponder Micah 6:8. I will be just, and kind where I can. Whether I can walk humbly with God remains to be seen.

I can but try.

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