Tag Archives: donald trump as president

Heroic Democracy

Joseph Campbell enlightens us on the cycle of the hero story in his work “The Hero with a Thousand Faces.”  He explains that most cultural heroes (even Jesus) share common themes and they definitely follow a pattern of rise-fall-rise again but stronger.

I suggest that US Democracy is in a moment of its own heroic cycle.

There are some commonalities between US Democracy and Campbell’s exemplary heroes: Born of a meager background, thirteen colonies with not much else but trendsetting ideas and a strong sense of independence, carved themselves into a nation unlike any other of its time. Then follows a slow rise to prominence in the international limelight where its tenants of equality have been accepted by some, rejected by some.

Ironically, it’s the hometown that usually brings down the hero, so it is with our Democracy.  Our own leaders have aided the crucifixion of Democracy through inaction. Where the legislative branch normally checks and balances the executive, Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have refused to intercept the blatant degradation of ethics by our current president and appear to happily allow a hostile, foreign nation to implant its fear mongering talking points into our national narrative.  Similar to Pontius Pilate, they have washed their hands of the issue, enabling the mob to raise Democracy up for a brutal death.

We now live in a moment of uncertainty where our hero has disappeared and many of us feel lost, hopeless, and betrayed. We huddle together in supportive groups, planning what next steps should be taken, eager to carry on the timeless ideas of Democracy, even while it struggles to overcome.

According to Campbell, heroes typically languish for a time in some dark depths before they are able to rise to greater heights, usually with the aid of some helper or assistant. While two short years of destruction and mayhem without Democracy may seem brief to some, we should deem it enough – we really don’t have the luxury of floundering (See Timothy Snyder’s “On Tyranny”).

We really do have the luxury of hope, however. There are helpers arriving in droves to ensure a resurrection.  There are those running for office, local and nationally, who bring the ideals of Democracy with them. There are those who work tirelessly to knock on doors, make phone calls, write letters, or offer their voice in some manner.  There are special elections won by citizens who espouse Democracy and its inherent equality.  There are donations of five or ten or hundreds of dollars going to women and men unwilling to cede to the Oligarchy, willing to bring Democracy back from the grave.

But it’s not just that Democracy will be revived, but that it will be revived stronger, more resilient, more powerful. You see, in every story, resurrection empowers the hero to  greater strength than it had before. If we can get it right this fall, if the #Bluewave2018 becomes a reality, then Democracy will have returned with a vengeance, ready to stand up to those from the outside who would delight in our complete demise, ready to send them running.

Fellow citizens, I submit that we are poised to see our hero, Democracy, rise from the ashes and shine brighter than before.  It is important to understand, however, that each of us is a needed helper to the cause.  Encourage one another, elucidate the good and right, get out of comfort zones and talk with each other, and we can resurrect our Democracy from the depths of darkness to be stronger, more vibrant, and more effective.

Yours, in peace.

Frankie

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Dark Age II

Shut Out the World, Turn Inward on Ourselves

Usher in the Dark Age.

Forego Checks and Balances, Leave all Rules Behind

Usher in the Dark Age.

Fire without Warning, Reality TV Politics

Usher in the Dark Age.

Condemn Free Speech, Despise the Fourth Estate

Usher in the Dark Age.

Mute the Scientists, Deafen the Populace

Usher in the Dark Age.

Revoke Dissenting Opinion, Claim it’s for ‘Your Good’

Usher in the Dark Age.

Truth becomes Irrelevant, Alternative Facts Laid Bare

Usher in the Dark Age.

Privatize the Public, Deregulate what is Healthy

Usher in the Dark Age.

Ignore the Constitution, Fleece Your Own Nation…

Disheveled White Men

Usher in the American Dark Age.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


New Year, New Ideas: Employ Compassion, Not Empathy

Wanna know the next big thing for the new year?  Understanding the difference between empathy (and its apparent detriment to our decision making) and compassion.

I first heard about the notion via a podcast of Sam Harris’ in which he interviews Paul Bloom concerning the newly released book, the idea as a whole, and the distinction between the two terms:  their essence and their impact on social behavior.  It is an enlightening listen (By the way, I highly recommend Sam Harris “Waking Up” weekly podcast as some of the most excellent mind food a person can consume on a regular basis.  Warning: not for the fainthearted).    I offer these two references as further reading/review of the book: Why Empathy is Bad and Against Empathy .   I especially appreciated the social worker’s perception on ‘real life-applicable-pragmatic’ lessons in dichotomizing the two characteristics within the profession.

It will be imperative for us all, moving forward in the next few months, to understand the difference between these two elements as we attempt to cross the social divides that are becoming more obvious post-election.  We will each need to reach out compassionately to the neighbor whom we feel betrayed us in the voting booth, whichever way that went. We will need to employ a great deal of understanding and rational decision making while we try to unify some semblance of a majority against corporate plans to amend our constitution.

We have some serious work for ourselves, individually, in order to maintain a civil society – especially considering the unstable, insecure reality in which we live. It behooves us to investigate the difference between empathy and compassion so that we might employ the right tools when appropriate.   I can think of no better way to begin a new year, than with this new perspective and its useful applications.

Here’s to new information.

Yours,

Frankie

 

 


Looking Back, Looking Ahead

This past week I went back to find a piece I had written as a farce, really.   I didn’t realize it’s been a year since I published it, somehow I was thinking I wrote it during the primaries.    Now that we are living this reality, the writ is even more poignant.

“Choosing a President:  A Thought Experiment”

I honestly don’t know whether to laugh at the absurdity or cry over the threat to our democracy.

Maybe, both.

Yours,

Frankie


Election Reflection: Turn Inward

This was intended to be a general ‘life is rough’ article, but as events unfold and we reel from the recent election, it seems prudent to change the angle a bit.

I mean, after all, we are a hurting nation at the moment.

Many fear for the security of their lives since it has been threatened, and like most humans, allow their ‘fight or flight’ instinct to overcome reason.   I understand the protests.  I will never condone the violence.

Many are in shock at the idea that a bully could have garnered enough support as to be elected to the highest, most respected office in the land. They are concerned about international politics and fear permanent damage to allied relationships  as well as world economic functions.

Many are happy.   They wanted change (I completely understand this sentiment) and they got it.   Whether it plays out in their favor or not, time will tell, currently the president-elect is filling his cabinet with very cozy Wall Street employees so I personally don’t hold out any hope.

Some are gloating.  In my hometown a high school student was passing out home made ‘deportation notices’ to the minorities in his classes.   An elementary lunch room in Michigan was the scene of chants of “Build that wall,” instilling fear and shame into Latino children.

On top of all this, we each have our personal problems to deal with.  A friend of mine is a recent widow.   Another friend just lost her sister.  My niece is bound for lung surgery this week.   Someone, somewhere is going through a divorce.  Someone, somewhere was just betrayed by their best friend.  Someone, somewhere is dealing with a child who is struggling with a heroin addiction.

Life is pain, meanwhile we must be kind to ourselves.

What does that mean?  It means giving the world some space.   We can’t control everything (we can control very little) so quit trying to control everything and turn inward towards yourself.   Allow  yourself to validate your own feelings, allow yourself to accept shortfalls as part of the human experience rather than some defective character flaw, allow yourself to just be and gather strength from ‘mental stillness.’   It is empowering.

Go for walks. Getting in touch with nature never fails to put things into perspective.   The

mtshasta

photo credit to the author 11/09/2016

leaves are turning and littering the earth right now, another summer is over, another cycle consummated, time goes on, we are but a mere speck within it’s marching.  In this bigger picture, our troubles are less taxing.

Meditate.  Shut out the world, listen only to your breathing.   Connect with the universe as a part of it, not separate from it.  Speak gently to yourself.

We must be kind to ourselves at this moment as we reflect on the election and what it means to us personally,  so that we have the capacity to be kind to others.

There are many who need it.

Yours,

Frankie


Civil Grief

There was a time when we could count on civility.  There was a moment in our history when we could actually respect another’s opinion, maybe even weigh it against our own with no harm, and then move on without a grudge, without name calling, without hostility.   We enjoyed a rare exhibit of humanity when an election was over;  when the people had spoken, we accepted the outcome and went on with our lives, knowing that the constitution and reasonable compromise would prevail.  I was taught this in school and in church, and it was exemplified by my elders and former national leaders.

It’s become increasingly apparent that civility is a lost quality in our nation.  This should concern us all.

It began with the election of the current president and a remark from a senator that the commander-in-chief would only get ‘one term’.   It gained momentum when the house speaker in charge couldn’t (or wouldn’t) lead his cabal and a power play over the national budget suddenly became evening news fodder.   It culminated when a law, upheld by the checks and balances of the supreme court, was repeatedly voted upon for repeal (or parts of the law as some would clarify – either way, the inability to accept the high court’s decision  has marred our national landscape).

It continues with this election cycle.  We have witnessed some atrocious behavior towards one another.   We don’t respect each other’s opinion, instead we resort to name calling and vitriolic attacks on friends and family.   This isn’t civility, it’s anarchy.  This isn’t democracy, it’s tyranny.  This isn’t respect, it’s cynicism.

We.  Are.  Better.  Than.  This.

I understand there is fear, but there is peace with unity.  I get that there is lack of integrity, but we can have great confidence in reason.

We will elect a new leader tomorrow.  May we honor the votes, honor our democracy, and come together again at the end of the competition, under one flag, under one ideal and move forward once more as one –  because without civility, we  can no longer claim to uphold the torch of democracy and the “American Dream”.  We cannot exclaim that we are exceptional.

E pluribus anum.

Yours in peace,

Frankie

 


Choosing a President : A Thought Experiment

“Well then fuck the Prime Minister and cancel the State dinner.  No, wait!  We’ll have the State dinner but let’s invite that idiot from North Korea instead.  That oughta piss off all of those pussies in Europe.”

“But Mr. President, there’s international protocol, we can’t just dis-invite the Prime Minister of Britain because he didn’t agree with you on the whole Greek Reformation thing.  I mean, they really can’t fire all their workers when the people doing the firing are protesting as well.  And we can’t invite the leader of a nation that we’re imposing sanctions upon.”

“Oh for fuck’s sake!   International protocol my ass, this is the Greatest Nation on earth, we can change the protocol.”

“I’m sorry Mr. President but we really can’t.   This is a matter of National interest and prestige.   It’s not just about the US, I mean there are leaders all over the world watching how this visit goes down, especially in light of your, a-hem, the disagreement between yourself and the PM. I mean, this is fucking Britain we’re talking about and we really have to kiss their ass sometimes to keep our sway in Europe.”

“Goddamn he’s such a prick though.   Can’t I just send the Vice-President then?  Make up some excuse that I’m sick or something.”

“I, uh, really don’t think that’s in our best interest sir, we have to be seen as setting a high bar, as it were, in keeping a solid relationship with Britain.   That means the dinner must be perfect.”

“Whatever.  Just have your guys communicate to his guys that I don’t want any chit chat at the dinner table, and put some one cool and good-looking on the other side of me, I dunno, like Cindy Crawford and what’s-his-name her husband.”

“Yes sir, I’ll get right on that.” Jamie, the President’s Chief of Staff, closed the  door of the Oval Office and took a swig of his Starbucks.   He was grateful for the Cognac he added earlier to the remaining latte.  It’d at least get him through the morning.  The State dinner was only ten days away, he had no idea how he was going to keep this together. He sent a text to his secretary to get the number for Cindy Crawford’s agent along with a prayer muttered under his breathe,”Please let her be available on such short notice.  Christ this job is killing me.”  He took another swig and practically ran to the other side of the White House to find out if Bruce Springsteen would play the dinner even though he’d asked five times already and been turned down each time without hesitation. “God, what can I do to bribe the son-of-a-bitch.  And, why Bruce Springsteen?  He could’ve chosen a hundred other ass kissers to do the gig but he chose the one guy who would be a problem.”

Cindy Crawford was available (thank god), Bruce never did say yes (fuck ‘im), but Jamie convinced the President during an opportune moment that maybe  Coldplay would be an acceptable substitute.   Their agent had tentatively agreed, they were British so it was a brilliant nod to the visiting Prime Minister, and they were cool with the mainstream since they just released their biggest album ever.  As far as Jamie was concerned, it was a win-win-win.

The next few days were a blur.  Once the final pieces were in place Jamie immediately forgot about the dinner as he ran around, spiked Starbucks cup in hand, defending the President’s comments:  “No, he wasn’t endorsing bankruptcy as a solution to the national debt problem.”   “What he meant was that China should pursue the right policy for their nation and if that means no more petroleum based engines imported from the US then we of course regret the loss of their business, but I assure you we will continue to engage in other trade with them.”   “I’m sure the President didn’t mean the comment literally, it was a figurative reference that the President of Russia was a momma’s boy.  He meant that Russia appears to sometimes hides behind the skirts of the EU or China.”

The dinner went off without any trauma and Jamie was close to letting his guard down by the time dessert arrived.   The Prime Minister was happy to oblige the request to ignore the President and Cindy Crawford was even more beautiful in real life than he could imagine.  The President flirted with her all evening long and drank lots of champagne.  Jamie sensed that his wife was getting a bit pissed at the ordeal; she kept shifting in her chair and giving him horrible looks.   Jamie thought if the President didn’t realize he was in trouble with her, he was a complete idiot.

Finally the call came for the first dance which required the two to be ‘alone’ in a loose sense of the word; they were in front of powerful world leaders, A-list celebrities and a zillion staff and press.  As Jamie watched them dance to the first few measures of some sickening sweet love song, he could well discern the forced smile on both faces and imagine the conversation taking place behind the masks; he’d heard them personally more often than he’d care to recall, her accent was burned into his memory forever.   “Get your shit together, you are starting to cross the line and get everyone pissed.  Her husband is getting angry too.  He looks like he’s about to hit you. We’re almost done here, keep it zipped in every conceivable way, do you understand me?  The entire fucking world is watching you, act like a grown up!”   Jamie figured the cue for other couples to join on the dance floor came at a fortuitous moment.   They couldn’t speak with others around and their silence saved everyone from an escalating, longstanding argument.

Jamie took a long swig of his bourbon as he watched the President sit in his seat when he returned from the first dance and the brief conversation with his wife.  He knew the pose, the look, the rhythm of the breathing of his chest:  shit was about to happen.

He saw it unfold with such perfect consistency it put a knot in his stomach.  First the harsh snap at the poor waiter…as if he should have read his mind and switched the drink from champagne to scotch.  Then the invisible line crossed…ever so slightly with just a nod and tilt of the glass to the Prime minister.   A short comment, the lure of perhaps a fragile but sociable conversation, and then the bombshell.   The pent up, misdirected anger so beautifully put together in a short quip guaranteed to upset even Jesus himself.

The Prime Minister was visibly shocked by the remark when it was finally delivered.  Jamie’s first instinct was to look around the room and determine what the press was doing.   Thankfully he saw that they were all enamored with Cindy and her dance moves as she worked it to the newest, hippest Coldplay tune.  He finished his bourbon, grabbed another and turned to see the Prime Minister, always polite, whisper in his wife’s ear.  He saw her expression as it morphed from disbelief to horror to disbelief and then to hardened rage.  She put her napkin on the table and intimated that she was ready to leave for the evening.   It was early, tongues would wag, there would be explaining to do.

Jamie felt when the press turned their attention to the exiting couple.  A short span of silence was followed by a rustle of voices and texts and pictures and motion at the horror of Britain’s early exit from the dinner.  The President was alone at the table for the moment.  Jamie watched him squirm a bit then he drank his scotch in one go and nodded for another.  As he waited for the blessed waiter to reappear he caught Jamie’s eye and motioned for him to come sit beside him.  He couldn’t refuse, he knew the press were watching so he went to the table and sat down with a confidence he knew he didn’t possess.

“Those Brits are such sensitive babies, the guy can’t even take a joke.”

It was going to be a long night, Jamie asked the nearest waiter for a pot of coffee.

“What was the joke?”  He was beyond any attempt to imagine what might’ve been said. After two years as Chief of Staff, Jamie knew he should just be prepared to be shocked and count on working his ass off for the next seventy two hours addressing damage control.

“I told him I had a great idea for a new reality show, we could pitch it as promoting international relations:  World Leader Wife Swap.  But I told him it wouldn’t work out very well, I’d end up with both chicks cause his sure as hell wouldn’t wanna leave me once she was in my house!”