Dinner with Don Quixote

Don Quixote by Honoré Daumier (1868)

I have always admired the character of Don Quixote.  Why?  Because of his marvelous blindness.  He could see, yes, but only vague shapes he was forced to interpret with his fine imagination… a wonderful and singular imagination that was formed in the novels of old, novels with heroes and villains, novels from the perspective of romance, novels rife with idyllic ideals that were conceived by the minds of men like himself, men who longed for some sense of nobility in mankind, a mystical concept that was expressed in the code of the chevalier, a notion of heroics and the grandeur of chivalric valor, unwritten codes that prevailed in the novels written in the time of the Don’s creator… though not on the muddy highways, nor in the poor villages of Spain, nor in its people… nor in any other nation then or now… which notion likely never really existed at all in fact, beyond the hopeful fictions, the beautiful words that molded their illusory landscape.

Of course, neither did Don Quixote exist.  The old man was a character in a book, a novel at that, an intellectual vehicle, a literary trope, the projection of someone like myself, a writer, a man or woman… in this case a man, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra.

A writer tries to rebuild the world with a framework of words and the substance of figuration. So, by that token, in such a world, I can have dinner with Don Quixote. Perhaps a meal in my kitchen, simple  fare consisting of tuna fish sandwiches on soft rye bread. Cold iced tea or maybe beer… in big chilled mugs. For dessert, maybe fresh cinnamon and raisin spice cake with sweet, thick, rich, rich, rich butter icing and coffee. Of course, the food would not really matter. It could be anything really … roast beef, chicken, lamb, pulled pork. Food is only food.  The dinner is only a platform on which to build a conversation.  In that conversation, perhaps I could tell a story, inject an opinion, betray confidences. Because I so love the heart of Don Quixote, perhaps I would only listen.

Cervantes is dead … though his words, his mind, and the Don live on.

I suppose that I was saddened by the fact that Cervantes wrote the books in such a way that the Don eventually died of a broken heart… but isn’t that the fate of any man or woman who aspires to an ideal and does not settle for the way things are? It’s no coincidence that the brain is the organ within us that is closest to the heavens, or that the bowels are closest to the earth.  Our heart, however, lies somewhere between the two. In a way, the concept is comedic and so it is, or was, that in the cynical mind of Cervantes, Don Quixote must surely die aggrieved for his lofty and insensible perceptions.

It’s the natural consequence of truth.

The world could care less about any individual soul, man or woman, when there are so many… more than seven and a half billion last time I checked.

“Hah…” they seem to say, if not aloud… surely they’d never say it aloud, but you read the words in their tones and their eyes, “…foolish old man.  Where do you get such impertinent notions?  Just die, fool. We need the bed. We need the space you’re taking up, the air you’re sucking in, the food you turn to waste.  Die already!”

So it is… and to say to hell with the world, I have dinner with Don Quixote.  This meal we share is not unusual, I think. Maybe an early supper in a clean, noisy diner in a truck stop on the Interstate.  Perhaps in Missouri or Oklahoma where the food is seasoned with pity and priceless understanding by immigrant cooks with fresh spices and hope… food meant to caress the troubled soul, quiet the restless mind, and leave the appetite sated. Meatloaf, perhaps, with mashed potatoes, peas and corn… or maybe with gravy and rich mac and cheese, a bowl on the side with sweet black-eyed peas. The meatloaf has this crispy, dark brown edge and on the top of every slice, a thin red tasty glaze of baked sweet ketchup.  Lots of coffee.  Pretty waitress.

The conversation?  Dreams. Beautiful dreams… and maybe dark dreams as well, but dark with a twist of charity.  Laughter, tears, emotions swell.  I am a writer. This is what I do.  This is who I am.

Under the sun… nothing new, nothing new, only bigger. The coming storm and the Green New Deal…

“I, for one, do not believe that the era of democracy in human affairs can or will be snuffed out in our lifetime. I, for one, do not believe that the world will revert to a modern form of ancient slavery, or to controls vested in modern feudalism, or modern emperors, or modern dictators, or modern oligarchs in these days. The very people under iron heels will themselves rebel.”

These words spoken on November 11, 1940, by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in a speech commemorating Armistice Day, the annual celebration of the end of first World War were prophetic. Spoken a full year and some weeks before it was even understood that there would be another World War. In a time of peaceful sublimity for America, if not for the world, the words were composed at the height of New Deal successes following the Great Depression.
Then, more so than today, the American people still understood the tyranny inherent in the marriage of unbridled wealth and political power, the great house of cards that collapsed in 1929, when the exclusive, privileged world of the financiers, bankers and other wealthy financial predators collapsed under the weight of its own greed, taking most of the country and much of the western world along with it into devastating economic collapse.
The New Deal, a huge, multi-faceted government program that served the common welfare of all Americans, an ambitious program that was vilified in its inception as a socialist dream was an unqualified success, finally brought order into the economic chaos, rebuilding the nation, restructuring our priorities.
But today and once again, our economy is at the perpetual edge of collapse as another and more powerful breed of financial predators than those who caused the 1929 collapse threatens not only our financial system, but the very air we breathe, the water we drink, as they seek to establish a more crippling autocracy than the common welfare of our nation could ever sustain and must not continue to tolerate.  We do so at our own peril.
This is the reason and the necessity for the Green New Deal. And like the old New Deal, this Green New Deal has been labeled a socialist dream. but it may well be the last chance for a peaceful political movement to take us back to a proper and sensible path before inevitable environmental and economic collapse necessitates the kind of violence that will always occur when the rich become too rich at the cost of our common welfare as a nation… the most influential nation in the world… such that collapse here at home will have profound echoing effects worldwide.
The Green New Deal.  If you don’t know what it is… now is the time to find out. Ask me. I’ll tell you how. But don’t wait too long, lulled by the silence and the peaceful sublimities that so often precede the most violent of devastating storms.

What is this Green New Deal exactly? And why are Republicans….

…..and neo-liberal Democrats so dead set against it they are ready to dismiss it quite out of hand?

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) were joined by Democratic lawmakers from both the House and Senate on February 7, 2019, to introduce Green New Deal legislation. (Photo- Stefani Reynolds)

Chances are you’ve heard people both praise and vilify House Resolution 109, otherwise known as the Green New Deal, but it’s just as likely that you haven’t really been given a sense of what it is and what it contains.  A bold, expansive document, it is a comprehensive listing of priorities for the Congress and Senate to consider as it tackles issues that many Americans perceive as necessary for the survival of our basic institutions and the future well-being of all Americans… with the emphasis on the word “ALL…”   The document specifically outlines a series of problems that affect every American and provides solutions that benefit our collective interests, addressing not only the devastating and observable effects of man-made global warming, but advancing the perspective that the radical changes we must use to correct them should incorporate methods that benefit every American, such that no single group or segment of our population is forced to bear a disproportionate share of the necessary cost.  Indeed, if all the proposals are implemented, the plan could very well rebuild our infrastructure, strengthen our nation, and provide a more egalitarian economy simultaneously.

I’ll be writing about the Green New Deal in several posts over the coming weeks, but for now, I would like to give you a link to the House Resolution, so you can read it yourself.  Click on the link below for a .pdf file:

HR109 – The Green New Deal

The Resolution is presented in the usual legal format.  I’ve produced a file that presents the same text in a more readable outline form and will post it here soon.

Watch this space !! 

If you do?  You could become an expert on the Green New Deal… able to leap tall misperceptions with a single declarative sentence… able to deflect the speeding bullet-points of right-wing detractors… and you could become the envy of all your progressive friends, while standing for truth, justice, and the American way.

If I could be given a super power, that’s what I’d ask for.

From silence… assent

People prefer not to say it, but it’s there.
Watch him work.
It’s like a symphony and he’s the conductor.
Maybe you don’t want to watch, but you should.
It’s time to wake up and recognize the meaning of it all. Something terrible is happening and we can no longer deny it. The prohibitions of moral compulsion have not constrained it and we wonder, now, if even the rule of law is able.
After all, t’s not as though one man is the source of it.
Trump himself is but the wink and the nod that unleashes those sleeping dogs of incivility and aggression that rested in that dark other room we seldom ever visit for fear of waking the things we would rather deny. We’ve been astounded at how easy it was for him to spark such a movement, but the truth of it is… all he had to do was to know it was there and exploit it. He can’t, then, be rightly accused of inventing a storm that was not his, but just waiting for one who was willing enough to stir it from slumber, to whistle up the wind that now rages around us.
Why cry havoc, after all, when all that’s required is to vent the pressure with the license of a grin? Donald Trump is nothing, after all, but a permissive conduit for all that is vile and suppressed within us. Surely no man could ever deny it… or try to suggest all that which is vain and terrible within the mob he unleashed did not exist before he stirred it to life. It was there all along unexpressed… ready to be tapped, a roiling boil, seeking only his permission to be vented. 
And how good they must feel to be finally liberated, free to express what is never permitted. Profanity laced permission… dog whistles and strokes of intention… approval, encouragement, the wink and the nod that whispers to the sleeping dogs… “It’s okay to be angry. I’m angry too. Let’s be honest. Let’s stop pretending. Let’s finally take back dominion. Let’s take back the nation that’s meant to be ours. Let’s take back the land that was meant to be ours. It was meant to be ours.”
Blood and Soil. 
Blut und Boden.
It’s happened before. Or have we forgotten?
Oh, I know. I’ve heard the connection is purely hyperbolic and the phenomenon should never be taken so seriously as all that. It never is.
That’s how it grows.
In the end, people ask, “How did it happen? How did it ever get so far out of hand? Why didn’t someone see what was coming?”
Who knew?

On Socialism in America…

I wrote this about two years ago and posted it on Facebook, but I think it’s time to dust it off and toss it out there once again along with a couple of others, posts that I will resurrect over the next couple of weeks because there should be a conversation about this contentious subject before the shouting match buries it yet again…

This is long, but bear with me, please. It’s a big subject and cannot be treated with sound bites or slogans, but speaks to the very core of our problems. This is something to which I’ve given a lot of thought, more so lately than ever before…. There is once more a debate, but the subject is often too vague and the voices on each side of it are, even among the unified participants within each side, confused and often angry. This is not a new debate in this country… right vs left, conservative vs liberal, but the debate too often rages around the effects rather than the cause of our differences. Enter Bernie Sanders and the surprisingly popular, if not populist appeal of his socialist ideas…
Perhaps the debate is not about some vague idea of “Conservatism” vs “Liberalism” after all, but speaks instead to something more basic… the economic system under which we live. Perhaps the present, seemingly insoluble crisis is about the failure of an economic system that is, no matter how elegantly you describe it or bend it to heel in academic terms, based upon the base and unsympathetic nature of its driving force, greed… or avarice, if you prefer. 
Perhaps, once again, as it has in the past when there is a vast, even incomprehensible inequity between the rich and the poor, the debate comes down to capitalism vs socialism.
“But hasn’t that been tried and didn’t it fail?”
“It’s been tried, Virginia, but never properly achieved. Yes, there are many nations in the world who live under systems of social democracy, but the Soviet experiment that you’re thinking of was not socialism at all, but state controlled capitalism. Social democracies, however, such as we see in the Scandinavian countries are thriving and they are only weak imitations of socialism.”
“But isn’t socialism undemocratic,, even stifling, a kind of dictatorship?”
“Absolutely not. In fact, socialism is an expansion of democracy to the point that every aspect of our lives, including in the workplace where most of us spend most of our waking moments is democratically controlled.”
“Sounds too good to be true. And if it’s so great, why aren’t more people talking about it”
“Simple answer? Socialism is inimical to capitalists and capitalists own almost everything. After World War Two, our government suppressed socialism, even to the point that espousing the idea was criminalized. People lost their jobs, in universities especially, to the point that, even now, the subject is virtually taboo on campuses in America.. Even the word, socialism, was stigmatized… a product of the Cold War.”
Socialism is possible and probable within the lifetime of any generation that loses the fear of cultural, racial, religious, and gender diversity.  With our current generation, we are very nearly there. When people truly believe in both equality and justice, when equality is inclusive of all people, when the one criteria to fit the definition of “human” is only and merely their humanity alone, we can have a fair and equitable social and political system, one that is as purely democratic as humanly possible under a socialist system.
Is it possible today?
You tell me…
Do you make justice and equality possible?
Or is there some group that you despise?
Can you answer that honestly?
Probably not.We who call ourselves progressive often cannot converse, much less abide in the same room as those who identify themselves as conservative. Can you look me in the eye and say that you feel equal to someone wearing a red ball cap that bears the statement “Make America Great Again”? Or do you feel that such people are flawed, sensing that your own beliefs and ideals are somehow superior? If you want to live in a world where justice and equality are the backbone of civilization, do you mean to make it possible by including or eliminating those with whom you disagree? And just how do you plan to eliminate them from your just and equitable world?  Do you see the hypocrisy? Do you sense the self-deceit, the conflict and the inevitable injustice within the perspective of “Us” and “Them”?
Justice and equality will thrive when we begin to put aside our prejudices.
Impossible?
“Nothing is impossible, Virginia.”
“How can you possibly make it happen? Where do you even begin?”
“It starts with you.”

“The only thing necessary…

…for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” ― Edmund Burke

So… with a false and thoroughly premature public dismissal of the Mueller report, before anyone beyond the Trump-friendly Attorney General, a man who was selected, one has to believe, for his recorded disdain for the investigation, has even had the chance to read its content, Trump declares himself vindicated and imagines himself free to pursue his campaign to flesh out the foundations of his autocratic political stronghold. And why wouldn’t he? Nancy Pelosi made it clear she is not interested in impeachment and the Senate? Trump territory, no spine to be seen therein to take a stand for democracy and justice. What’s good for corporations is good for the Senate and Trump has shown a willingness to play for pay and to dismantle those troubling regulatory agencies in the Federal government that corporations would like to have neutered and unable to inhibit their predatory practices in pursuit of profit.

Trump is free to act as though resistance is quite as it seems… futile. In a New York Times report by Robert Pear, also published on March 25th, we read, “The Trump administration broadened its attack on the Affordable Care Act on Monday, telling a federal appeals court that it now believed the entire law should be invalidated.” This sudden change in direction, a bold move by the Trump administration could entirely undermine and eventually destroy Obamacare, a move that is not only politically unsettling to his own party, but also threatens the stability of the insurance industry… to say nothing of the more than 100 million Americans who may lose their health insurance. But if Trump doesn’t want it? Consider it gone and to hell with the consequence.

In the Washington Post, Jeff Stein and Josh Dawsey reported on the same day that, “… at an Oval Office meeting on Feb. 22, Trump asked top advisers for ways to limit federal support from going to Puerto Rico, believing it is taking money that should be going to the mainland, according to senior administration officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share details of the president’s private remarks.”  Trump has never been shy about expressing his disdain for the people of Puerto Rico, acting almost as if he is ignorant… or even contemptuous… of the fact that they are citizens of the United States and not foreigners in another poor and powerless “S***hole country” of the Third World as he has so scornfully described some African nations in the past.

Again in the Times, we read a report on Monday by Peter Baker and Nicholas Fandos, “President Trump and his Republican allies went on the offensive on Monday, vowing to pursue and even punish those responsible for the Russia investigation now that the special counsel has wrapped up without implicating him or his campaign in a criminal conspiracy to influence the 2016 election.  Mr. Trump, grim faced and simmering with anger, denounced adversaries who have pounded him for two years over Russian election interference, calling them ‘treasonous’ people who are guilty of ‘evil’ deeds and should be investigated themselves. ‘Those people will certainly be looked at,’ he said.”  These chilling remarks are worthy of any dictator… but certainly not worthy of an American president, nor of any other leader in any nation of the free world.

By taking an unprecedented step in recognizing Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights and receiving Netanyahu as friend and ally, Trump not only bolstered the strong man of Israel’s shaky political underpinnings, but sent a message to another strong man in Russia, his old friend Putin, concerning Russia’s annexation of Crimea that America no longer stands up for oppressed nations around the world.  This sort of unsettling unorthodoxy is never surprising when it is preceded by the name of Trump… and that in itself should be an alarm bell, in that any single event prompted by such dangerous perspectives would normally be enough to rally protest and ensure censure, but as each day passes, marking the bold, uncontested crossing of yet another Rubicon by Julius Trump, our Congress does nothing and the Senate seems obsequious in its silent assent.

All the signs are there… dire threats to his critics and the press, unwillingness to even consider political consequences for himself or his party, the negation of our nation’s treaties and longstanding international alliances, and the embrace of dictators, murderous strong men, and similarly corrupt individuals within the private and public spheres of influence in America.  All that is required of his enablers is that they give him unquestioned loyalty… for which he is willing to provide an open hand and an unfettered, unimpeachable license to steal.

The question, America, is this… what are you going to do about it?

It comes to this…

We expected too much from the Mueller report. It had already done much to expose rampant corruption within the Trump Presidential campaign, leading to the conviction of many prominent members of his campaign leadership, but the job is far from done. Trump’s Attorney General demonstrated reluctance to do his job in yesterday’s letter to Congress. Subsequently, Congress will have to do its job of oversight. And it’s obvious to anyone who has been paying attention to the abuse of power and the unprecedented levels of misconduct that it will take years for Congress to unravel the full extent of corruption within the Trump administration. Even when and if they do, a GOP Senate will continue to protect him because he gives them and their sponsors in the corporate world everything they ever dreamed of, such as a weak Federal government, unable to protect Americans from corporate crime… and tax breaks designed to make the wealthy few even more obscenely rich than they ever dared to hope.

Ultimately, it will take an unprecedented reformation of Congress and the Senate, drastic change that only an informed electorate and a clean sweep of our government through election can effect in order to finally fix the mess that we are in. Maybe, even more than Trump, America itself needs a full investigation. The whole nation, top down, bottom up…

In a democratic republic such as ours, what is the institution of justice if not an expression of our collective and prevalent morality? In any democratically elected government where a candidate for the highest office can publicly… and with confidence… declare, “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters…” then why are we surprised when he corrupts that office he attains through election? Why would we expect such a man to respect the office to which he is elected when he does not respect the normal constraints of morality… when he does not even respect the character of the people who elected him? More importantly, when a corrupt leader upholds those institutions that maintain systemic and visible corruption within our nation’s body politic, why would anyone believe the institutions that administer justice would actually work against him?

Richard Nixon was one of the most corrupt politicians our nation has ever produced, but he managed to rise to the highest office a man or woman can hold… and he did it in spite of what should have been obvious to even the most casual observer, that he pandered to the worst elements of American society. Any man who must publicly declare, “I am not a crook…” deserves close scrutiny at best. Instead, the American people gave him a pass until even his enablers could no longer sustain his power, not even for their own benefit as they had so often in the past. So it is now with Trump. What is it about America that permits men of such a corrupt and cynical nature to become so powerful and virtually immune to prosecution when their crimes are so blatant and visible as to make the concept of justice seem impotent against them, even worthy of contempt?

Maybe it’s a good time to step back and consider where our nation is going. We need to take a long and critical self-appraisal, a serious moral inventory in order to learn exactly who we are as a people, what we have become in relation to those ideals we say that we hold precious and dear. We need to figure out how we managed to screw things up so badly. Then we need to find a way to fix it. It’s quite possible that Trump is not the problem, but merely the symptom… and we’re not going to fix the problem until we finally admit… that we are it.

Will democratic government perish…

….when the people lack the will or the wit with which to make intelligent decisions concerning representation and leadership? In an age of unprecedented bias in corporate-owned media, in which the underlying premises of accepted, proven facts can be utterly questioned and even altered in a constant drumbeat of propaganda, can the electorate be so fooled that they begin to believe every packaged lie that is given them?

The election of Trump and his subsequent and unbelievably bad behavior in office challenges the basic assumptions of our Constitution. What happens when… even after this behavior proves consistent and troubling… the public refuses to remove him from office in an election that may or may not be as reliably honest and secure from subversion as we have come to expect? After all, it appears that the constitutional remedies provided in the Articles of impeachment and the 25th amendment are not being seriously considered by the President’s cabinet or the leadersahip of the House and the Senate. What will happen if the “peaceful transfer of power” we have come to expect following our elections is finally challenged?

These are questions that seldom if ever came to mind before the Trump administration began to display an inherent and troubling disregard for both the moral constraints his predecessors respected and the mandates defined by our Constitution. The men who designed our government carefully structured its elements to ensure its lasting applicabilty, with every regard to providing constraints against the possibility of institutional corruption and the danger of autocracy, but they put down a rather large bet upon the idea of a democratic republic. That gamble hinged upon a participating and intellgent electorate.

In 1820, Thomas Jefferson wrote in a letter to William C. Jarvis, “I know no safe depositary of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power.”

I believe this is the priority in response to our present dilemma, but like good wine, an educated electorate able to respond to the dangerous and anti-intellectual trends of authoritarian populists takes time.

If we start today……………

Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the Treasure Island Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada June 18, 2016. REUTERS/David Becker –

What is Trumpism?

Is there really such a thing as Trumpism? Or is the man, the administration, and the thrust of his presidency purposely and aggressively indefinable, an ambiguous, amorphous fog, made up of mere visceral reactions to both impulse and the momentary influence of stray voices passing through his mind?  Lacking disciplined approaches or the need to develop constructs of vision, the man who neither reads nor even trusts that which has been proven by consensus and subsequently recorded as fact, much prefers hypotheses to conclusions, and possibly represents the very pinnacle of reactive thinking.

Agog with affection in the presence of authoritarian leaders, he lacks the stone and substance with which to emulate their brand, coming off, instead, as little more than the reflection of a spoiled and petulant adolescent.  Seated, his posture is oddly defensive, arms crossed so tightly about him at times, he looks to be romancing himself… while his facial expression betrays the possibility that the affection can never be returned, much like a man who possesses a powerful, even passionate love/hate relationship with himself, but one in which the component of disdain has utterly and irreversibly overcome the struggle.  Having no confidence and no rigid core of character within him, perhaps he is a liquid human tide subject to the influence of superior suggestive forces within his orbit.

If indeed there is such a thing as Trumpism, perhaps it does not emanate from this one man…



….but from an amalgam of individuals, a collective perhaps, a coalition of names… like Jared and Stephen and Vladimir and Kim. A pastiche of somewhat unusual men… like Bolton and Bannon, Pompeo and Flynn. Cohen and Cohn, Mussolini and then… Hannity, Coulter, Limbaugh and such… Don Junior and Eric, Ivanka, of course… Pence and Mnuchin and Betsy DeVos. The list goes on and on and on and must also include every angry voice in the crowds of adoring, MAGA-hatted fans… and passing thoughts from Twitter feeds… indeed, every passing voice that somehow strikes a serendipitous chord within the molten, mercurial mass of what passes for thought in the primordial presidential soup behind that often vacant stare from the man who is ultimately in charge of the future of our nation. This man who somehow… and perhaps quite by some fluke, some paradigm shift in the fabric of the universe, a glitch in the foundational laws of probability… now finds himself at the very helm of global history.

What is Trumpism? I believe we’ll only get the answer when we finally understand the question or when his epoch has ended… and if that sounds like I’m at a loss to describe Trumpism definitevely and with confidence? You get an “A” for the course.

Class dismissed.

When a new Chautauqua is launched for the present millenium…

…..this op ed/essay should be required reading for its participants. The last century brought us war, genocide, and quite to the brink of nuclear annhilition. Curiously, almost as though we have forgotten the cost and the horror of it all, right-wing authoritarianism is once again on the rise… with progressive opposition seemingly powerless to contain it and establishment forces unwilling to try.

You should read this thoughtful essay from Robert Kagan in yesterday’s Washington Post, titled The strongmen strike backhttps://www.washingtonpost.com/news/opinions/wp/2019/03/14/feature/the-strongmen-strike-back/?utm_term=.6bc0a296ec7f&wpisrc=nl_most&wpmm=1