Ever have a dream like this?

Below is an account of a nighttime experience I had a day or two ago that left me as uncomfortable as it sounds. I offered it to our local newspaper on the eve of Impeachment #2 (from which I expect little more than a reminder of the frightening world Trump and his henchmen have created for us). Our local paper has done a pretty good job in recent weeks (called for our local congressman to resign after he challenged PA’s vote Jan. 6). We cannot just forget what these people have done/are doing. Herewith the op-ed:

Boom!

I don’t usually remember my dreams, but the nightmare I had recently was so vivid and frightening that it woke me up. I’ve been doing a lot of reading, trying to understand how we became such a divided people and what experts advise for knitting ourselves back together and moving forward. Just before I turned in for the night, I read the story of a woman Lenka Perron, mother of three, works as an insurance consultant) whose concerns about modern America led her into QAnon and the cult of conspiracy theories that, along with Donald Trump, fueled the violent assault on our nation’s Capitol on January 6, 2021. (“Trump Just Used Us and Our Fears,” The New York Times, Jan. 29. 2021) She eventually managed to free herself from Q, but in telling her story, she confirmed what many experts understand about QAnon followers: most of them refuse to be rescued from its vicious, unsubstantiated, and false convictions, including their heinous accusation that Democratic leaders are pedophiles and Satanists. (Perron tried counseling a 40-year old disciple of Q whose marriage failed as he chased conspiracy theories, but she gave up. She said, “I couldn’t even make a dent.”)

I fell asleep that night with the same sense of dread—that conspiracy theory-fueled Americans might mount further attacks on our nation—that haunted me before January 6 and continues to haunt me now. All of which probably explains my dream. It began with me realizing I was in some sort of concrete bunker with a number of other people. Moments later we heard a loud whistling sound (like a bomb dropping) and then a massive explosion shook the bunker. I turned to my companions and asked what was happening. They told me the QAnon/conspiracy theory forces had actually declared total war on America and those not part of their cult. I’m not big on interpreting dreams (my wife’s dream-sharing group is far better at that), but I would venture to suggest that my mind, as it processed all of the conspiracy theory stuff and factored in the Republican party’s decision to make room for anti-democratic cultists, was warning me to beware and maybe encouraging me to add my voice to those speaking out against the cult of Q and the Donald.

After the murderous attack on the Capitol on January 6, Republicans were quick to call for a renewed sense of unity among Americans and to move on. They asked us to overlook the seditious actions of more than 100 senators and representatives (including Lancaster County’s Lloyd Smucker) in voting to overthrow the results of a free and fair (and secure) election. Then, for whatever reasons (it may simply be a depraved effort to appease the dangerous cult of QAnon/Trump and retain power), the GOP opened wide its gates and chose to overlook party members’ undemocratic attack on the electoral process and even embraced a newly-elected congresswoman who, among other cultish, extremist acts, “liked” a social media post proposing assassination of the Speaker of the House.

In all of these things, in making room for white supremacist cultists (as the party made room for racist southern Democrats in the 1960s), the Republican Party has voted to prolong the current period of national anguish and fear, not end it. One essay I read suggested that we give up trying to talk to each other across the political/moral divide, and instead try working together on mutually beneficial projects, like building roads and parks. That’s a fine suggestion, but what kind of future awaits a nation in which one of two major political parties now sides with violent, extremist, delusional cultists and white nationalists? It seems to me that we must take steps to reduce the sense of dread that hangs over us and hold those who engage in violent, undemocratic acts accountable—not just the Capitol hill gang of insurrectionists but any and all elected leaders who willingly violated the Constitution they swore to uphold when they were elected to public office. A handful of Republicans have stood up against the seditious behavior of their colleagues. We should applaud and appreciate them, and encourage other Republicans—who still believe in the basic principles of democracy—to throw their hats in the ring in 2022 and 2024, and replace those who chose to serve themselves rather than their nation.

Pace.

I don’t need your help!

I had an encounter this morning that drove home to me the enormity of the task facing those of us who sincerely want to help heal the wound, mend the great rift in our social fabric, unify the nation, and generally reduce the affective polarization that has people on opposing sides of the political fence calling each other terrible names, avoiding each other, rejecting our children’s choice of partner (if that person is of the opposite political stripe), refusing to sit beside each other in a restaurant, and, in the terrible, most extreme instances, willing to kill fellow citizens to impose a particular, twisted perception of reality on the entire nation. Here’s the story:

My wife and I were nearing the end of our morning walk when we reached an intersection where workmen were directing traffic. The first vehicle in line at the traffic light (a full-size, black pickup truck) was occupied by a sixty-something (I’m guessing), casually dressed gentleman. Behind him, in an older car, was a young man (30’ish?).

When the light for their lane turned green, the older gentleman was prevented from moving forward by the flagman at the corner. The younger man behind him, who could not see the flagman over the large pickup truck, allowed a couple of seconds to pass before he blew his horn four or five times, to get the pickup truck moving. We were standing on the sidewalk beside the cab of the pickup truck at this point, and I saw the older driver shaking his head, apparently irritated by the young man’s horn blowing.

I made eye contact with the older man and tried to gesture that my wife and I would inform the younger man that the work crew was preventing traffic from moving at that moment. The older man waved me off, rejecting my assistance. As he did so, he lowered the passenger side window and told me, in a tone of voice that was either agitated or angry, “I don’t need your help!”

Puzzled by his response, I leaned toward the window and asked, “Sir, why can’t I help you?” Gesturing toward the jacket I was wearing (it has an NBC peacock logo and the call letters of my old station in South Bend, WNDU, stitched on the left breast), he said, with unmistakeable disgust in his voice, “N-B-C. That’s all that needs to be said.” With that, he closed the window, turned his head away from me, and waited for the flagman to let him proceed.

I will confess I did not see that coming. I also confess it left me feeling sad and discouraged. Political scientists have been measuring the increasing polarization of our society. And we all refer to it in conversation. But encountering this very respectable looking man (he certainly wasn’t wearing horns and face paint as one of the Capitol insurrectionists did) made me realize more than ever how vehement many Americans are in their rejection of things I consider essential for the functioning of a healthy democracy (like objective, accurate, truthful, mainstream news reporting). I also realize it’s a lot easier to say I want reach out to these disaffected souls and bring them back into lawful discourse than it will be to do it.

Pace

Throw the bum out…and then what?

I am eager to see Donald Trump answer for his many sins, not least among them the poisoning of millions of American minds. How do we begin to heal this awful rift in the fabric of our society? I’ve been reading some studies lately that suggest name calling and avoidance only drive alienated people farther away from each other. One suggestion is to emphasize the things we share or could share as Americans, in language that doesn’t inflame. With that in mind, find below my latest missive to our local newspaper (which has courageously called for Trump to resign immediately, in a community that’s wicked conservative):

Like many of my neighbors here in Lancaster County, I am deeply disappointed that our Congressman Lloyd Smucker has chosen—for whatever reasons—to side with a president who encourages any behaviors, including violence against our elected leaders, so he can remain in the most powerful office in the world. But I am absolutely heartbroken to see so many Americans—who call themselves patriots and Christians—willing to endorse such lawless actions. Did the founding fathers labor to write the Constitution, establishing the laws by which we mutually agree to live our lives (and conduct elections), only to see it trampled by those seeking to impose their particular set of values and beliefs on the entire nation?
The First Amendment to the Constitution vows that should not happen. We are all Americans, one people. I would ask those who believe their sacred duty is to overturn the presidential election, by force if necessary, no matter the harm to democracy and the harm to those who disagree with them, this question: Is that what the Lord of love would do? Would those who shaped this nation, a nation of laws and not of men, approve? I honestly think not.
Since the assault on the Capitol, quiet voices have begun calling for unity. But others are planning further assaults on government to take back “their country.” Can unity arise out of this mess? I believe it can, but only if we recommit ourselves to the rule of law and the rule of love.
Reclaim Democracy

It’s time for Republicans to help save lives!

Below is my latest missive to our local paper triggered by fear, frankly, that what Donald Trump and his Republican enablers are doing to subvert the presidential election is not only immoral but increasingly dangerous. It’s time to demand that Republicans, whether they serve at the local, state or national level, do the right thing and stand up to the madman in the White House and tell him he lost. Please send sentiments like those below to every Republican you know and urge them to stop endangering our democracy and the people who help run it (like election workers). This letter will be in the December 11 issue of LNP/LancasterOnline.

If you see Facebook posts or tweets claiming the Supreme Court has accepted a Texas case seeking to block Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Georgia from voting in the Electoral College, don’t believe it, especially if President Donald Trump is the source.

The fact-checking website politifact.com offers a succinct and accurate statement of the case. These are excerpts as of Thursday morning:

“Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has sued four states that went for President-elect Joe Biden on grounds their election procedures violated the law, and he’s asking the U.S. Supreme Court to block those states from voting in the electoral college.

“Legal experts have characterized the lawsuit as a long shot — the court has yet to take up any election disputes. And on Dec. 8, the Supreme Court rejected an effort led by a Republican congressman to reverse Pennsylvania’s certification of Biden’s victory there.

“But on Facebook, the high court has agreed to hear the Texas case against states including Pennsylvania.

“‘JUST IN,’ one Facebook post said. ‘The Supreme has decided to take up the Texas case. Let’s give Texas a YEEHAW!’

“This post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. …

“We rate this Facebook post False.”

Such falsehoods, in my view, stir up Trump’s more violently-inclined supporters and raise false hopes. Election officials are being threatened across the country. I fear that when the Trumpists can no longer avoid the truth, someone might get hurt. I pray that all of Pennsylvania’s Republican legislators and members of Congress, including U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker, will publicly acknowledge Biden’s victory and help defuse the tension.

Pace.

Donald Trump’s obituary

Donnie Diapers
(artist: Ann Telnaes)

I sure hope this writer is right:

“The history texts will note that by 2016, a leaderless Republican Party was primed for a hostile takeover. Into that breach stepped an accomplished huckster and TV celebrity, playing the role of garish billionaire and anti-immigrant populist.

The idea of a conservative billionaire populist may sound inherently contradictory to students in the 22nd century, but in 2016 America, ideological coherence wasn’t a particular selling point. Trump was a skillful entertainer who terrified the political and media elite, and that was enough.

Students will write that Trump’s brief presidency was notable mostly for its affront to the democratic norms of the age. Trump behaved more like a small-time strongman than an American president — sharing power with his children, misinforming the public through a primitive digital platform called “Twitter,” whipping up the masses with staged-for-TV rallies.

His enduring hold on these audiences — White and less educated, a sizable plurality of the electorate — stemmed from a promise to restore the past. Perpetually aggrieved, Trump was the natural anchor on a relay whose baton of racial and socioeconomic resentment had passed from George Wallace to Richard Nixon to Ronald Reagan before him.”

By the 2020s, though, American culture was moving quickly and inexorably toward mass urbanization and the more tolerant social attitudes that came with it. It will be clear to future historians, with the benefit of hindsight, that Trump’s presidency marked the last, tortured spasms of a dying ideology.

They will say that Trump briefly emboldened reactionary forces that had been marginalized in the years immediately preceding his ascendancy. But he could do nothing to reverse their long slide into irrelevance, which within a few decades would be all but complete.

[excerpt from: “What will history say about Trump?” Opinion by Matt Bai, Contributing columnist, The Washington Post, November 18, 2020 at 3:39 p.m. EST. Retrieved from: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/11/18/what-will-history-say-about-trump/?utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter&wpisrc=nl_opinions&utm_campaign=wp_opinions]

Okay, that’s all that needs to be said. Can we all agree never to mention his name or report his insane, degenerate, malignant rantings and behaviors again? (Except as testimony in his criminal trials :–) I’m up for it. Past time to move on.

Pace.

This man steals children…

My local paper apparently doesn’t care if affluent, ignorant Republican women are ordering people to remove their facemasks (my last letter to the editor), but they have shown slight interest in this offering. It would, of course, be helpful if they published it before Nov. 3. (and pray for us, the orange menace is coming to Lancaster tomorrow!)…

Picture Donald Trump as you read the following, drawn from Psychology Today’s discussion of malignant narcissism: Narcissists process information in ways that can hurt society. Family and co-workers have to walk on eggshells to appease their fragile ego and minimize unstable, impulsive, or aggressive behaviors. Malignant narcissists lash out or humiliate others for infractions as frivolous as giving an opinion different from theirs. Their grandiosity and protection of their fragile “true self” reaches extreme levels; they lie and give the impression that simply because they say something, it is reality. They react angrily if their lies are challenged, and theirs blend of antisocial personality disorders makes others feel anxious, intimidated, and fearful. Their lack of empathy, aggression, hypersensitivity, and suspiciousness bring pain to others. Sound familiar?
George Will, noted conservative columnist, has seen Donald Trump’s behavior. His reaction? An October 16 column warning: “The election’s winner will confront a disorderly world. Which candidate do you want in charge? Which candidate, he wrote, can be trusted to cope with foreign dangers calmly, assisted by a well-functioning national security apparatus? Is it the candidate who has had two secretaries of defense and state, and four national security advisers, who considers Xi Jinping a “friend,” who sided with Putin against the U.S. intelligence agencies over the 2016 election, who tweeted “There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea” because he spent a few hours with Kim Jong Un? Or is it the other candidate?” George knows, vote for stability, vote Biden.

[Whatever it takes, you know?]

Pace.

She didn’t look stupid, but…

I sent this story to our local paper, who knows if they’ll be interested, although they have done a good job of backing up medical experts on how to react to the virus still attacking us. I wish I didn’t live so close to GOP HQ. Hope they’re not all as benighted as this person…see below…

A well-dressed, older woman heading into the Republican headquarters in Lancaster stopped us this morning as we walked by (no more than two feet away), and told us we shouldn’t be wearing our masks outdoors. She told us, quite confidently, that carbon dioxide would build up inside our masks and make us sick. She told us she rarely wears a mask anywhere, indoors or out. Disgusted by her disregard for others’ well-being, I hurried away. As we departed, she made clear what she values most: “Freedom!” she shouted. I double-checked the facts when we got home. I wish I could share them with our woefully ill-informed Republican acquaintance: From the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics: Face masks do not decrease your oxygen intake, nor do they retain more carbon dioxide than usual. Oxygen and CO2, very small molecules, easily pass through a face mask. Virus laden droplets, much larger in comparison, cannot pass easily through a mask. From the venerable Mayo Clinic Health System: For many years, health care providers have worn masks for extended periods of time with no adverse health reactions. The CDC recommends wearing cloth masks while in public, and this option is very breathable. There is no risk of hypoxia (lower oxygen levels) in healthy adults. Carbon dioxide will freely diffuse through your mask as you breathe. To our uninformed Republican acquaintance and her loved ones, I plead: Wear a mask and social distance so we can all get back to something like normal life.

Pace.

So I gave it another shot…

[No, my local paper never did publish my op-ed on keeping the drive for police reform and racial justice alive, so I tried another tack. Maybe a tiny bit of lighthearted ridicule will get by the censors. Gotta’ keep trying…go Joe and Kamala!]

LNP/LancasterOnline’s well-moderated and well-balanced opinion section is always informative and challenging, but I’d like to offer a special thank-you to the editors for two recent offerings. Kay C. James’ hysterically naive warning about the evils of socialism made me laugh out loud. It conjured visions of the late, not-so-great Republican Senator Joe McCarthy, spitting out damaging falsehoods about an imaginary Communist takeover in the 1950s. Ms. James knows full well Democrats couldn’t replace capitalism even if they wanted to, which they don’t. In 50 years in the White House during the 20th century, not one Democratic attempt to scuttle the Constitution. They have supported social programs like Social Security, Medicare, and food stamps, but it was Republican Richard Nixon who greatly expanded programs like SNAP, vowing, before Congress, “to put an end to hunger in America for all time.”

I am also especially thankful for Robin Abcarian’s timely reminder that the goals of law enforcement reform and racial justice, widely embraced by Americans after George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, have not been achieved. Her rejection of violence and looting as tools of protest is right on target. So is her final comment: “It [racial injustice] will only change once white people fully and permanently commit themselves to the idea that Black lives matter.” Thank you, LNP, for Ms. James’ amusing journey into fantasy land, and for Ms. Abcarian’s heart-felt encouragement to keep our hopes for a more just nation and world alive.

[Spread the word and VOTE!]

Pace.