Friday, October 2, 2020

So now you want me to pray for the president?


A few months ago, I wouldn't have wished Covid-19 on a single soul. But if anyone deserves to be stricken by the virus he so callously blew off, it's Donald Trump.



Note to readers: this essay contains some words that you might think should be capitalized but are not. Let me assure you that I have not lost my ability to write correctly. I have intentionally made some ordinarily capitalized letters lower case so that I don't appear to have more respect for some entities and individuals than I do. I have no excuse for run-on sentences, however.




DT and the republicans celebrate the death of Ruth Bader Ginsberg and openly defile this time of mourning by rushing through the appointment and confirmation of an underqualified religious extremist to the supreme court who clearly does not have the Constitution in mind when she makes rulings.


DT and the republicans have not shown the slightest concern over more than 200,000 U.S. citizens dead of a disease they have allowed to fester completely out of control.


DT and the republicans don't have even the tiniest bit of compassion for innocent citizens marching in the streets to help right terrible wrongs who are attacked, permanently maimed, and often killed by police and federal troops.


DT and the republicans are gleeful that they may finally succeed in totally squashing the Affordable Care Act, leaving millions without health care and vulnerable to a lifetime of bankruptcy if they become sick.


I could give you many more examples citing DT's and the republicans' lack of empathy and care, blatant and unhidden.


But let me get this straight.




DT and the republicans actively and openly persecute all LGBTQ+ communities (which includes me) not to mention people who aren't white, or christian, or rich. In fact, they would prefer it if we would just die.


So excuse me if I don't say a prayer for the president. He has basically declared war on me and all I hold dear. Congrats to those who are better Christians than I am. But I've spent my entire life trying to love and educate and be patient with people who would rather I be dead.


I'm done.


A few months ago, I wouldn't have wished Covid 19 on a single soul. But if anyone deserves to be stricken by the virus he so callously blew off, it's Donald Trump.


If the president drops dead, I won't be bothered by the loss. My only worry will be defending myself and my country from republicans, christian extremists, and white nationalists who will remain long after the dictator is rotting in his grave.


Monday, September 7, 2020

2020 - Can it Possibly Get Worse?

"I've spent every day since 2016 thinking that things couldn't possibly get worse. But every day, I am proven wrong."

Two days before a sudden and extreme snowstorm, on a 98-degree day, ash is falling from the sky like snow. I can catch it in my hands as it falls outside my house in Capitol Hill. We are living in a climate emergency.

My friend's Facebook post distracts me from the sadness I feel after reading a New York Times article about racism in one of my former hometowns, Omaha. This is against a backdrop of my constant anxiety about the coming presidential and legislative elections. To take my mind off these dispiriting events, I try to focus on something else. 

Oh yes, Covid-19 continues unabated. 

This pandemic, which was unimaginable a year ago, has raged around the world for six months. It is unchecked in the United States, killing more Americans in one week than died in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Unlike 9/11, however, there is no united effort to respond to Covid-19, or even to acknowledge its seriousness. Instead of focusing on sound public health policies and procedures, we are treated to a daily barrage of conflicting information, much of it propaganda calibrated to affect the outcome of the election. 

The truth doesn't seem to matter to Americans. The White House certainly has no interest in actual facts. The powers behind the politicians (you don't think Donald Trump is smart enough to pull this off by himself, do you?) would rather exploit the ignorance and stupidity of half the population and stoke fear and paranoia in the other half. This creates an atmosphere of confusion and crisis which distracts us from their dastardly agendas to consolidate wealth among the richest.

Trying to make a positive contribution, I spent the summer co-facilitating a course designed largely for white people to educate other white people about racism. One presumption is that people of color are tired of trying to alert us to the consequences of centuries of slavery and ethnic cleansing which are the basis of our American way of life. Another presumption is that white people are more likely to listen to other white people when challenged to examine their complicity in racism and their resulting privilege. One goal of the course is to replace white fragility (our automatic tendency to avoid the topic of race and to get defensive by saying things like, "I'm not racist - I have black friends," which only serves to shut the conversation down) with the ability to actively participate in anti-racism as valuable allies.

As I studied the curriculum by reading countless books and articles, and watching many videos, my eyes popped open to the continuing reinforcement of ideas and institutions designed to keep oppressed people (especially blacks) poor and disenfranchised. 

I always knew that many Americans are racist and that there was such a thing as institutional racism. But I never understood the insidiousness of racism or the ways I and other white people (even we good, liberal ones) personally benefit from it. I also learned how there is a direct line from slavery to our current judicial system which intentionally, legally, and systematically oppresses people of African descent. The most visible, but far from only, example of this is the way we police, which is basically designed to to keep order so that the status quo can be maintained. I could go on and on, but there is plenty of material about this already. I recommend starting with the book, Waking Up White by Debby Irving, and the movie, 13th, which is available on Netflix. 

As if worrying about the election and systemic racism while mostly unable to leave home because of pandemic lock-down aren't enough, there has been smoke in the air for several weeks. It smells like a campfire when we open the windows. 

While California garners most of the national attention, many other western states also suffer the effects of devastating wildfire. This year's Pine Gulch fire near Grand Junction, one of many in Colorado, is the biggest in state history, incinerating more than 139,000 acres. Erosion and flash flooding always follow these fires which also threaten human homes, drive wildlife into less friendly habitats such as suburbs and freeways, and generally scar the beautiful mountains for which we are known. 

These enormous fires are not the natural, cleansing fires that have occurred since prehistoric times. They are instead a result of misguided land management which for at least a century, suppressed all fires, resulting in a buildup of ground vegetation and debris which ignite into today's hellscapes. These fires pollute the air we breathe from the Pacific to the Mississippi. And this doesn't include other fires burning around the world from the Siberia to Brazil, contributing as much as 10 percent of annual carbon emissions worldwide. My friend is not exaggerating when she says that ash is falling from the sky in the middle of Denver.

The fires, of course, are only one manifestation of the greatest and most ignored problem our world has ever faced: climate change. No matter how the 2020 election comes out, global warming is happening right in front of us. You can see it not only in the size and intensity of fires, but the increasing frequency and strength of storms, floods, drought, and other record breaking weather phenomenon. While Colorado has always had erratic weather, this week's sudden slide from record heat (101 degrees F a couple of days ago) to winter storm is not normal, especially in early September.

Which brings me back to our national government which is completely indifferent to the climate crisis, preferring instead to, well, just go back to earlier paragraphs.

I've spent every day since 2016 thinking that things couldn't possibly get worse. But every day, I am proven wrong. Is there anything left to think about? Something that might sooth and rest my weary soul? Probably, but that's another subject for another post.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Once Venerated U.S.A. Plummets into Disgrace

If any day stirs patriotism in the American heart, it’s the Fourth of July. But I won’t be celebrating this year. The thought of waving a flag and declaring that we are the greatest country in the world is laughable.


Citizens protest racial injustice in record numbers, disrupting complacency in hundreds of cities and towns across all 50 states. And yet, the inept, immoral president (lower case intended) doubles down on the militarized policing that ignited the protests to begin with. Federal troupes menace fellow citizens as they exercise their American rights to free speech and assembly.


Our country should be an example of harmonious diversity to which all others aspire. Instead, multitudes from Berlin to Melbourne take to the streets protesting American racism.


Covid-19 runs more rampant here than in any other country. Places identified as shit holes by the same racist president manage the pandemic better.


Americans are banned from Europe, parts of Asia, and even Canada because we have failed so badly to combat the virus within our borders.


In the midst of this global pandemic, the president, desperately trying to focus the blame somewhere else, carelessly pulls our membership from the World Health Organization.


The U.S. should lead the world in fighting disease. Our wealth should create vaccines that we generously share with others.


Instead, dimwitted throngs march on state capitals to battle for the fabricated right to not wear disease preventing masks. They do so with blatant disregard for scientific facts and no concern for the public good.


I once thought that greed and corruption, persistent evils in the best of countries, could be kept at bay by the determination to live out our ideals. The arc of the moral universe, said the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., would bend towards justice. In spite of occasional backsliding, we were ultimately destined to be the great country we imagined.


But evil and corruption have escalated to unprecedented levels. Checks and balances to keep them at bay have been defused.


The corrupt elite instigate chaos to distract us from their antics. As a result, we ignore serious threats like climate catastrophe.


The criminals running this country are only interested in preserving their own power and wealth. Even the most basic American values don’t interest them. They blithely encourage unthinkable evils such as white supremacy to achieve their goals.


And yet.


We might have a chance to set things right. In November, we could send a message that corruption will no longer be tolerated. It won’t be easy, however. We must overcome Republican instigated systemic voter suppression, the influence of nefarious countries that manipulate our elections, and the apathy of millions who have not voted in the past.


Our reward could be a new United States, a country of which we are truly proud. We could become not the world’s savior, but a responsible citizen nation among others.


Sunday, March 29, 2020

Cooped Up by Covid

Our dumbass in chief, who has always been inept, has outdone himself with daily proclamations of bellowing ignorance.

Except for rare trips to the supermarket and brief walks outside I haven’t left the house for two weeks. We are compelled now by government edict to practice “social distancing” in order to slow the wave of the novel coronavirus. 

The U.S. now tops the number of infected in the world, if you trust the numbers, which I don’t. Thanks to the woefully inadequate response of our federal government, far fewer people in the U.S. have even been tested, so the numbers are probably much higher. 

As always in healthcare, we are less prepared and our poor are worse off than any other developed country in the world – to say nothing of our overworked and under-protected medical professionals who have to beg the public to help them get safety masks and gowns. 

Our dumbass in chief, who has always been inept, has outdone himself with daily proclamations of bellowing ignorance. His stupidity is surpassed only by the 47 percent of Americans who continue to rate his performance positively. 

While Washington DC has provided less than inspiring leadership, we in Colorado are somewhat better off because our state leaders, Governor Polis leading the way, are taking a serious, scientific approach to the crisis. Republicans, typically, are critical of Polis’s strict orders to stay at home, but it’s so much better than some states (North Carolina and others with higher infection rates of destructive Trumpism) where governors refuse to take action. 

Clyde and I are very fortunate, so far, to be disease free (at least Covid-19 free – we still have our regular repertoire of health issues). We have plenty to eat. Charles the cat is just as sweet as ever. As the meme says, we are called to sacrifice by sitting at home and watching TV – we got this. 

We are still working, albeit at home because our offices are restricted to all but “essential” personnel. In fact, I’ve been as busy as ever coming up with creative ways to teach people through the magic of technology. I meet just as often with my colleagues in Montreal and Phoenix. The conference calls with people in the UK and other non-North American locations have slowed because the Diversity and Inclusion initiative which I’ve been honored to help with has been temporarily shelved. 

Of course all of that changes if one of us gets sick. The virus, for us, is still something only in the news. To my knowledge, it hasn’t afflicted anyone we personally know. That’s bound to change as the peak may still be weeks away. 

For now, I have to admit that I am enjoying the quieter, calmer life of staying home. I like not risking my life twice a day fighting traffic on I-25. I like not planning my day around where I have to be hour by hour. I enjoy communicating with people electronically from the comfort of my sofa. 

Clyde’s and my church attendance has actually improved because St. Andrew’s services such as the Thursday night Evensong and Sunday morning prayer (no eucharist until we can be all together in person) are broadcast over the web. Even church committees continue to meet through the miracle of Zoom. 

I don’t want to make light of the suffering which Covid-19 has inflicted, but I love the fact that air pollution levels are down. Dolphins are swimming in the waterways of Venice for the first time in centuries. Mountain lions are exploring the streets of Boulder because there are so few humans outside. 

We’ll see how many more weeks I can stay content. If we’re lucky, the worst that will happen is that we start climbing the walls with boredom before this situation abates and we can return to some version of normal.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Settling in for a Long Pandemic

Don't tell anyone, but we have several rolls of toilet paper in the closet. 

Greetings from the little house on Forest Street where I'm pounding away at my computer, work tasks serving as a rare link to normality. Well, it's also normal that Charles, our cat, is snoozing on the sofa. He just made the big move from the open window to the spot where Clyde usually sits.

In the other room, a small stockpile of groceries is stacked on the floor. Clyde says that's our emergency stash and I'm not allowed to touch it yet. There are hand sanitizer bottles on the dining room table. In spite of our intention to go on a "news diet" to lower stress, the television blares the latest infection figures in the background. It also reminds us that drinking bleach is not a good treatment for what ales you.

Don't tell anyone, but we have several rolls of toilet paper in the closet. Fortunately, we don't have to decide whether to fight little old ladies in the aisle at the supermarket for the last one. That seems to be what people do these days.

Assuming they're still open, we plan to order dinner from our local Chinese takeout. Reports on Next Door indicate that the old couple who owns the place are not busy these days, thanks to the ignorant stupidity of disloyal customers who are avoiding anything Chinese, lest they catch the virus. All of the sit down restaurants in Denver are closing tomorrow for the duration. It's takeout or nothing now.

Even Starbucks is switching to drive through only service. Where are hipsters going to sit and look at their laptops now? Is this the end of civilization as we know it?

Today I watched President Macron of France address his people. He was compassionate, solemn, and factual. Then I watched President Dumbass here at home. He clearly doesn't understand anything. His grasp of facts is so totally lacking that if we relied on him for information, we wouldn't have any. 

President Macron compared this to a time of war and said that we have to pull together while staying apart, the sacrifice necessary for the good of all. I have never been in a war, but it's a sobering thing to contemplate. In case you were wondering, President Dumbass did not offer any words of wisdom. The smartest thing he did was step aside so Anthony Fauci could clarify some misinformation that the Donald hath spewed.

We have technology to keep in touch, thank goodness, so isolation can be somewhat mitigated. We also have unprecedented home entertainment options. I don't know what people did in the last world-wide pandemic without Netflix. I suppose they read the Bible and contemplated what humanity had done to earn such wrath that God had set upon the world.

In our relatively stable country, we aren't used to this kind of uncertainty. But I think compared to bombs going off around us and tanks in the streets, we're still pretty well off. And as far as I know, for the moment, I can still get chicken fried rice from the Chinese take out.

Stay healthy everyone!

Friday, December 27, 2019

The Year-Dometer Is Turning Over

As the year-dometer turns over to a new decade, it seems only appropriate that we reflect on the decade past and ...

Before I go on, I want to address those of you who are upset with me because the new decade doesn't start until 2021 and I obviously don't understand basic numbers. Yes, I'm aware that there was no "year zero" and that we start counting everything with the number one. But I'm not a math fundamentalist. I think that, for example, it's symbolically more meaningful when your car odometer turns over to 100,000 miles than 100,001. So try not to get too riled up and let's get on with it.

Unfortunately, I'm at an age where the last 10 years are indistinguishable from the 10 before that. Wasn't the turn of the century just 10 years ago? Seems like only yesterday, we ate a cake that said, "Welcome 2000" and accidentally shot live fireworks into the woodpile.

Ever since 2000, I've said we are living in the future. The elders among us might remember how in the 1960s and 70s, predictions of the future always started with, "By the year 2000 ..." which seemed impossibly far away. And now? Smart phones. Self-driving cars. They still seem like science fiction to me. On the other hand, I struggle to remember how we got to our friends' homes in the suburbs without GPS. Did we really fumble around with paper maps that we could never fold back to their original state?

Some of the decade's highlights for me personally:
  • I got legally married and I'm still amazed about that.
  • I became Episcopalian.
  • I went from middle age to upper middle age.
  • I bought a house riddled with stupid problems.
  • I got a Kindle reader.
Our national life has been no less eventful:
  • It became legal for same sex couples to marry.
  • There is a general trend towards legalizing marijuana.
  • "They" as a singular, personal pronoun came into acceptance.
  • There are more good programs on TV than ever before and thanks to DVRs and streaming, we can watch them at our own convenience.
On the other hand:
  • The U.S. accelerated on its journey to hell with shady Republicans engineering voter suppression and other stunts. These culminated in an illiterate, immoral, psychopath in the white house and a supreme court that will halt progressive changes at every turn for years to come.
  • Climate change and global warming continued to worsen while we basically continued to not do much about it.
  • Corporations figured out how to gather even more reams of data on us through technology that we bring into our homes on purpose. It's so bad now that experts recommend putting a piece of low tech tape over the camera on your new television because, theoretically and technically, someone out there could be watching you..
You know, maybe it wouldn't be such a bad idea to extend the decade one more year. That would give us a little extra time to end the 10s on a more positive note and brace ourselves for the 20s.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Never Forget What?

With the recent anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, there were news stories and posts with photos, lists honoring victims and first responders, and a particularly beautiful song from Mary Chapin Carpenter (Grand Central Station). The phrase that accompanied many of these was, "Never forget."

What, exactly, are we not to forget?

In this Trumpian age of white nationalism, my hackles get up when I see a vaguely defined message like, "Never forget." If we're not careful, phrases like that can ignite the wrong kind of reaction, especially paranoia and discrimination, or worse, violence, against Muslims and immigrants.

I remember as vividly as anyone where I was when those planes hit the towers and the Pentagon. It was a cool, clear morning, not a cloud in the sky. I was working from home, fighting with my laptop, the Today Show running in the background. When the first plane hit, before I knew it was a large commercial airliner, I thought, "Wow, some idiot pilot can't navigate around tall buildings." But when the second plane hit, I, like everyone else, had no doubt that this was an intentional terrorist attack. I was shocked and dumbfounded the rest of the day and for several days after, glued to the TV and hanging onto every observation, theory, and fear that it might keep happening. I wept over the story of how passengers on one plane stopped the hijackers before it crashed in Pennsylvania. I remember a friend who was stuck in New York City with no way to get home. I remember thinking that Republicans would surely use this as an excuse to do their usual warmongering - and I was right about that. I remember going to an event that night where people were wearing red, white, and blue and expressing obnoxious patriotism as if it were the God-damned fourth of July. I remember looking at the sky for several days, empty of contrails because no planes were flying. For usually not noticing planes in the sky one way or the other, it was spooky not to see or hear any.

In other words, I remember a lot. I'm not in danger of forgetting anything.

I just want to be sure that we remember the right things: the heroes on the planes, the first responders risking and losing their lives, the families who suddenly lost loved ones.

We should also remember the bad, shameful things: the immediate outlash against Muslims, even those life long, patriotic citizens who just because of religion and/or ethnicity, were somehow blamed for the attacks. Many lost basic freedoms and continue to suffer an unjust stigma. If you don't believe me, ask anyone with a middle-eastern surname who flies on a regular basis.

We should not forget how we overreacted and used the attacks as an excuse to invade Iraq, who had nothing to do with it. We shouldn't forget how millions of Americans were forced to sacrifice freedoms because of overreaching laws like the PATRIOT Act.

It's ok to never forget. Let's just think about what we're not forgetting and make sure we're remembering for the right reasons.