Showing posts with label Donald Trump. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Donald Trump. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Are we doomed to repeat history?

Entitlement: this is what passes as a “Constitutional Right” even as we, as a nation, confront potential existential threats to our “pursuit of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”  The threats seem to be ubiquitous. Ones such as environmental degradation, political divisiveness, income inequality and racial injustice are long term, systemic, and need to be dealt with through legislation, the courts, and at the voting booth.  But another is immediate and it is a behavioral issue: COVID-19.  Changing behavior is not something that can be merely legislated or policed. It is more of a matter of acting with an esprit de corps.

During the Spanish Flu of 1918 there were no antibiotics, steroids, ventilators, and no “Hail Mary” prospects of an effective vaccine or even a therapeutic.  Some 675,000 people died yet that number would have been much higher had not certain measures been widely adopted.  Which ones?  You guessed it, wearing a mask, social distancing, use of disinfectants and cancelling schools and large public gatherings. It was proven then that social distancing works. 

Even with the advantage of modern medicine, we have more than 125,000 deaths in the United States from CV-19.  This tally is already approaching 20% of the total of the Spanish Flu 100 years before, but we’re only four months or so into this pandemic.  And, the United States seriously trails other developed nations in controlling this, proving our utter ineffectual leadership.  One only has to compare our curve (which is really not a curve, but a flattening out and now another peak) to those of Europe, South Korea, Japan, and China.  No wonder we are now on the EU list of countries whose citizens are not welcome.

There are those who claim their right to not wear masks and to congregate in large crowds as being their “constitutional” right to do so (even our Vice President implied the latter last weekend).  In an embarrassing video of a recent Palm Beach County Commissioner’s meeting where they voted for mandatory face masks (as if there was any question), impassioned opposition comments included one woman saying it was equivalent to her being denied her individual freedom not to wear underpants.

No, lady, that is a false equivalency as not wearing underwear does not endanger anyone else. Perhaps she’s never heard of the “promoting the general welfare” clause which IS enshrined in the Preamble to the Constitution. (Indeed, there is nothing about wearing face masks or panties for that matter.)

We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

The point is, in order to secure the common good in this pandemic, we all need to work together.   How in the world did we conflate not wearing face masks with an “individual liberty?” Perhaps it can be traced to our President’s statements and his behavior which his sycophants (such as our Florida Governor) mimic.  Our President even implied that some Americans might wear face masks not as a way to prevent the spread of CV-19 but as a way to “signal disapproval of him.” It’s always about him, not about our welfare. 

During WW II Americans had to sacrifice for the common good.  Ration cards were given out for virtually every commodity.  Imagine if this generation was asked to sacrifice their “right” to fuel and sugar?  We would have lost that war and we are going to have more and more needless deaths in this CV-19 war because our lack of national leadership and thus our failure to pull together as a nation. Those who refuse to follow or deny scientific advice on attacking this critical threat are not patriots, but traitors.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

The Inevitable Year of Reckoning, a Year That Never Was

A contradictory heading.  How can both be true?  How can a year be and not be, or should not have been but is?

The answer lies in one’s perspective, and as I am now entering the outfield of old age, the game has been called.  It’s a matter of simple math.  Removing a year from your life when you’re approaching 80 represents a huge fraction of one’s remaining life.  So, waiting for COVID-19 to abate or to be solved is tantamount to a kind of purgatory, a state of being between life and death.

Purgatory implies some kind of judgement.  I’d say we are among the fortunate who can afford to stay in our house, surrounded by our books and streaming choices of theatre and  music, and for me my precious piano,  Judgement day is looking up, if you believe in religious fabrication.  I don’t; and have always argued that we make our own heaven or hell right here and now.

At first we hung onto every word of Dr. Fauci, for guidance and for any hopeful signs of a vaccination.  Any good news would release us, the most vulnerable, from being confined to our home.  Instead, what we feared, a therapeutic and better yet, a vaccination, will be a long time coming.

Ok, “normal” life will continue without us.  As “reopening” occurred, we watched boats pass by our house, their Trump flags flying, celebrating reverence for their King releasing them from bondage, going right back to their previous ways of ignoring social distancing, just making it more dangerous for the rest of us, but, hey, it’s their “freedom” not ours.

Until the thunderbolt of America’s original sin struck in Minneapolis of all places.  Racism, lack of opportunity, income inequality, white privilege, police violence, and the message that black lives really don’t matter, came crashing down on the country’s collective conscience with the murder of just one black person, George Floyd, by an imperious white policeman, Derek Chauvin, filmed for all the world to see.  The country burst into the same Chicago flames as in 1968 after Martin Luther King’s assassination.  Then too we had another elephant in the room, the Vietnam War which had fomented its own trauma.  There were also the Watts Riots of 1965, involving the police and a black man and they foreshadowed the 1992 LA riots which were sparked by the arrest and beating of Rodney King, all of which was filmed.  Cell phones were not around then, but a TV cameraman captured the gruesome details.

But the killing of the seemingly gentle giant George Floyd was different.  It came soon after filmed killings either by police or white vigilantes of other blacks and, over the past years hundreds, more like them.  It came after Dylann Roof’s mass murder in a Charleston black Baptist Church.  It came immediately after the filmed confrontation of a black man who was bird watching in Central Park and a white woman who felt entitled to call the police when he asked her to put her dog on a leash in an area where birds were protected.  But she chose to turn the call into a racial one, saying "I'm taking a picture and calling the cops, I'm going to tell them there's an African American man threatening my life."  It was an open invitation for the police to take action which would not have been justified.  The mere fact that he was black gave the woman a sense of entitlement, the power, to make such a call.  Had she had a gun and was in Florida she might have shot him and been vindicated under its racially charged “Stand Your Ground” law.  It reveals the basis of a problem which has existed forever in this country, remaining unaddressed.

We all know the systemic basis for it all and this country’s failure to do anything while propping up the stock market to benefit the few is a sin.
Its failure to address gun control is just another, but related, sin. 

Its failure to invest in education as part of the long term solution overarches the entire topic. 

Hopelessness breeds a certain kind of despair which can burst into flames when a match is thrown into the kindling.  But this is no mere match, as the video of the white policeman shows him kneeling on the neck of this poor man, suffocating the life out of him, the half shit grin knowing he was being filmed, the casual hand in the pocket.  It had the characteristics of the hunter proudly dominating his dead prey.  Like the ones of the Trump brothers grinning over their dead leopard, elk, elephant, or endangered sheep, the same shit eating grin of domination by gun or authority.

Many knew that with the election of a sociopathic reality TV star a Trumpocalypse might result.  Being so close to the election now, I was starting to think we might escape with merely part of our world being dismantled but COVID-19 gave him another way to pursue his egotistical ends, forcing himself into our homes each day with frequent preposterous claims about the virus, not giving the experts the floor, and refusing to wear a mask although that is the guidelines our health experts advocated.  Nothing applies to him and it makes him look weak.  One must wonder how he felt when he had to be taken to the bunker in the White House because of protests.

Well, he decided, I’ll look strong by clearing a way to St. John's Church across the park from the White House to pose for photos holding up a bible, as if he has spent his Sundays in church.  If this photo op meant pepper spraying protestors or using rubber bullets against them, so be it.  He wants us to know he’s a tough guy.  It invites commentary, the absurdity and the arrogance of it all and it would be funny if it were not so tragic, that that is the action our “President” thinks meaningful in light of this wake up moment in our history.

It is more than ironic that George Floyd’s brother, Terrence Floyd, was the one who took the conciliatory Presidential fork in the road, exhorting the crowds to not turn to violence and looting, urging protests in a peaceful way to honor his brother.  He also asked that the crowds turn to the voting booth to make their voices heard.  "Educate yourselves. Don't wait for somebody else to tell you who's who, educate yourself and know who you're voting for. That's how we're going to help. It's a lot of us! ... Let's switch it up and do this peacefully.''

Trump, meanwhile took the low road, urging the Governors of those States to “dominate” with force, warning that if they didn’t do it, he’d call up the military.  He said "I’m your president of law and order.''

It would have been an ideal opportunity for a normal President of the United States to show empathy, compassion, urging Congress to bring a bill to his desk to ensure a massive investment in education and in the short term economic relief for the most poverty stricken and unemployed.  But we know that this President was not born with an empathic bone in his body, only bone spurs.

He is like CV19 itself.  It knows nothing about empathy and only “thinks” of its own existence by replicating through infecting others.  It is not an “equal opportunity” infector, more seriously impacting those without access to good diets and medical care as well us elderly.  It ruins lives.  It kills.  And once a large number of unprotected citizens are infected, it leads to disastrous societal and economic consequences. Trump’s strong-arm behavior only exacerbates an already incendiary situation.  I fear it will worsen.

Yet, this is our moment to stand in solidarity with all people of color, to work towards an election of bringing people to Congress who will work together to find solutions to the systemic problem of racism and income disparity and full employment for all.  If we can afford to go to Mars, we can afford to do this. And it is time to remove the virulent President.  Indeed, make this a year of reckoning, one that might have been a year that never was, but now can count for something constructive.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Dark Ages Descending

This is for readers who regularly visit this blog, an explanation why my theatre reviews will cease, hopefully only for a while, and my writing in general will be curtailed.  I hope this is merely an “intermission.”  COVID-19 is the reason.  My wife and I have decided to begin immediate social distancing, and this includes the activities I’ll go as far to say defines our very existence.

Since writing a draft of this entry, everything is being appropriately cancelled anyhow. We love all things cultural, but these are extensive social activities and until this pandemic gets under control, we and presumably many of you, are staying in place, nearly hostages of our home.  It means not going to NYC, where my heart is, and the area our two sons and daughter-in-law live.  It looks almost certain we will miss celebrating our 50th wedding anniversary there with family and attending the 50th anniversary of Sondheim’s Company, one of my favorite shows.  It opened on our wedding day.  Our “kids” surprised us with tickets for that very day.  But compared to sacrifices other families will be forced to make, and some with serious economic consequences as well, it is something we accept.

Regional theatres will be cancelling their productions. They are particularly vulnerable and those of us who have subscriptions, and we have several, will be asked to donate them back to the theatre rather than asking for a refund. They need our support to survive and if you care about the future of the performing arts, it would be wise to donate and not refund.

More than three years ago, when I was writing more about the serious deficiencies in Donald Trump’s experience and psychological nature to handle the responsibilities of the Presidency, I said (Feb. 16, 2017) “I merely thought [his] behavior ‘crazy making’ but it may be more -- preparation for almost anything, totalitarian rule by the Plutocracy, religious wars, the demolition of the Republic, a nuclear winter, or all rolled up into the Trumpocalypse….Instinctively, even if we survive we all know this will not end well.  I hope I am very wrong, and that the next four years will be bigly amazing, devoid of losers, with tremendous, terrific winners, but I fear it’s not gonna happen, zero percent.”

As long as he was riding on the coattails of international agreements made over decades before, and had the rising economic prosperity that was already underway before he became President, my secret hope was we might stagger to the finish line of November 2020, no matter what he does. But he was ill prepared to handle a truly national Black Swan emergency. 

His failures relating to COVID-19 have again exposed him as a worthless incompetent, now with very serious consequences. His Oval Office speech was incoherent and lacked what we needed to hear: how the Federal government was going to provide massive support for our medical infrastructure, and the resources needed to ramp up immediate testing, more ICU beds and ventilators, protection for our medical personnel, as well as concrete guidelines for social distancing in the midst of this crisis.

As he said when this crisis was first gaining attention, he didn’t want that cruise ship off the west coast to dock because the COVID-19 “numbers would go up,” the implication that it makes HIM look bad.  If there ever was a case for impeachment it is this:  his failure to take this seriously, listen to the experts, and take actions to protect the American people, all of which is an egregious breach of his Presidential responsibilities.  So, instead of a “nuclear winter” we have a COVID-19 winter ahead.

The thrust of his speech was to build a figurative wall across the Atlantic that will somehow protect us from Europe. This virus is not only already here, but is probably many-fold pervasive than reported.  Ironically, while he was talking about keeping people out of the country from those areas (and even that was unclear), a JetBlue plane was landing from NYC at Palm Beach Airport (his and my airport too), with an elderly man who had just tested positive for COVID-19 and after feeling ill during the flight a medical emergency was declared.  After landing he and his wife were deplaned, while the other 100 passengers were delayed for 2-3 hours as I guess officials were wondering what to do.  Refuel it and make it circle as a cruise ship? In the absence of guidelines, they released all the passengers into the general population and advised them to contact local health officials if they felt ill.  We know symptoms may not manifest themselves for weeks, so all these passengers are now free to mingle throughout our area with no self quarantining or monitoring?   This is how such a virus spreads like wild fire.

Trump’s address did nothing to ameliorate this crisis.  He may even have exacerbated it as he mumbled meaningless measures from the teleprompter.  He likes to use the stock market as a barometer of his “winning.” How’s that going, Mr. President?

Meanwhile, back in the fall I had explained that my I was working on a second book which although derivative from my blog would be highly edited and focused.  This has been slowly and painstakingly moving forward although in the shadow of COVID-19 everything seems pretty meaningless.  But this is the culmination of a my work for decades, so I feel compelled to follow through, and now I will turn to it more full time.  Hopefully, by the time it is published, probably spring or summer, this crisis will be a fading memory (doubtful) and we will all be able to return to a semblance of our former BC (Before C-19) lives.

I have a final title, ISBN and a nearly final structure: Explaining It to Someone: Learning From the Arts ISBN: 978-0-578-65465-2.  It is much larger than my prior work.  Here is a tentative blurb:

“This is a companion work to “Waiting for Someone to Explain It: The Rise of Contempt and the Decline of Sense” (Lacunae Musing, 2019) which focused on the political and economic landscape at the beginning of the 21st century.  While I was writing about those issues, I was also writing about what I was personally experiencing in my cultural life, particularly the literature, music, and theatre of the same period.  If I was seeking “answers” in my previous work from politicians or economists, perhaps better clues can be found in the works of some of our most creative people.  I think of them as our greatest philosophers.

Unlike most other works of literary or theatrical examination, this one is clearly idiosyncratic.  The works covered are tied together by the unique thread of my own life and times.  Sometimes I wonder whether I chose these works, or whether they chose me. Hundreds of dramatic and literary works are reviewed, along with impressions of musical performances and composers, mostly focused on the genres of The Great American Songbook and Jazz.

Together, these give a unique view of our times as well as a much needed respite from the economic and political morass we find ourselves in at the beginning of the 21st century.”

So while my blog will be relatively quiet, this is what I’m working on.  I’m hoping to resume my theatre work when and if the coast is clear.  I also hope anyone who reads this stays safe and avoids this virus.