Most people have never heard of Alex Jones or his Infowars program, a hard-right news source that uses pretzel-like logic to take reality to another alt-level. Donald Trump is a big fan. Trump’s claim that millions of illegal votes deprived him of a majority of the popular vote went straight from Alex Jones’ lips to Trump’s Twitter feed. For a president-elect to act as an unfiltered echo chamber for tinfoil-hat conspiracy theories diminishes the office and amplifies concerns regarding Trump’s readiness for the presidency. Maybe he’ll stop this foolishness once he enters the Oval Office. I’m not holding my breath.
November 29, 2016
November 23, 2016
Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday mostly because it has remained largely unchanged, and the older I get the more that seems like a virtue. It’s the only holiday when I am not bludgeoned into buying something, because this holiday is about giving not getting: giving thanks for what we have rather than wishing for things we haven't got. And the food! There’s mom’s special stuffing, which always tastes just a little better than anyone else’s does. And no matter what your favorite pie is, there’s one made special just for you. So dig in, and pass the gravy.
November 20, 2016
The post-election angst on Facebook has been palpable. People are unfriending long-time friends. Some are pulling the plug completely. Facebook has faced heavy criticism for its uncritical news feed, which failed to weed out obviously fake news sites. To me, this is classic kill the messenger stuff. Facebook did not start the drift towards incivility that has been accelerated by anonymous commenting. Facebook did not produce under-educated adults seemingly incapable of independent critical thinking. This rough beast has been slouching towards us for a long time. Facebook may be the medium, but in this case it is not the message.
November 19, 2016
Donald Trump’s policy adviser, Steve Bannon, was quoted by the Hollywood Reporter as saying “Darkness is good … Cheney, Darth Vader Satan. That’s power.” Not exactly Ronald Reagan’s morning in America. Bannon’s rhetoric is a smoke screen designed to conceal a man on a mission to reignite Jacksonian democracy, the populist Manifest Destiny (that era’s version of “America First”) movement in the 1820s that appealed to millions of white males who had recently gained the right to vote as property restrictions were dropped by the states. Trump flies by the seat of his pants. Bannon is the man with a plan.
November 14, 2016
Pendulous clusters of berries weigh down the branches of our nandina. The holly trees were loaded too. Scientists talk about warm spring weather and timely rains. My mother would say a hard winter is coming and lots of berries were God’s way of looking out for the birds. My head knows the scientists are right, but my heart hopes for a watchful God. It’s hard to believe there’s a God watching over anything, given the way things are going. No matter. I still need something to believe in, even if it’s just a mother’s faith in a sometimes feckless God.
November 10, 2016
Why did Hillary lose? Some blame it on Facebook’s news feeds giving the alt-right propaganda machine unfiltered access. Some blame it on young voters not turning out like they did for Obama. Others blame it on voting laws that let old people vote. Seriously. Maybe we should be asking how Trump won. A polished salesman, he had an instinct for telling people what they wanted to hear. It didn’t matter if he believed in it; just that it worked. Once he found what worked, he stuck with it all the way to Election Day. It’s really just that depressingly simple.
November 9, 2016
If Hillary Clinton had won, I’d want Trump supporters to give her a fair chance so turnabout is fair play. I’m going to take a deep breath and wait to see what actually happens, not what I fear might happen. Trump stoked the anger of rural and rust belt Americans who will expect him to keep his promise to make America great again. Now that he won, Trump wants the country to forget his divisive rhetoric and unify behind him. By Inauguration Day the country may be ready for that, but only if his actions speak louder than his words.
November 8, 2016
I believe the American political system is poised to deliver the best result possible given the available options. But America remains a nation with a chip on its shoulder. Too many Americans got lost in the shuffle of globalization. Too many Americans believe they don’t have equal protection under the law. Too many Americans see the gap between the world they have and the world they want as nearly unbridgeable. Disillusioned and distrustful, they reject an establishment they see as rigged against them. In a politically gridlocked system that can’t deliver change, it’s hard to see how this gets better.
November 6, 2016
After years of pondering the psychological after-effects of war, I came to see it like this: the war never stops trying to kill you. Turns out it’s the literal truth. Chicago Med featured a story about a Vietnam vet dying from a parasite that had lain dormant for forty years. Wait, what? A quick Google check confirmed it. I remembered the leeches I plucked off after a stroll through a water-filled bomb crater, but the parasites they harbor rarely survive in humans. (Uh, define rarely.) Anyway, I feel relieved about the whole parasite-infestation thing. Won’t give it a thought. Really.
November 4, 2016
In Federalist Paper #10, James Madison discusses the “propensity of mankind to fall into mutual animosities." Good call. What would Madison think about those House Republicans who promise to disrupt a Clinton presidency with endless investigations, who threaten impeachment before she’s even taken office? Traditionally, a new president gets 100 days to make their mark. After that, they are fair game. To declare all-out war on a presidency before Day One is profoundly un-American. If a clear majority of Americans choose Clinton over Trump, then Congress will be thwarting not just Clinton but also the majority of the American people.