Archive for July, 2018

Letter from the Vineyard 07/26/2018 Written under a full moon…

July 27, 2018

 

It is the end of an exquisitely beautiful day on the Vineyard; the sky an azure blue that reminded me of late spring days in the south of France.  It was very warm and stayed just this side of unbearable.  Now the temperature is falling, and it will be a comfortable sleep tonight for which I will be grateful; my little guest house has no air conditioning.  Rain is coming but nothing like Baltimore, where friends live.  Places there where I have walked and shopped were evacuated today as the rain pelted down.

It’s been a good week.  The bookstore has been filled with interesting people, eager for books, to know about books, to talk about books and I relish that – the conversations that titillate the mind and toy with the intellectual synapses of a man now long past his prime but still vital.

My great, good friend, Dalton Delan, wandered in and there was a sweet reunion.  We’ve known each other now a long, good time.

Today, while sitting in the Black Dog Tavern in Vineyard Haven, I finished “The Alice Network,” one of the big books of the summer, about a female spy in World War I and a young girl in France after World War II, attempting to find her beloved cousin.  Very satisfying read.

Tonight, I am digging into a Philip R. Craig mystery, set on the Vineyard, and am relishing it.

This is a summer of reading, of listening to classical music, which I am now, of taking in the world in small doses as it is so – okay, I have run out of words.  Surreal, is one of the words writers have used to describe the times in which we live, and I agree, it is surreal.

So, it is comforting to read books and lovely for me to be in a bookstore, listening to people who are interested.  And that is wonderful.

Outside my bubble, I am fearful.  The world is a frightening place.

Reports say Russian hackers penetrated the electric system, deep enough they could cause blackouts.  Some voting machines have back doors which can be exploited.  Oy vey!

The Trump Administration has admitted parents have been deported without their children.  So where are the children?  My heart aches.  What is going on?

The moon has risen, a full moon.  A time, perhaps, for werewolves? One wonders in these times if there are werewolves.  Not the kind from stories but the kind who are sucking the life out of the delicate system we have built, a system which has been careening from crisis to crisis throughout its history and a system which is, again, in crisis.

Faithful to the American dream, I suspect we will weather this one, too.  We will survive the Trump presidency.

What worries me, on some deeper level, is the growth of right wing movements across the globe.  Hungary. Austria. Germany. Italy. America.

So here I am, on the sublime island of Martha’s Vineyard, a full moon in the sky, visible through the trees outside, against a blue gray sky.

Whatever we do, the moon will rise and so will the sun.  Upon what world they do – well, that’s for us to determine.

Letter From the Vineyard July 18, 2018 The circus continues…

July 18, 2018

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This morning, as I was waiting for the shuttle bus to take me from Edgartown’s long-term parking lot into town, I watched the morning’s grey clouds whisk deliciously across the sky, a ferment of grey cotton candy after a stormy night.  The beauty of it awed me as I watched them swirl and scud.

Sitting on the covered bench, I did my best to do my day’s gratitudes, speaking softly to the universe, glad for another day this side of the sod, relative good health and a calm life, at this moment, in an un-calm time.

On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, I am generally not at the bookstore.  Tuesday, I lazed my way through a lovely day, doing errands, going to the chiropractor for a final visit after wrenching my back three weeks ago, stopping at the end of it all, for a sandwich at one of my joints, Edgartown Pizza, for a gyro and a Diet Coke.

While eating, Donald Trump was on one of the screens, walking back his Helsinki comments, reading from a script, about how he intended to use “wouldn’t” but didn’t.  As if I believe him; I did believe what he said at the press conference with Putin.   That seemed real Trump, walking it back was patently awkward and painful for him.  Trump’s face seemed screwed with discomfort, as if he were someone being forced to say what he didn’t want to say.  Which is probably true.

The only thing I believed was when he said: it could have been others – or whatever exactly he said to prevaricate his walk back.

My mind was full of images of people staying up all night, fueled by caffeine [and hopefully only by caffeine (I know someone in DC who claims to know one of the big cocaine suppliers to Republican aides)], pouring over what Trump had said in Helsinki, thinking “how do we get out of this?” while the president was flying his way home.

Monday was appalling; Tuesday simply lame. Wednesday followed with Trump reportedly saying that Russia was no longer targeting us while shortly after that report Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that Trump hadn’t said that the Russians weren’t targeting us.

The circus continues.

To take a break, I read at breakneck speed, “Crazy Rich Asians,” by Kevin Kwan, before the movie comes out next month, plunging myself into the wealth obsessed world of Singapore where everything seemed silly and I laughed out loud.  Now I am plunging into “The Alice Network” about female spies in World Wars I and II.

Both books recommended.

I need a break from the circus.

Letter from the Vineyard 11 11 2018 Thoughts…

July 11, 2018

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A relative of mine forwarded what is below to me and I feel quite conflicted by it and feel we are living in a world where there are “us” and “you” and this screed feels like it is contributing to that.  And America is so much more nuanced than that and, without acknowledging those vast nuances, we – and I pray God we do not – could end up like Rwanda.  I am skipping over the comments about the election, though our reactions to the past presidential election is a manifestation of “us” versus “you.”

Currently, I am reading Nathaniel Philbrick’s “Bunker Hill,” a book that demonstrates our patriot fathers often used a “you” versus “us” to achieve goals.  That wasn’t something I had thought about when thinking about the American Revolution.  Revolutions are about “us” versus “you.”

That this was sent to me by a relative is terribly painful, for, in some of the cases below, I am a “you” to his “us.”

 

“US” by Paul Genova 

 
  (Mr. Paul Genova has been President and Chief Operating Officer of Wireless Telecom Group Inc. Since June 30, 2016. 

 I haven’t said too much about this election since the start…but this is how I feel….

  I’m noticing that a lot of people aren’t graciously accepting the fact that their candidate lost.

In fact you seem to be posting even more hateful things about those who voted for Trump.

  Some are apparently “triggered” because they are posting how “sick” you feel about the results.

  How did this happen you ask? Well here is how it happened!

You created “us” when you attacked our freedom of speech.

I’m not quite sure what this means.  Are we no longer allowed freedom of speech because we disagree with something?  This is the essence of our always rancorous democracy; we get to say what we think.  Whether you like it or not.  You get to say what you want to say, and I have a right to disagree.  That I disagree is not an attack; it is my constitutional right.

You created “us” when you attacked our right to bear arms.

I have never attacked the right to bear arms.  I have fervently questioned what is going on in our society when military attack grade weapons are being used to shoot up people in schools, theaters, here, there and everywhere.  When our murder rate by gun is so above the rest of the world, including those of other thriving democracies, I need to ask questions.

You created “us” when you attacked our Christian beliefs.

I seriously question the use of Christianity, today, and throughout history, to justify cruelty.  I have had to question Christian beliefs to come to terms with my own life.  A gay man, born to a rather devout Catholic family, had to question Christian beliefs to survive.  A non-practicing Catholic, I am a practicing Episcopalian.  They seem to have room for me.  Even under Pope Francis, I am a “you.”

And, frankly, to my thinking, Evangelical Christians have debased themselves for political ends in their embrace of Trump, who, in his own words, has shamed himself.

  You created “us” when you constantly referred to us as racists.

Are you?  I don’t know.  I certainly have seen racist actions by people who I think are part of your “us.”  And I have seen acts of kindness in times of tragedy that knew no racial boundaries; images of Hurricane Harvey had me in tears as did the stories that accompanied them.  Color had no boundaries in that storm and color should not have boundaries.  But, if you are racist, am I not called by God to question you?  Or did I miss something?

  You created “us” when you constantly called us xenophobic. You created “us” when you told us to get on board or get out of the way.

Were you xenophobic?  Sometimes, I realize my societal biases lie just beneath the surface and that I have to take a quick step back and gasp at something that pops, almost unbidden, into my brain when I see a person who is not my “us.”

I remember being told by my mother, after my father died, of things that frightened his family during WWI, because Tombers is a family of German extraction.  There were people then who wanted to intern Germans, the way we, shamefully, did Japanese Americans during WWII.

Also, it reminds me of a day painting a friend’s garage with him one day back in my college days.  He had grown up in southern Missouri.  He would not have been allowed to play with me as child because I was Catholic.  I was not part of their “us” because of the religion I was born into.

You created “us” when you attacked our flag

Whether we like it or not, the Supreme Court ruled it was constitutional to attack the flag.  America is not perfect; far from it.  And protest is our history and will continue to be.  Protest is what created the American Revolution but let’s not have protest start another Civil War.  But protest, in all kinds of ways, has been here and will be here and to condemn it is an affront to our democracy.  Disagree, and forcibly articulate your disagreement and celebrate we can all disagree.

You created “us” when you took God out of our schools.

The Founding Fathers were very clear that they wanted separation of church and state.

You created “us” when you confused women’s rights with feminism.

True confession:  I don’t understand this one. Truly.  It must because I am thick and not one of “us.”

You created “us” when you began to emasculate men.

That can only happen when you choose to be emasculated.  Or does your sense of masculinity confuse “masculinity” with inappropriate dominance and disrespect of others, especially women?

You created “us” when you decided to make our children soft.

I would like to know what is meant here.  Helicopter parents?  Better helmets in football?  Teaching kids to be respectful?  Another instance in which I must be thick, really thick.

You created “us” when you decided to vote for progressive ideals.

It’s not that I mean to harp too much on a theme here, but the American Revolution was about progressive ideals, there was nothing more progressive in the 1770’s than to not have a king.  It hadn’t been that way for a couple of thousand years.  America is the progressive ideal.

You created “us” when you attacked our way of life.

What way of life was attacked?  It sounds pretty broad.  If your way of life included keeping black people in their place, Islamophobia, callous behavior toward others in any way, looking down on women, underpaying them, taking sexual advantage of them because they were women, then your “way of life” should have been attacked.  Those things are un-American, not Christian and unspeakable.

You created “us” when you decided to let our government get out of control.

Please understand, I am registered as an independent and I grew up a Republican; I wore “I Like Ike” buttons as a toddler.  I thought Republicans were the cat’s meow.  After George H.W. Bush, my respect for Republicans has steadily eroded but I can’t call myself a Democrat.  So, I am independent.

Generally, I associate the Government “out of control” argument from Republicans against Democrats.  The last time we had a balanced budget was under a Democrat.  The economy is doing well under the Trump tax cuts.  However, despite some administration officials’ statements, the deficit is soaring.   A person I know voted for Trump specifically because he believed Trump would address the deficit.  Well, he and the Republican Party are leading us down a deficit drain.  And that worries me.

  You created “us” the silent majority

The last time I heard the term “silent majority” was during the Nixon years, spewed from the mouth of Vice President Spiro Agnew.  This is not a good reference and not a good way to think of yourself; anything entangling “you” or “us” with Nixonian years will probably end badly.

You created “us” when you began murdering innocent law enforcement officers.

Yes, innocent law officers have been killed.  And law officers have killed innocent people.  It is not a one-sided argument.  It is a complex dynamic and innocents on both sides have been killed and you had better realize that or you are living in a vacuum of information.  And we need to keep working to find a solution.

  You created “us” when you lied and said we could keep our insurance plans and our doctors.

You’re right.  That was a mistake.

You created “us” when you allowed our jobs to continue to leave our country.

The far greater and more urgent question for RIGHT NOW is what we are doing to prepare for AI and robotics? It is coming just the way the steam engine came and the Industrial Revolution.  And we are doing almost nothing to prepare for it.  We are, societally, not adapting to the future that is barreling down on us.  We, America, has been woefully inadequate in re-training workers for the times in which we live, rather than the time in which we might wish we lived.

You created “us” when you took a knee or stayed seated or didn’t remove your hat during our National Anthem.

You know, it’s hard to keep coming back to this but if you are annoyed about the above, I get it but to say it created “you” or “us” or whatever, is to fail to acknowledge you are an American and Americans get the right to protest and to not acknowledge that sticky truth is to be Un-American.

You created “us” when you forced us to buy health care and then financially penalized us for not participating.

The United States, arguably the wealthiest country in the world, ranks LAST among 11 industrialized nations in health care DESPITE our spending more than any other country on that health care. Our infant mortality rate is also the WORST in industrialized countries. To not attempt to remedy that is a waste of national treasure.  Yes, the ACA is an imperfect piece of law.  Fix it.  But to ignore the sorry state of medical care in this country is to not see a problem that needs fixing.

And we became fed up and we pushed back and spoke up.

  And we did it with ballots, not bullets.
  With ballots, not riots.
  With ballots, not looting.
  With ballots, not blocking traffic.
  With ballots, not fires, except the one you started inside of “us”

I think that’s what Americans are supposed to do.  While I am not happy Donald J Trump is President of the United States, I accept it because I am an American.  And I also accept that since his occupancy of the highest office in this country makes me more frightened than almost, if not anything, I have witnessed in my life, I will make sure I vote and campaign and do what I think is right, which is what you did.  Good on you, as my Aussie friends would say.  And good on me, to get out and try to undo what you have done.  I really hope it wasn’t Russia.

“YOU” created “US”.

“We” didn’t create “you,” “you” created “you,” claiming patriotism as a method of holding people down and wrapping yourself in an American flag without, I think, understanding truly what it means to be an American.  “You” are blaming forces over which we have no control for the world in which we are finding ourselves living.  You can’t deny the future.  Demand your Senators and Congressmen do something about re-training the workers of America, so they can compete in the world that is rushing down on us.  Quit trying to hold up the past as an ideal.  Beating up blacks because they wanted to eat at a “white” diner counter is not American.  It is not American to shoot and kill Sikhs because someone thinks they’re Muslims.  It is not American, nor ever was, though certainly often practiced, to demonize someone because they weren’t “you” or part of your “us.”  We have done that with blacks, Italians, Poles, Germans, Swedes, you name it; to get your foot in the door in this country meant a lot of people taking knocks.  It shouldn’t be that way.  A friend’s grandmother recalls a New York mob racing by their home, screaming “Kill the Jews! Kill the Jews!”  As a little Jewish girl, she was rightly terrified.  None of those things were an expression of our better angels. And that’s what we need to be doing today, becoming our better angels and quit thinking of “us” versus “them.”  We’re in this together.  If we want to Make America Great Again [really, we are pretty great despite everything], then we need to stop ignoring reality and fix what needs fixing.

It’s what America does.

 

From Martha’s Vineyard — written on the 4th of July, 2018

July 5, 2018

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It has been a long time since I have blogged, longer than any time in the seventeen years that I have been writing.

It is, as I write this, the 4th of July 2018 and I am on Martha’s Vineyard, in a little guest house that I jokingly [and fondly] refer to as “The Best Most Exotic Marigold Hotel” guest house as it reminds me of nothing so much as a hotel room in India which presents itself as being more than it is.  It is a mash of conflicting colors and designs, worn but still utilitarian furniture, posters from museum shows long ago.  It has ants and I had a mouse I think I have successfully driven away using sonic devices and lavender smelling sachets from a company that has been discouraging mice since the 1920’s.

Once I had looked it in the eye, I couldn’t kill it.  Or perhaps it killed itself as it had a penchant for ant poison.  But, fingers crossed, it has not made an appearance since the night we stared each other down in the kitchen at 2 in the morning.

Everything is a little tilted and off kilter, the floor sags in spots but not so much I fear falling through.

Generally, I eat here infrequently, usually having something during the day at BTB, Behind the Bookstore, which is behind Edgartown Books, which is where I am this summer, helping my friends, Joyce and Jeffrey, who own it and the restaurant.

Since they built their home here, I’ve been coming.  In 2016, I came for a few weeks to help get it going and stayed for two months.  This year, I am here for the summer.  Jokingly, I tell friends I am a monk and my monastery is the bookstore.  There is a small but growing pile of books I have consumed so far, most recently, “Circe” by Madeline Miller.  Recommended; get past her days in her father’s palace and you have a wonderful read, not that the first is bad, it just gets so much better.

One of the reasons, I slowed my blogging was that I have intertwined my personal life with events out in the world and it became so difficult to do that during this presidency.  To say I am appalled, is so an understatement.  Every morning, I wake and read the briefing in the New York Times and am – gobsmacked, as a Brit would say.

So, I became silent, introspective.  Detached but not uninterested.  I call my Congressman, a Republican, and protest and protest and protest.  And I wonder what more I can do?

It is unimaginable to me but apparently true that 45% of the people in this country think our president is doing a fine job, and that includes my sister and brother-in-law.  When I return from the island, I will spend some time helping the Democratic candidate in my district, though I suspect the Democrats have nominated someone who is unelectable in our district.

The Republican Party, in which I grew up, is unrecognizable to me today.  As a toddler, I wore “I Like Ike” buttons and, though Catholic, we supported Nixon.  Where is that party?  Not anywhere I can find.

Neither a Democrat nor a Republican, I find more these days to dislike in Republicans than I do with Democrats.

I doubt there has been a more dizzying time in D.C. since the scandal plagued days of Warren G. Harding.  [Teapot Dome, among other things.]

Having finished “Circe,” I have gone on to “Bunker Hill” by Nathaniel Philbrick, seeking understanding of our national roots.  Just a few pages in and I already feel a better man for choosing it as my next read.

They were quite the crew, those Bostonian rebels – and I think we should all know more about them, based on this reading.