Ichabod's Kin
A place for politics, pop culture, and social issues

Apr
28

          I knew something was very wrong when Easter and April Fool’s fell on the selfsame day–an omen that all is not well, anywhere. Nor did it take long to come to fruition, having begun only Nov. 8, 2016—the day the most unkind and misbegotten of leadership species acceded to the presidency of the free world.

          April Fool’s Day doesn’t go anywhere, it’s always smack-dab the very first of that month. Easter is another matter, which is why this year’s confusion was bound to happen, given enough time. Christianity had swept the world and the emperor Constantine joined in the fun but in his ignorance split the Empire by establishing a new capital named after himself. No harm was meant, it was just his way of trying to nail down Latin influence everywhere, but then came its unintended consequences, known thereafter as the Eastern and Western Churches.

          At first, everyone followed the Lunar Calendar in setting the date for Easter—the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox (remember that). So far so good, but way later, the West changed to the Gregorian calendar, set a fixed date for the equinox, and now the two Churches have Easter falling as many as five weeks apart. But who cared, unless you lived either in Rome or Constantinople and took issue with what those other people were doing by celebrating Resurrection on the wrong day. Anyway, there you have it, and this year we had it on a day celebrating All Fools. Sort of a nasty confluence: Is it “He is Risen!” or “April Fool!” Apparently, to each his own.

          Now for the other joke—a president who hasn’t drained the swamp but has turned the world upside down. Before, I’ve likened him to Thomas Hobbe’s “Leviathan,” the “strongman” to whom lily-livered folk, in tense times, would trade their freedom for his promise of security. Then I thought of  Louis XIV, the “sun king” of France, big spender and thus creator of busted national budgets—and his palace of Versailles, the Mar-A-Lago of its day, where his groveling minions, from outside its windows, were allowed to watch him feast sumptuously on stuff they could only lay eyes on.  For this privilege they would keep Louis’ poll numbers up whilst he bankrupted the country and mortgaged its future.

          Trump is equal parts of those two, but there is another part, sort of an unholy trinity, if you will; a toxic mixture that all of us, sadly, are becoming heir to unless we can turn around this errant train known as the Trump presidency: I’m thinking Henry VIII of England, all ass-and-appetite, and abused of the notion that he should have anything he wanted–you know, the Silver Spoon Syndrome.  Ol’ Hank knew how to push the boundaries, as we well recall, even starting a new religion because he wanted to bed another woman, and got away with it. Radical as that may seem, Henry also had enough sense to know when to back off and on many occasions he did.

          Trump has no clue of that. For him it’s full steam ahead—everything for himself and the devil take the hindmost which, regrettably, is us. And that, we may predict, will be his doom. Every tyrant in the world, name any of them, ancient or near-past, appeared to be doing the Lord’s work until their Hubris took over with a vengeance. And to get real personal in this case, those of you who say “Let him do what he wants as long as my stock portfolio goes up,” better have another plan when Donald brings us all down.

          When that happens, there may be no resurrection, at least anytime soon thereafter, and the least problem with Easter will be the date it falls on.

          So what’s happening today is something we’ve seen before, though we’re much less students of the past than we should be. Still, we’d best heed the truism that those who don’t know history are doomed to its repetition.

          You know, Groundhog Day all over again. For now, it’s the new normal.


         

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Apr
27

          Something there is,” said Robert Frost, “that doesn’t love a wall.”

          I’m with him, whether they keep others out or in. I won’t live in a gated community, and I hated the Berlin Wall. I’m okay with the low, decorative masonry that borders the state park across my street, but it neither hems in nor excludes.

          Keep in mind that Berlin’s no longer exists. So the most notorious of the contemporary sort is planned for our southern border. People who love the idea are quick to point out that Berlin’s partition kept people in, whilst ours shuts out undesirables. Yes, our neighbors, actually, and what do we have against them? First we took half their country—or, as Texans like to say, “we stole it, fair ‘n square.” The Bracero program, begun while our men were fighting World War II, begged Mexicans by the thousands to work here, many of whom were mistreated, put in woefully substandard temp-housing and whose pay was often held up, or withheld, to boot. We were lousy and ungrateful employers.

          We were at it again last century and this one, as in Arizona, when greedy farmers and companies hired undocumented laborers to put roofs on home developments because local buckos refused to do so under the hot sun. Worse, medical help was withheld and they were fired without pay if they fell off said roofs and suffered injury. When the workers complained, employers threatened to report them to Immigration. Catch-22 all over again. And don’t say that didn’t happen: I spoke directly with many of those bung-hole bosses.

          Now along comes Donald Trump with his misogynistic message; migration had already slowed but we weren’t through doing our worst to them, hence a Wall now to reduce any influx to zero; ICE to enter, arrest and separate folk of innocent families; and big birds to take them back to where they came from. God love us for our hearts of gold.

          If we look for a difference twixt our Wall and Berlin’s, it’s that when East Germany started it, it was a pathetic sight: bits of barbed wire here and there, hedges when the wire ran out, and so forth. The Reds began it as a provocation, and fully expected us to raze it in its early stages. By then, however, the West felt enough easterners had flooded the city and decided to let the wall stay—and give the Commies a big, fat black eye at the same time. The rest was history; we already had all the scientists and other skilled migrants and the East was left with all the poor souls who had nuttin’. To save face the Reds had to keep building it. For us, it was a political coup and one we milked for decades till it came down in the ‘80s.

          Now we’re the suckers. But how we love to hear Donald talk about it—his “big, beautiful Wall” that in truth is the ultimate ugly duckling, no architectural marvel like the Great Wall of China: that one, built over centuries (the earliest spans of which are gone and the Ming phase the one we ooh-and-aah over) was indeed to keep enemies out; but Mexico is not our enemy though Trump Nation is dumb enough to believe it. After all, as one wag said, it’s a cult and he’s the cult leader.

          China’s great wall wasn’t a continuous span of solid material but interspersed with natural barriers, and used as well as checkpoints for Customs, hence a money-maker. We, not Mexico, will pay for ours though Donald with some sleight of hand will try to make it appear otherwise.

          Here’s the clincher: that little price tag of $12B is now estimated by Homeland Security at twice that and has this in common with Reagan’s proposed Strategic Defense Initiative, or “Star Wars”—Ronnie’s would still be under construction and long ago have wrecked our economy. Our wall’s projected dollars should be going for infrastructure, education and the like but instead will be a future monument otherwise known as Trump’s Folly.

          So the old Commie Wall in Berlin-town is gone and we get one on our southern boundary—and the black eye that goes with it.  Welcome to #MakingAmericaGreatAgain.

          Something there is that doesn’t love a wall. This one or any other. It’ll be a Wall to Nowhere and something to hate, now and forever.

          

 

 

 

 

As I See It

by John Burciaga

 

                                 THE WALL TO NOWHERE

 

          “Something there is,” said Robert Frost, “that doesn’t love a wall.”

          I’m with him, whether they keep others out or in. I won’t even live in a gated community, and I hated the Berlin Wall. I’m okay with the low, decorative masonry that borders a side of Maudslay Park, but it neither hems in nor excludes.

          Keep in mind that Berlin’s no longer exists. So the most notorious of the contemporary sort is planned for our southern border. People who love the idea are quick to point out that Berlin’s partition kept people in, whilst ours shuts out undesirables. Yes, our neighbors, actually, and what do we have against them? First we took half their country—or, as Texans like to say, “we stole it, fair ‘n square.” The Bracero program, begin while our men were fighting World War II, begged Mexicans by the thousands to work here, many of whom were mistreated, put in woefully substandard temp-housing and whose pay was often held up, or withheld, to boot. We were lousy and ungrateful employers.

          We were at it again early this very century, as in Arizona, when greedy farmers and companies hired undocumented laborers to put roofs on home developments because local buckos refused to do so under the hot sun. Worse, medical help was withheld and they were fired without pay if they fell off said roofs and suffered injury. When the workers complained, employers threatened to report them to Immigration. Catch-22 all over again. And don’t say that didn’t happen: I spoke directly with many of those bung-hole bosses.

          Now along comes Donald Trump with his misogynistic message; migration had already slowed but we weren’t through doing our worst to them, hence a Wall now to reduce any influx to zero; ICE to enter, arrest and separate folk of innocent families; and big birds to take them back to where they came from. God love us for our hearts of gold.

          If we look for a difference twixt our Wall and Berlin’s, it’s that when East Germany started it, it was a pathetic sight: bits of barbed wire here and there, hedges when the wire ran out, and so forth. The Reds began it as a provocation, and fully expected us to raze it in its early stages. By then, however, the West felt enough easterners had flooded the city and decided to let the wall stay—and give the Commies a big, fat black eye at the same time. The rest was history; we had all the scientists and other skilled migrants and the East was left with all the poor souls who had nuttin’. To save face the Reds had to keep building it. For us, it was a political coup and one we milked for decades till the Wall came down in the ‘80s.

          Now we’re the suckers. But how we love to hear Donald talk about it—his “big, beautiful Wall” that in truth is the ultimate ugly duckling, no architectural marvel like the Great Wall of China: that one, built over centuries (the earliest spans of which are gone and the Ming phase the one we ooh-and -aah over) was indeed to keep enemies out; but Mexico is not our enemy though Trump Nation is dumb enough to believe it. After all, as Andrew Sullivan has remarked, it’s a cult and he’s the cult leader.

          China’s great wall wasn’t a continuous span of solid material but interspersed with natural barriers, and used as well as checkpoints for Customs, hence a money-maker. We, not Mexico, will pay for ours though Donald with some sleight of hand will try to make it appear otherwise.

          Here’s the clincher: that little price tag of $12B is now estimated by Homeland Security at twice that and has this in common with Reagan’s proposed Strategic Defense Initiative, or “Star Wars”—Ronnie’s would still be under construction and long ago have wrecked our economy. Our wall’s projected dollars should be going for infrastructure, education and the like but instead will be a future monument otherwise known as Trump’s Folly.

          So the old Commie Wall in Berlin-town is gone and we get one on our southern boundary—and the black eye that goes with it.  Welcome to #MakingAmericaGreatAgain.

          Something there is that doesn’t love a wall. This one or any other. It’ll be a Wall to Nowhere and something to hate, now and forever.

            (John Burciaga of Newburyport writes on politics and social issues. He blogs at Ichabod’s Kin on WordPress and may be reached directly at Ichabod142@gmail.com)

 

 

 

 

Dec
23

          A tsunami of accusations and allegations are charges that the male race is up to no good.

          So what else is new? They never have been. From the beginning of time a woman, we’re told, seeks deep, heartfelt connections with a man, while for him it’s about one thing only, of which he’s damn proud—and at best a seeker of overnight relationships, meaningful or not.

          It is believed men got this from other men—sometimes peers, certainly from dear old dad, which begs the question: where was dear old mom in all of this? Ostensibly she was powerless, regardless that #TheHandThatRocksTheCradle ostensibly rules the world, if one is to believe Will Wallace’s poem or a Glen Campbell song. The ode was writ at the end of our Civil War and its many rapacious manifestations; and the song makes no sense at all, calling for “a hall of fame for mamas” based largely on thankless sacrificial service to their sons ere the latter trotted off to, or from, their foreordained mischief.

          It’s been a sorry equation that men have been quite free to do as they please, at home or elsewhere. It is more than men’s behavior in general, however, but about specific outrages in relation to matters sexual.

          The “@MeToo” movement was either the match or the fuse that blew the lid off all the offenses with which women have put up for eons; and one is tempted to begin with Adam and Eve and connect the dots till now, to track down the long ugly line of sacrilege in that regard.

          And how shall we define terms? “Harassment” is the word most in use now, but how is it like, or different from, sexual “advances”—which might embrace “flirting”–or sexual “suggestion,” or “groping” or plain old “hugs”? Who’s old enough to remember when therapists told us to “loosen up” and submit to, or extend, hugs on demand; today such must be done carefully, while watching precisely where one’s hands go.

          And exactly how does one flirt these days?—and if that is disallowed in current circumstances, how long will the prohibition last before it is relaxed again and everyone feels stupid for going too far with that? And surely all of us have given, and been treated to, unwanted kisses.

          I’m not here to dismiss the seriousness of today’s enormous issue, but to issue a clarion call for definition of terms. Certainly the halcyon days of “If it feels good, do it” are quite over, and rightly so. The problem also is that things that tend to rise quickly tend also to fall at equivalent speed, and one wonders when the tipping point will be. In truth, it may already have arrived: women have begun to disagree with other women over the issue–even Meryl Streep is not sacrosanct, given what is deemed her blindness to Weinstein and supposed hypocrisy for now wishing to wear black at next Awards ceremony. And Matt Damon, a genius at script selection is now cast into outer darkness for clueless comments.

          Let’s be clear: after this First Wave of awareness, with its attendant paybacks towards the high and mighty in society, will come successive waves of retaliation aimed at lesser men, with less careful investigation, leaving some held hostage to rumor and its ruination–also known as “collateral damage.” The end result may be that everyone will be shooting at everyone else, and what may be gained by that is anyone’s guess. But keep in mind this too was women’s fate for longer than recorded history.

          Here’s my @Me Too: what shall I do about Phyllis Schlafly’s endless, overt and sexless flirtation with me whilst I sought an interview, and reduced to begging that she sit down in very public circumstances to do so—something I reported in a previous column before the harassment scandals even began?

          What shall I do about Betty Friedan’s consenting to interview but constantly touching me and complimenting my clothes till I wondered if perhaps she wanted me to know how it feels to be objectified? Whatever it was, at my first and serious question as to why she preferred the Women’s movement to exclude lesbian concerns, she up and walked away.

          What should I have done years ago about the female physician who kept her hand on my upper leg during the appointment? Or the male colleague who also touched and “propositioned” me in distasteful terms?

          I get it: I made no report because I was not powerless; but women have been, in similar circumstances, since the beginning of time.  And how would a woman know if she has sexually harassed a man? An inappropriate touch or big mouth on mouth smooch would be welcomed by most men, and heaven knows they would never complain–except to brag maybe.

          Nonetheless, the current wave of objection from women is claiming high and deserved ground. In time it will have also its extremes and its moments of harsh revenge in situations that have no equivalence.

          And it’s a time where men have truly “asked for it,” as they long said women did by simply showing up.

         

Feb
14

          However NFL commissioners are removed, this one needs to go, whether for mis- or malfeasance in office.

          The attempt to hang Brady and, by extension, to hamstring the Patriots, was a put-up job from the beginning. Goodell’s not the only rat in this: other team owners went along when they should have spoken out, but it was to their advantage to hobble the Pats, and silence became their cowardly response. We already know what price the Indianapolis Colts—those sad whistle-blowers—have paid: natural justice has seen to that, and not only has their recent past been a sad one, but their future too is at risk.

          It is a sad commentary on our times that the way used to stop the unstoppable, especially when they are winners, is to criminalize them. I was already deep into GOP political websites when they admitted they couldn’t stop Hillary without convincing the public she was a felon. Sadly, in her case it worked, though the email hoo-hah, like Deflategate, was and always will be a red herring.

          Such was the sorry stab at stopping Brady. First let us admit that the reason they hate him is he’s beautiful—and an incredible winner. New York sports fans think they’re automatically entitled to the Champion brand because, well, because they’re New York. But before the Super Comeback of recent vintage, Boston was already the Sports Capital of the World with nine championships spread over four pro teams. And this makes the tenth.

          In the minds of Pats-hater, this had to be stopped, and using the lame accusation served up by the Colts, Goodell, with plenty of other Patriot competitors cheering him on, declared Tom a criminal. And think about it: that would have stuck if Tom hadn’t stuck it to the Commish with his onfield heroics.

          Sad it was, in a way, but a comeuppance of rare vintage, that we all got to see Roger tug at Tom’s jersey to force a handshake on the post-game winner’s dais after the big game—then to not let Brady’s hand go as if to plead that his be a quick death, and not a slow, painful torture. (#RogerKnowsWhat’sComing). Okay, fine, just get the hell out, Rog; that’ll be penalty enough—and spare us all the impeachment process, just resign and we’ll all be good.

          But Tom and the Pats org are bigger people than I am. Brady allowed the post-Bowl public intrusion by Goodell when by all rights he could have simply grabbed the trophy and turned to the crowd with exultation, leaving Goodell with Falcon eggs all over his face. Belichick too was a bigger man than Roger will ever be, and only defensive coordinator Matt Patricia spoke for our collective pique by debarking the team bus wearing a Goodell clown-shirt because that’s what the Roger is. Matt can be forgiven for that by merely hanging the shirt next to the commissioner’s list of unsportsmanlike failings throughout the nightmare of enflatement charges, and see which is worse.

          But back to Brady. Every team in the NFL wish they had one like him or, in another universe, had Tom himself. But they didn’t, they don’t and they won’t. He’s self-effacing, spreads credit all around, knows who’s boss (Belichick), trains exhaustively, is a family man and just all around beautiful. Too many other superstars are glory-hogs and playboys, however talented or overrated, like A-Rod, for Exhibit A. Not Tom. He’s just beautiful—like the kind of guy you wish your daughter brought home to marry. And that’s what steams Tom’s critics so much, they can’t hang a thing on him. All they could do is declare him a cheater, and always will, regardless: “See, he didn’t have to cheat, so why did he?” How about: Because he didn’t. But that’s all they had to work with: a rumor, and a crook of a commissioner.

          Oh, and that brings up Roger again and, hopefully, for the last time. Go away, Rog. We gotta keep American sports clean and you’ve dirtied it, and yourself.

          One last thing. Donald Trump will want the Pats at the White House and we all know what he’ll do. He’ll say they have the kind of spirit he has, with which he’ll make American great again.

          False narrative. Alternative fact. No, Donald, you’re not the Brady, Belichick and Patriot of our time.

          You’re the Roger Goodell. And we’ll catch up with you in time too.

          As they say in radio and the military: Roger that.

            (John Burciaga can also be reached directly at Ichabod142@gmail.com)

 

Jan
13

          Comes the big day that Donald J. Trump is sworn into the highest office in the land, and he, Congress and Donald’s minions pick up their lottery check.

          Neither he, Congress nor his True Believers expected him to win. But like a lottery, where winners don’t earn or deserve all that money, but wake up rich, all who wear ball caps backward, the take-this-job-and-stick-it crowd, and all who’ve longed to poke fingers in the public’s eye, feel that God or good luck has smiled on all of them.

          The GOP Congress, having steeled themselves for a November downsizing, suddenly were heard to crow like roosters at daybreak. Paul Ryan’s sullen look ahead at eight years of playing second fiddle to a Democrat, turned to clucking around Congress as if he’d climbed Everest, when in truth he fell into it due to no credit of his own. He should worry now that Donald might Tweet him some 3 a.m. with remembrance of things past—like how Ryan deserted him during the campaign—and announce Paul’s new job as doorman at Trump Tower.

          For his part, the Trump-ster flitted about on Victory tours, zinged Arnie the Terminator about his old reality show, and traded slaps with Meryl Streep—all so “presidential.” Obama, by contrast, was allowed no victory laps, not even for getting bin Ladin, not for his good-bye speech—witness Sean Hannity’s tirade afterward on Fox.

          Certainly we shall long remember Donald’s list of miscreant words and behavior: You can’t un-see and un-hear things said and done on his campaign trail; they are the stuff of ugly legend and regrettably part of history’s indelible archive.

          The White House, if nothing else, is #TheHomeOfBadLuck, and our Commanders in Chief are sorely tested ere they can warm their new seat in the Oval Office. North Korea’s manchild, Kim Jong Un, will soon brandish a warhead-on-a-stick at us and Donald will find such people, crazy as they are, and wielding real power, can’t be stiffed the way he did his real estate investors.

          The latest signs that his will be a stormy tenure are his conflicts with both the Intel community and the press; a third front lingering in the background is his coming war with Congress itself which, after all, neither supported nor elected him, leaving that instead to voters who don’t like their Reps any more than they do Hillary and Democrats.

          Trump’s recent press conference is the gold standard of miscues. Whoever thinks CNN’s Jim Acosta was out of order should think again: from the top, Donald called out that network as one of “fake news,” thereby inviting a follow-up from Acosta, but one that Trump refused to take or to answer, and his press secretary warned the correspondent that he would be thrown from the press corps for future “outbursts.”

          Then Kellyanne Conway, the newest Pretty Little Liar on TV, pressed the matter in a long interview with CNN by conflating its news coverage with that of the notorious BuzzFeed source and for having given credence to Russia’s hacking claim, both of which are blatantly incorrect. But such is Team Trump’s strategy to discredit the press—which we follow to our peril: it is rather the public’s main safeguard against governmental tyranny.

Along the way Donald continues to flip-flop on campaign promises whilst Conway assures us that her new work-hubby seldom means what he says. We’ll see if she can spin him out of a looming cloud of Russian hacking may have compromised her boss himself.

          Sadly, Donald may, amid his pique, take it all out on anyone he dislikes, or who don’t “treat him nice,” and begin to use police powers to teach them a lesson. If so, mark it as a sign of the Apocalypse.

          We deserve better but, when ours is ancient history, a latter-day poet may discover Shelley’s poem “Ozymandias” and liken it to a future American wasteland where “…two vast and trunkless legs of stone stand in the desert…(and) half-sunk, a shattered visage lies” with “…frown and wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command…” and the cold postscript that “nothing beside remains ‘round the decay of that colossal wreck…”–then perhaps a footnote referencing to an arrogant billionaire confidence man in a day when people voted away their freedom for tempting fleshpots of hoped-for “change.”

          For now, Inauguration day cometh, and the world will see Donald in all his glory. Next day, cometh a Reality Show the likes of which he never dreamed.

          What distinguishes America, said Walt Whitman, was that here, presidents tip their hats to the people, not the other way around. Keep an eye on Donald’s “Make America Great” cap in coming days, and learn to bow before it.


Dec
24

          No, the Season is not just about Christmas: early America disliked it so much that they outlawed it: here in Massachusetts, stores and public offices remained open to staunch the flow of paganism—which is what they deemed Catholicism. More on that later.

          Truth be told, there are over two dozen religions, old and new, that celebrate this time of year, all for one reason: Light. After all, it’s a dark month. Until the Solstice, the REAL “light of the world,” when the longest night ends, and daylight extends till all of nature bursts to life again in the spring, but not before earliest humanity thought they would die a cold death.

          When you’re freezing your buns off, what’s not to like about that?

          So it truly is a “merry” time for Christians, a “happy” one for Jews and their Hanukkah, and on and on. No time or ink here to make a List of celebrators, let alone to check it twice. I once remarked in this space that it would help out the rest of us if Jews made up their minds how to spell theirs—Hanukah, Hanukkah, Chanukah, etc? Then a reader sent me the daunting info that there were more ways of spelling it than I ever dreamed. But safe to say, it has to do with Light.

          I once was invited by a Jewish family up north to see what they called a “Hanukkah Bush”—that otherwise looked very much like a Christmas Tree, only smaller. Later, in Atlanta, I set up a tiny such “Bush” on my editorial desk—till my Jewish Art editor said what the hell is that and vehemently advised me that there was no such thing. One shouldn’t scream at her editor, but unlike Joseph, I did not wish to put her away quietly, or at all.

          So I was at sea again regarding Hanukkah/Chanukah/whatever. Then Meg Greenfield, one-time columnist for Newsweek, admitted that for ages it was a minor Jewish celebration till Christmas got all big and Jews needed something to shut up their kids who kept asking why they couldn’t have a Christmas tree like all their friends. Hence the “Bush,” so-called. But lots of Jews don’t buy into that.

          Nonetheless, Hanukkah/whatever is about Light–you know, those candles that wouldn’t go out, as good a story as any this time of year, and more than worthy of note. But the other problem is that it moves all over the end of the calendar; were it just in one place that too would help us gentiles. For now it wanders all over and at times competes with Thanksgiving. It’s not just the Chinese that are notably inscrutable.

          Not till 1836 (60 years after Independence) was Christmas made an official holiday—and that was in Alabama of all places, where snow is hardly in abundance, not in Dickensian New England where sleigh bells ring to a maddening degree.

          But as boatloads of Catholics migrated to our shores they were enough in number to make their celebration stick, and the fight over Christmas abated; no knockout, they just won on points, i.e, social and cultural osmosis—till they felt entitled and insisted that anyone who didn’t celebrate it was waging “war” against their holiday. This of course is something they wouldn’t have thought, or cared, about were it not for Fox News, which likes nothing better in a month of Peace than to have a brawl over something.

          But this has died down too, with the departure of Gretchen Carlson the little beauty queen, who was Fox’s face for said War; she left because the moral and spiritual leader of that network kept trying to put his hand up her dress. So now that channel on your TV cares less about the Christmas War and more about Donald Trump as the Savior of the World. Soon your holiday Tree may be sporting orange lights.

          I don’t mind that early Christianity shifted its Birth celebration to December and took over the Roman Saturnalia which was the latter’s Big Light Party at that time. After all, Jesus wasn’t born that month and shepherds didn’t hang out on hilltops in rainy seasons.

          But I don’t care. This time of year is for magic, and mainly for kids. I don’t care either that Santa is now as important as the Christ Child, or that Rudolph is the anchor of a very secular story about an elfin benefactor from somewhere in the North Pole who brings not spiritual but very material gifts to big eyes and grasping hands.

          It’s a time literally of Lights! (on the Tree)…Camera! (to capture those kiddie moments)…and Action! (tear into them packages, kids!).

          I just want everybody to be happy. You say Merry Christmas to me, I say it to you. You say Kwanzaa, I do too. You say to-may-to, I won’t say to-mah-to.

          Just cheer up, already.


Nov
11

          To the chagrin of many, the most qualified presidential candidate in modern history has been denied her deserved place, and we’ve embraced incivility, mutual disrespect, xenophobia, denigration of women, and racial inequality—you know, all those things inappropriate to 21st-century world leadership.

          In a trice, we saw Donald blow the obligatory air-kiss as “everybody’s prez.” But what, pray tell, will happen the first time, as Chief, he feels slighted by someone “not treating (him) nice”? Set cops to beating up protesters—as in certain 20th century tyrannies?

          We watched with gaping mouths as Donald—oh, excuse me, the Prez-Elect—cursed and brow-beat all opponents, mocked people with physical limitations, bragged of grabbing women, en masse deportation of Mexicans, barring Muslims, building walls, scrapping health care—all in brutish and vulgar terms–to the cheers of not just veteran Tea Partiers but KKKs, violent militarists, the NRA, and your friendly neighborhood gun stock-pilers known for short tempers. Any one of these, or a combination of them, would have sunk Hillary long before Nov. 8.

          Silly us. What good were all those manners taught at mother’s knee; of learning in school sports to play fair; of Sunday School lessons that bespoke loving the stranger and treating them as children of God?

          People who didn’t like the first lady’s bare arms were suddenly OK with Melania’s past as a skin model—photos of which will be on internet forever for your kids’ enjoyment (“Hey, there’s the first lady’s—‘whatever’!”). But never mind: it’s all worth it to just not have Hillary around.

          Donald won in part by telling the jobless that King Coal would return under his leadership. Oh, dream on. Hillary’s remark about the imminent shutting down of that industry was in the context of a promise to re-train those workers for better opportunities—something, by the way, they don’t want to do, but keep their old way of life. So would lots of folks, but even newer tech careers keep changing and demanding new skill-sets. It’s called “adaptation,” but Donald wants to be seen as a savior.

          Trump will not wave a magic wand and change things. I was dead wrong that he was not electable, but without hesitation I will say further that his road ahead is much harder than he thinks. He also doesn’t “know more than all the generals” about global threats and how to deal with them. But again, he’s a blowhard, lacking any humility (he said he’s never asked God’s forgiveness for anything) so scrap your holy bible, Evangelicals, because there’s a new, very secular sheriff in town to show you a “better” way.

          The kicker is that this Outsider may bring on some quite Establishment folks into his administration—just as Obama did, to liberals’ dismay. If so, he’ll immediately morph into an Insider. Fun folks like Rudy Giuliani, long past his days as America’s Mayor, and Newt Gingrich, the Pillsbury Doughboy of politics, both have very checkered pasts with marriage and divorce, as does Donald: shall we hold that against their current wives, the way Hillary was blamed for Bill’s indiscretions? Worst of all, to bring in Steve Bannon will majorly stink up the whole place.

          If American voters (that is, less than half of them) wanted Trump in spite of his campaign rhetoric, what was the dog-whistle that lured them into Bizarro-land? Well, think of Thomas Hobbes’ “Leviathan.” He said that what people really need when in national crisis is a Leviathan, a strongman, but the price is a stiff one—namely, the sacrifice of significant freedoms for security and instant solutions.

          Hobbes’ mother bore him prematurely while the Spanish Armada was on its way to England, making him and fear “twins at birth,” and out of people’s fear, sense and civility became a thing of the past, and the answer, to Hobbes, was a Leviathan.

          Oh, Donald’s not that, regardless of his patented huffing and puffing. He can’t stiff other world leaders and walk away with their land and money the way he has investors. This is neither real estatenor a Reality Show. He made us think the Iran deal is scary, though it slowed their nuclear development to a crawl. And good luck with cozying up to Russia. Putin is not a negotiator; he’s a pit bull of the KGB who makes “deals” and breaks them. Putin will have Donald for lunch (if you know what I mean), then eat Trump’s own lunch. Then what will Donald do: get pissed and push the nuclear button?

          If you think Donald will do the Lord’s work, just be ready to hold him accountable.

          

Oct
24

          Our long national nightmare of presidential debates is done. Donald Trump’s Rat Race is over—and the rat didn’t win. Indeed, he lost all three in the court of public opinion, regardless what some very partial pundits said. Enough people know a jerk when they see one, and god help those who don’t.

          It began some years ago when the notorious “Town Hall” meetings first revealed an underlying anger in a slice of the American public. GOP pols saw an opening and adopted a fatal assumption: that the irked populace was mad only at Democrats and Obama.

          But this took a nasty turn when Republicans angled aggressively for those unhappy voters and rode to Washington on the Tea Party bandwagon, promising to send all liberals a-packing.    Sadly, Obama outplayed them at every turn whilst they slumbered in denial. Suddenly the GOP were targets of the anger and, lo, it hath been their coffin ever since. With nowhere else to go, and no one to believe in, the Angry Folk, like the village rabble of a Frankenstein movie, found a new hero in Donald Trump who has led them down the primrose path to ultimate disillusionment. Such was the Comeuppance.

          It is also a psychological truism that, for many, once a conviction has been formed, it is difficult if not impossible to change. And Trump followers are that in spades.      

          That little Miffed Minority that to now has held us all hostage for their political Fifteen Minutes of spleen-venting, were enough in number to skew polls for a while and charm other impressionable gentry to join their ranks. They ranted about unemployment and the inability to pay bills–till the truth came out that that’s not who they are.

          Indeed, the average hothead who has fueled Trump Nation makes $75,000 a year, meaning that in a general sense those who make, say, only $50-$25K are balanced by others making $100-$125K. Hardly a pittance—and another reason they drive around in cars better than yours or mine.

          Turns out they’re just unhappy souls, willy-nilly, mayhap aggrieved of migraines by which they bethink themselves to have heard calls to revolution, but they are not true Minutemen, merely flash-in-the-pan palookas who will turn tail when voting results come in—and thereafter deny they ever supported Trump. Till then, to observe them during interviews with media has been to witness the worst of illogic. All those years of expanding education facilities and opportunities, including of the “higher” sort—when existing colleges and universities were put on steroids and junior- and community colleges came into being and thrived, did them no good at all. (I’ve excluded so-called online “universities,” a la Trump’s and so many others that are nothing but degree-mills, at a shocking cost to the misled students).

          But too many grads of traditional Ed learned to merely to make widgets, or to con the public into buying things it does not need (otherwise known as Marketing)—but not to think critically and independently as a sword and shield against charlatans and snake-oil salesmen.

          But there is more. As a consultant to warring groups it was my questionable privilege to see how people get sore at each other, choose up sides and thereafter abandon all reason and civility—of which there are various levels, from early stages of mild disagreement to the devilment of wanting to kill each other, if not literally, at least to the point of ruining others in name or well-being. Such is our current state of affairs. Donald’s minions hate Hillary so much that they would rather vote for Beelzebub than even to stay at home come Nov. 8.

          We can only pray this will soon be over; Donald exists because too many drink his tea, never spout an original thought, and parrot what they’ve heard from him and his spokespersons. The difference is that the latter are paid to do so, and in the next election will be hired guns for someone totally unlike him.

          But I’ll take great satisfaction in the moment the electorate tells him “You’re Fired!”—and he’s thereafter best known as: a Loser.

 

Aug
31

          There’s no single reason certain folk won’t vote for Hillary Clinton. Some will never vote for a Democrat, no how, no way. Some get their info from supermarket tabloids—meaning they deserve to be lied to. Others, deep-minded as they are, don’t like her hair, her choice of clothes, or the way she holds her mouth. Some think only Democrats run up the national budget and increase the size of government, forgetting that both grew exponentially under Reagan.

          But do not even begin to think that, for no few, it’s not because she’s a woman. Don’t even go there. My advice is to stop watching Fox News and read a damn book once in a while—like history, for starters.

          Given this is the 96th anniversary of women’s suffrage—you know, their right to vote—it was among my stack of must-reads for the summer. Good books, as only those who read them know, are refreshing. They rescue us from hearsay and anecdotal information, include all factors and afford a big picture of events and outcomes.

          Long ago in a galaxy far away, amid my theological education, research on various subjects and biblical texts brought me to Elizabeth Cady Stanton. She was not formally a theologian, which ordinarily would disqualify her as a credible source. She was an early feminist given first and foremost to bringing suffrage to her gender—but she was up on, and incredibly conversant with, what was called Higher Criticism as it emerged from Europe and primarily Germany.

          But she dared where others would not go: she identified religion all over the world as the most pernicious factor in the subjugation of women and their imprisonment as secondary citizens—or as less than that.

          But America’s religion was not just any, especially in her day, but the good ol’ Judeo-Christian one that we’ve come to know, love and, in the case of women, has bound their gender hand and foot.

          At this point I may have lost not only most men but no few women, which was precisely Stanton’s point, and her fate, back in the last half of the 19th century. Other great suffragists, including those who mentally admitted to same, feared her evidential truth would harm the movement to claim the vote.

          But there were all too many other women, not given to that struggle, who defaulted to men’s assessment of their social role and worth—precisely because men had always told them it was God’s will. Stanton’s provocative book, “The Woman’s Bible,” published twice in 1895 and 1898, was wildly popular, meaning it was read, but not always for the right reasons. The clergy and their religious institutions, not to mention the press, went after her chapter and verse, hammer and tong.

          For one thing, they feared her effectiveness as a writer. She told the pointed truth but not in an angry way, and was not given to ad hominem attacks—which infuriated men even more, and daunted the women who were under their thumbs. Clearly, for the latter to take up that cudgel would divide homes and institutions, regardless that Stanton’s thesis was well taken.

          My point here is that the reaction to her, and society’s threat to any and all women, save for the most intelligent and steel-willed of them, has to be re-read to be believed for its vitriol which, it is safe to say, was unabated through the century following Stanton—witness the inflamed name-calling and belittlement of women of the First and Second Waves of feminism since the past mid-century.

          The battle between the sexes is no laughing matter, and never was, but guys have always had the edge. Stanton showed how the book of Genesis has been misinterpreted through the ages yet she never advocated its relegation to the trash-heap of history, but that its male-infused slant influenced the biblical books that followed—and became grist for women’s subjugation to this day.

          Sadly, that has been of little consolation. Stanton’s fate was to speak her truth at the worst possible time—when getting the vote was paramount and took decades to accomplish. Behold what happened to minting of the U.S. silver dollar with its image of Susan B. Anthony, or the failure of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) when the old male canards reared again their ugly heads.

          Then think of Hillary Clinton. No, she shouldn’t be elected just for being a woman. But she shouldn’t be denied for that reason, either. Ironically, the danger is not that Hillary will be voted for being a woman, but that she will be voted against for that reason. .

          For all interested women, I recommend Stanton’s remarkable book cited above. And while you’re at it, try on Gaylor’s “Women Without Superstition,” for a treasure trove of the other women of Stanton’s generation, of whom humanity can be most proud.

          Read. Be inspired. And vote.

 

           

Aug
31

  [This was a column published in the Daily News just before Trump’s downfall in the polls]

          Political liberals are the worst of nervous nellies, ever fretting lest their world come to an end. This time they fret that Donald Trump will be elected in November.

          Not to say it can’t happen. Anything is possible in life, but many also improbable, and highly so, and this is one of them. Were the Democrats in the disarray that is today’s GOP, one can only imagine what would be said of them. But Republicans are adept at illogic. Add to that Fox’s Roger Ailes and his penchant for beauty queens as serious “journalists” or Sarah Palin-sorts that he deems “hotties” and keeps on TV as sexy allures. As we all know, but not from watching Fox News, this has caught up with him in the worst way.

          As for this election season, the real predictors, once we get beyond poll-panic and Carrot-Top’s hot-air, are the following:

          THE GROUND GAME. Nervous liberals were out in force in ’08 and in ’12, ready to leave our shores for Canada or Scandinavia should McCain to victory with Palin in tow, or Romney bring the Robber Barons to GOP glory. Aside from polls, Team Obama’s strategy was more than sufficient to win, and Hillary’s current battle-state tactic will produce the same result.

          POLLS ARE UNRELIABLE indicators of outcomes. Dukakis was way ahead before his electoral collapse, Reagan was behind Carter till waning days of that campaign, and Truman’s upset of Dewey is the stuff of legend. Aside from each party’s “base,” the flaky “Middle” is what causes roller-coaster polls but tends to come to its senses by November.

          PRETTY LITTLE LIARS. Electoral cycles always feature new faces, in this case, Kayleigh McEnany and Katrina Pierson, young, fresh spin-doctors, wisely drawn into CNN’s orbit of analysis where they are surrounded by wiser heads who actually know a thing or two. Were they on Fox, and uncontested, the mindless Republican cohort would think they were doing the Lord’s work and speaking His truth, and Ailes dearly wishes they were on his show.

          McEnany’s disconnect is that she weaves her web of lies with a deer-in-headlights facial expression, as if God might strike her dead any moment for her defense of Donald’s worst-and-latest gaffes—whether the “Mexican” judge or any number of others. She and Pierson are straight out of the ancient sophist tradition: to be on anybody’s payroll if willing to make a seemingly convincing case—but truth be damned.

          THE CON MAN. Donald’s unwitting role is to expose what we thought was an America emerging from adolescence and toward cultural and political adulthood. Dream on. An inordinate chunk of our populace has learned nothing, regardless of public and private educations, and the examples of older civilizations.

          The “con” in Con Man refers to the word “confidence,” a more obvious way of stealing. Pickpockets relieve you of your money by stealth; others by mis-information—best known as “figures don’t lie, but liars figure.” A confidence man looks you in the eye and asks you to trust him, ill you willingly give him what he wants. Donald routinely says, “Believe me…you can believe it…This is what I’m going to do…Make no mistake…You can count on that…” and a host of other baseless synonyms.

          TEMPEST IN A TEAPOT. The GOP has known since day one that Hillary will beat them in 2016; all they could do was attempt to criminalize her. Hence the kerfuffle the notorious emails and “servers”—of which the average American knows not a fig and would think nothing, had not Fox and the GOP said it was something. Now that Hillary is fully absolved of a felony, they will act right up to November as if she were guilty. It was their last, best chance and now they face a Convention that is smoldering ahead of time, and will burst into flame at the opening bell.

          America will give anyone a hearing, however extreme, but tends at last toward moderation. That’s why our long electoral process is wise, regardless that it gets on our nerves.

          This is not to say that results are always clear-cut. Even in America, a presidential campaign between God and the Devil would be closer than you think. After all, we’re only human. And not a little stupid. But for now, just calm down already.

          (John Burciaga of Newburyport writes on politics and social issues. His blog is www.ichabodskin.wordpress.com or email at ichabod142@gmail.com)