Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Don't let your light go down with the ship!

This is a popular Facebook meme that hilariously illustrates the baffling depths of people's denial in the face of a situation that should be undeniable.

Facebook Meme, unattributed.

But I want to use to this cartoon to illustrate a deeper message, which I hope will both orient and inspire my fellow travelers.

The overall theme of my posts since the election of Donald Trump has been along the lines of abandoning the futile, and increasingly dangerous endeavor of trying to get the folks on the Right to wake up and reject Trump and his ideology before it destroys our country.

Every time that Trump or one of his staffers says or does something horrifyingly unhinged, or tells a verifiable bold-faced lie, or does something illegal, we all have this collective hope that this will be the last straw! Surely there are still some sane conservatives somewhere who will finally stand with us and oppose this administration!

Investigate!

Impeach!

Do something!

So, please refer to the above illustration as I try to explain this.

The ship is sinking, and you're still trying to convince our fellow passengers that the ship is sinking, in the hope that we can all band together and repair the damage to the hull.

1) You're not going to convince Trump fans of anything. Here's a great article from the New Yorker explaining the science of Why Facts Don't Change Our Minds.

And I know this even is harder to accept, but:

2) We're not patching this hull.

Even if we could win support from enough conservatives, which we can't, what's the magic solution?

Impeach Trump? Clinton was impeached. He didn't stop being President, remember?

Even if Trump were removed from office, the Corporate Plutocracy has already been appointed. And let's be serious, it wasn't that big a leap to directly appoint millionaires and billionaires to our top government positions. They've been writing the legislation for years.

This is not a message of pessimism,
but a message of determination!

This is the end of an era, not the end of the world. This is the end of an idea that was never really true in the first place. Not here. Not now. Not yet. But it will be true someday. This is a moment in history when we have to think bigger than ourselves and beyond the lives of our children and grandchildren. Many people before us have tucked this idea against their bosom and smuggled it through the darkest times when it seemed that the whole world had gone mad. Many people around the world at this very moment are fighting to keep their little flicker of light alive in dark recesses that you and I cannot even fathom.

These are the stories we tell our children of courage in the face of evil, justice in the face corruption, and the passing on of knowledge under penalty of death.

It's Jewish children whispering alef... bet.. vet.. by candlelight.

It's Christians kneeling before lions.

It's scientists refusing to recant facts at the Inquisition.

It's the hymns of the hopelessly shackled guiding their escaped brethren to freedom.

It's Pakistani girls going to school.

It's Native Americans offering up their blood and bones to protect the last sliver of Mother Earth they have left to protect.

The unsinkable is sinking. The wealthy ticket holders are already in the lifeboats. The really really rich have flown away in their golden helicopters. Is that who lives to tell the tale? Is that who decides the lesson of this American tragedy?

Hold on to your light, take a deep breath, and plunge into the freezing abyss.

Grab the hand of the person who jumped before you and the person who jumps after you.

We're not going down without a fight.

We will rage against the dying of the light.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Poo-tee-weet

Bobbing up and down in the middle of the San Diego Bay, clinging to the possessions we had frantically gathered after our kayaks had been blown away by an oblivious military helicopter, and without any rescue in sight, I looked at my son and said, "We should have just stayed home today."

Through his blueish lips and chattering teeth he said, almost indignantly, "What are you talking about? This is way more interesting!"

I laughed and tucked the humorous little life lesson in the back of my mind for future use, and I recall it quite often, as I'm especially prone to "interesting" turns of events (a car accident, a spill at the gym that earned me 14 staples in my head, and so on). I think, well, it's not an adventure if nothing bad happens, right?

But until today, it hadn't occurred to me that this might be a suitable philosophy for the grander scheme of life, the universe, and everything.

The recent catastrophic election of Trump, and the overwhelming deluge of all my worst fears about his presidency coming to fruition with a rapidity that has surprised even me, left me in such an emotional state that I actually sort of identified with the last three syndromes that Robert Reich outlines in his discussion about the Four Dangerous Signs of Passivity in the face of Trump Tyranny (though not to the point of passivity in my case).

At any rate, I have been trying on a lot of different reactionary philosophies without any of them fitting very well. From feeling like we should be rioting in the streets, "burn this motherfucker to the ground and start over," to feeling like I should shut down this blog, withdraw from my activist groups, and stop caring entirely, "what difference does any of it make anyway?"

But the philosophy I've finally arrived at is beautiful in its all-encompassing simplicity.

I had been listening to Machiavelli's "The Prince" in the hope of gleaning some political wisdom from a parallel time, and it occurred to me that it's not just parallel, but the same story over and over and over throughout modern history: the freedoms we gain and the republics we build are stolen out from under us by the rich and powerful with the tools of religion and war. And we keep going through the motions again and again like the movie Groundhog Day; to the point of comedy.

But my epiphany was this: why should I be any more angry about the dissolution of our own republic than about the War of the League of Cambrai? The events seem every bit as inevitable. Like reading a history book that has already been written. Like the Tralfamadorians in Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five explain, "All time is all time. It does not change. It does not lend itself to warnings or explanations. It simply is. Take it moment by moment, and you will find that we are all, as I've said before, bugs in amber."

And of all the times to be alive, to be experiencing this play first hand... what better time than here and now?

There are no songs or novels or history chapters detailing the times of abundance of peace and freedom (none worth noting, anyway).

An unattributed quote on Facebook pointed out that when you were sitting in History class thinking about what you would have done if you were alive then; "You're alive now. Whatever you're doing is what you would have done."

What better role to play in history than to be a resistor of tyranny?

Because tyranny will fall.

And each and every one of us will die just the same.

So it goes.

Poo-tee-weet.