Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Trump wants to jail flag burners. His recent announcement via Twitter (I can't remember what they call it when someone posts on that website, and I'd rather not be reminded) seems to be another random declaration, as if he believes all a president has to do is make his will be known and it shall be so.

My stance has always been that if I spend my hard-earned money on an American flag, then I can do whatever I want with it. Wear it like a cape, fold it up and stick it in my trunk for emergencies, use it as a sheet on my son's bed, spray paint my name on it and hang it in the window ... along with all of these acceptable uses for a flag, it should also be legal to burn it for either symbolic effect or just for the hell of it, because something's gotta burn and that's all that's handy.

It's a free speech issue, and hardly a pressing one at that. Possibly one more calculated outrage meant to distract people from more important problems? Like our President-Elect's extreme conflict-of-interest issues regarding his vast yet opaque international business investments and his already transparent intention to use the office to his financial advantage? Or one of the many other more serious problems (which I don't have time to number right now) surrounding his impending coronation? Like how he's so unprepared for the job that the outgoing President has to train him, easily among the lowest points in American democracy (OK, that's the last one, I have a lot to do today)?

My suggestion is that this random salvo is strategic. Thanks to the Truth Revolt website for the graphic.

Monday, November 28, 2016


I read the news before properly awakening this morning, a bad habit I must work to cease. Without food, caffeine or a full eight behind me, the terrors of the nation drained me outright before I had a chance to breathe. Panic and righteous indignation drew me to the keyboard and I began to pound out what I intended to be a full account of my thoughts, listed point by point, in no particular service to any identifiable thesis except "everything is fucked, right?" 

Meanwhile, my son frolicked and hectored, as is his due, even as I steamed and bristled, and it took no small amount of self-control to fold down the laptop and turn my attention to a large circus-themed picture puzzle on the kitchen table. I'm not counting this as moral victory, just correction of an error, and I'm not going to suggest that this humble father-son activity soothed my nerves or gave me a rosier view of the world, because it absolutely didn't. What I did get was a chance to re-read the missive after a few hours, and realized it missed its mark by not having one -- I can spend 1000 words listing each topic that makes me angry, but that doesn't make it worth foisting onto the world. As an intellectual exercise or a vent of emotion, it had value for me, but as a use of my morning? Dubious.

But that's where many of us are right now. So blindsided by outrageous developments in American politics and culture rising up a half dozen at a time, every day a new shooting, a new slur, a new scandal, a new outrage and I'm using that word twice in this sentence because at a certain point it's the only word that will do. Who has the time or mental space to consider even one long enough to understand and comprehend an event's meaning, or even the accuracy of the information? I have a three year old to care for, I should not be spending my day agog as each fresh insult to our freedom and safety wafts over the airwaves or through the ethernet. But as all the walls crumble about us, how can we not try to stay informed? And even in a vacuum, without the responsibility of employment and family, how would one keep up? How to properly and soberly examine each issue, draw a coherent conclusion and decide how to act? Any one topic could topple an empire, so how does one cope?

I have no answer, only the question. Every day the wife and I identify one more charity we should donate to, one more organization we should volunteer with, one more petition that should probably be signed. But not every charity is virtuous, not every organization is in a position to make substantial change, and not every petition will have teeth, and the patience and focus required to make the right choices in these areas is often beyond me.

Thursday, November 17, 2016


After a decade of earning my living in part or in whole through writing, not to mention a lifetime of relying on writing as a way of presenting myself to the world, I hit a wall in 2012. In the course of a year I lost my mother to cancer and learned I was to be the father of a newborn at age 45, two realities I never anticipated or planned for. I had only recently relocated to my home state of Michigan after a long, fitfully fruitful residence in Seattle, another of those major life changes that can disrupt a man's psychic equilibrium in the best of circumstances.

Through my blog, my freelance work and the songs that once poured out of me, I have spent thousands of words on my opinions about music, film and art, my search for philosophical balance when truth cannot be known, not to mention petty clashes with former comrades I barely remember anymore. In the face of momentous change, I decided that my emotions and attitudes were no longer anyone's business, that my grief or happiness or confusion was not for public consumption on any platform, and I went as cold as I've ever been.

I felt ashamed for my past openness, cringed at the arrogance of declaring judgments without proper reflection, mourned the waste of time and energy spent on ephemeral matters. This state of affairs affected more than my output of words -- I am more circumspect in most of my relationships since, and while parenthood is bound to constrain any social life it touches, my slide toward hermitry had already begun before we even suspected. But while I kept up with a modicum of personal poetry unmeant for other eyes and the odd stab at new songs without satisfaction, journals, blogs, social media posts, this activity ceased -- even emails became difficult to finish.

Aside from a few minor blurbs related to various musical misadventures, I found myself not only unwilling to write, but often unable. The rare burst of inspiration that might lead to a keyboard was usually challenged by an overwhelming panic and dread that froze my fingers and muddied my brain, and I succumbed to this weakness more often than not. Without this outlet to organize my thoughts, communicate with my fellows and declare my place in the world, I developed a creeping identity crisis, unsure of who I am now or who I will become in the eyes of my son.

I have not expressed my views of the election in any public forum. I didn't think it was productive to join the echo chamber of Facebook or address the empty lecture hall that is this blog. For what I could see, more than most of the populace had chosen a side long, long ago and all that remained was the counting of hands. I saw no need to debate Trump supporters or trade high fives with those who opposed him.

But now that we are all living in this speculative fiction novel version of America, where the biggest, most cynical publicity stunt of modern times succeeded in ways its inventor never intended, each of us must take stock of our true values and decide how we will live with each other. I still doubt my persuasive powers when it comes to matters of politics -- just like most of us, I am prone to knee-jerk reactions and emotionally-driven decisions that don't always prove prudent after cooling. And as with so many of my generation, my introduction to politics was watching the Nixon impeachment hearings on television, instilling an early cynicism and understanding that politicians were never to be trusted implicitly. So I can't hope to persuade, for I am rarely persuaded.

But what I can do is reflect upon, identify and codify the core values that I believe in and will stand up to defend. The basic truths as I see them that will determine how I react to important, potentially historic events that are sure to keep us all breathless for the next four years. Above all, freedom of speech, thought and movement. Equal opportunity for all groups, and the strength that comes from a diversity of viewpoints and experiences. Maturity, flexibility and transparency from our elected leaders and their representatives, and non-violent action from opponents who publicly protest. These are not partisan viewpoints. These are the values I will rely upon to evaluate the actions of anyone on any stripe of the political rainbow, right, left or center. Violation of these essential ideas will require me to take a stand and take action in whatever small way I am capable of, to add one more voice to the chorus of discontented who want the same United States of America we were always promised ... a vast, sprawling land of loudmouths with the freedom to be any goddamn thing they want to be.

Thanks for listening. Hey, when's the last time you watched Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood? Do yourself a favor, he's pretty much right about everything. More on that next time ...