. . . Quiet minds cannot be perplexed or frightened, but go on in fortune and misfortune at their own private pace, like a clock during a thunderstorm . . .—Robert Louis Stevenson

03 December 2016


Five U.S. presidents (including then-incumbent president Bill Clinton) and their first ladies attend the funeral of Richard Nixon, April 27, 1994.
"Tricky Dick" was the ugly nickname for President Richard Milhous Nixon. My parents had not voted for him. They did not like him. I was in high school when he was first elected as 37th President of the United States. Four years later, I voted against him too. 

"Nixon ended American involvement in the war in Vietnam in 1973 and brought the American POWs home, and ended the military draft. Nixon's visit to the People's Republic of China in 1972 opened diplomatic relations between the two nations, and he initiated détente and the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with the Soviet Union the same year. His administration generally transferred power from Washington to the states. He imposed wage and price controls for a period of ninety days, enforced desegregation of Southern schools and established the Environmental Protection Agency. Nixon also presided over the Apollo 11 moon landing, which signaled the end of the moon race. He was reelected in one of the largest electoral landslides in U.S. history in 1972, when he defeated George McGovern."—Wikipedia

He was fervently anti-communist and friendly toward the goals of the McCarthy hearings. He took our country into a period of high interest rates and high inflation as he focused on international relations. He took our war machine into a country without declaring war and while insisting he had not. He lied. He actively promoted illegal actions against the opposing political party, including breaking into records. He authorized theft and he lied. On White House tapes, he was not the first, but the first one caught using filthy language when there was no one around to criticize him. All of this became public, and the "party of Lincoln" was disgraced.  

Other presidents had deliberately and disastrously interfered in the governments of foreign nations. Other presidents had lied while conducting a war. Other presidents swore in private. No former president ended a war so deeply unpopular that only a fool would continue to with it, but Nixon was not a fool. He was nearly impeached and Richard M. Nixon would resign from office as his illegal actions became public. You may have heard of it: Watergate.  

It might have seemed at the time as if the most damage done was to Nixon and perhaps to his party, but the real damage was something quite different. The real damage was to American faith in government. 

We understood that it was okay and acceptable and normal for government to lie, cheat, steal, ignore our needs, and use filthy language in private. That was politics. 

We forgot that politics is what allows a diverse people to coexist, to be safe from foreign aggression, to have roads and schools and access to clean air and water and food and medicines, to use products in safety, and to have a future we can trust. We forgot that politics works because it serves the public. We forgot that the goal of politics is that you get to eat your cupcake and I also get to have mine. 

Instead we were discouraged from voting, from trusting, from demanding fairness. We came to believe that if I give you a cupcake, I might not get mine. 

Over the next decades, the wealthy men who control the news and the economy, gained further control over politics and the minds of Americans. With the money and power at their disposal they convinced us that politics is the sort of discussion I watched last night from Shields and Brooks. Brooks pleased with the new Secretary of Defense because he is smart, Shields also pleased because he is a Marine. Both of them talking about how things appear and neither talking about the way things really are. Two old white guys whining about how democrats paid too much attention to the GLTBQ community instead of to their own. 

Clock back to race and gender and religion. All those trivial concerns of the rest of us. 

We have come to believe that those concerns do not matter, at least a majority of white people in my country seem to have accepted this. 

Nixon's legacy is said to be mixed. He accomplished some great things, he was "brilliant" but also "morally lacking." He was personally disgraced. He also disgraced the presidency. 

The rightwing-elite-money-controlled media has convinced us that if we share, someone else will get the largest cupcake. The truth is, someone ate them all while we were busy arguing about whose was larger. You and I do not get a cupcake. 

I wish I could understand those who for months perpetuated the lies, who ground on about emails and Benghazi. When Russia supported one candidate; when the new Secretary of Education would demolish the school system your children attended in order to make a profit; when the new Secretary of Defense may be a man who actually lied and broke the law (was charged and convicted), when men are appointed without experience, but did more than give a speech on Wall Street—they worked there and possess many billions of dollars; when men are given authority who would strip freedoms and basic rights from your gay son, from my granddaughter, from my neighbor who is afraid for her family because as an observant Moslem or Latina or Black she can never pass; when it is clear that the behavior of this president-elect is without honor or ethics; when his lies are revealed and his petulance unending as he "sells our nation for parts"; when you stop and think, do you understand, yet, how far you have gone in the wrong direction? Do you feel safe the way Martin Niemöller described the illusion of safety? No candidate in the past has triumphed in our nation aloft on such a warhorse of deceit and hatred. This is not a matter of politics, right or left. This is a battle between human decency and bombastic greed.

Our current president, President Obama, will leave office in January having accomplished less than he should have. He faced a Congress that publicly announced it would block his every proposal purely to deny him any accomplishment. This was not a do-nothing Congress, it was spiteful and partisan. 

We all have our priorities, valuing some issues over others. I will not say that everyone who voted for Trump is a bigot. I think that is unfair and untrue. I am willing to recognize that bigotry matters less in some people's heart and in some people's lives than it does in mine.

Nevertheless Obama has managed to maintain his honor, his only sure legacy—he loved his family, he gave great speeches, and he will leave quietly. Perhaps we should be grateful. I wanted more. 

I wanted us to read platforms instead of memes. I wanted us to think collectively in courage and trust instead of looking out for ourselves and assuming that Father Christmas would take care of us.

02 December 2016


Gulls resting in Asbury/Shark.

We gave the injured black bird a wide berth, but that did not help. Gary proclaimed it "eagle food" and before we'd reached the next creek, one of the eagles circled overhead. 

We paused to talk to a neighbor, who smiled but confessed she planned to cry on her walk. The little dog she had cared for and carried with her on errands, the one who rested his head on her handbrake, had died the day before. He had been very sick, but small comfort. 

We did not warn her of the cormorant or the eagle, which by that time was on the injured bird. 

She frightened the eagle off, stood for a time and walked on. 

I hope by the time she turns back from her walk north, the cormorant will indeed be food for eagles and not still lying bloody and dead to remind her. 

I cry on occasion for the dogs in my life. There have been many who lived their whole lives with us. Yeti is 12 years old tomorrow, but she played with the sand while our neighbor smiled. "Still like a puppy," she said. 

Good girl.