Am I Optimistic?

It’s so difficult to not get taken in by the headlines and be depressed, especially if you’re a baby boomer Democrat like me.

Conservatives targeting public libraries and their funding to ban books they don’t like

Indiana lawmakers ban abortion statewide with few exceptions

A 38% approval rating for Pres. Joe Biden, the worst ever recorded for a president.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)  gleefully proclaiming to a crowd of his fans, my pronouns are kiss my ass.  Not to mention Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) authoritatively stating most Americans are Christian nationalists, despite all rational facts to the contrary.

Evergreen

But those are headlines, half-truths and provocative click bait that don’t tell the whole picture.  Still, it is easy to believe any one of these digestible thoughts in their entirety, or at least partially, because it takes time and energy to unravel them.

The fact is many Americans don’t have time or inclination to address these and many other issues, especially at the speed with which they’re hitting us.

And most of us definitely do not have the energy. 

For the majority of us, what little intellectual space we have left has to be doled out towards paying the bills and eluding the next airborne national/international virus.

I mean, polio is back?  POLIO????

I truly cannot

Nevertheless, and in truth, this week was a win for Dems like me, and for the country.

Voters in Kansas – a red state by any measure and somewhat of a bellwether for broad conservative thought – resoundingly rejected an abortion law that could have opened the door for the state to altogether OUTLAW abortion.

Toto, we’re home! #NoPlaceLikeKansas

July had an unexpected and exceedingly strong U.S. jobs report of more than half a million jobs added, bringing us back to pre-pandemic levels and more than doubling even the boldest predictions.

Gas prices dropped 70 cents per gallon in the last month from a record high and are predicted to further plummet back down to manageable levels.

The Biden administration tracked down and killed the #1 most wanted terrorist – Ayman al-Zawahri, the current head of Al Qaeda, and mastermind of 9/11 as Osama Bin Laden’s #2 in command, after a more than two decade search. 

Congress is about to pass a historic $740 billion bill that will tackle climate change and move us towards clean energy, reform the tax code to benefit average Americans, and take drastic steps towards getting prescription drug prices under control.

And this was all accomplished over a two-and-a-half week period when Pres. Joe Biden was twice diagnosed with Covid, the latter a rare rebound case.

Sleepy who?

If I were an optimist, which I generally am not, I might even write, who knows what could happen in the months going forward now that he’s testing negative?

The above events and my intermittent Ping-Pong thinking on all of them, reminds me of a life lesson I have to actually keep reminding myself of daily

It is always darkest before the dawn.  

Or as Shelly, my second mother and an avid reader, used to tell me to cheer me up –

Life is like a great book (Note: No, NOT a box of chocolates!) – you turn the page and you never know what can happen.  Good and bad.

Is this… optimism?

It is disorienting to be met with such anger and vitriol by people who don’t agree with you, not to mention your, ahem, lifestyle, whatever that might be.

But it is not determining of what awful things will literally occur in the world or in your life.

It is merely a take on a viewpoint or event you can’t control.

It is a snapshot, a fact, a statement or a misstatement at any given moment.  It is indicative of what is from a source, but not necessarily predictive of what will be. 

Certainly, it is not predictive of your day, unless you want it to be.

Whatever Francis!

This of course doesn’t mean I still don’t want to push Ted Cruz into a vat of his own bullsh-t or tell Marjorie Taylor Greene to go f-ck herself while she is suspended upside down in Macy’s window.

It only means I know the difference between my fantasies and reality. 

And that what I will actually choose to devote my time to do, much less believe, on a given day, is in my hands, not theirs.

“Don’t Stop Believin'” – viral Janitor performance (from ABC News)

We Alone Can’t Fix This

I spent the last several weeks reading all 500 plus pages of the #1 NY Times bestseller, I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J. Trump’s Catastrophic Final Year, by the extremely thorough Washington Post reporters Carol Leonnig and Phillip Rucker.

The book is alternately fascinating, disturbing, infuriating, disorienting, dull, sick, perplexing, darkly humorous, scary and long. 

At times I wished it were a little less even-handed and journalistically proper.  But when you write something so exhaustive on a subject and subject matter such as this I suppose the true gangsta move is keeping your reportorial cool.

This is the energy I bring to writing about Trump

It brought back how I felt watching David Lynch’s very straightforward 1999 film, the very aptly titled A Straight Story. 

Why would the creator of cutting edge classics such as Eraserhead, Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks, and the director of such oddly entertaining works as Lost Highway and Wild at Heart, make a G-rated movie about the true story of an old man who drives his lawnmower from Iowa to Wisconsin to visit his sick brother?

Well, as Lynch himself explained to us (Note:  Okay, me) at the time, it was for that very reason.  By just sticking to a straight narrative of facts, it actually was his most daring, his most experimental film.

Believe it!

In that same way, there was no other course for Leonnig and Rucker to take in chronicling Trump’s last 12 months in office and have it land in any more of a meaningful fashion.

After all, how do you even begin to get any more twisted and salacious than Trump himself? 

And what would be the point in trying? 

This brings to mind the response I received, in various forms, from EVERY ONE OF THE SEVERAL DOZEN PEOPLE I told I was reading this book over this period time.

WHY WOULD YOU WANT TO?

This is an approximation of what they looked like

Of course, not everyone said it exactly that way.  Some just gave me a look, or silently nodded their heads, or explained they couldn’t because they lived it, or apologized they wouldn’t because it was too upsetting and their mental health was already precarious, or responded in person or on the phone with the kind of thick stony silence that tells you the person you’re speaking with has ZERO interest in pursuing this discussion or subject any further (you can hear editor Holly’s reaction on our newest podcast).

In other words, Chairy, BACK OFF!

And then this happened…

Nevertheless, that didn’t stop me from sometimes throwing a few tidbits in.

As Stefon might say, this book and that year had everything –

a. A pandemic the Leader of the Free World ignored, downplayed and lied about.

b. A litany of dictatorial edicts spewed by the POTUS himself to send the military out into the streets to take over cities and ARREST (Note: Or worse) protestors that his own military leaders ignored and refused to carry out.

c. A ton of cursing, blame gaming of others and dangerous lies and/or conspiracy theories launched from the bully pulpit and via social media from the resolute desk in the Oval Office all in service of one single cause – his 2020 re-election.

AND

THERE’S MORE??

d. An actual planned mob of many THOUSANDS that #45 personally spurred on in a prepared, fiery speech on Jan. 6 that caused said group to violently attack and rampage though the U.S. Capitol Building, kill and maim a bunch of policemen, as well as hunt and threaten to hang the sitting vice-president before he could actually ratify the Electoral College results that would declare Joe Biden the new POTUS and thus brand Trump now and forever the official LOSER of the 2020 race.

Oh right

No amount of arm twisting, phone yelling, or even frantic yet calm talks from first daughter Ivanka (Note: Referred to by one advisor as a stable pony, as in when the racehorse gets too agitated, you bring in the stable pony to calm him down) would ever get Trump to tell his supporters they were doing ANYTHING wrong. Even as they threatened lives and destroyed objects that had stood the test of time over SEVERAL CENTURIES in the Capitol and through dozens of other presidencies.

In fact, the most he would ever do was tell them to go home while simultaneously reminding them we love you.

Oh, and the other thing he NEVER DID, as the book details, was to call a single Senator, Congressperson, Aide or even Vice President to inquire if they were okay.  Not on that day and, as far as we know, not to this day.

Is this insulting to Thelma and Louise? #sorryCallieKhouri

Of course, none of this is shocking at this point, even as it remains scary and disheartening.  Worse is that, according to the book, Trump not only knew about the virulency of COVID-19 back in Jan. 2020 but totally bungled a phone call at the time to China President Xi Jinping when he attempted to get representatives of the US medical community into China in order to examine, study or in some way help or contain or accrue information to contain and/or treat Covid-19.

Afraid to jeopardize a trade agreement between the two countries that he thought would win him economic points from his supporters, Trump soft-balled his ask to the point where the head of Communist China simply avoided and/or refused to allow anyone from the US medical establishment into his country.  Then he very calmly ended the call.

Missing a comma, but still true

And when the virus raged on for months and months in the first half of 2020, infecting and killing tens of thousands, the book chronicles how not only Trump but Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin as well as Larry Kudlow, his National Economic Council advisor, refused to the very bitter end to take the obvious steps to close the economy that everyone else in the Trump administration was demanding.

Still, none of this is even quite as surprising as who Loennig and Rucker position as one of the unlikeliest of heroes of the administration – Gen. Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. 

Previously we all knew Milley as that military guy in fatigues who followed POTUS through the street to that Church where Trump held the Bible upside down in some sort of victory over citizen protestors.

Cue world’s longest eyeroll

That was because right before, under Trump’s orders, the National Guard had marched onto the DC streets and used tear gas and pepper spray to clear a path for him and wipe away any traces of the Black Lives Matter protestors that had peacefully demonstrated for several days so he could have a photo op. 

Old history, right?  Except what we didn’t know is that Milley, who felt “used” and publicly apologized some days later in a video for that appearance, then began a full out, shadow campaign to make sure #45 would never again use the military to further his personal political agenda… or worse.

According to the book, from that day forward Milley regularly shot down Trump’s requests for firepower in the streets; at one point told Trump’s ultra right wing chief speechwriter Stephen Miller to shut the f—k up; and enlisted as many present and former cabinet officers and military men as he could to keep the country from imploding.  Or exploding.

Everything was fine

When the events of Jan. 6 happened, it was Milley who had to strong arm the slow-moving acting Defense Secretary and finally order troops to save the Capitol building.  And when his orders weren’t immediately carried out, it took Vice President Pence’s demands for reinforcements to finally cause the powers-that-be to act.

But the one person who never requested any troops, military or otherwise, to defend the Capitol building was Trump.  In a blistering recounting of Insurrection Day, the book chronicles POTUS’ primary post-speech activity to be watching it all unspool live on TV in sheer awe.

What particularly irked a military guy like Milley, who has advanced degrees from both Columbia and Princeton, was seeing right wing fascist groups like The Proud Boys, as well as other Trump MAGA supporters, many of whom shouted racial epithets and were armed with military style weapons, so swiftly and threateningly move into the sacred halls of government without seemingly missing a beat.

Never Forget… really

Several weeks later, after it was all through and it was his responsibility to plan and maintain an ironclad safe and secure inauguration site for Joe Biden, he thus didn’t hesitate to make the same analogy myself and many of my more mouthy, Trump-loathing friends dared to speak back in 2016 the moment it became apparent that Trump et al would actually rule the presidency, the White House and the rest of us along with it for an entire four years.

HITLER.

Yeah, I said it.  It’s been our POV from the beginning and it still is.  It doesn’t have to be yours or those close to you.  But just know that leading up to Inauguration Day 2021, it also began to be the POV of the highest-ranking military officer in the U.S. 

And it still is.

Speaking to dozens of military and law enforcement leaders at a large gymnasium as they planned for the ceremony to swear in #46, Milley noted that thousands of Trump supporters were already organizing via social media a return to D.C. for a week of siege that would culminate in the disruption of Biden’s inauguration.  And, he wanted them to be ready.

Here’s the deal, guys.  These guys are Nazis, they’re boogaloo boys, they’re Proud Boys.  These are the same people we fought in World War II.  Everyone in this room, whether you’re a cop or whether you’re a soldier, we’re going to stop these guys to make sure we have a peaceful transfer of power.  We’re going to put a ring of steal around this city and the Nazis aren’t getting in.

Yikes

And they didn’t.

And Milley still chairs the Joint Chiefs.

And Trump’s out of office.

For now.

The Who – “Won’t Get Fooled Again”