The Division Bell

An old acquaintance of mine wrote on that screed of the uninformed, Facebook, that “the Obamas divided us.” That really struck me that as per usual for such statements, no evidence was offered as to how this was done.

Donald Trump didn’t divide us. Despite his attempts to actually do so, Mitch McConnell didn’t do so either. The media hasn’t divided us. Social media isn’t guilty. The Pandemic (which, I don’t know who needs to hear this, ISN’T OVER) isn’t even guilty.

It seems to me that the division has always been bubbling underneath and the trick has always been to be able to overcome that, instead of blaming anything and taking responsibility. When George Floyd was murdered, a lot of well-meaning people hopped online with quotes from Martin Luther King. That’s a nice thought I’ll grant you, but as a few folks I know pointed out, he wasn’t the only black man to turn a phrase. I keep thinking of James Baldwin and his writings of the idea of America, the promise of America, praising those things while contrasting them with the reality of America, that the social contract isn’t the same for all its citizens.

Mr. Baldwin was absolutely correct. People of color are and have been marginalized. It isn’t anything new.

I think while on the leadership side, things took a turn during the battles between President Clinton and Newt Gingrich, along with the rise of Fox News. Through court cases deciding the 2000 election, the tea partiers, Mitch McConnell’s well documented edict to block anything President Obama sent to the senate to President Trump’s screaming law and order in every medium all the while flouting the laws he is not above and is supposed to abide by, but doesn’t.

Now, as the Boss once said, “Blind Faith in anything, in your leaders, in anything, will get you killed.” But it seems we are at a point that power (without it even being absolute) corrupts absolutely. People like Jeff Flake and Susan Collins warned that the President probably should not be engaged in certain activities. Yet despite being in positions to put stops on those things, they refused to do.

While the President didn’t create the divide between parties, between science and luddites, between races, between media and audiences, he manages to exploit them to his benefit as our collective attention span doesn’t drill down for details.

We used to be thinkers, well-informed instead of seekers of our preferred narrative. But the President cut through regulation to slash spending – there are people who yell “great” as that does sound good, until some of the regulations kept our water clean, protected land, fed children and maintained offices for the study of infectious disease and pandemics. That last one might come in handy during the course of this year.

Instead everybody is blaming. He’s taking a victory lap over blocking flights from China, ignoring that Italy was fighting the same thing and Italy is a lot closer to New York all the while lambasting the W.H.O. and the C.D.C. and a litany of experts in the field because they aren’t telling him what they want to hear. He is more interested in golf than fighting Covid. Remember all the GOP senators in a dither (incorrectly) about Benghazi. Apparently when the numbers get to high we no longer keep score when you get past 180, 000.

But that is another blog post that I already wrote.

Division…a facebook poster I know a little bit objected to NFL players putting messages about needed social change and victims of police violence on their helmets, complaining that we were no longer “one”. If it was worth it (and that’s a big if) to wade into a Facebook argument, I’d point out that the likelihood is that we’ve never been “one,” that we’ve talked about it, but we have never delivered on that promise. Those for whom “:one” has been talked of, but really weren’t included. That “oneness” is the goal, but it hasn’t been the case. To make that transition, to bring about that “oneness” requires an acknowledgement that we haven’t been truly there, that the circle needed everybody and throughout our history, it has been closed off to too many.

The promise sounds great, but the execution has been flawed and enough people aren’t silently accepting that anymore as well they shouldn’t. The thing has never really worked, but to get there isn’t insurmountable. For everybody who screams All Lives Matter, they should stop and realize that the whole point is that that is a nice goal, but it hasn’t been proven true and that not all lives are treated like that. That’s what this is all about. We’re not dividing, just never been completely united.

In reading some posts and feeds this weekend, I again saw a poster blaming social media instead of advocating taking responsibility for what he posts. Another decried that when Herman Cain passed, Cain was accorded the reverence afforded to Ruth Bader Ginsberg. I have no idea about what drew that gentleman to that conclusion, but Facebook didn’t make him stupid, he apparently already was that dumb. Justice Ginsberg was a committed advocate for making the world a better place, to serving the people even ones who didn’t agree with her. Cain smiled as he dove into a petri dish of Covid 19 to later catch Covid 19.

This thing of ours remains a great blueprint, but it isn’t working for all. People are  left behind, marginalized, shunned, attacked, killed and we shouldn’t be okay with any of that as it has been going on long before there was any social media to cry “where’s the media” on. People are still searching for that preferred narrative and social media didn’t cause that, just capitalizes on that.

I think the my way or highway schism on the political spectrum has its roots in Newt Gingrich and Bill Clinton and has been spiraling out of control ever since and everybody has the keyboard to spout from and when confronted by actual issues, it is easier to hide keyboard-eque (he said from behind a keyboard, but hey I admit it). The buddha of my youth and midage once opined about how blind faith can get you killed.

Same source offered up this truism, Nobody wins unless everybody wins. And that means everybody.

He’s right in both instances. I still remain convinced that if we place the energy in spouting off with making the tent bigger and all-inclusive, realizing that we are all people who need each other, nothing is impossible.




Oh, Now You Get Mad

Some of the primary results from Tuesday night have all the network pundits slobbering. People are generally ticked off I think with politicians constantly running for election and doing little else. Look at the New York State legislature for piles of examples of that. What is troubling to me is the gross oversimplification that is muddling thinking. Tea parties blame The Obama Administration for all the government bailouts without remembering that the TARP money started with Hank Paulson of the Bush Adminstration.

I like seeing people voicing their complaints, but where the hell have they been? Lord knows the bottom is dropping out of New York State thanks to the poor economy and a me first then the constituents mentality. But a recent email forward caught my attention:

“Oh, Now You Get Mad”

–You didn’t get mad when the Supreme Court stopped a legal recount and appointed a President.
–You didn’t get mad when Cheney allowed Energy company officials to dictate energy policy.
–You didn’t get mad when a covert CIA operative got ousted.
–You didn’t get mad when the Patriot Act got passed.
–You didn’t get mad when we illegally invaded a country that posed no threat to us.
–You didn’t get mad when we spent over 600 billion(and counting) on said illegal war.
–You didn’t get mad when over 10 billion dollars just disappeared in Iraq.
–You didn’t get mad when you found out we were torturing people.
–You didn’t get mad when the government was illegally wiretapping Americans.
–You didn’t get mad when we didn’t catch Bin Laden.
–You didn’t get mad when you saw the horrible conditions at Walter Reed.
–You didn’t get mad when we let a major US city drown.
–You didn’t get mad when we gave a 900 billion tax break to the rich.
–You didn’t get mad when, using reconciliation, a trillion dollars of our tax dollars were redirected to insurance companies for Medicare Advantage which cost over 20 percent more for basically the same services that Medicare provides.
–You didn’t get mad when the deficit hit the trillion dollar mark, and our debt hit the thirteen trillion dollar mark.
–You finally got mad when the government decided that people in America deserved the right to see a doctor if they are sick.. Yes, illegal wars, lies, corruption, torture, stealing your tax dollars to make the rich, richer, are all okay with you, but helping other Americans…

Now, I’m not saying they don’t a right to be ticked. They do, but “I want to take my country back” is a stupid refrain that means nothing. If that is your soundbite, then shut the hell up. You sound like an idiot who couldn’t get a walk on for the Dukes of Hazzard. President Obama shouldn’t be punished for winning and the state of perpetual pandering isn’t totally at the feet of President Bush. If everybody grew up and did the job and LED, we might have something. If staying elected wasn’t the first priority, we might see fewer folks taking up space and more legislating. They say a statesman is a politician who’s been dead for 20 years. As President Bartlet wished for “we need to be statesmen now.”

Want to blame somebody? I still think my mom is right. Newt happens. Not the rational talking head, who politely disagrees with Matt Lauer, but the contract with America figurehead who was upset that Reagan and Bush were gone. He led an attempt to squeeze the Clinton Administration that has gradually let to both parties behaving like spoiled ten year olds, which may be an insult to real ten year old.

I think that is grown to the current resentment, where people bitch about something that was okay when a candidate they liked was in office.

Crazy, isn’t it.

Think the Anchor Bar hates Travel Channel’s “Food Wars” Now?

The President put in an order for 10 medium wings — five extra crispy — with a small order of fries and onion rings. His bill came to $14.90. He gave Duff’s the nationally televised seal of approval. If I’m part of the Anchor Bar management, you can’t help but bristle.

Although, fries, rings, extra crispy that is the order of a guy who can handle his toxic substances, like well, congress.

The President is coming to Town

That’s exciting! Haven’t seen him January 20th of last year.

To read anything of tangible significance into it is a little crazy, but why can’t Buffalo enjoy a nice morale boost. It will be fun to see the local tv folk puffed up with temporary importance while they stand THIS CLOSE to Chuck Todd, who will no doubt be doing his stand up in front of the Anchor Bar. In the category of me being amazed at the things we choose to care about, there is a thread on Buffalo Rising about what restaurants he should visit in the partial day he’ll be here. The posters championing the Chophouse as a quintessential Buffalo location make me chuckle. Those passionate posters ignore the fact that there are plenty of overpriced, self-indulgent steak outlets inside the Beltway. The fact that there is even any kind of discussion is pretty silly as I’m sure the White House had this all figured out some time ago.

The best idea to come from anyplace comes from a republican, yes, a republican friend of mine who suggested that the President, in his stated goal of supporting small business, stop in support a business that was an early supporter of him: Zillycakes

I mean, who doesn’t enjoy a cupcake and I defy somebody to go to Zilly, belly up to the cupcake bar and immediately feel happy. But given her gift for imagery leading to the inauguration, it would make a topper to what I am sure will be a day of photo ops.

And to think, a republican had to think of it.

The Speech, the War and Everything

I didn’t see the entirety of the President’s address last night. You knew something had to be coming along the lines of what was announced.

I read the text of it this morning to avoid the contaminants of both Fox and MSNBC and if President Bush had been that declarative in 2003, I don’t think we would have had the polarization that we have seen in the intervening years. I’m not sure how I feel about it entirely. I think had it predated the Iraq enterprise, the climate might be a lot different now. Coming out of 9/11, the protests for coming into Afghanistan and taking care of what was thought to be needed probably would have had minimal dissent.

It’s interesting because some extremists on both sides are grumbling about costs. Now, we worry about the finances? Some people will do anything for a soundbite. As nothing appeared to be changing with the status quo, it seemed like the President had two choices, pull out completely or wrachet things up to get this done. To pull out would not be easy and would mean we were just pissing away resources. I’m not in love with the alternative, but he inherited two fights that weren’t staged very well to start with, and at least there is a goal, a plan that doesn’t involve banner hangings and photo ops, but a definitive goal. There is no good in any of this, but that seems as pragmatic an outline as you are likely to see.

Being a pacifist/coward, I’m not the possessor of the most grand of military minds, but after watching Desert Storm nightly on television, I’ve often wondered if we are using all we have in such items. It used to be derigeur to show footage of a bomber pinpoint targeting the desired target. I don’t know if the guys on the ground are getting that same sort of support, something that occured to me for reasons passing understanding. Neither Iraq, part ll or Afghanistan has seen that.

The things we choose to care about….

Promise of a New Day 1-20-09

One of the beautiful things of having relatives smack in the middle of DC is you can select your historical moments without a whole lot of advance planning. I know this is a little after the fact, but I just found this file of pictures on my pc. With the inauguration of President Obama, the lovely mother of my lovely children hatched the notion to take our guys down to the fun. I got to ride shotgun. Given their racial makeup, it was a once in a lifetime thing. Given a horrifying ride down the night before, I was ready for a little lackidasical adventure. Essentially, we walked a few blocks and were in Obamastock. It was fun to just see all the hullabaloo. We didn’t struggle to get into certain places. Things just seemed to happen all Ferris Bueller like, just right into place. The feeling of hope made everybody friends. After eight years of Washington induced fear, it was a beautiful thing to see the city (both of them) so friendly. Coverage of the day is for the tv networks Christmas, Hannukah and your parents getting divorced in the same day as they pulled out all the toys. It was a good day to ignore that and savor the actual moment.



My Eldest and Youngest having more fun in front of the Department of the Interior than is usually permitted.












Our hero, trying not freeze celebrating democracy