Interesting Times


May you live in interesting times.” Not a blessing, some say, but a curse, as though only times of peace and contentment are to be appreciated and enjoyed.

Perhaps we mean it ironically, as all times, across all eras, have had interesting aspects. Specific conditions change, but people still bend or break in reaction. Those who lived through the Great Depression, World Wars, Kennedy’s assassination, the Age of Aquarius, and the onset of the Computer Age, came out the other end either subtly or grossly altered. And those who look back fondly at rosy tinted times are prisoners of nostalgia, blinded by imaginings that neatly snip out the bits that disturb the dream.

beauty in chaosSo many dread and fear changes to their lives, and yet, there can be great beauty in chaos. Certainly, coping with new information can be problematic, but without profound change, we are static and boring. We even bore ourselves when life becomes nothing more than a forced march through our days, stuck deep in a rut of habit and preconceptions. Creativity demands a spur. You cannot rage against that with which you have not grappled.

We can try to hide away when change threatens our equilibrium. Or we can rush toward change, willing to embrace whatever life throws at us. Either way, change will come. The only difference will be in how you accept the inevitable.  Will you accommodate the newness, incorporating what is different, and weaving its strands into your existence? Or will you rail impotently at what is to come, in a foolish attempt to cling to the past, to slow down what cannot be stopped?  The present doesn’t care. The present continually dances to each new reality, with or without your approval.

The refusal to embrace change has reached its zenith in American politics. Long groomed by the Religious Right and a lockstep Republican party‘s fanatical refusal and repudiation of science and actual facts, a good part of the nation now stumbles along behind the Godzilla of Gaslighting, a man so devoid of empathy for his fellow man (or woman) that he feels free to tar whole segments of humanity with his own prejudices and biases. A textbook narcissist, willing to say or do anything to stay in the spotlight, and keep a constant stream of attention upon his silly self, he manipulates his followers through their nostalgic yearning for happier times … Make America Great Again, he cries, as though only he has Willie Wonka’s golden ticket to the future. The future he’s selling, though, seems to have to first detour through the past.

He wants to return America to the “good old days,” when life was simple. Well, simple for a certain segment of society, before civil rights and equal rights. Not so good, and a giant step backwards, for women, people of colour, or immigrants, be they legal or illegal.

we hope we despairHis followers yearn for an America that never existed except on film. They are led not so much by what he says, but what they fear – reality itself. They want to stop the world, just for a while, “just until we figure out what’s going on.”  He’s going to make life all better, more understandable, and “you’re gonna love it. There will be so much winning, you’ll get sick of winning.”

Like a slimy, used car salesman , the Sultan of Slurs seduces with words of no more than three syllables, absolutely devoid of facts or actual plans, and replete with self-aggrandizement. “I will tell you this, and I can say it with certainty: I will be the greatest jobs producing President that God ever created. I love the subject, I love doing it, and I love helping people.”

TheTrumpHouse.jpgDespite zero political experience, and a chequered, peppered with bankruptcy, past, he has nonetheless captured the lazy and the selfish, those who have yet to grasp that they are being sold a bill of goods. It seems almost preordained – behold your next President, brought to you by a media that prizes sound bites over content, the election reduced to a simple transaction between a seller and a buyer. And bought by those too foolish to grasp the precept, “if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”

Meanwhile, politicians with actual platforms run smack into that same unwillingness to grasp change, or hope for the future. After declaring in Ohio that her coal plan would “put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business,” Hillary Clinton, with almost terminal foot in mouth disease, was soundly booed and condemned by coal country lawmakers.  Meanwhile, the $30 billion alternative being offered for investment in the clean-energy economy was completely dismissed. Because, yes, there will be more jobs in clean energy, but for those who’ve spent a lifetime in coal mining, it’s a leap too far, particularly for people with little confidence in current government And especially since, as former Representative Barney Frank put it, “the likelihood that 58-year-old coal miners are going to become the solar engineers of the future is nil.

That guy is more likely to be thinking, “if Black Lung and lung cancer were good enough for my dad … they’re good enough for me.”

nothing but a twigDespair. Fear.  Anger.  So much anger.  Anger that simmers just below the surface, until released in the form of the fist of a 78-year old man, sucker punching a young, black dissenter. A  mindless, impotent, unending anger against politicians, Wall Street, terrorists, immigrants snatching the few remaining jobs, governments kinder to corporations than its voting citizens. Anger against a dream denied, a life that might have been, a life ‘as seen on TV.’  An anger that is fear disguised as action and reaction.

This is an extraordinary time full of vital, transformative movements that could not be foreseen. It’s also a nightmarish time. Full engagement requires the ability to perceive both.” Rebecca Solnit

The stories that are told to us, and the stories we tell ourselves, about our pasts, our presents, and our possible futures, reflect only one aspect at a time. If the narrator chooses to emphasize the negative over the positive, our emotions can be twisted, causing us to accept or reject the narrative. It’s often very much in how you look at things that determines how the experience ends.opportunities

This same society, this same world, which can be perceived as cold and unforgiving, can also be a place of wonder and delight. Each step forward, plagued as it can be by those who resent change, represents shifts in ideas and perspectives. Social change is happening. The very framework of how we view sexuality is shifting.  There are progressive advances in the sciences that we would never have anticipated, even months ago. All of these marvels are going on in real time, minute by minute. But if your expectations are shaped by those who desperately cling to the past, you’ll be stuck back there with them. If all you are focused on is what is temporarily amusing, or that which jibes with your own, delicate, beliefs, you’ll blink and miss glimpses of your future.

We have little control over the times in which we live. Indeed, no one has total control of anything, or anyone, other than themselves, and even that doesn’t always run smooth. So you may as well surrender to uncertainty. When we are willing to step into the unknown, free from all preconceptions, those ‘interesting times’ become the opening notes to a symphony of possibilities.

 

(first pubished March 20/16: bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2016/03/20/roxanne-tellier-interesting-times/)

Bad Week for Sore Losers


When those charged with guiding and arbitrating the people become inured to the peoples’ actual needs and opinions, it’s time for them to go. When entitlement and arrogance override justice for ALL, not just the chosen few, it’s time to reassess the entire system.

Fair play,” the belief that all battles should be fought with an eye to respect, ethics and consideration, has been summarily dismissed of late, to be replaced by public figures that do not take defeat well, and who use failure as a platform for endless carping, whining, condescension, and threats of revenge. boehner pouting

This lack of character, as shown by those we’re told deserve respect, affects every aspect of our lives, taints how we feel about our culture, and disrespects what ‘the rule of law’ means to our society.

As a vocal majority of Americans cheered the lowering of the Confederate flag, and the raising of the Rainbow, the squealing of sore losers filled the media. Sour grapes do not a good wine make, even if they may give sore losers an opportunity to have a good whine.

Removing the Confederate flag is, in itself, a sort of ‘false flag,’ in that the flag represents a very tiny part of a larger problem of systemic racism in America. Despite being shown absolute proof that the flag had been used by proponents of slavery and the KKK, some in the South continue to insist that flying it is a matter of heritage.white house rainbow

In fact, just yesterday, Brittany “Bree” Newsome climbed the 30-foot flagpole on the grounds of the South Carolina state Capitol where the battle flag still flew, to remove the banner. She was immediately arrested, and the flag raised again, just in time for a pro-flag rally to take place at the monument.

In the two weeks since the slaying in South Carolina, mourners and citizens have had to walk and drive past a flag flown at full mast, a flag idolized by a 21 year old man so driven by ideology that he felt the need to shoot and kill, in cold blood, nine black worshipers in an historic church.pro confederate flag

And yet, there remain some who want the flag to stay. Or, as Gawker put it, “Racist Idiots Hold Pro-Confederate Flag Rallies Across the South.” 

Bad week for sore losers. Obamacare, aka the Affordable Care Act, was finally entrenched as the law of the land by the Supreme Court‘s ruling, leaving no room for a theoretical future Republican president to undo major pillars of the law. Obama after Court ruling

Republicans, having made 50 – fifty! – previous attempts at dismantling the Act were furious, but defiant. The battle wasn’t over, fumed it’s opponents, and FOX News talking heads, who have never been very good at keeping up with change to their conservative ideology.

rubio panicsFlorida Sen. Marco Rubio aimed his anger at the Supreme Court. “As we look ahead, it must be a priority of the next president to nominate judges and justices committed to applying the Constitution as written and originally understood.

Marco … put down that water and tell me … Why would that be? Are we living in 1776 or 2015? The forefathers are long gone, and the Constitution is a living thing, subject to conversation and amendments, not the iron grip of a dictator installing ‘yes men’ to do his will.

Justice Clarence Thomas of the Supreme Court had a bad week too. On Thursday, Thomas came down against the Supreme Court saving the Fair Housing Act of 1986 (to protect against housing discrimination based on race, sex, religion, and origin,) saying that “racial imbalances do not always disfavor minorities.”  He was referring to black pro sports teams. i can't breathe

Because, you know. .. those NBA players are mostly black, and they do very well for themselves.

He then joined Justices Samuel Alito and Antonin Scalia in dissenting to uphold Obamacare subsidies, though it was passed 6-3.

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And to cap off his week of blind ignorance and entitlement, he and three other Justices voted against removing state bans on same-sex marriages. This time, he took exception with the concepts of “liberty” and “dignity.”

“The corollary of that principle is that human dignity cannot be taken away by the government. Slaves did not lose their dignity (any more than they lost their humanity) because the government allowed them to be enslaved. Those held in internment camps did not lose their dignity because the government confined them. And those denied governmental benefits certainly do not lose their dignity because the government denies them those benefits. The government cannot bestow dignity, and it cannot take it away.”

clarence-thomas-wife-tea-party-16x9You’ve come a long way, baby, and I mean that disrespectfully. Are you sure you’d have the dignity and respect you receive as a Supreme Court judge had you been born in the days when you would have been enslaved at/by birth? Your own interracial marriage to a white woman named Virginia, (irony alert!) would have seen you arrested and prosecuted prior to the Supreme Court’s 1967 ruling on Loving v. Virginia, which required every state to recognize interracial marriage. You and your life represent two clear instances where the government did indeed bestow dignity. Why would you deny that to others?

Republican candidate Mike Huckabee had to add his own strange thoughts to the ruling. “The Supreme Court has spoken with a very divided voice on something only the Supreme Being can do — redefine marriage. I will not acquiesce to an imperial court any more than our Founders acquiesced to an imperial British monarch. We must resist and reject judicial tyranny, not retreat.”

Arrogance. Entitlement. “Do as I say, not as I do.” One law for the masses, another for those who make the laws. If the laws don’t fit your own views, keep hammering away at them until they do. The will of the people be damned.

Ralph Klein gay rightsNot that we’re without our own Canadian sore losers and bigots. In 2004, Premier Ralph Klein of Alberta said Gays won’t be getting married in Alberta, we’re not going to do it.” 

For ten years, Ralph Klein, Stephen Harper, Pat O’Brien, Randy White and Tom Wappell fought against every single gay rights initiative. And yet, the law was passed in 2005, and so far – no sky has fallen.

Sore losers and entitled arrogance is as alive in Canadian politics as in the U.S. Last week, convicted ex-MP Dean Del Mastro sneered his way through his sentencing, certain that Prime Minister Stephen Harper would pull his irons out of the fire at the last minute. After all, he’d been a loyal servant, whom Harper had kept by his side despite the evidence of his guilt.width="300"

Del Mastro’s never apologized for breaking the rules in his 2008 campaign, of overspending on the campaign, breaking his personal campaign contribution limit or of filing a false return with Elections Canada to conceal the overspending. Instead, his defence was to whine to the court about how difficult the prosecution and trial has been on his family, and that the incident has taken a financial, physical and emotional toll. All of these burdens came from his own bad judgment, but we’re not to speak of that.

<>When the verdict was reached, Del Mastro burst into tears, and begged the judge not to send him to prison. He was told he’d be spending a month in jail, down from the 9 to 12 months originally recommended by the Court in October. And, indeed, he spent just 16 hours in jail before being released on bail.

After all, why would Del Mastro worry about actual consequences? In October, 2014, he was found guilty of three out of four charges of election fraud. And yet, he remained defiant, saying he had no plans to step down as an MP, only to step down voluntarily in November, just before he was to be suspended from the House of Commons. He then whined about how much money he was losing by having to leave his position, a job he’d gained by fraud, and lost by getting caught.

Del Mastro walked away from his nearly nine years in federal politics with a pension worth $44,000 a year, which he becomes eligible for at the age of 55.

In a final, delicious irony, Canadians, through a fundraiser organized by his riding association that allowed them to provide tax receipts to contributors, subsidized the legal fees of Del Mastro. “Organized by his riding association” .. in a riding he might not have won had he not cheated in the election.

harper_gives_the_finger1Harper himself has not commented on Del Mastro’s sentencing, nor has he addressed the fact that his government has far more than the usual share of corruption and shameful conduct. Among the Harper government’s scandals are the illegal “robocalls” in the 2011 election, fraudulent expense claims by Tory senators, and of course, nearly ten years of placing the needs of corporate Canada above it’s citizens’ rights, leading to the tainted meat scandals that followed the gutting of Canada’s food-inspection agency, and an environmental record on pollution and climate change that defines new depths in a race to the bottom. And that’s even before Bill C-51, the greatest threat to free expression in Canada, or Bill C-59, which allows the government to retroactively alter history in the government’s favour.

Given his poor record, Harper could at least give Canadians some comfort by making it clear that he won’t defend cheaters in the future. Instead, he keeps the media at arm’s length, behind his security team that costs the nation over $20 million a year (2013 figure,) his only hope, a capitalization on the fear he’s whipped up around terrorism.

Based on a visible lack of ethics, and political appointments bestowed less on political ability and more on the incumbent’s willingness to mindlessly obey orders in the Harper Government, along with shady moves to retain power during the last three elections, and the introduction of a U.S. style “super pac” to ensure a win in the coming election, there is good reason to be nervous about Harper and his party’s conduct in the run up to the vote.

How the election and it’s outcosore loser2me proceeds will speak volumes. True class and character are shown in how one responds to losing, or even the prospect of a loss. What separates the winners from the losers is how a person reacts when things don’t go their way.

How each of us conducts ourselves during and after the election, regardless of it’s outcome, will say much about our own selves, and the mood of the country. Sore losers aren’t realists … they’re fantasists who can’t fathom a life that doesn’t revolve around their own needs and beliefs.

sore loserCivil discourse and disagreement requires only three things: Don’t make it personal. Avoid put-downs. And, above all, stay calm.

What this week has shown us is public servants who have abdicated responsibility to those they serve, choosing instead an endless pursuit of personal vindication. We can all do better than that.

(originally published June 28/15 – https://bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2015/06/28/roxanne-tellier-bad-week-for-sore-losers/)