Why Are They Arguing Nuances?

I have become wearily amazed at the pundits, left, right and center, who continue to suggest that Donald Drumpf is going to somehow morph into a responsible, reasonable human being, capable of being President of the United States. That he is going to strike a balanced pose, suddenly become capable of speaking and acting like a President is supposed to speak and act.

The time for dreaming is over. He will never achieve even a modicum of the temperament and grace required for this office. Not gonna happen.

This man has written off the daily security briefings. Just ignores them. How the hell could anyone expect anyone with such a blatant disregard for what is arguably the single most important source of information a President needs, how could anyone expect a man who simply ignores that information to ever become a responsible, mature leader?

Drumpf has surrounded himself with white supremacists and racists in the persons of Bannon and Sessions. If you don’t understand that the alt.com movement, together with its most successful mouthpiece, Breitbart, are blatantly white supremacist entities, then you have not looked at even the smallest piece of evidence or visited the site. Jeff Sessions, who, as a member of the Senate Old Boys Club will certainly be confirmed as Attorney General, couldn’t get approval to a federal judgeship because of his history of racist language and actions. These people, like Drumpf himself, are not people who change their life-long beliefs and backgrounds and personalities simply because they have gained a national spotlight.

For Secretary of Education, Drumpf has nominated Betsy DeVos, a religious fundamentalist and believer in school voucher programs as opposed to public school support. He has indicated a climate-change denier for EPA. His Defense nod is a Marine general with the nickname “Mad Dog”, and National Security will be manned by another general who has publicly criticized all Muslims.

Drumpf is not going to suddenly find nuance and diplomacy as traits he has somehow hidden from public view. He has shown he will actively ignore reasoned counsel, preferring the opinions of his son-in-law whose background is in real-estate. He is actively flouting even the semblance of avoiding conflict of interest, and will essentially be running Drumpf Enterprises from the West Wing.

Given all of this, I am truly curious as to how exactly Drumpf supporters think they are going to benefit when he is sworn in? What exactly do they expect a Drumpf presidency to do to make their lives better, which is supposedly why they voted for him in the first place?

  • Do they expect manufacturing jobs to suddenly reappear? The only jobs the untrained will have recourse to are likely the service and farm jobs left when the Hispanic immigrants have been deported.
  • Do they expect a wall to go up to keep those same immigrants out? That’s already been walked back. And you can bet Mexico won’t pay for whatever excuse for a wall (if any) Drumpf manages to get through Congress.
  • Do they expect the repeal of Obamacare, to be suddenly replaced by whatever sleight of hand Drumpf and Ryan can create? With provisions for kids on the parent’s care until age 26 and no refusal for pre-existing conditions? It was these factors, compounded by so many red states (like Alabama) refusing to join the pool, that were the main reasons for the increases in premiums predicted for 2017. And if Ryan has his way, he will dismantle and privatize Medicare, putting a whole generation of seniors on the skids. (BTW: seniors vote more consistently than any other bloc, so any such action is likely political suicide).
  • Do they expect Muslim bans and watch groups and registration lists? These are, unfortunately, real possibilities. But what do they say about the American spirit and our legacy of freedom and acceptance?

Donald Drumpf is not going to suddenly burst out of his cocoon and blossom into a legitimate President. He is going to continue to embarrass the nation in the courts of world opinion, and to frighten our allies with his bullying and bombastic rhetoric, and astonishing lack of comprehension and capability. And his supporters, people who have already shown bad judgement and a dangerous predeliction towards anger and hatred, will not take long to realize how they’ve been had.

The results will manifest with extreme lack of nuance.

© 2016 Chuck Puckett

Democratic Gonads

The day before The Disaster, there was almost universal agreement that the Republican Party had made itself irrelevant. That it was the party itself that had prepared the ground for the abomination that was Donald Drumpf, and that such recklessness was almost criminal neglect. That the GOP had nothing but itself to blame for the impending national embarrassment that this election would provde, and there would be some deep soul-searching at the RNC to try and rectify this disaster. That even the future existence of the Republican Party was in serious doubt.

24 hours later, the entire debate had shifted 180 degrees, and it was the Democratic Party that was in shambles, utterly distraught and near collapse. It seems odd to me that no one in Punditville has remarked on this flabbergasting reversal. Admittedly, the progressives in America are still in a sort of numb shock, and the scythe of history plows on, as Drumpf sets the stage for what will undoubtedly be one of the HUGEST fiascos of an administration in American history. And of course the focus is now on the circular firing squad that is the Drumpf transition team. But the empty shell that is left in the Democrat ranks is worth noting. Because, when Trumpism inevitably plummets by virtue of its own ineptitude, something better be in place to hold the net and recover from whatever implosions and explosions the Orange Bozo generates.

At the grass roots level, there began almost immediately a focused determination to lay the groundwork to reverse the field, starting with 2018 midterm elections. Pantsuit Nation is an example of what is happening in FB world, but all around the country, groups have already started to organize and plan. The realization is that the Left must incorporate a fifty-state strategy, must target down-ballot and local races to have any hope of recovering the moral high ground and the political intiative to push an agenda that profits everyone in the country. Fear, angst and anger are powerful motivators. It is already clear that this country will suffer significant setbacks in health care, voters’ rights, and personal liberty as the Drumpf machine kicks into gear.

The main question before the Democrats, on the other hand, is whether the party will have the gumption to withstand the legislative and executive onslaught that is about to be unleashed on this country. Not only the Affordable Care Act (which may actually be repealed with nothing but a vague promise that the GOP Congress will “get around” to replacing in “the very near future”), but Medicare, Social Security and other programs that have long been considered the third, electrified rail of modern America, are under assault. Drumpf has revealed nothing coherent in the way of policy, on any front. But Paul Ryan definitely has a policy ready to put in place, and that definitely includes privatizing both Medicare and Social Security. Seniors, even those who voted for Drumpf, are in tremendous jeopardy of having their safety net either pulled out from beneath them, or else having the net slashed and torn.

Supreme court nominations will eventually come to table. We can only pray that the liberals on the court can somehow live another four years.

Then there’s the famous Wall. There’s strong talk of reinstating the Muslim Registry, a post 9/11 abomination that the courts struck down. Even Net Neutrality, a fight many had thought was already won, is again in jeopardy, the likely FCC chairman nominee an adamant opponent. And please don’t even mention the EPA and global climate change. The United States, and the world, is about to suffer a horrible reversal in intent and action. Plus the whole regulatory world that has done so much to reverse the pollution catastrophes of the late 20th century is soon to be dismantled. We can certainly trust big business to monitor themselves. And on and on.

The only legislative recourse, indeed, the only recourse left at all as any potential deterrent to this coming tidal wave of destruction, is in the Senate. Sixty is the new majority in the Senate. The Democrats must find the will to resist and defeat the worst of the laws, and to deny the most ludicrous and dangerous of the nominees. In the past, Democrats have never been able to mount any cohesive front. It is, after all, a party of true diversity, and the lockstep mindless obedience that the GOP has shown over the last few decades has eluded them. As it should. But mindful resistance is critical now. A dedicated conviction to put the nation above re-election is paramount.

Much of this starts with the DNC. The new leadership must have a laser focus on the future. It must be dedicated, and that starts with the chairman. I blame Debbie Wasserman-Schulz more than any other single individual for The Disaster. Her ridiculous priorities led her to undermine Sanders and to insure that the most flawed candidate possible was the Democratic opponent to Drumpf. What should never have been in the slightest contention (and would not have been if America had to chose between Sanders and Drumpf), was always a razor-thin contest, ultimately with the razor slicing the Democratic jugular.

Keith Ellison seems a nice enough fellow. But being a fulltime member of the House of Representatives precludes being a fulltime chair. And don’t forget: Wasserman-Schulz also suffered the handicap of dual responsibility. I like a lot of what the South Carolina contender Jaime Harrison has to say, but he comes across as too accomodating and less likely to make the tough decisions. I personally prefer Howard Dean, who, when he last held the post, emerged with the Presidency and majorities in both houses. He is brilliant, focused, articulate, and knows what need to be done and how to do it. But whoever wins the chairmanship, they must be a force of nature in resisting the Republican bulldozer and implementing a fifty state, take-no-prisoner strategy to regain sanity in America.

America needs Democrats with gonads to stand before the tank in the square, and willing to sacrifice themselves in order to say, “This far, and no further.”

© 2016 Chuck Puckett


The Calm Before…

In the days following The Disaster (I think I will henceforth refer to the 2016 election simply as “The Disaster”), progressive American humans did what most humans do in the wake of a calamity: they inevitably began to accept and move on. The signs of continuity are all there to reinforce this adaptive behavior: the sun rises and sets, the alarm goes off, they go to work, come home, watch some TV, read the news. Obla-di, obla-dah, life goes on. This calamity, like all calamities (save some cometary impact or nuclear war), failed to terminate the cycles of life, and those cycles soothe us and reassure us that all can be coped with.

And yet, beneath the calm cool surface of the sea, a completely new reality is quietly forming itself.

In the aftermath, The Donald has made (for him) what appear to be superhuman efforts to sound almost “reasonable”, to offer a demeanor that wants very much to appear “presidential”. Nevermind that his natural demeanor is that of a foul-mouthed bully, the fact that he can go for a few days without insulting whole swaths of the populace is viewed as a victory, proof that he has somehow finally acquired acumen and aplomb. He met with President Obama and managed to avoid sounding like a complete asshole. Voila! Drumpf can talk good. Proof positive that the election actually changed him somehow.

Poo. Donald Drumpf has repeatedly has proven himself incapable of changing, either his behavior or his character.

And don’t forget he still has his finger on the Button. Not the nuclear button, the Twitter button. One wonders if Drumpf will even hold press conferences as President. Or if he does, if he thinks its okay to limit what members of the press are invited, as he did for his rallies. But maybe he’ll just communicate by Twitter, a twit who tweets.

(Btw, I urge everyone to watch his tweets. Sign up, get his pronouncements. This is the only way to stay informed on what he really has in mind. I did. And I admit, to do so was, for me, a very difficult, almost sickening action. But absolutely necessary. If you want the ammunition he’s going to provide, you’ll have to listen to what he says.)

The world indeed did not end, nor even react very much to The Disaster. But remember: Drumpf is still only the president-elect. He cannot yet affect directly the nation nor the world by his “policies”, whatever those eventually evolve into. This calm period is when he gathers the brains that will guide whatever happens over the next four years. And as this process plays out, the real dangers of the coming tide become apparent.

When fellow loud-mouthed bullies like Guiliani, Bolton, Gingrich and Christie and complete morons like Jeff Sessions are serious contenders for major cabinet positions, the writing is etched on the wall. We can certainly expect a climate-change denier for EPA. We’ll see reversals and dismantling of the whole federal regulation edifice, in whatever areas they exist, save immigration. Naming a political insider like Priebus as Chief of Staff will do nothing to inhibit the three ring circus of insanity that is about to descend on Washington.

But the piece de resistance is undoubtedly naming Steve Bannon as “chief strategist”, sort of like he was “CEO of the Campaign.” Bannon ran Brietbart. Bannon is an unabashed supporter, even the figurehead, of alt.right, which is the new “classy” clothing that white supremacists have taken to wearing. But it’s nothing but robes and hoods trying to look acceptable. Having this piece of human garbage run his campaign was bad enough. To install him in the West Wing, just a few doors down from the room where it happens is the single most insulting, and dangerous, action taken by the Drumpf transition thus far.

Be prepared for many more like-minded hallmark moments to follow.

© 2016 Chuck Puckett

An Early Tally

Let’s keep an account, shall we?

  1. Thursday, two days after the election, Drumpf met with Obama in the White House. He acted reasonable, it seemed. Not raving and ranting. But it seemed to me he had a look of fear in his eyes,  a look that was the opposite of confidence. Like, “Oh, shit. What do I do now?” I guess that’s to be expected having just gotten some real information about the world he’s now got to deal with. And having no idea what he’s going to do about it.
  2. Also on Thursday, Drumpf apparently got his tweet account back. His tweet? “Just had a very open and successful presidential election. Now professional protesters, incited by the media, are protesting. Very unfair!” He claimed that all the anti-Drumpf protests were being paid for. By the media.
  3. Here’s the kicker, the real piece of stunning news. Immediately, the day after the election, news outlets all over the world reported that Russia had publicly admitted that they had definitely been in contact with the Drumpf  campaign during the election. That they were still in contact. So the Wiki Leaks that they provided were orchestrated. As Rachel Maddow pointed out, that kind of puts a big question mark on how you deal with Drumpf’s (now) daily security briefings. If the Drumpf team is coordinating with the  Russians, how secure is the information you give to Drumpf ?
  4. Friday:  Drumpf names Pence to lead transition team (and neatly gets rid of the liability that is Chris Christie). Other members of the team include Dr. Ben Carson (a Creationist mentioned for Education), Rudy Giuliani (everyone says Attorney General. Seriously?), Newt Gingrich (Secretary of State? Newt?). Then it’s the inner, trusted circle, the dons of the family: Donald Drumpf Jr., Ivanka Drumpf and her husband, Jared Kushner. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who was considering whether to investigate Drumpf University but declined, is also on the list. Nice payback. Wonder what bone she’ll be thrown. Did poor good ol’ boy Jeff Sessions get stiffed?
  5. Still no tax returns. Worse than that, he still plans for the Drumpf business, not to be placed in a blind trust, but to be run by his children. The same children that are key members on his transition team. Drumpf supporters probably don’t know what “nepotism” is (and certainly can’t spell it), but they should at least understand (massive) “conflict of interest.” Even Dick Cheney put his Halliburton (and other) holdings in a blind trust. So Donald Drumpf plans to run the country without full disclosure of his finances, or where he makes his money. And the country, according to Ivanka, should just trust the Drumpfs, because they’re going to be, like, “super responsible.”
  6. Word comes out today (Sunday) that Drumpf doesn’t plan to live in the White House full time. Maybe weekends in New York City. You know, for the golf and everything. Nothing like keeping your finger on the pulse. In fact, this is nothing like keeping your finger on the pulse.
  7. Drumpf has now said, post election, that he may not want to repeal the Affordable Care Act. He wants to perhaps keep it, but, you know, fix it. Like the Democrats have been trying to do since it was enacted, in the face of adamant Republican obstructionism that, rather than working to fix it, voted 50 some odd times to simply repeal it. With nothing on the table to replace it. Drumpf almost certainly realizes that, in violation of his campaign promises, he can’t simply remove it without putting something in place. No one will stand for a return to “pre-existing conditions disqualify”, and all the other pre-ACA horrors. But he doesn’t have anything to replace it. Tough position.
  8. in a similar vein, Drumpf is back-pedaling renegeing on the Iran deal. Again, someone probably explained he cannot simply act unilaterally. He must now deal with international realities, and he cannot simply declare things to happen by fiat.

That’s enough for now. As I’ve said elsewhere, the minority of the electorate that managed to get him elected, those raving non-thinking, non-critical tools, many voting for the first time ever, who have been so easily manipulated, are not going to react pleasantly as Drumpf encounters political realities that will force him to renege on his favorite promises. Drumpf has no “deal” that he can subsititute for the economic realities that caused manufacturing jobs to be sent off-shore. They won’t be coming back. He may slow the hemoraging by getting Congress to impose massive penalities on any more jobs leaving (good luck: Congress knows who pays their salaries, and it ain’t the government). But he won’t bring the lost sheep back. Drumpf will build no Wall, certainly no Wall that Mexico will pay for. Will Congress enact such a measure, knowing how much it will costs? No. And on and on.

Don’t get me wrong, we face almost certain Trumpish horrors. There’s a lot that can be done (and undone) via executive order. And the question of the future Supreme Court makeup is the 900-pound gorilla in the room. But it is heartening to remember that Republicans used the “60 Vote Is a Majority” reality in the Senate to endlessly deny progress for years. Now it’s time for Democrats to have the political will to do the same.

But the early tally of post-election activities mainly reveals that Drumpf is a small-minded man overwhelmed by a reality that he never really expected to be laid in his lap.  A small man who made himself look big by completelely ignoring civil norms of behavior, by resorting to endless bullying, name-calling and other cowardly actions, the sort of actions that, in all the stories we read as children, resulted in a come-uppance when the story ended.

Here’s hoping for “and they lived…”

© 2016 Chuck Puckett

Boy In the Bubble

The boy in the bubble
And the baby with a baboon heart

I have decided to take a Facebook hiatus. And yes, this decision is a reaction to the results of the election. Facebook, like so many things in our present culture, has an overwhelming tendency to put me (and many people, I suspect) in a self-sustaining bubble. The viewpoints we agree with are enforced, those that we oppose are demonized. I need to walk away, at least from contributing. I’ll read through the posts, like I read the news, once or twice a day. I’ll Like things I like. But I need to find, as the signs in the Smoky Mountain Nat’l Park say, “A Quiet Walkaway”. So no posts, no comments.

For awhile, at least, I’ll make my contributions to the discourse, such as they are, here on my blog. It’s been strongly suggested that my FB posts are too long. True. So I’ll use the longer format of my blog to express my thoughts.

The bomb in the baby carriage
Was wired to the radio

The election revealed something much deeper at work than I realized, though my suspicions were certainly there. The endless contention, the lack of circumspection, the vitriol, the knee-jerk reactions are now part of the woof and weave of our national fabric. Engaging these forces has not been productive. Disengaging, while not having any active effect, will have the definite and positive effect of allowing my focus to move elsewhere. And my focus definitely needs to do that.

Because we are in Trumpland now. They (and I use the pronoun in a very specific way), have the keys, and They will drive the bus, basically unhindered, except of course by the requirement that almost all of Drumpf’s “agenda items” require Senate approval. Perhaps it is the Democrats’ turn to obstruct, using the new “60 votes is now a majority” convention. If the Democrats have the spine, always an open question. And that could, for instance, prevent a lunatic Supreme Court appointment. We’ll see. In any case, the environment is screwed (EPA is fundamentally executive privilege and action), and certainly any possibility of climate change amelioration is (figuratively speaking) toast.

Trumpland is now the landscape. That’s a done deal. It will be interesting to see the reaction when no manufacturing jobs suddenly return, or when no wall is built nor paid for by Mexico. Perhaps that guaranteed disappointment will be the impetus to turn things back the other way. Disillusionment on that scale, in a society now conditioned to instant gratification, may get ugly.

On the other hand, Drumpf’s electorate will not be affected at all by the outrageous embarrassment he will generate by his bombastic bullying and inability to behave as a decent human being, much less the President of the United States. They may even applaud it. “Damn right! Give those fancy bastards hell, Donald!” The rest of us will have to grit our teeth and endure it. But even that will pass.

These are the days of miracles and wonders
This is a long distance call

I think I will just watch for a while. From a distance. Watch and write, and build a house and make our garden grow. This is the time for gaining perspective and heeding the advice of the Serenity Prayer, especially the part about having the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. And then, when it is again possible, the courage to change what I can.

The way we look to a distant constellation
That is dying in a corner of the sky.
These are the days of miracles and wonders
So don’t cry, baby, don’t cry, don’t cry.

It’s far too easy to cry and gnash one’s teeth and moan about the stupidity of it all. Those negative modes have a secret attraction for most people, myself included. In a twisted way, wallowing in self-righteousness feels good. But it doesn’t change anything. In the end, a stoic acceptance for the short term disasters, with a long-distance perspective on what will one day be again possible, that is best strategy.

If the Orange Fool can manage to avoid waking up some night, his paranoid megalomania offended to the point where he launches a first strike against whoever pissed him off… if we can just avoid THAT, then we’ll get by it and through it. The advantage of living long enough is the understanding that, “this, too, shall pass.”

Fare you well, fare you well
I love you more than words can tell
Listen to the river sing sweet songs
To rock my soul.

© 2016 Chuck Puckett

Fearing God

Like many of my posts, this one started as a Facebook thread. This one was generated by a short video in which British actor Stephen Fry gives frank and, to me, compelling reasons why he dismisses the God who underpins the Judeo-Christian religions, YHWH or Jehovah by name. I include a link to that video clip at the end of this post.

I am always struck by the straightforward correctness Fry provides here. Given the constraints of the question (“When you approach the Pearly Gates, how will you answer for your beliefs”, etc; that is, given the standard description of Jehovah as Creator of the Universe), then I must emphatically state that, “Yes, these thoughts resonate COMPLETELY with my personal views.”

But then, I utterly reject the Pearly Gates and the whole White-bearded Father myth, a story which in no way is an actual description of How the Universe Works. It has served well as an age-old excuse for male domination and suppression of women. Cloaked in the trappings of the modern Christian Church, it has continued in that function, and widened its rationalizations to include crusades, inquisitions, hierarchical dominance and a host of other human miseries. And there is no possibility that these myths represent any valid mechanism of how the Earth (much less the Universe) came into being, nor how the underlying mechanisms operate, or have ever operated. In short, the world was not created by an old man with poor vision, limited omniscience and a bad disposition.

Don’t get me wrong. On most alternate weekdays, I lean toward the idea of a Creator, of some sort. Creation ex nihilo, combined with purely random processes as an explanation for the Universe, is an idea that runs counter to my sensibilities and experience. What I suspect (without proof) is that Creation is a sort of cosmic joint enterprise, in which all sentient (and even non-sentient) beings cooperate. regardless of an individual’s awareness of their contribution. If you ever read “Stranger In a Strange Land”, this “mutual participation creation” is somewhat akin to “Thou Art God. I am God. We Are God.” With vague notions of quantum mechanics and Uncertainty Principles thrown in for good measure.

But my world view is a LOT more complicated than that, and impossible to detail (or even properly outline) in a single blog post. I have outlined various aspects at other times and other guises. Suffice it to say that, for me, ontology and teleology are vapid and stupid when weighed against Right Living. It’s not how we got here, nor where it all ends up, that is important. What is important is how we comport ourselves while we’re here. One of the best answers is to do as Jesus (and Buddha and Lao Tse) taught to do. And especially to Live Rightly without fear of the consequence if you do not. Dharma rather than Karma. Love is the central principle, the only one worth committing to.

The worst facet of the Edenic creation myth may well be the way Christian theology twisted the (fairly simple) story into a basis for the idea of Original Sin. But take a look at how the Genesis story goes. You will not find a single statement, or anything resembling it, that refers to Original Sin, neither there, nor anywhere in the Old or New Testament.

What Jesus brought to the game was of course redemptive, but not of or from Jehovah. His message was redemptive by explaining what it takes to live ones life in a way that transcends fear as the prime motivator, and instead substitutes the “greatest of these”: Love.

The Eden myth is as good as any for a Creation myth. And I do admit that it at least makes a stab at trying to explain the old philosophical conundrum of how a perfect God created an imperfect world. So the Creator makes an arbitrary rule, without clarification, and walks off. The WOMAN (note please, it is the WOMAN who is weak, and who receives our cultural blame for all time) listens to the SNAKE (so now the notion of evil was just back-walked a step; why is the snake is “bad”? No fair referring to Milton, he’s several millennia, or billenia, depending on your science, in the future). She listens to the snake, eats the fruit, seduces the man (oh, THAT was hard!) and now imperfection exists. And the capacity to recognize it (“Knowledge of Good & Evil”). Then the Creator comes strolling through the garden, discovers (GASP!) that the two mortals have fallen in the trap, and summarily kicks them out of Paradise.

It took St. Augustine to twist the whole episode into the notion of Original Sin, thus justifying Jesus’ innocent death as a sort of spiritual jujitsu, applying the Hebrew notion of lamb’s blood as atonement, and voila! The unblemished God-in-Man (Emmanuel), by his death and blood, suddenly blots the stain of Original Sin, which humanity has carried since Eden. Except (remember!) Augustine also concocted Original Sin. So he manages to solve a cosmic problem that he himself created. It’s a nice trick.

The Bible itself says nothing about Original Sin. In any case, using the Bible as a handbook for theology is not something I ever plan to do. I’ll use the New Testament “words in red” (I.e, Jesus’ words) as a very good handbook for ethics. There’s none better. But my whole point here has been that using the Bible to justify one’s world view, as a creation explanation or how the Creator of the Universe “works” is a non-starter for me. Give me something reasonable as “explanation”, we’re good. Tell me to get the answer from the Bible, we’re not even asking the same question.

Stephen Fry answers a question about God

© 2016 Chuck Puckett

The Indistinguishable Phusis

From my earliest forays into the spiritual (which formally began in high school, though I had been thinking on these matters since early adolescence), after I had started my survey of the world’s religions and their key figures, I had recognized that there was a strong similarity among all of them. A very strong resemblance in the case of Jesus and Gautama Buddha, but one also easily recognizable, for instance, in the sayings and actions of Lao Tzu, and Moses, and a host of others. From this, a working hypothesis emerged: that all these figures had, in some supreme MOMENT, apprehended the Godhead, the True Reality, the Truth Behind the Veil. For lack of a better phrase, they all experienced an overwhelming Religious Experience, in which, for one brief shining moment, they were at one with the wordless expanse and glory of the Infinite Being.

But, being finite (as we all are), the Infinite could not be “maintained”; they were forced to return to the Here & Now. And they were then required, by the power of their experience, to somehow relate that experience to their fellow human beings. But (and here’s the crux of the matter), they only had the symbols and myths and culture in which they lived to translate the Ineffable, the Wordless, the Beyond Description. And so, each key figure attempted to translate the essence of their experiences using the ideas and notions familiar to them and their listeners. Jesus spoke in parables that are steeped in Jewish culture and history. Siddhatha used the symbols and metaphors available in Hinduism. And so on.

The actual experience is, I believe, the same, and forever incapable of accurately transmitting to their listeners. The message that they deciphered from the experience, the way of life they all urged, is also fundamentally the same: we are One, Love unites, there are consequences for our actions, give aid to those who need it without regard to recompense. Reduce the Self and listen for that “small, still voice” that speaks “when your heart is strangely warmed.”

Some claim that, in the fullness of time, we will all come face to face with the Inevitable and experience this fullness individually and as a conglomerate whole. The religions that adhere to an “arrow of time” world view, wherein there is a Beginning, a Traversal, and an End to everything, are most likely to consider this apocalyptic notion. Whether the Veil is ever lifted, in our lifetime or ever, is debatable. Is there an End of Time, where all is resolved for eternity? “There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophies.” Ask Horatio; I know not.

There does seem to me a slipping backwards at work in our present world, a tendency, in the face of a world that appears ever more terrifying, to relapse into fundamental literalism. Not just in Christianity, for there are similar trends in Hinduism, and of course the other religions “of the Book”. But I do believe that the overall arc of history is towards enlightenment and (if you will) a revelation. Towards unity among all peoples. Consider how the long story has evolved: from isolated tribes in prehistory to villages and cities, coalescing into small kingdoms and then larger kingdoms, then empires, ever ebbing and flowing, but always moving inexorably towards a global culture.

Now, thanks in part to technology, our interconnectedness is truly amazing. This blog, Facebook, Twitter, etc, are all examples of how that interconnectedness works. We all know, more and more frequently, what happens everywhere, all the time. This global neural network is staggering in its import. We have not yet learned how to manage such a maze, and the capability seems at times daunting. The arc of history may point toward a global village, but it does not guarantee it will ever exist.

It is easy to despair, hard to hope. But keeping our eyes on the prize makes it possible.

© 2016 Chuck Puckett

A Civics Lesson

In my naïveté, I guess I have always believed that when a candidate wins delegates in a primary, those delegates are somehow “bound” to him. I have the same belief about the Electoral College, and thus consider their actual meeting a mere formality, neither note nor newsworthy.

It may be true of the College (though careful scrutiny of the Constitution reveals no such binding). But it is apparently emphatically not true of the primary process. There, the “rules” are not of law, but of party origin. And apparently, the process by which actual human delegates are named (after being “chosen” by vote or caucus) has a tremendous latitude. There is in fact, a whole secondary battle fought after the primary to determine who the actual delegates are. And whom they represent.

Also apparently, Ted Cruz is a master in the tactics of this secondary, and arguably more important battle, while The Donald (like most Americans, myself included) doesn’t seem to have even been aware this battle needed to be fought. And while Cruz has amassed a huge number of “false flag” delegates, Drumpf is only now starting to wage this shadow campaign.

Look, I detest both GOP front-runners. But I merely abhor Drumpf, while I am petrified by Cruz. If Cruz (or some white knight GOP mainstreamer like Paul Ryan) were to wrest the GOP nomination from Drumpf via an inner manipulation of arcane delegate machinations, I feel reasonably certain that the multitudes of new, inexperienced voters Drumpf has brought to the party would revolt. Not only revolt; they’d likely take their voting power and either mount a third-party run, or else stay away from the polls in droves, hatching revenge plots and stewing in their bile-soup of anger and fear. And by the way: either scenario probably guarantees a Democratic victory for the White House, assuming even tepid support from the Democratic base.

One can certainly imagine the GOP elite willing to make such a sacrifice, if only to keep their party from completely exploding into smithereens after being struck by a blast from the Donald Drumpf Death Star. Better to serve in Congress than reign in the White House, and you can be sure the GOP is worried to death what a Drumpf candidacy might do to their Senate and even House majorities.

So now I take home this lesson in Civics. But not the Civics I learned in Mr. Kimbro’s class in the 9th grade. It’s not just about three branches of government counter-poised to prevent power accumulation in any one branch. It’s not a bicameral Congress that offers stable long-term Senators to balance the “will-of-the-people” rapidly overturning House. These things didn’t turn out the way the Framers envisioned, and neither did the paths to power. No, this is a lesson in realpolitik Civics, where arcane rules and backroom deals still determine the outcomes.

And that’s just for the GOP. Don’t get me started on the Democrats and super-delegates. I’ve had enough Civics lessons for one day.

© 2016 Chuck Puckett

Apocalypse Now… and Then

I must admit to being a little down in the dumps in the wake of the South Carolina Democratic primary. I expected Bernie to lose, but the margin was much larger than I had feared. The problem seems to be one of not gaining the trust of minorities. I still feel confident that his message would resonate with anyone on the Left who had ears to hear. But people must be willing to at least investigate his ideas.

And so now, if the pundits and prognosticators are right, and things proceed according to the prescribed path of the ancien regime, we are likely to see Hillary as the Democratic nominee. The anti-democratic institution of super-delegates already made the math almost impossible, and unless Sanders gains some significant ground on Super Tuesday, the probability is that the forces that are implicitly and explicitly warping the primary process in Clinton’s favor (read: Debbie Wassername) will prevail, and the Democrats will simply hold on to the old guard. There will be no sea change on the Left. And we will likely lose forever the one true chance to effect a real change in the way politics is done in this country. That is the quiet version of Apocalypse Now.

Which then leads to the much more dramatic Apocalypse Then, in November. With Hillary as the Democratic candidate, and Donald Drumpf the presumptive GOP candidate, we will experience one of two possible soul-wrenching outcomes. Either Clinton prevails, and the moneyed interests continue their stranglehold on American politics, not only unabated, but likely strengthened, embolded by the utter failure to eradicate their influence. Or, and this is not unlikely with a Clinton-Drumpf matchup, Donald Drumpf actually becomes the next President of the United States. The horror of such an spectacle freezes the marrow of any circumspectful citizen. And yet, the electorate in many ways has morphed into an unrecognizable mob, intent on some sort of drastic change, and the old school sameness that Hillary represents could be in real jeopardy in the general election.

And so I feel less than optimistic at the moment, as if a chill gale were bearing down on the country, fully capable of dismantling reason and further deteriorating an already embattled ethics. It is an ill wind that blows against the empire. But it blows nevertheless.

© 2016 Chuck Puckett

Worldview Bubble Bath

These days, we all tend to live in self-amplifying bubbles. We have opinions and world views, and the shows we watch and (God forbid!) the books we read, unless we are that rare breed of “open-minded, yet discriminating” folk, tend to reinforce those opinions. Facebook pretty much acts as a further enabler in this isolationism. I know many who have defriended those with opposing views. I personally try to keep many separate viewpoints in my FB universe (and this has not always led to pleasant exchanges 🙂 ), but the workings of FB itself seems to keep like-minded postings in my feed. Or else the unlike-minded simply post less, which is doubtful.

But even with my “big tent” philosophy of FB frienddom, I’m still living in a bubble. Not necessarily of political and philosophical and religious homogeneity, but rather one of cogitation and involvement and attention. I watched Obama’s final State Of The Union speechon Tuesday. I know a great many in my FB universe also watched, and with varying responses and reactions. BUT THEY WATCHED. Agreeing or not. Just like I used to do with W.

The point is, I can thus be fooled into thinking that a great many Americans watched. My FB universe skews me to that perception. But I expect the reality is quite a bit different. Instead, to the extent that many even care, they will get their SOTU fed in sound bites and talking head recaps, all patently guaranteed to continue to reinforce whatever world view they’ve “chosen”. FOX and MSNBC and CNN, etc., will condense and regurgitate whatever editorial emphasis has been agreed on.

But I fear that, for the much wider population, even those outlets will be ignored. Facebook leads me to the perception that most Americans are engaged and care and try to stay informed. The truth is probably much closer to the majority staying informed mainly on Kardashians and the NFL playoffs.

Jefferson would be distressed, don’t you think?

© 2016 Chuck Puckett