We are a frustrated nation

•April 13, 2016 • Leave a Comment

I’ve been watching with horror the masses of people excited about Donald Trump. I’ve been watching with annoyance the Bernie Sanders voters who rail about “never Hillary” as if their voting records weren’t nearly identical.

What Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump stand for is very, very different. I voted for Bernie Sanders, after all, and would seriously look into leaving the country if Donald Trump were elected, after his hate-filled rhetoric.

But what they have in common is that they have pulled in disenchanted voters on opposite ends of the spectrum, who share a mutual frustration with the system. It’s the reason why my one Tea Party friend on Facebook, someone I know from elementary school who is now a small business owner in Texas, have in common is our dislike for the money in politics.

Because that is our system. We are a capitalist country, more or less run by corporations who government can only try and reign in and regulate – not get rid of entirely or even prevent from spending money in elections.

Like most things, it’s all on a continuum, as opposed to being black and white in the way that Trump and Sanders both tend to talk about it. But Citizens United means things swung pretty far in the direction of more money in politics, and that won’t change until we either elect enough people in Congress or get a substantially different Supreme Court makeup. It will probably swing back eventually.

But that’s the thing – our democracy is one of swings back and forth. Unless we dismantle the system entirely, that’s never going to change. So when people talk about voting for the “lesser of two evils” that really is all we can do. We can vote for the direction we want it to swing, but we can’t realistically expect revolution. People seem to have gotten the idea from Obama’s campaign that he promised he could bring about a revolution, but he never said that. He ran as a moderate Democrat and has governed as one. His foreign policy has largely been the same as both Bushes, and Bill Clinton’s. I’d like that to change, but clearly the corporate interests don’t. So I wait for that to swing back. Still, many not insignificant changes have happened in our country in the last years, in the realm of domestic policy and civil rights. Nothing revolutionary but still important.

We have a two party system. We always have, and we always will, unless the Great American Experiment ends. And I’m not sure we really want it to end, since we don’t know what will pop up in its place. Rather, we have to keep pressuring the system to shift in the direction we want it to shift, and have patience with things not moving fast enough.

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•March 18, 2016 • Enter your password to view comments.

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Meshugana Lyons (August 1997-March 2016)  and Biddy Hawthorne McGraw (July 2000-February 2016)

•March 17, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Meshugana was my cat first. Meshugana was my cat before there was an us, long before we were a family. Long before I knew I’d be moving across the country to go to grad school, and again across the city when we bought a place. I remember when I had to move six blocks away within NW Portland, from one apartment to another, because my floor was so badly damaged they had to tear the kitchen up, he freaked out about the move and tried to climb the walls. Six months later I packed him into a moving truck and loaded him up with kitty tranquilizers. As it turns out, he didn’t need them. He was miserable for the eight day drive, and probably thought he was in hell, but he bounced back just fine when we arrived in Cambridge.

There was that one night in Nebraska when I became panicked that he must have gotten out in the hotel parking lot, but it turned out he just wedged himself between the dresser and the wall, even though there did not appear to be any space for a cat to fit.

He was pissed when we brought home his little sister, and we couldn’t leave them in the same room for two weeks. Eventually he stopped hissing at her and started trying to play with her, and they became the best of friends. He’d groom her if she didn’t do it well enough. I remember working ten hour shifts at the residential treatment program in Oregon, and I’d come home to find him needy and squawky. He was better not as an only cat. He never tried to answer the phone when we went out, or escape to play with the raccoons, once he had a companion.

Once he squawked at us until we figured out we’d accidentally closed the coat closet with Biddy locked inside. “Timmy’s in the well! Timmy’s in the well!”

He was playful once. It feels like a long time since he chased paper wads and red laser lights, but that those were his favorite games. We had to keep all our plants up high because he wanted to eat them all, and then one day he was so arthritic he couldn’t jump up on the couch. I guess that’s why they say cats are “senior cats” by the time they’re seven or eight, so by the time Meshugana was 18.5 he’d been a senior cat for longer than he was not. Biddy only lived to be 15.5 and never seemed as playful. She was serious – serious about needing her space and serious about catching bugs and mice and trying to eat anything she could fit into her mouth. But even she liked to chase her tail, right up until the end.  They were healthy, hardly ever sick, until the end.  It fed my irrational hope that they might be immortal. 

When we moved across the river into Boston, both cats freaked out a little, but they just hunkered down in one closet and stayed there till it was over. They had each other, and that made everything better. And having a deck was nice – the closest thing our indoor cats could get to being outdoors. Meshugana totally took advantage of it, even went across the deck to our neighbor’s side when he needed his space but still wanted to be outside. Biddy never wanted to be outside. They balanced each other out nicely.


The state of American politics

•February 23, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Let’s be clear: Usually after 8 years of one party having the White House the other party gets a chance to try running the country. This SHOULD be the Republicans’ year.

But the Republicans have such a mess of incompetent, lying sacks of shit running for their nomination that they have all but ceded control of their party to Trump, with some last ditch hope that maybe Rubio (who I think they didn’t want to run until 2020) will be able to be as good candidate as Romney – which we all see how good that got him and them.

Refusing to even consider Supreme Court nominees Obama might select has no historical precedent. The longest period of time we’ve been down a justice is 125 days, and Obama has over twice that left in office. This grandstanding obstructionism will not play out well in the election, and just hands the election to Clinton OR Sanders, barring some disaster.

What this says about our political system is terrible. We have one party that has no idea what it stands for and will allow a bully celebrity who is only a celebrity and a billionaire because of family wealth run their party into the ground.

And then we have the Democrats, who are still trying to pretend we have a functional democracy made up of grownups.

The Donald Trump phenomenon 

•February 18, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Donald Trump is the ugly essence of American capitalism, and the natural consequence of rhetoric the Republican part has been using for years.   He comes from money, from a safety net most Americans don’t enjoy.  His only business successes came in the 1980s, when he was able to use his family name and money to broker some real estate deals, many of which fell apart because instead he got into screaming matches with Ed Koch.

He would have been destitute if not for family money, instead he got the opportunity to run a casino in Atlantic city and one in Nevada into the ground,  declaring bankruptcy four times. He also had failed efforts to put his brand on vodka, an airline, and other things.  Each business venture that failed resulted in thousands of people losing their jobs. His brand is nothing more than his name.  That’s what he sells.  Then he convinced someone to give him a television show that involved yelling at people and firing them, as if it was a sport.

What he’s good at is marketing himself.  He’s not actually  good at running a business.

And all the while he goes around berating others who are less fortunate, while pretending he didn’t only get where he is due to family money.  Remember when people pointed out that Paul Ryan was threatening to cut Social Secutity while benefiting from his dead father’s Social  Security benefits? How is anything more than the extreme version of what they’ve been peddling for decades?

From Donald Trump’s perspective, it doesn’t matter if he wins the election.  His brand wins because of how much time and money we’ve spent talking about it.  But from the perspective of our country, it matters a great deal.  Mitt Romeny at least had the humility to be embarrassed that his exploits at Bain Capital cost thousands of people their jobs. Donald Trump doesn’t care.  He doesn’t care about us, or America, or anyone but his own brand.

Dear School System

•January 20, 2016 • Leave a Comment

My son is three and a half. He may be entering a public pre-K school next September.  Please don’t fuck it up.

By that I mean, please don’t destroy his natural love of learning – about the hawk in the sky we saw this morning on our walk to the bus, about the snow, about where he was before he was born.  Please don’t destroy his love of books and narrative and rhythmic language by making him read shitty things because someone told you kids should read it, someone who hasn’t actually worked with kids in decades but decides policy from their office.

My son would like to go to “soccer school” and I’ve tried to prepare him for the reality that most likely, he can do soccer or baseball or whatever other sport he wants after school but he’ll have to learn reading and writing and things like that as well.  Please don’t make him sit still for 6 or 8 hours a day, that’s not natural even  for me, much less a three year old.

My son is a black boy.  But that doesn’t mean he’s going to go on to play basketball, or that if he expresses a feeling he’s dangerous or explosive.  Please check your implicit racial biases at the door and don’t project them — good or bad — onto my son.   My son also has two white Jewish moms, so please don’t assume everyone in your classrooms is Christian, or has a mommy and a daddy.  Most kids these days don’t, and contrary to what the right wing would have you believe, that’s not necessarily a defect or a failing.

Dear school system, I am scared to enroll my son. I am excited and happy for him, because he’s growing up and becoming an interesting and interested young boy, but I am scared. Scared that the bright, happy, empathetic boy he is will be squashed out of him by your standardized testing and your rules.  Please help me keep this from happening.




Parenting fail 

•January 15, 2016 • Leave a Comment

This week has been really hard on my mornings, and not just for me. My son usually sleeps in till eight am and then we leisurely get up, eat breakfast, get dressed, read a story, watch an episode of Peppa pig while I pick out his hair. But this week, he’s had to be woken up early so I can get him to day care in time to make it across town to get to this class by nine am. It’s been tough. Doesn’t help that he’s finishing up a treatment of prednisone for another out of cold-related asthma symptoms. He really needs his rest. Doesn’t help that his best friend Garvin hasn’t come back to day care since his trip to Ireland and he really misses him. He’s a little more reluctant to move in the mornings anyway. 

 This morning, our third morning of this, I kind of lost my cool with him and yelled and picked him up and carried him down the stairs. He was doing that thing that three year olds do, which is take an inordinately long time to get anywhere, whether because they don’t want to go or because they have a very specific order that other things need to happen first and you just at don’t understand, you stupid adult with your stupid timeframes for everything. I yelled. He cried when I picked him up and moved him. And I realized it’s really not that important, even though it is, so I apologized, about five times. 

He moved on, because the most wonderful thing about three year olds is how forgiving they are when we screw up. When I left him at day care he was in a heated argument with Nathan about whether his mask was Donatello or Donny, and neither would be convinced by my very rational, ridiculous argument that Donny is just a nickname for Donatello so they were kind of both right. I think we’re better now. But I still feel bad. How do I learn to be as forgiving as he is, only with myself?  


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