Donald and his Deadbeats

Tea Party stampDonald Trump loves America, right? Wants it to become “great again.” Funny sentiments from someone whose behavior suggests he’d rather see it starve. He made an economic speech earlier this week that, if economic experts are to be believed, would give little if anything to the poor and middle class but would dish out  juicy new tax loopholes for his billionaire cronies, adding trillions to the national debt.

I will leave the actual details to the economists. But the net effect of his proposals is twofold: He would allow those with the fewest resources to continue to foot the bill for living in this country, and he would give the people best able to support this so-called greatest nation on Earth a pass.

Pee-eww.

Full disclosure: Because I am the descendant of a low-level robber baron, I can be considered among that dreaded 10 percent. I live comfortably, not lavishly. I appreciate the freedom my resources provide me. I also  accept the idea that, because of my good fortune, I am obligated to help others as  I am able.

Money is energy, nothing more, nothing less. I can use  that energy trying to make things better  or I can spend that energy trying to make my life better. How I direct that energy demonstrate my priorities. As they say, follow the money.

I pay taxes. Willingly. Of course, I take every legitimate deduction I can, but I don’t go out of my way to seek shelters or to avoid paying what I legitimately owe. I see taxes as the price I pay for living in the greatest nation on Earth. My accountant looks at me with bemusement when I sigh and pay a particularly high bill. I’m not thrilled to pay it; I’m as prone to greed as the next human being. I also know I am not going to starve. I pay the bill. Willingly.

Donald Trump and his ilk seem to think that living and working in the United States should be a free ride. Of course, we don’t know how free a ride Trump has been having because he won’t release his tax returns. But by spending so much time and energy avoiding taxes, it’s clear they don’t care what happens to the rest of us.

I have been reading the thoroughly delightful and well-researched book, Lafayette in these Somewhat United States by Sarah Vowell. It is the story of the American Revolution told via the words and letters of the people who actually fought it. She reminds me that this nation was founded on a, shall we say, skeptical attitude toward taxes. The Tea Party, those rascals who have managed to convince a sizable portion of Congress that brains have no place in politics, take their name from the incident that fired the national imagination and led almost inexorably to the war for independence.

The Disney image of all those colonists running around in Indian garb smashing tea chests and dumping them in Boston Harbor may not historically accurate but it is deeply rooted in the national psyche. Lest we forget, however, the issue wasn’t taxes per se. It was taxation without representation. Last time I looked, we have plenty of representation when it comes to our taxes. Of course, what passes for representation today might not fly  with the discerning taxpayer, but we always have the opportunity to change  representation. The point is this is not 1773 and this is not pre-Revolutionary America suffering the dictates of a Parliament on the other side of the Atlantic. The issue is who should support this country? As I see it, all of us  have a piece of that bill.

A friend in the counseling business decries the drastic increase in the numbers of fathers who, at the end of a marriage, walk out the door without the slightest intention of supporting their children. It’s particularly galling among those men with means. They don’t accept that feeding, clothing and educating their children remains their responsibility even after a divorce. They don’t mind being known as deadbeats. Worse, they have the means to avoid the nasty consequences rightly heaped on poorer parents who abandon their kids.

It’s the same mentality among those individuals and corporations (I know corporations are not people, and you know they’re not people, but so far, corporations seem to be getting the people treatment, so allow me a little anthropomorphism here) who blithely take their profits and stash them where Uncle Sam can’t touch them.

By hiding their wealth, they are saying it’s OK to freeload on all the benefits of living in this country and exploit the economic, security and educational infrastructure of this nation to get incredibly wealthy. To hell with the rest of us.

The light company doesn’t  give away electricity. The gas company doesn’t give away the methane it rips from the ground. Even Donald’s deadbeats charge for whatever widget they manufacture, or hedge fund they set up or idea that catches fire. They don’t give their things away yet they gladly skate on their obligation to the rest of us.

The government doesn’t always get it right. There have been too many documented IRS abuses that have destroyed lives. There is a lot of room to fix the way we pay for this national enterprise. But unless you’re Grover Norquist and really want to see an emaciated national government drown in some giant bathtub, we have to keep the enterprise afloat in order to make things better.

The Donald and his Deadbeats can’t see any farther than the end of their noses. They have come to believe that because they are rich, we owe them. We should be in such awe of their accomplishments that they are relieved of the obligations of citizenship.

Au contraire. Because they have benefited so greatly from this magnificent country, they should be first in line with their thank you gifts. These supposedly smart people (and corporations) should be able to see the connection between their prosperity and the place where they created it. They have a stake in making sure it stays healthy; to keep the good times rolling

Deadbeats delude themselves by thinking wealth is somehow an indicator of self-worth. On the contrary, wealth is simply a measure of accumulation. How it is used is a measure of character. It’s not what you have but what you do with it that shows the world how you measure up as a human being.

As far as I can see, these deadbeats are big fat zeros.

 

 

 

 

 

 

101 Days

As the temperature refuses to dip much below 90, it’s hard to picture Nov. 8. It’s too far away to get worked up about. And yet, we have only 101 days left to decide what kind of America we want to wake up in on Nov. 9.

We have seen two people, both of whom are seeking the same office, give us their visions of the country and the road ahead. Donald Trump sees an America that is hobbling and needs a crutch. He sees a country challenged by outside forces and asks us to cower behind walls. And he would declare himself our national savior. Had there been no Declaration of Independence or Constitution, his vision still would have been of an America not worth the ink its map is printed on. But because of the ideals on which this country was founded, his strongman approach repudiates everything we have stood for. His America is not mine.

I have spoken to seemingly normal people who say they love their country and yet think that’s just what we need;  someone who will break through the political gridlock by dint of dictate. Who will sweep our problems aside with a command.  That is the kind of thinking that allowed Adolf Hitler to come to power. I am dumbfounded that people who say they love this country and are old enough to remember World War II can in good conscience go there.

The other candidate, a woman for the first time in our history, painted a portrait of a great yet still flawed country. Hillary Clinton reached out to those who feel they have been overlooked and disrespected. She offered concrete ideas for getting them back in the game. She honored those who have served us, in the military, in the safety forces, as teachers, as doctors, as anyone whose chosen career is dedicated to making other lives better. By uttering the national motto, E pluribus unum, she included those who reject her. It takes all of us to do this job of forming a more perfect union, she told us.

So now to the campaign. It will be ugly, inspiring, hard to watch and harder to say away from. I live in Ohio and dread the avalanche of door hangers, robocalls, junk mail flyers and all the other political detritus that will be thrust in my face because I live in a swing state. We are  small but mighty, us swing states. I suspect a majority of campaign budgets will be spent on us.

The difference in this election is that not only will I vote — Americans who sit out elections lose their claim to their birthright as citizens — but I will work my heart out. This could be the election that comes down to one vote in one precinct in my humble hometown. If the election goes to the unthinkable, and I know that there was any chance I might have been able to do something but failed to act, I will be a long time finding ways to forgive myself.

Not everyone will work. Not everyone sees the stark, frightening  choice we are facing. It is there nonetheless. We are Americans. We say we believe in freedom, justice, fair play, equality of opportunity. We have a chance to put our vote where our mouths are.

101 days. And counting.

A Nation of Cowards?

Full disclosure: I did not watch much of the Republican convention this week. I rarely watch political conventions. I find the drama and everyone’s tendency to showboat tedious. This year I also avoided it because I try to limit my exposure to negative energy. There has been precious little but negative energy coming out of the Q. Except for the positive energy toward the King of Negativity.Declaration 1

I failed. After about 30 seconds, my stomach was in knots and my head was pounding. What I heard in those few moments was enough. It literally made me sick.

Trump said he would be the “Law and Order president.” Clearly, he didn’t venture outside his four-day Love Fest inside Quicken Loans Arena to see plenty of law and order being provided by police officers from across the nation. They presided over a relatively  festive atmosphere despite the clear  passions felt by those on all side of whatever event was scheduled during the demonstrations. Police, demonstrators, passers-by, even reporters were smiling, hugging, welcoming. Outside the Q there was no sign of the hatred being brewed inside.

Trump cherry-picked statistics to drive home the point that we are teetering on the edge of civil chaos. Here’s what he couldn’t mention. Overall, violent crime is half what it was in the 1990s. The economy is in great shape. In fact, by most measures, we are far better off now than we were when President Obama took office nearly 8 years ago. Are we perfect? Nope. Do we have serious issues? Yep. But by and large, if we would just relax a minute, take a breath and look at the national landscape, we’d see we’re in pretty darn good shape. And the big problems we do have — national opioid epidemic just to pick  one — are nowhere on Trump’s radar. That reality doesn’t suit the Donald’s need for the masses to kowtow to the Great Protector. So he makes up his own.

 

In creating this straw man of insecurity, Trump told delegates and the viewing public to be afraid, be very afraid. Be afraid of people who don’t look like them, who don’t worship like them, whose cultures celebrate differently. He asked people to reject the very idea of anything they don’t know or find familiar. He asked his followers to make us a nation of cowards.

If he succeeds, he will reduce the country I love  to one simpering in fear, afraid to venture outside itself and take part in the world. “Americanism, not Globalism, will be our credo.” He would turn us into 322 million navel-gazers.

I am only too aware that the historic narrative we were taught is often at odds with reality. We who came here from Europe summarily appropriated land simply because we wanted it, needed it and the folks who were already here were in the way. While we were building a nation, we appropriated the lives and labor of millions of Africans and others who had no power to resist. We continue to ride that cushion of privilege, often unwittingly perpetuating a system most of us recognize as rigged against anybody but us.

We need to remember this as we move forward.  Still, we cannot lose sight of the greatness that is the idea of America. If we parse the facts, we will drown in petty detail. And Trump has proved himself more than willing to manipulate facts and to tell untruths to rob us of our birthright as a courageous people.

This country was first an idea, one that inspired people to turn their backs on the familiar and to break with an unjust system. This idea attracted people the world over to build the lives they dreamed of. This idea built what I believe is the greatest country on Earth. July 4th, we celebrated that idea. We cannot abandon it.

Trump’s acceptance speech had no room for such words as:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness,” or

“We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish the Constitution for the United States of America.”

We have fought an internal war over these ideals. We have paid dearly for the idea of a country of the people, by the people and for the people. I am grateful it did not perish from the Earth then. It is in danger now.

Trump would have us throw that all away in exchange for law and order. In the name of personal security, we should turn our backs on the notion of a common defense, a general welfare. Indeed, he would have us denounce the very notion that we are all in this enterprise together. Blessings of liberty? What liberty? For whom?

The Declaration’s end captured my young imagination. Thinking of the men in that room in 1776 who had been branded as traitors by their government, who knew that signing the document would likely sign their death warrant would any of them be captured, I wondered whether I possessed that kind of courage.

I  now know the answer. I pray it doesn’t come to that but I’m with the spirit of those 56 founders who said: “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”

A Cranky Little Old White Lady says. . .

IMG_7630Thus begins the Cranky Little Old White Lady blog. Here I will share periodic observations of a 67-year-old white woman (as of July 2016). I’ll be ruminating on life, love, patriotism, race, gender, gardening, food, whatever is on my heart/mind that day. I intend to be seriously light-hearted. I will speak my truth; if it resonates with you, fine. If not, remember it’s just the meanderings of one cranky little old white lady.

Labels are all but inevitable. They can damage, especially when doled out by others based on  stereotypes, assumptions, experience, fear, whatever. They’re handy when adopted intentionally. I picked each of my labels and believe you have the right to know something about the person behind them.

Cranky: Right now, I’d be cranky no matter how old or what gender or color I am. We are witnessing the systematic takeover of our beloved country by ignorant, fearful, hateful power mongers who cannot or, I believe, choose not to act in the best interests of this country. I’m mad as hell that we all have – myself included – let these shenanigans go on so long that it’s come to this point: The Republican Party – the party of Lincoln – at its national convention in Cleveland this week is about to nominate for president of the United States a congenital narcissist whose only real interest, as far as I can see, is to aggrandize himself and increase the value of the Trump brand. There is not an ounce of public servant in the man. Most who flock to him are desperately seeking answers to question far more complex than can be addressed in one or two words. But he gives ’em what they want. Those who support him out of a stated desire for party unity have lost any right to my respect. Not that they give a rat’s ass about folks like me. But people in positions of leadership who choose to turn a blind eye to the viciousness of his words and the way Trump calls forth the basest of our natures have relinquished their birthright to a nation that stands for something much more ideal. Those among us who see the problem but think there is still time to sit back and watch, or who say, “Really, this isn’t happening. Not to us,” are nearly as bad. It is happening, now, in this great country. We once believed in “give me your tired, your poor.” Today the party of Lincoln (I intend to use that phrase a lot to irritate Republicans who might still have souls) has actually endorsed a political platform that calls for building a wall across our border with Mexico. Although, as things stand, Mexico might pay for it just to keep us out.

Little –I am short. After having been the tallest girl in fourth grade, it was downhill from there. Everyone else kept growing until I was average among my peers. At the same time  I began my expansion into clinical obesity, although most of the kids just called me fat. After years of dieting, with more failures than successes, after a lifetime of wanting just about any one else’s body but the one I was in, and after, in despair, convincing  myself small was never an adjective that would describe me, I found the magic of real food. Now I am little. Five-feet three, down from 5’4-1/4. I wear a small in anything. Even my shoes are a half-size smaller than they were. Little fits.

Old – I started receiving Medicare two years ago andSocial Security last year. Officially, that makes me old. I don’t feel old but I watch how people react to my short white hair and the clear evidence that I haven’t been carded in decades. To them I’m old. Young adults call me ma’am. Whether 67 is young-old, middle-old or old-old are hairs I don’t care to split right now. I don’t have enough hair to waste on such a silly exercise.

White – I have come to refer to my ethnic background as Northern European mutt. There’s British, Irish, Scots, Welsh, French, a little Italian (I’m thinking the Alps region) with a dash of Spanish and North African. I look white and I’m white according to census criteria. That makes it official. This is an important descriptor because those of us who have been floating on the luxury barge SS White Privilege are the only ones who can get up and give someone else a comfortable seat. We need to get over ourselves and welcome everyone else on board. And only someone with membership in that exclusive club can tell them the truth. Not saying they’ll like it. But someone needs to start THAT conversation. I’m here.

Lady – This is the identifier I had the most trouble with, simply because there has been, as long as I’ve been alive, a distinction between being a woman and being a lady. Actually, I’m female, although that is only a biological classification. My being a woman is a biological fact of life. I’m a female who at one point in my life menstruated. The past tense confirms the old part. In our culture, to be called a woman is not necessarily a compliment. To be called a lady is always a compliment although not necessarily for the right reasons. As I have been taught to see things, a woman is her own person, which is seen as dangerous. A lady can be her own person but not out loud. She earns the appellation by being beautiful, demure, graceful and above all, appropriate. A woman farts; a lady passes gas (and only in the confines of her own bathroom at night when everyone else is asleep). A woman shakes hands; a lady touches fingers. A woman laughs; a lady titters. In those contexts, I am no lady. But I learned long ago from the most womanly lady I’ve ever known that a woman with class is very much a lady. She won’t go out of her way to make others look bad even when she knows she’s the smartest person in the room. She understands the importance of compassion and empathy and seeks to laugh with her companions, not at them. I’ve known many conventional ladies who smile at you and watch you walk away in shreds. A womanly lady can show up in sweats and a T-shirt and still look good, because being a womanly lady is an inside job. She’s confident, light-hearted, absolutely committed to her friends and family and the things that matter most in her life. She doesn’t take shit from anyone, but isn’t compelled to rub your nose in your bad behavior.IMG_7630.jpg

So that’s me, the Cranky Little Old White Lady. I have some things to say. Take your earplugs out. It’s going to be fun.