DESCENDING TO THE CENTER OF DISSENSION

In Hebrew, one is always said to be “going up to Jerusalem.” Not only because Jerusalem sits on a mountain — not one of the Rockies or the Himalayas, but a mountain — something you’d know if you tried to drive there in a small car up the roads to the city from the coast, but because it is closer to heaven than other parts of earth.

For Donaldo MacCheesehead, it is definitely descending.

MacCheesehead’s trip to the middle east terrifies me on one hand, but on the other makes me laugh uncontrollably — to the point of falling down. If I had another hand, I’m not sure what I would do. Maybe weep?

Jerusalem – the star in the middle was where I lived, an area called “Baka.”

I remember when I went up to live in Jerusalem. I had read Exodus (Leon Uris) probably 100 times the year I was 14. I had been exhorted by my mother and many other family members on the importance of Israel to Our People. For the life of me, I couldn’t see why everyone couldn’t reach a sensible settlement. I’m a lot smarter than Chief Orange Blossom, but it turns out, you really need to live there for a while to “get” it. When I finally got it, I knew it was time to go home. I was not going to settle the problems. Not mine or anyone else’s.

To say that it’s “not as easy as it appears” doesn’t come near the heart of the problem. There isn’t a heart to the problem. So much of what happened in the region took place long enough ago that its remembrance is wildly twisted. The shape of the past bears little resemblance to anything that really happened. It has been buried by myth, opinion, counter-opinion, hopes, dreams … and far too much money spent on guns and hate.

Israel now

Who did what, when, and why? There is some truth to everything, but there is no absolute Truth in the craziness. No final, resonating Grand Truth against which no argument will stand except this single one.

The Jewish people deserve a place on earth where they can live and not be slaughtered because they are Jews. You can’t extract that position from the equation and come up with any answer.

The return of lands to Egypt and Syria

Since that is what “the Arab States” have consistently demanded, there has been no significant progress … collectively. Yet there has been quite a lot of progress between individual countries. Even before Jordan and Israel had an “official” peace, they had a good, working, informal agreement. And a lot of traffic between the two countries.

The peace with Egypt has had its ups and downs, but it still is hanging in there, on some level, and maybe if that nation’s own craziness were to fade, things would probably improve elsewhere, too.

Syria? Well, that’s not happening anytime soon. Lebanon? I don’t know what’s going  on up there, these days, so I have no current opinion. If I had one, I’m sure it would be complex, confusing, and involve hashish.

Israel in context with neighboring countries

America’s Orange King is going to discover — soon — that nothing in this part of the world is simple. He has not risen to Jerusalem, but rather fallen into the mire. In many ways, it should remind the man of his own issues with truth. Because in the middle east, there is no truth. Just fights, disagreement, disputes, arguments, confusion, dismay, ancient hatreds, and grudges which will never die.

“Simple” in not a word to use when talking of Israel and her neighbors.

If not for the future of human life and death on Planet Earth were not part of this conversation, it really would be funny.

So. For a man whose ability to focus on a problem is shorter than two minutes, getting him to “think” about making peace in the middle east really does make me choke with laughter … and tears. I’m sure his vision for the region is … HUGE!

IF HE DOESN’T KILL US, HE’LL MAKE US STRONGER – BY ELLIN CURLEY

If he doesn’t kill American democracy, Trump could actually make our country stronger. Not because of any of his actions, but because of the sweeping and strong REaction he has created in a large segment of the population. He may end up strengthening the Progressive Movement in the U.S as well as redefining and empowering the Democratic Party.

The Tea Party and Donald Trump were both catapulted into power by a small but very active and vocal right-wing minority. Though Democrats have technically been the majority party for a long time, the left never had the grass-roots organization or the passion that the far right Republicans did.

Trump’s election may have awoken the sleeping, liberal giant. Progressives haven’t been this mobilized and energized since the anti-Vietnam War Movement. And this time, a wider cross-section of the country is involved in the ‘Resistance.’ Large numbers of people who have never been politically active, suddenly feel an urgent need to speak out and act out.

ABC News

Grass roots progressives are organizing themselves on a scale never seen before, with little direction from the top. They are marching and going to Town Hall Meetings with Congressmen in record numbers. They are overwhelming Congressional offices with letters, emails and phone calls.

They have donated millions of dollars to Progressive organizations, like Planned Parenthood and the ACLU; organizations that have taken on the Trump administration legally as well as politically. This has already helped derail some major Trump policies, from the travel ban to the repeal of Obamacare.

Democrats have not been known for voting en mass in mid-term elections. They get complacent. Now liberals are flooding the voting booths for special elections all over the country. So far, their activism is being translated into votes, the true test of political power. If this momentum can be sustained into the 2018 elections, there’s a chance that the Democrats could regain control of at least one of the Houses of Congress. That would be a game changer. If Democrats continue to vote in higher numbers than they have historically, it could mean that they could also retake the White House in 2020. That is the ultimate goal.

Another positive side effect of our national Trump trauma PTSD, is that the Democratic Party itself is also undergoing a major change for the better. The outraged populous, led by Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, is demanding a more economically populist platform going forward. The activists want the Democrats to emphasize positions that will win back the struggling and angry segment of the country. The people who are hurting economically and who feel left behind by a government by and for the top 1%.

Polls show that Democrats are perceived to be out of touch with the needs of the people. In reality, their policy positions in the 2016 campaign were well designed to actually meet those needs. But somehow Hillary Clinton did not get the message across, even though she adopted most of Bernie’s left of center positions. Sanders was seen as voice for the common man and she was not.

It’s important that Bernie’s ‘image’ somehow gets transferred to the Democratic Party as a whole. His ‘voice’ has to become the ‘voice’ of the party. That seems to be the direction the Democrats are moving. Younger people and more women are preparing to run for office as Democrats. They are also getting more involved in state and local politics. This will help reshape the Democratic Party into a more openly liberal and hopefully more popular party, at all levels of government.

Maybe we should thank Trump for helping the formerly silent Democratic majority find their political legs. He may be responsible for a new and better Progressive movement that is clarifying its goals and consolidating its political clout. Hopefully this means that Trump has sown the seeds of his own destruction.

SUMMERTIME – MAY IN THE MIDDLE

Photo: Garry Armstrong

This is how it works in New England. It starts with winter. Which may begin as early as September, but more typically gets moving around Thanksgiving … but may hold off until late January. The worst winter we ever had (that was measurable) started January 29, 2015. We hadn’t had so much as a serious flurry.

From the end of January until March, we were hit by just about 12 feet of snow. That is a lot of snow, no matter how you count it or what measurements you use. Other years, we’ve gotten significant snow in early November and not seen the ground until the following April.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

About spring. It’s our most ephemeral season. Many years, we go directly from winter to summer without a weekend to go buy a bathing suit. The first year I spent in New England, the temperature hit 90 degrees in early April and never dropped until suddenly, in September, the temperature fell by 60 degrees. Autumn arrived.

Pink wildflowers by the river

This year was as typical or at least as typical as spring gets. Cold, wet, cold, wet, windy, cold wet. In the middle of May, overnight, the clouds broke. The next day, it hit 96 degrees on the clock in the middle of town. While all the cold, wet, and windy weather was doing its thing, flowers were budding and leaves were beginning to pop.

Thus, I went out and took some pictures today. I was surprised that we have no sign of roses yet. Usually we see rose buds by mid May, but not this year.

Look closely and you can see the tiny black caterpillars destined to eat every leaf on the trees.

Bad news? The caterpillars are back. Tiny little Gypsy Moth caterpillars are crawling all over the oak trees along the canal. How bad will it be this year? No way to know. We had a lot of rain and that may help … but there’s really no way to know. Our property has been sprayed as much as we can without killing everything. It won’t solve the larger problem, but it will make it possible for us to come and go from our house without getting assaulted by hairy, poisonous caterpillars.

I’m trying to focus on enjoying the flowers and leaves while we have them. And hoping the trees survive another defoliation.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

There’s nothing “gradual” about weather in this part of New England. It doesn’t change a little bit from minute to minute. It can change with hilarious suddenness. Back when Garry and I were living in Boston, one warm November day, we walked to the nearby bar to grab some lunch. We were wearing shorts and tee shirts. We were there for an hour and half.

When we hit the door to depart, it was 35 degrees and blowing a minor gale. We ran all the way home.

WHICH WAY TODAY? – GARRY ARMSTRONG

Cee’s Which Way Photo Challenge – May 19, 2017 – PHOTOS BY GARRY ARMSTRONG


Signs and portents?
Downtown-Uxbridge
The best car wash
Edging out-of-town