OUR MOMENT – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Moment

This is a moment. Well, really, the last year and a half (is it longer? shorter? interminable?) has been a “moment.”

For me, it has been a long and painful moment of realization. This catastrophe in which we have been engulfed didn’t just “sort of show up” in 2016. It isn’t something that dropped in from the outer limits. As Americans, we’ve been building towards this monumental, momentous calamity for our entire history.

We have done great things. We have also done horrendous and unspeakable things. We have — as all countries do — glossed over the unspeakable and put a lot of our energy focusing on the greatness. We have ignored our failures and failed to grow up, nationally speaking.

One of the many important things Obama said in his recent lecture was that we had made progress and so we assumed that this progress meant that we had left “the bad stuff” behind and moved on.

But that isn’t what happened at all. Briefly, our better selves dominated politically, but all the rest of it was still right where it had been before. Our Civil War is more than 150 year in our past, yet for many people, it is still going on. Despite the obvious that this entire country — unless you are a Native American — is built on immigration, we have forgotten who we are and where we come from and that it is the energy and willingness to “go the distance” that gave the United States its vitality.

We also forgot that we got our big bang of industrial power from the decimation of Europe following two devastating wars. Yes, we fought in them, but they took place elsewhere. Not on our shores and if we want to pause briefly and ponder Pearl Harbor and 9/11, we can only imagine how different this country would be if the wars fought had been fought here.

Not “over there.” Not on some foreign shore, but in our backyard. We never had to rebuild our entire infrastructure. We have been political fools. Not only now, but in many earlier times when we elected immoral, mentally challenged morons as our leaders.

It matters more now because we gained so much power. And because the speed of events has increased and we don’t wait for news anymore. Everything is instant, continuous, and migraine-inducing.

We didn’t get here by accident or because of one bad election. We have never demanded our citizens vote or even get a decent education. We have never required our citizenry behave like grownups, either. Why should we be surprised we find ourselves in this unreal, treasonous, and terrifying scenario?

Map of Nazi conquest of Europe as of 1940

This is our moment to consider who and what we want to be as a nation. Do we want to be the perpetual international fools and morons? Do we want to pretend that all the really important things — decency, morality, safety, protection, equality, liberty and fair government — are trivial? That the only thing that matters is greed? As long as someone promises to lower our taxes, nothing else counts?

If we continue thinking like that, we will be lost in history, a mere blip on the timeline. And because we have had so much power, we might take down other nations with us. Who knows how many?

We are not an island, nor do we exist alone and separate on this planet.


No Man is an Island – John Donne

No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
well as any manner of thy friends or of thine
own were; any man’s death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.


MEDITATION XVII
Devotions upon Emergent Occasions
John Donne

FORGETTING AND REMEMBERING – THE PAST IS NEVER GONE – Marilyn Armstrong

History wasn’t supposed to be an academic subject we learn in school and promptly forget. I am always a bit pixelated by people who tell me that there’s nothing in the past that means anything to them. They are inevitably the same people get twisted up in something they could have  (easily) avoided if they knew some history.

Photo: Owen Kraus

Let’s take the old “trickle down” theory of economics. It has been tried by I don’t even know how many conservative or Republican administrations. It has never worked. That’s because it doesn’t work. It can’t work. It’s one of those theories that presupposes that the people involved will intentionally do “the right thing.”

That extra money will be reinvested in the business and used to pay employees better and hire more people.

Except they don’t. Ever.

They take the money as a bigger salary for themselves and other top-level administration. They use the rest to pay bigger dividends to investors and as often as not, cut staffing, lower salaries, and these days, move the entire business to a less expensive economic environment. The thing they never do is raise salaries for current employers and hire more people.

Why not?

Good question. There was a time when that is what businesses did. They believed in America. They weren’t any less greedy or rapacious than the current bunch, but they were patriots too. They believed in the United States, trusted Americans to produce high-quality work. They also thought high-quality work mattered.

Crown and Eagle mill

These days, greed is what’s left but without the patriotism or dedication to producing quality work. They don’t care whether what they do strips the land, destroys anyone living in the area, or is lethally poisonous. As long as they make an extra penny per whatever, that’s good enough.

Most of these “old time” rich people eventually turned to philanthropy. They did care about America and once they’d wrung every penny they could get from whatever industry they built, they thought it was their duty to “pay back” the country.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

These days, most of the super-rich have no allegiance to anyone or anything but themselves. They think if we aren’t rich, we’re trash. That’s exactly how they treat us.

If you work harder at your job, they will fire someone else and you will get twice the work. I eventually learned to never let them know how quickly I could work because I never got a raise or a pat on the back. I just got more and more work. In one job, I started out as the junior writer in a department of five.

Rumford River dam, part of the original Bernat Mill complex.

By the time I left, I was the junior writer in a department of me alone. Everyone else had quit or been let go. I still hadn’t gotten a raise or promotion. I did what five people had previously done. Nothing trickled down.

That was the last time I let myself work full-speed.

And that’s why trickle down is a pile of horseshit. Nothing trickles down. The guy at the top keeps it all and laughs as they haul his money to a Caribbean island while he avoids paying any taxes. To anyone.

Two banks, night in Uxbridge

If anyone reads history, the story of economics in this and every other country will assure them this isn’t going to work because it never has. It never will.

Meanwhile, a pile of damn fool voters will believe the bosses who promise they will make it better — yet never understand why they keep getting poorer.

HARD TIMES ARE GOOD FOR YOUR SOUL, IF YOU LIVE THROUGH THEM – Marilyn Armstrong

Easy times, good times are not always the best times, at least not for creating a better world. When the world is running smoothly and turning sweetly on its axis, we are not building solutions to important cultural issues. Problems force solutions. Difficulties change society.

In the earliest years of what would later be called “The Renaissance,” the death of 25-million people resolved into a serious push to make the world a better place. Which is why I was sitting here thinking about the 1400s.

Not everybody thinks about the 1400s, but I do. Not only was it the time of the black death, it was a time when bands of terrorists roamed through Europe killing anyone they met. Inflation made money worthless. There was little of what we call “central government.” No congress, no government to address. Also, no roads, bridges, or books. And a whole lot of dying going on.

You know how Dickens said at the beginning of “A Tale of Two Cities”: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” or something to that effect? This was the worst of times.

Beginning in the early part of the 1300s with the importation of the Bubonic Plague-carrying rats, Europe became a horror show. Unless you lived in Warsaw which for some reason was spared.

The bubonic plague hit the continent in the 1340s, arriving on ships from (probably) Constantinople. The Black Death swept Europe like a hot blade cutting through butter.

Beginning in 1346 and through 1353, the number of deaths is unparalleled in human history. Ultimately, the Black Death killed more than 25 million people in Europe. Remember too that the world was much smaller. 25-million people were the largest part of the human race.

More than half the population of Europe died in the plague and in some towns, it was 100%. In other words, everybody died. The forest grew back over lands that had been sown. Murderous gangs that had formerly been remnants of disbanded armies roamed throughout the continent. When most of the peasants died, everyone starved. No one remained to grow new crops.

A burst of invention occurred. The peasantry, always been the least valuable members of European society, suddenly achieved importance. So few people remained who were able to grow crops, it was not unusual for peasants to go from castle to castle to see where they could get the best deal for their labor.

The middle class grew too, while more than half the nobility disappeared. Between death by plague and war, and the abject poverty the Crusades produced throughout Europe, many families slid from the bottom of nobility to the center of poverty. By the 1600s, many former nobles were tilling their own lands.

The Wars of the Roses consumed England. The printing press arrived. Europeans took to movable type with enthusiasm. The press was created sometime between 1400 and 1455. Movable type swept the scribes away.

I’m sure someone was telling everyone that this whole “printing thing” would never last. It was probably someone running a school for scribes.

The 1400s saw the invention of:

The golf ball (1400)
The piano/spinet (1400)
The trigger/matchlock (1411) The handgun arrived in 1364. Before the trigger, it was ignited with an ember or another form of portable fire.
Oil painting (1420) The paint was invented long before this in China, but oil painting techniques (Rembrandt, et al) were 15th-century.
Hoisting gear (1421)
Spectacles/eyeglasses (1450) Possibly earlier.
Printing Press (1450-55) Johannes Gutenberg
Engravings (dry) (1465)
Muzzle-loaded rifle (1475)
Parachute (1485) Leonardo Da Vinci
The copyright (1486)
Bell chimes (1487)
The map globe (1492) This is also when Leonardo was pondering flight because he had a parachute, so you ought to be able to fly, right?
Whiskey (1494)

Sometime during this period, the moldboard plow was invented, turning agriculture on its ear. Deep plowing allowed real farming in areas that had previously been non-tillable. Historians are still arguing exactly when the moldboard plow was invented, but it was sometime between 1350 and 1475. Because there was no official “inventor,” it’s hard to set the date. It was more of a development by farmers until finally, someone got it right.

This might not sound like a lot to you, but the invention of the printing press was a bigger deal than the mobile phone or the computer or, for that matter, electricity and diesel power. It overturned the world. Made knowledge available to the many rather than the élite few.

Back when eyeglasses were really expensive

Everybody drank the whiskey.

The point is that times were really bad in the 1300s and only nominally better in the 1400s, yet by the 1500s, the world began to flower.

These terrible old days gave the world a kick in the butt and triggered the arrival of central governments. It elevated both peasants and the middle classes. It advanced banking, industry, and art. Towns grew. The building industry changed and expanded. Bridges were redesigned to enable better roads and better roads made it easier for people to take goods to market.

Everything changed, including religion because this also was the birth of Protestantism, though it was not called that until later.

Hard times create a new world. Our two world wars were what pushed Europe into modern socialism and the caring world that they now (or used to) embrace. I think a lot of people have forgotten that before the first world war, it wasn’t the post-war caring, sharing Europe. It was a bunch of rich nobles doing whatever they felt like to anything and anyone.

The world doesn’t advance when times are easy. When all is well, we get lazy. Comfort doesn’t force change.

I’d want to believe that the current awfulness is going to push us into a creative change which will ultimately improve our world. I don’t know that it will be true because I don’t think I’ll live to see the outcome of this world into the next, but I’d like to think that’s how it will go.

IOKIYAR? – BY TOM CURLEY

I was reading a news story about the Trump Putin press conference in Helsinki where our Twidiot-In-Chief announced to the world that he is Putin’s little bitch.

Who’s a good little boy? You’re a good little boy!
Note: If you aren’t an American, the Daily News has always been a conservative, rather right-wing newspaper. Not anymore.

He put Russia first and threw the entire US intelligence community under the bus. It was just one of the dozens of stories I read. Two interesting things popped out at me after reading them.

First, the word “Treason” was showing up all over the place, both on the television news and in the newspapers.

Second, one of the comments on one of the stories about Republicans defending this asshole ended with this: IOKIYAR.

IOKIYAR?

What the hell does that mean? I know it’s internet slang. I know what most of the common Internet acronyms mean.

OMG – Oh My God

BRB – Be right back

WTF – Why the fuss?  (Why the Fuss? WTF?)

I even know some of the longer ones.

ROTFL – Rolling on the floor laughing

ROTFLMAO – Rolling on the floor laughing my ass off.

IMHO – In my humble opinion (Note: Nobody really means “humble”)

IOKIYAR? Never heard of it. So, I looked it up. It means:

It’s OK If You’re A Republican.

That got me to thinking.  Wow, this is a thing that happens so much, has become so pervasive in our world, that people have come up with an Internet shortcut to talk about it. Then I realized it makes perfect sense. The hypocrisy of Republicans has reached levels that were, until the last two years, unimaginable. For any political party. Ever.

The leader of the Senate can deny a sitting President a Supreme Court nominee for more than a year. Not even hold a hearing, yet he tells Democrats they have to be fair to the current nominee and confirm him immediately.

Hypocrite? Sure.

But IOKIYAR.

A Congressman, Trey Gowdy, can oversee dozens of investigations into Bengazhi, spending millions of dollars of your tax money to find absolutely nothing.

He can later demand the Mueller investigation be shut down immediately because it costs too much and all the evidence they have found must be turned over to them. Even though the DOJ never ever talks about or gives out information on what they are doing during an open investigation.

If a Democrat tried that, the Republicans would be screaming for their heads.

IOKIYAR.

The current administration is ripping children as young as one-year-old from their parents at the southern border and putting them in “baby jails” while few (if any) Republican Congressmen have anything to say about it.

Beyond shameful?

Yes, but IOKIYAR.

The President of the United States told the world he is a traitor and sides with Russia over his own government. The Republicans said Russia is bad but said nothing about the President who said it.

Beyond shameful?

US President Donald Trump (L) and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin shake hands before attending a joint press conference after a meeting at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, on July 16, 2018. – The US and Russian leaders opened an historic summit in Helsinki, with Donald Trump promising an “extraordinary relationship” and Vladimir Putin saying it was high time to thrash out disputes around the world. (Photo by Yuri KADOBNOV / AFP) (Photo credit should read YURI KADOBNOV/AFP/Getty Images)

Sure.

IOKIYAR.

That’s the world we live in. It’s disgusting, immoral, vile, evil and unbelievable.

Every day I throw up a little in my mouth watching the news.  Many times, I’m ashamed to be an American.

So are a lot of other people.

IOKIYAR.

Or as Republicans would say “Why the Fuss?”

WTF!?

HARD TIMES AND NEW DAYS – Marilyn Armstrong

Easy times are not when we create solutions to problems. I was sitting here today thinking about the 1400s.

Not everybody sits around thinking about the 1400s, but I do and fairly often. It’s part of the pleasure and burden of a deep passion for history. Right now, I’m reading a series of books about the Tudors. The early Tudors. Owen, Edmond, and Jasper. And, of course, Henry who became the seventh of the many Henrys of England.

The 1300s were a horror show for the old world.

The bubonic plague hit the continent in the 1340s, arriving on ships from (probably) Constantinople. The Black Death swept Europe.

Beginning in 1346 and continuing through 1353, the number of deaths — from war, disease, or anything — is unparalleled in human history. Ultimately, the Black Death killed more than 25 million people in Europe. And the world was much smaller, so 25-million people were the largest part of the human race.

More than half the population of Europe died in the plague and in some towns, it was as much as 100%. In other words, everybody died. The forest grew back over lands that had been sown. Murderous gangs that had formerly been remnants of disbanded armies roamed through Europe. When most of the peasants died, everyone starved because there was no one to grow new crops.

A burst of invention occurred. The peasantry, always been the least valuable members of European society, suddenly achieved importance. So few people remained who were able to grow crops, it was not unusual for peasants to go from castle to castle to see where they could get the best deal for their labor. The middle class grew too, while more than half the nobility disappeared. Between death by plague and death by war, many families slid from the bottom of nobility to the center of poverty. By the 1600s, many former nobles were tilling their own lands.

The Wars of the Roses consumed England. The printing press arrived. Europeans took to movable type with enthusiasm. The press was created sometime between 1400 and 1455. Movable type swept the scribes away.

I’m sure someone was telling everyone that this whole “printing thing” would never last. It was probably someone running a school for scribes.

The 1400s saw the invention of:

The golf ball (1400)
The piano/spinet (1400)
The trigger/matchlock (1411) The handgun arrived in 1364. Before the trigger, it was ignited with an ember or another form of portable fire.
Oil painting (1420) The paint was invented long before this in China, but oil painting techniques (Rembrandt, et al) were 15th-century.
Hoisting gear (1421)
Spectacles/eyeglasses (1450) Possibly earlier.
Printing Press (1450-55) Johannes Gutenberg
Engravings (dry) (1465)
Muzzle-loaded rifle (1475)
Parachute (1485) Leonardo Da Vinci
The copyright (1486)
Bell chimes (1487)
The map globe (1492) This is also when Leonardo was pondering flight because he had a parachute, so you ought to be able to fly, right?
Whiskey (1494)
Sometime during this same period, the moldboard plow was invented, turning agriculture on its ear. Historians are still arguing this issue.

This might not sound like a lot to you, but the invention of the printing press was a bigger deal than the mobile phone or the computer or, for that matter, electricity and diesel power. It overturned the world. Made knowledge available to the many rather than the élite few.

Back when eyeglasses were really expensive

And everybody drank the whiskey.

The point is that times were really bad in the 1300s and only nominally better in the 1400s.

These terrible old days gave the world a kick in the butt and triggered the arrival of central government among nations. It elevated the peasant and middle classes. It advanced banking and industry and art. Towns grew as guilds developed. The building industry changed and expanded. Bridges were redesigned to enable better roads. Better roads made it easier for people to take their goods to market.

Everything changed, including religion because this also was the birth of Protestantism, though it was not called that until later.

Hard times create a new world. Our two world wars were what pushed Europe into socialism and the caring world that they now (or used to) embrace. I think a lot of people forget that before the first world war, it wasn’t a caring Europe. It was a bunch of rich nobles doing whatever they felt like to anything and anyone.

The world doesn’t advance when times are easy. When all is well, we get lazy. Comfort doesn’t force change.

I’d like to think that the current awfulness is going to push us into a creative change which will ultimately improve our world. I don’t know that it will be true because I don’t think I’ll live to see the outcome of this world into the next, but I’d like to think that’s how it will go.

UNHINGED – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Captured

My marriage is fine. My house is not falling apart. The car was repaired and runs well. Yet I feel quite unhinged. A prisoner of war in my own country. Or that’s how I feel.

From Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman’s “Good Omens”

The World is killing me. I live in a country where the courts think it’s okay to kidnap and cage children. To put five-year-olds in front of a judge — without a lawyer.

There was another mass shooting today.

If somewhere there exists a particularly reactionary and stupid lawyer, Trump will appoint him or her and while I won’t live forever, my kid and granddaughter will spend the rest of their lives in this oppressive world we have created.

My world is crumbling. So is yours, even if you don’t know it.

I am troubled. I have nightmares. Small things which would normally not bother me are making me crazy. I feel damaged as if I’d been in a car accident.

I have trouble finding anything funny because today there was another mass shooting and there are thousands of children in cages.

The world is broken; I am bruised all over. I feel helpless to fix anything. It’s a bad way to feel. It’s also weird. I’ve always been able to separate the personal from “the rest of the world.” Somehow, I can’t seem to do that anymore.

WHO ARE WE? WHAT ARE WE? – Marilyn Armstrong

HOW DID WE GET TO THIS PLACE?

Just like other countries, we’ve hidden our ugliest history in the backs of closets. We wrote phony history books and made sure our kids read them.  Now we wonder how come they don’t understand history. We could start by teaching them what actually happened. The good, the bad, and the ugly.

Andrew Jackson President of the good old U.S.A. wiped out entire tribes of Natives. But that was only one part of the slaughter. They kidnapped children and beat them until they were “American.” More to the point, too terrified to be anything else.

Does that sound familiar in some strange way?

Then, of course, there was slavery, over which we fought the bloodiest war ever in this country, followed by a never-ending cruel inequality that still remains and continues — with the help of our disgusting president — to grow.

In an image provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, immigrants taken into custody at the border sit in one of the cages at a facility in McAllen, Texas, on Sunday. (U.S. Customs and Border Protection / AP)

And let’s not forget interning Japanese citizens — many of whom were born here — during World War 2.

So yesterday, when it looked like at least 70% of surveyed Americans thought this was a terrible idea, Trump (theoretically), backed off. Note that 30% of Americans didn’t think it was a bad idea. I try not to think about that 30%. I hope they aren’t my neighbors.

He didn’t really back off. He said was that we are going to keep the kidnapped, interned kids and do who-knows-what with their parents. They probably didn’t keep proper records about which children belong to which parents. Reuniting the kids and adults may not be possible, especially if they already deported the parents.

So what are they going to do with all the kids they’ve locked up? Keep them interned forever? Secretly murder them? Is that entirely out of the question? It’s not like it hasn’t been done before.

We’ve always felt we were morally superior to Those Other Countries who slaughtered and mass murdered people for whatever idiotic reason they held. Here we are, doing the same thing. We haven’t started killing them yet, but hey, who knows? Trump is just being Trump, so if he thinks it’s a great idea, I’m sure his sycophants will step right up and follow his orders.

You can bet Sean Hannity will be explaining how it’s not even happening anyway. And 28-30% of all Americans will smile because mass murder sounds like a good idea to them. They will volunteer for jobs in “the camps.”  A job is a job.

With a president who has so little conscience that he thinks kidnapping foreign children is good politics, does killing foreigners if it seems that might help him get reelected sound too far out? If it really might help get him re-elected — assuming he isn’t planning to bypass that whole annoying election process — why not?

What are you planning to do about it? Has it come to a point where evil is our inability to do anything about a world spun completely out of our control?

This morning, he said (who knows what he is really saying?) we are returning to the old-fashioned method we’ve been using for the past 50 years. We’ll stop refugees at our border and say “Sorry, no room. Go home.” This is what we used to before you-know-who moved to the White House. It may not be very nice, especially when you consider how desperately many of these women and children need someplace safe, but it’s nominally better than locking them up and kidnapping their children.

Someone — Tom? — asked me why we can’t make room for them. I don’t know. This country is built on the sweat of hungry immigrants, but we’ve lost our way. As long as we have borders, we seem to feel we are obliged to keep track of who comes and goes across them.

I’m too far down the line of brilliant thinkers who have turned our world into whatever it currently is, but don’t you wonder ever what would happen if we didn’t have artificial lines around “countries” and lived in a single world? Then we could just hate each other for personal reasons.

The authorities released this image of illegal migrants inside a large cage – reporters said they saw unaccompanied children in similar conditions.

If we accept this living nightmare of “Trump being Trump,” then we’re as bad as any other mass murderers. It’s easy to be morally superior when no one is testing your fiber

Now that our fiber is indeed being tested, where and how do we stand? Do we refuse to cross that line after our consciences scream NO? Do we refuse, even if we are threatened?

At what point is it too much? When is enough really enough for us?