THERE IS NO MORAL MIDDLE-GROUND – Marilyn Armstrong

Was there ever such thing as a moral middle-ground?

When we decided as a nation to allow and even extend slavery because it would enable us to create one nation — was that the “middle” ground? Middle of what? The middle between slavers and free people?

When we decided to kill every native American or “convert” every single member of every tribe to being “just like us” (and who are we, anyway?), was that middle ground?

Was refusing to discuss the cruelty of taking over this country and despoiling it without regard for its future ability to support other people, was that the middle-ground?

Was opening up Native “regions” to white settlement while simultaneously starving the original inhabitants — and pretending nothing was happening — was that middle-ground?


There is no middle-ground between cruelty and kindness. You are cruel or kind, but there’s nothing in between.

Destroying the earth or not destroying it … where is the middle-ground?

It’s not just about Trump and his politics. There has never been a middle-ground between good and evil. Pretending nothing is going on is not a middle-ground. Knowing about evil while pretending ignorance  — or worse, intentionally remaining ignorant in the face is evil — is not higher ground.

Ignorance does not excuse you from getting a speeding ticket. It also does not excuse you from Hell, either. There is righteousness and there is corruption. There’s no place where you can sit on the fence and thus eliminate your involvement. Black or white, but not gray.

Not discussing politics doesn’t put you in a better position than any of the raging ranters on Facebook. Having better manners doesn’t make you a better person.

POLITICS AND RELATIONSHIPS – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I recently read an autobiography by the Saturday Night Live actress, Rachel Dratch, called “Girl Walks Into A Bar…” I enjoyed the book, particularly the adjustment of a single 44-year-old woman to motherhood, a committed relationship, and co-parenting.

Rachel Dratch

Rachel started a long distance (California to New York) relationship with a lovely guy and after six months, discovered she was pregnant. This was a minor miracle at her age. There was no question that she wanted the baby. The open question was what kind of relationship she would have going forward with the baby’s daddy, John.

This guy sounded like a real gem and was wonderful to Rachel. He even stepped up and moved to New York City to be near Rachel and their unborn son. He wanted an active role in the child’s life once he was born.

My problem with this story is that Rachel is a New York City liberal and Democrat and John was an ‘independent’ who supported George W. Bush and the Republican agenda.

Would he also support Donald Trump today?

I started wondering if I could overlook someone’s political views and have a serious relationship with a Republican in today’s political climate. The answer, for me, is no. During the George W. Bush era, the comedian Janine Garofalo said that being a Republican was no longer just an opinion, but was ‘a character flaw’ which is many times truer today.

The problem I have with Republicans/Trump supporters today is not their ‘political’ positions. I have no issue with someone who has a different view from mine on deficits, trade policy, or interest rates. I’m beginning to question the judgment and relationship to reality of people who still believe in trickle-down economics after so many years of contrary, hard evidence that it does not work. That’s a side issue.

The problem I have with Republicans today is their morals or lack thereof. Anyone who is willing to accept and/or support Trump’s level of lying, corruption, bigotry, venality, narcissism, misogyny, mean-spiritedness, arrogance, ignorance, anti-intellectualism and overall lack of caring about anything or anyone outside of himself is not my kind of person.

Anyone who is willing to look the other way when Trump says there are ‘good’ Nazis, or when he separates immigrant children from their parents because they are seeking asylum in the U.S. has a major ‘character flaw’ in my book.

I can’t accept rationalizations or excuses for Trump’s words or deeds. I have no common values or perspectives with people who share these views– even though I understand that many of them are working with a different set of ‘facts’ than what I get from the mainstream media. If we can’t agree about the facts, there is no basis for discussion or agreement about anything else.

In 2019, who you identify with politically says a lot about who you are as a human being. I have to respect my partner’s mind and character. I don’t respect Republican/Trump supporters. I also need to feel that my partner is a caring, tolerant, compassionate person. There seems to be a compassion gene missing in most Trump supporters.

They have a strong bias in favor of corporate ‘rights’ — greed — at the expense of individuals. They appear to have a need to look down on all sorts of people. Equal treatment and opportunity, fairness, and helping the underprivileged, the sick or the disabled does not seem to even be on their radar. How can I believe in the dignity and rights of every human being if I give aid and comfort to those who want to take that dignity and those rights away?

I admit that Rachel Dratch’s partner, now her husband (I believe) seems to be an involved parent and a decent, supportive partner to her. But what values will he teach their child? What kind of world does he want that child to grow up and live in? I’m suspicious of his emotional makeup if he could ‘exonerate’ Trump’s outrageous behavior and cruel policies.

There is no moral middle ground anymore.

Either you want Americans to have affordable healthcare or you don’t. I have no tolerance for selfish people who don’t care about the quality of life of their fellow humans. I do believe these uncaring SOBs should get healthcare, a living wage, civil rights, equality and the right to make decisions about their own bodies even though they don’t believe that I should have any of these things.

Does that make me a ‘better’ person in my moral universe? Yes, it does.

HONOR AND CONGRESSIONAL HEARINGS – Marilyn Armstrong

From the Washington Post, these are Cohen’s quotes, not something “made up” by the writer. I’m sure he had help with it because these words have the ring of a professionally written and carefully polished speech.

That being said, I think this sums up much of what many of us feel:

“Mr. Trump is an enigma,” Cohen said in his opening statement. “He is complicated, as am I. He has both good and bad, as do we all. But the bad far outweighs the good, and since taking office, he has become the worst version of himself. He is capable of behaving kindly, but he is not kind. He is capable of committing acts of generosity, but he is not generous. He is capable of being loyal, but he is fundamentally disloyal.”

He went on to say:

“Donald Trump is a man who ran for office to make his brand great, not to make our country great,” Cohen said. “He had no desire or intention to lead this nation – only to market himself and to build his wealth and power. Mr. Trump would often say, this campaign was going to be the ‘greatest infomercial in political history.’”

America. The greatest infomercial in political history? Also, probably, the biggest dive from greatest to pettiness, racism, ignorance, cruelty, and rampant destruction of what have always been the beauties of our world.

From the Post:

Cohen has insisted that “blind loyalty” is what drove him to commit crimes on Trump’s behalf. Federal prosecutors have contended that Cohen “relished the role of ultimate fixer” and that he was “driven by a desire to further ingratiate himself with a potential future president — for whose political success Cohen himself claimed credit.”

“Taken together, these offenses reveal a man who knowingly sought to undermine core institutions of our democracy,” prosecutors wrote in a memorandum to a federal judge before Cohen was sentenced. “His motivation to do so was not borne from naiveté, carelessness, misplaced loyalty or political ideology. Rather, these were knowing and calculated acts — acts Cohen executed in order to profit personally, build his own power, and enhance his level of influence.”

I can understand why many people would be hesitant to believe the words of a man who, in the name of ambition, would follow a man he knew to be bad in every way that counted.

On the other hand, these people are defending the exact same bad guy and I will bet that every one of them knows how evil Trump really is. They aren’t doing the right thing. They are doing the politically expedient “thing” which they know to be wrong.

Photo: NBC News

I find it hard to fathom anyone having that level of ambition, yet I see it everywhere. Even back in college, there was always one little wormy kid who would do anything to grab the job you were trying to get — and this was back when we weren’t even paid for the work. It was all a matter of personal honor.

Too many people have no honor. These days, it would seem that more than ever, people have no honor — just a personal agenda. Furthermore, they don’t comprehend the concept of honor. They think it’s about ambition and flags … but it isn’t and never was.

From left to right: The four sisters: my mother (Dorothy), Aunt Pearl, Aunt Kate, and Aunt Yetta

Time for a personal story. In my freshman year of college, I met a boy and we fell in love. I was 16. He was 17. He wasn’t a virgin — but he was barely not a virgin. I was a virgin — I was 16, after all — so we went to be together in a borrowed apartment and it was wonderful. It was. He eventually turned out to be more than a little psycho, so while we had an affair that lasted many years, we did not marry. Oddly, he shared Garry’s birthday. As did another boyfriend from that period.

I know we all don’t believe in “fate,” but that’s pretty fateful. I digress. Back to the story.

I actually told my mother about it. You have to understand that my mother was all in favor of modern sex and not being held to old-fashioned standards, so when she went completely bonkers, I was baffled, boggled, and bewildered. I said: “What about …”

And she said: ” Not MY daughter!”

That was when I realized that your beliefs and your BELIEFS didn’t have to be the same. Mom decided I needed to talk to the grand dame of her sisters — my Aunt Kate. My mother’s oldest sister.

Left to right: Aunt Pearl, my mother (Dorothy), Aunt Ethel (Uncle Herman’s wife) and Aunt Kate

She was born in “the old country” and was the only member of the household who still kept Kosher. She remained Jewish without ever casting aspersions on family members who had gone another way.

I adored my Aunt Kate. She was beautiful, a dead ringer for Katherine Hepburn as a young woman. Even older, she had cheekbones to die for. But beyond that, she was deeply and passionately kind. There was inherent goodness about her I have known rarely through the years.

I told her what had been going on. She listened. Quietly. Then she said: “But what about honor?”

Honor?

I had never considered honor as part of the love/sex/passion thing. Nobody had used the word, not even my mother. It was a concept that swept in from the past and put the issue into an entirely new perspective. And I never forgot that for some people, it’s about their version of religion or faith. For others, there are just “rules” you follow because “you’re supposed to follow the rules.” For Aunt Kate, it was about honor. And after that, I never forgot to consider whether or not what I was doing was honorable.

Shortly after that conversation, I pointed out (proudly) to Aunt Kate that I was still wearing the fake fur coat she’d give me when I was in Junior High School because I loved it. Horrified that I could still be wearing that old coat, in the middle of Manhattan, she pulled off her coat and gave it to me. I tried really hard to give it back, but it stuck. Until I moved to Israel when I got rid of most of my heavy winter clothing, it was my “good coat.” It was a fake beaver coat. No fur, just poly whatever, but it looked and felt like the real thing and had a wonderful swing to it.

We had lunch at a hotel dining room and I tucked my arm into the crook of her arm and we walked locked together down the avenues of Manhattan.

Honor.

That’s what is missing from today’s America. Our sense of honor is gone. We stand naked and shivering in the winds of ambition with no moral code. There’s no one worse than us, though there are a few probably at least as bad other places.

Our days of lecturing the rest of the world about right and wrong are, I think, over. Or at least over for the next 50 years while we try to repair our image. Maybe longer, depending on whether or not the chaotic Democratic Party can collect itself and think nationally and rationally.

Let us find honor for all rather than self-aggrandizement for a few.

Photo: Marilyn Armstrong

PROVOCATIVE QUESTION 10: THE CHOICES WE MAKE – Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s Provocative Question #10

This week’s provocative question is about the choices we make and the actions we take.


“What is more important to you, doing the right thing or doing things right?”

To me, these are unrelated questions.

Doing things right is a work kind of question. Doing the right thing is a moral choice. One course of action doesn’t replace the other.

You can do both or neither, depending on the circumstance, but I honestly can’t imagine a situation where doing things right would make doing the right thing impossible.

I literally can’t imagine that as a choice. When would that kind of event occur? Under what circumstances?

ARE YOU A DECENT HUMAN BEING, OR ARE YOU A DICK? – BY TOM CURLEY

I listen to the various pundits on all the news stations and newspapers going on and on about what Democrats need to do to win the midterm elections. They all have a variation of the same theme. They must have a “message.” They can’t just say “Hey we are better than that asshole Trump and those fucking Republicans.”

They need to be for something, like universal health care, a 15-dollar minimum wage, not ripping innocent children from their parents for the crime of trying to come to America for a better life.  But here’s the thing.

That’s bullshit. I completely disagree. We have moved far beyond arguing about political policy. We need to run on what kind of human beings we are in this country.

It’s really simple.


Are we, as Americans, decent human beings? Or are we dicks?


It turns out that over the last two years we have found out there are a frighteningly large number of Americans who are unimaginably horrible dicks. 

If you think ripping a baby from a mother or father and then sending it to another state without any way of keeping track of who the baby belongs to or where it went is OK, you’re a dick.

If you are horrified by this and you didn’t believe such a thing was possible in America, you’re a decent human being.

If you think white supremacists and Nazis are good people, you’re a dick.

If you think a white supremacist running down innocent protesters with his car and killing at least one is bad, you’re a decent human being.  Side note: NAZIS ARE BAD.

If you are a white person who calls the police because

1 – A black family is barbecuing in a public park
2 – A black fireman is doing fire safety checks in his own neighborhood
3 – A black state representative is going door to door talking to her constituents
4 – A black woman is at a community pool to which she belongs
5 – A black man is wearing socks at a public swimming pool

you’re a racist dick.

Oddly, most of the dicks who called the police on these people were women. Turns out


You don’t need a prick to be a dick.


That might make a pretty good bumper sticker or tee-shirt.

racist white women
One of dicks who actually did one of those things.

If this stuff both surprises and appalls you, you’re a decent human being.

I’ve been covering elections for CBS since Nixon. In every election, both sides always say the same thing. “This is the most important election of our lives.”

And we all go, “yeah, sure, whatever.” But this time, for the first time in my life, I agree. We, as a country, are at an honest-to-God existential crossroad. We are being governed by the largest group of horrible dicks in modern history.

And we are being led by the biggest dick of all, the twidiot-in-chief.

So, please, get out and vote this November.

Be a decent human being.

Don’t be a dick. There are way too many of them out there already. 

BLOGGER AND A CAUSE

The question was: “Would you, if your day-to-day responsibilities were taken care of and you could throw yourself completely behind a cause, what would it be?”


The answer is … I wouldn’t. In the immortal words of Phil Ochs, “I ain’t marchin’ anymore.”

I marched against war and for peace.

I marched for civil rights.

I campaigned for universal health care and free care for anyone who needs it.

I marched against evil and for justice for my entire adult life and though the world has fallen into a terrible place, I’ve served my time and done my job. I’m tired. It’s time for the younger generations — those with stronger backs — to do the marching.

The worst part of this time is I’m not sure, after all the marching, if I accomplished anything other than making denim a fashion fabric. I think I’ve probably accomplished more blogging than I did by marching. There’s an irony in there and maybe I’ll find it. Eventually.

Photo: NY Times

I have discovered that the world spins on its axis and night follows day, whether or not I march. I do the best I can with the means at my disposal … which means I have a platform and I write. Every now and then, I dig a little money out of the emptiness of our “family wealth” and give $5 or $10 to someone who is fighting for a better world.

If you are going out there to do battle, fight the good fight. Know my best wishes and hopes go with you. Also, take sandwiches, something to drink, and wear your most comfortable shoes.

IN TRUMP’S WORLD VOLDEMORT WINS – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I get it! I finally have some understanding of Trump and his followers. It’s not pretty, but at least it’s something I can wrap my head around.

David Brooks wrote an editorial in the June 2, 2017 New York Times called “The Axis Of Selfishness”. He posits that Trump has a very dark view of humanity and the world. Trump believes that man is motivated solely by selfishness and self-interest. Life is merely a competitive struggle for gain and dominance at the expense of others.

There are only winners and losers. There is a limited amount of ‘stuff’ to be had and everyone has to try to get as much as possible for themselves. You are either on top or you are on bottom beneath someone else’s heel. There is nothing in the middle. No area of compromise, no mutual interest, no sharing, no neutral zone where people coexist in peace, prosperity and equality.

This explains a lot. He is sympatico with brutal dictators because they share his philosophy of life. And they are ‘winners’ who have come out with the most power and the biggest piece of the finite pie. It’s every man for himself, us against them, eat or be eaten, dominate or be subjugated in a dark world with no humanity or humanism.

No touchy feely stuff like morality, good, selflessness, compassion, caring, or justice enter his world. It’s as if those qualities don’t exist for him. That really is sad. If he weren’t screwing up the entire free world I might feel sorry for him — another squishy emotion that he doesn’t recognize.

If this is how Trump sees the world, his behavior almost makes sense. No wonder he’s such a dick! No wonder he’s paranoid. No wonder he thinks all Muslims are out to kill us, that Western European democracies as well as Canada and Mexico are out to cheat us, that all non wealthy, non white Americans exist entirely to mooch off everyone else — and all liberals want only to destroy him.

No wonder Trump can’t let anything go — or stop tweeting. He has to be right and everyone else must be wrong. No wonder he has to demean others. In his mind, the only way you can lift yourself up is by denigrating others.

Brooks says the problem is that Trump’s worldview is self-perpetuating. If you act aggressively, competitively, and selfishly towards all others (people or nations), they will respond to you in kind. Thus your misanthropic attitudes are confirmed and the vicious circle of the worst humanity has to offer goes around and around.

The rest of us acknowledge the existence of greed and venality, but we believe social evolution pushes mankind to be cooperative, empathetic, idealistic, loyal, and righteous. We believe humanity is designed to strive for these ideals in our personal and public lives. We can see the wonderful world we can make if we work together and care for one another.

In our world, Harry Potter beats Voldemort every time. In Trump’s world, Harry Potter is a minor character with little power or even influence. Voldemort is the undisputed king.

I don’t want to live in that world! Neither does most of America.

We have to hope the people who share our better view of life can muster the strength needed to banish Orange Voldemort’s darkness, and bring back America’s light. We have to fight to reinstate compassion, decency, justice, and right as the guiding forces for America.

EXPELIO TRUMPUS!