Impeachment: a Break in the Clouds

This morning it is winter in every way. Outside, there is snow on the ground, it is cold and foggy, the cars zip by down on the street like worried groundhogs. Inside, I’m up and dressed, and a hundred details of the day are filing through my mind. I haven’t posted a blog in quite a while, due primarily to two reasons. Stephen and I had a personal crisis a few months back; not between him and me, it was something we had to deal with. Since that crisis went unresolved for a few months, I didn’t write about it. But also as the months of the Trump presidency have degraded into years, one recurring sobering thought has kept my fingers off the keyboard and me in suspended animation: whatever wisdom I thought I had doesn’t seem to be applicable to this mess our country is in.

When mad power takes over a nation, there isn’t much that those citizens who are concerned can do. I keep wondering where are the really big mass demonstrations that might have an impact. I keep puzzling about my friends who blissfully live in a Fox News bubble and who are grateful that someone is finally saving our nation and resentful at those who oppose them. And of course as a full time caregiver to a declining spouse, most of the time these ponderings only hover vaguely in the background of a more pressing concern.

One thing that has improved my mood lately is my Democrats’ impeachment and subsequent Senate trial of Donald John Trump. Stephen and I have been intermittently watching the proceedings of the trial for hours at a time. Of course, as a trans person with a progressive political outlook and a commitment to multi-cultural outreach, DT and the Republicans have absolutely nothing to offer me. Zilch. They have been hard at work tearing down every last vestige of the edifice of moderate liberalism left by the Obama administration. The GOP is apparently anti-science, anti-reproductive rights, anti-LGBT, anti-immigrant, and more recently anti-anyone who disagrees with the vagaries of Donald Trump, no matter what they may be. It took the Democrats a long time to discover that the only way to fight a wild patriarch is tooth and nail.

It took the Democrats a long time to figure out a potentially effective response to a Republican Party that only accepts total victory, no compromise, and is willing to do anything, despite appearances of or actual injustice, to have that victory again and again. Now some of these Republicans feel that the end justifies the means, since for the last half-century there has been seeming legal progress in this country towards reproductive rights and equal rights for the LGBT community, and these things are anathema to them. Others, like Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham, are not only playing a political game that they intend to win, but also in that pursuit proudly displaying their arrogance in front of that vacant space that once possibly contained a human heart.

Clearly the voters in 2016 put a majority of Democrats in the House of Representatives, this despite various crooked manuverings by the Republicans in red states to tilt the playing field in their favor. The Senate, which much more represents our nation’s privileged citizens that does the House, has effectively shut out bipartisan efforts. The Republicans elected a criminal president with the help of Russian interference and used him to get their coveted tax cuts for the rich and hopefully eliminate “entitlements” and undesirable immigrants and other “nasty” people. The Senate, which used to be thought of as home of our wiser politicians, is now, under Mitch McConnell, a machine for turning the federal bench back, hopefully as close to pre-emancipation times as possible. In short, the Republicans are on a fast track to make the liberal point of view legally impossible to attain. They want to make this country a machine where the rich get richer, provided the greater majority of them are white straight males who don’t profess some “strange” ethical, religious or political points of view. And that would include having a basically science-denying point of view.

There are two points I wish to make about this unfolding impeachment trial. There has seldom, if ever, been a more carefully researched, planned and executed presentation of evidence of wrong-doing by a president. It’s pretty clear what Trump did. Insecure that he could win the 2020 contest on his own merit, he set about to flood the media with fake information that would set people to questioning Joe Biden’s legitimacy as a presidential candidate. He tried his best to extract a public statement from the newly elected president of Ukraine that they were investigating Joe’s son, Hunter Biden, for corruption. He extorted that president by withholding congressionally approved military funding and assistance in its war with Russia. He involved many hlgh-level appointees in this scheme, cooked up by Rudy Giuliani and lapped up by himself. He fired loyal career diplomats when they stood in his way of essentially replacing U.S. public policy with a shadow policy designed only for his own personal interest. Every day the disgusting, unsavory panorama of this scheming, law-breaking president becomes more starkly etched in the media record. And the house impeachment managers have masterfully inscribed every detail of this criminal wrongdoing on the public TV screen.

Moreover, there has seldom, if ever, been a more relentlessly pursued and closed-mindedly resisting counter offensive to a serious political charge of wrong-doing than the disdainful farce we are witnessing from Senate Republicans. And since the evil doings of this president and his minions are so well-documented, Senate Republicans really only have two offensive moves (in both senses of ‘offensive’). They can either deny the facts, slamming and denigrating the Democrats in the process, or they can cook up what they claim are similar facts about their opposing party (the Hunter Biden scheme). The result is unconvincing rhetoric. My mama told me frequently, “Jim, two wrongs do not make a right.” The one thing they cannot do, cannot ever speak of, is the actual evidence that is being presented.

I’m proud of my Democrats. You can say that they went on too long, that they were too repetitive. You can call them unsavory names. But they made this Nation look at the facts. If this Republican scoundrel president is elected for a second term in 2020, no one can blame the Democrats for not trying to unseat him. And if he is elected, our reputation as “the land of the free and the home of the brave,” as “a shining city upon a hill,” as a beacon for human rights—already dragged through the mud and slime of white supremacist bullshit—will exist no more. What price victory?

For just a few dozen hours, the pain of humiliation and helplessness hiding in my heart was eased. I heard my representatives—not the elected ones in my state, but those who represent my views—speaking truth to power in one of the last remaining venues the Constitution provided. I thought they all did spectacularly well, Adam Schiff, Hakeem Jeffries, Zoe Lofgren, Jason Crow, Val Demmings, I know their names and I see their courageous and, yes, self-righteous faces. You have made a difference. No matter what happens, this cannot be unseen, out-tweeted. Your courage is my inspiration. I will never give in to this affront to human dignity.

In Case We Lose

I am a peon. It’s interesting to look at the English Oxford Living Dictionary for the definition of this word:

  • A Spanish-American day laborer or unskilled farm worker.

    1. North American A person who does menial work; a drudge.
      ‘racing drivers aren’t exactly normal nine-to-five peons’
    2. historical A debtor held in servitude by a creditor, especially in the southern US and Mexico.
  • B (in South and Southeast Asia) a low-ranking soldier or worker.

    1.  An attendant or messenger.

It’s hard to be honest about my situation, because my male white privilege has shielded me from the blunt truth: despite my academic skills, acquired through decades of study and sacrifice, despite my somewhat sedentary 33 year career as a professor, despite the fact that, in retirement, I carry no debt, despite the fact that I, a sometime gay activist,  have always kept more than one foot in the straight world, despite all these things, I am a peon. I work for the man. The man lets me live.

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Unlocking Gender Prison

Begin shameless liberal/progressive/Democratic rant.

The Republicans are ruling the roost now in the executive and legislative branches of the U.S.A. They are in almost complete control, and they want to rule the roost in the judicial branch too. We can already see their program at work: reduce the power of the federal government so that it functions to make the rich richer. But they also want their most powerful rich to be straight white men, unambiguously defined as in control of and superior to women, LGBT people and people of color and “divergent” culture.

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What Would Help?

Determination and faith as the ship of state steams toward peril.

It’s been a tough 18 months. I’ve been alternatively filled with dread, furious, determined to do something, hiding in Facebook, talking to dispondent friends, reflecting, scanning the news, avoiding the news. It’s been 19 months since Barack Obama left office. Nothing has inspired me to write much about his absence from the presidency or the current state of the presidency. I usually have something useful to say about politics. My useful intellectual or moral contributions in the past year and a half have been restricted to posting interesting articles from various online newspapers on Facebook and Twitter.

Now it’s not that I’ve felt powerless. One of the things I’m very grateful for is my professed Christian faith, lived out for the last 33 years at Trinity Episcopal Church in St. Louis with my spouse, Stephen Nichols. Even though I want this post to speak to a broader audience than my fellow Christians, I think a moment’s reflection on how my faith has impacted my life in the Trump era might be instructive. One thing I like about my faith is that I can practice it without being assured that I can alter the political situation in what I consider to be a positive direction. My Christian life is simple: I have to love God, and I have to love my neighbor as myself. So, a paragraph or two on each of these rules.

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This time, the sky really is falling

Living in the Era of Trump

I gave up on blogging on Jan. 3, 2017. The first week of Donald Trump’s actual occupation of the White House was a nightmare for me. I hadn’t been that scared since 1964, when I was doing my student teaching in a junior high in Columbus, Ohio. Nothing had prepared me for that experience. It might surprise some of you that this guy who made a 33 year career out of being an education professor almost failed student teaching, but I nearly did. It was doubly puzzling for me, because I had always loved school: I did well in school, I liked most of my teachers, I had a good circle of friends, and I avoided the inevitable few assholes that I occasionally encountered along the way.

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Sometimes things seem to be upside down

Jym copes with political phone calls and door calls.

Sometimes, things can just really be complicated. I had returned from shopping the other day, and was parking in the handicapped spot in front of our yellow brick 1895 townhouse in Fox Park. I noticed a guy distributing political doorknob hangers on my block, just starting on the other side of the street. I was listening to one of the hourly news briefs on public radio, and so I just kept watching him. Nice looking black man dressed well, but casually in slacks and a sweatshirt, modest colors. Maybe he’s in his fifties. Now he’s crossing the street and going straight past me and up the steps to my place. Stephen is home. He rings the doorbell, which is a video system. Stephen is not answering. He comes back down the steps after a while, just as I am exiting the car and gathering the groceries.

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On a Future that Is Worth Living

I’ve given a lot of thought to the problem of making human culture on planet Earth sustainable. This word “sustainable” is more than just an environmentalist buzzword. It encapsulates an essential truth about the very survival of the human race and most other plant and animal species living on Earth. That essential truth is this: ‘sustainable’ means (among other things) having a future that is worth living. Talking about sustainability is talking about having a future that is worth living.

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