Empty

I don’t know what to say anymore. I feel empty inside – bereft of hope – drowning in sorrow – swallowed in darkness.

My expectations of humanity obliterated – smashed into the ground under the butt of an AR-15 in the hands of apathetic, craven, and power-hungry lawmakers.

What does it say about our country that slaughtered elementary school children huddled in corners of classrooms, their bodies ripped open, their fragile bones splintered and shattered, their blood smeared on the floor and splattered on the walls, the final minutes of their lives filled with overwhelming fear and terror, and still US representatives refuse to even talk about gun legislation?

This happens over and over and over again. The next school shooting is right around the corner and yet we remain stuck, unable to do anything because the people we send to congress care more about their job than the safety of your children.

The river of apathy that runs through the halls of congress intensifies the feelings of futility and hopelessness that we experience the day after these school shootings.

Now we’ll go through the scripted responses from spineless and heartless Republican legislators – the lies about the threat to the second amendment, the outrageous claim that we need more guns to combat this violence, the blame it on mental illness argument.

We’ve heard these responses so many times that we can recite them almost word-for-word.

Dog Day Afternoon

It kind of feels like the fabric that holds our society together is becoming more and more threadbare by the day.

Calamity fuels anxiety, and anxiety churns our ideas and emotions into a bitter black butter, clogging the arteries in our brain and preventing us from generating optimistic thoughts.

Hopelessness gathers on the horizon, settling in our collective consciousness.

War, disease, and apathy carry the day, leading humanity down a dark and twisting path, permanently away from light and hope.

But my dog doesn’t sense any of this.

My dog still greets me with smiling eyes and a wagging backside – the same way she did when life on earth was good. She still strolls from the patio to the sun-warmed grass, shoulder-rolls onto the ground, and joyfully wiggles on her back.

Somedays, she’s the ray of light that sees me through tomorrow.

Religious Fanatics in Red Caps and Black Robes

Religious fanatics in red caps and black robes
Choice Appomattox and transvaginal probes
Beaten and raped, then told what to do
Stripped of your voice, no autonomous you


Back-alley midwives with buckets and hangers
Forced into action, like fierce Margret Sangers
Matt K and Sam A, don’t care what you think
Judge Thomas and Barrett drown Roe in the sink


Ejaculate holder, an object, a vessel
A fait accompli, with no room to wrestle
Your thoughts do not matter; just do what we say
Your handmaid’s dilemma, the American way


From pro-choice to no-voice, a Trump court of minions
Precedent killing abortion opinions
The fetus and soul are what matters the most
Your womanly role is to be a good host

Once Upon A Time, When The GOP Had Some Integrity

America has more than her fair share of fascists and white nationalists.

Some of them even serve in congress.

The vast majority, if not all, vote republican.

Donald Trump is a White Nationalist. That’s why White Nationalists supported his presidency.

When someone says they supported Trump’s policies but not his white nationalist and authoritarian views, its no less ludicrous than a German citizen in 1939 saying they support Hitler’s economic policies, not his views on the Jewish population.

In throwing your support behind a president, you have to look at the totality of the man – not just policy bits and pieces that you can align with and rationalize to yourself and your friends.

As we saw with President Trump, it’s the totality of the man (all of his views and values) that set the tone and attitude of his administration. Under Trump, the party’s platform was built on divisiveness, hate, mistrust, and anger, and that’s exactly what was reflected in most of Trump’s policies and actions.

It’s important to keep in mind that the anger, hate, and mistrust of government and institutions that Trump used to divide America and strengthen his position politically, are alive and well today. Those feelings and attitudes didn’t magically disappear when Trump was trounced in the 2020 election.

Many Americans who supported Trump are simply waiting for him, or the next Trump-wannabee to come along and validate those feelings, while cultivating and promoting policies that weaken our democracy and march us down the path to authoritarianism.

Colin Powel was a lifelong republican, military man, and honorable public servant who understood the danger of authoritarianism. When he saw fellow republicans refuse to stand against a dangerously authoritarian president, he called them out for their cowardice and left the party.

We need more republicans of stature to do what Colin Powell did – speak up and shine a light on the dangerous and dark influences taking hold of their party. And more importantly, we need strong and outspoken leaders in the GOP to provide a roadmap for getting the party back on track to decency, integrity, and basic American ideals. Without a roadmap, we’re going to see the GOP continue it’s downward spiral towards authoritarianism.

The four years of the Trump administration laid the groundwork for dismantling democracy in America. Colin Powel understood that and voiced his disdain for Trump and the political cowards who failed to stand up to him.

If democracy is to survive in America, we’ll need more voices like Colin Powel’s.

Self Determination

“I’m tired.”

That was the note he left. A sticky note, actually. Pushed hard and pressed purposefully onto the upper-left corner of the corkboard in his home office, now spattered with brain matter and blood.

He woke that Tuesday, poured his coffee, sat on his back porch, and listened to mourning doves coo and the distant rumble of the early commute – trucks and cars, potholes and puddles. The wet hum and rattle of life.

He would miss his morning coffee, but not enough to stick around.

His kids were grown. As best he could, he’d advised them about life and how to get on in the world. So, in this regard, his “main” job was done.

He wasn’t all that unhappy or in any kind of pain, just immensely bored and intensely uninterested in the grind and pursuit, of what, he never entirely understood.

For the last several weeks, he found himself muttering, “What’s the point? Nothing changes. It’s all the same shit.”

What’s the point?

Nothing changes.

It’s all the same shit.

I suppose if one chews on those sentiments long enough, a sticky note on a corkboard and a gun in your mouth is where you end up.

He was missed dearly by his family, who stumbled numbly through life for the next two years.

For weeks after his demise, his faithful dog waited for him to come down the stairs and give a loving pat on the head. Whenever the house creaked, or the upstairs plumbing clanged, his dog would get up, walk to the stairs, and wait.

That was perhaps the saddest display of love and loyalty ever.

Fake Patriotism – Blech!

Republicans all over Facebook are trying to hijack patriotism with fake-ass outrage at an Olympic athlete protesting. These are the same people who turned a blind-eye to a lying ex-president who inspired and praised an insurrection against the United States of America.

“Look at me supporting the flag wavers, the anthem standers, the pledge sayers – I’m a true blue American!!”

Blech!

Posts of proud and talented athletes draped in the stars and stripes, don’t make you “patriotic.”

Posts showing disdain and disgust towards the American athlete who protested, don’t make you a “true American.”

And all the patriotic posts in the world won’t erase the un-American act of supporting a President and a political party that tried to overturn a free and fair election and destroy our democracy. That dark, dank, stank envelops you. It sticks to you like white on rice, and you can’t “patriotic-post” your way out of it.

You want to be a true blue American? Speak out forcefully against the big lie, protest voting laws that make it harder for your fellow citizens to vote, and show your outrage at the refusal to investigate a politically-motivated insurrection against your country.

When it comes to our transience, honesty is the best policy

If we’re lucky, our postmortem shelf-life lasts about 2 generations. After that, the story of us fades from existence entirely.  When the collective memory others have of us disappears, we move from mostly dead to truly dead.  

We might live a few extra minutes a year in the side glances of strangers who pass by our gravestones (on their way to visit a soon-to-be-permanently-forgotten loved one).

A clever quip on a headstone, and the laughter it generates, can raise us from the dead for a few moments. But honestly, that seems like a desperate attempt by the departed to prolong their existence.

YouTube is a heaven on Earth. A digital preservation of the self that survives after we pass. I believe our subconscious desire for everlasting life is at the core of YouTube’s popularity. We’re the modern-day version of the sculptor in Percy Shelley’s Ozymandias, posting digital carvings of ourselves in a futile attempt to stem the tide of our own transience.

As the final memory of us fades to black, we transition from the warmth of humanity to the cold breathless inanimate. In the end, our blood, bone, and guts give way to the flat and dimensionless world of dusty photos, handwritten notes, password-protected social media sites, and, possibly, a couple of YouTube or Tik Tok videos.

Such is our fate.

The thought of man’s impermanence was so bothersome, we invented the concept of an afterlife as as counterbalance. Entire religions have baked the notion of everlasting life into their concocted fairy tales. Most of us were probably raised in a religion that fostered such beliefs.

All of us were probably told by our parents that grandma and grandpa were in heaven, and one day “you’ll see them again!” I’m not sure our parents actually believed this. It’s more likely they were simply repeating what their parents told them, or perhaps they thought this lie would somehow protect us or make us less fearful. Maybe they were just too damn lazy to level with us. Probably a combination of all of these.

I think this world would be a better place if we were just honest with ourselves about our impermanence, and more importantly, honest with our kids about it, from early-on.

Embracing the truth that life is temporary, would make us value and appreciate it more.

Instead of telling our kids that by obeying a set of rules, they’ll get to live forever, we should teach them to live a life that leaves this world in better shape than they found it — so their children and everyone else who comes after them have an opportunity to live comfortably, without undue suffering.  

Instead of lying to our kids about heaven, preach to them about human rights and the importance of equity and for preserving our planet.

A philosophy that embraces our temporary nature and stresses a responsibility to preserve the planet for future generations would go a long way towards improving the here-and-now.

All this nonsense about an afterlife has had a negative effect on our culture and our planet. It’s a good example of how well-intentioned dishonesty can be just as destructive as malevolent dishonesty.

Blocked and loaded

Lately

when I try to write

Nothing comes of it


Just raspy thought-schisms

That fail to take hold

They fizzle and pop

And disappear

in a wisp of blue smoke

Leaving me

With faint and fading echoes

in the empty chambers of my brain


Mornings used to be

My fruitful period

Now they’re as dry as the Sahara

Coffee used to be

a thought lubricant

Now it’s just gasoline

for a stuck and revving engine


There’s a constant buzzing

a negative counterbalance

A marshalling of malevolence

To block the words and spill the ink

I’m waiting for a clearing

A splash of light

On an open field

Of possibility

A Terrible Price

The battle against COVID-19 required competent and steady leadership. To stop the spread of the disease, we needed our President to be honest, smart, and humble.

Honest, because we needed to trust him. We needed to know that what he was telling us about the disease was factual and true, so that we could make well-informed decisions to keep ourselves and our family safe.

Smart, because infections disease epidemiology is complicated and heady stuff. We needed a president who could read briefings and synthesize and extrapolate the relevant data. We needed a President who could sit down with scientists and listen to what they were telling him and effectively make sense of it, so that he could communicate what he learned to the public clearly and concisely. Being able to do this would result in public confidence.

Humble, because COVID-19 was an unknown and ruthless disease. What we learned early-on was subject to change as new data became available. We needed a president who was humble enough to admit the challenge would be extremely difficult and would require Americans to work together in a coordinated and unified manner.

We needed honesty, intelligence, and humility from our President, and he was glaringly 0 for 3.

COVID-19 has killed more than a quarter million Americans. Tens of thousands of those deaths can be blamed on the incompetency of our President. It has wrecked our economy, devastated small businesses, and crippled families. It also shined a light on an immoral and criminally incompetent leader, and in all likelihood, ended the Trump presidency. In a weird twist-of-fate, if not for the virus and incompetent leadership that ensued, we might have lost our democracy.

What a devastating price to pay for electing a conman and reality TV celebrity to the Presidency. I hope we learned a lesson as a nation – that cheap populism makes for a dangerously shaky and ineffectual national platform, and that honesty, intelligence, and humility matter in a President.

Seeped in seventies

Darkly sarcastic

and sardonically wry

We hum and we dance

to American Pie


Rolling thunder over head

Kool-Aid, Keds, and Wonder Bread

Vietnam served us the blues

Cronkite was the nightly news

Worry traveled through the air

And stuck to faces everywhere


They shipped us to the VanHoff School

We learned about the golden rule

Over finger paints and duck-duck goose

and thermoses of apple juice

Mrs. V in her floral dress

sang “raise your hands”

and “clean your mess”

and

“before the day is done

try to touch the sun”


Jungle-gyms and trampolines

Wacky Packs

Mad Magazine

Baseball hats

and Spider bikes

Dad’s Gannset beer

Mom’s Lucky Strikes


Kick Ball, Fishing, Doorbell ditch

Watching reruns of Bewitched

Nixon, Agnew, and John Dean

Shaving cream on Halloween


Through whiffle ball

and kick the can

Johnny Carson

and Ed McMahon

Watergate was all around

in our sight

and in our sound

on the news

and in the paper

the Viet Cong

and foiled caper

It lurked and hovered

overhead

Pages written

and words were said

it wormed its way

into our head

that innocence

was finally dead

it’s all we heard

and all we read

in undercurrents

a subtext grew

a dye was cast

for me and you

we dipped our bread

into the stew

Enjoyed the dark side

of our view

and you were me

and I was you