WE FOUGHT FOR A McDONALD’S IN SAIGON?

At least we had a great time on the Fourth!

In Letters to the Editor, Greenfield Recorder: “Almost exactly 50 years ago, on June 15, 1969, Harold (Pug) Shattuck Jr. (GHS 1966) involuntarily sacrificed his young 20-year-old life so that downtown Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) could now have a McDonald’s! . . . OMG . . . Succinctly.” John Romanovich III (GHS 1964).

I wanted to tell Mr. Romanovich: Exactly when did we ever think that we knew the final outcome of anything?

 

People ask me what I think about the Democratic candidates’ debates.

“I didn’t see them.”

“Who’s your favorite candidate?”

I struggle, so they break it down for me. Elizabeth Warren is so smart, but unelectable [Why?]. Joe Biden’s from another era and Sanders isn’t very personable, but that Kamala Harris—watch out!

Most important, they say, is to get rid of You Know Who. You Know Who, of course, is thrilled to get all this negative attention, he positively thrives on it, but that hasn’t deterred members of the Resistance, who practically cough and choke in their efforts to come up with a word that will capture how much they despise, hate, loathe, abhor, abominate, etc., him.

I remain quiet, but inside what I’m thinking is: Really? The most important thing is to get rid of You Know Who?

First, You Know Who is the puppet dangled by conditions: Ignorance, Racism, Out-of-Control Capitalism, Insularity, Materialism. You  might get rid of You Know Who in the ballot box, but You Know Who 2, like the Kims of North Korea, is waiting in the wings as long as conditions remain the same.

Second, the most important thing is to get rid of You Know Who is like saying that there’s a terrible conflagration rushing towards my home so what I must do right away is get rid of the sign on top of the driveway because it’s made of wood. Maybe hurry out with the water spray bottle that I use to discipline Harry. One look at it and he runs away, maybe the conflagration will do the same thing.

We think so small. We think so slow, while life moves so much faster..

Am I the only one who can’t get interested in politics because she doesn’t think that’s the level on which to play this game? Or maybe it’s one of many levels, but not the most important despite all the media attention showered on it?

So we get someone into office who believes in global warming and cares about disappearing species (including humans) more than about money. We may rejoin the Paris Accords but still contend with a system saturated with money and privilege, and a military complex that will probably label the predicted 200 million climate change refugees as serious terrorist threats, and therefore require more arms, more planes, more submarines, more nuclear weapons, etc. And you know what? By 2050, when 200 million refugees are predicted, a few may indeed loosen terror on a world that caused and then ignored their suffering, leading to even more fear, more partisanship, and a louder call to arms.

I no longer believe that revolution can take place at the top, but I think it can happen on the bottom. On the bottom is you and me.

I think about a spiritual revolution. I think about people recognizing what’s at stake and putting away small concerns, pooling resources, and taking responsibility for what’s transpiring on this beautiful earth rather than expending their energy on hate and blame. I imagine full engagement in small towns and on the streets of big cities, and of training the next generation not just to make money but to continue the fight because it will take more than a lifetime or two.

Cathedrals were once built that way, generation after generation of family craftsmen. We can all be craftsmen and craftswomen in the rebuilding of our society and the world, transmitting our experience and skill to the next generation, and the one after that.

“The situation is hopeless,” cellist Pablo Casals once said. “So what’s the next step?”

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WHAT MAKES THE DESERT BEAUTIFUL

“The stars are beautiful because of a flower you don’t see . . .”

“What makes the desert beautiful,” the Little Prince said, “is that it hides a well somewhere . . .”

A dear friend of mine lost his mother-in-law recently. Every weekend over the past years he and his wife had traveled a long highway to visit with her, only returning home to start a new week of work. It was exhausting.  Recently, she died. Some time later he passed by her home.

“It feels weird,” he said after that. “For so many years I’ve gone there and now she’s not there. “

Every presence denotes an absence, and absence denotes presence; you can’t have one without the other. We think we know that. For example, we know that life is followed by death; someone is present, till s/he’s not.

But when someone is present, do we see the absence there at the same time? Or when someone is absent, do we see their presence simultaneously? Usually we’re stuck in one or the other. But right after loss, it feels as though you have one foot in one and one foot in the other. You experience absence and presence all at the same time.

What makes the desert beautiful is that it hides a well somewhere. What makes this hot summer day so green is that it hides piles of snow, and what makes the light so bright is that it hides a dark, moonless night (except for the fireflies that do their magic along the edges of the forest).

Bernie and I once discussed Buddhist groups and people who do hallucinogens in order to experience a different reality.

“Zen is about seeing things as they are,” he said. “Nothing extra, just as they are.”

“Much is hidden inside,” I said.

He looked at me. “You have so much imagination,” he mused.

On the 49thday of his death I walked in the deep woods and emerged at the top of the farm that Zen Peacemakers had owned for a decade or so. A crow cawed from the top of a very large willow tree we once considered taking down to make room for water and sewage pipes. Each time I see that tree I think of how close it came to dying.

A blue car, a little like Bernie’s, came down the drive, circled the island that contained the big willow, and then drove out without stopping. There was no wind anywhere, but leaves fluttered madly.

I wish I knew how to read these things.

 

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UNABLE TO LOCATE

Photo by Peter Cunningham

I love to see how a leaf quivers in dead air. You walk down a path and everything is still: no air moving, no breeze, it’s hot, humid, and heavy. And then the tip of one leaf, just the tip, starts quivering , and then shakes. You look around. Don’t see anything, don’t feel anything, nothing else moves.

Why are you moving? you ask the leaf.

What can’t you see? IWhat aren’t your senses showing you?

 

Bernie did a lot of big things, but often I think of how he was in the last years before his stroke, after he turned 70, when the small things of life absorbed him. He loved to take three drives every day and smoke a stogie with the dogs in the back seat. He didn’t go to the ballet, he didn’t want to do theater, and with a few exceptions he didn’t want to travel to see the world.

He enjoyed small things: watching TV, following the New England Patriots on their annual, irrevocable march to the playoffs (That Brady!), making a tuna fish sandwich or going out for a small Subway sandwich, and of course, taking his daily bath.

Those are the invisible things in one’s life that no one else sees, only the person living with you. His getting up at 4 am when you still have your eyes tightly shut, walking over to the closet to get his kimono, going to the office to check news and emails. Sometime around 6, just when you get up, you hear the bathtub water come on. If you walk in there 10 minutes later, he’ll look up from his bath at you, as relaxed as could be, at peace with the world.

Then it’s time for the morning ride, whatever pretext he could find: I need to fill up the car with gas; Don’t you feel like having a donut? And when he returns 40 minutes later you greet him with: Did you go to Dunkin Donuts via Vermont? Because, of course, he really went to smoke a  cigar.

Have I thought how much that cigar smoking may have contributed to his stroke? I have. And Bernie may have thought of it, too, but my guess is he didn’t give it much attention. It was past, so that was that. After the stroke, the only thing he really missed, I think, was his morning bath.

Which reminds me of a recent item on the Montage Police Log, as reported by the Montague Reporter:

6:34 pm. Red and white Chihuahua missing on L Street. No collar on because of just having had a bath this morning. Unable to locate.

It was amazing how full and at ease he was in those years. There were still debts to repay, but something basic had shifted inside. In his mind, he had given Zen Peacemakers over to life. The man who’d held and carried so much, daily scanning hundreds of emails coming in from different teachers and peacemakers in different countries, all with their respective stories and challenges, not to mention the projects he still had his fingers in, not to mention the many ideas that constantly popped up in that creative head—little by little he gave it away. Some he would delegate to others; a lot he shrugged away, as if to say: life will take care of it; they’ll find the way, they’ll find an answer. Or they won’t.

Of course, he kept on teaching.

“What are you going to do?” I’d ask him before he flew.

“Oh, you know,” and he’d quote a Yiddish proverb to me, which I’ll reproduce in English: The same shit with a new decoration. Same old same old. But how Bernie loved creating new, more fantastic decorations! He’d come home and say: “You know what happened? Someone asked me a question about so-and-so, and you know what I told them?” He’d repeat it to me, and muse: “I don’t think I ever talked like that before.” He loved that constant bubbling of his own creativity.

But when he was at home he took things easy, which discomfited me a bit. “Bernie, don’t you want to do something?” I’d say.

“Like what?”

“I don’t know,” I’d mumble.

“The dogs need a ride,” he’d inform me. “And I need a cigar. Do you want a slice of pizza?”

Unable to locate.

 

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THE WHEEL COMES ROUND

Let me in! Let me in!

“Aussie, I’m not opening the door for you. What are you doing outside on the front steps early in the morning?”

“Why are you coming downstairs so late? It’s already 7!”

“I couldn’t sleep half the night wondering who opened the dog door.”

At night I take the dogs out for a final pee, and then shut the dog door in the kitchen, meaning I close up the aperture in the door through which they usually run out to the backyard by inserting a thin wooden board through the slots. This blocks them from their usual exit.

“Guess!” she says, wagging her tail excitedly and rushing in. “It was me, Nu-nu-nu, Breaker of All Rules.” Her eyes sparkle. “Why block the dog door anyway?”

“Because otherwise you and Harry would be running out and barking all night, which will make Tim, our neighbors, and me very unhappy.”

This worked till last night. Around midnight I heard coyote yips and barks. Unconcerned, I turned and went back to sleep. An hour later I woke up, feeling it was strangely quiet. I went down and saw that the wooden board had been nudged up. There was no Aussie, and no sleep.

At 7 in the morning I looked out the front door and there she was, lying patiently on the top step. Needless to say, she not only managed to nudge open the dog door, she also found another way out of the fence and was gone.

 

“You were always the trouble-maker,” my mother told me.

She didn’t stop badgering me about being more Jewish, observing holidays and kosher rules, and generally being a more acceptable daughter till I was past 50.

“What do you mean by trouble-maker?” I asked her some years later, when we were finally able to have this conversation.

“You were crazy,” she said. “Or at least,” she mercifully corrected herself, “you were different.”

“How different?”

“You were independent, you knew what you wanted and what you didn’t. You were like this from a very young age, stubborn. Other children grow up and later decide if they want our life or not, but you rejected it right away. You were such a rebel we didn’t know what to do with you.”

I almost felt sorry for her, watching her contemplate all those misadventures.

“I’ll say one thing for you,” she added. “You were consistent. You never let anybody tell you what to do, not then and not now.”

 

So of course, I have Aussie. Outside I frown, say Nu-nu-nu, Aussie!, tell her how glad I am that Harry’s not like her. But inside, I cheer her on. I admire her spunk, her never-say-die. Watch her through the window as she saunters to the gate again and again, probing the fence, the latch, and now the tight bungee-cord for weaknesses, for just the tiniest laxity. If it’s there, she’ll find it.

“You know, Aussie, you’re the first dog I’ve ever had that’s managed to open up a dog door.”

“You know that stupid sign you have up on top of the driveway?”

“You mean the one that says No Matter Where You’re From, We’re Glad You’re Our Neighbor”?

“I think you should take it down and put up another.”

“Which one, Auss?”

“Live Free or Die.”

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EXTRAORDINARY VALOR

Abandoned homeless encampment in a park in Greenfield

On July 18 we’ll begin the 5thannual retreat with Native American elders in Lakota country. We’ll be in the Black Hills and the Cheyenne River Reservation.

Yesterday, two of the elders, Manny and Renee Iron Hawk, were in Washington, D.C., along with other descendants of the survivors of the Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890, to urge Congress to rescind the 20 Congressional Medals of Honor, the highest military honor in this country, that were given to soldiers of the 7thcavalry who implemented the Wounded Knee Massacre.

To see their testimony, go here: https://www.facebook.com/fourdirections/videos/2295789657303145/.

Some 300 Lakota were killed; it’s estimated that two-thirds were women and children. Some 25 cavalry soldiers were killed as well, mostly by other soldiers, i.e., friendly fire (is there a more classic oxymoron than that?). The massacre took place during a disarming of the Lakota, so many of them could no longer defend themselves. The U.S. Cavalry was also aided by 4 big mountain guns that were aimed at the Indians below.

Marry Iron Hawk testified about hearing from his grandmother how she survived at the age of 12 when her grandmother took her by the hand when the shooting began and ran to the ravine to hide. There were other stories:

My grandfather was 13 and escaped by running down to the ravine.

My great-grandfather was killed at Wounded Knee, but his daughter escaped.

I thought of the years growing up when I heard stories from my mother related to the Holocaust: We hid in the cellar of this family for several months. There was so little room that once I had to go out to look for food, and my legs crumbled under me and I couldn’t stand.

I could hear the heavy boots of the German soldiers coming up the stairs towards where we lived, coming for us.

People say that we can’t really blame them, they thought they were being shot at. When people feel threatened, they shoot. But where’s the honor? I wonder how I would feel if the people who perpetrated what they did to my family in Europe received Germany’s greatest medal for courage.

I don’t live in Germany, I live in this country, with a tradition of virulent violence perpetrated on native peoples. And I think of what happens when realities don’t align, when you’re told that your family was massacred and that the killers were subsequently cited for extraordinary courage and valor beyond measure.

What world do I live in, I might ask myself. Who are these people? Who am I? I could even start wondering what’s real and what’s not, because after all, I experience things one way and others experience them completely differently. How come I’m so different from everyone else? What’s wrong with me?

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WHEN THE WHOLE WORLD IS HAPPY

I have to admit to you that there are days when I rely on my crazy dogs to remind me what it is to feel alive.

The other day I walked with them along a pond, Harry skipped close to the water and fell in. He clambered up, water dripping from his whiskers, and I laughed. He grinned. No face-saving devices, none of that I’m still tough, don’t make fun of me, routine. He grinned and I laughed. Moments of spontaneous connection.

Other days I feel groundless. In Zen cosmology that’s considered a good thing, seeing that things lack their own permanent identity and substance and instead co-arise and fade with everything else. But this groundless hasn’t felt good.

Left to my own devices at home, I walk from room to room and feel that nothing is really important. I have my discipline, the things I have to do, but there’s little enthusiasm. I feel wide awake and asleep all at the same time.

I know the explanations. It’s not just that Bernie and I were married, it’s that we were in the same world, the same group of people, the same work. At every dinner we talked about Zen Peacemakers or Greyston or people we cared about. I worked hard to have my own life, and to some extent succeeded. But there’s no denying that our lives were enmeshed, that we talked the same language and loved the same things day in day out. After his stroke, when he needed care, our days became even more enmeshed.

So when I walk around the house and wonder who I am now that he’s gone, who and what is this person that’s survived, surrounded by trees and troubled by a malfunctioning car, nothing brings me back to life like the dogs.

I saw Aussie through the office window walking towards the backyard gate. I watched her probe the ladder that I’d laid down horizontally against the gate. She sniffed the rungs—there wasn’t much space between them–and probed through with her nose, finagled her body between the rungs, contorted it up to reach up to the latch with her black nose, applied pressure, it gave, and she was out.

I shook my head, thinking: Aussie, you are something else! How could I not cheer her on inside? Go, Aussie! Figure it out. You can do it!

It was a gorgeous late Sunday afternoon, the sun beginning to come down but still splashing us with plenty of rays. I’d taken them out in the morning for a long jaunt, unleashed, in the Montague preserve but 7 hours later she wanted more.

She came back and I greeted her in the yard: “You are a nu-nu-nu!”

She grinned happily, showing her beautiful white teeth.

“I saw you do it. You are a nu-nu-nu, Aussie Moss! That’s your dharma name from now on—Nu-nu-nu. Breaker of All Rules.”

She positively glittered with joy. She was proud of herself and knew I wasn’t angry this time, that I was even happy for her. It was a burst of joy for both of us. Other days I’ll get angry and yell, but not then. Harry got into the act and started chasing her around, two green hummingbirds flew around the feeders, the wind chimes rang under the tree, and the whole earth was happy.

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MOVE-COUNTERMOVE

Item from the Montague Police Log, as reported in the Montague Reporter:

“Wednesday, 6/11

10:32 pm. Caller from Randall Wood Drive advises that their miniature pinscher got loose earlier this evening. Caller reports that dog is uncatchable; MPD may receive some complaints that dog is barking and running around the neighborhood. They do not want an officer to respond because they know that they will not be able to catch the dog; this has happened before, and she will come back eventually. Officer advised.”

 

“You win again, Aussie.”

“That’s 4-0, girl!”

“4-0?”

“Twice I managed to run away through the side gate by the garage before you even noticed.”

“You moved, and I counter-moved. I wired that gate shut!”

“So I counter-counter-moved, and ran through the other gate that the gardener was using. At first she was being careful, opening and shutting the gate behind her as soon as she was finished, but I watched and watched; I was sure that eventually she’d make a mistake. Sure enough, she left it open when she took her wheelbarrow through and I went for it. Check!”

“So I pulled our big ladder over and leaned it against the shut gate so that nobody could open it again, Auss. And then this morning I was getting ready to take you guys to the preserve. I put Harry’s collar on and then I looked for you so that I could put yours on, and you weren’t there. I opened the front door and there you were.”

“Checkmate! You looked so silly, with that surprised look on your face. What are you doing in front of the house, Aussie? you asked. Is that a dumb question, or what? I’m free, is what I said. I’m free to run where I please.”

“But how did you get out, Auss?”

“I won’t say.”

“I notice a widening hole in that big tree in the corner, but it’s not big enough for you to get through.”

“I won’t say, I won’t say.”

“Later on I examined the gate and noticed that while the ladder was still leaning against it, the latch was now open. Don’t tell me that you were able to jump over the ladder and lift up the latch all at the same time!”

“I won’t say.”

“You’re doing better than the US women’s soccer team, Auss. Do you know that there’s a koan about I won’t say? A Zen master and student pass by a coffin with a corpse in it. The student knocks on the coffin and asks the teacher: Is it dead or alive? Guess what the Zen master says.”

I won’t say, I won’t say.”

“Exactly, Aussie. And why wouldn’t he say?”

“For the same reason that I won’t tell you how I manage to break out. If I do, you’ll go right to the spot and fix it, tie it up, make adjustments, and shut me in again. No, your practice is to keep on looking and looking and looking. You can’t take anything for granted.”

“And what’s your practice, Auss?”

“To find the hole in the fence. Never stop looking for the hole in the fence–or in the tree.”

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YOU’RE A NU-NU-NU!

“You are a nu-nu-nu, Aussie!” I tell the irrepressible dog when she bounds into the office, looking immensely proud of herself.

Nu-nu-nu is a babyism from Israel that has stayed in my bones. It’s what you say to young children if they do wrong. Aussie has heard nu-nu-nu from me from the day she arrived here, and for only one reason: She won’t stop running away.

Last night I tried to do what I usually do, put the dogs indoors for the night and block up the dog door. Aussie was nowhere to be found. Housemate Tim went out and clapped his hands, but she didn’t come. At 6 in the morning I find her fast asleep on her favorite living room chair. “You’ve been all over the world this past night, haven’t you?” I say.

“Go away, I need my sleep.”

I go outdoors and find it. The side gate from the back yard has been opened. It has a latch, but what’s a latch for Aussie? She nuzzles it up and then sidles sideways and through, and she’s outa-here!

I had to go out so there wasn’t much I could do but shut the gate. Sure enough, when I returned there was no Aussie. Then I heard a bark and turned around. Harry was on the inside of the back fence, and he was looking straight across at Aussie’s face barely a foot away from his, with the fence in between. She was out, he was in.

Harry barked shrilly, then stopped. Quietly they looked at each other, uncertain how to proceed. I could almost hear their thoughts:

Harry: “How can you be Aussie if you’re on the other side of the fence? It’s always you and me against the world, only now you are in the world. Where does that leave me? Who am I?”

Aussie: “Oh Harry, you got to join me and see the world.”

Harry: “We have a big yard, Auss.”

Aussie: “A big yard is not the world, Harry.”

Harry: “We have trees, we have grass, lots of flowers and plants to pee on.”

Aussie: “It’s not the world, Harry.”

Harry: “We have worms, caterpillars, salamanders, toads, snakes, squirrels, and lots and lots of chipmunks.”

Aussie: “But it’s not the world. Don’t get attached to all these local forms that make you comfortable, Harry, don’t be a typical Zen student. The yard may look like it’s got everything, but it doesn’t.”

Harry: “What doesn’t it have, Aussie? I have the earth here.”

Aussie: “I have more earth. I can run and run and cover far more earth than you.”

Harry: “That’s true, Auss, but I got lots of earth under my paws, in fact as much as you. And I have sky.”

Aussie: “I have more sky.”

Harry: “You may think you got more sky, but when I look up the sky goes as far as my eye could see. Who needs more?”

She must have pondered the conversation, because half an hour later she came bounding into the house, full of rain and high spirits.

“You’re a nu-nu-nu!” I told her.

“You’re a control freak,” she told me.

Just to confirm her diagnosis, I immediately walked outside with two pieces of wire and fastened them tight around the gate entrance. “You can raise up the latch all you want,” I told her when I came home, “but that gate won’t open.”

She shook herself hard, getting all the rain on the rug, and jumped up on the sofa, part of her strategy to get all the furniture as wet as possible. Next, I knew, was my bed upstairs. She lay her head down between both paws and pretended to go to sleep, but I knew she was already plotting her next big escape.

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SELF-PORTRAITS

 

I saw a documentary on Rembrandt over the weekend, and specifically his later works. The camera hovered lovingly over his self-portraits. Someone said that Rembrandt wrote his autobiography in his self-portraits; I think they are the greatest series of self-portraits done by any artist.

When he’s young they show him handsome, smooth-faced, somewhat arrogant, he could be a nobleman, a man of leisure. By the end there is the flabby skin, the pouches under the eyes, the sinking of the lower half of his face. Only the eyes look deeper than they have in previous self-portraits, contemplating a life. Everything is exposed, if not explained, on that canvas.

A young girl took a photo of me on Sunday (see below). We were standing in the kitchen. She was making Mac-and-cheese and I was wearing a sweater because it was a cool, rainy morning. This photo is no self-portrait, and it’s certainly no Rembrandt. He was looking in while I was looking at her, because she was smiling so prettily, without any questions or ruminations about life. The only thing my face has in common with Rembrandt’s is that I, too, have pouches under my left eye.

I’ve never liked to see photos of myself, and especially of close-ups like this one. But when I see it, I feel that what I want to do before I die is fully accept that face, fully accept myself.

When I run into messes or failures, or what feel like failures, I don’t want to start thinking what was wrong with me that I could make such a mistake or such a decisions. Nor do I wish to idealize anything.

I have kept a few goals but have let go of personal vision. I don’t want this human being of Mondays or Thursdays conforming to some image, some static, abstract dream that doesn’t take into account the added weight, the pouches under the eyes, the tiny hairs that appear occasionally on the face,

Other people might find a personal vision helpful, I understand that, but in my life those ideals have often been a trap, squeezing me into a tube where I stay contorted and uncomfortable. I’m not anyone’s idea of a teacher or a writer, including my own. I’m done with conforming to anything.

Over my life I have spent some time, through personal reflection, therapy, and the give-and-take of relationships, looking at my conditioning. It’s always a temptation to say, I’ve been there, done that, and now I’m wiser. But I’m not sure I’m that much wiser. I suspect that, years of practice notwithstanding, I still act within certain deeply ingrained parameters. Even with the opportunities for freedom and spontaneity provided by each moment, there’s a very basic knowing that continues to act within me.

Can I accept that person, too? I know she changes, but how often do we say that as an escape from the present moment rather than full acceptance of it?

Rembrandt saw himself—a genius painter out of favor, a bankrupt, a man who lost a wife and children, impoverished, ignored, and even reviled at this last stage of his life—and he didn’t look away. Instead he used all the hard-earned skills he accumulated over a lifetime and his native genius to express the totality of what he saw.

I am no Rembrandt, but I would like at least to have that kind of integrity, to see and listen as well as I could, not look away.

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NOW WE KNOW WHO WE ARE

“Now we know who we are.”

Those were the words, my friend reported, that a neighbor said to her as they discussed the reign of Donald Trump.

And who are we? People talk about the emergence of blatant racism, the hate of immigrants, anti-Semitism, misogyny. What came up for me was: money.

Who we are, as a society, is money.

Friends from other countries have talked to me in the past about how Americans loved money more than other people. I must admit that for years I didn’t believe it. We all like things, I thought; some want more, some want less. Simpleton that I was, I didn’t think that Americans were so ahead of the game when it came to money. So I must thank Donald Trump for unveiling just how much money defines us as a society and a culture.

Money is a language that Trump seems especially fond of. While other presidents have said it was important for them to be compassionate, kind, and even God-fearing, Donald Trump loves to point out what a great business negotiator he is.

Even in nonbusiness matters, money is his way of doing things. How to stop the flow of migrants? Impose tariffs on Mexican goods. How to redefine our relationship with China? Impose tariffs. What to do about the farmers who then suffer from tariffs on China? Give them more money. What is he (and fellow Congressional Republicans) immensely proud of? The great tax break they gave to the wealthy and to businesses.

When you think of Mar-a-Lago, his weekly retreat, as opposed to rural Camp David where other presidents went, what comes up? Money. When I look at the fake hair color, I think of money. Gold is what matters. It’s a stand-in for self-respect, self-fulfillment, and a balanced perspective on your true proportions.

I suspect that’s true not just for Trump, but also for much of our culture. Sociologists tell us that the reason Americans don’t connect with socialism or communism and haven’t had revolutions despite the outrageous proportion of our GDP that goes to the rich is because, in our heart of hearts, we want to join the rich, and even the super-rich. We want to be on the other side of that gap.

I was at a chain store one early evening with only one cashier handling many customers. We waited a very long time. Just as I, at the end of the line, got to the cashier, a second one arrived and made the loud announcement—“I can take the next person”-though there was no one there. “Why is she here finally when there’s no one on line anymore?” I asked the young woman who was finally checking out what I’d bought.

In reply my casher gave me a card, photo above.

“What’s this?” I asked.

“Next time you get $2.00 off because you had to wait,” the young woman said brightly.

I was taken aback. “I don’t want your money,” I finally said. “Just say you’re sorry.”

Only twice have I written negative customer reviews of a product I bought online. Instantly I was inundated by offers of discounts to take off my negative comments. Nobody apologized, nobody said it won’t happen again, just: We’ll give you money if you take it off.

There was a time when such offers were considered bribery; not anymore. Do we even blink when this happens? Haven’t most of us learned to talk this oh-so-American language?

In Citizens United vs. FEC, the Supreme Court ruled that corporations are like human beings in terms of right to free speech, including political spending. I think we’re returning the favor and, in this country at least, human beings are becoming more and more like corporations.

 

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