Archives for category: Politics

Signs of the Times

A.V. Walters

It’s almost over, thank god. I can hardly wait for the end of this election season. My inbox is overflowing with solicitations for money, for support, or just for the opportunity to wallow in righteous indignation.

I admit it, I’m a wonk. I research the various races and candidates on the ballot. I spend the time on the internet checking the records and policies of all the candidates. It isn’t a straight party ticket for me; I don’t vote tribal. My choices will be on principle and on the issues. I don’t reward bad behavior.

Though it’s no substitute for research, I confess I enjoy the rough and tumble world of yard-signs. We’re relatively new to the community and nothing is as revealing as what folks post on their front lawns. I chuckle when the lawn signs advocate for inconsistent candidates—is it marital schism, ignorance or some more primal form of loyalty dictating those screaming confessionals?

For the first time in my life I have posted a yard sign. It’s for a minor local position. I like this woman, I like her policies and she’s the wife of the family that owns the local hardware. I get a lot of my local information from the characters who hang out at the hardware. Like many candidates in the area, she boasts roots in the area that go back generations. I see that as a warning to uppity folks, like me, who’d consider a run for office on principle. Around here, who “your people are” matters a lot more than your positions. Local is tribe, too. As a newbie, if I ran for office, I wouldn’t stand a chance.

This has been a particularly hard fought election year. The local paper reports that there’s been a serious spate of yard-sign shenanigans. People are stealing yard-signs. People are posting yard signs in yards, other than their own. I’m not sure which is more offensive, silencing free speech or trying to pawn off support where there is none. I see it all as a form of dastardly contagion, direct from the top down. It’s been an ugly contest season, in which the two-party system has failed us. The major candidates at the top of the ticket have failed to behave, failed to follow the conventional rules of decorum.

Call me old fashioned, but I like civil discourse, honesty and issues-based debate. It goes to my deep belief in deliberation through the marketplace of ideas. It ought not be about personalities, but about weighing the value of the candidates’ ideas and records. Indeed, it’s clear that both of the Presidential contenders have done their utmost to conceal just who they are from the voters. This is not a good way to start a relationship.

This kerfuffle of a contest has brought out the brute in everyone. Further down the food chain, that same childish ugliness plays out, stealing signs and undermining democracy. What’s missing in all this is that on the morning of November 9th, we’re going to have to get up, get back to business, and figure out a way to move forward in the world—or are we doomed to this new fashion of obstruction for its own sake?

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The Tyranny of Round Numbers

A.V. Walters

This is my 200th blog. Next week, I’m coming up on my third anniversary of blogging. I’ve been stuck on this momentous event. Somehow, it felt like I was supposed to be profound, or something. Oh well, what you see is what you get.

I was a conscripted blogger. “They” said that indie writers and publishers needed to blog. Apparently, we need an online presence in order to sell books. Ha!

I bellied up to the bar, and started blogging. What does a fiction writer blog about? Everything, and nothing. I followed my nose, tried to stay away from politics (a stretch for me) and focused on chronicling the rich parts of the everyday. I cannot honestly say that the blog has ever sold a book. And then, after about eighteen months, they said, “Oh, never mind the blogging, it doesn’t work for fiction.”

But, by then, it was too late. Like most writers, I live in my head. I am probably most comfortable in writing. In this funny, online world, I have made friends. Political friends (even when I pledged not to go there,) artist friends, gardeners, organic farmers, people who keep bees, people who can vegetables, celiacs, funny people, other writers, editors, ne’er-do-wells and goody-two-shoes. In short, I have found community.

They are everywhere. My “regulars” are as far flung as Australia, Singapore, France, United Kingdom, Brazil, Canada, Germany, India, New Zealand, and all corners of these United States. In the blogosphere, I travel all over, too. Over the course of three years, I’ve been visited by over seventy countries. I am continually amazed that we can connect across the ether. These connections give me hope. Even as governments fail us, and corporations sell us, we can all be ambassadors of civility, humor and peace.

Not that I’d be considered a “successful” blogger. My numbers remain relatively low. I refuse to play SEO games. I refuse to do internet marketing or advertising. (Aren’t these scams?) I refuse to amend how I title my blogs, just to capture more “hits.” Indeed, learning that the blog wasn’t going to sell books, anyway, was liberating. I am free to be stubborn! I can do whatever I want in this forum; it is my world! (And welcome, by the way.) Despite what my trusty editor, Rick, says, I am even free to use semi-colons.

Our most popular topics are about season and gardening (oh, yeah, and emus.) The single most enduring blog is still Naming Emus. Stories about living on the chicken farm in Two Rock are popular, too. The shock of relocation is wearing off; we’re comfortable in Northern Michigan and revel in seasons (and snow removal.) It’s been an adventure. And you’ve been there, all the way.

We’re hovering on many exciting new ventures for the next year. We’ll finish the cabin and move in (gypsies, no more)—we’ll get the garden started (already I’m up to my ears in seed catalogs), I’ll finally try my hand at beekeeping (after wanting and waiting for five decades!) and, if there’s time and energy, we’ll get chickens. I’ll keep blogging, and sharing, though I may slow down just a bit this spring. I’m trying to get my head back into writing—I have an unfinished novel haunting me.

So, thank you all for following, sharing, commenting and enriching my life. Raise a glass—Happy 200!
(Next time, pictures, I promise.)

 

ooops, here’s the link to the most visited blog, https://two-rock-chronicles.com/2013/03/10/naming-emus/

Good Night and Good Luck—

A.V. Walters—

There was a time when I recognized the gentle, diplomatic art of compromise, back when pragmatism seemed like a viable solution to the tensions inherent in any reasonable system. No longer. I’m afraid that, despite the fact that I’ve been unable to rid myself of this vestigial appendage, I’ve come to see reasonable as ridiculous.

You’d have to be naïve or foolhardy to think it was a rational strategy in today’s political environment. Compromise requires a willingness on both sides to surrender some, in exchange for the common good. It requires a measure of good faith, both in the negotiations and in the articulation of each side’s stated starting point. Good luck with that.

Civility is dead. And, it took any chance of an honest broker with it. We have entered the era of the stubborn stalemate, the sneak attack and the tantrum divide. We have become ungovernable.

The symptoms are unmistakable: Rogue Police Departments demanding apologies from Sports Figures, when the latter have deigned to speak truthiness; Law Schools dropping the instruction of rape laws, because it’s too sensitive; Corporations equating any criticism for their policies with Naziism; torture apologists threatening us with what the world would be without the use of their questionable talents; and, of course, the end of The Colbert Report, only in part, because extremism is so ubiquitous as to not be noticeably funny anymore.

Liberals stand, scratching their heads, impotent in negotiations because they foolishly started out with (OMG) the facts. There is no middle anymore. The raging tantrum of extreme politics has, in the name of compromise, pulled us so far to the wacko-right that the balance is forever skewed. I am at a loss for how we find the road back to civility and balance. I’m afraid that the distraction factor is the point, and that nobody is actually interested in governance anymore.

It’s too bad. Serious issues need to be addressed—Climate change; contamination of our food and water supply, the failure to address the peacetime nuclear threats of waste and operations, our disappearing civil rights. All of this stems from the death of our democratic ideals under the erosive influence of corporate money and its undermining disenfranchisement. In the wake of the collapse of our attention spans, corporations do what they will. I don’t know what to do about it. Help me here—I’m looking for a place to start.

A Long, Dark Winter–

A.V. Walters

Long time, no blog.

It’s not all dark. We had a wonderful Thanksgiving, up in Copper Harbor, driving into, and then, back out of winter. We enjoyed an initial, if unseasonable, winter blast early in November. I would have blogged about it, but then the news and photos came in from Buffalo. Really, we couldn’t compete with that. How could I even complain that the season had caught us unawares, when southeast of us the Lake Effect had dumped five feet of snow in two days? Then, it rained, taking all of our snow with it. We went to bed the evening of November 24th, with no snow in sight. We woke to five inches on the ground, and a long, white drive (over the river and through the woods) up to visit my mother for the holiday. The further north we drove, the deeper the snow. It was lovely, but then I wasn’t the driver.

After about a week of visits and goodies, we retraced our steps home, to a cold, but nearly snowless landscape. It’s been a roller coaster of a winter.

We’re losing our light as we tiptoe up to the solstice. But the real darkness in our lives lately has been the news. 2014 has brought repeated waves of senseless tragedies, the lather, rinse, repeat, of police violence against unarmed, young black men. And, even children.

I’ve always made a conscious effort to keep politics (other than about food issues) out of this blog. But, the last thing this country needs, right now, is for its citizens to go silent, to go dark.

I’ve always had a fierce belief in the Rule of Law, and so the recurring failure of the legal system to deliver a fair and reasoned response has been heart-rending. From my safe, middle-aged, white, woman’s perspective, I cannot even imagine how betrayed our African-American communities must feel. The Grand Jury system has been rigged, not only in its failure to deliver justice, but in the fact that its lack of transparency has repeatedly pre-empted our constitutional guarantee of an open trial by jury. We fail to deliver justice to the victims of these assaults and, in so doing, we compound the historical injustices to disadvantaged and minority communities. Even worse, it’s been done in secret. This is a clear abuse of the Grand Jury system—District Attorneys have a clear conflict of interest when they choose to use the Grand Jury process to investigate police abuses. It’s difficult to hold my head high. I am ashamed of the American Lie of fairness and (color) blind justice, in our legal system. The racist, Old-Boy network of mutual back scratching and “justice” with a wink and a nod remains. I feel sick about it. And the news has been full of revelations of deeply ingrained racism in our institutions of justice and public safety, not to mention the bias and propaganda we are seeing in the main-steam press. There is no “post-racial.”

Just when I wanted to throw up my hands in disgust, I read that a group of young people from the Ferguson community were working with the Department of Justice to find constructive solutions—a six point plan that, if implemented, would begin to restore faith in the system. I read of the flyers that Ferguson protesters tucked onto the windshields in the areas of the marches—reasoned, honorable statements against racial bias, seeking to step beyond the tragedies to solutions. And I saw huge crowds of peaceful protesters, people of all races, stepping up to bear witness that this, this is not our way. I am humbled that my angered paralysis was not as strong or as wise a response as those from the affected community who are reaching across to their tormentors to seek peace and fairness.

It gives me hope, even as the bodies line up and the scales of justice tilt wildly, the wrong way. This evil must not keep us from being our best selves. We cannot afford to be discouraged. Our dignity, our very humanity, is in the balance. We certainly cannot give up and turn away as small minds, full of hate, decide what kind of world we’ll live in.

Join protests. Write letters. Talk about it. Turn to it and face it, not away from it. Racism is our underground disease and collective shame. Our founders capitulated to it—and our worst war was fought over it. In the scrutiny of the light of day, its ugliness becomes increasingly apparent and perhaps that is our best hope to overcome it. It may be that we will never be free of racism. If constant vigilance is the price of a just society, I have to be willing to do my part.

The solstice is only a fortnight away. Two short weeks and we’ll begin to turn the tide of darkness. The promise of spring will lift my heart. Maybe the hope I see in the dreams of young people, earnestly opposing injustice, will bring peace to my anguished heart and to this troubled nation.

Add Your Voice–

A.V. Walters–

The deadline for comments to the FCC regarding net neutrality is July 15. The head of the FCC, Tom Wheeler, has indicated that he’ll give more weight to those comments that are unique and personal. This is not a “click” opportunity. For those of us who feel that net neutrality is critical to free speech–now is the time to add your voice. (Do it while we still can!) You can email your comments to Docket Number:14-28 Protecting an Open Internet at the FCC (OpenInternet@fcc.gov) Or you can call at 888-225-5322. You don’t need to write a lengthy tome, but we all need to express the importance of Net Neutrality. If we hand the keys of the internet over to the corporate interests that would like to make it a toll road, we can kiss our free speech goodbye. This is way more important than cute cat videos. Write and tell them why a free and open internet is important to you. Here’s my two bits:

 

There is an inner kernel to the internet–maybe it’s the core of what’s wonderful about it. It isn’t photo swapping on facebook. It isn’t shopping on Amazon, or downloading movies. These are pedestrian and commercial uses. The important stuff is the inner core, the “small d” democratic use–like what I’m doing right now.

Over the past few decades, there has been unprecedented consolidation in the media. Maybe even because of the internet, newspapers have failed or merged. Increasingly, we are left with fewer and fewer real voices. If one’s position isn’t that championed by major media (who are increasingly co-opted by corporate interests) there are few forums for free speech. The internet is that free speech forum. Keeping it neutral guarantees that there will continue to be an avenue of opposition and dissent. In this country we cherish our freedoms. Unfortunately, too few of us actually exercise them. Those who do become the fulcrum of democracy. Given an opportunity to be heard, they are our collective conscience and are often the inspiration for the rest of us to wake up and act. Without that speech opportunity, we are lost. Without it, there will be no true marketplace of ideas, there will only be those voices that have corporate or government support. We cannot let the ideas that drive the nation be reduced to the occasional tweet. In a world where our politicians and process are for sale to the highest bidder, we need to preserve citizen speech.

Net neutrality guarantees us an outlet of democratic access. If the internet is a toll road, if there are prepaid “fast lanes,” the rest will fall to disrepair. The internet lets us meet, online, to discuss the issues that are central to our today. Net neutrality ensures that those voices can be found, and heard. Out there, in the din of corporate and commercial messages, is the real soul of our nation–the blogger who protests government or corporate tyranny–the witness whose photo goes viral and forces us all to look in the mirror at oppression–the artist whose work isn’t pretty but graphically makes us look in our hearts to see whether we are part of the problem or part of the solution. True free speech isn’t pretty or popular. It’s not likely to garner corporate sponsorship or the internet fast lane.

Even more worrisome is that, in the hands of a corporate fast lane, there is no incentive to protect true speech. Their interests are to sell, to entertain, to market. Despite frightening recent court rulings that corporations have rights, we all know that the driving force in the world of business is money. There is no business interest in the small conscientious voices among us. Indeed, the voices we most have to protect frequently challenge government or corporate authority. Ideas like equality and fairness do not have price tags associated with them, yet they are the most valuable currency this country has. That’s why we need net neutrality.

We all learned this as children. Basic fairness and etiquette don’t give the advantage to the dollar. Net neutrality is a simple proposition, and one that’s difficult to argue against–first come, first served.

Remembrance

A.V. Walters

Growing up in Canada, we called it Remembrance Day. It was the day you bought pin-on poppies from brittle old men, and wore them to recite In Flanders Fields, which all school children memorized for the occasion. It’s a Canadian thing. We got the day off school, of course, but it was a guilty pleasure. Some of our friends spent the day in cemeteries or at war memorials honoring those lost in “The Big Wars.”

It honored the peace brought on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month and, at least initially, it honored the losses and hopes specific to the Great War. That was before the wars had sequels and we started to number them. I say hopes, because with the conclusion of the Great War, the hope was that this treaty would create a truly great and lasting peace. What were they thinking?

This day was once remembered in the United States as Armistice Day. That, being too war-specific, was later changed to Veteran’s Day. No poppies, though. In America we’ve bifurcated the war-remembering business into two main days, Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day—separating the flag-waving into a day for the living and a day for the dead. The dead are low-maintenance. Their day is always a Monday, for the convenience of the three-day-weekend. I wish it had retained its solemnity, but all too often it’s just considered the kick-off weekend for the summer season. (Much as the venerable Labor Day has become the summer finale.) Little offends me more than retail sales associated with these important days of reflection. That’s faux patriotism; go ahead, wrap your dollars in the Stars and Stripes, but you cannot hide poor tastes and judgment. My deepest apologies to the war-dead. In reality, this is a culture that turns the page all too quickly. Only the immediate families hang on to the sacrifices and losses of those who gave to their country in full measure.

Veteran’s Day is a tougher question, these days. That’s because it’s difficult to muster the appropriate level of honor to those we currently shortchange in terms of medical care and benefits. Veterans are not low maintenance. Our politicians, though, want to have their cake and keep it, too. They speak in glowing and patriotic terms of sacrifice, lay wreathes on graves, even as they fail to fund their empty promises for veteran’s benefits. Tell the veterans of our current, under-the-rug wars, that we honor them.

I think we should honor the soldiers, living and dead, for their service. Honor the sacrifice, not the war. “War,” we’ve learned, is declared by old men with layered intentions. Economic, political, profiteering or just plain immature—most wars could and should have been avoided. We can’t afford them, financially, environmentally, economically and morally. We’ve had more than our fair share of stupid wars. We shouldn’t be honoring them. But nothing in the stupidity of leaders subtracts from the legitimate sacrifices of soldiers. While we’re at it, I include in those deserving of honor, those who didn’t serve on moral grounds–thinking men whose thoughtful pact with the living didn’t include killing. They pay, too, either in prison terms, public service, or exile.

Usually on days of reflection I fly the flag. Yes, me, the liberal, I fly our flag. I’m tired of the extreme right commandeering Old Glory for their sole use. It’s everyone’s flag, to fly (sometimes to fly upside down in extreme protest of this country’s direction or even to burn, if necessary.) I call it taking back the flag. On Earth Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Flag Day, Labor Day and Veteran’s Day, I fly our flag. It came as a shock to Elmer, my old landlord. We didn’t share politics, but when he saw my flag and queried me about it, he put up his own (much bigger) flag. The guy is a veteran, but until our conversation, he hadn’t given the concept of patriotism much thought. I fly our flag as a reminder of our responsibilities and to spur our duty to make the future better.

This day, no flag. I gave my flag away to a neighbor girl when I left Two Rock. She asked me why I fly the flag and I told her. I hoped that, like the words of Flanders Fields which meant little to me as a kid, those good reasons for flying the flag would resonate for her as she grew older and was better able to reflect on their meaning. Next year, I’ll get myself a new flag. Maybe even bigger than my old one!

I now recognize that Imperialism rings, even in the innocent enough words of Flanders Fields, and it’s why I urge all to take these as days of reflection, with honor. Question, always question!

 

 

 In Flanders Fields

by John McCrae

 

In Flanders fields the poppies grow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.