Election 2018: Revealing the Soul of a Nation

November 5, 2018

I cannot remember how many times I’ve heard politicians and talking heads crowing hysterically of how the election we were facing at the moment was the most important of our lifetime, destined, one way or the other, to move the nation in a radical new direction. No doubt, in the past 40 years or so, certain elections have resulted in profound redirections of America – both Reagan and Clinton moved their respective parties to the right in ways that seemed unimaginable before they pulled it off — if largely in terms of economic policy, even if economic policies were always fig-leafed with moral platitudes.
Tomorrow is different.
So different that such past proclamations in my lifetime pale in comparison.

And the difference is moral and spiritual.

Tomorrow ’s election differs solely because at the center of everything stands the figure of Donald Trump and all he embodies and radiates.
As far as I can see, Donald Trump is far and away the vilest, most ignorant and most despicable person to have ever ascended to the presidency. (Both Andrew Johnson and Andrew Jackson were, in some respects, similar in kind but not in degree, whereas a figure like Nixon looks positively enlightened in comparison to Trump. ) Trump has proven again and again and again and again that he is a man without knowledge, without discipline, without compassion, without respect, without class, without humility, without a shred of honesty, and without an iota of empathy. In short, he is a man without virtues of any kind, possessing only an animal like cunning for locating and exploiting the weaknesses of others. All great con artists possess the same trait. On a personal level, this makes Trump, minus a miracle, a man who is beyond redemption.

And yet, somehow this very man unquestionably moves the hearts and commands the loyalty of millions of Americans who find humor in his cruelty, wisdom in his vulgarity, solace and hope in his ever-expanding mendacity. In two years in office, he has succeeded in completely debasing almost everything he comes into contact with, beginning with the English language, following with political discourse and ending with the office of the Presidency itself. Just two days ago he declared that American soldiers should fire bullets at (phantom) civilians should they throw rocks at them. So thoroughly has Trump debased the political discourse that this statement, one of hundreds of outrageous statements Trump has issued from the White House, came and went with barely a notice.

Above all, Trump has debased his supporters even as they believe he has uplifted them. Not, of course, the corporate titans who profit so enormously from his reckless tax cuts and suicidal deregulation. These overlords understand that the essence of Trump is, was and ever shall be a vulgar con artist playing the rubes for all they’re worth, but they are happy to go along with him for the enormous benefits he brings them. No, I am speaking of the hundreds of thousands who wait all night for his endless rallies, cheering madly as he demonizes helpless asylum seekers, laughing when he mocks traumatized victims of sexual assault, raging when he leads them on chants against the media or to build a wall or to lock someone up without trial or conviction. In these crowds we see the result of Trump’s one undeniable talent: his ability to cunningly locate and brilliantly animate the basest impulses in the human species: racism, greed, violence, xenophobia, cruelty, and above all fear of the other. But this Pied Piper of baseness does not merely animate these impulses. He somehow deludes his followers into believing these primal, savage impulses are valorous, even heroic, and of course, patriotic.
It is a remarkable and horrific talent, amplified into absolute nightmare by the office of the presidency, allowed to proceed unbounded by an invertebrate Congress in thrall to Trump.

It is also one that is dragging the country into an intellectual and spiritual cesspool that cannot be calculated and does not appear to have a bottom. The horrific spectacle of bullet ridden worshipers gunned down in the midst of their service in their Pittsburgh sanctuary by a fellow American who saw them as Other, motivated by his belief they were guilty of aiding desperately poor asylum seekers, is the defining, if unspeakable, image of this moment. And it did not proceed out of thin air — even as it is becoming the very air we breathe.

I have no illusions concerning the Democratic Party. The Democrats have proven themselves hapless, cowardly, and, in terms of corporate obeisance and war mongering, absolutely corrupt. Their abandonment of working-class America opened the gates for the seductive fantasies of Trump to millions who have lived in near despair for decades ( and, will continue to live there when they realize how profoundly their messiah despises them.) Furthermore, one would have to be a fool to think that the Democrats offer any real solutions to the horrific problems of deindustrialization, automation, worker rights, cruel, impossible rents and the ever more obscene disparity between wealth and poverty. With few exceptions, they have learned nothing from Trump’s ascension.

But for all of that, they do not think it is funny to laugh at people in pain. They are not white Supremacists. They do not think it fine to throw people off their health insurance. They do not think poor people should starve to death in the streets. They do not think that Donald Trump is President because God put him there. In short, while they are inept, they are not insane, nor anywhere near as morally and spiritual corrupting as is Trump. Moreover, they are the only force that can rein this person and his people in and halt the ever descending debasement of every aspect of American life. They are for buying time and working for real change.
Tomorrow I will vote for them.

America is sick. Very sick. Trump and his followers are not the cause but symptoms of this sickness. But together they are making America sicker by the day. What tomorrow’s election will reveal is the depth of that sickness in the soul of the nation and if America, like Trump, is beyond redemption.

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David McReynolds R.I.P.

August 17, 2018

Herein a brilliant, courageous and profoundly decent man who lived his beliefs whatever the cost. He will be missed by many.


Cycling the Erie Canal Path From Albany to Buffalo ( Part 2)

July 27, 2018


The following photographs were taken on the second half of my journey on and around the Erie Canal Trail.

href=”https://raginghorse.wordpress.com/?attachment_id=3890″ rel=”attachment wp-att-3890″> FDR’s Four Freedoms

Port Byron

The open road.

In Seneca Falls

Inside Woman’s Rights National Historical Park

An image of Sojourner Truth

Wesleyan Chapel where the first formal demands for woman’s right were made.

Inside Wesleyan Chapel.

From a bridge exiting Seneca Falls

Seneca Lake outside Geneva

Geneva City Hall

Stone house outside Geneva

Entering Palmyra

Palmyra

Joseph Smith and angel

Good eating!

Palmyra Village Hall

Entering Fairport

Entering Rochester

Rochester

Mount Hope Cemetary

A man.

One of the greatest men and greatest writers born on American soil.

A developed soul.

Rochester underground

Kodak Building

The High Falls

At the High Falls

Mr. Douglass and Ms. Anthony at tea.

Susan B. Anthony Museum

Blue skies.

Drawbridge over the Canal

Brockport, where Ivory soap floats

Bridge at Brockport

Downtown Brockport

“Borrow a bike – it’s free.”

Leaving Brockport

Americana

A home in Albion

Strange claim to fame.

A church in Albion

Beginnings

Albion

Albion

On the way to Medina, evening falls on the Erie Canal.

On the way.

Entering Medina

Hmmmmmm

A spooky old house in Medina

No relation

Once the Medina Opera House

Hart Hotel in Medina

Main Street

St. Mary’s Church, Medina

Entering Lockport

The “Five Flights.”

Lockport

End of the line.


Cycling the Erie Canal Path From Albany to Buffalo ( Part 1)

July 26, 2018

This was my third adventure cycling along the Erie Canal; the first, however, in which I managed to cycle its entire length. My first go, from Syracuse to Albany, some nine years ago, was a thing of farce. Clueless, I managed somehow to do just about everything wrong – I got lost, I got caught in storms, I miscalculated everything — and consequently spent hours riding through darkness in desperate attempts to get to the flee bag motels I had booked myself into. I arrived at them, at length, exhausted, filthy, famished, and (for a bonus) sometimes soaking wet.

An observation: you know you are too hungry when Denny’s looks heavenly.

A tip: Cycling 90 miles a day through unknown terrain while stopping to take in any and all sights is neither reasonable nor wise, that much the more when you do not have a cell phone.

You learn.

My next two attempts were better, much better, but still, there were bumps on the road and time constraints kept me from completing the entire trail.

So…in the wake of a life-threatening incident, I was determined this time around to do what I had not done in my truncated previous adventures on the Trail: to cycle it in its entirety from Albany to Buffalo.

And so I did.

The Canal itself, even as it is now but history, remains, economically, technologically, and socially on several levels, a thing of wonder. Consider this: to accommodate the 568-foot change in elevation from Lake Erie in Buffalo to the Hudson River Valley, 18 aqueducts, and 83 locks had to be built across 363 miles. It was an immense public and very physical and much-derided undertaking of the kind, hostage to the savagery of Neoliberalism as we are, we no longer even seem capable of contemplating, never mind enacting and funding. Follow the Canal and you will follow the history of New York and to a significant degree the history of the non-violent aspect of the westward expansion of America. Completed in 1825, the Canal created prosperity and wealth all along its way: and not merely prosperity and wealth but prosperity and wealth that (unlike the internet) were widely, if not exactly fairly, divided. The Canal provided work – albeit, backbreaking work – to thousands and thousands of newly arrived immigrants, among them the Famine Irish, who were allowed a toehold in a country in which many wanted nothing to do with them. The Canal transformed towns into cities and created towns the length of its way. Some of these towns, such as Medina, grew so prosperous that they had their own opera house. Some of the cities, principally Rochester and Seneca Falls, established themselves as centers of the most progressive politics of the times, where figures as huge as Frederick Douglas, Elizabeth Stanton, and Susan B. Anthony lived and died. Harriet Tubman lived in nearby Auburn.

No such prosperity is evident now. On the contrary. what the Canal gave, the railroad and then the highway took away. What remains now in many of these places are the ghosts of prosperity in architecture, beautiful architecture, and public spaces amidst a sense of resignation and hopelessness. Such ghosts are haunting. It seemed sometimes that everyone I saw, no matter what age, chained smoked and was covered in tattoos. Politically, this is largely Trump land.

Logistically, this time around I was much better prepared.

My lodging was divided into motels and the hospitality of fellow cyclists from the excellent Warm Showers, the latter of whom could not have been kinder or more generous and whose kindness and generosity I hope to return in kind. Finally, when I, at last, reached Buffalo, I was welcomed with open arms by the parents of an old friend, lifelong Buffalonians who provided the perfect ending to my little journey.

Here and there (as in Mike’s Diner in Schenectady and the Iron Kettle in Rome) I feasted in greasy spoons, that much the more poignant since such former New York City institutions have gone the way of the pterodactyl, replaced by Duane Reade and the like.

All in all, I took in a spectrum of sights and sensations, some majestic ( the Capital Building in Albany ) some personal ( visiting graves at the Shrine of North American Martyrs in Auriesville ) some goofy ( the Yellow Brick Road of Chittenango, birthplace of L. Frank Baum, author of the Wizard of Oz ) some awesome, (The Five Flights in Lockport ) and a great deal in between.

I set out early in the morning when there was still dew and, save the voices of nature (such as occasional bullfrogs who in the morning stillness sound like barking dogs ) and the sound of my rolling wheels, a sacred silence: a sacred silence allowing and inviting a kind of moving meditation, reflection, prayer.

And these things did I do. And, here and there, a fleeting reminder or a glimpse of the Always Something More.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/eo7d8iaef90x3w4/bull%20frogs_4.mp4?dl=0

Enjoy the pics.

A ghost of old Albany.

Uncle Dan’s childhood home.

“Uncle Sam” in Troy

Big dog in Albany.

Lombardi’s of Albany

The King’s Highway

Schenectady

Sunday morning in Schenectady.

Nott Memorial at Union College

A friend.

A friend.

Afternoon

A school in Canajoharie

Abandoned church in Fort Plain.

Trumpland

Union Station, Utica

Bagg’s Tavern, Utica

The Stanley Theater, Utica

Elvis in Utica

In Rome, NY.

Bullfrogs

Downtown Oneida

In Canastota

Bambi

Yellow Brick Road in Chittenango, birthplace of L. Frank Baum who wrote The Wizard of Oz

“Follow the Yellow Brick Road.”

A fellow traveler

I’m not usually a supporter of the AOH but I am here.

Greasy spoon in Syracuse.

Downtown Syracuse, 7:00 am.

A church in Syracuse.

Halfway there.


Scenes for the March For Life in New York

March 24, 2018

Central Park West Looking North.

And so they came and came by the thousands, flooding Central Park West with citizens of all ages, all races, all creeds, all who have had enough of insane gun laws. And so they spoke from the stage of their loss and sorrow and rage: a survivor from the slaughter at a concert in Las Vegas, a mother from Harlem whose two children were gunned down in the streets, a leader of Black Lives Matter, a librarian who survived the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary, student survivors of the carnage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and parents of the dead. A great beginning. May it proceed and grow.

Following are scenes from the day.

href=”https://raginghorse.wordpress.com/2018/03/24/scenes-for-the-march-for-life-in-new-york/img_2421/” rel=”attachment wp-att-3781″> Approaching The Dakota and Central Park West.

A Horrific Reality

A Lonely Trump Guy

One Man’s Perspective

Let Freedom Ring

Inter-generational

Let Freedom Ring

Students

Tired of Thoughts and Prayers

The Kids Are Alright

[caption id="attachment_3797" align="aligncenter" width="380"] An Activist

A Warning