This helps…

flag and white houseThe daily (sometimes hourly) dispatches from the Trump White House and/or GOP-controlled congress are horrific and overwhelming. On this Fourth of July, it feels as though there is so much less to celebrate and be proud of, and that is such a depressing thought.

I recently found two things that helped by re-focusing  on something that I have long believed: that what we read and listen to and watch on TV forms and shapes us. And so we are responsible for managing who and what we give our attention to. Here is how I have taken back my responsibility.

  1. I have stopped following Trump’s tweets. I started following them during the campaign. They seemed to be newsworthy and some said the tweets were an evolution in media akin to Kennedy’s use of TV.  History will tell if that is true. In the meantime, the content of his tweets is appalling and shameful and fouls my mental environment. I am no longer giving them my time or attention.
  2. I have started watching reruns of The West Wing. The 7 season series is available on Netflix.  After each episode, I listen to a podcast called The West Wing Weekly  — a weekly 1 hour-ish show hosted by Josh Malina (Will Bailey on WW) and Hrishi Hirway. They offer a fascinating commentary on each episode with lots of backstory and historical context and often guest interviews with actors, production folk, or people with real world information about issues raised in an episode.

In watching the show, I am reminded of the things that once made me proud.  I am reminded of all those who regarded public service as a high calling and who served at great personal cost to themselves and their families.  I am reminded of Presidents who inspired others to do better and greater things to advance the common good. I am reminded of Presidents and members of Congress and staff who took mutual respect and civility for granted, even when there was disagreement.  It feels good to be reminded of these things.

Perhaps the message here is that for as long as we have to swim in the stink of Trumpworld, it is our responsibility to maintain our own sense of what is right and fitting for publicly elected officials and for ourselves as ordinary citizens. We cannot continue to Resist if we let ourselves and our expectations sink to the low levels of  Trumpworld.  We need to keep up both our expectations and our spirits. We need to Resist and keep our hearts and minds unsullied and healthy. The West Wing is helping me with both.

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Secrets, lies and patriotic leaks.

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We have the recent news about Russian hacking of the November election thanks to a leaker who has now been indicted. According to today’s NYT, “In a statement, the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein (said)… ‘Releasing classified material without authorization threatens our nation’s security and undermines public faith in government… People who are trusted with classified information and pledge to protect it must be held accountable when they violate that obligation.'” (Emphasis added.)

Sadly, the AG is apparently taking no action with respect to President Trump who “declassifies” military intelligence, uncounselled and on a whim (threatening our nation’s security and undermining the international community’s trust in our government) and who routinely lies to the American public in the performance of duties he undertook pursuant to oath (undermining the American public’s faith in the government.)

The election hack leaker has been indicted for enabling publication of the truth. Sometimes being a leaker is an act of patriotism. Now may be one of those times. There have been others. The linked episode of the podcast “Reveal” (below) tells the story about one of those times — the leaking and publication of the Pentagon Papers in 1971.  Even if you think you know the story, the podcast is worth your time.

https://www.revealnews.org/episodes/the-pentagon-papers-secrets-lies-and-leaks/

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Do Your Job

oval office

Dear Mr President,

During the campaign you told the American people that you had a magnificent health care plan. I did not believe you. For that and many other reasons, I did not vote for you. Hillary Clinton got nearly 3 million more votes than you did and your victory in the Electoral College was by one of the smallest percentages ever. Nonetheless, by virtue of our laws you became the President.  I don’t like it, but it is my responsibility to respect the office and whoever undertakes its responsibilities. That is one of my jobs as a citizen.

Your job as President is to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution. The Constitution requires that you “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” Art.II, Sec.3. This applies to the laws you personally like and the laws you don’t like. The ACA is still the law of the land. It is your job to faithfully uphold that law. Do your job.

It would be a dereliction of your constitutional duties to use your administration to aggravate the deficiencies of the ACA or conspire with insurance companies to undermine the means by which millions of American access basic health care. You said that letting the ACA “explode” would be the smart thing to do politically. Maybe. But as the President you are more than a politician. You are a public servant with a high moral obligation to care for the welfare of ALL Americans. You are the President. Do your job.

To enhance and improve the ACA will be an unwelcome task given your personal opinions on the health care system. The burdens of the office of President are many, grave and all difficult to bear I have no doubt. But your job was  not cast upon you by fate or inheritance. You sought it out. You worked for it. You enlisted others to help you campaign for it, and you won it. You wanted to be the President. You are the President. So now, do your job.

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Trump likes checkers

Trump likes checkers

And plays so well

If he doesn’t win

They must be cheating.

Now he says the world’s a mess.

In fact he simply can’t play chess.

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Dear Hillary

hillaryAfter watching the debate last night, I feel moved to say “thank you.” I believe you will be a history-making president, and not simply because of your gender. I wish my mother had lived to see your inauguration. She would have been 87 this year, and although she tended to vote (alas) Republican, the Republicans she voted for bore little resemblance to Donald Trump. I honestly think she would have been one of your campaign volunteers.

But back to what moves me to write this morning: my admiration and gratitude for your presence on the stage last night. It takes an enormous amount of personal strength and grit to take the high road when you are being taunted from the low road, in public, and by someone who demonstrates an endless and shameless capacity for lying. I know what it is like to be the object of a borderline’s angry lies. It is dispiriting to say the least. I can only imagine how difficult it is to deal effectively and graciously with such a pathology while the nation and the world is watching. Ann Richards on the subject of Ginger Rogers comes to mind, just as a place to begin.

Thank you for trusting us to know exactly who Trump is because we do. We have worked for people like him. We have been the object of their physical or verbal assaults. We have watched them chuckle while dismissing our opinions and concerns as trivial or hysterical. Thank you for trusting us to know exactly who and what Trump is and for spending your valuable debate time talking not about him but about health care, the Supreme Court, voting rights, refugees, Syria and our national character.

Most of all, in the debate last night and in your campaign, thank you for calling us to be our better selves: for calling us less to “greatness” and more to personal and national goodness, and for doing the hard work of leading us in that direction. I look forward to the day when we can say: “Madam President.”

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Letter requesting a stay of execution

The Honorable Mary Fallin

Governor of Oklahoma

2300 N. Lincoln Blvd. Room 212

Oklahoma City, OK 73105

September 15, 2015

Dear Governor Fallin,

I am writing to ask that you stay the execution of Richard Glossip. I am a retired Episcopal priest who is also retired from the practice of law. I believe that we have the best legal system in the world, but it is not perfect. Safeguards, such as your power to stay an execution, are crucial and are a last chance for justice in some cases. Richard Glossip’s conviction is such a case.
What little evidence there was for his conviction now appears to be suspect. Executing someone on the basis of so little reliable evidence is unjust with respect to Mr. Glossip. Just as important is the negative effect his execution would have on the general public’s confidence in the legal system. Indeed, for all of us, it is a terrifying thing to see the ultimate penalty exacted on the basis of so little reliable evidence.
Please stay the execution.

Respectfully,

The Rev. Lily A. DeYoung

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Thanks Al

Long time WKBK Radio Host Al Kulas Passes Away.
Last Tuesday at 3:00 PM
Al Kulas
Photo: WKBK News
KEENE,NH- It is with a heavy heart and much sadness that we have to announce the passing of one of our long time WKBK talk radio hosts. Al Kulas passed away Tuesday morning at Dartmouth Hitchcock in Lebanon, from an apparent heart attack. Al joined the WKBK talk line up over 15 years ago, back when the station still broadcast from Lampson Street at AM 1220 on the dial.
– See more at: http://wkbkradio.com/news/190091-long-time-wkbk-radio-host-al-kulas-passes-away/#sthash.pyaanAGl.dpuf

We moved to Keene in 2005 after many years of living in major metropolitan areas. We had never lived in a city as small and rural as Keene and we knew that many things would be new to us. I have been a talk-radio fan for years having grown up listening to Long John Nebel, Brad Crandall, Barry Farber and WNBC’s Weekend Monitor. As a college student I listened to Larry King while working a graveyard shift, listened afternoons as Rush Limbaugh become a phenomena and later still discovered the late night magic of Art Bell. In 2005, before internet radio, I wondered if there would be good talk radio in Keene and what it would be like.

Our first wake-up in Keene was on an August Saturday morning – so the first on-air personality I heard was Al Kulas. He seemed to be the only person at the station. He was both hosting the show and reading the news. Half-way through a newscast he got to the name of a foreign leader and stumbled twice over the pronunciation of the unfamiliar name. There was a second of silence before what I thought would be his third try. Instead, he spelled out the name. From that moment, I knew that this was going to be a new radio-listening experience.
In the ten years since that first Saturday in August I have listened to Al Kulas nearly every weekend: even on weekends when I was out of town (thanks to the internet.) I didn’t share Al’s politics. At all. And I did not always listen to the entire show because I was too angry about the opinions expressed to keep listening. But the next Saturday morning, at 5 a.m. I tuned in again.

I have often wondered why. These days, I do not routinely listen to talk shows based on politics radically opposed to my own. But I listened to Al. I finally got a clue as to why when I heard Dan Mitchell (WKBK morning show host and program manager) read posts that some of Al’s fans had posted to the station’s Facebook page after learning of Al’s death. One listener said described Al’s style as “unpolished.” Yes it was. But I would add that it was also authentic.

I suspect that Rush and his ilk are primarily entertainers. But Al Kulas approached his on-air time as if it was a public service that it was his duty and privilege to offer. He was not there to entertain. He was there to share the things he cared about with his neighbors in the Keene area. Politics always. Guns, relentlessly. But also the temperature in West Keene and the temperature at the airport, “this day in history” with editorializations, the winner lottery numbers, polkas, military marches, Christmas carols weeks before Christmas, the farm, memories from his days in the service and his experiences abroad, and so much more. His computer never seemed to work and it was ritual to be late for the station breaks but he answered every on-air phone call with genuine enthusiasm and knew so many of his callers by name.

His show was a special kind of talk radio that I found compelling: not because I agreed with the politics but because it was real. It was a few hours of authentic, unpolished sharing around the things that matter — even when it made me mad enough to turn off the radio. I am not sorry about the times that I’ve turned off the Saturday or Sunday morning Serendipity shows off, but I am sorry that the next time I turn it on, Al won’t be there.

I am grateful for the ten years I had to be one of Al’s on-air neighbors. Thanks Al for your service and for your sharing. I will miss you. May you rest in peace and rise in glory.

And thanks to all those at WKBK who made your show possible.

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