Saturday, February 25, 2017
I have been having this dream, after what seemed to be so long a period of dreamlessness-- it came back not long ago, and it now seems to invade all my sleep. I'm alone and it is dark, too dark to see. Suddenly, I sense this weight on me -- a pressing weight on my chest, then my head. I struggle to evade it, but as I roll around and push away, I feel this sand, something like sand, and it is coming from above, as though I am laying helpless at the end of a dump truck as it unloads. To save myself, I turn over, digging out from under, but then, I sense a sucking, pulling force beneath me. I am caught - from above the sand piles on, from below, the quick sand sucks me down. There is no way out.
Fortunately, at about that time, I wake up, covered with too many blankets tangled around me by my own restlessness, but no threat to me in the light. I look around, breathing that sign of relief, as the new day tip-toes into my windows.
First, let me say that I have missed you all more than I can express. That old Irish wish you sent me off to Nebraska with has kept me safe and well, but I am punch drunk from talking to myself. I am no match for my own challenge and sarcasm- and I long to be in front of you good friends talking and discussing and questioning each other.
This is something, right? I never anticipated the tumult of the primary season we all got to experience week by week and then, it got even weirder. Election night was, well, unbelievable. I thought about my prediction that neither would win the election, and will freely admit, that being half right is no consolation. I will tell you, despite my long-held belief that a person's vote is entitled to be cloaked in secrecy, that I did not vote for Donald Trump. I did not vote for Hillary Clinton. Voting in Nebraska, of course, (where I knew that the Republican nominee would win 3 electoral votes -- even the 1st District this year went true to form) by third grade) one could say I risked nothing by casting my vote for who I felt was my best choice. But I have always believed that casting my vote was both a very personal choice and a very public duty, and that I should always try to pick that person who best represented the ideals and values that I strove to achieve and that Americans needed.
And Americans, stuck with their Electoral College system (oh, yeah, you forgot that it was and is your system until you decide to change it, so quit complaining about popular votes blah blah blah and fix it) got the First Twitter President. And that moment uncovered (it did not begin as I will explain later) a divide among Americans that appears so deep that it could split us forever.
Friends who have never posted or commented or seemed the least bit political have become vociferous in their activism. Neighbors who for years bar-be-qued together and watched each others door fronts find themselves at odds over a bumper sticker. There are people, and not just a few, who have made their support for, or their opposition against President Trump, the sin qua non of their existence.
There will be posts later to take on policy and positions and open them up to public inspection. Today, I just want to ask you about that divide of which I speak and if this is, or simply appears to be as big a chasm as appears?
Set aside the personality for a moment. [I didn't ask you to ignore boorish behavior, rude and ignorant comments, "locker room talk", which, in any of the locker rooms I showered and dressed in, would have gotten me some form of severe discipline from one of the coaches who taught me how to block and tackle and dribble and that sport was discipline and that discipline started with my mouth); don't ignore it, but for today, put it aside.
What we need to decide if there is a way forward with what we have done to ourselves. Harsh reality- unless President Trump has actually committed high crimes or misdemeanors (and civil perjury is not such a crime, right?), he will not be impeached and removed from office. You and Don Quixote can joist at windmills, but I have to move ahead because our country cannot face four or more years of this constant, perpetual avoidance of problem-solving. Clinton, Bush II, Obama, Trump. Need I say more?
So, the question for us to think about is this: is the exposed divide (or divides) so big that ordinary Americans cannot find common ground? Have we decided that our principles do not include compromise. Has politics become, instead of a means to articulate differences of policy as a means to arrive at solutions to pressing issues, a take-no-prisoners war zone of combat cloaked in self-assured righteous sanctimony devoid of any acceptance of possibility that your opponent might be worth listening to?
I am not falling into that trap. Oh, I have heard from some of my closest friends that I am sanguine, that I am foolish, that I am un-American not to see and accept the emerging fascism, the danger that rises on the horizon; that my optimism is dangerous in these dangerous times.
It grates on them, and I understand. But I have held the belief founded on my understanding of our history, that our Republic does not rise or fall on the whims of one person. And I believe today as I did last March, that we Americans can stumble and bumble into all kinds of bad things, but when we talk, and reflect, one with another, we can and do put ourselves and our interests aside for the common good. (Let's not ruin my hope with discussion about motivations- that just adds ugliness to my whimsical narrative).
So, let's try once again, at least among us, to talk about our problems with a touch less rancor, a bit more hope, and a firm belief that only in the people can the answers to our problems be found. It is time for the non-political class (yes, odd for me to even say those words, since it is the anti-metaphor for every class I teach), the unelected people themselves to take command of the role we are both commanded and reluctant to take.
We set the standards for the people we elect, and it past time for us, each of us, all of us, to instruct them in their behavior.
In the next few posts, we can discuss much. The coming court fight, the immigration system, the use of executive power, the nature of rights, our elections, the power of money v the power of personality, what the hell happened and the topics that I will ask you to offer to me, either on this blog or by email to me at: KHohenstein@g.ucla.edu.
I know I left you hanging on two points, of course; cutting dead limbs and planting trees outside and as I clean away the detritus of years of lives spent in this house, finding photos set aside, put away, finding the 8th grade report card my Mom inexplicably saved, and remembering yet not quite reliving the moments of lives entangled in ways that help explain the foundations of one's life, have not dimmed my ability to leave you hanging but come back before the end of class to answer those questions.
The dream, I think, reflects my deep anxiety of being buried by so many amorphous and undefined problems which cause blind and senseless struggling and mire me in paralyzing fear. Only when the light comes on do I see that they are but blankets, harmless when recognized, organized, and put in their proper place.
Abraham Lincoln. That's who I voted for.
"With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations."
Call that a wasted vote if you will, but I vote for the person who best expresses the ideals which I believe our nation needs most at the time.