P is for Pessimistic

I know what you’re thinking. “Didn’t Fandango’s post for yesterday’s A to Z Challenge say that he was optimistic?” You’d be correct. I did say that. But as my blogging buddy, Jim Adams pointed out in a comment on that post, he sees me as being an “optimistic cynic” because, he says, I “tell it like it is.” So that’s what I’m going to do right now.

Unfortunately, when it comes to America’s standing in the world and to its future, my optimism, since Trump became president, has turned to skepticism, if not outright pessimism.

Between the Mueller Russia probe, the Stormy Daniels affair, and the FBI raids on Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen’s office, home, and hotel, Trump is in panic mode. And like a cornered rat, he’s on the attack.

His Republican butt-lickers in Congress are doing everything they can to set up Deputy Attorney General Rob Rosenstein to be fired and to set the stage for stopping Robert Mueller’s investigation. Trump’s lawyers are fighting to suppress the evidence seized by the FBI in the Cohen raids.

And I’m worried that Trump and the Republicans are going to get away with this and that the Mueller investigation will be stymied and the damaging evidence against Trump will be squelched.

If that happens, friends, I see storm clouds forming on America’s horizon. And it won’t be pretty.

So yeah, I’m feeling a little pessimistic right now.

Failure to Communicate

9689BD5B-2BFB-4471-B465-A306C445FB2BOne of my favorite movie quotes comes from the Paul Newman movie, “Cool Hand Luke.” In that movie, Newman plays Luke, a chain gang prisoner, who is being addressed by the prison warden, played by Strother Martin, and who goes by “Captain.”

Captain says to Luke, “You gonna get used to wearing them chains after a while, Luke. Don’t you never stop listening to them clinking, ’cause they gonna remind you what I been saying for your own good.”

Luke replies, “I wish you’d stop being so good to me, Cap’n.”

Angered by Luke’s retort, Captain responds, “Don’t you ever talk that way to me. NEVER! NEVER!” He then starts beating on Luke, who rolls down the hill. Captain continues, “What we’ve got here is failure to communicate. Some men you just can’t reach.”

What strikes me about this “failure to communicate” quote is how true it is these days. Just look at our elected representatives in Congress. They are continuing to fail to communicate with one another. They are all so entrenched in their own ideologies and beliefs that nothing meaningful ever gets accomplished.

When I was a member of my high school debate club — yes, I was a bit of a nerd in high school  — the faculty sponsor said, “Listen for understanding, not for rebuttal.” I thought that was wise advice, but does anyone do that anymore? Do people actually listen for understanding?

It doesn’t matter what the topic of conversation is. It can be politics, ideology, philosophy, religion, climate change, abortion, immigration, energy, culture, or society in general. Few people, it seems, are interested in truly communicating with one another. They just seem to dig in their heels and argue.

It’s even true in our personal lives. How many times have you gotten into an argument with a friend, with your spouse, your parents, your kids, or even with a co-worker, where you are not really hearing what the other person has to say? Are you and the person on the other side of the argument honestly and openly communicating with one another? Are you truly listening?

Do you ever find yourself involved in a debate on Twitter or in the comments sections on Facebook  or on a blog post where everyone is “talking,” but it seems that no one is listening to or trying to understand others’ perspectives?

I admit to doing that more than I should.

What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.

You Can’t Always Get What You Want

DC3CDBB7-1031-4AA7-B772-9AF04604FF16Compromise is a part of life. For example, if I want to do one thing and my wife wants to do something else, we compromise — and do what she wants. Because, you know, happy wife, happy life.

But in American politics these days, compromise is a dirty word. It’s a sign of weakness, of capitulation. It’s considered to be a zero-sum game, a situation in which one group can win something only by causing group to lose it.

As a result, there is legislative gridlock in Congress where key votes are strictly along party lines and any congressperson who doesn’t vote that way is considered to be a traitor to his or her party.

No wonder Americans are frustrated and angry with the government and with Congress, where it’s always party above country. And we have an imbecile in the Oval Office and a Cabinet where the primary qualifiers for being on it are great wealth and incompetence for the role.

Perhaps for the greater good, our elected representatives should heed the words of the Rolling Stones:

You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes you might find
You get what you need

Written for today’s one-word prompt, “compromise.”

Sunday Photo Fiction — The Aftermath

179D041D-4CCD-4B3F-931C-1EA4DDB03F37“They closed the school after the second mass shooting of the year last year,” Maggie told her cousin, Erica. The two girls were standing outside of the fence that blocked the school’s now empty parking lot. “I was supposed to go here, but because of the carnage, they shut the place down.

“I’m one of the lucky ones,” Maggie continued. “My parents can afford to send me to private school. Some parents have chosen to homeschool their kids. But a lot of parents — those who can’t afford private schools or who work and don’t have time to homeschool their kids — have given up. So a lot of kids are just hanging around instead of going to school.”

“That’s awful,” Erica said. “Can’t something be done to stop the gun violence so kids can get an education instead of just aimlessly hanging out and getting into trouble?”

“Not really,” responded Maggie. “The NRA is too rich and powerful. They literally bought and own the Republicans in Congress. The White House, too.”

Tears started streaming down Erica’s cheeks. “Maggie, I wish you could come live with us in Ottawa. You could go to school there and not be afraid of being shot.”

(200 words)

Written for today’s Sunday Photo Fiction prompt. Photo credit: Sascha Darlington.

To Save and Preserve

D5DFFEC0-E9C6-4526-8DCC-B631AA2E558FMy first inclination when I saw today’s one-word prompt, “courage,” was to go political and to write about the absence of courage that the Republicans in Congress have exhibited when it comes to their constitutional role to serve as a check and balance against an unhinged, autocrat-wannabe who occupies the White House.

But then, since I’ve been watching the Winter Olympics on TV, I thought I’d write about the incredible courage of those athletes who attempt what to me appears to be almost superhuman feats of athleticism as they go for the gold.

And then I thought about the courage of first responders who go charging in — whether for natural disasters like earthquakes, floods, fires, or hurricanes, or into man-made tragedies, like mass shootings and terrorist bombings — when everyone else is fleeing the scene.

There’s also the courage of whistleblowers who are willing to risk their careers — and possibly even their lives — in order to release to the public details of underhanded or illegal activities on the part of employers or even governments.

And what of the courage of women who have told their stories about sexual harassment and abuse by the rich, famous, and powerful?

But what is needed most today is the courage of everyday Americans to go out and vote at each and every election, from local and statewide elections to national elections. The courage to pay attention to the issues that matter to them and to actively support and vote for candidates who reflect their personal values.

That is the kind of courage that is critical in order to save and preserve our democracy.