Connecting the dots…


Rachel Maddow does it exquisitely — makes connections between facts. While this photo has nothing to do with Rachel, it’s an image of folks gathered to make connections just like she does.  It’s a picture from an NAACP gathering last year  in Brevard, NC.  But now, on to Rachel Maddow and the dots she is connecting.

If you think that Rachel strains to make links where none exist, be clear that you’ll find me right beside her, doing my damndest to grasp the likely significance of what she’s doing, and how she’s doing it.  Rachel fascinates and confounds me because I believe, with her, that Russia  snatched the election out of Hillary’s hands and landed it in the lap of a man who is no more fit to be President than my little dog Pom Pom, and is considerably more dangerous.

In her MSNBC nightly show and her blog, Rachel has discussed the likely quid pro quo deal made with Russia by the GOP — a deal reflected in the party’s 2016 platform, in which the GOP agreed to be silent about Russia’s aggressive  interests in Ukraine.  But in exchange for what?

Rachel has discussed the fact that Wikileaks ( a Russian-approved source of “rumors” popular with Putin) jumped right in with its dirt on the DNC immediately following the lackluster GOP convention last summer.  If the Republicans looked bad at this point, the Democrats had to look worse.

Rachel has called attention to the fact that, immediately after the release of the pussy-grabbing tapes, Wikileaks produced another batch of anti-Hillary materials in October, this time by attacking John Podesta.  Here again, if Trump looks sleazy, voters need to be reminded again of that bitch Hillary.

Rachel suggested that the latest Wikileaks a couple of weeks ago regarding the CIA’s spying on Americans through our Samsung smart TV’s, seems a likely response to the CIA’s persistence in raising questions about Russia’s meddling in the elections.  Important, isn’t it, to discredit the CIA before the beginning of the Congressional investigations into the Russia-Trump connections?

In the last few days, Rachel has raised the possibility of connections between Trump’s firing of Southern New York’s Attorney General Preek Bharara and the fact that this man had been investigating Russia’s Deutsche Bank, to which Donald Trump happens to be the largest debtor, and in which, until recently, Trump’s Secretary of Commerce,Wilbur Ross, was Vice-President.  Say what?

Rachel has pointed out that former Exxon chief, Rex Tillerson, Trump’s Secretary of State, is a favorite of Vladimir Putin, who gave him a distinguished award of some sort in the recent past. Strangely, since joining Trump’s cabinet, Tillerson has become quiet as a church mouse, almost as if he’s been muffled, and the State Department seems to be disappearing, an outcome Putin would love. What is Tillerson doing, and why?

And the list goes on — connecting the dots between Trump’s puzzling bromance with Putin throughout his campaign and into his presidency, talking on and on about his admiration for Putin, even publicly calling on Wikileaks to leak more damaging material about his opponent, Hillary Clinton, whom Putin hated.

And now, we’re invited to notice Trump’s initial choice of the “alternate fact” loving Gen. Michael Flynn — a man with a serious attachment to Russia — as National Security chief, Trump’s lingering loyalty to Jeff Sessions who lied to the Senate about meeting with the Russian ambassador, the mysterious comings and goings last summer of Russia-loving Paul Manafort, Brexit leader Nigel Farage’s attachment to Trump and to Wikileaks’ Julius Assange, the trip to Russia by a Trump campaign leader and businessman Carter Paige, the real estate dealings of son-in-law Jared Kushner and his whole family, and Trump’s ties to several Russian billionaires, including a man who bought a home from him in Florida for the sum of $100,000,000 several years after Trump had purchased the home for $40,000,000.  The figures themselves confound normal people!

Dots… connecting puzzling characters, silence and secrets, political ends and political means, money and more money and lots and lots of money, and for what?  All the while this nation and other nations are being constructed bit by bit along parallel tracks of lies and more lies, in which — to quote George Orwell’s 1984,  “WAR IS PEACE, FREEDOM IS SLAVERY, IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH.”

But why bother with the elusive Russian connection when, every day, some ridiculous Trump tweet, damaging edict, or Congressional bill is launched which we must resist together  in strong, savvy ways?  And no doubt we must.  Creative, angry, loving Resistance must be our priority, as we do what we can one day at a time.

BUT — and this is key — if Russia essentially stole, bought, or somehow snatched this election, we have at least three major problems:

(1) We are putting up with a pretender, a fake president, who must be stopped.  Likewise, Pence, Bannon, Miller, Conway, Priebus, Sessions, Tillerson, et al  must go with him.

(2) There’s no reason to believe that Russia is going away.  To the contrary, there’s every reason to believe that Russia is currently infusing our nation and this globe with its own particular poison, manipulating us and other nations toward its own ends of empire-building and, most horrifically, in  Bannon’s post-modern lingo, the “deconstruction” of liberal democratic societies. It’s an open secret that Russia is doing the same thing in several European nations right now — the Netherlands, France, Germany; and has its eye on Asian nations like Japan.

(3) This sort of social mayhem will  grow only more damaging and insidious until it is stopped.

To stop it, we need the press and media to be courageous and relentless in speaking the truth.

We need our Congresspeople and Senators to develop some spine and begin speaking truth to power rather than buckling before the boss –and we need to insist that they do this.  If they don’t, we need to get rid of them asap.

With each other’s encouragement, we need to build the Resistance, which we are doing.  Good things are happening!  In it all, we need to be strong, resilient, non-violent, compassionate, good humored.  We need to take care of ourselves and nourish our most angry, loving spirits. We need to be patient with ourselves and one another, because we have no way of knowing how far ahead this road stretches.

And, of course, those of us with faith need to keep it!

“Otherwise, fine.”

Today I met over coffee with an immigrant family and a non-immigrant friend, Judy, in which we organized a visit of local families to our farm, where the kids can pat, groom and maybe ride a horse, play ball and other games, and we all can picnic — immigrants and non-immigrants together, adults and kids, neighbors, getting better acquainted  during this stressful historical moment.

Our conversation, in Spanish, English, and (in my case) a bit of ‘Spanglish,’ was delightful. We laughed a lot and had a lovely time making our plans — 3 adults and 4 kids, ranging from 7 to 16.  But beneath our words and smiles ran an unmistakable undercurrent of worry and anxiety.  What will happen in coming weeks and months to families like this — loving, hardworking neighbors from Mexico and other places beyond our borders — borders which have been drawn arbitrarily over time  as national boundaries always are designed — borders separating neighbors, dividing families, arbitrarily… What will happen?

We didn’t mention Trump.  We didn’t have to.  His mean-spirited, contemptuous presence invades our space, whoever we are, wherever we go, with whomever — if we are Mexicans or other Latinos, Muslims or Jews, feminists or womanists, African-Americans or Native-Americans, LGBTQ men or women, sick people or old people, people with disabilities or special needs, labor organizers, educators, health care providers, journalists, poor people, socialists, progressives… or allies to these various groups. We are individually and communally battered and bruised by this brute of a man who was elected president or — as increasingly seems to be the case —  who grabbed the presidency with a little help from his Russian allies, within and beyond the boundaries of the United States.

After our Mexican neighbors left our gathering, Judy and I shook our heads and, checking in, agreed — we’re both “fine.”

More truthfully, Judy said, hugging me, “I’m otherwise, fine.”

We sighed, because this pretty much sums it up these days — We’re “otherwise, fine.”

The greatest danger we face

It becomes clearer to me by the day that the most dangerous enemy we face daily is the purposeful assault on truth, fact, and honest presentation of what is real and what is not.
There will always be various interpretations of fact and history. However, the inevitable differences we bring to our understandings of what is true is in a different moral and political universe from the intentional LYING — some paranoid, some simply self-serving poppycock — that pops out of Trump’s mouth.
The rest of the Exec branch, Congress, and the Judiciary defend, ignore, or trivialize Trump’s pathological lying, to our great peril.
This is not something that can be tolerated much longer, without some national or international catastrophe or, even worse, our loss as a people of an ability to communicate with each other or to know ourselves, and one another, as people who seek truth.

Hoping to connect… can it happen?

Over the past five weeks, people have gathered every week, a couple of hundred at a time, to talk — about whether “strong women” are a threat or a blessing to us; about immigrants and refugees and how we go about living gratefully and graciously alongside them — and, these days, protecting them — as our neighbors; about racism as a community curse and what we can do about it; about our LGBTQ community and why queer folks generate such fear; and about religious bigotry — especially against Jews and Muslims in our midst and what we can do about it.  (We ought also talk about why Pagans are often subjected to harassment here in western NC and throughout rural America — and in time we will.)


These topics are  the first five in an 8-session series being sponsored in Brevard NC by our local NAACP in cooperation with several Christian congregations (protestant and catholic, white, black, Latino).


What’s been remarkable has been the outpouring of interest and energy by folks of different ages, men and women, eager to listen, willing to speak up, and committed to doing whatever needs to be done not only to resist  Trump but to re-make our communities and, by extension, our country in a strong spirit of mutuality.


Genuine mutuality involves listening to others, speaking up ourselves, and reaching out to connect with those who may be quite unlike us in any number of ways — including politically — and an openness on each person’s part to being touched and changed in ways that may surprise us.


Be clear that building such relationships doesn’t mean giving up on our values or basic commitments to justice and fairness for all.  But it probably does mean  coming to new understandings of who we are, what we believe and value, and why; and of coming to new understandings of the “others,” whoever they are.


We NAACP folks are hoping to help build a second series next fall, one to be shaped with those “others.”  How this can happen, or if it can, remains to be seen.  But it’s a real hope that many of us progressives share here in the NC mountains.