A Prelude to an Empty Nest

My son is about to turn fifteen and for some reason we have agreed to send him away to a very fine and very expensive military academy.  This is what he wants.  Our boy is extremely patriotic.  He believes in serving his country.  In many ways, the threat of the world being what it is, this is a parent’s worst nightmare.

But let us disregard this complex for a moment, try to ignore the viral dangers of the present tense (this particular school seems, at least as far as we nervous parents can tell, profoundly prepared to keep our children, alongside their teachers, safe).  This is a boarding school, a sleep-away training camp lasting for the bulk of the year, and I am already feeling the loss of my boy, my firstborn, in a terrible, terrible way.

I mean, there he is right now, downstairs ignoring his parents like any usual fourteen year old, anxious and nervous over the potential embarrassment we might expose him to, and he decided not to watch the boxing match we’d discussed happening tonight (happening as I write this) because he wanted to play video games online with his friends.

Now ordinarily this would be fine.  But my son is going away in three weeks and we will not be able to communicate with him for another six after this (including the day of his fifteenth birthday) because those are the military policies of the, as I said, excellent school he will shortly be attending.

It was my agreement, to be honest, that sent our son on this road, my awareness that this structure would be best for him and his future.   And yet tonight I sit in agony, literally with tears in my eyes, missing the child still awake and downstairs, and wondering if I will ever truly know him again.  It is agony.  It is agonizing to miss someone still right in front of you.

I have a daughter, younger and staying with us until she finishes high school.  She is not attending a private school out of any neglect or bias on our part, but because of an awareness of our children’s individual needs.  Our daughter will continue to thrive in public school until she, too, leaves the nest to thrive on her own outside-of-our life.

I begin to feel the torment, sometimes cynically dismissed as peace, when no one is left to care for beyond the one another you have sacrificed for your children.  And I realize it is too soon.  I don’t want my boy to grow (to go), and I want him to stay young and hopeful forever, avoiding the disillusion that I and so many of you have suffered throughout our aging decline.  I want him here forever, my baby, my first born, that figure from the highest point of my life: youth, the start of a family, hope, the future, joy forevermore . . .

Of course none of this is real; it isn’t true.  Reality comes so quickly, that second week when the baby keeps waking you in the middle of the night and the real world, and struggles, and depression and bills and hopelessness and hatred resume their shadowy fragments of our lives.

Yet we try–all of us try no matter how terrible some of us wind up as parents because we want to show another person what it means to be loved.  And yet the cruelty of awkward youth at odds with the uncertain frustration of aging creates that generation gap we like to blame for our differences.  But age has less to do with it than those impatient moments of cruelty, and those passive instances of neglect.  As Harry Chapin said “My boy was just like me.”

This is what we finally fear, isn’t it, at the end of our guardianship over youth?  We fear our own mistakes, all our irrational anger and impurity that dashes our pride and whatever delusions we have over how we “did the best we could.”  We see those things that we hate in ourselves on the surface of our children not because they are predominate characteristics of their nature, but because we seek ourselves for anything that might go wrong in their future.  And, should we be honest with our children, should we plumb the psychiatric depths about fear and anger and anxiety and treatment (as I shamefully have) we find that they smile and sympathize and have no idea what you’re talking about.  This creature you have formed, and who has stayed through such agony and joy, has moved beyond all your monotonous misery and formed a life of their own complexities and happiness and sorrow, and never again will you be privy to the deepest fears and desires of their souls.  You will grow apart.  Your lives becomes a distant flame, a smoke signal at holidays and on rainy Sunday afternoons when there is nothing better to do than talk with the past.  You fall out of touch.  When discussing one another, parents and children alike, conversations start to drift to shaken heads and laughter over one another’s flaws.

This is the future for everyone, for all of us no matter how close and kind and supportive and loving all of us might be or are.  We grow beyond one another, life a series of phases, every new path exciting, every triumph haunted by loss or sadness.

I already miss my son.  I love him, love him even more than ever now that he is about to leave, a painful recognition of all my mistakes making our parting even more sorrowful.  I will miss my son.  I will miss my daughter when she goes.  I miss my parents, now, in hindsight, perhaps feeling some of their once expressed resentment for what it truly was.

I will miss my child.  I will miss him.  And, as every parent dreams, I can simply wish that once he returns home that not so much has changed and that all of his dreams will be fulfilled.



The Adventures of Betsy DeVos and the Plague Teachers

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You all know Betsy DeVos, right?

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Of course you do, our current Secretary of Education.  Look at her there, sprinkling imaginary pennies on a table before her.  You are aware of her background in education I suppose?  I mean she looks like a principal.

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Now I should probably mention before going on that my wife is a middle school teacher.  I used to be a high school teacher.  Most of the people I know, friends and acquaintances and even some family are, in one way or another, attached to the world of education.  And so statements like this tend to bother me:

“The school . . .was . . . ‘nothing more than adult daycare, a dangerous daycare.’  This is from a story she invented about the dangers of public school.  Not a specific school, but public school in general.

I worked at a terrible school in an awful neighborhood.  I picked that location because I felt I would work much better with the children there than in some snotty suburban school where the parents believe their teenage child instead of a teacher, denounce the suggestion that prince or princess could possibly have done the awful things they are accused of, and threaten endless lawsuits because they demand their child on the honor roll.

The (Flawed) Culture of Education Today | Bad grades, Parents as ...

Don’t get me wrong, I worked with plenty of terrible teachers too.  But they generally weren’t malicious, only not cut out for their job.  They were disorganized, had no idea how to handle a room full of children; some weren’t very smart or did not have a handle on their chosen subject; there were even a handful who were prejudiced, some angry white dude teaching math, for example, in a school that is more than 90% black, ranting in the teachers’ lounge about how much he hates them.  Of course there were some equal and opposite bigots, usually young, whiny liberals (of any race), whose English or Social Studies or Foreign Language or even Science classes were peppered with the occasional condemnation of the patriarchy and a dismissal of all those “old white men.”

What I am trying to say is that plenty of teachers should not be in their jobs.

But most of them belong there; most actually care about the children and their future.  They care about the future or the nation, of the entire world.  Most teachers, no matter how strong or weak they may be in various aspects of their job, are eventually ground into cynical or hopeless dust by the end of each school year.  And for those of you out there not aware of just how difficult their job is, let me trim off some of the dismissals people often use to pretend like they have it rougher:

  • They get the summer off.  I don’t.  Why do they think they have it so hard?

Most teachers do not have summers off.  They teach summer school or become camp counselors (not an option this year), or simply phone through endless meetings about the drastic changes the next school year will impose.  Know why they don’t take a break from working?  Because they aren’t paid well enough for the exhaustive requirements that keep them working.  It isn’t time off no matter what.  It is decompression.

  • I have to move and lift heavy things.  I have to work twelve hour shifts (or longer) sometimes.  My job is grueling.  Teachers work, what, from 8:00 to 3:00?  I would kill for hours like that!

Again, fundamentally wrong.  Teachers have to grade papers, design lessons, talk to parents and administrators and their co-workers about upcoming departmental tests and cross-curricular projects, plan them, stay up well past midnight only to get up a few hours later, rouse their children (most have them), since they are teachers being far more demanding than most parents that their children excel in school for fear of professional embarrassment, then they drive or take the bus/train in, tutor students before school nearly every day, and then stay after the day is over to tutor or discipline more students.  Oh!  And they left desks and boxes of books and paper and sometimes throw their backs out too.  And this does not include the most grueling and exhausting part of the job: the paperwork!  Yes, there are mounds and mounds and files and documents and cabinets and district office storage room stacks of papers they need to fill out and then redo and then modify because the regulations have changed since the day before, then have the whole thing returned by a paranoid principal fearing that something may have been filled out wrong and how this may affect them (the principals also get yelled at constantly by their own superiors and have learned to take out their frustrations and to pawn off work on their subordinates), and so the teacher needs to start over again and again, being yelled at and yelling at everyone because, no matter how their fragile union might try to help them, they are also fearful that tomorrow they will lose their job.  After all, everyone in charge, from department heads all the way to the Secretary of Education keep telling them they are doing everything wrong.

This list could go on for several thousand more examples, the number of specifics piling up while the arrogant businessperson, sitting in their cushy offices and imagining that their recent deal that has made only them a profit is the true thing that fuels the world; their small contract needing to be signed and initialed in four places, and the several jocular phones calls required constituting a day’s work that made them more money than a teacher makes in a month. The businessperson then condescendingly dismisses the teacher as some groveling rat wasting their time in a custodial job babysitting children.  They even boast to their buddies over drinks about how much harder their jobs are than teachers.

Of course not all business works like that and plenty of others struggle with the frustration of cold calls and with jittery clients backing out at the last minute, and this is hard and frustrating, but it is nothing compared to a disaffected sixteen year old entering the building with an AR-15 and shooting up the place.  Even the horror of workplace shootings pale next to this, the tragedy far greater when it is someone’s child.

But we were talking about Betsy DeVos, the leader of the entire system that trains students for the future.  How is she qualified to run the Department of Education?  Here’s her resume:

Born the child of a billionaire, Betsy attended elite evangelical schools throughout her childhood.  She graduated from the incredibly expensive Michigan evangelical private Calvin College with a degree in business economics.  She did some volunteer work while there on Gerald Ford’s presidential campaign.  Upon graduation she achieved a position on the board of the Grand Rapids, Michigan mega church, the Mars Hill Bible Church where, in her early twenties, she was named an “elder,” which is applied to someone with special, elite wisdom, and was placed in charge of political operations.  She was influenced by a 19th century political theologian, Abraham Kuyper, whose philosophy of Christian Democracy can be winnowed down into stating that “it’s time for the followers of Jesus to make a shitload of money!”

Subsequently the current Secretary of Education developed a reputation for spending less in order to make more for the board of directors.  She was willing to fire hordes of people, thus cutting them off from the unemployment assistance she reviled, cheat at taxes with duplicate shell companies that showed losses, and imposing drastic morals clauses on anyone involved with any of her families’ vast business enterprises (including her brother, Eric Prince, who was once a Navy Seal, then founded the mercenary paramilitary corporation Blackwater after finding most of those he worked with in the military too soft).

Betsy married another billionaire, Richard DeVos, Jr., whose family runs the Amway corporation, once and always associated with scandal over numerous allegations of tax fraud, and the fact that their many cosmetic laboratories have ravenously continued experimenting on animals, blinding monkeys, for example, by seeing how much make-up a living creature can endure in their eyes.  The marriage of the two made their family among the richest in the world, certainly ahead of Donald J. Trump.

Betsy, shortly after college, became a Michigan state Republican delegate, raising money (and contributing personally a great deal more) to help elect Republicans of her choice (mostly evangelical figures seeing the Rapture coming tomorrow).  By 1996 these tactics and her financial pressure campaigns allowed her to rise to the entire state’s Republican chairperson, controlling the party with stubborn, self-serving demands, and an iron fist at those opposing her.  Additionally she was involved in personally raising vast sums of money to support every Republican presidential candidate running.  And by “vast sums” I mean levels of cash once against the law–once considered federal crimes–quietly shuffling the money around to even more shell companies, buying television (exclusively smear) ads, and even paying partisan journalists to make questionable, and occasionally disproven allegations against Democrats running for high office.

But what does any of this have to do with education other than for future cutthroat political operatives and activists?  What is her history with the job she now holds?

Well, she’s also experienced a number of enormous failures in her professional career, which I suppose could offer an object lesson.  She lost more than a hundred million dollars investing in a scam blood testing corporation, Theranos, founded by a 19-year old who had seven hundred million dollars to spare on fake technology that did absolutely nothing.  Betsy and her husband also produced a disaster of a big budget Broadway show, Scandalous: The Life and Trials of Aimee Semple McPherson,

Scandalous: The Life and Trials of Aimee Semple McPherson - Wikipedia

which was not just trashed by both critics and the handful of people who went to see it, but was laughed at, an industry joke.  The story dealt with an early 20th century apocalyptic radio evangelist (it is loosely based on a true story) who was kidnapped and murdered.  The shows’ lyrics were written by Kathy Lee Gifford.

But the main company Betsy was involved with in the days leading up to her nomination was with a shadowy research company called Neurocore, whose objective is to cure children of depression, attention-deficient disorder, autism, and other psychological and neurological disorders with techniques straight out of A Clockwork Orange.  These include showing the children movies, non-stop, and then pausing to give them a jolt of electricity every time they get distracted.  The films shown were, of course, mostly religious fare, manipulative cartoons and evangelical preaching, attempting to convert and then use the results as propaganda.

Eventually Neurocore came under fire by the FDA and the Federal Trade Commission for using “untested and unproven devices” and “questionable methods that might put the subjects in danger.”  Neurocore simply paid their fines and ignored these governmental sanctions. DeVos stepped down from the board upon her nomination, but vowed to keep her financial interests in the company.  The lawsuits against the company, which continue to this day, have subsequently diminished, many being quashed outright.  Others involving damaged children (the test claim the kids were already damaged), saw families were paid off to drop the suits.

And yet none of this background, really, has anything to do with education, other than the attempts at brainwashing of her one company.  So why is she qualified?

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There are three phrases DeVos has been repeating for years, every time drained of a little more meaning.  She says, “School choice,” “School vouchers,” and “charter schools.”  Let’s take them one at a time, comparing what they are supposed to mean versus what DeVos, now as Secretary of Education, imposes upon them.

School Choice:

This is how DeVos has described the public school system, that free education standard that, sadly quite often, under serves or even betrays students.  She says that public school is “a closed system, a closed industry, a closed market. It’s a monopoly, a dead end.”  Of course she has never personally been involved with public schools, herself and her own children squirreled away from reality in their zillionaire’s paradise, offered every advantage the Ivy League professors can provide for third graders with ample funds to keep up with the latest technological innovations.  Here is a picture of the sort of computer room I was able to take my students to:

Clearing the store room. stuff broken by students or just old ...

But the “school choice” platform makes the claim that parents can send their child to any school they want.  Of course this isn’t true, not by any stretch of the imagination.  Schools have limited space, they must keep dense and often contradictory records of progress (school progress mostly, not individual student development).  And who will be taken first under such a plan, regardless of the disingenuous offer of financial aid?  The people who can pay.  Maybe one or two disadvantaged superstars will be exploited to show how fair the school is.  And why do they need to pay at all?  Isn’t financial aid merely a loan, with high, cloying interest rates that follow your family even after the grave?  Public school is paid for by local taxes, money required to spend in the first place.  If those federal loans were offered to the public school system itself, couldn’t things be better for everyone?

School Vouchers:

Shortly before her nomination, DeVos was the chair of two education related organizations, the Alliance for School Choice and the American Federation for Children.  They sound wonderful, don’t they?  Great titles.  They must really want to help everyone succeed!  Prior to all of this Betsy and her husband had founded the All Children Matter political action committee, a truly hypocritical name that was exclusively about ways to remove public schools entirely, and transform the educational system of the United States into a for-profit business, gobbling up the resources once sent to inner city schools and stuffing them into increasingly expensive and elite private and “charter” schools.  The goal of this committee had nothing to do with children–certainly not what was best for them–but reeks of a Dickensian corporation, taking all the money away from the poor and leaving them destitute, homeless, and criminal, wandering the murky streets, knowing nothing beyond base survival.  These organizations were more about closing schools than improving the lives of children and their families.

The School voucher program, which is almost the creation of DeVos herself, has been bandied around (the phrase) by parents all over the nation unhappy with the schools their children attend.  It’s like a lottery ticket, a desperate game where parents dream of hitting the jackpot.  Parents are required to submit bids (subsidized bids for the truly destitute), and then the selection is mostly like a keno wheel, snatching out names and then closing the contest with a few left-over places for friends and the wealthy.  It is a fundamentally unfair system based on chance, and without the stated generosity so many people still cling to.

Charter Schools:

My final year of teaching was mostly made up of the debate to change my school into a charter school.  We were all told, the staff and students alike, that we were fired.  But–but!–we all had the opportunity to reapply and maybe luck into a spot where half of the staff and student body were already pre-selected.  We were all told this at the start of the school year.  How do you think that year went in a rough urban school where the teachers were scared or disgusted or frustrated, or had entirely given up, and the students, many of them, were terrified of the future?  It went so badly, in fact, that a Pulitzer prize winning series was written on the outbreak of school chaos, violence and otherwise, which had never come close to reaching this level before.  I even witnessed a fist fight between two teachers in the hallway, students gathered around and making bets on who they thought would win.

Charter schools are no better or worse than public schools.  There are very good ones and very bad ones.  The only real difference is with how the teachers are treated.  There are no contracts.  There is certainly no union.  You can be fired for anything, at any time, be it something legitimate, or simply because a principal doesn’t like you.  Because a student invented a story.  Because a parent complained you gave their child a ‘C.’  Everything is open.  It is “school choice.”  The school can chose how they treat people, staff and students alike.

It’s about money, about profit, about the great corporate gains that our Secretary of Education cares about and has nothing to do with children or the future.  It is a con, a scam, and it has been marketed so well to an unhappy nation that many have been convinced it is the only way to go.  What will happen will be disastrous.  Know how we constantly discuss the division between rich and poor, about the “elites” versus the underprivileged?  When large groups of the underprivileged are outright denied the chance for an education, what hope will they have for the future?  It seems intentional–it is intentional, and it goes beyond race and is primarily about social class.  The President and Secretary of Education (among others in government) have no idea whatsoever about the actual ground zero experience of how schools operate and how children are supposed to learn.  All they can whine about is how schools teach some sort of bias (it is only a handful of inept teachers who do this, preaching on social issues that should not be discussed from a partisan side in the classroom.  Do not think that this is merely a liberal phenomenon, because it certainly isn’t), when the reality is that those schools they target don’t even have enough money to provide text books or computers to teach much of anything.  Students are bored and teachers exhausted by the repetition of numbers and basic facts they’ve been hearing since they began going to school, and they cease learning anything, eventually.  What the curriculum requires, now, is training for state and federally mandated standardized tests, which are further repetitions of the same old, same old everyone had lost interest in years before.  The results of these tests are responsible for school funding.  Everybody panics, administration and teachers overwhelmed, screaming at everybody, and students either scared into compliance, as though if they do not do well their lives are over, or angrily defiant, crumpling up papers until teachers give up and privately fill in the answers for them in a closed room.

Betsy DeVos picked for Trump's education secretary - CNNPolitics

And with all this in mind, with all the stress and outrage over the future of education, we come to the terror of Coronavirus.  People in the Trump administration are saying on TV that every parent wants their kids back in school.  I am a parent.  I certainly want this too.  But there is a twist here, and it goes beyond the need for schools and the necessity of a return to a structured life (especially for children).  It is about the gross indifference of the administration–especially the Secretary of Education.

She is a smug woman, Betsy DeVos, smiling at and laughing while repeating the same prepared line, refusing to engage in questions, and dismissing anything difficult as someone else’s problem.  She claimed in an interview to “not (be) an expert on viruses,” and so she couldn’t answer an important question about whether schools should go to full capacity (she is far from an expert on education too, as her resume clearly shows, although she is an excellent businesswoman).  All she could do was repeat “Children want to go back to school.”

Now let’s take a final moment before we conclude to consider an issue much larger than what is offered by the administration.  The disease, as Trump supporters like to claim, has less impact on children and this is true.  Then they advance a falsehood that children do not get it at the same rate.  Yet they carry it widely, like bats waiting to bite.  They infect each other, infect their families.  Teachers . . . teachers are always coming home with whatever illness is circulating in school, and they infect their own families, and the virus spreads drastically in such situations, and plenty of teachers and members of their families have the dreaded “pre-existing conditions.” (I am a type one diabetic).  This thoughtless push to return to a world that is still far from normal does not consider any of this.  It certainly rarely mentions teachers.  In fact, I have thus far heard only one district superintendent mention teachers at all, the head of the Atlanta school district, who no doubt has higher political ambitions.  She said what I am saying about the potential spread.  She was worried that rushing things back to as they were is going to cause an explosion of illness worse than any we have seen before.

She’s right, you know.  Children, again, are disease carriers.  Sometimes they don’t get sick, simply sneeze and infect you.  A return to a full classroom is a disaster waiting to happen, no matter how difficult this will be.  Online learning (I am surprised DeVos isn’t favoring this, being for profit as it is) is not the same as in person, of course.  For some students, who need the face-to-face instruction, it may very well be a disaster.  And certainly parents need to work to raise money, and some of them haven’t the patience, or the time, or the basic knowledge to home school, but the fact that the teachers, whose job it is to educate their children, are ignored goes to the very heart of the heartlessness of the threats against school districts presently being made.

Every one of those teachers and educators I know–all of them–are terrified not just by the uncertainty, but by the very danger public policies seem to want to ignore.  The teachers are being ignored.  There seems to be no consideration at all over just how hard they work, how dedicated they are to other people’s children, and how dangerous forcing them back into a job with overcrowded classrooms, close contact, and the impossibility of getting every student to wear a mask while sitting a foot and a half away from each other, is for the entire community.

Perhaps someone will teach Betsy DeVos a lesson.  Perhaps she can be made to realize just how near-sighted her ideas are.  But this will also likely be the death of public schools, something she has pushed for her entire life, now in a position to impose such an apocalypse, abiding her religious faith in Jesus and greed, accomplishing her goal of permanently dividing America.  If only someone would learn . . .

Trump's education secretary struggles to answer basic questions on ...

Copyright ©2020 Lance Polin




The Emperor of Chaos


Trump, Comey and Shakespeare: Post 499 - Every Good Morning

For a long time, like many people today, I have been talking about Donald Trump.  As far as the public written record goes my offerings and suggested theories about the nature of the man are here for the world to see from mid-2018, but for me it really goes all the way back to the early 1990s, my brutal collegiate, English/Political Science major’s know-it-all criticism of a transparently plastic man (the sort of pun I used to attempt back then too.)  But my psychological profile stories have never been personal, not about him anyway.  I have only hoped to reflect an empathetic version of a thoroughly miserable man’s personality and motivations.

Much of my generation was introduced in childhood to this character, “The Donald,” a person equally at home selling million dollar apartments as he was messing up one of his cheaper suits, body slamming a smaller professional wrestler.  He was a gleaming figure, handsome, a certain negative charm that kept him in focus; every time the light hit him on television there was a gleam of gold.  Certainly this was intentional, as we have learned in the uncontrolled 24-hour media spotlight of the present tense.  And yet there he remained, a gossipy megalomaniac who would do anything for a laugh.

I remember reading his book,  The Art of the Deal, the summer after I graduated from high school.  My father recommended it, annoyed by the titular intellectualism of my declared programs of study.  He told me that reading the book would clear my head and teach me that, like himself, the business world was the only way to make money in America.  I had shrugged, and when I finished the book–I remember this exactly–I said to myself out loud, “What a fucking asshole,” directing this remark at both Donald Trump and my blood-related proselytizer. After that I put the garbage in a milk crate and brought it over to my favorite used bookstore, unloading some of the terrible shit I’d read for store credit, enough to finish my collection of everything by Dostoevsky and Philip K. Dick.

Later, as Trump seethed through his 1990s failures and frequent missteps, publicly suing everyone for hurting his feelings, the man become a parody of himself, a cartoon of the image he’d spent so long promoting.  It took a short time before he decided he would be the true asshole that he’d always been behind closed doors, and put on public display the great joy he got from firing people and fucking with their lives and well-being.  Networks put this on TV, the collapse of reality with the rush of cheap products called “reality TV.”

The Apprentice was very popular, making tabloid figures out of the cast, the second and third tier celebrities appearing with hopes of reviving their sagging careers.  Some of these vaguely familiar names had once had leading roles in terrible movies; it made stars of a creepy, grotesque family.  Look at the Trumps–I mean seriously look at the way they expressed themselves on TV, this soap opera fantasy, exaggerations of the soullessness of themselves.  One has to believe that reality is far worse, much more perverse than the sanitized hero worship presented for public consumption.

This man, this creature who had been so awful to so many people for so long; this terrible boss; this angry, paranoid man, probably correct in some of his suspicions, the cutthroat world he thrived within still providing the mutual greed of corporate enemies.  He is now convinced that everything going against him, ever, has all been some sort of secret plot.  A deep state.  The gang of thugs.  Cults formed to challenge him and him alone.  He condemns crazy opposition figures who don’t understand how much of a genius Donald Trump has tried convincing everyone he is and always was.  If only everyone listened to him.  He could show you the way.  If you disagree with me “You’re fired,”  If you grovel then you can stay.

Think about the temerity of such a man, about his ability to manipulate his own misunderstanding of everything besides his momentary wanton lust.  He can just call someone a name, an elementary school yard bully, inventing silly slurs and then repeating them over and over again until all of them lose credibility.  Donald Trump, if nothing else, is a master of killjoy cynicism.

Think about a person in charge who constantly tells you.your work is shit and that at any time you could be fired.  Think about a man like this running a business called Trump Nation, a terrible boss.  He is a terrible boss.

Donald Trump is a terrible, terrible boss.

Think about all those proud and dignified people who quit.  The several who were fired (all those who quit were fired after the fact to give the boss a perception of who was really in charge.)  Think about the turnover and the debt.  People get fired.  They write books.  They get sued.  They go on TV.  They are condemned, condemned.  Just another partisan voice in the media.

Think about the excuses, all those excuses, deflecting responsibility for everything going wrong and then retaking the credit when other people’s hard work turn things around.

He goes blabbermouth. He proves he can’t understand.  He exposes that to him everything is a casino game.  He plays with people’s lives.  He loses far more often than he wins.

President Donald J. Trump is.the emperor of chaos, more of a gremlin than a gargoyle, someone standing by and watching the results of his bet, snorting when he wins and calling the dealer a cheat when he doesn’t.  He gets angry when he loses.  He takes it out on everybody else.

The Emperor of Chaos.  Here is a title for a near future history.  Here is a judgment of a soft, thin-skinned, hyper-emotional man (snowflake?) pretending to be strong and confident.  The Emperor of Chaos is a fearful, cowering slave to the outside world’s perception of himself.  He cannot stand if someone disapproves.  He cannot even laugh them off.  He can’t take it.  He is so bruised inside, no doubt treated like an imbecile by his hateful father, so psychologically destroyed before he ever brought himself to our attention that we have been given front row seats to the collapse into hysteria of a person with no belief in anything.  And so he destroys.  He destroys.  It is the only thing which gives him pleasure, the emotional ruination of other people, setting them to war with each other like he no doubt did with his toy soldiers as a child.  He watches the unraveling world on TV, taking credit for starting it, then refusing responsibility for the consequences.  It has happened over and over and over again, all the way back to the day he kicked a kid in the face in a playpen, or, as he claims, punched a teacher when he was a child, saying that everything is somebody else’s fault.  “They started it!”  “I’m a counter puncher!”  “I put people in their place!”  “I am always right.”

He is a tragic figure, Donald Trump, a sad, lonely man who just wants people to love him.  Or at least notice him.  Hatred–true hatred–is not so very different, strong emotions keeping minds thinking only of him.  He is a superstar, the most famous man in the world, talked about and praised or derided everyplace, everywhere in the world.  He is the result of what a man will do when incapable of loving or caring about anything outside his unhappiness, a desperate, helpless individual who wants to make the world as miserable as he is to justify his value as a human being.

Fuck you Dr. Freud.


Who Should We Blame?

Usually I trash Donald Trump in pieces such as this, but it is a little unfair for the agenda I have for this editorial.  Yes, he has fucked up everything in 2020, from the indifference to the virus, his cruel inability to care about life and death, sickness and health, personal wealth and the droning majority too honest to profit off other people’s misery.  Yes, it is very easy to blame this petty, insignificant failure as history will finally paint him, a dart board for the real horrors to follow.  It is easy to dismiss our time with Donald Trump as a singular villain.

But let’s try not to do this because it is an overblown mess, everybody saying it.  You know where you get the deepest insight into just how awful the Donald Trump era of American government is?  It’s from his lingering supporters, the desperate and frequently pathetic justifications, and the weird twists on reality, those irrational QAnon conspiracy theories that remain too stupid to claw their way into the mainstream.  I mean, try listening to this nonsense, connections to international child trafficking alleged towards the most moderately asexual democrats still mouthing their bland philosophies about suggested equality and the corporate takeover of their friendly financial supporters.  It is hilarious in its depressing reality.  The fact that people promote such grim silliness displays how far gone the rest of us on one side or the other of the middle have become.

Who are we to blame?

For a long time I have believed that it is all of us, our bipartisan cynicism and indifferent lies, pretending that those we disagree with are far worse than we really are.  We call ourselves names, pervert our customs and demands, insulting one another so vitriolically that those on the hyper-reactive fringe cannot help but take their offense seven steps too far.

I mean, consider the absurdity of the moment, the crashing of statues and refusal to wear masks.  Teddy Roosevelt, the father of the burgeoning progressive movement, declared a racist over a statue some talented moron sculpted after his death.  Ulysses S. Grant, a product of his times, a hero who fought to end the great evil of slavery in his native land–and won!–because his wife’s southern parents gifted the couple in their ignorance a dowry of some poor slave shortly thereafter freed with an apology and a handful of cash.  These reckonings are absurd, gone too far, a gleeful cynicism on the reactionary left to shove a small-minded middle finger of righteousness up the ass of our horrible past.  They even demand that liberal popular culture instantly straighten their act, dismissing the art of the past, replaced by the elementary pastel of self-righteous finger-paint.

Those on the right are perhaps even worse, these cawing absolutists declaring anyone disputing their basic morality an absolutist, their hypocrisy far more on display than the petty children on the left.  When they use the wannabe derisive term ‘snowflake’ they cannot be talking about anybody other than themselves.  I mean, have you listened to their hurt feeling-ed rants, condemning everyone as weak while they cry like broken-hearted teenagers over the perceived betrayal they see in America, disregarding the reality that they were dumped for very good reasons.

Those on the right are much better liars, convincing themselves that their fantasies are the truth.  They invent the viewpoints of their opposition, generalizing their perception on their reality based entirely upon one left-wing moron holding an offensive sign as standing in for the entire cause.  They call them socialists, commies, pinkos and Nazis, or whatever other derisive slur they can dredge up from a forgotten cold war past, and plunge it at college kids who have no comprehension of the past.  They are all desperate frustration, a yearning for a past that never was, their mindless alignment to a Trump that couldn’t care less about them.

Of course the idiots on the left, a terminally self-destructive crowd, decide to take advantage of momentary trends and go too far and piss off the rational center left and center right, going past the abolition of confederate images (the confederates were traitors, so fuck all consideration for those defending them: I am a historian, ultimately, and believe in sustaining the narrative, but no one has ever learned anything from an honorable statue of whomever the fuck you name.  Go to a museum.  Read a fucking book.  Removing these celebrations of treason from a town square is not a concealment of history.  It is justice.  It is history writ by the winners.)  No, the sneering self-righteous children (no matter their age) who have gone so far as to pressure artists and demand a modern justification for history simply do not understand anything about the value of before towards after, nor the grudgingly slow process of social evolution.  Sure things move far too slowly, and yes, many complaints need to be addressed, but it is an ignoral of reality, a self-righteous demand for all change to happen now.

I started this piece by saying that Donald Trump, a miserable failure as a human being, does not deserve the blame for everything.  I mean, we elected him–and before you nasally go too far and squawk nonsense like “not my president,” it is important to realize that many (perhaps most) of those who elected Donald Trump did it more so because they wanted to upset those righteous young liberals (a gang that plenty of liberals tear apart too) than any sort of belief in Donald Trump’s merits.  It was a fuck you vote, a fuck you against the very idea of America.  It was saying fuck you to everyone, to everything, to even the idea of themselves.

So if you ask me, were you to ask me, who should we blame for just how terrible 2020 has been, I would admit that Trump and the sneering Democrats out to get him are only partially to blame.  The real pointed finger of condemnation really belongs to us, the American people, the blindly disillusioned and cynical creeps so many of us have become.  We choose to negate instead of support, deny instead of believe, attack instead of defend and destroy instead of create.  It is us, our fault, all of our faults.  This is what we’ve yearned for.  This is what we get.  How many of us are truly happy?


Elsewhere: Preface to Series Five

My favorite pieces of Recording Editorial History have been these deep historical studies of times and changes and how history influences the present.  This latest edition will deal with the endless revolutions that have altered human civilization throughout the development of organized society.  It is hard work, requiring long stretches of  research and analysis of a past that most are not interested in discussing.  But I am an adamant historian (when I take this guise as a shield) and I vow to discuss reality in the face of partisan sniping, and the anger over what we believe.

It has been a while since I have submitted a commentary on this site, and this has mostly been personal (I am, after all, a professional writer, and sometimes the work for the money that sustains my existence and that of my family must supplant these commentaries that make me a handful of dollars a year.)  But I do not wish to discuss myself and hopefully the word ‘I’ will be supplanted in what follows.

This is called a preface, but it is a historical discussion of the moment.  With all the statues going down and the pandemic causing terror like nothing seen before–I mean nothing (goddamn the ‘I’) because any time these death sentences have happened in the past there has been either prayers to God or broken submission to the helplessness we all feel in the face of the world.  Yet now in our conspiratorial arrogance we all believe we have a solution to the presumed lies we must counter.  No, what needs to be discussed is actual history in this latest edition of Elsewhere is the grim realities of Revolution throughout the development of human society.  And this is important–this is something that I wish my handful of thousand readers between the many sites Recording Editorial History is submitted (check out medium.com/@asphlex7 if you would like to throw a few pennies into my coffers) could hear, a discussion (or debate) over the grotesque partisanship that has turned historical reality into a talking point to support whatever idiotic theory people from all sides wish to justify their actions with.

History is the most important subject children learn in school.  Oh, I hear you–science, math, the basic fundamentals of language (I used to be a high school English teacher and so I have my own partisan bias)–but all of this is merely a part of the greater aspect of history, of how we started and where we have wound up.

Let’s talk, as an introduction, about this latest craze among generally valid protesters over racial injustice, of the smashing of statues and the re-modification of the past.  Now there is no reason to keep Confederate soldiers alight with bronze celebrations of their subjugating passion.  Robert E. Lee, to take the most significant example, was a traitor to the United States of America.  Here was a presumptively honorable man, a beloved general of immaculate talent, who not only renounced his oath of loyalty to his nation, but chose to lead an army against the those he had once promised to defend.  He was a traitor.  He was a human disgrace.  No one should honor him.  No one should pretend he was noble simply because he fought for a cause that was not only vile, but was unsuccessful.  He was a failure, a loser, and how some people still attribute honor to this man who in modern times would have been executed for treason is beyond me.

You listen to and read the defenders of General Lee gibbering the nonsense that “if you ignore history you are destined to repeat it,” or whatever phrasing they choose to offer this cliche, and it is easy to realize that in this instance the speaker has no understanding of history whatsoever.  Should the statues of Confederate leaders be removed from public squares?  Of course they should.  Does that mean they should be demolished?  Of course not.  Jab them into a museum with all the other traitors of American history, with Benedict Arnold’s diary and with Alfred Rosenberg’s nervous letters to his Soviet masters.  Those people need to be remembered, they need to be condemned for their pathetic failure to be patriots to anything, to any cause, because they believed only in their selfishness.

There are those who pretend that taking down such statues is a destruction of history, is a crime greater than the treason these individuals were guilty of.  This is stupid, pure stupidity, an acknowledgement of the speaker’s incipient not just racism (for example), but their profound misunderstanding of how the past influences the present.  Such defenses are foolish, dumb, or perhaps they are merely a reflection of the treasonous instincts of those defending the very idea of celebrating failure.

Yes, history has always been written by the winners (here is a cliche with valid specificity), and so the failures, the losers, need only be dismissed as ideological stooges whose intentions were renounced by society.  But for those whining about the removal of Confederate disgraces celebrated in bronze, why do they pretend that this will somehow alter history?  When have any of you learned anything from a statue?  When have you walked by a historical monument, the preface to much deeper study, and thought that if that frozen moment in time (for the Confederacy put into place as a warning to anyone that the war was still going on) were removed then American history was lost?  Read a fucking book.  Learn about what actually happened, and quit walking past some monster of the past with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and pretend like you care what it stands for at all.

Now, for those attacking the winners, those true patriots of the past, no matter their moral flaws, there is a problem.  Yes, George Washington (for example) owned slaves.  But what he also did was help forge a nation with the idea of freedom deeply ingrained, the concept of the future the primary goal of a hideous time where no one was truly free.  And while the sin of continued slavery haunts the otherwise noble founding fathers, their efforts, the attempts they made to initiate the process of independence deserves serious recognition, no matter the sins of the father.

People have been tearing down statues of Ulysses S. Grant, a mostly mediocre President whose past is a little shifty, because his wife owned a handful of slaves.  Awful, right?  But this is the same man who finally led the Union army to victory over that disgraceful, traitorous confederacy, helping to finally free the slaves, and granting to humanity the right to create a hopeful future for everyone.  There is no reason his statue should be torn down.

Teddy Roosevelt is another historical figure who has unjustly been targeted by young and angry people overwhelmed with their success.  I mean, the statue is rather condescending, but the man himself was practically honorable.  So there is a black man and a native essentially kneeling at his behorsed side.  It is a poor image.  This does not remove the importance of the man to the development of the nation such anger and protests celebrate.  This is an example of going too far, of missing the point of history.  Of not knowing history.  History is the most important knowledge if you want to change civilization in the moment which we live.

It is suffocating to hear people from any and every side rant their self-righteous views about if and when and how and why over anything that has ever happened, and how they supply whichever interpretation they choose for the angry cause of the moment.  It is not just stupid and horrifying to hear, but it is wrong, simply wrong, the sort of thinking not of revolutionaries, but of those cliches we are warned about who will repeat the same mistakes over and over again because they ignore the lessons of the past.  This is not the smug defense of any individual side, but acknowledgment that no one really understands history unless they pervert their goals into something vague that actually had nothing to do with what they wish to say.

And so Elsewhere Series Five, a resumption of what was and remains the best work I have ever offered on this site (please–please please please check out some of the earlier pieces from such a naive time as 2019), will be a study of revolutions, something I believe the present moment is experiencing, the parallel issues from the past of plague, economic worries, growing unemployment, radical kinship or opposition to a leader, and a violent partisan divide of cynical, hopeless outrage that has changed society into a new and questionable world, time and time again, something we would know if we only remembered the history so many people warn us about forgetting.