Political Fix (21 December, 2017)

Why Are The Republicans Trying to Convince Us That Upside Down is Right Side up – And Will They Succeed?

I am not one to hold a grudge, but in 1952 Republican women fought to get the issue of equal pay on the California Republican platform. In correspondence between my grandmother, Florence Doe, and other women on the Republican Central Committee, getting more women to run for office and pay equity were Republican issues.

Where did my grandmother’s Republican Party go?

While she’s spinning in her grave over the current state of her beloved party, I have been giving this question a lot of thought.

The party still exists in spirit but not in practice. Republicans advertise themselves as the family values, strong on military, and the fiscally responsible party, as if we all live in the middle of the Wizard of Oz movie.

“Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain,” they say while endorsing a child molester, allowing a foreign government to meddle in our elections, and ballooning the deficit by $1.5 trillion with their tax plan.

What stands out most though is Republicans’ image of being hawkish on Russia while Democrats are portrayed as doves.

The Democrats were persecuted in the 1950’s for allegedly embracing “Reds” when it basically wasn’t true. But in 2017 the Republicans defend a president who actually does.

After President Trump received the Republican nomination in July of 2016, the FBI warned him that Russia was trying to infiltrate his campaign. They were right. Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign proceeded to have 31 encounters with the Russians. And that is just what we know of.

The FBI? Trump’s campaign didn’t want to bother them.

Those meetings are in addition to Mr. Trump appointing several high ranking members to his administration who have strong financial and personal ties to Russia.

All this news takes me back to the Cold War.

Remember the “Non-Aligned Movement?”

Those were countries like India, Indonesia, Mexico, and Egypt that politically or financially agreed not to align with either super power – those two super powers being the United States and The Soviet Union.

The Western Block was basically made up of Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand. The Eastern Bloc was made up of those countries bordering the Soviet Union, Central Europe, and some African countries.

Then there was the Non- Aligned Movement, mostly made up of developing nations trying to maintain their sovereignty from the two world bullies. Josip Broz Tito of Yugoslavia was one of the founding members of the Non-Aligned Movement and formalized the organization in his country in 1956.

After 40 years of exchanging a lot of dirty looks and pointing nuclear missiles at each other, the Cold War came to an unexpectedly quick end. Through a combination of President Reagan’s tough diplomacy, and Soviet Union’s ineptitude, the Soviet Union broke apart and the Eastern Bloc fell in 1991. The United States emerged as the only super power.

That is until Mr. Trump.

Eighteen years after the fall of the Berlin Wall Russia is trying to recreate the Soviet Union through military aggression and is destabilizing our country’s and other Western country’s democracies. Mr. Trump is helping them along by slow-walking sanctions against Russia and denying that Russia meddled in our elections.

All the while we have to hear how Republicans are tough on national security and Democrats are soft.

That’s funny because I don’t remember President Obama’s bromance with Vladimir Putin or Mr. Putin describing Mr. Obama as an “asset” of Russia.

Maybe not coincidently, the Non-Aligned Movement is still alive and well and has increased its membership to 125 countries.

Tito was the last world leader my grandmother recognized before she slipped into dementia in 1980. She admired Tito because he kept his small country independent from the Soviet Union, which was no small achievement in the face of Josef Stalin or Nikita Khrushchev.

Towards the end of his life, Tito had worsening diabetes that necessitated the doctors having to amputate first one leg then the other. Grandma said as we watched the evening news, “Well, that is it for him,” as she realized he wouldn’t live more than a few more weeks.

As astute as my grandmother was in world politics, she could not have predicted the metamorphosis her party would undergo. And the Republicans won’t acknowledge how far they have strayed from their roots. Its time they pull back the curtain and take a good look – before the return of the Soviet Union and the next Cold War.

Merry Christmas, Russia.

Pay to Play Time

Sitting in Sproul Plaza listening to Stoney Burke, a street comedian, I remember him bemoaning the apathy of college students. “Close all of the Cafes” he said. “That would get all of them out in the streets.”

He was correct. 1983 was a time before the advent of Starbucks, and Berkeley students cherished their cafes and spent more time in them than in the classroom.

In 2017 the same could be said of the internet. Start charging to use Facebook, Snapchat and Google and the watch people flood out of Starbucks and into the streets to protest.

And that is exactly what’s in the pipeline.

Just in time for Christmas, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted 3-2 along party lines to end net neutrality.

Net neutrality mandates companies to treat all internet data as equal. They can’t speed up, slow down, or hide any kind of internet content from users. In a way, it works like a virtual democracy.

I’ll let you guess which political party voted to repeal net neutrality.

Now people are going to hate their internet supplier as much as their cable provider as the internet levies ever increasing prices on each website.

Ending net neutrality means that internet providers will make people pay for websites such as facebook, linkedIn, Instagram, Twitter.

In Portugal, where there is no net neutrality, users have to pay six dollars for each bundle, such as for a messaging package, email package, social media package and so on.

By the time you read this Mr. Trump will have already signed into law a very nice tax break for himself and his family. Soon the middle class won’t only be paying higher taxes but might have to start paying to use facebook when they want to keep up with the grandkids.

Well maybe not, because the grandkids and their parents might not be able to afford it.

Merry Christmas, Middle Class.

The First Year for the Rest of My Life

A few days from now Christmas will be over and there will be no more “firsts” when it comes to Alex’ passing. After losing a child there are first birthdays, holidays, Mother’s and Father’s Days, and the first family portrait without him.

I learned that during my year of “firsts” there is never the right thing to say. When Manny noticed I was crying on the way to the airport to spend Thanksgiving with all the kids in Portland he tried to comfort me by saying Alex wouldn’t have wanted to come anyway.

Mercedes made me a Mother’s Day card that said “Best Mother of Five,” pretty much the last thing I wanted to hear. Her boyfriend, Brendon, gave me liquor filled candy just a few weeks after Alex died of alcohol related hepatitis.

Actually, the doctors never did figure out what Alex had. In all their infinite wisdom they discharged him even though he was still very sick. One particularly aloof doctor asked Joseph and I why we were so worried.

We had to endure four birthdays within six weeks of Alex’ passing. Joseph and I weren’t in the celebrating mood but we could not ignore Manny and Mercedes’ birthdays. Manny was turning 23 and was happy with just a cake and then left for Barmageddon in Tulare. I even managed to find a few candles.

Mercedes’ 18th birthday landed on Father’s Day which was a blessing. Somehow she finagled two celebrations, one with family and a few days later a swim party with her friends. Watching her friends play Twister and have chicken fights in the pool made it very hard for me to sulk.

The prospect of Mother’s Day hung over me like a dark cloud until I got on Amazon.com. I bought each child a special gift and thanked them for being so great. Coincidently, as Mercedes is an excellent cook, the Panini Maker I gave her turned out to be one my better investments.

On August 3 I spent Alex’ birthday organizing documents Joseph and I would need to defend ourselves against my stepmom and my dad’s fourth suit against us. The bitterness matched my mood perfectly. We ended up losing our shirts during mediation but keeping our integrity.

And so what. We had already lost Alex so what else could they do to us?

Thanksgiving was spent together in Portland. That morning I walked five miles in the rain from our airbnb to the OMSI museum. The fall colors still hung from the trees and carpeted the sidewalks in a brilliant red and orange but it was just drizzly enough to make myself miserable.

We celebrated Thanksgiving but Joseph and I were adamant about canceling Christmas. We toyed with the idea of a cruise, or going to Istanbul, or touring Auschwitz and sending the in-laws postcards saying “Wish you were here.” Auschwitz in the snow summed up how we felt and our plan was to avoid the holidays altogether.

Everyone knows what happens to the best laid plans, though.

Kids.

Mercedes and Brendon couldn’t wait for Christmas or to decorate the house and promised to do it all themselves. Getting the boxes out of the garage I caught a glimpse of Alex’ hand-crocheted stocking and that is precisely what I was trying to avoid.

Still, despite my best efforts to be miserable, I didn’t grieve on the big milestone holidays like I had planned, but mostly in the car on the way to a city council meeting or picking up Mercedes from school. In fact, I don’t know where people grieved before the advent of the automobile.

It was the unexpected times, like or hearing a song he made into a birthday video for his older brother, Chuck, or shopping at Kohls where every year I bought him a argyle vest.

Or sitting down to dinner and wondering who is missing.

The last thing Alex did before getting too sick was help pick out our Christmas tree.

He dragged it in the house and hung the lights before I put on the hand-made ornaments sporting pictures of them as toddlers.

And unbeknownst to me, I hung up his stocking, perfectly stitched in the form of a boot, for the last time for a very long time, maybe forever.

When someone dies the world does not stop turning. Work doesn’t stop, kids don’t say the right things, doctors don’t always have a diagnosis, and Joseph and I couldn’t keep Christmas from coming. Like Joseph’s hero, the Grinch, said, “it came. Somehow or other… it came just the same.”

It will be a few years before we go pick out a fresh tree or hang the kid’s stockings, but I am happy to be home celebrating Christmas with my family. I even let myself smile a few times when reminiscing about Alex and the good times.

Merry Christmas, Alex.

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