Category Archives: Democracy

Pluto’s Return

In October 2019, an astrological event I heard about (the planet Pluto “going direct” after having been retrograde) prompted me to post “Pluto’s Helmet.” It wasn’t much of a stretch to connect the alleged influence of a planet to the malevolence of Donald Trump by means of the most deceptive god in Roman mythology.

A few weeks ago, I again thought about Pluto and Trump, because on March 19 the voted-out President announced that he would shortly be indicted by the Manhattan District Attorney, and on March 23 Pluto entered the sign of Aquarius, which it hasn’t done since the time of the American and French revolutions. For the astrology set, this once-every-248-years event was a big deal—presumably because everything that the song from Hair says about the Age of Aquarius is true.

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Liars’ Paradise

Of all the rationalizations the media give for covering the far right’s sensationalism, the worst is when they declare that, as humans, “we can’t look away.”

That’s simply a lie, because actually (as humans) we can look away. We can look away from lies and distortions of truth. We can even walk away. There’s no electronic fence if you don’t wear the collar.

The new Republican House—whose members seem more and more like boys shoving each other into bathroom stalls—have made our elected federal government seem minuscule, pathetic in scope. “Performative” seems too grown-up a word for what they do in front of cameras.

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Dances with Hyenas

When you consider how much physical property North America’s colonizers stole from indigenous peoples (i.e., all of it), it’s not surprising that we also went for the IP.

Like the twelve names for the full moon as the Earth makes its way around the sun every year. Even Europeans, who have an ample supply of Druid-era terminology to draw from, use these names.

January’s Wolf Moon got its name because many tribes noticed the animals being particularly active at this time. The Sioux called it the “wolves run together” moon. In New York City, this moon was gloriously visible on January 6, capping off four days of discord and animus among House Republicans.

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The Rule of Three

Several times during our drought summer in New York, severe thunderstorms were predicted and the atmosphere complied—ashen clouds, intense humidity, barometric pressure sucking the curtains to the screen. But then nothing happened: no deluge from the heavens, not a single drop. And before you know it: sun again, that insidious free agent.

This has been my metaphor for our democracy in peril. Something threatening happens, and we think: “At last they’ll come round.” But the heavens never open; not a single drop. It turns into just another line crossed (He declassified everything that day while riding in a golf cart; all good!).

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As wildfires tore across Western Europe and the American West, I was reading Embrace Fearlessly the Burning World (2022), Barry Lopez’s posthumous essay collection. I hadn’t thought a lot about the actual earth beneath our feet as destiny, as perhaps the largest factor in making us what we are as Americans. But I paused at Lopez’s reminder that “geography, some scholars believe, has subtly but directly influenced the development of our cultures, our languages, our diets, our social organization, and to some degree even our politics.”

Over the past six years, many have concluded that to understand America’s divisiveness you need to set the Way Back Machine to the Federalists/anti-Federalists debates. But maybe, I thought, geography played more of role in this chronic schism.

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Legacy Americans

A week after the murder of 10 people at a supermarket in Buffalo, I was sticking a stamp on an envelope. “Whose idea was that?” I asked the billowing flag. Whose idea to connect “Forever” with the Stars and Stripes? Was this person or persons sure about the Forever part? To quote André 3000: “Forever-ever?”

The Buffalo shooter had cited “the great replacement theory” as his rationale for randomly gunning down Black people—the paranoid fantasy that Democrats had hatched a diabolical plot to replace white Americans with people of color (imported or domestic).

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Rock Paper Scissors

A recent headline in the Atlantic online got on my nerves: “The Democrats Really Are That Dense about Climate Change.” I hadn’t thought much of people being “dense” since junior high. But more important, the idea that Nancy Pelosi was “blowing a once-in-a-decade chance to pass meaningful climate legislation” seemed too facile even for the Atlantic’s hourly collagen shots of news filler.

Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats fully get the do-or-die-ness of climate change. But guess what? Do-or-die-ness encompasses everything in American life right now. Gun legislation and protecting reproductive rights are pretty high up, but preserving our democracy at the polls is still paramount, given that we can already see the switchman in the distance, all set to pull the lever onto permanent minority rule.

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Everything Falls Apart

It’s spring in the northern hemisphere, the time when influencer moms rev up for Easter’s filtered pastels, peppered here and there with the earthy painted colors of Ukrainian eggs. This year, with the people of Ukraine bloodied and bombarded in an unprovoked war of aggression, Americans aren’t as revved about the pastels.

You’d think that with the widespread lifting of COVID restrictions we’d be able to manage the cognitive dissonance of celebrating locally while mourning globally. But it’s hard to laugh. No one can seem to get the satire right, even when the president of The Force of Good once played the piano with his dick. I keep waiting for someone to stage “Springtime for Putin” à la The Producers, but so far nothing.

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Swing Shift

Jimmy Kimmel occasionally does a person-on-the-street segment where LA pedestrians are asked polling questions like “Did you vote for X in today’s election?” when there was no election or even X running as candidate. The people who say they voted for X often seem friendly, charming, and completely self-confident—folks you wouldn’t mind sitting next to on a plane.

What’s disturbing is not that these individuals lie about a democratic responsibility, but that even after being called out, they go ahead and sign the release form. The desire to have their face on television is stronger than the desire for civic integrity. The Kimmel cohort might not be chronic low-information voters, but they are at least temporary affiliates. If they do vote at all, they are likely to be the swing voters who decide on our government. Although this disparate chunk is not unified, it is nevertheless a front and can hold the nation hostage.

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Hurtfully Yours

To ensure that America’s economic recovery continues apace, the Federal Reserve has the power to take any steps necessary to tamp down inflation, such as raise interest rates. It is understood that you can’t allow something as important as the U.S. economy to bob along on the open seas; you need intervention by “experts.”

On the progressive left, self-designated experts are becoming more and more demanding that Americans also think this way about language—that we need sanctioned versions of how we conduct public and private conversation.

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