HAVE WE BECOME CHILDREN?

As children we had a tendency to want to know, long before we got there, how the story ended. And so it goes into adulthood? I’d hope not. Does it only occur to me that this attempt, horribly successful lately, to decide the ending and work to that end is the same thing? There are many examples, but one stands out. We know that one of our political parties has a limited time to be competitive in our politics, working against minorities of all races and backgrounds while those groups’ numbers rise. So their backers decided what they want to be the happy ending…for them…and demand results. That’s what we’re living with now, but with one exception. Those wealthy people with their fingers on the scale didn’t factor in an outlier…a totally unreal “reality TV” personality, actually barely able to operate a business, managing to use the language of populism to fool enough people to take the top prize. In a novel, such a character would be beyond belief. Yet, there he is.

Wouldn’t you think that only disaster would result? Well, it has…and it gets worse daily. The most perverse motivation, revenge, has taken the day, and all the good done in recent years is being undone. Though not their hero, this outlier is doing the bidding of the wealthy, even while they surely must have the deepest scorn for him. And the outlier Congress, brought to office through tricks, mirrors, and lies, again is proving that their party knows not how to govern…a fine kettle of fish.

Read what Libertarians wanted to do in 1980, and you’ll see today’s agenda. Their shopping list was endless…and totally mean-spirited. But all of it is now on the table, with the outlier party now leading the charge. Should they rename themselves the Outliar Party? The ending they have in mind for us is not pleasant, except for them. They make money, as we are marginalized. Time is of the essence for them to bring it about. But they need the help of people they intend to give the shaft to. You’d think those people would inform themselves…would wake up and see that there’s no limit to the harm that would be so willingly inflicted, even upon those who gave them power. But, as they whittle away at democracy, people are just becoming discouraged and giving up…or siding with the party wielding the blade.

If the story is already written, I fear the ending may be worse than I imagined just a short time ago. So, whatever you do, don’t tell me how it ends. I can always hope for a rewrite that way. 

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NO TELLER OF TALL TALES

You can call me Bartleby. That’s not my real name, but it’s close enough. I think someone once said…I write, therefore I am…or something like that. No matter. I write. And I am. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, I’ll tell you why I’m here. For years I kept quiet, even as I became more dissatisfied, more disconcerted, with what I saw all around me. Personal disappointments and frustration with a deteriorating world finally brought me to the breaking point. So I began to write. Do you dare to think you can now shut me up?

Pushed into decisions that weren’t what I wanted, justified by fabrications, didn’t help me or anyone. Have you ever heard the stories of someone not feeling the need to tell the whole truth, minus embellishments? If I was there too, would I back them up? Would you? The truth matters, and the truth is that I won’t buy the big lie, nor will I let it slide. That isn’t nitpicking. It’s basic decency. For awhile, to keep the peace, you may learn to close your ears…pretend you heard nothing unusual. But after awhile, you’ll feel complicit…and compromised. Like I did, you’ll reach a crossroads…either you reach the breaking point or surrender your integrity.
 
“I am not a crook!”
 
“Welfare Cadillacs”
 
“I did not have sexual relations with that woman.”
 
“Weapons of mass destruction”
 
“Better and cheaper healthcare”
 
Just to name a few examples everyone has heard doesn’t cover the breadth of the problem. Anyway, the beat goes on. In a world where there’s so little regard for truth, does it make lies, or even tall tales acceptable? It doesn’t just happen in the political world. Much of what offends my ears is very personal. Politics, though, should provide examples everyone has heard…if only people cared enough to seek out the truth as vigorously as they seek out the latest Christmas toy phenomenon or see the latest “must see TV”. You may call me cynical…or a curmudgeon. Have at it if you don’t want to look into the mirror at yourself. I’m speaking truth, and you know it. Or are you willing to lie to yourself? I won’t be complicit.
 
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FIGHTING THE LAST WAR

When you have an opportunity as a journalist to speak directly with the person running a political campaign, you jump at it. So it was that I was speaking, just after the Democratic Convention with John Minor, campaign chairman for Democratic Party presidential candidate Jane Barron, a recently-elected Senator from Maine. The election of 2016 had been a disaster for the Democrats. Losing the White House was only part of it. Making so little progress toward taking back control of the Senate, let alone the House, had been disappointing. So I had to ask if they hadn’t learned the wrong lessons from that experience. “John, after the level of anti-woman sentiment that worked against Hillary Clinton in 2016, what was the thinking behind having another woman candidate in the next election? I’m not saying a woman can’t or shouldn’t be President, but are the people…the voters…likely to change that quickly?”
 
“So, Ryan…I hear what you’re saying. But Jane was selected in the primary process. Voters in a wide range of states voted for her…selected her to be the nominee…believed in her programs.”
 
“Of course. We have the system of primary elections to narrow down the candidates to one, but can’t we agree that, because of the way the electorate has been fragmented by partisanship and hot-button issues, that primary voters of both major parties are more extreme than those who vote in the general election? And it’s only gotten worse since the Republican Party has so severely shifted to the right.”
 
“You’re right, Ryan, but you’re also right that this started with the GOP being taken over by the Tea Party and the extreme infusion of dark money. I read what you wrote about that. The GOP is addicted to Koch dollars at all levels. We want to speak directly to the people…but we have to compete with far less money to work with. There are, of course, liberal millionaires donating to the party and to PACs, but the big money goes to the GOP. That’s why one item on our platform is an amendment to overturn Citizens United.”
 
“Do you ever think that maybe the multitude of goals your platform lists are too much for the average voter to grasp and get on board with?”
 
“We prefer not to insult the intelligence of our voters, Ryan. The GOP reduces everything to a bumper sticker slogan. Think about how simplistic Trump’s slogan was…’Make America Great Again’. What did it mean? We know he was assuming our country was in decline. And maybe it was, but not for the reasons he stated. He picked up a lot of disaffected whites who blamed their troubles on people of color and immigrants. He spent the entire time of Obama’s two terms accusing him of not being an American. If you were looking for a scapegoat, you might believe Trump…and vote for him. We know that wealthy extremists on the right have worked hard and long to get us where we are. And they’re still not going to be satisfied until they control everything.”
 
“Hillary called them the vast right wing conspiracy. She was right about that. But, again, if you assume that the average voter in the general election is as partisan or as well informed as a primary voter, I think you’ll have a hard time reaching them. When it came down to it, Trump’s voters believed he’d bring back the jobs…factory jobs and coal jobs, especially. We know that was a lie. The President has no such power…and a GOP Congress wasn’t about to overturn free trade pacts…if anything, they’d make them less beneficial to workers. So why not concentrate on the major issues?” I wasn’t playing gotcha with Minor, but I wanted to see how he responded to things some of us in the media were finally focusing on.
 
“Like I said, Ryan. We believe the voters can see through the simplistic promises the GOP platform makes. And many of their platform planks are just mean-spirited.”
 
“I’ll leave it with this…and not to be offensive, but I think the complicated message will work against your candidate, even in the absence of the Clinton baggage.”
 
“I guess we’ll see in November.”
 
I thanked him for his time. I was certain I hadn’t been an effective devil’s advocate…how do you convince a true believer to consider an alternative? Having a vantage point further away from the issues gave me an insight he was unable or unwilling to accept. Fighting the last war is never the best tactic.
 
© 2017 Robert Mihaly
 
Note: This story is intended to become part of a political novel that is underway. It’s topical, so I hope current events don’t leave my story in the dust.
 
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LUCKY I PASSED

I was told Riffy was very protective, especially toward the ladies in the family, and that he was prone to biting weak-willed men. If you stood your ground and spoke with authority, you passed the test. Luckily, I passed. I soon learned that, even with his reputation, he wanted attention, and I quickly, and then often, found his snoot poked in my face as I sat on the couch.
 
I’ll have to admit…dogs aren’t my favorite pets. I like cats, even though my allergy made having one impossible. I especially didn’t like it when a big dog like a Huskie or Lab came up and stuck his nose in my crotch. I’m told they all do that. It doesn’t make them any more endearing. But Riffy was a midsize dog…apparently a mix of Border Collie and something else. He had the speed of a Border Collie, but not the disposition. He at least chose some people to be friendly with. Somehow the normal herding instinct went awry. Riffy was more likely to chase down a squirrel than to herd anything.
 
I guess strangers wandering through his yard looked like squirrels to him. More than one regretted their trespass when it was rewarded by a nipped rear end. Even I, in my last encounter with Riffy, narrowly avoided that fate. I saw him approaching, head down in hunting posture, and he began growling. I knew his eyesight was failing, so I  yelled, “Stop it, Riffy!” His approach immediately transformed from menacing to obedient and submissive, punctuated by a furiously wagging tail. Thank goodness he recognized my voice and that I wasn’t about to take any of his crap. We live so much longer than most other animals that it’s inevitable to have to say goodbye. It wasn’t long after that encounter that this long-time family pet made his last trip to the vet…the day all pet owners dread. He’s gone, but he won’t be forgotten…not even by those unfortunate intruders.
 
© 2017 Robert Mihaly
 
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BUT I’M A CAT LOVER!

The long-haired male ginger cat I called my buddy saw me sitting on the bottom step by the back door and hurried toward me. Soon, as always, he was in my lap and purring vigorously. The goofy look on his face told me he was enjoying it as I scratched the top of his head and behind his ears. He stretched out, and soon the purring slowed, and he knew he was asleep. I knew I had to leave soon, but how do you bring yourself to disturb a cat at peace with the world? I was glad that my cat whispering was all it took to get his attention.

My allergies keep me from having a cat of my own, but I’m always glad to welcome a cat friend. My buddy actually belongs to my neighbor. I think he’d gladly change families if I could survive it. When he’s on my lap, there’s nothing his cat mom or dad owner can say to get him to go to them. Perhaps it’s a bit malicious on my part, but I never encourage him to leave to go home.

I heard cat mom calling. “Rusty! Here, Kitty!” Only a few seconds passed before she repeated her call. No response from “Rusty” told me he wanted to stay. When I looked toward their house, I saw the muzzle of a black and white dog poking through a hole in the board fence. In his eyes, I thought I detected longing…or maybe it was jealousy. He whined.

“Sorry, Killer. I know you’d like me to pet you too,” I said quietly, then finished my sentence, “…but I’m a cat lover.” My buddy just stirred briefly, then put his head down and fell back asleep. When there’s a cat sleeping in your lap, all is good in the world. Isn’t it?

 
© 2017 Robert Mihaly
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IT DIDN’T HAPPEN

He knew it…he’d struck out once again. He’d fallen asleep thinking he’d really gotten lucky. Billy looked at the alarm clock, saw 5am, then saw that the dream from last night had split. Only later did he realize that she’d rifled his pants pockets and emptied his wallet of money and credit cards. That was how his day began. It was about to become more than a long weekend.

Billy’s a normal guy…maybe a little too normal…and not the player he brags about to his buddies. The fact is, last night was his first time out in a month. A blind date, Lola was a friend of a girl at work…or so he thought. A night of drinking, dining, and a night in bed was unusual for him. He now realized he’d been a dutiful sucker. Ginny was gonna hear about it when he got to work on Tuesday. But, for now, he had phone calls to make…to cancel his cards before Lola, if that was her name, could run up a huge credit card tally. Not even 8am, and he’d already called 3 companies. He’s lucky he had the latest charge statements handy…the cards gone, he’d never have been able to get the right 800 numbers. There goes the weekend, he groused. He hoped he hadn’t gotten a social disease…Billy actually prayed the worst was over.

Tuesday came. Ginny was there before him, but when he asked her about Lola, she looked puzzled. “I spent Friday night with Lola. That wasn’t Lola who robbed you.”

Billy knew he hadn’t dreamt what happened. The money and credit cards were gone. The other shoe was yet to drop…the debit card he’d forgotten to call to cancel. When he went to the bank before lunch, he had his checkbook, but the teller said he was overdrawn.  Billy protested, “There’s gotta be a mistake. I made sure there was $500 in checking on Friday.” A look at the bank records said otherwise. That $500 had been withdrawn early Saturday morning. There was nothing but chicken feed left. Billy wondered if there was more bad news to come. Even as upset as he was, he chuckled as he thought to himself…was he going to find out now that he was pregnant? He sure felt screwed. Whatever else he felt, he didn’t want to talk about it with his buddies. That night never happened. He decided that was his story…and he stuck to it.

 
© 2016 Robert Mihaly
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What if I told you exactly what I feel in this sad election year?

I admit it…I’m famelicose for something that looks like good government. Like a dog that grokes my dinner, I look at the F.D.R. years in longing for a government that works for the people…not just the rich people. Instead, we have a Congress seemingly suffering from extreme ergophobia. When asked to do what’s right for the people, not what benefits corporations and the wealthy most seem to suffer from clinomania. A bigger pack of snecklifters I’ve never seen. And just watch them quomodocunquizing, hands out everywhere. Sure…it costs money to run a campaign, but who else is to blame for that? They write the laws…though most of the time, they’re fudgeling. Listen to what passes for debate now, even in the Senate, and what you hear is naught but the blather of ultracrepidarians. To say that I’m sick of nearly every one isn’t hum durgeon. While they’re grufeling with their dark money donors, I’m just philogrobized. I know not all of them are snollygosters…but at this time, they’re the majority. If I remain in a zwodder in this election year, you now know why.

 

© 2016 Robert Mihaly

 

Written from the vocabulary contained herein:

13 Wonderful Old English Words We Should Still Be Using Today

 

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Reflections

Like Marley’s ghost, I wear the chains I forged in life. So I’ve at last concluded. This is not the life I planned and not the life I worked for, but the life I settled for. The things I substituted for joy now leave me cold, leave me wanting…not for more things, but to be rid of most of the detritus of living from one disappointment to the next.

Having spent an excess of forevers seeking amusements alongside one who felt it their due, I found a wealth only of regrets. I was never one to make a list of New Year’s resolutions, content, or so I let myself believe, with going along to get along. Being my nature to be kind, it seemed necessary not to make waves. But forces long suppressed will eventually return as a tsunami of emotion. And, though it took long enough…too long…to come to the surface, I finally found myself suddenly, as I thought it, overwhelmed. Regrets…I have many…some far worse than others.

But time is not reversible. Don’t we all wish it was? So here I am, entering the latest new year, working to accommodate my reflections of mistakes made, undo those I can, and move on, to make, most likely, many more. As they say…that’s life. And live I shall. Chains will be smashed. New experiences await…and I welcome them.

© 2016 Robert Mihaly

 

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