Saturday, September 8, 2018

Passing of an Era, Birth of a Nightmare

Our nation recently mourned the passing of a true statesman and national hero:  John McCain.

Like everything else in our present dark age of anger and hate, the funeral was greatly politicized; charged with anger and resentment.  Understandably.  Our current president had mocked John McCain, a man who put his life at risk in the service of his country.  Who endured excruciating torture in a foreign prison and who chose to remain there in deference to honor and comradeship.  Two concepts our president - a man who escaped military service for minor medical deferment (having more money in the bank than patriotism in his heart) - will never understand.  How did our president acknowledge the service of John McCain?  "He's a hero because he got captured?  I like people that didn't get captured."  (Or, who didn't weasel their way out of service?)  He accused McCain of having failed the veterans.  And, he declared that he loved war and torture.  Never having experienced either, himself.

This is our dark age.  Embodied in the death of a man who personified an age that has passed.  The age of honor and dignity.  Of courage and love of one's fellow man.  On the campaign trail, McCain, unlike Trump, did not fuel the fire of hate when a supporter in his audience stood up and referred to his opponent Barak Obama as an "Arab."  McCain, a gentleman of principle, among the last of a dying breed, referred to his political opponent as a "decent American with whom I happen to have profound political disagreement."  That may have been the last time that phrase will be uttered in American politics.  The look on McCain's face when he said it was one of dismay, like a man of a time past looking into the face of a dark future already festering.

Now, there is no moral foundation of national unity and respect to serve as the dam against the crashing waves of hate, of anger, resentment and bigotry.  Those dark impulses catapulted Donald Trump into the White House.  The ultimate triumph of style over substance.  Of hate over love.  Of self-aggrandizing cruelty over respectability and of tribalism over shared values.  It is the age of insolence.  Of disrespect.  The age of the cyber bully.  The age of self delusion.  Of truth rejected and falsehood embraced.  Represented by a  president who hugs the flag with a false smile while splintering families and putting children in cages, in flagrant denial of what that flag represents.  Who slanderously accuses both the free press and the agents of law enforcement when they oppose him.

The age of kindness, respectability and nobility, it seems, was buried with John McCain. 
Our founding values gathered like angels in the church where a mourning nation said farewell to an age fondly remembered, when America was truly great.  Our current national leader was conspicuously absent from that gathering.  There will be little of kindness or nobility to remember when his time comes.  His mourners will gather in anger, not prayer.  In hate, not humility.  There may be torchlight parades to take him to his final resting place.  But, no gentle songs or kind memories.  Only drumbeats promising more hatred to come.

What follows?  A new age, I hope.  As a new generation angry and increasingly focused generation...we may remember with respect the nobility of an age now gone, but we must look to a new future.  A future more diverse.  More female.  And yes, angry.  On the march, and resistant.  No longer silent.  No longer passive.  They will not go gentle into that dark night.  Women may again have to fight for the right to control their own lives, LGBT people for the right to love and marry without shame, and kids in school just for the right to be safe.  The new darkness must one day yield to a stronger, purer new light.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Sundered Identity


Our nation celebrated its birth last night.  Amid music and revelry and fireworks, we commemorated the birth of a nation.  Did we remember what the defining values of that nation were?

"Send me your tired and your poor...your huddled massed yearning to breathe free."  No more, it seems.  Not for those who cheer on our current leader.  Many others protest his policies towards those fleering poverty, terror, crime, tyranny and death...

Long has it been since we were so divided as a nation.  Division born of identity crisis.  What does it mean to be an American?  Who are we?   Are we the compassionate, giving people we once took pride in claiming to be?  Or, is that now considered the creed of fools?  Those who embrace the pseudo-populist movement of Donald trump embrace cynicism and cruelty.  "We're not gonna take back our country by being nice," Trump has said.

No longer do we embrace the image of Lady Liberty holding her torch aloft, welcoming those in need from distant shores.  Nah, that's for suckers.  Build a wall, with a great big "keep out" sign on it.  That's the new America.
Maybe that's the whole planet Earth.  Nationalist and populist movements are erupting everywhere in the western world.  Once enlightened nations are following the demagogic example of Trump's America.  Never trust a foreigner.  And, never trust the rule of law.
Except when you want to use it to justify tearing immigrant families apart and putting children in cages.  Or, when you want to stack the courts with ideological zealots who simply can't wait to strip away a woman's right to choose or an entire community's right to marry.  Civil rights?  Religious freedom?  They come in second to a president's king-like power to control the borders by arbitrarily deciding who can travel here and who can't.  More broken families, more cruelty to remind ourselves who we are now.
We call ourselves a nation of life.  Except when we bomb the sh*t out of countries we don't like.  We call ourselves a nation of law.  Except when we're torturing people in foreign prisons.  We call ourselves a nation under God.  But, only some people's conception of God, not everyone's.  We call ourselves a nation of family values, yet we tear families asunder or at best incarcerate them together, not truly out of respect for law (we have no problem, remember with torture, imprisonment without trial or undeclared war) but out of fear of those who are different.
E pluribus Unum?  Not by a longshot.  Happy Birthday, America...Whoever the hell you are.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The Emperor has no soul

The State of the Union has been assessed.

All style.  No substance.
All gloss.  No heart.

Our president presented the state of the union last night.  The state of the union, apparently, consists of simpering platitudes and teary-eyed human interest stories.  Of tall promises and no specifics.  Promises of infrastructure and great projects.  Lofty promises.  No blueprints.  No money in sight.

The leader demanded national unity, but offered no shared values on which to base it.  Just cheap jabs at people who don't stand during the national anthem.  No offers of healing or understanding or offers to address the root causes of the pain and anger and alienation of those who take a knee during the anthem.  Clearly, he doesn't care.  He just parades weeping parents whose kids were murdered by illegal aliens.  Let's build a wall across our southern border to keep out the rapists and murderers.  He didn't even mention some are good people.  Yeah, that just screams unity.

He did what all wannabe dictators do:  He praised the police and the military.  (Conveniently forgetting he's been trashing the FBI all month.) He praised the 2nd Amendment.  He touted religious freedom.  Yeah, we're gonna be unified, while we're building walls, racially profiling and shooting each other (not necessarily in that order, but probably) and kicking each other out of our respective homes and places of business in the name of Jesus.

He praised beautiful, clean coal.  (Why not beautiful, clean cyanide?) Not a word of support for the victims of flooding and wildfires who are the first of many beneficiaries to come of all that "beautiful, clean coal."  He wants to beef up our nuclear arsenals, reviving the madness of the 1980's with a vengeance.  Smaller nukes, easier and therefore likelier to use.  (Yeah, we're all gonna be unified in smoldering ashes.  Praise be.)

He went on and on about how wonderful we are as a people and how much we have to fear from all those inferior races out there in this terrible, dangerous world.  In between weeping parents and soapy human interest dross, he did add a touch of magnanimity by promising a path to citizenship for "dreamers".  They grew up in this country.  And, he'll graciously allow them a chance to become citizens after 12 years of probation.  Of course, they'll never see their aunts or uncles again.  Gotta keep America white.

The really sad part is that 75% of his audience took the speech favorably.  He told them what they wanted to hear.  We're great.  We're wonderful.  We're God's gift to humanity.  We've done so much for an undeserving, ungrateful world.  Now, it's our turn.  Build a wall.  Build those small, practical nukes.  Hell, let's have one in every home.  America first.  America uber alles.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Changing Planet...Unchanging Folly

Weather seems to have gone wild.  Like a bad science fiction film.

The North American east coast is experiencing an unprecedented cold blast.  Boston Harbor is flooded.  The flood waters will soon freeze in record low temperatures.  Meanwhile, the southern states are experiencing winter conditions alien to them.  Snow on palm trees.  Science fiction?  No more.  Science fact, alas, has caught up with science fiction.

As fossil fuel burning spews more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, global climate change has continued to intensify, doing possibly irreparable harm to the planet.  The glaciers melt.  The seas rise.  The gulf stream shifts.  Storms rage.  Warm air rises as Arctic air blasts southward.

Trump's answer:  More oil drilling, of course!  He's opened all America's territorial waters for oil drilling.  'Seems he won't be satisfied until the planet is destroyed.  Science fiction villainy?  No more.  This kind of suicidal madness is now business as usual.  The new sanity.

If true sanity is to reassert itself, it seems it can only come locally, from the ground up.  City by city.  State by state, committing to reduce carbon emissions.  It may already be too late.  But, if we're to save what remains, we must commit now.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

The True Face of Darkness


Fiction can be a reflection of reality, good or bad.  But, in reality, what faces do we wear to identify ourselves, morally, and ideologically?  Are those faces also fiction?

Men like Donald Trump and Roy Moore identify themselves as Christian.  Those who vote for them identify themselves that way, hailing a return to "family values" when their candidates win.

Family values?  Really?  Accusations of sexual misconduct seem to have little or no effect on the voters.  They either deny the allegations or shrug off the significance thereof, citing Biblical passages and examples.

Trump is flawed, but like Mary Magdellan, he can be God's instrument, despite himself.

Roy Moore may have raped a 14-year-old girl, but so what?  Mary, Mother of God was of such an age when she married Joseph.

Even self-declared evangelicals have supported Trump, a double divorcee, adulterer and self-proclaimed molester of women.

Clearly, family values are not the true values of the segments of the contemporary population that vote for such men. No, not even of those who claim to value Christianity above all.  What then are the defining values of that crowd?  What values are clearly manifest in men like Trump and Moore?

Is it their maverick-like rebel status against the established order?  Their machismo?  Their blatant homophobia and misogyny?  Their racism?  Their religious bigotry?  Moore seems to have gotten a big boost in the polls by virtue of the fact the mainstream Republican establishment has rejected him.

A major defining value then, in so-called Millenarian Christian right-wing conservatives is their rejection of the established order.  The so-called "elites."  What they seem to want is mob rule.  Everyone who looks and prays as they do should be dominant.  Tribalism fueled by cynicism and complete alienation is their creed.  Morality in any true sense of the word, has nothing to do with it.  Unless you define morality exclusively as denying all human rights to homosexuals and robbing women of the right to control their own bodies.  Molesting teenaged girls, that's okay.  Greed, materialism and lying?  Also okay.  Nazis and Klansmen?  Perfectly okay, as long as they apply for a parade permit.

As with any other ideology, the so-called "Christian" right reveals its true face when it is dominant.  And, it 'aint pretty.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

The Future is Short

The Future is Short: Science Fiction in a Flash, Volume 4
Edited by Carrol Fix
Experience the power of Flash Fiction!

47 thrilling stories, each less than 900 words. 

New and established authors try their hands at writing to monthly prompts, vying for the coveted title of Science Fiction Microstory Contest Champion. 

Could you do this?

 How well do you think you would succeed?

 Check the prompts and see how each author met the Challenge.
Buy Now!       
$2.99  Kindle                  
$2.99  Ebook     
 $12.95  Paperback
Edited by Carrol Fix.

S. M. Kraftchak, Jack McDaniel, Andrew Gurcak, Chris Nance, Paula Friedman, Jeremy Lichtman, Tom Olbert, Marianne Petrino, John Appius Quill, Greg Krumrey, Justin Sewall, Jot Russell, C. Lloyd Preville, Joseph Minart, Rejoice Denhere, Jeremy McLain




Saturday, October 14, 2017

Anti-Life Dominates


Science fiction speaks of anti-life.  A form of life whose very existence is the exact opposite of our own.  It seeks only to destroy our life.

In real life, Sigmund Freud spoke of a death-wish hidden in each of us.  A controversial idea.  Some resist the notion that it's actually possible for any living thing, even one as complex as homo sapiens to desire its own death.  We are capable of suicide, of course, though society has always condemned the suicide of the individual as being a despicably immoral act.

Collective suicide seems perfectly acceptable, though, as long as it is wrapped in delusion and denial.

Incredible, on the face of it.  The idea that a whole intelligent species would actually and systematically destroy itself without even meaning to.  Logically, our primal, over-riding instinct for self-preservation should prevent it.  See a snake, avoid stepping on it.  See a precipice ahead, change direction.

But what about threats we create ourselves, like pollution and climate change?  We see the storms, the droughts, the wildfires.  But, do we change direction by moving away from fossil fuels and towards clean forms of renewable energy?  No.  Instead, we elect a president who wants to accelerate fossil fuel production, pollution and environmental degradation.

We see one mass shooting after another, each worse than the last as the technology becomes deadlier.  But, do we change direction by implementing sensible gun control legislation, as other nations successfully have?  No.  Instead, we drone on about 2nd Amendment rights as the killing goes on and on.

How have we survived this long without better survival instincts?  Have the instincts we once had deserted us?  Are we unable to adapt quickly enough in a rapidly changing world?  Have our own inventions simply outpaced our instinct for survival?

Or, has our ability to delude ourselves developed beyond all else?

The age of cyber-reality has largely cut us off from actual reality.  Whatever we wish to believe becomes reality.  Unpleasant actual reality is as easily discarded.  Rumor becomes fact when consulting a posting on the Internet is easier and far more emotionally gratifying than consulting a science book or statistical reference.

The Internet becomes an addictive opiate in an age of cynicism in which all faith in established authority is discarded with child-like abandon.  Hate becomes easier than love, as always because it's easier to blame the outsider for all our problems, but more so now in a medium designed to facilitate hatred and insolence of faceless, distant voices.  So much easier to dehumanize those you don't have to face.

And, so much easier to discount overwhelming real-world evidence of danger by simply creating a false world of pseudo-evidence based on wild rumor and pseudo-scientific nonsense.  We've created and become dependent upon a false world which disconnects us from our own survival instinct.

Our desire for gratification has overpowered our instinct for survival.  Seemingly impossible, yet it seems to be happening.  An inevitable occurrence when a species evolves intellect and technology?

Hmmm... Maybe that explains why we've detected no radio signals from other stars.