Thursday, November 10, 2016

Trump Means Trump

This is the second time in six months that I have had to break tradition and talk about politics on my blog. I apologize for this, and fervently hope it does not happen again.

So here’s my take on the Trump Triumph.

I stayed up all night watching the returns come in, feeling a sickening sense of deja vu. My jaw, once again, dropping closer and closer to the floor as state after state turned red and Trump rode to victory on the back of lies and xenophobia, the same donkey that carried Britex into town. (I know it’s Brexit, but I like Britex better; it sounds like something you’d use to unblock your toilet.)

His lies were so bizarre, his hate-mongering so egregious (“I’m going to register every Muslim” – by making them wear yellow, eight-pointed stars, perhaps?) that only someone intent on not thinking could fall for them. But fall they did.

The first thing I did when it became obvious Trump was going to win was take down my American flag and re-hang it upside down. As tradition dictates, the US flag is due to come down on Remembrance Day, to be replaced by the UK Flag for the next six months. But instead of putting the Stars and Stripes back up next Memorial Day, I proposed to fly a Canadian flag. (As an American in exile, I don’t need to move to Canada, but that shouldn’t stop me from becoming an Honorary Canadian.)

Then I took the 7 AM bus to Brighton to join a panel of expat Americans invited to share our views on local radio.

In the days leading up to the broadcast, my fellow expats and I mulled over things we wanted to say. But we arrived at the studio shell-shocked and speechless. Still we did all right. (Here’s the link. We’re only on for the first hour. The link is good for 28 days after the publication date of this post.)

After the show, I went back home, had a pipe and a think and a nap. I feel marginally better now, and here’s why.

Separate, if you can, the man from the actions. Pretend he’s your goofy uncle Tony, an ambitious guy with wild ideas. He becomes a property developer and, with his flair for self-promotion, puts himself in the public eye. He parlays that popularity into a reality television show and becomes a national celebrity. And then, in a move you, your family and practically everyone else in the world thinks is insane, decides to run for President. And yet, despite all odds, he sweeps through the Primary. He then galvanizes the electorate in a way never before seen and, contrary to the predictions of the pundits, pollsters and political prognosticators, wins the Presidency.

This nothing short of miraculous. It would have you jumping up and down on the sofa screaming your support, “Tooooon EEEEE!! Tooooon EEEEE! Tooooon EEEEE!!.” It is the stuff that dreams are made of.

But, alas, it is not your goofy uncle Tony, it is Donald Trump, the most odious man on the planet, a man with all the unctuous charm of a used-car salesman. That’s what makes it the stuff of nightmares.

His conciliatory acceptance speech, which he clearly did not write, did not have me fooled for a second. You don’t go from fanning the flames of division and hatred one day to someone who wants us all to live in peace and harmony in a wonderful garden the next. He has been a hideous humanoid since he first came into the public eye and he was still one yesterday. He did not change into a decent man overnight.

Also, there was no “we” in that speech, no “Let’s all work together for a brighter future.” It was all “I will do this,” and “I will do that,” and “You will be so proud of me.” Trump is a perfect narcissist, it is always, at all times, all about him.

I understand why he was elected. I get it, I really do. You’re sick of the same old shit. You’re fed up with business as usual from the government. I am, too. I want change, I want someone to shake things up. But Trump is not that man.

As it turns out, many were willing to overlook what he was and concentrate, instead, on what he was not—a career politician, a role Hillary personified in spades. It was the perfect storm of elections, fuelled by people who hated Hillary versus people who hated Trump. It could never have been anything more than a freak show. And in the end, people hated Hillary more than they hated Trump.

Is there a bright side to this, other than for comedians (who are now fist-pumping the air in glee) and the British (who can, once again, feel superior to Americans – “And you thought WE did something stupid!”)?

Everyone has their favourite Trump Doomsday Scenario, but I think there is room for hope: Although Trump is a force to be reckoned with, he has never tackled anything like the US Government. It is massive, and possesses an unfathomable amount of inertia. When Trump slams face-first into that, and Newton’s Laws of Motion come into play, it will not be pretty.

"Say whatever you want; I still got the last laugh!"
Trump will blame everyone but himself for his inevitable failures, rant like a child and the US will become already is the laughing stock of the world. But (and here’s the bright spot) people with that sort of reality-denying mentality often suffer complete mental breakdowns when confronted with undeniable truths. I’m not wishing anything on my new President-in-Waiting, I’m just sayin’.

I fervently hope I am wrong, that Trump will rise to the challenge, but I think the best any of us can hope for is that Congress sits on him hard enough to keep him from doing too much damage over the next four years. And therein lies the brightest ray of hope (and one that will allow the US to regain the moral high ground over Britain): unlike Brexit, Trump is not going to be President forever.

Hopefully, this will teach us (myself included) to start paying more attention to the people who rule over us. We need to hold these people to account, and encourage less corrupt politicians to run for office (I’d say “uncorrupted,” but we’re talking about politicians here).

Also, I hope this car-crash of an election has sated at least some of our hatred. We hate Trump, Trump supporters hate Hillary (and immigrants and Mexicans and ….). They also hate us, and we hate them, and the Brexiteers hate the Remainers, who hate the Brexiteers.

(SIDE NOTE: I noticed, over the past months, that Hillary-haters hate her with an unreasoning vitriol that stretches the boundaries of mania. I wonder if they all woke up this morning and, finding nothing to hate, just laid in bed staring at the ceiling.)

This has got to stop. (Not the lying in bed thing, I quite like that; I mean the hate.) Really, stop it. Just take a step back, have a cup of tea, or a beer, and relax. We’re all in this together, and if we don’t at least start tolerating each other, we are going to find ourselves in a very dark place.

Like it or not (not, is my guess) Trump is going to be President. It’s not what I wanted, but then neither was Brexit. Sometimes you just have to take the hit and move on. I may not have any respect for the man, but I have respect the office. And I have a choice: I can continue to rail against his victory, I can crusade against him and his followers, and I can unleash my bile by plotting ways to bring him down, or I can not hate, and instead do something constructive.

Because the hate has to stop somewhere, and if I can stop it in me, that’s a start.

But I’m watching you Mr. President-elect Trump. And I’m keeping my eye on that Canadian flag.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

November Already?

The trees, this year, are giving a decent color show. Nothing like New England, but it’s as close as we can get. It’s also getting cold, but it’s a nice, sharp, sunny cold, just like a New York autumn.

That means it must be November, and I haven’t done a post since August.

I have an excuse, though: I’ve been busy.

Christmas is coming and, as usual, we are doing a homemade, history-related project for the G-boys as a gift. Last year it was the Battle of Hastings, and involved 20-foot “Tapestries” along with handmade shields and wooden swords. This year it’s Shakespeare, with the central offering being a hand-bound book supposedly written by the boys in alternating chapters. To make the task less onerous, the scripting of the book is to be done totally by computer, using handwriting fonts and other clever formatting tricks.

And as usual, I managed to procrastinate until the very last minute. Also typical, is the “scope creep” the project has undergone. In addition to writing a 30k word novella—in which the boys travel back to 1588 to meet, among others, William Shakespeare and Queen Elizabeth, listen to the famous “I may have the body of a weak and feeble woman” speech at Tilbury and, of course, save the kingdom—we decided to include individualized Tudor Handbooks, which will be hand-bound and hand-written, with a pen and ink. These new manuscripts ended up being 16 typed pages long. Each. I’m currently writing out page 4.

This Year's Project
Of course, all these handmade books will have leather covers, which need to be decorated. So I bought some leather working tools so I can put designs on them, once I learn how to use them.

And remember, these are for young boys—the oldest is just 6. Hopefully, they’ll have fun playing with the quill pens.

So, yeah, I’m busy writing and editing and stitching and watching YouTube videos about how to make marks in leather.

And I joined a choir.

That’s not as out in left field as it seems. I’ve always liked to sing, and believe it or not, people used to pay me to sing. In my twenties and early thirties, I was a pub singer and I made a decent amount of money—more than I did at writing—so you might say I am a better singer than a writer.

But that was long ago. I no longer have the equipment, or the repertoire, or the stamina to be a pub singer, so when I recently became tired of playing to an audience of zero, I decided to become a busker. You know, one of those guys who stands on the corner singing along to a guitar. It’s a time-honored tradition over here, and on any given day, if it’s nice enough, there is usually at least one busker in the town centre.

My reasoning was, since I lived in the town centre, all I had to do was grab my guitar and go downstairs. It seemed perfect. So I got my Busker’s License (yes, there is such a thing) and practiced up.
Yup. All legal and everything.
Fortunately for the people of Horsham, before I felt ready to inflict myself upon them, I saw a flyer saying a new choir was starting up, so I joined that instead.

Turns out, choral singing is a bit different from pub singing. While pub singing can be described as a bit laissez fair, in choir, they have these things called “notes.” Apparently, they represent the correct tone you are supposed to sing. Not only that, you have to sing the tone at the same time as everyone else, and for the same length of time. Who knew?
All those black marks, they mean something. Who knew?
Accordingly, I now spend a portion of my time trying to make sense of these little black marks and squiggles and tenor clefts and measures and an assortment of other odd lines. But it’s a challenge, and good fun, and I am glad I joined. And, the people of Horsham don’t know what a close shave they had.

Then I joined a second Choir. I joined the second one because practice was in the evening, instead of in the morning, like Choir #1. And, because it is in the evening, my wife joined as well. This surprised us both, as she is one of these people who believes she cannot sing. Anyone can sing, and she proved it.

We both enjoy the new choir, and it’s great having a shared experience. We are now becoming choir geeks, which means we can boor the pants off anyone unfortunate enough to ask us what we’ve been up to lately.

The result of all this is, with Christmas fast approaching, I am practicing for two choral concerts, writing, editing, binding, stamping and carving, leaving little time for blog updates.

So, in case I don’t get back here before 2017, have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.