Sunday, December 29, 2013

2013: The Worst of the Rant



As Stephen Sondheim once wrote: "Could it be? Yes it could". It was a line from a song from West Side Story called, "Something's Coming". In this particular case something's ending. I refer to the year 2013. From beginning to the end it sucked. I've never been superstitious but I'm starting to wonder about the number thirteen. Anyway, it's time once again, boys and girls, for us to skip merrily down memory lane for our annual look at the Worst of The Rant. Wasn't that a time?
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January 9:

It's ironic but true enough: had Nixon come around today, his party wouldn't nominate him for any office - let alone the presidency. That is how far down the ideological sewer it has descended. Strange days indeed.

January 15

 Republican - and too many Democratic - congressmen have their lines perfectly scripted. They have all of the NRA talking points down pat. It's not the guns that are the problem, they would have us believe, it's all those nasty movies from Hollywood; it's all those dreadful video games - THAT'S THE REAL PROBLEM! But these films are shown in Europe. Those video games are played in Canada. Mass murders of little children don't happen in those countries. This is an American problem, folks. Wake up and smell the gun powder.  

January 21

[A]s the weeks leading up to his inauguration wore on, my excitement slowly dissipated. By Inauguration Day 2009 it was gone. That's when it hit me: "What's President Obama going to be doing for the next eight years?" I asked out loud, "The same thing that black people in this country have been doing for the last four centuries: Cleaning up the mess left behind by lazy and ignorant white people! WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL???

January 25

I am now more convinced than ever that the "Grand Old Party" will be extinct in ten years' time. Recently John Boehner told an audience of "moderate" Republicans (They still exist???) that the president was attempting to shove their party into "history's dust bin". That's an unfair accusation. Their mortal wound is self-inflicted. Unfortunately there is still time for them to do some serious damage to this country.

February 7

I don't envy Karl Rove and Eric Cantor. They're both walking on cracked eggshells these days and it's quite an amusing thing to watch. They have the tricky task of trying to make their extreme agenda appear more palatable to voters with IQ's above room temperature. That's the only course they have. They don't dare attempt to reposition their party even half-an-inch toward the center. Such a move would surely cause a massive freakout among the crazies, risking a third party uprising and dooming the Republican party in the process. Rove has been described by some as a "political genius". Hats off to him if he can slither his way out of this one

February 14

Barack Obama is on the right track, but he and his supporters need to make certain "adjustments" in their collective thinking. A few nights ago on his MSNBC program, Ed Schultz asked his viewers if they approved of this administration's policy of killing American citizens abroad whom they "suspect" of terrorist activities - without the constitutionally mandated due process. Astonishingly, a full seventy-eight percent of the participants in the poll responded that they were perfectly content with the policy. Ed was visibly shocked by the results. So was I. And remember, the bulk of Ed's audience are "liberals".

February 20

There are also a few economic advantages that come with mass murder. I imagine that there will be a few funeral homes and crematoriums that will do quite nicely. If your profession involves the sale of cemetery plots there are a few extra bucks in it for you as well. And the gun industry? Forget about it! As the mass paranoia multiplies, more-and-more people will be purchasing guns out of sheer terror. Expect the rate of deaths by firearms to skyrocket in the next decade. The gun industry will be making a killing - pun intended indeed.

March 4

There is now a sick form of revisionism that is trying to get us to swallow the nonsensical notion that [Franklin Roosevelt] destroyed America, that he made the Depression worse; that he was a dictator; that he was a racist; that he let the attack on Pearl Harbor happen....all of it bunk. The propagandists really need to keep to the facts. As I said - and I cannot emphasize this enough - Franklin Roosevelt saved this country. Deal with it.

March 22

In the meantime (very mean indeed) we really have to come face-to-face with the prospect of living in a nation in ruins. We need to understand that there are just too many people in this doomed country - too violent, too stupid, and too stone-cold crazy - to ever see the light of day. This is not a situation that can be cured overnight by some magical, sociological panacea. This is a condition that will take a century or more to remedy - if it is ever remedied at all. We might as well deal with it as best we can. We The People are diseased. Congress is an organized criminal enterprise. The media is beyond dysfunctional. The chickens are coming home to roost - and they're armed and dangerous.

March 26

There are a few things I'd like to see happen but I'm afraid that I've become too much of a cynic to think that we'll ever have meaningful change. Whenever the thought crosses my mind that there might be a brighter day down the road - not just for the United States but for everyone on the planet - I dismiss it as naive self-deception. Maybe it will happen; I hope so, but I'm convinced that not much will change in my lifetime. Degan men tend not to live too far into their sixties. I'm fifty-four. C'est la vie.
 
April 9

This is getting to be an awkward time for me, at least as far as memories are concerned. The teenaged icons of my early  childhood - not terribly far removed from me in terms of age - are beginning to fade into eternity. When I was a little boy they seemed eternally youthful and indestructible. They weren't, of course. They were (and are) as vulnerable as any of us in their grip on that brittle thread that binds us to this earth. Time keeps flowing like a river into the sea....Has anybody here seen my old friend Lennon?

April 18

What happened on the floor of the United States Senate on Wednesday made me murderously angry. In fact it put me into a blind rage from which I have yet to recover. Give me a day or two and a couple bottles of vodka and V8 juice - that'll do the trick! But it did not surprise me - far from it. I've come to expect nothing less (or nothing more) from these hideous bastards and bitches. The most insanely watered-down version of gun control legislation - mandatory background checks - was defeated by a minority of US senators yesterday - four of them Democrats. This was something that ninety percent of the American people wanted desperately. As Chris Matthews recently observed, it's next-to-impossible to get ninety percent of this insanely complicated populous to agree on anything.  This begs the musical question: Who the hell are these people representing?

April 25

The catastrophic explosion this week in West Texas that killed sixty-or-more people was pretty predictable, too. The more we allow corporate America to rape and denigrate the American infrastructure, the more we can expect this sort of thing to happen in the future. It's sort of like with guns: Less regulation means more deaths. Again, this is not terribly difficult to figure out; in fact it's kind of a no-brainer.

April 30

I live less than forty miles from the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library and Museum in Hyde Park, NY. I visit  there as often as I can because I really love the place. I always feel a little better about this doomed country whenever I leave there. It is truly a fitting memorial to a great American leader, arguably the greatest in history. I might be persuaded to visit the Bush Library someday - if only out of morbid curiosity you understand. I imagine any place that is designed for no other purpose than to put a sugar coating on the sick and twisted legacy of George W. Bush ought to be just oodles of fun to visit! I liken it to putting a smiley face on the carcass a decomposing pig. "Whoa! Lookie thar, Martha, ain't that purdy!"....One does not envy the people in charge of developing the exhibits for the Dubya Library. Whoever the poor bastards are I hope they're paid quite handsomely for their efforts. It takes real talent to turn a mountain of chickenshit into a tasty plate of chicken salad.

May 7

She [Sarah Palin] criticized President Obama for using the grieving families of the Newtown victims as "backdrops" in order to appeal to our emotions. I guess it never occurred to this brain-damaged bitch that these poor people are willing participants in these media events, that they might want to prevent the unspeakable tragedy that imploded their lives in December from being visited upon other mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters. 

May 14

Ted Cruz is against any legislation that would prevent the next massacre of innocent children? That's fine. I wouldn't expect a reactionary putz like Ted to do the right thing in the wake of such unspeakable carnage. What could you possibly hope for from someone who recently stated that he wants all of America to be more like his beloved Texas - a state that (with the merciful exception of Mississippi) every survey shows to be the worst place in this dying nation in which to live. Gosh, these surely are weird and wonderful times to be alive, aren't they? 

May 20

Show me a person who is seriously alarmed by these conjured-up "scandals" and I'll show you someone who isn't paying attention - or who is watching way-too-much Fox Noise. That's not to imply that there isn't policy to be reassessed or personnel to discipline, but let's put things in their proper perspective, okay? To refer to this administration (as many Republicans are curiously doing) as "Nixonian" is bit over the top, don'cha think? Comparing Barack Obama to Dick Nixon makes about as much sense as comparing the sniffles to an advanced case of terminal brain cancer. Let's get a grip here.

May 28

There have been nearly three-thousand gun-related deaths in this diseased land of ours since the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14 of last year. Three of them occurred one night a couple of weeks ago less than twenty-five miles from where I sit - when an unknown gunman entered a house in Newburgh, NY and shot and killed a woman and two men. Although a relatively small city, Newburgh's homicide rate is ridiculously high. That holds true for the rest of the country. As long as the victims are proportionately poor and non-white nothing is going to change. Our "representatives" will see to that. Maybe when a few of their children are sacrificed on the alter of greed and stupidity it'll wake them up. Maybe.

May 31

 Washington will be a bit less weird when [Michelle Bachmann] heads off into the sunset in January of 2015, which is a good thing - for your purposes - not for mine. Michele is the gift that keeps giving. She won't be going away from the national stage, you can count on that. But one can't blame her for wanting to leave DC. As the District of You-Know-Where gets nuttier by the hour it's difficult for a real media whore to stand out. As bat-shit-crazy as this Congresswoman undeniably is, she's got some serious competition. Insanity junkies are a dime a dozen in Washington these days. The time has come for our gal to strike out on her own. Service to the people doesn't mean a goddamned thing to the likes of Michele Bachmann.

June 8

Sarah Palin sabotaged John McCain's decades-long quest to be commander-and-chief - for no other reason than to put her "brand" on the market. She did it by "Going Rogue" the title of her 2009 book. She realized that there was a fortune that could be made outside of the Governor's Mansion - which she cheerfully vacated in the summer of that year. She became a highly-paid commentator on Fox Noise and joined the ranks of Honey Boo Boo as a star of reality TV. Fox finally dumped her last year. The revelations in Game Change had rendered her too embarrassing even for them I suppose. 

June 19

PREDICTION: Unless those voter ID laws are successfully implemented between now and then, a Democratic administration will succeed another Democratic administration on Inauguration Day 2017. Do you know when the last time that happened? When Franklin Pierce handed over the reigns of power to stuffy old James Buchanan on March 4, 1857. It hasn't happened since - check the history books. And it might very well be that the first black president bequeaths the office to the first woman president. The juiciest irony of all is that most of the Democrats of 1857 were ingrained racists and (it goes without saying) sexist. Had they known of this possibility they would have disbanded the party then and there. Life is funny that way, you know?

June 26

The forces of reaction and and suppression have been in a full-tilt FREAK OUT ever since the American people elected the first African American to the White House five years ago. That was something that was never supposed to happen. They had no other choice but to declare a full-scale, state of emergency. Within a matter of months the Republicans were whining about "voter fraud" - an epidemic that was non-existent. Their scheme was to make it as difficult as humanly possible for the traditional Democratic constituency to cast their precious ballots by forcing them to purchase ID cards. That is what is known as a "poll tax". 

July 3

You've got to hand it to the Republicans. They've got nearly a century-and-a-half of some heavy duty scandals behind them. From Iran/Contra to Watergate to Teapot Dome; jaw-dropping debacles going all the way back to the administration of Ulysses S Grant. That's not to mention the reign of the village idiot from Crawford, Texas, whose entire eight-year-run was one rolling scandal. About the best they could ever pin on the Democrats was the spectacle of the Bill Clinton years - and that was only after years of trying in vain to pin something on the guy. They had to trick him into lying under oath about a fling with a half-witted intern - something that was totally unrelated to what he was testifying about at the time. I think it's interesting that of all these presidents mired in corruption and shame, Clinton is the only one of the lot who had impeachment proceedings brought against him. The history of this nation is just drenched in dandy little ironies like that one.

July 8

Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt did indeed have a perfectly radical idea. It was their belief that the whole purpose of representation in Washington was not merely to declare war and pass bad laws. They wanted a government that was in partnership with the people. As a result of their vision, they changed the sociological face of the United States forever. Today the right wing wants us to swallow the notion that "government is the problem" and that it should be done away with. We should be seeking the perfection of government - not its abolition.

July 20

First and foremost: Fuck Florida. There ought to be a nationwide tourism boycott of what must be the most overrated peninsula on this planet. You want to take your kids to a nice spot for a vacation? Try a mountain lake resort or a national park. To hell with Disney World. 

July 27

With the creation of the Prison Industrial Complex, you will now see a new breed of lobbyists befouling the halls of congress. They will go there to bribe our "lawmakers" into passing more-and-more punitive laws in order to ensure that those prisons will be doing VERY BIG BUSINESS. We already have the highest percentage of citizens incarcerated than any other country in the world (Land of the free my ass). Expect a prison population explosion in the next decade. This is going to get interesting.

August 3

A question to ponder for the ages: It a tree falls in the forest, does it make a sound if Mitch McConnell is there to deny that a sound was made? I wonder.... 
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August 17
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One of the reasons - and it's the main reason - that America is in decline is because we long ago lost our thirst for knowledge. The people that run this place do not want the masses educated. They want them indoctrinated. In too many American schools, children are not being taught to think. They're being taught to memorize and recite. And if the half-witted right wing has its way, in ten years every public school in this country will be offered up to the highest corporate bidder. Keep voting with the Conservatives. You'll deserve everything that happens to you.

August 26

My problem is that this site is an outlet for my anger. Anger isn't as good a motivation as sorrow. The problem is that I'm more angry than sorrowful. In fact I'm in a blind freakin' rage. Also I don't claim to be what I'm not. I've never said that I have a hot line to the Almighty. He has never spoken to me (as He seems to "speak" to so many Republicans these days - Have you noticed that?) I'm not a perfect Christian but I will tell you this: If Mitch McConnell showed up at my doorstep one cold and stormy night - hungry and homeless - I would take him in, feed him and give him a warm bed to sleep on. Were the rolls reversed I don't think old Mitch would reciprocate. In fact I'm certain the old bugger would have me arrested - or shot

August 29

Fifty years ago yesterday, Jim Crow died and went to hell. This year, right around the fiftieth anniversary of the murder of Medgar Evers, the United States Supreme Court raised the old bastard from the dead. Let's put the forces of oppression on notice: There is no way in hell we're going to turn back the clock. They can try to stop the tide from coming in. They can try to stop the moon from rising in the eastern sky at twilight. As a matter of fact, they just might have an easier time of it.


September 8

 Note to the rest of the world: Planning on a sweet and cozy vacation for the spouse and kiddies? Here's some sound advice you'd be smart to heed: Stay out of the this place. We here in the good ol' USA want you dead. And if we catch you in the wrong place at the wrong time you're a goner, Buster. Of course the odds are much better than fifty/fifty that you'll get out of here alive but why on earth would you want to take such a chance - particularly when your loved ones are involved? Go out and hug a tree during a thunderstorm. It's much safer than visiting the United States of America. Think I'm kidding? Don't mess with us. Stay away from here if you know what's good for you. I'm not kidding.

September 14

It is now obvious that the Canadian-born [Ted] Cruz wants to take his weird act nationwide. He's planning on throwing his tinfoil-hat into the ring. It will probably be at least another two years before it's official, but Teddy Boy is planning on becoming president on January 20, 2017. Oh, thank you, fate.

September 21

You can expect at least one more mass killing before the year is out. And as more and more people are increasingly able to gain access do these dangerous, rapid-fire, people-killing machines, the carnage will only multiply. Until we wake the hell up, this is the way it's gonna be from now on, kids. Get used to it. Deal with it. Why get all bent-out-of-shape over the inevitable? I'm not. I long ago adjusted to living in a nation in ruins. You ought to, too. Don't worry. Be happy.

October 1

The one beautiful thing about this entire mess is that - for all the damage that's being done to the United States - it surely is an amusing spectacle to behold. I'm sure that watching Nero playing the fiddle while Rome burned all around him must have been a funny thing to witness as well. You can say anything you want about the times in  which we live, but you can't say that they're boring. Anything but. In fact I cannot recall an era more entertaining - in terms of pure ideological insanity -  than this one. The ancient Chinese used to say, "May you live in interesting times". It was a blessing and a curse.

October 8

If I had been walking this earth one-hundred years ago, I might very well have been a registered Republican. Back in those bygone days they had a Progressive wing that was decades ahead of its time. Kiss those days goodbye forever. The party of Teddy Roosevelt has morphed into the party of Uncle Fester. That's okay. Soon they'll be gone forever. While the Democrats are useless and impotent, there is still a molecule of hope for them. The Republicans, on the other hand, are beyond redemption. The very fact that a bloviating dingbat like Ted Cruz is today one of their most recognizable spokesmen is all the proof you need that this is a party that has lost its mind. All of Boehner's horses and all of Boehner's men will not be able to put that party together again. Farewell, and good riddance.

October 14

How ironic that a political party founded on the principal that the black man should be liberated from bondage would commit suicide over the first African American being elected president.

October 22

"Obamacare" (The right wing doesn't dare call it by its real name: "Affordable Care") is now the law of the land - passed in both houses of Congress and upheld by the Supreme Court. It's certainly not perfect, but as this country moves further to the left in the years to come (it's already happening - deal with it) it can be improved upon and it will be. Bringing it into existence, making it a reality, are merely baby-steps on the path to the bill's ultimate improvement (I can't bring myself to use the word "perfection". It's becoming clearer to me each day that perfection is an illusion).

November 8

Unless the Democrats really screw up this golden political moment (as they're not unknown to do) they have nothing to fear from the good fortune of Chris Christie. 2016 will be the the equivalent of shooting a school of brain-damaged fish in a leaky barrel. Their luck is hard to believe. For a right-winger, Chris is as decent as one could ever hope for. That is why he doesn't stand a chance in the Republican primaries. If he is the Dem's "worst nightmare", they should be quite grateful. With nightmares like that, who needs daydreams?

November 14

When I was a kid (in my household at least) whenever a major story broke, you went to CBS News no questions asked. Back in the day, that organization was known as "the diamond of  the Tiffany Network". Those were the days, my friend, we thought they'd never end; but end they certainly did. That rumbling that you can hear in the faint distance is the sound of Edward R. Murrow, Eric Sevareid and Walter Cronkite doing somersaults in their graves.
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November 22

Something wonderful ended on November 22nd 1963, not only Jack Kennedy's life, but our sweet optimism. My generation still has faded memories of that America, but we were so young that it seems to us now as a ghost-like dream, a mental daguerreotype. By the time we came of age a decade or so later, this place was damaged - cynical and jaded. Maybe one day the United States will recover from what happened on November 22nd 1963, but I suppose it won't be until the last survivor with a conscious memory of those four dark days passes from the scene.

December 1
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Conservative Catholics should be grateful. All Catholics should be grateful. This pope - and a whole lot of pesky nuns riding around on buses - are the ones who will save Catholicism. The last twenty years have been the darkest ones in centuries for the Church of Rome (I'll spare you the details - you know what I'm talking about). Francis is resuscitating it. Who was the last pope to take his vow of poverty as seriously as this one? I like this dude! 

December 14
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The NRA types love to jabber away - like diseased little myna birds - about "freedom". We need to came face-to-face with some extremely unpleasant realities: A people who live in a chronic state of mortal terror - wondering when and where the next massacre of innocent little boys and girls will take place may indeed be many things - no argument there! "Free" they are not. Let's just stop kidding ourselves here and now, okay? 

December 25

This planet is such a dark and unhappy place. At times it can seem unbearable. There is not one of us who couldn't stand a little more love. Not one of us is incapable of giving a little more as well. Rather than cursing the darkness - and each other - let us, instead, light some candles tonight.

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So that's it for 2013, my friends. Good riddance. Goodbye.

Happy New Year....(Please, God).

Tom Degan 
Goshen, NY

AFTERTHOUGHT:

I never use a photograph more than once, but the one at the top of this diatribe of mine got such a nice response when I used it back in August, I figured I'd have another go at it.

Cheers!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Gentle Thoughts on Christmas Day



Smiles for Meg
"Our knowledge has made us cynical; our cleverness, hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery, we need humanity. More than cleverness, we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost."

-Charles Spencer Chaplin

"Cling very close to each other tonight."

-Oscar Hammerstein II
from The King and I

I don't like the salutation, "Merry Christmas". It's lost all appeal for me as I get a bit older. The Brits have a better way of doing it I think. They wish each other, "Happy Christmas" That works quite well for me - and it sounds nicer. Psychotics, drunks and drug addicts are often quite merry. They are seldom - if ever - happy.

And while we're at it, let's keep our focus on kind words and gentle deeds - not only on Christmas Day - but on every day of the year. Yeah, yeah - I know what you're thinking: A classic case of the pot calling the kettle "black". I concede the point. After all, the name of this site is not, "The Loving Discourse by Tom Degan". My only defense is that my wrath is always aimed at the high, the mighty and the greedy. Not one of them read this blog - I'm absolutely certain of that. 

Let me say, though, that there's not a human being I've ever written about whom I would not offer shelter, something to eat, the shirt off of my back, a nice cup of hot chocolate and a place to sleep if he or she were truly in need - except for Ted Cruz....I'm just kidding. Even Ted Cruz. ESPECIALLY Ted Cruz! I'd give him one heck of a lecture - but please be sure, I'd be very kind and quite gentle in the matter.

Calumny. A lot of us are guilty of it. All of us, at one time or another, have been victimized, even traumatized by it. A half century later, I can still hear the voice of my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Peavey, telling her class of impressionable five-year-olds that sticks and stones could break our bones but that words would never hurt us. She was a very nice lady but she got that one wrong. I'll cut the old gal some slack. 1963 was a very different time. Any teacher who today would offer his or her little charges such reckless guidance should be given such a pinch. The fact is: words do hurt. They tarnish and destroy.

Mea Culpa. Mea Culpa. Mea Culpa. I know of what I speak.

I've been capable of inexcusable, even vile, invective. Fueled by an alcohol-induced rage, I have said things at times which I am truly ashamed of and remorseful for. The fact is that, deep down inside me, I am an angry man. On the other hand, I've had horrible and unfair things said of me. What goes around comes around, I guess. But the point is that words do hurt. They do matter - very much so. To our sorrow we are discovering as a culture that the exclusively human characteristic of bullying does not diminish with "maturity". People can be so cruel and unfeeling;  it can break us in two.

At the top of this little holiday greeting of mine is a quote from Charlie Chaplin's "The Great Dictator", begging us to use a little more "kindness and gentleness" in our lives. He passed away on Christmas Day 1977, so I guess his words are even more appropriate on this occasion. But let us not forget whose birthday we celebrate today. 

  "I tell you this: whatever you did to the least of these brothers [and sisters] of mine, you did to me."
 
Jesus of Nazareth
From the Gospel According to Matthew

This planet is such a dark and unhappy place. At times it can seem unbearable. There is not one of us who couldn't stand a little more love. Not one of us is incapable of giving a little more as well. Rather than cursing the darkness - and each other - let us, instead, light some candles tonight.

 Happy Christmas, everybody. Happy Christmas, one and all!

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

"Keep your eyes open for the miracles all around you. And remember the simple truth that there is more music to be found in the laughter of a single child than can be found in all of the symphonies ever composed by all of the composers who ever lived."

From "The Rant"
Christmas Day, 2006

SUGGESTED LISTENING:

Happy Christmas/War Is Over
by John Lennon

And so, happy Christmas
We hope you have fun
The near and the dear one
The old and the young! 

Forty years ago this week, John had this song on the charts. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z8Vfp48laS8

AFTERTHOUGHT:

It's been eleven days since my last post - a record. Please forgive the time lapse but it's been ever-so-gloomy in Rantsville lately. 

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Nightmare Revisited


"And don't assume that your elected representatives in Washington will finally do the right thing by putting an end to this madness. They're cowards. Every Republican (and far too many Democrats to count) are in the pocket of the National Rifle Association."

From "The Rant"
15 December 2012

Well, I nailed that one, ay? And in the one year since the despicable tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, not a thing has been done by your so-called "representatives" to ensure that it never happen again - not a goddamned thing. Are you ashamed of your country yet?

I had been up most of the previous evening and was awakening from a nap when the report of yet another school shooting started to make its way through the airwaves. So help me I didn't even bat an eye when I heard the news. "Oh", I said out loud, "so it's happened again, huh?" It seemed that I was the only person who was not shocked in the least by the carnage. You see, I long ago anesthetized myself to living in a nation in ruins. You ought to give it a try; it makes coping a helluva lot easier, let me tell ya.

It was only in the days to come, after reading the profiles of the twenty little children and the six women whose lives were lost, that the numbness gave way to rage. Merely a week after the massacre, uber-jackassass and NRA spokesman, Wayne LaPierre gave a "press conference" at which no questions were allowed. Clever. According to this demented nerd, the problem wasn't the fact that this doomed country is awash with easily obtainable, rapid-fire killing machines (parish the thought!) The problem is that there are not enough of them. There was plenty of blame to spread around according to this twit:

He blamed Hollywood.
He blamed the news media.
He blamed video games.
He blamed music videos.
He blamed gun-free school zones.
He blamed hurricanes.
He blamed celebrities. 
He blamed President Obama....

As you may well imagine, the political terrorism as practiced by the National Rifle Association was blameless. In the months to follow, the House of Reprehensibles eternally disgraced themselves by refusing to pass even pathetically watered-down legislation that would make acquiring these weapons only a little more difficult. They would not do the right thing to protect our children. Hang your head and weep for your country.

And now we wake up on this grim anniversary to read about another school shooting in (again) Colorado. This time the shooter was taken down before he could do much damage. This morning, however, a fifteen-year-old girl clings to life from the injuries she sustained in the shooting. You had better get used to this sort of thing. This is the new reality.

The NRA types love to jabber away - like diseased little myna birds - about "freedom". We need to came face-to-face with some extremely unpleasant realities:

A people who live in a chronic state of mortal terror - wondering when and where the next massacre of innocent little boys and girls will take place - may indeed be many things (no argument there!) "Free" they are not.

Let's just stop kidding ourselves here and now, okay?

I'm going back to bed.

Tom Degan
Goshen. NY


A GENTLE REQUEST:

At this hour, someone - whom I love more than my very life - lies desperately clinging to hers. Her name is Meghan. It is her hand on which the little bird is perched in the photograph on the left. Please light a candle and say a gentle prayer that she gets through this. I could not love this little gal any more if she were my very own - and I cannot imagine life without her.
Thank you, folks. 


Epilogue,  12/18/13, 3:12 PM:

Meghan Marie Sager passed softly into eternity late last night. I would ask all of you, in addition to praying for her, that you remember her mother and father (Terri and Brian), her two brothers (Brian and Michael), and her extended family on both sides - the loveliest and nicest people I have ever known. Many hearts lie permanently and irreparably broken tonight. Mine, too.

For many years I have said that, for every person who goes before me, I fear it less and less. I don't fear it anymore. 

To paraphrase Shakespeare (with ever-so-slight editing):

"When she shall pass, take her and cut her out in little stars. And she shall make the face of Heaven so fine, that all the world will fall in love with the night, and pay no worship to the garish sun."

Still we will remember Mama's little girl.

AFTERTHOUGHT:

Meghan Sager
One of the readers of this site, a poet from Oregon by the name of Lydia, wrote a beautiful and sweet poem about Meghan that she has published. It was inspired by the photo of her and the little bird. Here's a link to read it:


http://writerquake.blogspot.com/2013/12/friday-flash-55-little-bird.html

It is the little gestures such as this one that remind me of the beauty of the human race. Thank you, Lydia (Melladee).  All of Meghan's friends and loved ones are deeply moved by this.


 

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Nelson


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Can you even imagine the shit-storm that would have ensued had Nelson Mandela been a vindictive and vengeful man? South African history would have looked quite different from the vantage point of 8 December 2013. Fortunately for the sake of posterity he was none of those things. We pause today to take note of the passing into eternity of a man who overcame more obstacles than one human being can be expected to overcome in several lifetimes.

Think of the iconic leaders of the twentieth century: Churchill, the Roosevelts, the Kennedys, Gandhi, King....While he still walked this earth it hadn't entered my mind that Mandela was the last of them. I only realized this when it was announced that he had died. They all belong to the ages now. 

His is a story that defies all the odds to be sure. The other day someone likened his ascension to the presidency of South Africa to a former slave being elected to the American presidency in 1968. I was hoping that he would at least survive prison by twenty-seven years, to make up for all the wasted time he languished there. It was not meant to be. At least we may console ourselves with the knowledge that the final twenty-four years of Nelson Mandela's long life were spent on the mountaintop. That works for me. I think it worked for him as well. If he harbored so-much-as-a molecule of resentment over the decades of injustice he incurred from the most vile of systems, he never revealed it. His wish was for reconciliation, not revenge.

One good thing that has come from the death of Nelson Mandela is the stark fact that Ronald Reagan had been deservedly knocked down a few inches off the historical pedestal that so many Americans still naively place him. Today they we are reminded that the gipper and his administration had no serious moral reservations with respect to apartheid in general and Mandela's imprisonment in particular. When Nelson was released from prison in February of 1990, Reagan, then a year out of office, had no comment.

What was it about the guy? Is it just me or did you notice the aura, too? There aren't many times someone as inspirational as he crosses our path - and when that blue moon does grace the sky - the moment should be treasured. Nelson Mandela was indeed a treasure, a reminder of the beauty of the human race. And to think that he actually walked among us! I suspect that a thousand years from now, people will still be discussing him.

It is raining today in South Africa, something that the people there always see as a positive omen. On the surface they do not appear to be a nation in mourning. In fact they're dancing in the streets! They're celebrating a noble life, well and honorably lived. Can you blame them? We should all be dancing in the streets this morning.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

Sunday, December 01, 2013

My Kinda Pope


The Nazz
I tell you this: whatever you did to the least of these brothers of mine, you did to me."

Jesus of Nazareth
From the Gospel According to Matthew

 "How can it be that it is not news when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points”?
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Pope Francis
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BREAKING NEWS: He's read the memo! At about 9:30 this morning, I tweeted the following message to Pope Francis:
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 "@Pontifex: Your Holiness, you are driving the right wing in America nuts. Thank you."

It was a wondrous thing to wake up to. In an eighty-four page Apostolic Exhortation. The new pontiff left no doubt about where he stood on the subject of "trickle down" (he used those very words) economics. Francis called this era of conservative economics the "new tyranny" of "unfettered capitalism". Not to anyone's surprise (certainly not to mine) the right wing scream machine broke down with a severe case of spastic apoplexy. Rush Limbaugh referred to the document as "pure Marxism". He elaborated for the amusement of us all: "There's no such unfettered capitalism – that doesn't exist anywhere," he said while turning a lovely shade of purple, "'unfettered capitalism' is a liberal socialist phrase to describe the United States." On Fox Noise, Stuart Varney went a bit further. As reported this morning on the delightfully subversive website, AlterNet:

“Capitalism, in my opinion, is a liberator,” he lectured Pope Francis from his television pulpit. “The free choice of millions of people is the essence of freedom. In my opinion, society benefits most when people are free to pursue their own self-interest. I know that sounds like a contradiction, but it is not.” 

He's trying to make some sort of point there. Let's give the poor old bugger an A for effort. What the pope has done here is held up a mirror, and the plutocracy - worldwide - is recoiling at the hideous reflection. They stand before us stark-raving-naked. It must be an unsettling thing to be exposed like that for all the world to see. Oh, who shall rid them of this meddlesome pope?

Conservative Catholics should be grateful. All Catholics should be grateful. This pope - and a whole lot of pesky nuns riding around on buses - are the ones who will save Catholicism. The last twenty years have been the darkest ones in centuries for the Church of Rome (I'll spare you the details - you know what I'm talking about). Francis is resuscitating it. Who was the last pope to take his vow of poverty as seriously as this one? I like this dude! 

Why are many conservative Christians so single-minded  in their concentration on the Old Testament? Why do they not, instead, pay more attention to the teachings of Jesus Christ? The answer to that question is obvious: The lessons that the Prince of Peace was trying to impart to us in the Beatitudes are completely at odds with the agenda of the right wing. Think about it!

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake,
for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.


Dick Gregory
Can you see what I'm talking about? That's not a very conservative message, is it? In fact (just between you and me) the Son of God sounds like some kind of KNEE-GROW SOCIALIST in that message. You can't blame the extreme right wing for feeling a tad awkward and uncomfortable when a religious leader takes us all to task for not living up to the fundamental meaning of Christianity. I feel a bit awkward myself, come to think about it. Dick Gregory once remarked that if Christ were to come back today, the right-wingers would tie him to a giant peace sign and roll him off a cliff. The dirty secret is that there a conflict between conservatism and Christianity - a serious one.

I'm speaking as somewhat of a lapsed Catholic. I'm the last person on the planet who should be lecturing anyone on their theological sensibilities, believe me. It's just that it seems to me that this one should be a no-brainer. What is a "Christian" but one feeds the hungry,  clothes the naked and ministers to the sick? That's what it's all about! What part of that message do they not understand?

For those who are waiting for Pope Francis to open the doors to gay marriage in the Catholic Church - or even the ordination of women as priests - don't hold your breath. And a pro abortion-rights pope? That's never gonna happen. But at least he's making an attempt at inclusion. He seems to want us to accept gays and lesbians as members of the Catholic community. He seems to want to expand the roll of women in the church. That's at least a beginning. The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step as they say. 

More than anything, he needs to address the question of celibacy for priests and nuns. We had a priest in our parish a few years back named Father Trevor Nicholls. He was an Anglican convert with a wife and four wonderful children. They were an asset to the community, not an embarrassment. Doing away with the doctrine of mandatory celibacy would mark a rebirth for the Catholic religion. Just a suggestion, Frankie. 

Fifty years ago, Pope John the XXIII initiated the task of modernizing Catholicism by bringing it out into the open light of day. I'm just barely old enough to remember a time when the mass was said in Latin - a language that had been dead for hundreds of years. His Second Vatican Council changed the church forever - and for the better I think. The Catholic Church is a half century overdue for a serious shot of adrenaline. Pope Francis is providing his flock with a mega-dose. Let's hope Catholics all over the world line up for their medications. It'll only pinch for a second.

And each time I leave
Pope Francis is
Tugging my sleeve 
Pope Francis is....

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

SUGGESTED READING:

The Sermon on the Mount
by some guy named Jesus 

Special thanks to nephew Peter Dermigny for the "POPE" poster. He sent it to me from England where he is studying - Lucky duck!

For this and other more recent postings on this miserable nest of commie propaganda, please go to the link below:

The "Rant" by Tom Degan

Thanks!