Bob Schwartz

Arrangement

Arrangement

The body has its way
The mind has its way
Time has its way
Arrange them
As you would
Arrange the ocean

The Republicans Didn’t Get the trump Thing. Now They Don’t Get the Alt-Right Thing.

Bannon

Whether some people like it or not, the future of the Republic is in the hands of the Republicans. They dominate the states, and for the moment they dominate the federal government. Are they up to the task?

The Republican Party didn’t see trump coming. He didn’t look, talk or act like a conventional mainstream politician, candidate or President. He didn’t look, talk or act like a Republican. They could find no way of responding. He got the Republican nomination and the presidency.

Now the so-called alt-right comes along, which doesn’t look, talk or act like a conventional political movement, Republican or otherwise. Not only do the Republicans not know how to respond, but a leading figure of the movement is one whispered-in-the-ear directive away from the President.

Comparisons to movements like the Tea Party or the Liberty Caucus are dangerously silly. This is not a matter of degree or differences in positions. This is something else.

If the trump phenomenon is the example, the Republicans will do all kinds of things and make all kinds of noises to distance themselves from the alt-right and try to push it away from the party, just as they did with trump. It didn’t work then. And it won’t work now.

Republicans, right now the Republic is in your care and at your tender mercies. Let’s hope you get it very, very soon—and figure out what to do about it.

Pope: The Scandal of Christian Hypocrisy

Pope Francis

Scandal is saying one thing and doing another; it is a double life, a double life. A totally double life: ‘I am very Catholic, I always go to Mass, I belong to this association and that one; but my life is not Christian, I don’t pay my workers a just wage, I exploit people, I am dirty in my business, I launder money…’

In a homily yesterday morning, Pope Francis said this:

“But what is scandal? Scandal is saying one thing and doing another; it is a double life, a double life. A totally double life: ‘I am very Catholic, I always go to Mass, I belong to this association and that one; but my life is not Christian, I don’t pay my workers a just wage, I exploit people, I am dirty in my business, I launder money…’ A double life. And so many Christians are like this, and these people scandalize others. How many times have we heard – all of us, around the neighborhood and elsewhere – ‘but to be a Catholic like that, it’s better to be an atheist.’ It is that, scandal. You destroy. You beat down. And this happens every day, it’s enough to see the news on TV, or to read the papers. In the papers there are so many scandals, and there is also the great publicity of the scandals. And with the scandals there is destruction….

“[Y]ou will arrive in heaven and you will knock at the gate: ‘Here I am, Lord!’ – ‘But don’t you remember? I went to Church, I was close to you, I belong to this association, I did this… Don’t you remember all the offerings I made?’ ‘Yes, I remember. The offerings, I remember them: All dirty. All stolen from the poor. I don’t know you.’ That will be Jesus’ response to these scandalous people who live a double life….

“It would be good for all of us, each one of us, today, to consider if there is something of a double life within us, of appearing just, of seeming to be good believers, good Catholics, but underneath doing something else; if there is something of a double life, if there is an excessive confidence: ‘But, sure, the Lord will eventually forgive everything, but I’ll keep going as I have been…’

Thoreau: Life Without Principle

thoreau

Please read a little Henry David Thoreau if you have the chance. Maybe no American writer has made a plainer case for living a life of truth, a life of principle, a life that matters.

You may know of his most famous works.

There is Walden, about his choosing to live for a time in the woods, within nature and by himself (“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”) There is Civil Disobedience, about determining how, when and why defying the powers that be is a conscientious imperative.

There is much more Thoreau beyond these (see Walden and Other Writings). Following are some brief excerpts from Life Without Principle, published posthumously in the Atlantic Monthly in 1863.


In proportion as our inward life fails, we go more constantly and desperately to the post-office. You may depend on it, that the poor fellow who walks away with the greatest number of letters proud of his extensive correspondence has not heard from himself this long while…. [Note: If you substitute “greatest number of followers” for “greatest number of letters”, you will see just how timely and relevant this is today.]

I am astonished to observe how willing men are to lumber their minds with such rubbish,—to permit idle rumors and incidents of the most insignificant kind to intrude on ground which should be sacred to thought. Shall the mind be a public arena, where the affairs of the street and the gossip of the tea-table chiefly are discussed? Or shall it be a quarter of heaven itself….

Just so hollow and ineffectual, for the most part, is our ordinary conversation. Surface meets surface. When our life ceases to be inward and private, conversation degenerates into mere gossip. We rarely meet a man who can tell us any news which he has not read in a newspaper, or been told by his neighbor; and, for the most part, the only difference between us and our fellow is that he has seen the newspaper, or been out to tea, and we have not….

We may well be ashamed to tell what things we have read or heard in our day. I do not know why my news should be so trivial,—considering what one’s dreams and expectations are, why the developments should be so paltry. The news we hear, for the most part, is not news to our genius. It is the stalest repetition….

Really to see the sun rise or go down every day, so to relate ourselves to a universal fact, would preserve us sane forever. Nations! What are nations? Tartars, and Huns, and Chinamen! Like insects, they swarm. The historian strives in vain to make them memorable. It is for want of a man that there are so many men. It is individuals that populate the world….

It requires more than a day’s devotion to know and to possess the wealth of a day.

Donnie Doesn’t Mean It: U.S. Officials Explain Their Bad Boy to the World’s Principals

principals-office

He might have said the c-word. Or the p-word. Or any of the other bad words he knows. Instead he said that the U.S. doesn’t need Europe or NATO. That he was going to steal another country’s oil. That the free press is an enemy of the state.

Whatever he says, officials are busy telling the world that Donnie doesn’t mean any of it. That he doesn’t understand what he’s saying. That he’s basically a good boy.

Except…

Donnie is not a junior high school kid. He’s a grown man. And the most powerful grown man in the world. And, as far as his limited knowledge goes (he may not be the brightest in the class), he means every word.

What did happen in Sweden on Friday night? Maybe this…

curious_yellow_cover_large1b

From Trump at his Saturday night rally:

“We’ve got to keep our country safe. You look at what’s happening in Germany. You look at what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden, who would believe this? Sweden. They took in large numbers. They’re having problems like they never thought possible. You look at what’s happening in Brussels. You look at what’s happening all over the world. Take a look at Nice. Take a look at Paris.”

Was there some terrorist activity in Sweden on Friday night? No. What was Trump talking about? Who knows? Sweden has officially asked the State Department what Trump was talking about.

I have a guess.

curious

The Swedish film I Am Curious—Yellow (1967) is one of the most controversial movies of the 20th century. It is both sexual and political. The Criterion Collection writes:

Seized by customs upon entry to the United States, subject of a heated court battle, and banned in numerous cities, Vilgot Sjöman’s I Am Curious—Yellow is one of the most controversial films of all time. This landmark document of Swedish society during the sexual revolution has been declared both obscene and revolutionary. It tells the story of Lena (Lena Nyman), a searching and rebellious young woman, and her personal quest to understand the social and political conditions in 1960s Sweden, as well as her bold exploration of her own sexual identity. I Am Curious—Yellow is a subversive mix of dramatic and documentary techniques, attacking capitalist injustices and frankly addressing the politics of sexuality.

Yes, there was sex on Friday nights in Sweden in 1967. Yes, there was sex in I Am Curious—Yellow in 1968, when Trump was 22, old enough to get in to see the restricted movie, which he no doubt saw (many times). Yes, there was sex last Friday night in the social democracy of Sweden.

And that, I believe, is what Trump was talking about. “Look at what’s happening last night in Sweden.” Yeah, look.

curious-2

Of course, I could be wrong.

Sitting

Zafu and Zabuton

Sitting

Sitting in sand, desert or beach
Sitting in rain or snow
Sitting in a hurricane of thought
A tornado of thought
Sitting with traffic
Horns and screeching tires
Birds singing
By a stream
By a river
By a waterfall
Night or day
Beginnings and ends
A breeze of breath
Barely breathing
Sitting once more

Maximum Head-Spinning Jaw-Dropping Surreality: Trump Campaign and Russia

Phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election, according to four current and former American officials.
New York Times

This news is not surprising, which itself says something. But even though it is not surprising, it still manages to catapult us into some cosmic surreality where all of previous history seems to be a long preface to the fantasy novel that follows—and is still spinning out. Except it is real.

How real? How surreal? Just read that sentence again. And again.

Phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election, according to four current and former American officials.

Valentine’s Day: Radical Love

Radical Love

For K

Hannah, Mary
Radical lovers.
Wives, mothers
Asking not asking
For a birth
Offering surrendering
A life for good.

Hannah says
The bows of the mighty are broken
but the faltering are braced with strength.

Mary says
The princes are pulled down from their thrones
and the lowly raised high.

All is as it should be
All is upside down.

Elkanah, Joseph
Husbands, lovers
Stand dumb
Awed and grateful
To be sharing
The better world.

Some Are Neighbors

ushmm some were neighbors

American citizens have long had to respond to threats from without and within. From the outside, enemies of the state. From the inside, enemies of the state. Sometimes those enemies were very real; sometimes they were merely props in political and geopolitical theaters of intolerance and hate.

In times of crisis, real or imagined, ordinary citizens can be asked or expected to serve as the eyes, ears and hands of law and order—in both democratic and authoritarian societies. There are fine lines between being a patriotic informant, a spy on your neighbors, and an active accomplice and collaborator.

A current exhibition at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is Some Were Neighbors: Collaboration & Complicity in the Holocaust:

Some Were Neighbors: Collaboration & Complicity in the Holocaust addresses one of the central questions about the Holocaust: How was it possible? The central role of Hitler and other Nazi Party leaders is indisputable. However, the dependence of these perpetrators on countless others for the execution of Nazi racial policies is less understood. Within Nazi Germany and across German-dominated Europe, circles of collaboration and complicity rippled throughout governments and societies wherever victims of persecution and mass murder lived.

Some Were Neighbors examines a variety of motives and pressures that influenced individual choices to act. These influences often reflect fear, indifference, antisemitism, career concerns, community standing, peer pressure, or chances for material gain. It also looks at individuals who did not give in to the opportunities and temptations to betray their fellow human beings, reminding us that there is an alternative to complicity in evil acts—even in extraordinary times.

should i take the risk to help

Should i help them