Monthly Archives: December 2020

Mourning in America

2020 grinds complete
Desperate souls seek respite
Hunger for new hope.

Spirit defiled
Innocence abandoned
Optimism sullied.

Humanity torn
Compassion brutalized
Tolerance shunned.

Wonder forgotten
Creativity ensnared
Music furloughed.

Get up from the floor
Shake your fist and stomp your feet
Make a joyful noise.

Break out of your cell
Bellow justice to the world
Sing Democracy.

Hope is eternal
Wisdom lies within your grasp
Light freedom’s candle.

Donald Trump M.I.A.

On November 4th, after it became apparent that Donald Trump had lost the 2020 presidential election, I suspected that he would not be a gracious loser. Therefore, I haven’t been surprised that Trump has taken the position that the election was “stolen” by Joe Biden. What has shocked me is that Donald has stopped doing his day job. In the midst of four crises, Trump has abandoned any semblance of operating as President of the United States.

In retrospect, I shouldn’t have been surprised.  From at least the time that Donald Trump was diagnosed with COVID-19, October 2, he checked out of his traditional White House duties.  Since November 3rd, Trump has seldom appeared in public and very rarely spoken to the press.  Nonetheless, Donald has tweeted a lot; an average of 25 per day — 75 percent of these tweets have been claims of election “fraud.” (

While it’s understandable that Trump is upset and, therefore, has sequestered himself in the White House to “lick his wounds,” that doesn’t excuse his failure to do his job.  The United States is beset by four crises.  Over the next 33 days, we need presidential leadership.

National Security:  On November 4th, after I realized that Trump had lost the election, I mused: “I hope there is no national security event between now and January 20th.”  Unfortunately, the United States has been the target of a massive Russian cyberattack.

Writing in the New York Times (, Thomas Bossert, former Trump Homeland Security Adviser, observed:

“The [Russian] malware was on [SolarWinds] software from March to June. The number of organizations that downloaded the corrupted update could be as many as 18,000, which includes most federal government unclassified networks and more than 425 Fortune 500 companies. The magnitude of this ongoing attack is hard to overstate.  [Emphasis added] The Russians have had access to a considerable number of important and sensitive networks for six to nine months…While the Russians did not have the time to gain complete control over every network they hacked, they most certainly did gain it over hundreds of them. It will take years to know for certain which networks the Russians control and which ones they just occupy.”

This is the most serious cyberattack ever.  The U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency said the hack, “poses a grave risk to the Federal Government and state, local, tribal, and territorial governments as well as critical infrastructure entities and other private sector organizations.”  It’s an act of war.

President Trump has yet to address this crisis.

Coronavirus Pandemic:  We’re in the middle of the third wave of the pandemic.  So far, 17.7 million Americans have been infected and 320 thousand have died — we’re adding 220 thousand new patients per day.  Since November 3rd, Donald Trump has frequently tweeted, but not about the pandemic.  (On November 13th, Trump held a brief press event, to tout the development of the Pfizer vaccine; he took no questions and did not acknowledge the US pandemic statistics.)

US Economy: In the closing days of the presidential election, Donald Trump ran with the message: “Biden wants to shut down the economy, I want to open it up.  Coronavirus is no big deal; I survived it.”  Of course, we’ve learned that Coronavirus is a big deal, and that it does have a savage impact on the economy.

At the moment, because of the third wave of the pandemic, the U.S. economy has stalled.  Employment growth has slowed down and unemployment lingers around 7 percent.  This week jobless claims increased to a three-month high (885,000).  Consumer confidence has fallen.  About 25 percent of US renters face eviction.  Millions of Americans are suffering.

At this writing, the US Congress is struggling to agree on a compromise stimulus package.  Donald Trump has had only marginal involvement in this process. (And, Trump has not addressed the pain endured by many working-class Americans.)

National Confidence:  Finally, as if it weren’t bad enough that Donald Trump has ignored a Russian cyberattack, mismanaged the pandemic, and provided no economic leadership, he has also failed to send a positive Christmas message.  We’re coming to the end of a very difficult year; American need to be cheered up.  A normal president would transmit a message of hope.

Instead, Donald has hunkered down in the White House.  Trump’s narcissistic focus is on the 2020 election results.  This stance furthers the impression that the 45th President of the United States does not care about the welfare of the American people — that Donald Trump only cares about himself.  At a time when Americans need to come together to fight for the common good, Trump is, instead, promoting a message of “you’re on your own.”

Donald Trump has, once again, failed to be a leader.  Since November 3rd, he’s M.I.A.

Christmas Sestina

December, a time for GRATITUDE
2020, a year of DISASTER
When the air was thick with TENSION
Infused with the fetid odor of POLITICS
Catalyzed by pandemic-fed ISOLATION
As we struggled to realize SIMPLICITY

The most challenging virtue: simplicity
(More demanding than gratitude)
Begin by savoring isolation
Clear your mind of disaster
Turn off the torrent of politics
Recognize anxiety and tension

2020, defined by tension
The antidote: simplicity
Heals anxiety precipitated by politics
(Soon, a president who fills me with gratitude)
A year teetering on the edge of disaster
Months spent in prickly isolation

2020’s legacy: isolation
A retreat from omnipresent tension
Shelter from the threat of disaster
Take refuge in simplicity
In ritual express gratitude
Forswear the swamp of politics

2020’s malignancy: Politics
Emails and tweets shattered isolation
November 3rd brought gratitude
Release from tension
The taste of simplicity
A reprieve from disaster

2020’s bequest: disaster
Nihilism fanned by the fires of politics
An existential threat diminished by simplicity
Amplified by isolation
Fomenting tension
Each safe day promoting gratitude

2021 intentions: avoid DISASTER
celebrate ISOLATION



Trump Crazy, Republicans Crazy

Like most of you, i cannot wait until Donald Trump leaves the White House and the daily onslaught of Trump “news” ceases.   Unfortunately, while Trump will move on to the netherworld, the political madness will continue.  The most difficult 2020 election lesson is that Trump is not the cause of Republican insanity, he is its symptom.

In the 2020 election, more than 74 million Americans voted for Donald Trump.  They chose crazy.

It’s a deeply disturbing fact that millions of Americans voted for Trump.  A fact that’s important to consider, because Trump will disappear but Trumpism will persist.  Many Trump voters will continue to support Republican irrationality.

Many pundits disparage Trump supporters; call them stupid, deplorable, or worse.  I believe the most apt characterization of MAGA devotees is desperate.  Trump supporters feel hopeless and have grasped Trump as a “lifesaver.”

This is the perspective expressed by UC Berkeley Sociology professor Arlie Hochshild in her 2016 book: “Strangers in Their Own Land.”  Hochschild conducted a five-year study of Louisiana Tea Party voters who eventually became Trump supporters.  Hochschild details their “deep story,” a narrative shared by her interviewees: “You are standing in a long line leading up a hill, as in a pilgrimage.  You are situated in the middle of this line, along with others who are also white, older, Christian, and predominantly male… Just over the brow of the hill is the American Dream, the goal of everyone waiting in line.  Most in the back of the line are people of color… Look!  You see people cutting in line ahead of you!  You’re following the rules.  They aren’t.  As they cut in, it feels like you are being moved back… Who are they?  Women, immigrants, refugees, public sector workers — where will it end?”

The voters Hochschild interviewed had been screwed over for so long that they were profoundly disoriented.  Grasping for a lifeline, they latched onto Trump.  After January 20th, Trump may slink offstage, but the desperation experienced by Trump voters will not disappear.  As a consequence, Trump voters will continue to support Republican irrationality.

This is a perspective shared by New York Times columnist, David Brooks, who recently wrote ( ): “We live in a country in epistemological crisis, in which much of the Republican Party has become detached from reality.” [Emphasis added]  Brooks explained: “In 1972, people without college degrees were nearly as happy as those with college degrees. Now those without a degree are far more unhappy about their lives… This precarity has created, in nation after nation, intense populist backlashes against the highly educated folks who have migrated to the cities and accrued significant economic, cultural and political power…. People in this precarious state are going to demand stories that will both explain their distrust back to them and also enclose them within a safe community of believers. The evangelists of distrust, from Donald Trump to Alex Jones to the followers of QAnon, rose up to give them those stories and provide that community. Paradoxically, conspiracy theories have become the most effective community bonding mechanisms of the 21st century.”

Brooks concluded: “Under Trump, the Republican identity is defined not by a set of policy beliefs but by a paranoid mind-set… Distrust and precarity, caused by economic, cultural and spiritual threat, are the source.”

The key question for the Biden Administration is what to do about this.  How should they manage a situation where a substantial percentage of the populous not only did not vote for Biden-Harris but actually believes their election was illegitimate?

Addressing this political and social divide will take time.  There are several obvious steps.  First, the message from the Biden Administration has to be one of reconciliation.  In a recent speech, Joe Biden said, ““We are not enemies. We are Americans. This is the time to heal in America.”  That’s the right message, but many Trump supporters will not accept it; many MAGA devotees will hunker down within their paranoid communities.

Biden has taken control of the “bully pulpit.”  Over the next four years, Biden has to use this communication advantage to promote a positive message of reconciliation and hope.  The key is message consistency; if it’s maintained, Trump supporters will succumb.

The second step requires understanding that “the populist backlash” is a symptom of class conflict.  Donald Trump, and other Republican leaders, have — to further their selfish political agenda — promoted a class war: the “deplorables” versus the “coastal elites.” Listen to the language of Trump attorney Sidney Powell: “American patriots are fed up with the corruption from the local level, to the highest level of our government…  We are going to reclaim the United States of America for the people who vote for freedom.”

In 2016, Trump’s message to his supporters was: “The system is broken and I alone can fix it.”  Millions of Americans responded to Trump’s message, because they believe the system is broken.

The third step is to address the substantive grievances of Trump supporters, and millions of other Americans.  They want a shot at the American Dream.

In October, the Gallup Poll asked Americans: “In general, are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the way things are going in the United States at this time?”  80 percent of respondents said they were “dissatisfied.”  These Americans are dissatisfied with a lot of things: their jobs, housing, healthcare, and the education of their children.  They are dissatisfied because they do not believe there is “a level playing field.”  They are dissatisfied because they believe that a seminal American mythic narrative is dead.  A myth that Robert Reich ( identified as: “The Triumphant Individual… the familiar tale of the little guy who works hard, takes risks, believes in himself, and eventually gains wealth, fame, and honor.”

This dissatisfaction is not unique to Trump supporters.  It’s shared by many who voted for Biden-Harris.  That’s the silver lining in this difficult situation: most Biden supporters, and Trump devotees, ultimately want the same thing: a fair shot at the American dream.


Trapped at the end of the earth
the hours roll on relentless
time eased by fortune of birth.

Each day a measure of my worth
a challenge to my temper
trapped at the end of the earth.

Hard work to control my girth
not succumb to food and leisure
time eased by fortune of birth.

An anxious period, abandoned by mirth
tension cloaks my daily labors
trapped at the end of the earth.

Of humanity there is a dearth
family gatherings become virtual
time eased by fortune of birth.

In solitude learned a thing or two
pondering pleasures I could eschew
trapped at the end of the earth
time eased by fortune of birth.


The villanelle is a very old form of poetry that came from France and has lots of rules. It is made up of 19 lines; five stanzas of three lines (tercet) each and a final stanza of four lines (quatrain). As you can see from the rhyme scheme; ABA ABA ABA ABA ABA ABAA, this type of poem only has two rhyming sounds. Plus, there is a lot of repetition throughout the villanelle. Line one will be repeated in lines six, 12 and 18; and line three will be repeated in lines nine, 15 and 19.

Reconciliation (1)

You’re in my family, no matter what
We may not agree, and that is okay
Feel free to tell me your opinion, but
Do not bellow when you hear what I say.

To me your vote defies rational sense
You support candidates that I detest
And claim there is no lasting consequence
For falsehoods and insults not made in jest.

Now you ignore my attempts to reason
And bloviate, evade, sometimes bluster
As if volume mutes the sound of treason
Lacking the substance you fail to muster.

You’re in my family, that is a fact
Still, it’s my integrity you attack.