Trump Tilts at Windmills

They might be giants…they aren’t, but they might be.

Very seldom these days do the worlds of great literature and American politics coincide, but Donald Trump’s recent attack on windmills cannot help reminding me of the passage in the great novel about an insane man, Don Quixote.

Don Trump says, “They kill birds, they cause cancer, you can’t depend on them to power your television for an entire night because if the wind’s not blowing, there’s no power.”

Don Quixote says, “They’re giants and I shall slay them.”

But where is Trump’s Sancho? Where is the voice of reason to tell him that they aren’t actually giants, but very useful and beneficial machines? If we continue the parallel, Sancho would probably be Trump’s voters. The ones he’s promised will benefit if they follow him. Yet Trump’s Sancho doesn’t seem capable of pointing out that the windmills are not actually giants. So, it would seem, Trump Quixote is destined to break his lance without even a word of warning from his companion.

We might laugh at this. Cervantes certainly intended you to laugh at his misguided knight and even at Sancho. But if we’re stuck in Don Trump, or the Man of Queens, we better hope there’s a Knight of the White Moon out there somewhere who will defeat Trump and make him promise to go home to be cured of his madness.

Otherwise, we may be doomed to subscribe to Quixote’s belief near the end of the first volume that knights errant “are exempt from the application of all laws and statutes, that for them law is their sword, statutes are their spirit, and edicts and proclamations are their will and desire.”

Sounds uncomfortably familiar.

Confession time: Imagine, my deepest secret

So, here’s my confession. The deepest secret I’ve been keeping for the last two months.

I’m taking singing lessons.

What? You’re not shocked? You would be if you knew me. I’ve always said I can’t carry a tune to save my life. I’ve even claimed to be tone deaf.

Long story short, my very brave and lovely voice teacher gave me first choice of songs to learn, and I chose Imagine by John Lennon. At this point, I’ve sung it so many times, I know it by heart—and by that, I mean more than just that I know every word.

It’s like those words are, literally, inscribed on my heart.

I’ve always loved the song, of course. But until I had to do the work of matching the words to the music and singing them more or less in tune, I didn’t really think about their meanings.

Imagine there’s no heaven…no hell below us…living for today…

What might the world be like if we were all driven just by the desire to live our best lives right here? On earth, right now. This is the moment we have. This is the only moment we have.

…no countries…no religion too…living life in peace…

Can you imagine that? Can you imagine living your life for your family and the people you love without imagined boundaries to separate us? No race, no patriotism, no gods to get in the way.

Am I dreamer? I bet there are more with the same dream. Heck, it’s what Star Trek is based on.

…no possessions…

That’s a big one, isn’t it? That’s why the next line is, “I wonder if you can.” It’s a big ask. A revolutionary thought in a capitalistic society that puts different values on skills. But what if everyone’s skills were regarded with the same value? If we truly reached that point of nirvana where the garbage collector’s service is of the same value as the teacher’s and the doctor’s?

no need for greed or hunger…a brotherhood of man…

And forget lawyers and criminals because:

…imagine all the people sharing all the world…

Do you see? What Lennon dreamed was a world of pure freedom unlike anything any of us have ever experienced. I’ve dreamed of that, too. But I’ve never fought for it. Too caught up in what the world actually is to be able to see what it could be, I guess.

It may be too late to have that world, but we can dream it. We can imagine it if we try really hard—and if we can imagine it, we can work toward it.

Imagine that.

March is Women’s History Month

March is Women’s History Month. How many of you knew that? I’m thinking fewer than should. We all know Black History Month is February, and many of us know April is Poetry Month, but for some reason Women’s History Month isn’t well known.

I’m thinking it may be because so much of women’s history isn’t known. It’s been suppressed in favor of men’s account of women’s history. I found it interesting, for instance, when I happened upon this little tidbit of women’s history on a trek around my hometown:

I did a little research on Emeline. Her name is alternately spelled Emmeline and Piggott or Piggot or Pigot or Pigott—even once in a newspaper clipping about her arrest “Eveline”. There are many stories about her, including that she “entertained” Union soldiers while her brother-in-law carried contraband to Confederate troops, that she ate a letter when she was arrested instead of turning it over to Union soldiers, and that while she was jailed an attempted assassination by chloroform failed because she broke a window to breathe through until help arrived.

It’s interesting to me because in some places, these stories about Emeline are referred to as legends and in other places are reported as facts. Even here on the sign, it says “According to local tradition”. That’s almost equivalent to “Once upon a time”. But Emeline was not a fairytale. She was a real woman, and, regardless of politics, she suffered for a cause she believed in.

It got me thinking about what women went through to get the vote. Until a few years ago I’d believed they marched peacefully, well-dressed and carrying banners because that’s what the school history books depicted. The reality is less appetizing, though. A few years ago I read about “the Night of Terror” when suffragists were beaten and tortured. A little shocked, I did more research.

Suffragists were badasses. Seriously. They didn’t just stand around with polite placards saying please let us vote until reasonable white men decided to give them the nineteenth amendment. There was property damage, rude signs and screaming at the president and Congress. Incarcerated women went on hunger strikes and were force fed with rubber tubes.

No doubt they were told at some point not to be so emotional.

I wonder if today’s men would dare to tell them to “smile more”.

My point is, you won’t learn about most of women’s history in schoolbooks. “Women held protests on the White House lawn and were given the right to vote in 1920” is about all you’ll get there. What women need to remember is that for decades women fought for the right to vote. They fought with much more than just orderly parades and when saying please failed, they didn’t hesitate to declare all out war.

Should we allow that history to be repressed? Shouldn’t we be teaching it to our daughters?

Infamous suffragist leader Lucy Burns, on the third day of a hunger strike following her imprisonment on the Night of Terror, was tempted with fried chicken to break her strike. With contempt, she said, “They think there is nothing in our souls above fried chicken.”

There is so much more in the soul of women than what we’re given credit for by the history in schoolbooks. I may not agree with Emeline Pigott’s politics, but I do think she carried iron in her soul, and I believe she deserves the credit for that. Her story should not be relegated to the same level of history as fairytales. Whatever happened to her while jailed, or while she was “entertaining” Union soldiers, it is part of women’s history and women’s history isn’t fried chicken. It’s iron and blood and suffering and triumph. And we should never forget that.

A Million Zillion Liberal Dreams

Yesterday I thought a lot about the new liberal progressive Democrats and their “Green New Deal”. Though I’ve always considered myself a moderate Democrat, it seems to me that this Green New Deal makes all kind of sense. New jobs, new infrastructure, eliminating carbon from our energy sources.

Once upon a time our nation would have embraced what now seems outrageous to so many.

As usual, I had music on when I figured out something major. And the music contributed to the resounding “click” I heard in my head. This time I was in the car, and Pink’s version of “A Million Dreams” from The Greatest Showman came on. And…click

Why do poets and artists tend to be more liberal?

Why are so many liberals poets and artists?

(Click) We are dreamers.

It’s true. We dream of what could be or we let what is haunt us. We dream of change. We dream of life and love and liberty for all. We are patriots who believe our country can be better, and we can make it so.

We have a million, zillion dreams, and yes, they keep us up at night.

My ruminations left me with two questions, though.

1. Why is the Democratic Party afraid to own their dreams? Why not just say, yes, this is who we are and what we want, and we know we can get us there?

2. Why is everyone so afraid to dream these perfectly reasonable dreams that will benefit everyone in our country and the world at large? If we have a million, zillion dreams, there’s room for everyone in them, isn’t there?

Advice for Democrats running on a liberal agenda: Own your dreams. Stop apologizing for them. A Green New Deal is a dream worth fighting for.

What dreams do you have that are worth fighting for?

I am Liberal

By Michelle Garren Flye

We are

(Liberal)

Dreamers.

We stay awake

At night imagining

What we can be.

What you can be.

We are

(Liberal)

Believers.

We believe the world

Can welcome all.

A place for us.

A place for you.

We are

(Liberal)

Reformers.

We own our mistakes

(And yours) and fix them.

For your future.

For our future.

We are

Dreamers

Believers

Reformers

Imaginers

Romantics

Visionaries

Advocates

Innovators

Environmentalists

Activists

Scientists

Artists

Poets

Crusaders—

Liberals.

For tomorrow—photo by Michelle Garren Flye

Poem: For Tom (broken)

One of my heroes made the news for the wrong reasons this week, bringing home to me that all of us become less relevant as we age. Even the great ones.

For Tom (broken)

By Michelle Garren Flye

Don’t speak too loudly.

Stay out of their way.

Their edges are sharp and they will cut you,

Force you to retreat, retire.

Your own edges are worn—

Who is impressed by Woodstock anymore?

You didn’t win your wars.

Vietnam, civil rights.

Even the drug war is left for this generation to fight.

Compassion is round

In your hands, but

It turns flat in theirs—and shows only one side.

That side has edges

And they are used to cut.

So be careful, stay silent, keep clear and beware.

For the round and the soft,

The worn and the frayed

Have no place in the edgy world of the young.

Despairing of Toxic Humans

He’s witnessed a lot. What would his social media status be?

Albert Einstein said, “We cannot despair of humanity, for we ourselves are human.”

Of course, Al didn’t live in the age of social media, did he?

By now, everyone has seen video of the MAGA hat-wearing Catholic kids making fun of the Native American elder who may or may not be a Vietnam veteran. And everyone has an opinion. Some say the kids are at fault, others the African American men who hurled insults at them because they were wearing MAGA hats.

Personally, I find fault with everyone involved in that situation, including myself. And I was several hundred miles away when it happened.

Just to be clear here, the kids from Covington Catholic were absolutely behaving badly. Toxically. Their parents should ground every last one of them for disrespecting their elders.

With that said, however, those kids were mirroring not only what they were seeing right then, but also, probably, what they see at home and at school. The evidence for this? The chaperones did not interfere. By not interfering, they okayed the behavior of these kids. I’m not sure why anyone is surprised by this. They are from Kentucky, the lovely state that gave us Turtle Man McConnell, the most toxic human being in government.

Add to that the horrible behavior of the other adults on the scene, and you can see what these kids are up against. And then some idiot adult edited the video to make it look like the teenagers were the only ones misbehaving and idiot adults like me were outraged and posted and reposted on social media.

The truth of what happened on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial is that everyone was behaving badly. There are no martyrs here. And I really wish the adults would own up to their bad behavior and set a better example, because condemning kids for following the super bad examples they see from adults is going to get us nothing but more toxic adults.

Of course, Einstein also reportedly said, “Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity.” So maybe I shouldn’t hold my breath where humans are concerned.

Bite-size philosophy and me

IMG_5233

Today’s world and politics often inspire a fit of philosophy in me as I try to make sense of what is happening and how to deal with it. –photo by Michelle Garren Flye

I’m a closet philosopher. Seriously, I’ve been accused of thinking too much. The problem is, if I try to read an entire book—or even an entire essay—by a philosopher, I get bored. I find myself thinking about what’s for lunch or what my kids are doing or when I need to go grocery shopping again.

The Internet has solved that for me. When I find myself pondering a philosophical problem, I can look it up on the Internet and find bite-size nuggets of inspiration in philosophical quotes. And since I always like to check my sources, I end up reading at least a paragraph or two from the quoted philosopher. Until I started this up, I had no idea who Bertrand Russell was but now I’ve read several paragraphs from him!

Google this one if you’re likely to fall for internet hoaxes: “…it is undesirable to believe a proposition when there is no ground whatever for supposing it true.”

–Bertrand Russell

That’s how I found out Albert Camus agrees with me that today’s attitudes toward “West Coast elite” writers, actors, and artists is a bad thing. Camus would have been heartbroken by the fall of Hollywood in today’s world. Of course, Camus died in 1960, and I don’t even know if he ever saw a movie, but I found a quote that seems to support this idea of mine. Camus wrote: “Beauty, no doubt, does not make revolutions. But a day will come when revolutions will have need of beauty.”

What a wonderful thought. I pictured men on a bleak battlefield ceasing the fight while they looked for the beauty of what they were fighting for. How many wars might end if we stopped to think about what we fought for? I checked the source of the quote and found a longer section of Camus’s essay “The Rebel: An Essay on Man in Revolt.” In this section, Camus expounds on the necessity of art to make sense of history. Look, for instance, at this sentence:

“Every great reformer tries to create in history what Shakespeare, Cervantes, Moliere, and Tolstoy knew how to create: a world always ready to satisfy the hunger for freedom and dignity which every man carries in his heart.”

–Albert Camus

I dare to believe that Camus wrote, in 1951, how I’ve been feeling about the way many artists are treated today when they dare to make their feelings about the larger world known. Stephen King, Barbra Streisand, Colin Kaepernick (yes, sports can be art), J.K. Rowling—even Rob Thomas—all of these artists and many more have been slammed on Twitter and in conservative media for daring to make political opinions known in today’s highly divisive atmosphere.

To the artists I say, you have vision and you must keep seeing. Keep seeing and keep speaking out because though you are outnumbered by those who can’t see, your light shines brighter than theirs. And that’s your job.

In case you were wondering, Camus would have agreed with me about this. In that same essay, he said something which I can only take as a message to me and to all like me who see the world as oppressive and who want to make it freer and more beautiful and welcoming to all:

“The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.”

–Albert Camus

And that is how I will seek to live my life.