American Democracy Remains at Risk as the Insurrection Continues

My 2021 goal: creating value–bridging America’s political and cultural divide.  Easier said than done. 

In the SGI-USA, the Buddhist organization I’ve been a member of for 40+ years, this is the Year of Hope and Victory. I’m in with that.

Joe Biden has lots of hope. He accomplished in four months more than Donald Trump did in four years (in my view). But he’s having a hard time fostering bipartisanship in Congress. That’s politics; not the practice of Buddhism–or any other faith.

In 2017, I published a tenth anniversary edition of a memoir Waiting for Westmoreland, the path from Vietnam to enlightenment. The back cover blurb says this:

The book is the true story of a 20th century Candide—an innocent growing up in America in the fifties. As a boy, the author suffers the death of loved ones. Spending a year in Vietnam, with its readily available sex and drugs, thoroughly corrupts his youth. Then the political realities of the war and Watergate shatter his idealistic illusions about America. So, to reclaim his virtue and ideals, he thinks he must reform the people or institutions that failed him.

His quest for the tools of change becomes a frustrating pursuit. Finally, he encounters a person who has the knowledge he needs. She introduces him to the life philosophy of Buddhism, which reveals that the credit or blame for all of life’s events lies within—not from others. Looking for happiness outside oneself is fruitless. Only by taking personal responsibility for one’s own life can one be truly happy. Reforming oneself, not trying to change others, is the means for making the world a better place.

Q: So, why all the politics here on Views from Eagle Peak  the last few years?

A: In 13th Century Japan, Nichiren, the founder of the Buddhism I practice said this, “There are not two lands pure and impure in themselves. The difference lies solely in the good or evil of our minds.”

Our tagline for Views is Seeing things as they really are, without the illusions or delusions. 

The thing is, there are millions of delusional people out there–members of one of the two major political parties in America. Guess which one. 

Are parties analogous to lands? Is delusion evil? Well, not necessarily. But there is one party that exhibits racist behavior–the one once called the Party of Lincoln. The roles of emancipator vs oppressor of minorities have reversed again. 

Words do matter. Especially when they’re false—AKA lies. 

In recent polls, 70% of Republicans STILL believe Joe Biden didn’t fairly win the 2020 US Presidential Election. Why?

There are two reasons for the belief in the BIG LIE (that the election was stolen from Trump):

  • Because Trump said so–and they believe HIM.
  • The echo chambers of consumer choice–right-wing cable, network, web, social media, talk shows, etc. that confirm the false narrative of fraudulent ballots or counting irregularities.

Over the last few decades, the availability of news that reflects the perspectives and biases of the listener/reader/viewer has increased substantially. Why look for objective news that doesn’t match one’s beliefs in reality when one can enter the echo chamber and have opinions or conspiracy theories validated as fact?

When checking the weather, people really want to know what’s expected for that commute, game, trip, etc. It’s annoying, frustrating even, finding that the politician or party one favors is corrupt or not serving one’s interests.  BUT it’s as important–if not more so, than knowing whether an ice storm or tornado is coming, that the President is a liar, a cheat, a con man or worse. 

Joe Biden won–fair and square. That’s a fact.

As Daniel Patrick Moynihan said (as did others, in subtle variations in wording), “You are entitled to your own opinion; you are not entitled to your own facts.”

ALL Presidential election results in the 2020 race were certified in each state and territory. Many of those states were controlled by Republican secretaries of state. There were audits and recounts in many states, with no change in the results.

As many as 60 legal challenges were filed by lawyers associated with Trump. Many of the judges were appointed by Trump himself or former Republican presidents. All but one case was summarily dismissed–the other on a technicality prior to considering the merits.

William Barr and the Trump Department of Justice found no significant fraud in the election either. 

The insurrection continues? Yes, it does–just in a new form. The new attack on democracy is on the popular vote itself–not on the results.

The insurrection began with the January 6, 2021, latter day of infamy. The violent attack on America’s Capitol by a mob instigated by Trump himself.  White supremacists, conspiracy theorists and a variety of other right-wing groups–Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, Boogaloo Boys and more.

The new attack on democracy is directed at future elections. Hundreds of bills passed in Republican led legislatures across America. Bills reducing polling place hours, days to vote, mail-in voting, and much more. All making voting more difficult–for minorities and those more likely to vote for Democrats. The goal:  Republican candidates win despite fewer registered voters. AND if the results aren’t to their liking–the legislature can overturn them. That’s called autocracy, not democracy.

At the January 6th insurrection, the Trump mob killed or injured nearly 150 police officers. Millions of people watched on live TV–across mainstream media channels, PBS, cable and more as they stormed the Capitol, breaking windows and defacing historic architecture and artifacts.

Why? To overturn the results of the 2020 Presidential election. They set up a noose and chanted to hang Vice-President Mike Pence. Others hoped to kill Nancy Pelosi and kidnap others.

Yet, even as their lives had been at risk, a substantial majority of Republican House members voted to object to certification of Electoral College results–accepting the BIG LIE. Eight Senators acceded to the same falsehood.

We could go on and on about truth versus lies (AKA “alternative facts). Like with the reality of the pandemic versus it being no big thing. The deaths of over 600,000 people seems real. To some, that’s not even a fact.

Back to Buddhism–changing oneself to change the world. Hating those who don’t believe what you believe doesn’t help. They still have a latent state of Buddhahood buried within. Changing political leaders will NOT necessarily make the country safer, healthier, happier or more financially successful–for all. BUT–praying, speaking and acting on the belief of the humanity of the other side is the path to positive results. That, instead of simply condemning or ranting about the racist and autocratic actions of folks on the other.

But make no mistake, American democracy IS at risk. If the laws already passed and the others in process take effect, it will be possible that the results of elections in 2022 and 2024 could be overturned.  Legal and political efforts ARE essential.

As a Buddhist, I may pray for good health. But if I have a severe infection or a broken limb, medical intervention is required–not just faith in my religious practice. 

Great things have already happened with Biden as President. More improvements are on the way. I have hope that America is turning the page to a brighter and more successful future. But it won’t be without continuing controversy and division. That’s the nature of the times America is in. We must bridge the divide. It WILL take time. We must be patient and determined

Unlike the last five years, this will be only the second post on politics—the GOP and Trump. Don’t expect another post like this one before the fall–unless political lightning strikes. 

 

 

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A Consciousness Streams

In the popular parlance, streaming is now how many people view media content. Not us; not yet anyway. Consciousness streams here in this post

Two months since the last post on Views. An epoch in the blogosphere.

Stuff happens. Like:

  • Confirmation of occasional AFib after the third incident in two and a half years; Eliquis time–stop taking formerly favorite pills
  • Rotator cuff surgery for her; shopping, cooking, laundry, etc. for me–and personal assistance to her
  • Physical therapy for my knee–hey, a future fitness program at the local gym

Yes, growing old is not for sissies. Then there’s the other things like scheduled–and unscheduled home maintenance projects. Puts a kink in the writing schedule. Blogging AND getting out that delayed blog-to-book project.

Oh well, as a self-published writer I have no editor, agent or publisher to deal with.

Meanwhile:

  • Joe Biden has accomplished much in just a few months
  • The Party of NO (AKA, Republicans) oppose or delay in Congress
  • The insurrection continues in slow motion as Red states throughout America pass legislation to suppress votes and enable themselves to overturn the results of coming elections if not to their liking [more later on that–here or in the Eagle Peak Annual coming later this year]

We ARE determined to help get past the cultural and divides in America. It begins with what Nichiren Buddhists refer to as human revolution. Change from within manifests without.

Don’t blame the politicians for the weather (but get them working on the climate crisis) nor expect them to ensure your happiness and success. Don’t blame THEM (those of other races, religions, ethnicity or sexual orientation) either.

The pandemic is nearly over, but all the unavoidable, unexpected and frustrating obstacles still make planning getaways more than just challenging.

Nature just carries on, despite unfavorable weather–some of the time, in some places. Little or no rain fell in southwestern New Mexico in 2020. Didn’t faze the cacti and the agave. We had at least 50–maybe 60 of the latter bloom this year; the most ever.

Three white flowers atop one potted cactus
Three brilliant blooms at the patio of our house

 

a group of blooming agave below our New Mexico home
A bunch of agave just below the front of our house

 

a prickly pear cactus with yellow flowers
This prickly pear cactus has been living here much longer than we have

The many cholla (another cactus relative) have flowers too. There all volunteers, except for the potted cacti. Coming soon, more reasons to visit Silver City–and maybe some updates on deferred writing project.

 

 

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The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing and the Future of the Human Race

A so, so difficult book to wade through. For you, it might be easy and enjoyable. Still, I had to read it. The times demand it.

The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human RaceThe Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race by Walter Isaacson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I offered only an OK rating of two stars. That’s not to say that this isn’t a well-written book, for the right audience. Walter Isaacson had to have spent an incredible amount of time researching and compiling all the information within it. All those five star ratings and stellar reviews must have come from the right readers who found it great.

This is a science book. Very dense and heavy science. Misled by the many interviews on Walter Isaacson’s book tour, I didn’t realize that I was not among the members of the right audience. I thought this book would spend considerable time (it spent some, just not nearly the amount I expected) on the topics below:

The how and why mRNA and CRISPR were used to create both Pfizer and Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccines–and, most importantly, why reluctant people had nothing to fear from them. [I came away unable to find the words with which I could readily allay those fears of others. I had already happily got my shots, taking on faith the review and approval process–not to mention the lack of reports of any serious ill effects of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.]

The ethical quandaries gene editing pose AND the benefits of them for curing diseases. [Yes, looking forward to disease cures but not to enhancements the wealthy will seek for their children].

What then did the book cover?

In excruciating detail, a chronicle of every meeting, conversation, conference and lab experiment, paper submitted/published, patent applied for by hundreds of graduate students, post-docs and more among the biochemists, x-ray crystallographers, structural biologists, engineers, etc., who worked for or under, in competition or collaboration with or supervised Jennifer Doudna enroute to her well deserved Nobel prize that she shared with Emmanuelle Charpentier.

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G. Gordon Liddy of Watergate Infamy Has Passed On

It’s been nearly a week now since the leader of Richard Nixon’s White House Plumbers unit passed away. Many, if not most of you, have heard neither of him nor these plumbers. They had nothing to do with pipes in the White House. They were charged with doing what they could–legal or otherwise, to get Nixon reelected in 1972. As it turned out, he really didn’t need the help; he won by a landslide.

On the other hand, his second term ended early because of their criminal activity–and that of countless top White House staff or cabinet members in trying to cover up their misdeeds. Many of the perps went to jail, including Liddy. Oh, and then there was the tape of conversations between Nixon and those conspirators–that he had installed in the Oval Office–that was the “smoking gun” that the Supreme Court said must be released.

Quite a difference between them and former 45th President Trump.  Not nearly as many went to jail–though more still may do so. Nixon pardoned NONE of his criminal conspirators. Trump pardoned most of his. Unfortunately for those who stuck it out to the bitter end of Trump’s unsuccessful effort to reverse the 2020 election results, they didn’t get pardoned and now never will.

But let’s get back to Liddy, who served 4 1/2 years in prison back in the 1970s. Nixon resigned the White House in 1973, when it all came out. He would have been convicted in a Senate trial of impeachment–but it never came to that. The GOP has changed greatly over those decades–giving Trump a free pass, TWICE.

Notably, none of the media I read or watch had any word of Liddy coming to Trump’s aid on January 6th or any time over the four preceding years. One might be excused for thinking he might have followed in Roger Stone’s footsteps (or tattoo of Nixon on his back) working for Trump.

In 2015, we had dueling book reviews here on Views. One of Viktor Frankl’s best selling Man’s Search for Meaning. and one of Liddy’s memoir, Will. I won’t rehash that post; you can read it here.

But, I will repost my review of Liddy’s book, in somewhat sardonic honor of his recent death at age 90.

Will: The Autobiography of G. Gordon LiddyWill: The Autobiography of G. Gordon Liddy by G. Gordon Liddy
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

This has to be one of the most hilarious, surprising and ultimately tragic books I have ever read. Far into the book I remained convinced that Liddy must have been writing a self-deprecating satire of his life just to spite all the liberals, Nixon-haters and antiwar protestors of the Watergate era.

Who would brag about tying himself to a tree in a lightning storm to overcome his fears? Who would describe choosing his spouse in major part for her strong Teutonic stock? Who would extoll many aspects of the Third Reich?

But no, I eventually concluded, he was serious. He really did do all the nutty stuff he described. He really believed all the nonsensical things he professed. He really did all the criminal acts he was charged with and did so proudly–thinking that his self-perceived set of American values superseded the Constitution and the applicable laws. It explains a lot about his behavior during Watergate. That he not only was but still is so deluded is the tragedy. You should read the book, but check it out of the library–don’t buy it.

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A Review of Pines (first in Wayward Pines trilogy)

Pines (Wayward Pines, #1)Pines by Blake Crouch
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I watched the TV show and only now read the book. Some may like the TV show better. For me, the book is far better–with surprising literary qualities amidst the terror, the savagery and the mystery. Now I must wonder what happens in the next two books. It took the second season of the TV show (if my memory is correct) to reveal all (and probably things not in the trilogy). Here the big mystery is laid bare in book one, but not until the very end. Obviously the books and the show were very different. So, I must read the next two.

What literary qualities? OK, not so many, but here’s a couple samples:

“The sweet cold water. The bright sound of the river tumbling down through the canyon. The clatter of stones shifting under the current. The piercing blue of the sky. To be warm again lifted his spirits.”

and

“scooted forward until he perched on the edge of the alcove. The rain had stopped. The night sky hemorrhaging starlight. He’d never had the slightest interest in astronomy but he found himself searching for familiar constellations . . .”

You probably won’t read this book looking for literary motifs, but it’s interesting to me that a book like this has some.

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A Review of The Illustrated Hen

The Illustrated HenThe Illustrated Hen by Scott Charles
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Some have called it surreal. Others say absurd. It crosses genres. Read the description here on Goodreads for what’s up with the book. As a fellow writer, I look at it for technique even as I strive to be entertained. I did like it very much. Not everyone will. This is one of those books that will engender the “Huh?” response. As in, where is the author going with this. If you’re patient, you’ll find out. That requires your attention to be kept because you find it enjoyable. If not, you’ll just close the Kindle reader.

For me, it’s an excellent book with imagery that only occasionally borders on purple prose. The voice does vary, adding some confusion, which is resolved in time. That’s a pun, as you will learn sooner or later.
The book opens and closes with a frame—not so obvious in the prologue, yet that’s what is.

Without spoiling, here’s some foreshadowing from it:

“He paused briefly at the dates. The headstones shimmered a bit as he pulled his hand away.

She would be here soon.

He could see the energy rising up from the ground.

There was another Ray entering the tunnel. The possibilities were endless. Time was bending toward him but wouldn’t remain that way for long.

The headstones came back into focus, and she was standing there.

‘We’ve been waiting for you,’ she said.”

The opening chapter offers a PI character in negotiation with a shopkeeper. The narrative is vivid, putting the reader in front of the man. Again, in time, one will come to understand the point not of knowing the man but of getting why the description is supplied. The book is that well constructed.

“ ‘So what can I do for your, Burrberry comma Raymond,’ the man asked. He was a large, beefy fellow with a booming voice and thick framed glasses. He was holding up a business card and looking at it carefully. The man squinted through his glasses at the card, then Burrberry then back to the card.

The lenses were huge. The frames hung somewhat delicately on the bridge of his nose—a sculptured kind of nose, like you saw in those old Italian paintings.”

We could go on, but that risks telling too much. Here is the thing—it’s a story within a story. Rather, stories within a story. The writer’s voice varies because the stories do and it’s part of the evolution. Back and forth in time with characters and situations. It’s a rich book that I enjoyed. There are parts better than others. Parts that could have been better. But they can be overlooked as the sum of the parts makes for a wonderful whole.

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Review of Partners in Time

My first review of 2021–an intense love/hate suspense thriller with a ghost and an affluent couple nearly torn apart by an unlikely affair.

Partners in TimePartners in Time by Stevie Turner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A book I was reluctant to read, thinking it must be a romance like so many of the others with time-traveling lovers. Well, at least one of them moving through the years. Assured that it had a lot more than that-in fact, not so much romance but horror and suspense,  I downloaded the book.  I’m glad that I did.

It’s an odd triangle between a man and his wife who is not interested in having the children he wanted her to, and the ghost from a hundred years before who was more than willing to bear his children.

Doubt that I ever read a story like this one–with a ghost not just appearing all wispy and such, but enough in the flesh to have sex with a person. Jealousy, not surprisingly, ensues. Worse, once involved, the ghost gets involved with the screenwriting husband, she won’t let go. Much more and I risk writing spoilers. Suffice it to say that this book will drag you well into the story of how dangerous it is to get involved with a powerful spirit that can take over lives.

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2021–New Beginnings

It’s another new beginning. A new year. It could scarcely fail to be a better one than the last. Nonetheless, it’s off to a mixed start in the America, with the attack on the US Capitol.

We had hoped to be able to dispense with posts about Trump by now. Yet here we are, already well into 2021 and I must offer more pending his departure, in no more than 11 days from the White House, perhaps fewer. Will he resign? Be removed via the 25th Amendment or impeachment and conviction? Who can say.

By now I would usually have recapped the successes of the prior year and noted the goals or determinations for the new one. I don’t make resolutions; those are the things that late night talk show hosts mock for the failure of so many to achieve. Let’s skip the recap. Being retired and living atop a hill nearby to a small town kept us safe from the pandemic. Risk yes; trauma no—other than the usual ailments that accompany aging. Enough to deter some goals.

It’s only now that I am putting up my first post. I’ve been busy working on that compilation of short stories, verse and more that must be completed soon. Must only because that’s the determination. Without discipline to overcome obstacles that inevitably arise, goals will not be achieved. Thus, no resolutions. Tasks and an action plan—with a schedule, despite the likelihood it may have to be amended.

Meanwhile, America’s President has desperately done everything he could to retain power—unsuccessfully. Tacitly encouraging his most extreme followers to stage an insurrection. Over the past four years he has made such people feel free to engage in extreme rhetoric and violent behavior. All the while he has called for law and order and suppression of peaceful protestors against systemic racism and the policies of his own administration.

Among my goals for this year—and beyond, is to heal the divide that Trump has fostered and awaken those poor souls who have been deluded by him.  Those conned into believing that he cares anything at all for their welfare. Projecting his own psychoses onto them that he won an election that he lost and that it was rigged against him.

As Timothy Snyder recently said from Vienna, it is truth that is required to dispel the “Big Lie.” That big lie is what Trump has been spreading since November 3rd. [More on Snyder here]

I must create value each day—not only in my own life but in the world. That is my paramount determination.  That means less ranting about the malevolence of Trump and his sycophants who share his perspective that it’s their own advancement and benefit that is their guiding principle. Most, while professing some allegiance to the advancement of fellow Americans, have no other principles–that’s all they have!

So, here are some of my goals:

Get that first book out early spring. Then a novel in the fall. Both have many words already written. The novel requires more writing—plus editing and revisions. Watch for updates here—on release dates and progress along the way.

To get those books done, I must have a clear mind that is fatigue free. That’s not always the case—for reasons undetectable by my doctor. So, I must fix that myself. That is more a determination than a goal. One that I must achieve through my own assiduous practice of Buddhism.  As the Buddha says, one must be the master of one’s own mind rather than letting mind master oneself.

And, as Daisaku Ikeda says, “The real struggle in life is with ourselves. The true secret of success is the refusal to give up, the refusal to fail; it lies in the struggle to win the battle against one’s own weaknesses.”

Another goal–more mundane, perhaps, is financial management and planning. I have no expectation of an early demise, but I must simplify our finances and create some mini-tutorials for my wife just in case. The division of labor worked well when we were both working and had children under 20 at home. Now we both need to be able to do all a household’s tasks.

Yes, there’s many more objectives, but you don’t need to know about them all. Consider this one: There’s that vacation to Europe that didn’t happen last year. The one that’s paid for. Will it happen this year? Not so sure about that. But we must go somewhere. Even if it’s not until fall. COVID limits planning month’s in advance—as we and our travel agent would prefer. Maybe Canada with our dog—when Trudeau will let us American’s cross the border again. We don’t need an agent to do that.

The point is to have no regrets and to be confident and at ease with the turmoil that sometimes prevents completing tasks per a schedule. Defy the satirists and achieve those “resolutions” that you may have already set for yourself. If you need help. Check out this post from a past year. It has some tips to get you there.

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Wrapping up 2020 Heading toward 2021

Been busy on financial planning. Reflecting on avoiding COVID-19-so-far (plan on continuing to do so. It helps being retired and living in a small town in the middle of nowhere New Mexico. Okay, no slams on our environs–we like it here!)

People have been suffering economically, spiritually–not to mention medically. Mostly avoidable but for that idiotic Golfer-in-Chief. Hope in a vial is on its way throughout America (and the world) .

We, thankfully, have had only what aging brings–expected and frustrating but not incapacitating.  Had my last doctor’s appointment today. Nothing of consequence. All systems are functioning within normal tolerances. Check back again on this or that at various points in 2021.

Meanwhile Biff’s delusional behavior continues. He can’t accept being the biggest loser since Herbert Hoover. His sycophantic supporters are willing to destroy democracy to keep him from disappearing in a burst of psychological flames.  Enough of him. He’s become boringly predictable in his final days as Liar-in-Chief. History will not be sparing in recording his as the worst presidency ever in the US. Be circumspect in your schadenfreude, just consider the karma he must endure his remaining days and into the next several existences, most likely.

I will be posting news of the upcoming book, along with other 2021 plans and objectives after the January 5th Georgia Senate race runoff. That’s no matter the results. Barring unforeseen events this is it for 2020.

Until then, have a Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year. (In case you’re not aware, the X has a meaning in Greek that amounts to a shortened version of Christmas–it’s not some antireligious sentiment, although I am a Buddhist

I will be spending until Jan 6, working on that blogs into book collection with short stories that have been moldering on my hard drive. Have to get it out in the February/March time frame so the novel can get out by this time next year. Okay, I stepped in it again. But if one doesn’t have determinations, dreams can never become reality.

“Become the master of your mind; don’t let it master you.” The Buddha

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Review, Liars & Thieves

One more book review for 2020–may be running out of time for any more. 

Liars and ThievesLiars and Thieves by D. Wallace Peach
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Goblins, elves, changelings and more. Occasional humans too–rarely. It’s the interactions of the first three that holds the conflict and a storyline of finger-pointing over who is trespassing on whose territory–violating a treaty intended to keep competing interests from breaking out in war. They depend on one another–to an extent, so that’s preferable.

It’s my first reading of this compelling sub-genre and found it very entertaining. Just took a little while to figure out who was really who, their powers or attributes, and where it all would end up. I knew it really wouldn’t “end” because this is the first in a series. So, yes, I will read more.

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