Tag Archives: division

The futility of political discourse?

What a civil political forum looks like

What a civil political forum looks like

Has our political discourse grown futile?

The combination of misdirection, false statements, exaggerations, misplaced emphasis, character attacks, slander, lies, and too little time to research all of the above for anyone but political obsessives (like myself) makes an intelligent vote a somewhat elusive outcome in what passes for our modern political campaigning.

That said, I had an opportunity this past Saturday to participate in a civil, disciplined, even enlightened political process that just might serve as an antidote to the modern campaign.

This past Saturday, two seasoned political journalists asked each of our partisan gubernatorial candidates, Democrat Ralph Northam and Republican Edward Gillespie, who they are, why they are running, and what hopes they may harbor for the Commonwealth if elected this November.

Among the “hard questions” posed, Dale Peskin asked Mr. Gillespie about his “attack ad” charging that Mr. Northam was indifferent to MS 13 gang crime, that he’d release gang members to the streets, and that he favored “sanctuary cities.”  No matter that there are no sanctuary cities in Virginia, that Mr. Northam opposes the creation of any, and that Mr. Northam supports prosecuting any and all crime, whether it’s the MS-13 gang or any other kind.  Mr. Northam said the ad was “despicable and inaccurate” and nothing less than “fear mongering.”  Later that day Mr. Gillespie campaigned with Mr. Trump’s Vice President.  Mr. Northam compared how Mr. Trump campaigned last year with how Mr. Gillespie was campaigning this year. Continue reading

We the people

Protest in Richmond (photo by John P. Flannery)

Protest in Richmond (photo by John P. Flannery)

There’s a Chinese curse – “may you live in interesting times.”

We are living in “interesting times,” in fact, in quite challenging times.

We worked our heart and soul to elect the first woman president of the United States.

That’s both interesting and “historic.”

Virginia wanted Hillary.

The nation needed her.

According to the popular vote, the nation preferred that Hillary Clinton be our next president.

But the electoral college is the constitutional measure of such things, and thus we shall have a failed casino operator, Donald Trump, as our President – a crass, disrespectful, cursing, hate-filled, lying, intolerant bully, who pretends to know much about everything, while having little experience at much of anything having to do with public policy and governance.

This man ran down our nation for the last year, picking fights, pushing people around, promising somehow, by these tactics, that he’d make America great again.

Trump doesn’t know what makes this nation great.

It is that we conceived of ourselves as a nation as one united – one from many.

This “got-your-back” promise of unity has been our nation’s North Star, what we have fought to perfect from the very beginning.

We have struggled in fits and starts, not without pain, not without blood and suffering, indeed, not without a civil war, not without women being jailed and tortured for demanding the right to vote.

The French made a gift to this still young nation of a tall statue, a maiden who stands with a flaming torch of liberty uplifted high for the whole world to see, beckoning the suffering masses to our shores to find freedom.  We’re not going to go back on that promise, are we?

What could be a more grievous violation of what makes us great, than to divide our nation.

President Lincoln said – “a House divided cannot stand.”

More than any time in my life since the 60s, have we seen such intolerance by a presidential candidate based on a person’s skin color, gender, religion, nation of origin, and sexual orientation.

Mature citizens who are hardly politically obsessive, who are just plain folk, cannot sleep.  Perhaps you couldn’t either.

Children cry at home and in class because they know and they fear we are re-defining our nation’s social contract; they are being counseled.

Protesters take to the streets, the vice-president elect is booed at a theater in New York, and the President rebuffs an actor’s plea for reassurance, signaling the President elect’s low threshold to strike out at others.

We are also hard-pressed in the history of American politics to find anything like Russia’s intrusion into our presidential election.

FBI Director Comey irreparably intruded into this election in the final days of the campaign.

These compromises of our electoral process eclipses Nixon’s dirty tricks in 1972. Continue reading

Divided devotion

ironcrossI ran Sunday morning.

It was on an island, Vasilievskiy, in St. Petersburg, Russia, a long walk or a short taxi ride across one of several bridges from the island to the Hermitage or the main drag, Nevsky Street,

The island had hardly any traffic, and few stragglers, in contrast with the celebrations across the Neva River, at the center of St. Petersburg, commemorating Russia’s 1945 victory over Germany in World War II.

There were local parks and broad avenues to run, until the streets narrowed into a warren of quaint back streets, and I came upon some local folk walking, heads slightly bowed, speaking softly in Russian.

I stopped running, and was soon walking with them.

The women wore muted colored scarves pulled over their heads. The men were unsmiling but not unpleasant. The children were moderately respectful of their parents’ directives.

After a block or so, adult singles, couples and families, turned out in pleasant dress and manner, formed a swelling stream of humanity headed toward a narrow security gate just ahead.

A solitary thin woman in a long black dress stood across the street, not far from the gate, framed by a magnificent small church topped with sunlight brilliant gold eggs, each the height of five men, with crosses fixed above that brushed the blue sky.

The crowd gathered at the narrow check point, just past the darkly dressed lady, crossed the barrier, and marched onto a broad walkway.

It first appeared to be a park or garden, but then more like a natural forest.

It was the Smolenskoye Cemetery, hundreds of years old by the dated headstones.

Crosses standing over unseen grave sites emerged from a back lit growth of grasses like they were flowers instead.

Concordant with the complexity of nature, there was a harmony in this place of what is with what was.

Nature seemed to embrace and lend life to the dust we contemplate is our end, salving the pain of the living walking among their remembered loved ones.

A large crucifix lay flat on the ground, at an angle crossing the grave site, resting on a bed of flowers.

There were the signs left by the living in memory of those they lost, saying something about who they were and why they mattered and still do to those who are with us.

One family had placed photographs encased in aged porcelain of a married couple, in separate photos, smiling as they had before they left us for this garden of what was.

Those who bury their loved ones know such places.
Plainly, the people of this island in St. Petersburg struggled to find a way to say something special and different; the usual just wouldn’t do.

This was a place of grief but also a place of love and reconciliation and respect.

An older slight lady, in a warm sandy coat, weighing as much as her frail self, bent by age, a royal purple scarf about her head, sat by the side of the walk way, a bag of her things beside her, her white cane resting against the slight hill’s decline. She didn’t ask for alms except by the sad empathy that hung about her. I had only a few quarters, and no rubles. I gave her what I had. She looked up into my eyes and crossed herself.

russianwomanHard nerveless working men wrapped their arms about their women as they left. Some cried. They comforted each other. Young and old, comfortable and working poor, all made their devotions in different ways. Young children seemed to learn something from their visits – if their restrained and respectful conduct, as they were leaving, was any indication.

How can people around the world feel love for those they lose and still harbor hate and suffer division from others who care as much for those they’ve loved and lost?

Why does human kind suffer this arrhythmia?