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Personal Winter

by on February 5, 2020

Personal Winter

by Marco M. Pardi

An inability to stay quiet…is one of the most conspicuous failures of Mankind.” Walter Bagehot. Physics and Politics. 1869

All comments are welcome and will receive a response. Those who experience difficulty posting a comment are asked to send it to me by email.

As Tonio walked into the dark forest in knee deep snow, his parachute buried, his M2 carbine with folding metal stock slung outside his insulated jumpsuit, four extra 30 round “banana” magazines pouched in his inner vest and a Beretta with two extra magazines in a tilted cross-draw on his waist, he heard it. Utter silence. He chuckled to himself; ‘ How does one hear utter silence? Or does one hear that it is utterly silent?’ He despised the .30 caliber M2. More than a pistol, but less than a rifle, it had a selector switch for semi or full automatic fire. From experience he knew unless one’s first shots included a kill shot one practically had to walk up to one’s target and ask him to lie down and die. He thought about what people said about Winter. That things died. But he knew that wasn’t true, as he pictured the buds of Spring emerging and noisy life bursting forth everywhere. Life was merely waiting, planning its next moves. Just as he was as he caught the first whiffs of chimney smoke from the chalet. Tonio was aware of his surroundings.

Winter is here. And perhaps Tonio was wrong. Some things do die in winter. Some plants and animals die. Some trees we assumed would always be there die. And in our personal winters ideas die, assumptions that life would go on as we have known it die.

Okay, here’s the point where some readers groan that I’m going off on another political rant. Yes. BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!

Politics: The social contract composed of agreed rules and procedures for protecting the defined rights of members, the duties of members, and their relationship to non-members. While some readers in other countries may be inclined to pass on this entry as irrelevant to them, I hasten to differ. How a society (let’s call it a country) decides its rights is not merely an internal function. The framers (presumably members of the society) of the original social contract, “The Constitution”, of the United States designed a government consisting of three co-equal branches. They did so specifically in reaction to and in rejection of the monarchies which had long ruled the societies from which they came. The Bill of Rights, augmented by later Amendments to the Constitution, spelled out the rights of citizens, or fully vested members of the society. But although “freedom” was a fundamental concept and catchword inherent throughout these documents, it was poorly defined and not well regulated. Thus, individual States define and limit freedom differently, sometimes contravening federal law such as now regarding the possession and use of marijuana.

What I am sensing now is the deepening silence, the falling of Winter, in the presence of what might be the most fundamental betrayal of founding principles the world has yet seen: The refusal on the part of the “Republican” dominated Senate to hear witnesses and/or to examine evidentiary documents during what developed as the blatantly sham Senate impeachment “trial” of a president, who is from the Republican Party. Our Arabic speaking readers may recognize it as, al-nakba, the catastrophe.

At first this Party claimed the acts, bribery of a foreign government to interfere in an upcoming election, and obstruction of the House of Congress by ordering all Executive Branch employees to ignore legal testimony requests from the House investigators and by withholding all documents across government did not happen. Then we were told they did happen but were not impeachable offenses. And, we the public have been told to “get over it”. Finally, the White House has claimed that a relevant forthcoming book by the former National Security Advisor, John Bolton contained classified material and could therefore not be published.

The general public, as indicated by polls, seemed well aware of the actions of this regime and had registered a consistent 70% in favor of hearing from all potential witnesses and seeing all relevant documents. The Republican dominated Senate shut that down. But more interesting than the Senate’s move, which was expected, is the current absence of outcry that the elected Senators (and the Republican members of the House) betrayed their constituents and their oath. This is a “Representative Democracy”, which means the general population elects individuals to represent their views and values in the House of Representatives and in the Senate of the United States. A 70% demand as reflected in the polls means people of all political views, including Republican, wanted to hear witnesses and see documents. The Republican senators said No. Furthermore, each and every senator took a solemn oath to serve impartially in the impeachment hearings and render a decision on the basis of the arguments introduced therein. However, several Republican senators came out beforehand on national broadcasts saying they had no intention of being impartial and had made up their minds before hearing the opening words. Thus, they perjured themselves in taking the oath.

All right. Enough said about the mechanics of the U.S. political system.

The Republican Party has been trying to shut down radio and television programs on National Public Radio (NPR) and the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) practically since their inception. In their minds, programs such as Sesame Street, which teaches children essential skills along with love and tolerance, are subversive, socialist, probably even communist. The topical discussions on other programs, airing views from all sides, risk enabling thought to break out among the population. And if the population is honestly informed, and thinks about what they are learning, what happens to a regime which is setting itself up as the Ministry of Truth, the antidote to “fake news”, the people’s champion against the free press – “the enemy of the people”?

But why is this descent into Fascism of importance to readers in other countries? Several reasons. Anyone who has been awake for the past few years is aware of Climate Change and the fact that over 97% of the world’s scientists are alarmed by it and Man’s role in it. To those who tout the remaining 3% of scientists as some kind of counter-proof I would suggest a review of the number of doctors and scientists who accepted fees to throw doubt on the effects of tobacco. The current U.S. administration is now acting on a long standing Republican agenda about the environment. (I related in an earlier piece how I stood next to a major Republican Senatorial official and listened to him crow about Trump’s election: “Now we can do whatever we want!”) Years later, Trump himself has claimed he can “do whatever (he) wants” and is overturning the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act, is gutting the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency, the USDA food inspectors, the FDA drug approvals process, and the Endangered Species Act. When I spent five years combating the cholera epidemic in Latin America I was reminded that water knows no national boundaries. The same holds true for air. What the United States does to the water and the air does not stop at its borders. Nor do ideas. With the United States leading the Cult of Climate Deniers, how many countries will be willing to adopt the admittedly hard measures needed to mitigate the accelerating climate crisis?

With the election of Trump the United States pulled out of the Nuclear Agreement with Iran and several other nuclear armed countries, an agreement which all parties agreed was working. How long before other countries in the region, such as Saudi Arabia, decide development of nuclear weapons is in their best interest as well? The Obama administration imposed serious sanctions on Russia for its annexation of Crimea and its incursions into Eastern Ukraine. The Trump administration is softening and/or slow-walking those sanctions, albeit while delivering token lethal aid to Ukraine. (Such aid is never gratuitous; American taxpayer money is handed out on condition it be returned through the purchase of materials from select American companies, enriching the few while taking from the many. My years with USAID clarified that for me.) In order to support its narrowly based economy, sinking due to reduced oil and gas values, Russia covets the energy rich regions of Eastern Ukraine and the monopoly it would gain on the European energy market. Are the long standing Trump family efforts toward building hotels in Moscow an influence in our government’s response to Russian aggression?

The United States looks the other way while China provides North Korea with hard currency – devoted to its nuclear program, through the purchase of dirty coal from North Korea; coal mined by hundreds of thousands of political prisoners literally worked to death in the mines. Trump boasts that he and Kim are “in love”. The rainforests of Brazil and Indonesia, the “lungs of the planet” are disappearing, along with the indigenous people who try to protect them, in order to feed the gluttonous maw of the American agricultural and meat industry. What other countries will refuse the short term monetary gains achieved thereby?

Ideas live on. An impeached American president has joined with an indicted Israeli head of state to tout a “peace plan”. Objective analysis indicates this plan would effectively be the imposition of apartheid on the Palestinians still living in what is now Israel, placing them on tiny strips of unproductive land under the complete control of the Israeli military. Sound familiar? It’s a rerun of the American Reservation system imposed on the Native Americans who were in America thousands of years before the European invaders. Seeing this example placed before the world with smiles and handshakes, what countries will resist the opportunities to treat their minorities and their refugees in similar fashion?

Already I’ve heard people say this winter will pass as they always do, things will return to normal once this aberration has passed. Life will resume and go on. But the regime dominated Senate, while admitting that Trump’s attempt to extort a nation in desperate need of military assistance was wrong, is about to acquit him of this crime against the Constitution and acquit him of obstructing Congress. In doing so they are shifting unconstitutional power to the Executive Branch and completely dismantling the founding principle of three co-equal Branches; they are establishing a dictatorship. Is this the stellar example of democracy to which aspiring democracies around the world should look?

The iconic Tree of Liberty is not hidden in a silent forest. It lives within each of us who understands that liberty carries with it responsibility, the responsibility to relentlessly search for the answers which are right for the nation and the courage to bring those answers into bloom. Its branches and its leaves are those ideas which arise and develop as we search.

Winter is here. But when it passes, will we recognize the Tree? Are we aware of our surroundings, or are we just resolved to accept what greets us as we awaken?

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14 Comments
  1. Dana permalink

    Marco, I will admit I was really excited for a new installment about Tonio’s life. You’re a tease!

    But, everything you’ve said here is critical. The past few nights I’ve been so exhausted I’ve fallen asleep with the television on, and every morning I awaken with some new and disappointing story about the impending acquittal.

    Am I surprised? Not at all. If Donald Trump can get elected in this country, why wouldn’t he be acquitted? Nothing surprises me anymore. It’s been said he could possibly wind up with a Nobel Peace Prize for his “efforts” with N. Korea. Okay.

    Some days I awaken almost feeling I’m in an Onion News story. 2012 or so was probably the height of the Onion’s popularity. Today it is becoming increasingly difficult to determine what is satire and what is reality.

    I’ve always found Winter mostly bleak and depressing. Sadly, my mood and how I feel about the season matches the State of the Union. Some days Canada looks better and better, but I have responsibilities that keep me here. So here I remain.

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  2. Thank you, Dana. The Orwellian comparisons are coming true. I fear for the safety of the many people who bravely testified before the House inquiry. Their careers are certainly trashed and over, but they must now take serious measures to ensure their safety. Perhaps they can seek asylum in Canada.

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  3. From Ray: Very powerful message Marco. Watching the State of the Union as many fellow Canadians regularly do, I couldn’t help but wonder if Trump had done anything but good in the last four or so years since he sought the presidency – at least as he tells it. It must have been embarrassing for those Americans who can can tell the difference between facts and well massaged fiction. HIs words were a parade of well convenient statistics, partial truths and outright lies. It was the best of times ever or so he would have you all believe. And I was embarrassed for you all. I know America can do better.

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  4. Thank you, Ray. The current Republican Party has called a Fascist regime, a crime syndicate, and a front for American oligarchs. But the most recent description is one I’m quickly coming to accept: A Cult.

    Cults spawn very dangerous behavior. I have growing concerns for anyone who dares to speak out.

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  5. Bill Boyd permalink

    Thanks again, Marco, for another clear view on what we’ve always faced–whether we’ve seen it or not. Admittedly, in a sense, too few of us have had to endure fascism in any of its variations.

    Being a post-WW2 child, I, in a sense, lucked out. But it was always there lurking, wasn’t it? How many recall the days of George Lincoln Rockwell and the world-wide cult he attempted to foment, cultivating allies in Britain, South America, and parts of Europe? Why do many tend to believe that that movement went extinct?

    To those who suggest, as you note, “…people say this winter will pass as they always do,” I’d suggest investing in gaining a handle on the longer view, while we nurture deeper critical thinking in all those we encounter, starting in our families and communities.

    Bill in Virginia

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    • Thank you, Bill. And I strongly express my appreciation for your discussion of Rockwell. I maintain that, to this day, there is no mention of the American Nazi (Fascist) movement which swept this country. Of course, we know now it was heavily backed and funded by the giants of industry in their attempts to counter the Labor movement of the 1930’s and early 1940’s – a movement many saw as communist inspired.

      You are quite right in reminding us that Rockwell type sentiments and beliefs have not gone away. Indeed, we can look to our local school boards and library boards to find many such believers.

      I just don’t see how this is going to end, at least not well.

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  6. jkent33 permalink

    As I read along of what you write it is right on par with reality. No need to go on about this current administration’s behavior regarding that which we all hold as truth; because, it’s been that way since day one. Simply, agree with the statistics everyone knows most is filled with falsehoods. There is no telling the effect it has on our health since he started. Even worse will be the damages our children are be facing until we gain some sort of control. It’s in the hands of our senators who by a large majority live in denial they have any control without committing suicide. Well, from what I understand their silence will be their demise in the hands of the voters both right now this hour and day. This fall we hope the voices of the masses will render a decision vital to our long-term plans that brings us back ASAP to restrain the development of destruction. I can’t begin to accept our water and air qualities damaged beyond repair. We must all do what is right for our long-term future!

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  7. Thank you, Jerry. You and I have lived through a lot, but I cannot rest – and I know you can’t either – while this danger faces our children and grandchildren. The Cult of Trump would eat their own children if they could find profit thereby.

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  8. From a physician living and working in a low income area: Hi,

    I read your post, watch as much as I can stomach of national politics (which isn’t much I’ll be honest), and work in a disheveled rural area where heavy drug use is sky rocketing. Not marijuana- meth and heroin (the term ‘dope’ has referred to heroin for at least 15 years). Like Pence’s Indiana HIV outbreak, we have inter-generational use and kids start using as early teens- what chance does a 14 year old on meth have?!? What chance does this person have for supportive relationships, a job that sustains them, or any ability to engage in the system.

    I am so angry by the stratification between those on TV and those working minimum wage- my neighbors.

    We all feel we are close to a tipping point- I think our current affairs will require community initiatives to fix. Social support, not a pill or antidepressant. Then maybe we can foster an environment that prevents someone like Trump from getting elected again. But ultimately, I think he is just the head of the pimple.

    I hope I will see and be able to participate in fostering this change in my lifetime. Maybe when I’m 80 things will be better. (I already disarmed 1 male chauvinist – who thinks twice about making woman jokes now. Sometimes you just have to prove someone wrong by your actions..

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  9. Thank you, Dr. I neglected to touch on this important area, a negative coping mechanism that will surely increase as the current regime slashes every and all forms of assistance to the less well off while they increase obscene tax breaks to themselves. This is precisely how oligarchies form. But the regime seems to have forgotten the Cardinal Rule: Keep the masses just happy enough to stave off revolt. Bread and circuses.

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  10. From Elizabeth: I’ve been feeling depressed as of late regarding the politics in this country and I’ve been trying to understand why. Maybe it’s because I identified with the illusion of what I thought was a great country with intelligent and free-thinking people.

    Why would republicans sell their souls and country for a madman and conman? Can I still have faith that my Medicare and Social Security will not be taken from us now that the king can do anything he wants?

    My brother (a Latino and Trump supporter) lives in El Paso, Tx and didn’t piece together that the White nationalist, who drove hundreds of miles to kill Mexicans while shopping at Walmart, was inspired by Trump. I had to remind him that the White terrorist came after he and his family. I don’t know what’s going to happen with the upcoming election. I feel that Trump will not leave if he loses. The Supreme Court and the senate have his back.

    As Gandalf said “The rule of law was given to lesser men”.

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    • Thank you, Liz. We need to remember that Hitler did not just walk out of a Munich beer hall and take over Germany. He was groomed, coached, and ushered into advancing positions by people who thought they could put a popular rabble rouser into the highest office and then control him behind the scenes. The world saw how that turned out. The “Republican” (actually the American Fascist) Party has a long history of doing this: an already impaired Ronald Reagan (with G.H.W.Bush running the government), a simple minded G.W.Bush (with Dick Cheney running the government), and a carnival barker fraud artist Donald J. Trump (with Mike Pence and Moscow Mitch McConnell running the government). But the mob of “lesser men” has taken over the asylum.

      I think it quite possible that when Trump is defeated in November the Fascist Party will react with force. When was the last time you heard of Democrats and Liberals coming to a political rally armed to the teeth?

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  11. Every morning, my brother rants about what Trump and his minions are doing to this country. He claims that his opinions are based on facts, while anyone who disagrees with him are the victims of rumor and innuendo. One of those rumors is that a failed impeachment voids the defendants first election, allowing for the possibility of two more terms in office. I shudder to think! Knowing that Trump has voiced admiration for at least one head of state who declared themselves “dictator for life”, and for those who rule their people through fear, my fear is that he will now follow suit. Is there anything which will stop him now? That he was acquitted seems to have made his followers even more fanatic in their support of all that he is and does. I fear for my grandchildren; what kind of world will be left for them?

    I deal each day with a woman whose mental and medical state has allowed her to slip away from the reality of the world in which we live today; there are times when I envy her.

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    • Thank you, Rose. We are indeed fully in a time of fear, on a great many levels. I do not know the veracity of the claim about acquittal entitling a third term and this is the first I’ve heard of that. Nonetheless, I have no doubt some mechanism will be “discovered” or invented to justify such an attempt. And what is all the more frightening is the apparently large number who will support it. The term “Cult” to describe the so-called Republican Party is gaining currency, as it should. And we must somehow fight this cult as we would any other cult. More than just harm to its own members, it directly threatens every person within its reach. And in this case, that means the world at large.

      Like

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