The Undecided

Following last night’s brawl disguised as a debate, I’m proposing election reform. Specifically, I propose that all UNDECIDED VOTERS be disqualified from voting in the 2020 election. If you still are undecided following last night’s debacle, clearly you lack the mental acuity to cast a vote for President of the United States.

Chaotic moments from first 2020 presidential debate.
Courtesy CNN

The mere fact that you approached the debates expecting to find that last nth of data that could nudge you off the precipice and into that verboten space the rest of us call commitment proves – as Jack Nicholson might bark – YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE VOTE!!!

Going into the debates at this point expecting they’ll help you determine who best deserves to lead the nation the next four years, means you haven’t been paying attention these past four years. It means you’re virtually starting from scratch.

You’re starting from ground zero. You’re effectively letting every single Donald Trump eff-up since January 20, 2017 slide. You haven’t been paying attention, or, despite year after year of this administration, you’ve simply chosen to ignore his lying tongue and disbelieve your lying eyes.
What possibly could Donald Trump have said in last night’s debate or say in either of the next two debates to sway your opinion of his job performance thus far?

Have you so quickly forgotten “good people on both sides?” Have you forgotten the Mueller Report and its myriad details of alleged obstruction of justice, corruption, collusion and potentially impeachable misdeeds? Have you forgotten he actually was impeached for strong-arming a nation and withholding our tax dollars for his own political purposes? Have you forgotten him calling Mexicans rapists? Have you forgotten s-hole countries? Have you missed how he’s violated the emoluments clause? Have you ignored his countless money grabs? Have you forgotten he’s an unindicted co-conspirator in a federal case? Have you simply forgotten the literally thousands of lies he’s daily told since taking office — including him lying about the severity of the coronavirus?

Speaking of the coronavirus, have you missed these past six months how he’s botched every minute of the pandemic? Have you been oblivious to the 200,000 Americans who’ve died while he’s obfuscated, and gaslighted, and misled, and done nothing, and lacked empathy, and mocked masks and his own administration’s medical guidance and pressured states to reopen too soon simply to advantage him?

And not just the pandemic: Have you watched him stoke racial tensions in the wake of George Floyd’s murder? Have you approved of him using law enforcement and the military to squelch protests? Have you seen him refer to BLM protesters as terrorists but have no same such disgust for white militia and supremacists?

Have you watched him kowtow to Putin? Did you miss that he compromised our fighting forces’ security abroad by saying not a single word about Russia placing bounties on the heads of American military men and women in Afghanistan? Of course, that shouldn’t come as a surprise since we’ve also learned — and apparently, you’ve forgotten or dismissed — that he’s called folks who serve in the military “losers” and “suckers.”
I suppose if I were to dismiss all of that, I too could go into the debating season pretending that Trump and Biden are on equal footing. I could buy into some false equivalency of them both being out of hand last night talking over and insulting each other.

I guess if I too turn a blind eye to the death, destruction of norms — to the it-is-what-it-is-ism — I, like you, could be somehow undecided. But, I’ve seen too much to wallow in final hour indecision.

Truth is you’re not so undecided either. You’ve simply decided none of the chaos matters.

(c) Copyright 2020, Jonathan Clarke, All Rights Reserved

Sunday with Annie Mae

My grandmother, Annie Mae Jones, and I would sing around the house. I remember this in technicolor even while so many other memories of her fade now to washed-out grays and blues. I remember watching the soap opera, Another World together. I remember us watching the games shows, Concentration and Jeopardy with Art Fleming. And I remember the two of us singing. I credit those song-filled afternoons with tuning my ear and shaping my harmonizing skills.

Whether we used a hymnal or not evades my report, although a hymnal most definitely would’ve been available if needed. The frayed, red, Baptist Hymnal was a fixture in the apartment she shared with my aunts, along with a trusty King James and some albums—James Cleveland and Mahalia Jackson no doubt.

As I think more on it, I can’t imagine that Sweetie and I — that’s what we called my grandmother— would have needed a hymnal when the songs of the faithful were planted, watered and fertilized Sunday after Sunday in God’s House.

Sweetie would arrive Sunday mornings at Brooklyn’s Bethany Baptist Church and slowly ascend the building’s stone steps. I’d escort her into the sanctuary, down the far right aisle and over to her spot midway down that row of pews — a distance from the pulpit, an arm’s length or two from the stained glass’ radiant glow. Right now, I see her clear as daylight hobbling down the aisle, her cane leading the way.

On non-Children’s Choir or Youth Choir Sundays, I’d sit beside my grandmother in “her” spot on “her” pew, belting out the congregational hymns’ harmonies, working my darnedest to compete with the gargantuan pipe organ.

Hymns are restorative, reassuring and reaffirming. Raised in unison in the congregation of believers, they provide a glimpse of a Heaven that would be. Lifted in solitude, they bind you to the community of saints now and long departed; they update your contract with the unseen HE:

I am Thine, O Lord I have heard Thy voice And it told Thy love to me.

At the piano this afternoon, I played that while Sweetie and I sang.

(C)Copyright 2020, Jonathan Clarke, All rights reserved

Who Really Believes the President is Taking Hydroxychloroquine?

You know and I know Donald Trump isn’t really taking hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malaria and lupus fighting drug he hails as a coronavirus game changer. For starters, can you fathom any physician — least of all the president’s doctor — prescribing for the patient-in-chief a drug that has been linked to deaths in certain patients and, potentially, could end this particular patient’s life and the physician’s career in one smooth swoop? Sure, the White House doctor publicly may give Trump some air cover. But deep down, you know this claim is false like any number of the daily untruths that effortlessly part the president’s lips.

President Trump tells reporters he’s taking hydroxychloroquine to protect himself from coronavirus

Even if Trump convinced a doctor to write the prescription, can you imagine Trump taking a potentially lethal dose everyday? I don’t see it; that’s too much risk for old Donald John.

Trump doesn’t take risks. The risks he appears to take are fake ones that shed any semblance of peril once you pull back their veneer.

In business, Trump may look like a risk taker. But that’s only because business risks aren’t so risky when stiffing your contractors is your norm and bankruptcy is a viable business practice as it has been SIX TIMES for him.

He’s a risk taker in marriage for sure if you define risk as infidelity. It’s really no risk at all when someone approaches marriages as transactional and disposable as Trump has appeared to.

Friendships are risky with all their emotions and vulnerabilities. But Trump lacks the real emotional and empathetic tool kit one brings to a friendship. Furthermore, he’s disloyal to a tee, conveniently tossing loyal associates beneath the bus at the absolute first sign of trouble. Turning on friends is classic Donald Trump and proof that friendship is loyalty-free and risk-free in his world.

He’d risk your life before he’d risk his. That thousands of his supporters might blindly follow their leader and emulate his apparent recklessness matters not to him.

The risks Donald Trump takes aren’t truly risks at all.

Real risks, life and death ones like going off to war, are nonstarters for folks like DJT. It’s one thing to chance losing a presidential election when merely running for office builds your brand. Conversely, there’s no recovering from death on the battlefield. That sort of permanent, life-altering or life-ending risk is not the kind he takes. He’d take a bone spur before he’d take a bullet.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with that; relatively few of us own the fortitude to make target practice of ourselves. However, most of us also don’t have Trump’s ponderous compulsion for fake bravado.

Trump’s counterfeit bravery is sufficient to make the implausible claim he’s taking a drug that in the very real sense could end his life. But death, we know, would all but guarantee no second term. And that‘s a risk he’ll never take.