Thursday, 25 February 2016

No More Jokes. Trump Isn't Funny Any Longer

I have been down here in the Southern Home now for almost three months. The weather has been middling for a Miami winter and while the natives may enjoy it and don turtlenecks and Ugg boots for the season, the snowbirds and weekly visitors are less than enamoured. Outdoor activities have  been severely curtailed by rain and chill. F*** You El NiƱo!!

There have been far fewer Canadians in the region this year due in large part to the drastic drop in the Canadian dollar so that anybody visiting can't really shop or buy anything unless one is willing to sell the soul of their first born in order to make up for a 40% price difference. F*** You global economy!

So what is a winter resident in the United States of America to do to keep busy in the face of a shrinking tidepool of activities? Well, once I got past blogging, writing, exercising, reading, Words With Friends encounters, guitar playing, and Facebooking the only thing left was to glean entertainment from the inanity that is the presidential primary season.

Initially, it was easy to be amused by the clown car of candidates that were populating the airwaves and newspaper pages. I often felt as though each and every person running was campaigning to survive the tribal council and be the last individual left on the island. These assholes were more compelling as Bachelor candidates than they were as serious presidential material and believe me, arranging a shitach (match) for any of this women-hating bastards would be a tough sell, including Carly Fiorina! The debates made for some light titters and hefty guffaws, though. Rubio stuck in robot mode. Ted lying through his smarmy capped teeth. The Donald rolling his eyes at Jeb! We laughed. Long. Hard. Loudly. It was preposterous, outrageous, and non-sensical. But....and I can't say this strongly isn't funny any longer.

Here's the thing. This shit is real now. And it's about to get more real in the coming weeks.

Up until this week, I honestly thought that the Republican elites (translate that to the big money guys) would find any means, ethical or unethical, to derail the Trump Bump. I thought that we would see gargantuan sums flooding into the Rubio campaign and with it a shift in tone coming from Florida's junior senator. It was time to get down in the mud with the dirtiest pig in the race, and even if Marco wasn't entirely comfortable with it, he would be duly schooled in the art of character assassination by the party elders. It isn't that I am a fan of Marco Rubio, mind you. Quite the contrary, in fact. My analysis was based purely on what I saw as the primal, almost pathological need of Republicans for winning back the White House in November. Rubio seemed to be the last "non-crazy" standing.

I was wrong! Oh so very wrong.

This race is now the pompous, megalomaniac, demagogue, misogynist, racist, rampant xenophobe, birther, bullying reality star's to lose. And there doesn't seem to be a damn thing that the GOP establishment can do to stop him.

Today we were treated to the news that Trump leads Rubio down here in Florida by 16 points. 16 f***ing his home state?!? Assemble the virgins, the apocalypse is upon us. It's all over but  the combover.

But...and it's a big honking but....herein are two words why the jokes need to stop and the serious work needs to begin.

Rob Ford.

Yes folks! (That was a deliberate Fordism) Take it from this live just outside Torontonian. Asshole extremist, unqualified, right-wing populists can and do get elected to office and it is a disaster waiting to happen. My beloved hometown is just now recovering from the collective nightmare that we venomously refer to as "The Ford Years". (Before you think that this is some liberal bitch spouting claptrap, understand that this is consensus from  both left and right.) Rob Ford took our wonderfully progressive, cosmopolitan, multicultural, liveable, forward-thinking city and stunted its growth by at least four years, if not more. Like other cities, we have serious problems that require serious attention. Poverty, homelessness, transit, infrastructure repairs....were all left on the back burner while the mayor spouted bullshit catchphrases, promised the moon with money that didn't exist, alienated everybody who wasn't like-minded, and all of this happened before the crack and public drunkenness. (Hey American friends...aside from the substance abuse, does any of this sound familiar?) Toronto became the international butt of a thousand jokes, and nothing of consequence got done during his mayoralty unless of course one counts the paperclip census done at city hall.

Late night comedians loved Rob. He was always good for a laugh, almost manna from heaven. Local TV networks followed him around like puppies searching for the teat. Rob was great for ratings. But most Torontonians tired of his antics quickly and completely. Yes, there is still a devoted following that would like to see him make a triumphant return to the mayor's chair, but thankfully that group is now the minority.

Donald Trump is Rob Ford in a better fitting suit. (And he isn't merely running for mayor. He is striving to become the most powerful man in the world.) He is a rich dude pretending that he understands the minimum wage worker. He panders to the worst instincts in society so that he can gin up great TV ratings and become the "breaking news" on every channel. He says outrageous things so that he can dominate the 24-hour news cycle. He is a master manipulator and a genius at self-promotion. And...he is the living embodiment of the "dumbing down of America." Trump is no longer a joke. He is inherently dangerous. He is now within sniffing distance of the Oval Office and that should scare the collective pants off of every American voter.

I realize that the options are limited. I realize that there is a battle raging on the Democrats' side of the ledger too. I get it. But the world can co-exist with either Bernie or Hillary. As much as we progressives might hate to admit it, the world could have also dealt with Rubio, Christie, Jeb!, or Kasich. But The Donald? HELL NO!!! Stop laughing America because the rest of the world ceased giggling a long time ago. The joke isn't on you. It IS you!

P.S...I didn't even address the lying sack of dog poo who was born in Calgary because in many ways he is even more dangerous than Trump. If he gets close, I will write about him too.

Saturday, 20 February 2016

My Shabbat Online

My Shabbat morning was strangely schizophrenic today.

I spent the first part logged on to my home synagogue's brand new streaming feature so that I might partake of our weekly Torah study and to watch the Bar Mitzvah of an extremely involved and capable young man. I haven't yet found a synagogue down here in the Southern Home in which I feel entirely comfortable, so the connection via the interwebs is much like wrapping myself in a warm blanket sent from home, especially on Shabbat.

Following services, I switched on the TV and found myself watching the funeral mass for Justice Antonin Scalia. It isn't as though I am enamoured with funerals, nor do I consider myself ghoulish, but I have been struck this week by the tremendous polarization of the Justice and his opinions, and by the outpouring of both tributes and enmity at his passing. I was curious to see how the Washington elites on both sides of the political aisle might come together to honour a man who was nothing if not extremely controversial throughout his career.

Having little to no previous insight into Justice Scalia's personal life, (such is my lot as a passive Canadian observer) I was surprised to discover that one of his sons is a priest and that he was the celebrant at the mass. I was struck by Fr. Scalia's grace and composure as he honoured his father. As someone who has officiated at many funerals, I was rather surprised at his ability to set aside his own grief for the sake of his faith, and the public ease with which he was able to carry out his religious duties. And so...I tweeted the following:

Within seconds, I was inundated with likes, retweets, and discussions. I have been using Twitter for many years now, and I have never before (even in the Rob Ford heyday) had so many people interact with me. Even more stunning, was the fact that most of them were extremely conservative Christians and right-wing Republicans with whom I have very little in common, at least on the surface. (As I write this, the Twitter interactions are still pouring in.)

But I suppose that just by noting something with decency and with a modicum of courtesy, my tweet struck a nerve with others who were watching. It is easy to heckle and criticize, or to praise and dogmatize Justice Scalia for his opinions and his polarizing views, but today he was being remembered as a father and a devoutly religious man by the people who loved and knew him best...his family.

One woman who engaged me in a very respectful conversation wondered whether or not I felt it "emotionally healthy" that the son was presiding over his father's funeral. And while I am not in any way, shape, or form a therapist, I responded that while I had always abdicated the bimah when my family was involved, I had learned over many years that there is no right or wrong way to deal with grief and death. Perhaps the good Father required this ritual as a tangible method of managing his own sorrow? Perhaps his faith was that which enabled him to get through a very rough personal time, and more importantly, who are we to judge? The woman who asked me the initial question, an atheist by description, quietly and humbly acquiesced.

My interaction today with the Twittersphere was enlightening. We all know of the filth and excrement that can and does burrow deep within, but today showed me that while left and right can fundamentally disagree on politics and religion, there are many out there, on both sides, made up of lovely, decent, and caring people. Believe me when I say that I wouldn't want to see an entire court made up of like-minded justices, but today Antonin Scalia was just a man being mourned in a most profound way by his son and the rest of his family. And in one little corner of Twitter, civility reigned for just a brief moment in time.

Not a bad way to observe Shabbat if I do say.

Monday, 15 February 2016

National Anthem Quick Hit

I haven't written in quite a while, so I thought that I'd give a very quick hit in order to answer some of the burning questions that have been lighting up my Facebook page this weekend and that I really don't feel like engaging with on said social media site.
  1. No....I didn't watch the NBA All-Star game or any part of All-Star weekend. I am not a basketball fan and that wasn't going to change simply because the all-star game was held in my hometown. The game's beauty eludes me, so I won't pretend. I hope it was great, that many were excited, and that Toronto performed well on the international stage.
  2. Yes...I did see Nelly Furtado sing O, Canada.
  3. Yes...I do think that she butchered it.
  4. No...I do not think that national anthems should be styled nor interpreted to suit individual singers. National anthems are not merely songs. They are musical representations of a country's national psyche and pride. If an artist wishes to "interpret" a song, pick a different melody and certainly a different venue. Would we fly a stylized Canadian flag at the event with a blue maple leaf just to suit the whim of an artist? 
  5. No...I don't think that National Anthems should be sung before sporting events. 
  6. Yes...Lady Gaga can sing.
  7. Yes...Ne-Yo can sing.
  8. Yes...Nelly Furtado can sing.
  9. No...I didn't get chills when any of them sang the anthems.
  10. Yes...I am a proud Canadian.
  11. No...That doesn't change because I'm not moved by the singing or playing of a national anthem.
Tomorrow's quick hit post may be about politics. Beware.