Protests & Petitions

I’ve heard something like “Not My President” before.  Slogans were more direct in the ’70s:  “Impeach Nixon!”

It’s been years since I attended a protest or political rally, but the photos of then and now are similar.  These days I prefer signing petitions and sending letters to senators and representatives.  Still, I’m glad to see the protesters doing their job.

My assumption from reading the news was that the young wouldn’t step up, and, indeed, it was hard to get the Millennial vote out. In an  All Things Considered story,  “Young Voters In Pennsylvania Weigh In On Why Clinton Failed To Win State,”  a student at Lafayette College admitted he hadn’t even registered to vote. “It was more of a lazy thing, and I didn’t really like either candidates. And I should have upheld my civic duty, but I didn’t. So I kind of regret it now.”

And so we urge everybody to get ready NOW for the midterm elections. (Register to vote.)  And you might want to visit Bernie Sanders’s Our Revolution website to find out what the progressives are up to or  sign this petition at to abolish the electoral college.  

Protest if and where you will. There have been peaceful protests in front of Trump Tower in New York and Chicago:  I love the photo below of bicyclists protesting at Trump Tower in Chicago.

Bicyclists protest Trump Tower in Chicago, Nov. 18

And even I may turn out for a protest on Inauguration Day.  The big one will be in Washington, D.C., but it’s a big country, and you can find one in your own town.

Some protests are taking strange forms, though, and indeed I thought a theatrical political intervention well-intentioned but inappropriate.  When vice-president-elect Pence attended Hamilton on Friday night,  the actor Brandon Victor Dixon, who plays Aaron Burr, addressed a few remarks directly to Pence at the end of the play. It was a lovely, short, polite statement, co-written by written by the show’s creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda, director, Thomas Kail, and the lead producer, Jeffrey Seller, with input from cast members.  An excerpt:

“We, sir — we — are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights.  We truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us.”

Who couldn’t love it?  Very sweet.  But I have my doubts:  was it necessary?  Doesn’t the play say all that better?  And then  Trump went nuts on Twitter and demanded an apology for Pence, who said he wasn’t offended and didn’t want an apology.  Thank goodness!

Trump is “not my president,” as the kids say.  I am a Bernie Sanders supporter who voted for Hillary Clinton, who won the popular vote in the election.   But unless Trump goes to jail for fraud, he WILL be OUR president, so “not my president” is a technicality.  And that’s why progressives must seriously organize, figuring out how to reach all age groups with the Democratic party issues that are helpful to all classes (I still can’t believe the white male vote went for Trump!) and to find candidates who can inspire them.

At times like this we turn to Obama, who can give Trump, protesters, and everybody a few tips.

According to  Politico, Obama said at a news conference in Berlin with German Chancellor Angela Merkel last Thursday:

“I’ve been the subject of protests during the course of my eight years.  And I suspect that there’s not a president in our history that hasn’t been subject to these protests. So, I would not advise people who feel strongly or who are concerned about some of the issues that have been raised during the course of the campaign, I wouldn’t advise them to be silent.”


Stuck! Margot Livesey, Uncut Pages in Old Books, & Post-Election Grief

margot-livesey-jacket-mercuryI’m stuck!

I said I would read one new book a week.

I’ve rejected two in five days.  I’ll write about one today.

I slogged through 208 pages of Margot Livesey’s Mercury,  then skipped to the end.   My conclusion?  Fire the editor.

Livesey is a skillful, likable writer, and at her best she has an extraordinary imagination and a gift for moving a story vigorously forward. In the past her complex characters have included a modern Jane Eyre, an amnesiac, and a heroine with invisible companions.

You can almost see the outline of Mercury.  Like so many novels today, it lacks depth. Livesey’s unobtrusive style usually supports the unfolding of her narrative, but in this case the writing is leaden.

There is a coherent structure, but the narrative seems rushed.  Divided into three parts, the first and third parts of Mercury are narrated by Donald, an unhappy Scottish ophthalmologist in private practice who no longer does surgery.  The  middle part is narrated by his wife Viv, who left a corporate job to co-manage a local stable with her best friend, Claudia.

Donald and Viv’s marriage is disintegrating because their values have changed:  under the influence of a wealthy new friend, Hilary, Viv is pressing to send their son to a private school ($30,000 a year). Donald and Viv have always supported the public schools in their Boston suburb. He resents her neglect of the family as she works longer and longer hours at the stable.

And Viv’s narrative is even sketchier than Donald’s.  She didn’t achieve her goal to be a corporate CEO, so she quit her job in mutual funds.  Now at the stable she behaves like a CEO,  obsessed with training a horse named Mercury, covering up problems from her partner, and focused on winning competitions.  She becomes increasingly paranoid.

I’m not a horsey person, but this plot-oriented novel is not in the same class as Enid Bagnold’s National Velvet, mentioned here, Dick Francis’s thrillers, or Jane Smiley’s Horse Heaven. It is a weird marriage of literary and pop.  So disappointing, because Livesey is usually so good.

Do you think it a coincidence that two of the characters are named Donald and Hilary?  Well, yes, I do!


When pages are uncut in an old book, what do you do?

Online booksellers say to use an index card. Scissors work better for me. How about a letter opener?

Any suggestions?


I’m still living
in the dream we had,
For me it’s not over…
—Neil Young, “Big Time”

On Day Five after the election, I am still grieving.  It can’t be true…this is my country.

I rattle my pill bottles. Do you think Advil or Clariton would help?  (Homemade vegetable soup was the solution)

People are sad.  People are protesting. And people are desperately signing up for Obamacare before the Affordable Care Act is revoked.  According to Newsweek, more than 100,000 Americans signed up on Wednesday after Donald Trump won the election.

Live through the Nixon years, the Reagan years, and the Bush years, and you realize every generation has to fight over and over for human rights.  It is never over.  We signed the “I’m  Pro-Choice and I Vote” postcards 30 years ago and we still sign them.

One senses a certain Schadenfreude abroad.  Even in London, where I knew no one at all, I encountered anti-American feeling.  A chatty young clerk informed me  that the American governemnt was the worst in the world and that Obama had accomplished nothing. Not only was I the fattest person in the UK, but I had to be an American ambassador. I smiled, briefly praised Obama, and said Clinton would be the next president of the U.S.

Hillary Clinton did win the popular vote.  It’s a very precarious time, but all we can do is hope for the best. Let us hope the Republicans will reach across the aisles…work together with others…  I always have such beautiful dreams.

We can’t give up.

In a 1989 comic strip called “Point the Finger,” R. Crumb compared Donald Trump to Trimalchio, the vulgar millionaire in the Roman novel, Petronius’s Satryricon (which I wrote about   here).

As Crumb said, “And isn’t this a nutty kinda country where you can draw any irreverent, degrading thing about the most powerful people and nobody cares! You don’t get jailed. You don’t get persecuted. They just ice you out of the marketplace.”

All right, peace!  Here are four frames of the comic strip.  Laughter is good for us.