Archive for January, 2021

Dear Mr. President, We’re With You

Thursday, January 21st, 2021

    Dear Mr. President, sir, Mr. Biden, Joe … 

 President Joe Biden

President Joe Biden

   Wow, this is harder than I thought it was going to be. After four, really almost five, years of writing virtually nothing but columns of anger, fear, shame, bewilderment, outrage or embarrassment, writing a simple note of congratulations and best wishes is proving to be a challenge.

      But it is the necessary and proper thing to do. Already, that’s a change.

      I guess I wanted to start by saying that it’s not every presidential election in this country that is greeted with a huge, “Thank God!” when the final result is announced. Even atheists, maybe especially atheists, had that reaction when you were pronounced the winner last November. Yes, I know and recent days have demonstrated that not everyone was pleased with the result. But I for one have sensed a profound feeling of relief and hope arise in this country, “Joe won!”

       Thank God.

       The final weeks before your inauguration were … frightening I guess is the appropriate word. The assault on the Capitol by racist Trump loyalists shook America and the world. But, as you and others have noted, we survived. Democracy survived. I always felt we would, but then I did not think it would ever come to that horrifying scene of Jan. 6.

       Yet here we are. No subsequent violence, as warned against. Instead, many calls for unity, some certainly motivated by self-preservation. There is, I think, a palpable calm across the country, a result of being rid of the chaos and anger of the last four years.

       I do not envy you your challenges, but I do have faith that you understand them and will not seek to avoid or downplay them. I look forward to a measure of decorum and honesty that had all but disappeared from the White House. I also look forward to an opportunity for another era of growth in America. It is my sense that millions of my fellow citizens, including many who did not vote for you, are grateful to have survived an attempt to dismantle our democratic republic and are more than willing to do what is necessary to fix what we learned was broken.

       To me, this means holding those responsible for assaulting our laws and principles accountable for their actions as well as initiating a comprehensive effort to re-educate many Americans on what Lady Liberty stands for in the New York harbor, what “liberty and justice for all” really means in the Pledge of Allegiance.

        It will not be easy and many will resist at first. But sending the truly traitorous to prison will undoubtedly get the attention of many of the merely ignorant. As always, hope lies with the new generation.

        Mr. President, I know you know all this, but I think it’s important you know how many of us are with you in confronting this challenge. There are actually happy memes on Facebook again. I will undoubtedly disagree with you on some policy or another, but I don’t expect to be slandered on Twitter because of it. For my part, I will try to go back to my professional approach of not using profanity to express my opinion. I will also write a more specific letter in the near future on actions I think need to be considered. (Your executive orders undoing much of the damage of the past four years and your plan for dealing with Covid are a great beginning, by the way.)

      In closing, as someone who is a few months older than you, let me say I hope you get plenty of rest, pay attention to what you eat, exercise regularly and maybe give Kamala Harris more to do than most vice presidents typically get. It couldn’t hurt.

      Again, congratulations and be well.

Bob Gaydos

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com.

A Quiet Walk Midst an Insurrection

Saturday, January 16th, 2021

By Bob Gaydos   

The insurrection.

The insurrection.

  I took a walk around the pond  Wednesday afternoon, January 6, a little before 4:30. It was cold, but still light out. The sun had just begun to set. As I walked I thought about how lucky — privileged — I was to be able to enjoy such a quiet moment in such a beautiful place in such a shithole country.

    No, friends and family, I haven’t moved. I still live in America, in a particularly scenic part of it, I think. For new readers, that place is upstate New York. It’s a place where a man can be alone to enjoy nature, if the man turns off his electronic devices.

     Two hours of watching live news reports out of Washington, D.C., had made me feel something I had never felt before — a combination of fear, anger, sadness, shame and profound outrage. The calming words and presence of President-elect Joe Biden had finally broken the spell the scenes of chaos had cast on me. It will end, I told myself. It will not succeed. There aren’t enough of them. They are all fury and delusion, taking selfies as they lay waste to the seat of government of the country they profess to love. Ignorance and arrogance, the Trump formula. In the end, it fails, but oh the harm it does. He doesn’t care. They, the rioters, are too dumb to know. That’s the nicest way I can put it. Or they are racists. Or both.

       Those are the facts. And for several hours on a Wednesday afternoon, as our Congress was attempting to perform its constitutional duty of confirming a new president,  these “Make America Great Again” terrorists made it look like one of those “shithole countries“ their leader once referred to with intent to insult. Yep, that’s what it looked like to me. …

                                                        ***.                                     

        … As I resume writing, it is now a week later. Trump has been impeached, again. Incitement to insurrection. Five people died in the attempted coup on The Capitol, including a police officer who was beaten to death by the rioters. White rterrorists carrying a Blue Lives Matter flag killed a Capitol police officer. They spread feces and urine throughout the building. They ransacked offices and went looking for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Mike Pence. The whole time, the rioters took selfies of themselves. Eventually, they went home or some D.C. bar, apparently thinking that would be the end of it. Just a friendly little failed insurrection in the nation’s capital, broadcast live around the world.

           If you stop to think about it – and apparently the rioters did not — the ignorance is astounding. It is surpassed only by the hypocrisy of the Republican members of Congress who encouraged and invited the assault and who voted against seating Biden as the duly elected president, even after the insurrection had been quelled. They stuck to the lies of the election being stolen from Trump, even though every one of them – except for perhaps a couple of conspiracy lunatics — knows that that is a lie. It was Trump’s biggest and most dangerous lie. In truth, a treasonous lie.

         Since that now infamous Wednesday, much more has been revealed about the attack on the Capitol. It wasn’t as innocent as it first appeared. There was a plan. There may have been inside help from some Republican members of Congress. Maybe even from the Capitol police, who were woefully unprepared for a massive event that was announced well in advance. There was a delay in getting National Guard troops to the scene, perhaps caused by someone in the Defense Department.

          There will be investigations. May they go on for as long as necessary and bring to justice all those who we’re involved in this assault on America. Every last one of them. Homegrown terrorists. White supremacists. Members of Congress. Conspiracy nuts. Nazis. Klansmen. Racists. Pick a name. The list includes police and ex-military members as well. The attackers were virtually all white, which is why they are still alive. Lock them all up. People who bring swastikas and Confederate flags to attack the seat of the government of the United States of America deserve no mercy.

           Trump now stands accused by Congress and convicted by the majority of the American people and the rest of the world of Inciting an attempted overthrow of a duly elected government. But his accomplices in the Republican Party are also guilty. They have ignored his assault on democratic principles for four years, out of fear or for their own gain or because they agreed with him. They deserve what they’re reaping. The party deserves to die. May it be reborn in some semblance of a responsible political party, perhaps including those Republicans who had the courage to speak out publicly and fight against Trumpism.

            America has been put on notice. There are those among us, appearing publicly as patriotic citizens, but operating out of hate and fear that their dream of a white, Christian nation with everyone else second-class citizens, is about to die. And in their foolhardy effort to avoid that fate, they may have actually hastened it. Republicans who remained silent, evangelicals who remained silent as Trump ravaged democracy, all stand indicted. Those who supported him financially along the way and now seek to distance themselves, all stand indicted. Rupert Murdoch and Fox News stand indicted. 

            In a country Trump would call a “shithole,” those seeking to overthrow the government usually try to get the military on their side if they hope to succeed. When they don’t, they don’t. As I watched with Lester Holt on NBC News as the idiots stormed the Capitol, I kept thinking, well, sooner or later troops with weapons and bullets will arrive. Hopefully, with orders to shoot. I also was dumbfounded that people were posting images of themselves on the Internet as they perpetrated this terrorist attack against this nation and gave no thought to the fact that this would make it easy to track them down and arrest them. Ignorance and arrogance.

              Yes, we have a lot of work to do, but the first thing is not to give into Republican pleas of coming together for the good of the country. They spent four years quietly watching Trump tearing the country apart. They must pay the price. I repeat, there are many more of us than them and what is necessary now is for all who know and love and respect what this nation is about to speak out forcefully in defense of it. Bring to justice those responsible. Convict Trump. Convict him again and again on whatever charges may be filed when he leaves office. Teach young people that actions have accountability. When we get around to it, teach young people about civics and government and history in school again. Clearly a lot of Americans slept through those classes. Evangelical Christians are on their own in this one.

           Joe Biden faces a monumental task when he becomes president on January 20, but he will have full control of the Congress to back him up and, I believe, fervent support of a vast majority of Americans as well. That white mob that assaulted the capital was an embarrassment to this nation, but maybe a lesson as well. American exceptionalism was put to the lie.

            No, this is not a “shithole” country, yet. I can still take a quiet walk around the pond every day. But those who would take the right to feel that safe and at home in this country away from anyone whose skin color or nationality or religion or politics they find fault with must know there can be no healing until the wounds are closed, Not until the guilty are prosecuted and those who aided and abetted admit their guilt. Not until journalists are not casually referred to as “enemies of the people.” Not until children are not put in cages. Not until all lives truly matter.                      

            Enough.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com.

         

           

            

         

          

Trump Leaves a Stain, if not a Brand

Tuesday, January 5th, 2021

By Bob Gaydos

Work continues on the old Trump casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey. It will be imploded this year.

Work continues on the  demolition of the old Trump casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey. It will be imploded this year.

    Donald Trump, as he often brags, is all about branding. Indeed, his entire career has been about slapping his name on something … and then running it into the ground through incompetence and illegal practices. 

     Thus far, nothing, be it a casino, a college or a charity, has escaped his capacity for self-destruction, for tarnishing the one thing he loves above all — his brand.

      Now, as he challenges the certified results of a fair election with lies, threats and hints of violence, he’s in the midst of his most ambitious destructive campaign of all. The target is the Constitution. Our Constitution. The one all Americans supposedly learned lessons about in school, but millions of us, including some Republican members of Congress, have apparently forgotten..

      Trump’s four years in office have been a non-stop assault on the rule of law and the principles laid out by the nation‘s founders more than two centuries ago. They have also been a gross insult to the office of the presidency as he has sought, by hook or by crook, to put his brand on it. Loyalty to him was rewarded. Independence and respect for the law was attacked. Political rivals became enemies to be ridiculed, much in the manner of the schoolyard bully.

      Always, though, like the bully, when push came to shove, if Trump did not have sycophants to protect him (Senate Republicans on his impeachment), he retreated into his world of lies and lawsuits. His lawsuits on the election results were farcical and insulting. His lies … well he clearly can’t stop. That leaves threat. As usual, it’s couched in language intended to sound positive.

      “I hope Mike Pence comes through for us,” Trump said Monday night in Georgia, where he was supposedly campaigning for two corrupt Republican senators who deserve to be stripped of their jobs.

       I’d say poor Mike Pence, but the mute Vice President deserves to be put on the spot: Declare Trump the winner even though the votes and the Constitution say otherwise. Pence has no choice Wednesday but to declare Joe Biden the next president, then prepare for the insults from Trump. Pence knows that. But instead of walking in to the Oval Office and invoking the 25th Amendment and making himself president for a few weeks, he’s let the Trump enablers in the Senate have their moment of seditious drama, intended for the audience of loyal Trumpsters. It’s a cynical ploy worthy of Trump, who clearly has put his brand on the once-proud Republican Party. May it suffer the fate of his other brand ventures.

    But while applying his unmistakable brand to the GOP, Trump has also left a stain on the presidency and the Constitution that is worse than anything he has done in private life … that we know about thus far.

     And so, as Georgia counts votes tonight and Congress counts votes tomorrow, millions of Americans stand by, with masks, sanitizer and gallons of tarnish remover, to help President-elect Joe Biden scrub and scrape the stain and stench of the Trump name from the presidency and ensure that the Constitution, though somewhat bruised, has not been rebranded. That Trump has failed once again.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com

      

Streaming My Way Through a Pandemic

Friday, January 1st, 2021

By Bob Gaydos

 

George Clooney and Brad Pitt, streaming in one of the “Ocean’s” movies.

George Clooney and Brad Pitt, streaming in one of the “Ocean’s” movies.

    Apropos of nothing, the list below represents a significant portion of my at-home viewing entertainment in 2020, the year of the pandemic. If it’s representative of anything, it’s what I did when I wasn’t writing about you know who.

      I don’t see any pattern in the list, except maybe that George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Paul Newman, Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington all appear more than once. What the offerings all have in common is that they were not on television. All were streamed, thanks to Netflix, Amazon Prime, YouTube and Disney Plus. If the stock market is reflective of anything, it appears a lot of other folks were passing the time streaming 2020 as well.

      Everything on the list is a movie, not a series. (I’m counting “Mangrove” as a stand-alone.) There were a few of those, too, as well as varied educational offerings, which I have been told will help to keep my mind razor sharp.

      But these are all one-shot features, some old, some new. I’m not critiquing any, but I do welcome any comments or questions you may have on the list as well as recommendations for 2021. I’m serious. I found this to be one of the few things that people could talk about last year without arguing and that I could write about without using the word, “Dotard.” …

     Darn. Habit. Happy New Year and happy streaming.

The List:

The Laundromat

The Pianist

The Commuter

Book Club

Julie/Julia

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Philadelphia 

The Danish Girl

The Peacemaker

The Coldest Game

Ladies in Lavender

A Serious Man

An Inspector Calls

The Rainmaker

Where the Money Is

Hail, Caesar!

The Double

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

The Battered Bastards of Baseball

Nobody’s Fool

Quartet

Minority Report

Rocket Man 

To Catch a Thief

The Gardener

Ocean’s Twelve

Ocean’s Thirteen

The Social Dilemma

Secret in Their Eyes

Cafe Society

The Departed

Halston 

My Octopus Teacher 

Hank

Man of the Year

Mangrove

The Dressmaker

Cookie’s Fortune

Greyhound

Margot Fonteyn

Uncle Frank

Bombshell

Deja Vu

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Bikram

Diana: The Royal Truth

Pippin

Amazon Empire

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com.