My 2019 Christmas/Hanukkah Letter
And y’all are mah friends, be you from the South where I am (well, Florida) or, as Woody Guthrie would have it, from the California to the New York island, from the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters. This land is your land, this land is my land.
Alas, our land is under siege. Thomas Paine’s words from nearly 2 ½ centuries ago echo today: “These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.” (Hmmm … I see that he corrected himself after snubbing women’s souls.)
Am I the first person to call forth this patriotic cry from the past? To paraphrase Pete Seeger, where have all the pundits gone? Is there any more apt expression of today’s political milieu? We have two political parties – one determined to halt the overthrow of our democracy by a would-be autocrat, the other equally entrenched in defending, nay, promoting, this abysmal human being’s subversive ambitions.
My, the times they are a-changin’, as a societal observer from a much later era proclaimed in song. In the ’70s, Republican senators came to the rescue of the country, deciding Richard Nixon had abused his presidential powers and had to go. Their patriotism prevailed over party. It will be a miracle if that happens to the present occupier of the White House, as Bob Dylan’s status as a seer is manifested. Retired Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona opined that at least 35 Republican senators would vote to convict and remove Donald Trump from office if they could vote in secret. But that isn’t possible, and all, or nearly all, of these people sworn to uphold our Constitution will vote to retain him, despite an abundant awareness of his corruption, his consorting with our adversary Russia to undermine our election security, and his unprecedented lack of fitness, intellectually and psychologically, for the office of president.
Senator Jeff Flake
But where does the fault for this self-serving, politically spineless behavior ultimately lie? It rests with the 40 percent of America’s population that disgracefully worships this cult figure. They are why these senators will not do what’s right: They don’t want to offend their Trump-supporting constituents. Some of these people simply close their eyes and ears to the never-ending parade of childish, narcissistic, traitorous, and grossly incompetent manifestations in the execution of his duties as the leader of the free world. They are either woefully unaware, or simply don’t care, their blind ideological obeisance preventing them from acknowledging the moral rot that prompts, for merely one example, the telling of 15,000 documented lies in less than three years. The man insists he is innocent of any wrongdoing in his capacity as president, yet finagles incessantly to prevent the appearances of witnesses who, if he is correct, could exonerate him. He is the only modern president to withhold his income tax returns, and moves heaven and earth to obviate their disclosure. All of this is obvious to his supporters, who refuse to concede, well, the obvious: He has a lot to hide. They continue to hold him blameless and become even more supportive. The inevitable question arises: What does that make them?
“Well, I don’t approve of his personal behavior, but like his policies,” is the mantra of those who realize how ridiculous it is to ignore his despicable personal behavior. The economy is doing great, and unemployment is lower than it’s been in decades. Uh-huh. How many of them know that, while economic growth has continued under Trump, it is slower than it was before Obama, who righted a sinking ship despite overwhelming opposition by Republicans determined to make him fail, left office? For that reason, the progress was gradual rather than dramatic, which ensured it would outlast Obama. How many concede the fiasco of Trump’s tariffs; of the failure of his tax gift to corporations and wealthy individuals that sent our national debt soaring; of his remark that “I won’t be around” when reminded of the future crisis it will cause; of the alienation of our allies; the overturning of a treaty with Iran that was by all accounts working as intended; the treasonous favoritism he accorded our enemy Vladimir Putin over our intelligence agencies; the failure to make any progress against the brutal North Korean dictator, with whom he claimed to be having “a love affair”; the betrayal of our ally, the Syrian Kurds; and most important, his denial of climate change, retreat from the progress under Obama in combating it, and refusal to participate with the other nations of the world in working to prevent the erosion of quality of life and destruction of our planet that is on course to occur in the not-very-distant future?
Had enough? I’ve likely offended some people, but we’ve reached the point where politeness is no longer an option. A substantial percentage of our population needs to be shaken to its core, or we’re all going down with the ship. There are many, of course, whose frozen brains seem to be beyond thawing. Popping up just now on my Facebook page is a photo of Trump, hands folded and eyes closed as if in prayer, with the message: “Let Donald Trump know we are completely behind him, and may God give him the strength to continue his calling.” Jon Voight Then, “Say yes if you stand with President Trump!” To which a woman responds, “Yes we do.”
It appears to be a parody, a Saturday Night Live skit – but it’s real, and a real person, a high school classmate from waaaaay back, sent it. It’s actually hilarious. The gullibility is staggering, the ignorance profound.
This immersion in political and sociological affairs has consumed yours truly at a time when said time is of the essence in his endeavors. At the moment, I’m downing one of my daily sets of supplements intended to keep me healthy and maybe prolong my years on earth, the selfish part of my wish to keep the planet alive, because I’ll need to survive to age 120 (about triple my current age, right?) to accomplish all that’s on my plate. A number of amazing medical advances are underway: gene editing, RNA (ribonucleic acid) interference to prevent defects in cell replication (hope I got that right; I had stock in Alnylam, sold it, and it’s shot up 50 percent since October 1), something called Miracle Blood, which already was used in a war zone to save the life of a wounded, profusely bleeding soldier, and other developments.
Judge Curtis Chillingworth
Upon finishing this letter, I will go back to the tasks at hand, mainly authorial in nature. I expect to meet in January with two Palm Beach filmmakers who produced a series of 13 podcasts on the most lurid murder case in Florida’s history. (https://tinyurl.com/ujssyeu) In 1955, the revered Circuit Court Judge Curtis Chillingworth and his wife Marjorie were abducted from their beachfront home at gunpoint and taken out to sea, where weights were attached to their legs and they were thrown overboard. The aftermath continued for several years in a series of events so Machiavellian as to stretch the bounds of credibility. The filmmakers, whose fathers were judges and friends with the Chillingworths, plan to make a documentary film.
Governor Lawton Chiles
I spoke at length with one of them about the assassination that occurred in my book Murder in Palm Beach: The Homicide That Never Died, and he expressed much interest in looking into it. But he hadn’t responded after two or three weeks, and I feared he’d talked to their friend, a lawman and successful author. I’d given him a copy, over his objections, and asked for a testimonial. He pooh-poohed the idea that the central character was wrongly imprisoned. That made sense: I learned that this author’s father was a local judge, and a bevy of judges had denied 25 appeals for a new trial before Gov. Lawton Chiles and the Florida Cabinet commuted the convicted man’s sentence. That was another reason I doubted the two filmmakers would decline to consider a film: the brotherhood of judges.
I was wrong. The filmmaker got back to me, and said he and his partner were quite interested in the project, but were ultra-busy with other projects. We should get together after the holidays, he said. So there is hope.
Simultaneously, I will need to begin what’s called the pre-launch of my upcoming novel, Blood on Their Hands, for which I signed a publishing contract the first of January. Publishers don’t like to be harassed, but I was getting no satisfaction from queries, and became a bit more pointed. I’d missed the holiday sales period, but January and February are good sales periods, too, and I tactfully pushed for publication. Turned out the editor had messed up, and left with a pile of books unedited. I’m No. 6 on the list for the new editor, who can’t finish before mid-February, and who hoped for a March release. Winter over, people begin spending time outside. Frustrating.
But wait (i.e., wake up), there’s more. I’m working on a book, creative nonfiction, about a woman whose mother was a prostitute, was abused by her father, grew up in foster homes, and turned to a life of crime. She ended up marrying a much younger man on death row, and he was beaten to death by guards. She got an attorney to sue the Florida prison system, and the guards were charged with murder, but were later cleared. Nonetheless, reforms in the system were instituted.
Thirteen years ago, a Texas filmmaker who did some work with Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon wanted to do a film on the woman’s life, but she objected to his approach. He heard I planned a book, and we now are collaborating. He’s getting antsy for me to finish, and I’ve written only 5,400 words. So I gotta get movin’.
In the past year-plus, I’ve spent a few weekends in the Tampa/St. Pete area, New Smyrna Beach on the east coast, Orlando, and Fort Myers. In all locations, I marveled at the friendliness and willingness of people to go out of their way to be helpful. I plan to revisit Fort Myers, population 82,000 and home to four jazz restaurants, compared to none in Palm Beach County, with a population approaching 1.5 million; and spots in the area for ballroom dancing. Two questions remain: 1) What about the market for women? 2) How could a dyspeptic person like me find harmony with such a congenial environment?
After all of the political fulminating, you might wonder where I stand on the Democratic presidential primary. For a while, I wanted to play it safe and vote for a moderate. No more. I’m all in for Elizabeth Warren. She is a good, compassionate person; the most thoroughly versed in policy solutions; the most enthusiastic; one of the only candidates relying on grass roots campaign contributions; and the best one for challenging Trump on the debate stage. Pollster Frank Luntz said she would eviscerate him, and I can just picture Trump resorting to ad hominem attacks, painting a clear picture of himself as the consummate jackass, which apparently is still not obvious to a lot of, well, consummate jackasses. The biggest problem in our country, to my mind, is the indescribably huge wealth gap, and Warren would make the obscenely rich few pay up, restoring to a small degree the levels of taxation in effect before the advent of Reagan.
Dr. Rachel Bitecofer, the political scientist who predicted the addition of 42 Democratic House seats four months before the 2018 mid-terms, and missed by one, has forecast since July that any Democratic candidate, with the possible except of the socialist-identifying Bernie Sanders, would win. As she did with the House elections, she bases her belief on turnout, which will, she thinks, be massive for the Democrats. We can only hope.
But you know what? I’m giving it a 50-50 chance that, if Trump loses by a narrow margin – or maybe even if it’s a landslide – he will refuse to leave. Wouldn’t it be delicious to see that man led out of the White House in handcuffs? Yeah, vengeance is mine, saith the Lord – but I think he’d make an exception this time and hand it over to his followers. Christmas would be only a month away – a truly merry one.
Meanwhile, the message this holiday season is one of hope.
So to all, Merry Christmas/ Happy Hanukkah, and a Hopeful New Year
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