Jeff Spevak, Writer

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Tag: Jamal Khashoggi

There’s no hiding from the Trump Apocalypse

My Friends Rick and Monica have a 1950s-era bomb shelter in their basement. Rick turned it into a rec room, and put the pool table right in the middle of it.

I’ll bet they’re having second thoughts about that now.

Millions of us saw this coming, and that’s just one reason we voted for Hillary Clinton. And, quite frankly, Al Gore before that. Even so, the depth of this Trump disaster, and the speed at which it has happened, seemed inconceivable to most of us. As fans of The Walking Dead, Rick and Monica should have expected The Trump Apocalypse. The end of American Exceptionalism.

The United States is now just one more ridiculous banana republic.

Even sunlight doesn’t kill Trump’s vampires. They’re operating now in plain sight. On Thursday, Attorney General Bob Barr announced that the Department of Justice is dropping a felony charge against former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn, who admitted in federal court to lying to the FBI about his communications with the Russian ambassador. Excusing Flynn is part of the Trump administration’s scheme to make the impeachment of the president look like some kind of Democratic Party-led, Deep State insurrection.

To put it simply, this has never been done before. No legal scholar can point to a case where a government official has plead guilty – twice, mind you – to such a crime against his nation, and then been told… “OK, off you go.”

All we can do now is throw up our hands and run to the nearest bomb shelter. The foundation of our country, the rule of law, is gone. It was only a figment of the imagination of a court system that has built the largest prison population in the world, most of them non-violent offenders.

Let’s not fool ourselves. This inequity has been America for a couple of centuries. Right, black people? Right, poor people?

I grew up about 20 miles from Kent State University. Last week was the 50th anniversary of the Ohio National Guard murdering four students, and wounding nine more. I was 13 years old. Too young, and surrounded by too many adults who actually thought those students had it coming, to understand what an obscenity this was.

French Revolution aside, hoping for a nation change course is like watching an ocean freighter make a 360-degree turn. It takes a while. But at least we can attempt to move in the right direction. You can skip the next two paragraphs because, as a smart person who remembers history, you know that…

In eight years under Barack Obama, we saw positive change happening. We came out of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, huge strides were made in LGBTQ rights, the auto industry was saved, the Bush torture policies were stopped, we saw new laws protecting the climate and the environment, the war in Iraq was ended, Osama bin Laden was captured and killed, consumer protection acts were introduced, the Iran Nuclear Deal and the Lilly Ledbetter act calling for equal pay for equal jobs for women were signed, and the Affordable Care Act made health insurance a right, not a privilege, for millions of Americans. And Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.”

That’s the kind of guy Barack Obama is. We also saw an elegant, educated, well read, smart, real, and sometimes even funny family living in the White House. They liked dogs.

Now what do we have?

Listing the insanities of the Trump administration is a useless exercise. The sheer volume of lies and bullshit and lack of empathy and grifter mentality has numbed the ability to react among those of us who have our own lives to live. We endure new outrages every day. The decent world has lost respect for the United States, as Trump excuses murder and racism by insisting there are “good people on both sides,” and watches as Trump builds cozy relationships with world leaders we should revile. Saudi Arabia murdered and dismembered a journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, who worked for The Washington Post. Yet Trump has continued to play clown prince to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who apparently ordered the murder of Khashoggi.

Trump, at a G-20 summit 1½ years after the murder, even shook bin Salman’s hand.

What would Trump’s reaction be if a Republican senator were murdered and dismembered by bin Salman’s henchmen? Pick any senator, I’m beyond caring.

Trump has lowered the bar on everything.

He never seems to smile, he only smirks. And he does not like dogs.

And now Rick and Monica’s bomb shelter resonates with the crack of pool balls. I’m just mad I don’t have anywhere to hide.

I have to go now… There’s a bunch of dead people banging on the front door.

BE THE FIRST in your neighborhood to know when a new Critical Mass has been turned loose. Go to the “Subscribe” button on the web site jeffspevak.com for an email alert. You can contact me at jeffspevakwriter@gmail.com.

 

When worlds collide

The view from behind The Spring Chickens.

A few months ago, I was complaining to My Friend Alayna that, “Everyone wants me to write for them, but…”

She finished my sentence: “No one wants to pay you. Now you know how local bands feel.”

I don’t mind being thought of in that company, as long as I can feed my dog. But the freelance life is tough. One week in October, I put $4,000 in the bank. The next week, nothing. The week after that, nothing…

It’s the never knowing what’s going to happen next month, next week, that gets to you, while waiting for one of the non-existent jobs I’ve been talking to people about to suddenly appear. So I’ve taken a job elsewhere. At Record Archive. It’s a temporary thing. I’m helping them during a busy holiday, they’re putting some money in my pocket and adding some structure to my life.

This comes after taking a step back and spending a few weeks evaluating the world. I stopped blogging, even. Haven’t done one since – looks like since Oct. 21 – while… well, while just dealing with it.

This should have felt like a triumphant year. The first year in my life that I’ve actually sold a book, 22 Minutes, to be published next spring (See the Oct. 17 blog entry on that below). All year long, I’ve been doing what I want to do, write. Freelancing for WXXI and others. Writing for myself.

But there’s a shadow over every word. It’s been a lousy year. When worlds collide, that’s when we really feel the fragility of existence.

It’s more than this Trump thing. The daily barrage of outrages and lies from our president and his White House communications team, led by its human spit valve, Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Reducing the United States to stooge for the world’s despots. For years, I thought I lived in a country that set a high moral standard for the rest of the world. But, no. Jamal Khashoggi, a journalist who lived in this country and wrote for The Washington Post, was murdered by a 15-man hit squad from Saudi Arabia, and our president’s reaction was: “Meh…” Rejecting his own intelligence reports, and accepting a Saudi argument that the journalist was “an enemy of the state,” Trump argues that such atrocities are acceptable, if they keep down the price of a barrel of oil. And because the Saudis are good clients of our weapons industry.

That’s an economic policy with limits. If Trump were offered a deal that having his fingers and head cut off, and his body dismembered and disposed of, would assure low prices for Americans at the gas pump, I don’t think he’d go for it.

It’s been a lousy year because I looked at the news this morning and saw that America continues down its intolerant path, tear gassing children and their parents at the border. People who are seeking asylum from poverty and violence in their home countries.

It’s been a lousy year because, even though I was laid off by the Democrat and Chronicle 14 months ago and have negative feelings about the place, I still have good friends who work there, and I consider newspapers to be essential to our society. But the company continues to implode. A week ago, buyouts were offered to some of the newsroom’s veteran staff members. Its slick grocery-store product, Rochester Magazine, publishes its last issue next month. The downward spiral cannot be halted.

It’s also been a lousy year because I was driving home one afternoon and, maybe 200 yards from my house, I came across a motorcyclist lying dead in the middle of Lake Avenue, killed just seconds before I showed up. Almost every time I come to that spot in the street, which is virtually every day, I think about it.

It’s been a lousy year because a handful of friends are now battling serious illnesses. And some have died.

My wonderful mother-in-law, Helen, died in October. She was 94. Perhaps you saw her out with Margaret and I over the last couple of years. Until just a few months ago, she was hanging out with us for shows at The Little Café, going out to dinner with us, celebrating birthdays and New Year’s Eve with friends.

Here’s one thing that helps gets you through the tough times: Music. We held a celebration of life for Helen on a Sunday afternoon at The Little Café. Friends made the food. Musicians played. First the Spring Chickens: Scott Regan, Connie Deming and Steve Piper. By the time Maeve and Ben Mac An Tuile were singing Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” the place was packed. Then Dick Storms and Tony Valle, joined by Sarah Long Hendershot, singing “Summertime.” One of my favorite songs. Throughout the music, I was looking around the room. And saw people weeping. Me too.

And then I saw a room filled with friends loudly chattering away, laughing. The pain was gone, the music did it.

Now I’m starting my second week at Record Archive. I have a mixed bag of skills to offer. I cleaned a toilet my first week. Some of my co-workers – the Archive seems to have a strict “No Assholes” hiring policy – were shocked that I had never before touched a cash register. But I have vast experience with the alphabet, a primary consideration when filing CDs.

And it puts me in a roomful of music once again. I needed that.

BE THE FIRST in your neighborhood to know when a new Critical Mass has been turned loose. Go to the “Subscribe” button on the web site jeffspevak.com for an email alert. You can contact me at jeffspevakwriter@gmail.com.

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