Tag Archives: Trump

A.L.I.C.E.

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©donnaesgro – March for Our Lives 2018

As I helped a tenth grade student to interpret Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, he spoke of another “Alice” and her sad and surreal presence on his campus. The A.L.I.C.E. drills in the event of a school shooter:

Alert

Lockdown

Inform

Counter

Evacuate

Like the distorted happenings in the original Alice in Wonderland the play acting of an event so heartbreaking inside a normal school day has some convoluted idea of sense; yet is sadly surreal not only in its normalization of tragedy but in its fatalistic hopefulness.

Our conversation shifted abruptly from the children’s fantasy story of the late 1800’s to the horror story that he, and millions of young students like him, are living now. In an era where the brutal acts of tyrants are readily broadcast, and where terrorist beheadings are available for viewing on the dark internet, how can today’s high school student understand the humor in the Red Queen’s casual, “Off with her head!”?

When the quiet boy who sits across from you in math turns out to have collected an arsenal of weapons along with a kill list of students, is Alice’s sudden growth to a monstrous size a strange concept?

Or, in a time when the president of the United States lies freely and carelessly, appears and reappears with malicious and contradictory tweets hidden behind a mirthless smirk, does a Cheshire Cat’s inconstant grin seem out of place?

Trump’s recent summit with the North Korean despot, Kim Jong-un took insipid insanity to new levels.

“They have great beaches. You see that whenever they’re exploding their cannons into the ocean. I said boy look at that view”   Trump, speaking of North Korea’s beaches at the 6/11/18 Summit with Kim Jong-un

Kim Jong-un is a cruel and ruthless dictator. According to a 2014 United Nations Report on North Korea, Kim Jong-un’s horrific acts include: “…extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence, persecution on political, religious, racial and gender grounds, the forcible transfer of populations, the enforced disappearance of persons and the inhumane act of knowingly causing prolonged starvation.” Yet our president is“honored” to meet him and believes that he wants “good things for his people.”

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“I know what you’re thinking about,” said Tweedledum; “but it isn’t so, nohow.” “Contrariwise,” continued Tweedledee, “if it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn’t, it ain’t. That’s logic.”  Lewis Carroll-Through the Looking Glass

As we turn our heads away in grief and helplessness from each new school shooting, each suffering and separated immigrant family, each attempt to undermine our free press and other constitutional rights, as we accept deceit after deceit and horror after horror in order to get through the day, we are in grave danger of losing the very sense of humanity that makes life more than just an empty struggle for survival.

The question is: How much are we willing to tolerate? In the case of the powerful gun lobby, how much blood is on our own hands if we fail to demand that our children be educated in a society that respects their right to live more than their right to carry a weapon? As far as separating immigrant children from their parents, I call on, not only civil rights and lawful actions, but human decency itself to stop this cruel and immoral practice.

In a chaotic and confusing world we must agree on fundamental tenets of right and wrong, objective perceptions of lies and truth, the difference between good and evil, or we are lost. As an educator as well as citizen of the United States and the World, I am keenly aware of the importance of teaching critical thinking, encouraging students to speak truth to power and to question what seems nonsensical. The intellectual labyrinths that Alice had to navigate in Wonderland were innocent games. Today’s children, by comparison, are walking through minefields.

“He speaks and his people sit up at attention. I want my people to do the same.” Donald Trump speaking of Kim Jong-un

We are at attention, Trump, but not in the way you would desire. We are standing up, we are speaking out, we are marching, voting and resisting. We are millions strong and growing.

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“Separating families at the Border is the fault of bad legislation passed by the Democrats. Border Security laws should be changed but the Dems can’t get their act together! Started the wall.” Donald Trump (Twitter 6/15/18)

“Suddenly, early in the spring, an alarming thing was discovered. Snowball was secretly frequenting the farm by night!…Every night, it was said, he came creeping in under cover of darkness…He stole the corn, he upset the milk-pails, he broke the eggs, he trampled the seedbeds, he gnawed the bark off the fruit trees. Whenever anything went wrong it became usual to attribute it to Snowball. If a window was broken or a drain was blocked up, someone was certain to say that Snowball had come in the night and done it…’ George Orwell – Animal Farm (Chapter 7)

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https://Twitter.com/@stoneinthepond

 

Consider The Source

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©W. Eugene Smith     –     Tomoko Uemura in Her Bath – 1971

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Birds fell from the sky, fish floated dead in the sea and Tomoko floated in her mother’s womb when she was poisoned by the highly toxic chemical methylmercury released into the Minamata Bay by the Japanese Corporation, Chisso. The attempt at covering up the factory’s fouling of the waters went all the way up to The Ministry of International Trade and Industry and The Japan Chemical Industry Asociation.

The photojournalist Eugene Smith, in covering the story, was beaten so brutally by several factory workers hired by Chisso that he lost some sight in one eye, and never fully recovered. His heart breaking photograph of Tomoko and her mother helped bring worldwide awareness to the plight of victims of industrial waste pollution and helped save thousands of unborn children from short lives wracked with physical and mental deformities.

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My father was a journalist. He typed his stories on a Remington Typewriter, always making a carbon copy. He would often advise me, “Consider the source.” when I came home from school with fantastical stories. Historically, journalists have stood for the truth. Honor bound to get news that governments, corporations, or individuals do not want revealed, they often risk savage assaults, kidnapping, prison, or death.

As of late they have been at risk of another, more insidious, peril. Being labeled as “the enemy” by the President of the United States of America. Every authoritarian regime has silenced the press and taken over broadcasting, turning it into a vehicle for propaganda. It is a standard fascist maneuver.

Journalists have always worked hard to earn the right to write for an established and reputable news agency. Any falsehoods could jeopardize not only their job, but their reputation and entire career. Now, anyone with access to the internet can spread outlandish rumors with the push of a button. We are all familiar with these at best silly, and at worst grotesquely racist and sexist stories. From the never ending gossip about celebrities, to the deadly serious lies spewed from the alt-right press corps, people can choose what they wish to read from an exhaustive list of sources.

It is now more important than ever to “consider the source”. Journalists, such as those that work for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe, NBC, CNN, and the BBC have all been harangued by our current president and his staff, while outlets such as Breitbart, Fox News, and The Gateway Pundit are lauded. http://tinyurl.com/jcvokve

We must ask ourselves why.

The most important move a dictatorship must make is to control the news. This is not easily done. One cannot storm into their offices in Manhattan and throw everyone out. Another tactic needs to be taken which makes force unnecessary, a tactic well understood by those closest to Trump. To stir up havoc and distrust, to demonize and belittle the press at every opportunity, and to create confusion about what is truth and what is not. Using words such as “rigged,” calling press members “the opposition party,” citing the phrase “fake news” frequently to discredit any coverage not agreeable to them. Each time Trump mentions The New York Times, arguably one of the greatest news outlets in the world, he tags them “the failing” New York Times. Why does he do that?

Hitler said, “If you tell a big enough lie often enough, it will be believed.”

The bullying manner toward the press that was bantered about during the Republican campaign for presidency served the current administration well. Emboldened, they do not worry about making snide and demeaning remarks about journalists. Stephen Bannon, White House chief strategist and member of Trump’s National Security Council stated recently that, “The press should keep its mouth shut.”

Our right to hear the truth and speak the truth without fear is fundamental to our freedom, and we cannot and will not accept anything less. We owe our children this noble legacy. Be aware, call and send emails to the White House: https://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/write-or-call  march, sign petitions – do whatever you can do to lift your singular voice. There is an encroaching shadow over our land that we must neither ignore nor fear. Hope is a courageous emotion. It is also one that increases incrementally when shared. So, be hopeful. Speak out. Resist. Fight for the freedom that has been so dearly earned over the generations.

“No one can terrorize a whole nation, unless we are all his accomplices.”

Edward R. Murrow

Acclaimed journalist who faced up to McCarthyism

Over 1,200 journalists were killed in the last 25 years, less than half covering wars, the rest covering politics or corruption.

Not The Enemy

IMG_1648.JPG©donnaesgro

https://twitter.com/@stoneinthepond

Words Matter

img_1197©donnaesgro  –  Women’s March 1/21/17  Los Angeles, California

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“It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words.”

George Orwell – 1984

 

On Sunday January 21, 2017, I, along with millions of others around the world, lifted my voice in protest against a new era of strange and dangerous politics.

To lift one’s voice is one of the most patriotic acts a citizen can make. It is practicing freedom of speech-a constitutional right that has been a cornerstone of our democracy since its inception. A right that Donald Trump negates, telling journalists on his first day in office that “they are going to pay a big price” (for “lying” about the size of the crowd that attended his inauguration). Later in the day, he sent Sean Spicer, his press secretary, to further admonish and threaten the media. Spicer advised journalists that “the new administration would hold them to account”

Since then Trump’s rapid fire muffling orders are of major concern for all citizens of the world. In his first few days of office Trump has excised all mention of climate change from the White House website, silenced the National Parks Service, and instituted a complete media blackout of the Environmental Protection Agency. These authoritarian actions, coming from a U.S. President who believes that the despot Vladimir Putin, who controls all news outlets in Russia, is “a smart man”, are chilling. Words matter, as Putin so cunningly knows, and this is precisely why the voices lifted on Sunday can never go silent.

When Kellyanne Conway, Trumps councilor, can announce that the president’s statements are “alternative facts” we are entering a doublethink twilight zone of distorted reality that poses a grave threat to our freedom.

http://tinyurl.com/hmab53j

 

Trump recently compared the CIA to Nazi’s, then a few days later told them that he “loved” them, unless those two things are not mutually exclusive to Donald Trump, one of them is an alternate fact.

Donald Trump, throughout his campaign, has steadily undermined the press in a transparent effort to intimidate and weaken their power, making such statements as, “I’m going to open up our libel laws so when (journalists) write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money.” and more recently, “I have a running war with the media. They are among the most dishonest human beings on earth.”

In his first week in office, Trump has wreaked havoc. So it may seem that the focus on freedom of the press is of lesser concern than lack of healthcare, deportations, denial of environmental protections, barring of immigrants, and other humanitarian rights and causes that Trump has slashed his way through. But, I believe strongly that if we loose our voice these other pressing matters cannot be addressed. That if we loose our freedom of speech, our ability to both hear the truth and speak the truth, we loose our ability to mobilize, organize, and resist; our ability to make change.

Remember, this is the man who believes in punishing and criminalizing citizen dissent. Less than two months before taking the solemn oath of office to the presidency, inspired by the act of a anti-Trump college protester, he tweeted that burning a U.S. flag should be punished by “perhaps loss of citizenship or a year in jail”

Because the White House has been compromised, and the Supreme Court, the historically staunch supporter of the sacrosanct U.S. Constitution, is in peril, all of us have now become personally responsible for upholding our countries principals. Pay attention, speak up, do whatever is in your power. Those of us who believe in liberty and justice for all are many and strong. To be silent is to be oppressed.

170125-greenpeace-resist-banner-ok-1059_8e9531022931864de559c802600b9aa0-nbcnews-fp-1200-800© Saul Loeb/AFP-Getty Images – Greenpeace protesters at work 1/25/17

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The Theater Must Always Be A Safe Place

imagesWoody Guthrie – This Machine Kills Fascists

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 “We have art in order not to die of the truth.” Nietzsche

After a performance of Hamilton (a Broadway musical based on the story of one of the United States’ founding fathers, Alexander Hamilton) the lead actor, Brandon Dixon, formally addressed our future vice president, Mike Pence, from the stage. He began by thanking Pence for attending the performance and stating that, “ We hope you will hear us out.”

“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.”

This respectful and thoughtful delivery was attacked by our president elect the next morning via his favorite form of communication, Twitter: “Our wonderful future V.P. Mike Pence was harassed last night at the theater by the cast of Hamilton, cameras blazing. This should not happen!” In a second tweet Trump stated, “The Theater must always be a safe and special place. The cast of Hamilton was very rude last night to a very good man, Mike Pence. Apologize!”

On the campaign circuit Trump repeatedly belittled the press and the first amendment, even suggesting that he would like to change the law to make it easier to sue his critics. Trump, with these comments, has made it clear that he does not believe in political expression (unless it is favorable to him) and would use his power as president to silence the press through legal actions. In his tweets he clearly states that Dixon and the cast of Hamilton were wrong to lawfully and nonviolently exercise the power of their constitutional right of freedom of speech.

Since ancient times, art has served as a powerful method of challenging the status quo and inspiring social change. The Roman goddess of poetry was also the goddess of wisdom. Art has the unique power to open our eyes to another way of seeing-the beginning of wisdom. Historically, art has been a vehicle for social change, justice, solidarity, and raising consciousness-a formidable weapon against violence and oppression.

“Many wearing rapiers are afraid of goose-quills and dare scarce come thither.” Shakespeare/Hamlet – 1602

In Sophocles’ Antigone (441 BC) the heroine defies the King’s command, even though it means certain death, because his orders are at odds with her conscience.

From the satiric plays of Shakespeare and Moliere with their wry mockery of the pompous noble class, to the searing work of Bertolt Brecht, Arthur Miller, and Edward Albee and their brutally honest unveiling of corruption in society, the theater has been a forum in which artists are able to lift their voices for those without a voice.

The Novelists Emil Zola, Victor Hugo, Dostoyevsky, Charles Dickens and John Steinbeck have all written from an urgent sense of need to expose hypocrisy and reveal the tender and human faces of the dispossessed, the lost, the lonely, the hungry and the homeless – as have poets and songwriters Garcia Lorca, Woody Guthrie, Paul Robeson, Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, and Bruce Springsteen, to name just a precious few.

We have been warned by passionate artists such as the novelists George Orwell and Ray Bradbury, and film makers Fritz Lang, Jean Cocteau, and Terry Gilliam, to lift up our heads and see what the future may hold, if we are not mindful.

Goya’s wrenching paintings continue to shock us more than 200 years after they were painted. There is intense pain, and compassion for that pain, in each of Kathe Kollwitz’s works, while Picasso’s Guernica (1937) has become a metaphor for the brutality of war.

The photographs of the victims of the Dust Bowl were instrumental in bringing relief to thousands of suffering  families and Nick Ut’s heartbreaking Pulitzer Prize winning photograph, “Napalm Girl” is said to have been the final statement that ended the Vietnam War.

The list of legendary artistic luminaries is endless, with more creating works each day. The arts give society depth and provide inspiration for personal, social, and spiritual change. But when the individual with the highest power in the land sends tweet after tweet designed to create fear of personal expression it casts a chilling shadow.

Art is a life line to freedom. As funding for art and art history in our schools, already threatened to extinction, continues to decline, we cannot leave the holistic education that we want for our children entirely up to government funded schools. It is our moral  and ethical obligation as parents and educators to bring this trove of knowledge to our children.

Trump may believe that art should be a “safe place”, a comfortable fantasy outside the realm of politics, but, should he build his wall, may artists everywhere be inspired by those such as muralist David Siqueiros (1900’s) and the guerrilla street artist, Banksy, and paint Trump’s infamous and infernal wall with the vibrant colors of all the rage against injustice and abundant universal love inherent in the human heart.

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The Surviors – 1923 -Kathe Kollwitz