I can’t stop thinking about General Kelly

. . . the head of the Department of Homeland Security born in the same town as me, in the same year as me.

Here he is at Mar-a-Lago on Saturday night:

That night at Mar-a-Lago, Trump had dinner with Sessions, Bannon, Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly and White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller, among others. They tried to put Trump in a better mood by going over their implementation plans for the travel ban, according to a White House official.

This is not a Cabinet secretary; this is a courtier.  Does he think he is helping America by doing this?  Does he think his grandchildren will honor him for doing this?  I can imagine a person who takes a job hoping to improve an awful situation by providing common sense and sanity.  This does not appear to be Kelly’s motivation.

Ah, General!  History will not treat you kindly.

Moral choices in the time of Trump

The new secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, John F. Kelly, is by any standard an estimable figure — a distinguished retired Marine general whose Marine son died in Afghanistan.  He was widely regarded as one of Trump’s best cabinet picks.  His life story is mildly interesting to me because he’s the same age as me and from the same town (Brighton, Mass.).  It’s entirely possible we went to grammar school together, although I have no memory of him.

Now his agency is at the center of a firestorm of criticism over the enforcement of Trump’s executive order on immigration and refugees.  Apparently he wasn’t consulted about the executive order before it was signed.  OK, fine.  But he’s going to enforce it, because good military men follow orders.

And now what?  I wonder if he’s pondering the fact that he is in the process of permanently tainting his life story.  That forever more, instead of puff pieces like the one I linked to above, stories about him are going to start by talking about how he was running DHS that time when families were ripped apart, when people who had helped the American military were placed in handcuffs at airports, when scientists coming to this country to help cure diseases were sent back to where they came from…. and he did nothing but follow orders.

I wonder if he’s worried that his grandchildren might possibly end up being ashamed of him.

If he’s not worried about this, I kinda think he should be.

An update on my garage (and my mental health)

Here I pondered what to do with myself after giving up on the American experiment.  Some updates:

  • My garage is much cleaner, thanks for asking.  Although not exactly, you know, clean.
  • I haven’t read A Theory of Justice.  But it’s on my Amazon wish list (hint hint)!  Also, it was mentioned in a good book I read about philosophers of the Enlightenment called The Dream of Enlightenment.
  • Following my brother’s suggestion, I have listened to Schoenberg’s orchestration of the Brahms piano quartet.  It was great.  Thanks, Stan!  Thanks, Amazon Prime!  Thanks, Brahms and Schoenberg!
  • I’ve speeded up my fiction writing.  I’m up to about 40,000 words of my first draft.  Theoretically, that should be about halfway through.  Unfortunately, I seem to have about a dozen point of view characters, and things keep getting more complicated.  Occupational hazard.
  • I haven’t read more Shakespeare.  On the other hand, I have listened to Ian McEwan’s Nutshell.  I’m generally conflicted about McEwan, but boy is this novel great.  It’s a modern retelling of the Hamlet story; in this case, Hamlet is the narrator, and he happens a fetus overhearing a plot between his mother (Trudy) and uncle (Claude) to murder his father.  It’s ridiculously well written, even if McEwan’s characterization of a third-trimester fetus isn’t always, um, plausible.

Is my mood any better?  Actually, no, despite the state of my garage.  Here is Charles Blow in the Times, summing things up pretty well:

We are not in an ordinary postelection period of national unity and rapprochement. We are facing the potential abrogation of fundamental American ideals. We stand at the precipice, staring into an abyss that grows darker by the day.

How should I spend my time now that I’ve given up on the American experiment?

So many things to choose from.

  • Clean out my garage.  You’ve seen my garage, right?  You haven’t?  It’s a mess.  Decluttering is all the rage.  Maybe I’ll start there.
  • Read A Theory of Justice by John Rawls.  Reading about his theory clarified for me why I’m a liberal.  But I’ve never read the book itself.  It’s, um, long.  And if I read it, maybe I’ll have to read all the books that have been written in response to it.  And meanwhile the garage will get messy again.
  • Listen to more Brahms.  How come I got to be as old as I am without listening to his string quintets?  They’re great!  What else am I missing?  I can listen to Brahms while cleaning my garage.
  • Finish my novel.  Faster.  Luckily, my novel doesn’t have anything to do with politics.  Of course, it’s entirely possible politics will sneak in before I’m done with it.
  • Re-read Shakespeare.  I’ve let that go for too long.  Now would be a great time to start it up again.  Also, there are a couple of Shakespeare exhibits at the Boston Public Library.  How come I’m not there right now?

Of course, there’s always the chance that at some point I’ll rethink my current attitude.  As that noted optimist Samuel Beckett famously said:

Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.

Failing better is the American way.

Broken

I haven’t been posting much here lately because I’ve spent all my time worrying if America was going to break in the election.

Well, the election has happened, and America broke, and my heart broke with it.  So what’s a fella to do?  Post a photo of a kid playing soccer with a very uninterested panda, I guess.

Life is stupider than fiction: Trump edition

Here is me complaining about how stupid it was for Mitt Romney’s campaign manager to go public with their plan to “Etch-a-Sketch” his campaign after he won the nomination.

Those were such innocent times!

I find it difficult to imagine Trump as a literary character, because the humorous parts of his character (his absurd vanity, for example) are so hard to reconcile with the incredible damage he could if he somehow managed to get himself elected.  This is real life, unfortunately.

Fiction (the kind of fiction I write, anyway) needs to assume a level of competence in the protagonist — that’s where the tension comes from.  You want a real Russian spy, not the dim-witted dupe that Trump apparently is.  You want a real billionaire who is nefariously turning his attention to politics after mastering the business world, not an unsuccessful huckster.

Trump’s incompetence would be disqualifying in a novel; it should be disqualifying in real life as well.  Too bad reality doesn’t play by the same rules.