The new day is dawning. The rising sun lights ups the contrails of the aircraft high up in the sky, westward bound, carrying passengers to new places and expectations.
We, in the US, are now on a new path. We cannot know exactly where it will lead us. We cannot predict the future. But the path itself appears to be clear, and we are hopeful that it will take us to a place we want to be – a better place.
I am still feeling the high from the Inauguration of Joe Biden, the new president of the USA. There was almost a spiritual feel to the events of the day. There was optimism. There was a call to our better selves. There was the call for unity. As Amanda Gorman stated, The Hill We Climb is not easy. But the official echo-chamber of lies and fantasies is no more. There is hope for decency. These initial days of the new administration feel very different from the chaos and divisiveness, and the carnage, that came forth from the top the last few years from the very beginning.
I had this habit during the last few years of checking the news fairly regularly, impulsively – looking for the next big outrage that had been perpetuated by the people in charge. It was surely a habit that was not healthy. It will take a few days to stop doing this, but the first couple of days of the new administration have been calming, and that should help. The immediately issued executive orders from the new administration bring back the sense of decency to the way we do things. There is also the sense that the work of the nation is actually being done. And last, but not the least, it is clear that we are taking the pandemic seriously!
It has been more than a month since the results of the US elections became clear to any sensible person. I noted that I was feeling a sense of relief at that point. It turns out that the feeling was premature. I have spent the morning today reading about, and listening to, the experiences of DC policemen who had felt the wrath of the crowd storming the Capitol Building on January 6th, a wrath set loose by the delusional exhortations of a lying conman, the megalomaniac who had set up residence in the White House for the last four years. This excuse for a human being has managed to take us to an even darker place than before in the short time since the elections. This he has done with the assistance of 147 hypocritical congressmen who have also shown themselves to have no spine. They were willing to not accept reality, to lie in the open about the results of the election, and to damage the democratic process. And they were willing to behave in this manner even at a moment of crisis for the country. Truth of the matter is that our democratic process has only worked in the past because there were people involved who managed to do the right thing when it mattered. The rules and regulations only take you so far.
This is a sad time for us. Hopefully, January 20th can finally be the starting point for better days and healing, including the needed focus on the deadly pandemic whose death toll in the country is sure to exceed over 400,000 souls in the next few days. But we first have to get past January 20th. I hope that we as a country can navigate through the next few days safely.
We are in a seasonal transition in our neck of the woods. It is a truth – as true as anything and everything else that is real and factual. There is no way that somebody can refute my statement, right? Winter is around the corner in Maryland.
Unfortunately, facts seem to be more and more difficult for people to accept in today’s world. It is the belief that counts, and a lot of our actions will be based on these beliefs. I could have edited those pictures I am showing you, or even picked pictures out from my collection from a different year, to state something that is untrue. You believe that I will not do that. There is an element of trust involved. You believe that I will not lie to you.
It is a sad thing that active efforts are being made to destroy the trust that people in the US have in their electoral system. When this happens, the truth, and the facts, do not matter. The lies are considered credible. And the lies can become a matter of faith. Living in a virtual world of computers and social media makes this process even easier. Facebook’s algorithms have no means to separate out truth from lies. AI technology is also not necessarily based on starting from truths. Scientific truths have no basis in a virtual world, facts have no foundations there. These days you can argue that the world is flat, that man did not land on the moon, and that a conman won this election – and the algorithms in the computers will say, fine, we do not care if this is true or not, and we will proceed as if this is fact.
All real facts point to the successful and honest conclusion of the election process in the US, a process that was as fair as it could be. Unfortunately, apparently 70% of Republicans, at this time, believe that the election was really won by the candidate who actually lost it – the two-bit huckster, the conman. Unfortunately, this fantasy is also not explicitly repudiated by the people in power who are in a position to state the facts. They are afraid. They are hypocrites who look out only for themselves. People lie, these lies are amplified, and these lies are believed because of the kind of world we live in. The facts have no place here. There is more chaos, uncertainty, and anxiety, in the transition that is taking place in our country because of all of this. This is nuts!
It is a time of reckoning for some of us as Americans. It is safe to say that there has never been a situation like this in the USA in the past. It is also tempting to say that there has never been an election like this in the USA in the past, but I do not know enough about American history to be sure about that. It is definitely true though that we as a country have been sinking into a dark hole the last few years, now accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic, and that we might have a chance during the next few days to grab on to something on the side, even as we fall further into the hole, to try to at least stabilize the situation for some period of time. Perhaps we could even attempt to climb out of the hole, but that might be too much to ask for in the short run considering how far we have fallen. There is always hope!
We have seen strategies for winning an election that have never been used to this extent in this country in the past. The electronic media has made it easy for official campaigns to distribute manipulated audio/visual content, content that is designed to deceive, content that supporters of the president lap up. The president himself spews out lies and misinformation. As Steve Bannon once said – “flood the zone with sh*t”. And, sadly, we tend to not see the truth even if it is in front of our faces because we live in our own bubbles. The republican party apparatus has also gone into high gear to try to disenfranchise voters, and to prevent votes from being cast and/or counted. Lawsuits have been filed, and more have been promised. Armed vigilantes try to intimidate voters and people going about their daily business. The US Post office is failing to deliver mail-in votes in a timely fashion. (The person in charge of the post office is a recent political appointee. His actions could lead you to believe that what is happening is deliberate.)
One worries about the possible aftermath of these elections in ways that one never did before.
We had to find relief from our anxieties in other activities. Last week was a bad time for our usual outdoor pursuits. I am still adjusting to the fact that the weather is turning colder slowly but surely. The cloudy and damp conditions killed all of my motivation to try to get out. It was finally the weekend by the time we overcame our reluctance to face the seasonal forces of nature.
We went out to Edwards Ferry on Sunday in spite of the fact that rain was expected later that morning. The weather was still OK at the time we got on the trail. As you can see from this picture of the lock house for Lock 25, there were still patches of clear sky to be seen near Edwards Ferry.
As we started our walk, we could see the rising sun behind us struggling to pierce through the clouds that were coming our way. It was, ultimately, an unsuccessful effort! The skies continued to darken as we walked north towards Whites Ferry. We finished the last couple of miles of the walk in light rain. I had to put away the camera in my backpack at that point. I don’t mind walking in light rain even though it tends to impair my vision somewhat because of the water collecting on my glasses. For that matter, I am not sure that even heavy rain would necessarily stop me on the trail. My friends and I rode our bikes in the pouring rain during our ride last year. It was done deliberately, and it was also fun!
It was somewhat anticlimactic to be on the trail after the autumnal change in foliage. Whatever bright colors there might have been on the trees are almost all gone in these parts. Bare tree trunks are visible everywhere.
The only remaining color in this section of the trail was mostly due to the presence of the pawpaw trees.
There is a certain beauty in foliage that is primarily yellow in color, but I think I might be feeling this beauty more intensely because of its transient nature. After all, I do not talk about the green trees all summer long – or, do I?!
And we got to see some strange looking fruit on the trail for the first time. I would be curious to know if anybody can recognize these.
That’s it for this blog. Tomorrow is election day. I am keeping my fingers crossed!
Regular readers of my blogs will understand what I am referring to in the subject line of this particular one. My previous blog was about how we had spent the morning doing our usual Sunday outdoor activities in the park. These activities tend to free up the mind, and to remind you that there exists another world independent of us human beings out there, a world that can continue to exist without our meddling. You tend to forget your worldly concerns while you are out there in the park.
We had a completely different agenda and experience on Sunday afternoon. We attended a rally and march organized by the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. The march was in the Kentlands, a neighborhood community close to us in Gaithersburg. The Kentlands are actually within walking distance, but I was already tired from the morning’s activities. I was in two minds about going. We also had very little time to rest before departing for the rally. We finally ended up driving to a parking lot at a shopping center close to the site of the rally, and walking the rest of the way.
This was the scene early on, as people were gathering. You can see that it was relaxed atmosphere. The crowd was diverse in every sense of the word.
The place began to fill up by the time the event began in earnest and people began to speak. This speech was by Will Jawando, a Councilmember for Montgomery County.
It was crowded by the time we started marching – after the speeches – but it was possible to practice physical distancing. People were generally good about wearing masks.
The march itself was a laid-back affair.
We did a loop within the Kentlands, probably not more than a mile. We were led in the chants by a person at the front of the march. People were quite relaxed. At one point, there was a person who seemed to disapprove of the subject of the march who stood on the side where the people were walking insisting that “Blue Lives Matter”. Luckily, nobody engaged with him. But it was a good moment for me to actually think about how I should respond if somebody said something like this to me. The response would start with, “Yes, all lives matter, but…”.
We marched past the front of Lowe’s, the big-box hardware store in our neighborhood, and noticed that it was all boarded up, to the point that the massive doors in and out of the building were completely covered up. If you did not know any better, you would not have known that there were doors there. This is an indication of the thought process of the people running the store. They were scared, even though the people marching past were a bunch of suburbanites – all ages, genders, and races. And it was in the middle of the day! It felt like ignorance to me at that point. But, having said that, I have to admit that I myself had also been somewhat ignorant about what to expect at the march earlier on. None of the other stores were boarded up. In fact, some of the employees at Chipotle, a restaurant that we marched past, came out of the store to offer people drinks. A notable moment in the middle of the march was when we all stopped for a minute and knelt on the road while the names of the people who had been killed by police action in recent years was announced over the megaphone.
The march ended back where we started. There were a few more speeches made before the rally came to an end. Throughout the event, the organizers handed out snacks and water to people who needed it. Thankfully, the weather was nice the whole time. Of particular note was the fact that the organizers were all young people. Bravo!
There was a light atmosphere to the whole event. There were police cars parked around the venue of the speeches, but at a distance, beyond the crowds, and they had their flashing lights on. The Gaithersburg city police who were standing around the place where the march started – the place where the speeches were given – were in casual-looking uniforms, wearing biking helmets and shorts. They had their bikes with them. They were also unarmed. They did not look menacing as in some other cases that we had witnessed on TV. They also looked relaxed. The Montgomery County Police who were along the route of the march looked professional and serious. They generally kept a distance from the marchers. I wonder how they all felt about the speeches that were being given, speeches that addressed the impact of the bad behavior of their brethren. The head of the police for Gaithersburg chose the opportunity to speak in solidarity with the marchers.
I have to say that while I enjoyed the new experience, I feel that I was not completely drawn into its spirit. I say this because I was not particularly moved by the experience. I did not learn too much either. I did not get worked up and emotional. I did not get much useful information or motivation to engage further. Perhaps, we should have at least been carrying a a couple of banners ourselves, but we were nervous because this was our first time taking part in a rally. Being wimpy comes easily to some of us. I suppose one has to also consider the overall objective of a peaceful demonstration. In our case, I think it was an expression of solidarity of overall purpose. Other people, especially those who are most directly impacted by the injustices, have more in their hearts. They are crying out to be heard.
In my opinion, this is a subject that our politicians and religious organizations, in general, have made very difficult to address rationally. The citizenship seem to have a more nuanced set of opinions on this subject than you are led to believe, opinions that seem to change little over time. In my mind, the topic also seems to dominate the national discussion excessively, to the detriment of other issues that can more critically impact the well being of the nation. But it does seem to be a good topic to push agendas and foster divisiveness. The politicians of today are mostly a bunch of hypocrites.
“As a lawyer, she helped win a landmark ban on racial segregation in interstate bus travel, and her representation of poor black defendants — including her successful defense of a man accused of the notorious murder of a Georgetown socialite in 1964 — blazed new trails for black lawyers.”
You have to understand that some of the garbage being spewed out these days when it comes to influencing the politics of this country comes from religious leaders who are supposed to be the voices of morality.
There is a part of this country that is so afraid of the changes going on around them that they will do anything it takes to try to go back to the so called “good old times”, a time that cannot be brought back, indeed a time that might have been good for some but not for many others (think racism and slavery). I used to think that it is pointless to stand in the way of change, but if folks are willing to do anything it takes to twist the political system, to change it and stack it permanently in a regressive way, then who knows.