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May You Live in Interesting Times

American flag and eagle

This saying is widely known as a Chinese curse, although there is no equivalent expression in the Chinese language, and the saying likely came from English sources.  Nonetheless, it is fitting for the peculiar time in which we now live.  These are, without question, interesting times.

We are beset by a global pandemic that has now killed 221,000 Americans—and counting.  Our West Coast is being ravaged by fires and the Gulf Coast is being swamped by hurricanes and tropical storms.  We have evidence of global warming all around us, but the chief executive of our country contends that global warming is a hoax.  Our economy is struggling to return to normal after being upended by Covid-19, millions of Americans have plunged below the poverty line, and millions are at risk of being evicted and having to live in their cars, or worse.  We have a sharply divided populace along political lines and one major party that seeks to keep it that way.

Photo of Donald Trump
Donald Trump pontificating

Republicans in the Senate have been packing the Supreme Court with conservative justices since Mitch McConnell refused to hear Merritt Garland’s nomination—ten months before the 2016 election.  We will soon have a 6-3 conservative majority in that court, and Republicans are already railing against the possibility that if Biden’s elected and the Democrats win the Senate, they will pack the Court by adding progressive judges.  The hypocrisy of the Republicans is so conspicuous that it’s hard to imagine how they can look at themselves in the mirror every morning without feeling ashamed.

As the 2020 election nears—now less than two weeks away—Trump continues lying, whining, making false claims, and peppering his numerous rallies with so many accusations against his opponents that the daily  headlines can’t keep up with his outrages.

Most recently, Trump has been denigrating Anthony Fauci, calling him an idiot, and declaring that if Fauci had overseen the pandemic response, we would have 500,000 American deaths by now.  This claim is so outrageously ignorant and at odds with reality that you would think you could only have heard our president say it only in a Hollywood satire.

Yet millions of Americans follow Trump like he is the one true god.  Last Saturday, a man sat on the sidewalk in my hometown wearing a hat that read, “I have found Jesus and he is Trump.”  Other Trump supporters have gone so far as to say they would die for Trump.  It boggles the mind that millions of Americans can hear what Trump says and watch what he does and not be bewildered by his lies, insincerity, gross immorality, and pettiness.  I grew up in the Christian tradition and know that Donald Trump is about as far from Jesus as a human being can get.  If anything, Trump is the antichrist.

Photo of Trump supporters in Miami
Trump supporters in Miami

But I don’t believe that either.  He is neither a god nor a devil.  He is simply a deeply flawed human being who is first and foremost a narcissistic showman.  Retired Marine General John Kelly, who was Trump’s White House Chief of Staff, recently remarked that, “The depth of [Trump’s] dishonesty is just astounding to me.  The dishonesty, the transactional nature of every relationship, though it’s more pathetic than anything else.  He is the most flawed person I have ever met in my life.”  Kelly is not alone in this assessment.  Numerous other former Trump associates, military leaders, and administration officials have commented on how ill-suited he is for the role and how disloyal he is to others while demanding loyalty from them.

I know many people who voted for Trump in 2016 because they despised Hillary Clinton or distrusted her because of the missing emails and Benghazi.  Their distrust of her was aided by James Comey’s reopening of the investigation weeks before the election, a concerted effort by the Russians to discredit Clinton, and a massive and successful propaganda campaign by Trump and his allies.  And they are at it again with Trump’s attempts to impugn the character of Hunter Biden, although there is no evidence of any real wrongdoing on Hunter’s part.  Trump is also trying to provoke fear if the Democrats win.  He has said, among other things, that if Biden wins the country will become socialist, street gangs will take over the cities, suburbs will be overrun by undesirables (by which he means blacks), taxes will be raised on most Americans, the economy will be reduced to ruins, five million jobs will be lost, and all of us will be speaking Chinese.  This is nonsense, of course, except to QAnon believers, white supremacists, racists, followers of Fox News and Breitbart, and the MAGA-hat-wearing zealots who populate Trump rallies (not wearing masks or social distancing because they think Covid-19 is a hoax).

Insanity.

Trump has demonstrated numerous times that he is not the stable genius he pretends to be (except in his gift for self-promotion) and that he has little regard for anyone but himself and select members of his family (notably, and strangely, his daughter Ivanka).  He is a petty autocrat who wishes to be king, not president.  He longs to be adored but doesn’t know how to cultivate genuine adoration.  He admires dictators like Putin, Xi, Erdogan, and Kim, but is governing in a democracy with rules and traditions that prevent him from wearing the mantle he so desperately wants.  He covets a Nobel Peace Prize (like the one Obama received) but does not understand what it would take to win that prize—nor would he have the disposition or character to earn it.

He cares only for himself despite his sociopathic denials to the contrary.  Recently, he issued some tweets about the importance of character.  I don’t know who wrote those tweets for him.  It’s obvious he didn’t write them because they are totally contrary to who he is and how he has behaved.  It’s ironic that he would be promoting character just weeks before the election.  It’s likely that someone in his inner circle believed that if Trump talked about character some voters would believe that he has sound character (never mind an avalanche of evidence to the contrary).

He will likely face multiple lawsuits and perhaps a criminal trial for tax evasion once he leaves office, which is probably why he said at a recent rally that if he loses the election, he may leave the country.  Many dictators and wanna-be’s before him have done just that to avoid prosecution.

Meanwhile, Republicans throughout the country are doing their best to suppress the vote.  It’s obvious to them that if too many people vote, they will lose the election, so they are disputing mail-in voting, imposing strict guidelines on what is required for a vote to be legal, and gerrymandering in many states to tip the scales in their favor.  It is clear from all this that the Republicans do not want you to vote (unless you vote for them).  Trump and his puppet Barr, the Attorney General, have been warning about voting fraud as though it were a serious issue (it’s not), and Trump has refused to say if he’ll concede the election if he loses.  Already, his attorneys are lining up to sue states for supposed voting irregularities if Trump loses, and Trump and McConnell are stacking the Supreme Court with conservatives in hopes that if the election is contested and goes to that court that the conservative majority will decide in Trump’s favor.  Never mind what most Americans want.

We live in strange times indeed.

Photo of Joe Biden
Joe Biden, the only choice if we want to preserve America

If Trump prevails in this election, by hook or by crook, then I fear for our country’s future.  We are already the laughing stock of the international community and we are seeing the rise of inane conspiracy cults like QAnon and white supremacists groups like the one in Michigan that sought to kidnap and execute that state’s legally elected governor.  These groups are armed to the hilt and being emboldened by a president who views them as allies.

Meanwhile, China, which vigorously fought the pandemic, is nearly back to normal in its economy, now having had two quarters of growth, while we are facing a dire winter where Covid-19 is increasing rapidly, and our economy remains in tatters.  Why?  Because Trump downplayed the virus when he should have taken it seriously (and he knew how serious it was).  Because he did not want to upset his base by issuing a national mask mandate—and for much of the pandemic refused to wear a mask himself, thus sending exactly the wrong message.  Because he pressed to re-open states well before it was wise to do so, and Covid rates rose dramatically in response to that misstep.  Because he bungled the federal government’s response to testing, contact tracing, and the availability of PPE’s.  But primarily because he thinks he is smarter than all the scientists, and his number one priority is not to save American lives but to get reelected.  That is what drives his every thought, word, and act.  Reelection.  Because his ego will take a big hit if he fails and because he craves power more than anything except money.

And this man is our current president.

Not for long, I pray.  I have already voted.  If you haven’t, please cast your vote—for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.  If you live in Colorado, vote for John Hickenlooper.  Cory Gardner has been a shill for Donald Trump, and we need to fire him.  If you’re in La Plata County, vote for Diane Mitsch Bush, Barbara Mclachlan, and Marsha Porter-Norton.

Photo of a ballot showing Biden and Harris
On or before November 3, vote for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris

Vote for decency.  Vote for sanity.  Vote for the preservation of our democracy.  Vote for our alliances, which are critical to our security and standing in the world.  Vote for a government that will do something about Russian interference in our elections.  Vote for a president who will fill his cabinet with smart, decent public servants instead of industry lobbyists.  Vote for a leader whose principal aim is not to line his own pockets at the public’s expense.  Vote against the corruption that has been a hallmark of Trump’s presidency.  For heaven’s sake, vote for the America we all know and love.

 

 

Photo credits:  Black & white Donald Trump;Photo 85020220 © Joe Sohm | Dreamstime.com; Trump supporters in Miami Photo 151846665 © Yaroslav Sabitov | Dreamstime.com; Joe Biden Photo 60147250 © Palinchak | Dreamstime.com; ballot showing Biden and Harris Photo 198793414 © Kilmermedia | Dreamstime.com; jAmerican flag and eagle Photo 148335868 © Romolo Tavani | Dreamstime.com

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Why I Am Supporting Marsha Porter-Norton

Photo of Marsha Porter-Norton

We in La Plata County, Colorado have an opportunity this November to elect a fine public servant with an extensive track record in community service to County Commissioner.  Marsha Porter-Norton is a fourth-generation southwest Coloradoan.  For decades, she has been active in the community as a public-issues facilitator.  She has worked in La Plata County on budgets, roads, healthcare, land-use planning, and public lands and water.  She is thoroughly familiar with La Plata County and our issues and challenges, and she is running on a platform of good jobs, a thriving local economy, affordable housing, vital County services, public health and safety, clean energy, and smart growth.

Photo of Marsha Porter-Norton at lecturn
Marsha Porter-Norton at work

Her opponent, Jack Turner, is also a long-time resident of La Plata County, but Turner’s experience is principally in the ski industry, which is a very small part of La Plata County’s land area and economy.  He lacks Porter-Norton’s breadth of experience in public service, and I worry that he would have a singular focus as a County Commissioner.  He is branding himself as an Independent, beholden to no party, but I believe this is a spurious argument.  Marsha Porter-Norton is a Democrat, but she is a smart, experienced, independent thinker whose values and perspectives may align with people from all walks of life, including her fellow Democrats.  She is not beholden to any imaginary Democratic party line and is certainly not a party hack, as her opponent has suggested.  I would rather have her in the office, able to draw upon her diverse and vast connections and affiliations, than someone who lacks her network and resources throughout the County and, more broadly, the State of Colorado, and various federal agencies like the U.S. Forest Service.

Her resume reveals a public servant with extensive knowledge of the challenges our County faces.  For more than five years, she led Operation Healthy Communities a non-profit that conducted community projects, provided neutral facilitation services, published a community indicator report, and provided community education.  During her tenure, she was the Lead Project Manager for the 2001 La Plata County Community Summit.  She also facilitated the Hermosa Creek Workgroup, which successfully worked toward federal legislation to establish the Hermosa Creek Wilderness Area and Special Management Area, and she participated in a national conference in Durango on how communities can become more “firewise.”

Photo of Marsha Porter-Norton
Marsha Porter-Norton for La Plata County Commissioner

She later co-chaired the Community Health Action Coalition which sought improved healthcare services in the County and raised awareness around healthcare funding.  She also worked on the West Durango Land Use Plan, the Eight Corners Solution Committee (a CDOT-convened group to advise on the redesign of the “8 Corners” intersection on Hwy 160 in Bayfield), the Southwest Trails Roundtable, and the Little Molas Lake Working Group.

Marsha Porter-Norton has devoted much of her professional life to issues of health and safety, economic development, sustainable use of public lands, and transportation.  For her leadership and effectiveness in numerous County initiatives, she has received many awards, including the Barbara Conrad Leadership Award, Leadership La Plata; Service to Youth Award, Boys and Girls Club of La Plata County; and Partner of the Year Award, Colorado State Forest Service.

I am supporting Marsha Porter-Norton for La Plata County Commissioner because of her leadership, outstanding record as a public servant, extensive knowledge of the issues La Plata County faces, and even-handed approach to solving problems and addressing tough issues.  If you are a La Plata County voter, I urge you to vote for her on November 3.

Photos courtesy of Marsha-Porter Norton.  Used with permission.

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Durango PlayFest Presents the Actors’ Journal

Like every other arts organization with events scheduled during the summer of 2020, Durango PlayFest was forced to cancel its new play festival as the Covid-19 pandemic swept through the country.  Our friends in the theatre world shut their doors, too, and most actors had an unwelcome hiatus from their work as stage and screen productions came to a halt.

What to do with all that idle time?  More importantly, how to keep live theatre alive when it’s forbidden to fill stages with actors and theatres with audiences?

Veteran actor Dan Lauria (The Wonder Years, The Spirit, 9 ½ Weeks) had an idea.  Actors are creative.  Many are also writers or have kept journals of their experiences.  They love to tell stories, and they are used to being on camera.  So he asked a number of his actor friends if they would video themselves reading their stories, poems, or reminiscences.  And would they share their videos with regional theatres that are struggling during this pandemic?

Lauria was one of the inspirations behind Durango PlayFest.  He and fellow actor Wendie Malick have performed two-person plays in Durango many times.  They have friends here and love Durango’s southwest Colorado mountain community.  He thought Durango was the perfect environment for a new play festival, where established and emerging playwrights could workshop new plays with actors and directors as well as local performers and students in Fort Lewis College’s theatre department.

So Dan offered the actors’ videos to Durango PlayFest, along with four other regional theatres with whom he had connections.  Initially, there were a dozen videos from actors like Ed O’Neill (Married with Children, Modern Family), Charles Shaughnessy (Days of Our Lives, The Nanny), and Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad, The Upside, Trumbo).  But Dan is far more ambitious.  His goal is to garner fifty-two actors’ video—a creative smorgasbord of tales from some of today’s best stage and screen performers.

Durango PlayFest is calling its episodic collection of videos the Actors’ Journal, and you can view Episode 1 at durangoplayfest.org.  This initial collection of tales features Tony Shalhoub, Joe Mantegna, Jodi Long, James Pickens Jr., Kim Brockington, and Alfred Molina.  To view these videos, go to the Durango PlayFest website and click on Actors’ Journal.  After an introduction, click on each actor’s photo to view his or her video.

I am on the board of Durango PlayFest and participated in developing the Actors’ Journal, and I found each actor’s story or memorable experience to be interesting or enchanting, well worth viewing during a time when seeing performers in a live production on stage is not possible.  Broadway is shuttered and there are no local live plays, but we can still be entertained and enlightened by these fine stage and screen performers.  Here are the actors featured in Episode 1 of Actors’ Journal:

Photo of actor Alfred Molina
Alfred Molina

 

  • Chocolat
  • Spider-Man 2
  • The Da Vinci Code
  • Frida
  • Magnolia
  • Ralph Breaks the Internet
  • Breakable You
  • Law and Order: LA

 

 

 

Photo of actor Kim Brockington
Kim Brockington

 

 

  • Joker
  • Bull
  • School of Rock
  • Law and Order:  Criminal Intent
  • Guiding Light
  • One Life to Live
  • American Masters
  • All My Children
  • A Shift in Gravity (Durango PlayFest)

 

 

 

Photo of Tony Shalhoub
Tony Shalhoub

 

  • Monk
  • Men in Black, Men in Black II, Men in Black III
  • Galaxy Quest
  • The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
  • Nurse Jackie
  • Cars and Cars 2
  • Thir13en Ghosts
  • Spy Kids
  • The Siege
  • The Imposters
  • Primary Colors

 

 

 

Photo of James Pickens Jr.
James Pickens Jr.

 

  • Grey’s Anatomy
  • 42
  • Ghosts of Mississippi
  • The Conners
  • Yellowstone
  • Roseanne
  • The X-Files
  • Curb Your Enthusiasm
  • The Practice

 

 

 

_Photo of Jodi Long
Jodi Long

 

 

  • The Hot Chick
  • Splash
  • Robocop 3
  • Striking Distance
  • Falling Water
  • The Blacklist
  • Desperate Housewives
  • Eli Stone
  • Miss Match

 

 

 

Photo of Joe Mantegana
Joe Mantegna

 

  • The Godfather, Part III
  • Criminal Minds
  • Searching for Bobby Fischer
  • The Simpsons
  • Kill Me, Deadly
  • Compulsion
  • The Starter Wife
  • Joan of Arcadia
  • First Monday

 

 

 

 

 

Future episodes of Actors’ Journal will include readings by John Lithgow, Bryan Cranston, Dan Lauria, Wendie Malick, Lou Diamond Phillips, Reno Wilson, Priscilla Lopez, Ed Asner, Laurie Metcalf, Henry Winkler, Linda Purl, and Patrick Duffy, among others.

To view Episode 1 of Actors’ Journal, click here and enjoy.

Photos courtesy of Durango PlayFest.  Used with permission.