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                   Café Talk


What Did I do to Deserve This

The other day I had a Skype call with a good friend and we got to talking about our bodies. Thing is, we’re getting older (some would say we’re already there) and our bodies can surprise us every other day. We were reminded of that old joke: You know you’re getting old when you wake up realizing you’ve injured yourself while sleeping. However, the conversation turned a bit more serious and something my friend said eluded to the absurd notion that somehow disease and injury is a punishment. Here’s my response to that nonsense.

When I went to the hospital to have my prostate removed, and after waiting three  hours in Surgical Reception, I was ushered into a room with six cubicles and lots of equipment. It was in one of these cubicle that I talked to the anaesthetist, the surgeon and changed into my hospital gown. Since all the curtains were drawn, I could not see who was in the other cubicles. However, I could hear them quite easily.

In the cubicle to my right was a man having a catheter jammed down his penis through his urethra and into his bladder in preparation for surgery. (For female readers, men do not like having things jammed into their penises. Even thinking about it makes us cringe. Test it. Talk to a man about having something jammed into his penis and watch his face.[1]) His way of dealing with this intrusion was humour and feigning, in my opinion, scientific and technological interest in the procedure. It seemed to work for him.

In the next cubicle was an 81 year old man. I knew he was 81 because he kept telling everyone who entered his cubicle that he was 81. He smoked heavily throughout his life, but had quit years ago and was thus bemused by the fact that now at 81 surgeons wanted to deal with the “shadow on his lung.” He was also angry because no one told him he would have to spend the night in the hospital. His blood pressure was high, too high for an operation, which didn’t surprise him since he was scheduled for surgery, there was no one to pick him up the next day, his cell phone was running out of juice and his house was flooded.

Next to him was another man, also having a catheter inserted in preparation for surgery. What his illness was that demanded surgery I did not know, but he said this in a quiet somewhat weary and sad voice: “What did I do to deserve this?”

How many ill or injured human beings have asked that question? I would guess most. It may be instinctive.

The immediate implication of this question is that our physical condition is caused by our behaviour. Sometimes this is true. It is not a stretch to assume that a cancerous tumour in the lungs of an 81 year old man was caused by years of heavy smoking. But such obvious and well known causal relationships between our bodies and our behaviour were not at the heart of the man’s angst. The question assumed that our physical condition is caused by our moral behaviour. Or put another way, our bodily state is determined by our morality. And, of course, there is more. Such a notion also implies that God, or the Gods, or Fate, or The Force or Whatever is, through disease and injury, punishing us for our immorality. Indeed, the idea of a causal relationship between body and morality demands the presence of a judging agent of some kind. Nonetheless, it is all nonsense.

Firsts, there is no causal connection between our bodies and our morality. There is no amount of immoral behaviour that caused the man in the cubicle to have a disease that required surgery. And the reverse is true. No amount of virtuous behaviour would have protected him from his illness.

Second, if your interpretation of reality and your theology do lead you to conclude that God, or the Gods, or Fate, or The Force or Whatever punishes you with illness/injury and rewards you with good health based on your moral behaviour, then you really do need to seriously rethink things. I would suggest that if there were a God, or the Gods, or Fate, or The Force or Whatever that punishes and rewards in this way She, He, It or They would not be worthy of your time and certainly not your worship. In this regard, for those of you who are concerned about God, or the Gods, or Fate, or The Force or Whatever, a little but important book by Gustavo Gutierrez entitled On Job: God-Talk and the Suffering of the Innocent[2] may help (a book I eagerly recommend to the religious and nonreligious both). Gutierrez asks this question at the very beginning of the book:

Can human beings have a disinterested faith in God – that is, can they believe in God without looking for rewards and fearing punishment? Even more specifically: Are human beings capable, in the midst of unjust suffering, of continuing to assert their faith in God and speak of God without expecting a return?[3]

The word “disinterested” is difficult in this context. At first glance it implies having a faith or worldview that is disconnected and indifferent. Indeed, turning to the numerous online dictionaries we find one definition to be: not interested and indifferent. But the word also means: unbiased by personal interest or advantage; not influenced by selfish motives.[4]

What Gutierrez means by a disinterested faith in God, and I would add a disinterested interpretation of reality, is that such a faith or interpretation should not be based on the selfish fear of punishment and hope of reward, but on the value of the relationship itself. We love God, or Life, not because it may harm us or reward us, but because God and Life are worthy of love. Or, being in a truthful relationship with God, or Life, is meaningful in and of itself. Put more basically: I do not love my wife because she may punish or reward me, but because she is worthy of love.

Finally, there is something deeply sad about the question: “What did I do to deserve this?” I say this because we all have been bad at times and we all know it of ourselves, and when we ask this question we do so knowing this about our lives. The question, therefore, indicates a state of confusion and angst: I know I have been bad at times, but what did I do that was so bad that I deserve this? This existential despair begs another question: If am being punished, tell me what my sin was, for then I might more easily cope. It’s a rather Kafkaesque moaning that will never be answered. Sometimes we just get sick.

Copyright © 2019 Dale Rominger

[1] To my claim that men don’t like things being jammed down their penises, a friend in New York City emailed: “I will say, though, that as for men putting things in their penises, there is a practice among gay men (I don't know about heteropractices) of putting rods down their shaft.  It's called "sounding," and it is sometimes done with electrical stimulation to the metal rod.  I hear it's quite stimulating.  I'll believe the reports, not about to try it out on myself.  Sales are great, if you go online to Mr. S. Leathers and hunt around in the sex toys for sounding equipment.  And there you'll see it, maybe even with a picture.  If you can't find a photo, just to see that not all men wince at the idea of something shoved into their penis, I'll find one for you.”

If gay men are “sounding,” I suspect straight men are too.

[2] Gutierrez, Gustavo. On Job: God-Talk and the Suffering of the Innocent. New York: Orbis Books, 1989.

[3] Ibid., p. 1.

[4] See


Not Quite Sleepless in Nearby Seattle

I tell people I live in Seattle, but it’s not true. I live in Renton, which is south of Seattle. When I tell people I live in Seattle they get a sense of where I am. If I tell them I live in Renton, they’ll have no idea where I am. I live in Renton because I found a nice house that I liked and could actually afford. A friend told me that Renton was once the place where criminals and prostitutes lived and worked. Been here three and a half years and haven’t knowingly seen either. But who knows? The key word is “knowingly.” In any event, Seattle sounds much more romantic than Renton. So, I tell people I live in Seattle.

It’s not that I can’t sleep. I can. It’s just that I can’t sleep at night. I’m wide awake at four, five, six in the morning. I’m up all night. When I do go to bed, blinds closed, I sleep quite well for five or six hours. This happens to me every twelve to eighteen months. Don’t know why it starts and don’t know why it stops, which it does in a couple of weeks. It does throw off my day, and night obviously. When I have dinner at 5:30 with my wife it can feel like I’m having wine with brunch, which I guess people do, but not me.

For some reason, when I’m in this phase I don’t have the same energy, drive, enthusiasm, creativity. I’m just wide awake all night. So, the question becomes: What to do with the time? I could read, but I can’t concentrate for long so don’t get that many pages read. I could listen to music but get bored. I could be up in my study writing the great American novel, but see above concerning enthusiasm and creativity. That leaves television or just sitting staring into space.

This not-quite-sleepless-in-nearby-Seattle started four days ago. I had a browse through Netflix offerings and found Dexter. I had watched the show years ago, but it seemed appropriate for all-nighters, so I’ve been binging on Dexter. I guess the first thing to say is I’ve fallen in love with Julie Benz who plays Rita Bennett, which actually means I have fallen love with Rita Bennett played by Julie Benz. Still, if I were sitting in a café reading a book drinking a latte and Julie Benz came in and sat next to me, I’d be well on my way to falling in love with the real live her, that is if she acted like Rita Bennett. I’m reaching the conclusion of season four and I know they kill off Rita at the end. Poor Dexter Morgan finds her dead in the bathtub filled with water and her blood. Big mistake, and personally devastating for me. Why wasn’t I consulted?

Here’s how I imagine our encounter: I’m sitting in the crowded café of the Elliott Bay Book Company reading a book, sipping a latte, minding my own business. I hear a voice ask if she can share my table, I look up and it’s Julie Benz. Of course, I say yes. She sits down, let’s her coat fall onto the back of her chair, and places her bag on the floor to her right. I can’t help myself and say: “Just let me say, and I promise I won’t bother you after I say it, you created a great character on Dexter. Fragile and vulnerable at the beginning, becoming confident and strong by the time she ends up in a bloody bathtub 48 episodes later.” She will thank me and ask what I’m reading as she reaches down into her bag to retrieve a book. I tell her, and as she puts her book on the table, I see it’s one of mine. I ask her if she likes the book and she, of course, tells me it’s absolutely great. Best book she’s ever read she says, but hasn’t made the connection that she is sitting with the author. I reach over the table and take the book. I ask her if she has a pen and she reaches back into her bag on the floor, pulls out a pen, and hands it to me. I sign the book. She is beautifully puzzled staring at my signature. She turns the book over and looks at my photo on the back cover. Finally it dawns on her who I am. She blushes. She tells me in minute pleasurable detail why the book is so great. With a very flirtatious smile and silken voice she suggests we leave the café and go to the restaurant bar a few doors down. Wisely she is unconcerned about age difference. We drink Cuba libras. We sit close as if sharing intimacies. When the evening is over, we stand outside the bar in the light rain and say goodbye. She turns to leave, stops, turns back to me, and kisses me. She smiles and then walks away. I stand in the rain watching her disappear. Because I’m married, I never see her again, but the kiss sustains me for years.

Well, something like that. I’ll work on it when I go to bed at five this morning. For now back to Dexter.

I find it is mildly disconcerting that my affection for Dexter Morgan, an obviously deranged, antisocial serial killer, is also strong, though in a different way from my feelings for Rita Bennett. From the very beginning I am rooting for him, hoping that he gets away with brutally killing yet another human being. It helps that Dexter’s “code” demands he only kill bad people, people who have kill other human beings. But still, my feelings of pleasure in his kills seems somehow ethically suspect. After all, he killed  around 130 bad guys in eight seasons. I blame the writers and Michael C. Hall for acting so well. I excuse him, Dexter not Michael, for his evilness through psychological explanations that quickly become ethical justifications. When he was three, he watched men cut up his mother with a chain saw and then leave him in a closed shipping container sitting in her blood. He sat there for two days before being rescued. So, obviously, it makes sense, it’s reasonable, that he became a killer. Thank God for that “code.”

The show is well written and well acted. If someone were to wrap me in yards of clear plastic tight to a table in a room completely covered in 4 millimeter thick high density tear resistant film and demanded I declare which actor I thought was the best, I’d have to say Jennifer Carpenter, who played Dexter’s sister, Debra Morgan. She was great. She had to cry in every other scene. Sometimes just tearing up, while other times collapsing in full blown on your knees break your heart weeping. Just to make things interesting, Michael C. Hall and Jennifer Carpenter started dating and eventually eloped one New Year’s Eve. It’s never good when our real world intrudes on our make-believe worlds. In this case it leads to an unsavory sense of incest. Thankfully they divorced. However, if my memory serves me well, sometime before the program ends, Debra wants to get it on with Dexter. Thing is they are not biological siblings. Dexter was adopted. Still, that shady sense of incest sticks like a stain on an old mattress.

Binging on Dexter also makes me realize if I were a good American patriot I’d learn how to speak Spanish. That’s for another day. It’s 5:00 a.m. and time to close the blinds and crawl into bed.

Copyright © 2019 Dale Rominger


Claiming the Moral High Ground in Trumpland ~ No Problem

It’s not that difficult to claim the moral high ground in Trumpland.

I am sometimes unsure whether Trump is immoral or amoral. Of course, to describe someone as immoral implies that they know the difference between right and wrong but don’t care. An immoral person knows better. An amoral person doesn’t. They are more like a fish, ethically speaking, in that they don’t know the difference between what is right and what is wrong. They have no moral sense. So, is Trump immoral or amoral? My bias is towards immoral. My bet is he knows that racism is wrong, but nonetheless admires white supremacists. That he knows sexual abuse is wrong, but still brags about grabbing women’s pussies. That he knows a policy that separates children from their parents and puts them in cages is grossly maleficent, but does it anyway. That telling US service men and women in a war zone that they hadn’t had a raise in ten years (they have had raises every year for the past eleven years) and that he fought for and won them a 10% increase (they were given a 2.9% raise) were a blatant lies, but said them anyway. Trump’s moral and ethical failures are both personal and political, a reflection of both his character and actions.

It really is not that difficult to be better than Trump.

That’s why I was disappointed to read that Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib’s, the newly elected Democratic representative from Michigan, said: “We’re going to go in and impeach the motherfucker.” Of course, Tlaib was referring to “Individual—1” and part of me doesn’t blame her for getting carried away. But it was a mistake. First, it was a distraction from the celebration of diversity entering the House under the Democrats’ banner. Tlaib herself is a Palestinian American. The word “motherfucker” inevitably generated headlines that should have been announcing the first acts of the Democrat controlled House. Second, it was a gift to Republicans who probably couldn’t believe their luck. To declare that their outrage was hypocritical, while obviously true, misses the point. Saying that someone is as bad as me, or worse, does not expunge my failing or relieve me of my responsibilities. Third, if we are going to lower ourselves to Trump’s level, we can hardly then complain and criticize him for his abhorrent behavior. And fourth, in a contest to see who can go the lowest, my bet is that Trump will always win. I don’t believe we have seen the depths of his impropriety. I suspect we would look foolish trying to beat him at is own game.

In a review of The Fifth Risk by Michael Lewis, Fintan O’Toole wrote of Trump:

He disorients us by wearing his most contemptible qualities as if they were crown jewels, by brandishing as trophies what others would conceal as shameful secrets. He uses dirty linen as a cloth with which to polish up his performance.[1]

And later:

Trump’s flaunting of his own most shameful qualities deflects the damage that any revelation can do to him. When he displays his vices so openly, the drama of revelation leads only to a shrug of the shoulders: tell us something we didn’t know.[2]

So far, nobody knows how to handle his inside out in your face rudeness and politicking. The media covers his every insult and tweeter breath. It’s hard to see that stopping. As Les Moonves said of Trump in 2016

It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS...Man, who would have expected the ride we're all having right now? ... The money's rolling in and this is fun. I've never seen anything like this, and this going to be a very good year for us. Sorry. It's a terrible thing to say. But, bring it on, Donald. Keep going.

And, after all, Trump is the president of the United States of America and his texts flirting with illegality, his significant damage to the US internationally, his trade wars impacting US workers and the international economy, his financial profiting from his political position, his constant lying—sometimes trivial and sometimes significant—his attack on our common held understanding of truth and, indeed, reality, all have to be reported.

So, here’s to you the new congress members and senators. Just do your job of holding the executive branch accountable. Keep your cool as Trump stalks and attacks you. Call him on his shit without rolling in it. Don’t feed an out of control anti-democracy GOP. I wish you well.

Copyright © 2019 Dale Rominger

[1] O’Toole, Fintan. Saboteur in Chief. The New York Review of Books, December 6, 2018, Volume LXV, Number 19, p. 4.

[2] Ibid. P 4.


A Christmas Carol for Trumbland

A Christmas Carol for Trumbland

{Each year I reflect on Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. 2018 has been the year of children in cages. Not our white children, of course, but children of color from way down south. It’s been the year of National Guard and active military personnel at the border. It’s been the year of teargas. It’s been the year of huge tax cuts for the very wealthy and the attack on welfare programs, which means an attack on the poor, both working and unemployed. It’s increased foodbanks and anger. It’s Trumbland.

Dickens did not write the sweet tale that made it to our movie screens: This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it!"}

Scrooge had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the Total Abstinence Principle, ever afterwards; and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless us, Every One!

One of the saddest events in popular culture is the continual distortion of a great literary character through the romanticizing of Tiny Tim, transforming him into a sentimental, sweet character, whom we can first pity and then exploit, using him like a sponge to soak up our spilt Christian goodness. In fact, Tiny Tim is one key to "Keeping Christmas well”.

Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol in 1843, the first of five "Christmas Books" written from 1843 to 1848. In each book a central character suffers from a loss of faith in human dignity, but is eventually brought to realize the value of human spirit. The transformation each character goes through, and we must call it a transformation and not simply a change of mind or even heart, is accomplished through spirit intervention, or in other words, by spiritual means. In the preface to A Christmas Carol, Dickens wrote he hoped the story would "Awake some loving and forbearing thoughts, never out of season in a Christian land." In fact, he wrote the story because, in his opinion, "Keeping Christmas well" was out of season all the time. Dickens' ultimate hope was, of course, that through the power of his narratives the reader would, like the main characters, be transformed as well.

A Christmas Carol is not about a sweet little crippled boy, but instead is about the social conditions of Dickens' Britain. The story had (and still has) a strong social message. In and through the story, Dickens was appealing in general to the people of Britain to lead less selfish lives, and in particular to the rich to take seriously their duty of care for those less fortunate. He had visited Cornish tin mines early in 1843 and saw children laborers at work. He visited the Field Lane Ragged School in London, one of several institutions trying to educate hungry and illiterate children. After these experiences, he wrote A Christmas Carol in six weeks. During the writing of the "hymn" he said in a letter that he "wept and laughed and wept again...and in thinking walked the black streets of London...when all sober folks had gone to bed". In fact, the magic and mystery of his literary hymn exhibited a "strange mastery" over him, but a mastery of joy and love which he was impatient to return to each working day.

Dickens had a lot to weep and laugh about. For years the poor had not only been neglected by society, but also lived under the burden of a social philosophy and political policies that actually justified that neglect. In 1803 Thomas Malthus wrote the essay entitled Principle of Population. In it Malthus argued that any human being that could not be supported by his or her parents, and could not provide labor that was useful and required by society, had "no claim or right to the smallest portion of food." He went on to say that such people also had "no business" even being in society and that their death would "decrease the surplus population."

When society refuses people food, shelter, and work, there is only one place for them to go, or to be, and Scrooge, the character representing the Malthusian position, had no difficulty in saying precisely where or what that place was -- death. Scrooge, of course, had no time for the celebration of the child of salvation. For him Tiny Tim, whose parents could not support him and whose ill health made it impossible for him to become a good laborer for society, could simply die. When just before Christmas Scrooge was asked to make a contribution to help provide for the "Poor and destitute, who suffer greatly at the present," people in the thousands lacking common necessities and in the hundreds of thousands wanting common comforts, he responded:

"Are there no prisons?"
"Plenty of prisons," said the gentleman laying down his pen again.
”And the Union Workhouses?" demanded Scrooge. Are they still in operation?"
"They are. Still," returned the gentleman, "I wish I could say they were not."
"The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigor, then? said Scrooge.
"Both very busy. sir."
"Oh! I was afraid, from what you said at first that something had occurred to stop them in their useful course," said Scrooge. "I'm very glad to hear it."

The gentlemen, not giving up, explained to Scrooge that such provisions hardly "furnished Christmas cheer of mind or body to the multitudes" and that they were collecting funds to give the poor "meat and drink, and a means of warmth." But again Scrooge refused to give saying he wished to be left along. He then said, in full Malthusian passion:

"I don't make merry myself at Christmas and I can't afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned--they coast enough; and those who are badly off must go there."
"Many can't go there; and many would rather die."
"If they would rather die," said Scrooge, they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population."

Hope and warning are powerfully told when Scrooge met the Spirit of Christmas Present. As the evening passed the Spirit took Scrooge to homes where they stood beside the bedsides of the sick who, nonetheless, were cheerful. They visited those who struggled and were still living in great hope. They visited those who lived in poverty and were rich in spirit. And they visited the almshouses, hospitals, prisons where people experienced misery but had not "made fast the door and barred the Spirit out" thus allowing him to enter their misery and give the gift of blessing.

As the long night unfolded before him, time and space seemed to lose meaning for Scrooge, except that he noticed the Spirit was growing visibly older. He asked if life was so short for all spirits and the Spirit replied that his life would end that very night at midnight. As the chimes rang three quarters past eleven, with death approaching, hope turned to warning. Scrooge saw something in the folds of the Spirits clothing...

"Forgive me if I am not justified in what I ask," said Scrooge, looking intently at the Spirit's robe, "but I see something strange, and not belonging to yourself, protruding from your skirts. Is it a foot or a claw?"

"It might be a claw, for the flesh there is upon it," was the Spirit's sorrowful reply. "Look here!" exclaimed the Ghost. "They were a boy and girl. Yellow, meagre, ragged, scowling, wolfish; but prostate, too, in their humility. Where graceful youth should have filled their features out, and touched them with its freshest tints, a stale and shriveled hand, like that of age, had pinched, and twisted them, and pulled them into shreds. Where angels might have sat enthroned, devils lurked, and glared out menacing. No change, no degradation, no perversion of humanity, in any grade, through all the mysteries of wonderful creation, has monsters half so horrible and dread.”

Scrooge started back, appalled. Having them shown to him in this way, he tried to say they were fine children, but the words choked themselves, rather than be parties to a lie of such enormous magnitude.

"Spirit! are they yours?" Scrooge could say no more.

"They are Man's," said the Spirit, looking down upon them. "And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it!" cried the Spirit, stretching out its hand toward the city. "Slander those who tell it ye! Admit if for your factious purposes, and make it worse. And abide the end! “Have they no refuge or resource?" cried Scrooge.” Are there no prisons?" said the Spirit, turning on him for the last time with his own words. "Are there no work-houses?"
The bell struck twelve.

Dickens speaks with passion and power about the Spirit of Salvation. He sings the Spirit's blessings, for where he visits there is health, joy, home, and hope. Where the Spirit smiles, needs are met and comforts are offered. Dickens does not, however, sentimentalize the vision, for wrapped within the very clothing of the Spirit is the misery caused by human thought and deed. We shutter when we realize that the grotesque monsters revealed are the results of human exploits. We reel at the devils before us are in fact human beings and, once again, children. We desperately reach for a self-defense, any self-defense, when we are reminded that such human suffering belongs not to God but to us. We ache when we see how the suffering cling to the Spirit and look upon us with fear.

Perhaps it is time we re-read Dickens. If we were to "keep Christmas well" we would experience the wholeness of salvation's blessings. We would be filled with joy and pierced through the heart. In this world, both must be ours.

A Christmas Carol Scrooge ends with these words:

Scrooge had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the Total Abstinence Principle, ever afterwards; and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless us, Every one!

Copyright © 2018 Dale Rominger


Reading Between the Great Books

Some time ago, acknowledging that I have by far less time on planet Earth than I have already spent, I decided that I should read as many of the great Western novels as I can. I am, of course, aware that other cultures outside the Western literary tradition have great literature too. But considering my limited time, I chose to concentrate on great literature in the Western culture.

Of course, we all might not agree on what is “great” in our literary canon. While some works like The Odyssey and Don Quixote are assumed to be in the great canon, not all might agree that Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus and Catch-22 should be included. For the record, I do. Nonetheless, I have to confess that I got off to a rocky start. Perhaps foolishly, I started with Ulysses by James Joyce. Big mistake.

The copy of the book I purchased was Ulysses: A Reader’s Edition edited by Danis Rose.

In an effort to justify the book’s unreadability Rose explains that there are textual faults due to accident, the “misplacement of interlineated readings,”[1] imperfect transcription, and Joyce’s “omissions in creatively copying out of a protodraft.”[2] Rose further points out that the “isotext” is actually the book as Joyce himself wrote it, but that it does not make for a good reading text. However, “insofar as it is based on documents within the main line of transmission it is exactly the text in Joyce’s handwriting (in the main) from which the edition of Ulysses published in 1922 and all subsequent editions ultimately derive.” Indeed.

To get a feel for how bad things can get, read—read or try to read—Rose’s helpful merging of an isotext edition of Ulysses and his reader’s edition: “it is more extensive, engrossing as it does the two prototextual versions of the text that lie behind the (missing) typist’s copy,” and is, therefore, a synchronic and contextual deconstruction of the said isotext edition. An example.

And {And] mx [matrix] 3; and 0-1} Ù[that scholar] (2[this scholar] the learning knight {learning knight] mx 3; learning knight mx R } 2)Ù let pour for { for] 0, mx 1, 3, and Rl to r1; (2[him] G3+[the traveler] Childe Leopold+3ù2) a draught of fellowship { of fellowship] 0, 1; absent3 and R } Ù>and Úa { a] 0; absent 1 }Ú help thereto< the which { which]0-1; while mx 3 and R } >all< they { all they] r0;…[3]

Apparently, academic blood has been shed by Joycean disciples who disagreed, for example, on the exact amount Leopold Bloom spent on one square of soda bread as noted in his budget for 16 June 1904. Ostensibly their disagreement was caused by Joyce’s omissions in creatively copying out of a protodraft or by misplacement of interlineated readings.

Even if you can survive long enough to read about Bloom’s ontological and ethical crisis (which I’m sure he must have had, though it was nowhere in sight when I stopped reading on page 293 with the words, “From the belfries far and near the funereal death-bell tolled unceasingly, while all around the gloomy precincts rolled the ominous warning of a hundred muffled drums punctuated by the hollow booming of pieces of ordnance”[4]) there is every possibility you will not know you have arrived at the crucial moment. But if you do realize your arrival through some mysterious discernment, you will in all likelihood be unable to actually understand what you are reading. As for me,  Leopold Bloom should just be left wandering through Dublin with his free flowing poetic streams of consciousness.

Putting Ulysses: A Reader’s Edition back on the shelf I turned to a great American classic Moby Dick by Herman Melville. Moby Dick has one of the great opening lines: “Call me Ishmael. Some years ago - never mind how long precisely - having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world.”[5]

An excellent beginning, as I said, but unfortunately, and fairly quickly, the whole thing bogs down, or perhaps it is more appropriate to say becomes waterlogged. You run into a laborious chapter describing in painful detail more than anyone ever wanted to know about whales and the men who like killing whales. In truth it simply reports that Melville liked whales, liked being on whaling boats, and like killing whales. My suggestion is this: if you must read Moby Dick, which I do not recommend, skip the chapter on whales. After several pages of that, you don’t really care what happens to Captain Ahab when he is confronted with his ontological and ethical crisis. If you actually do get past the chapter on whales, you run into a whole chapter on "white." And if that were not enough, it is impossible to separate the author, Herman Melville, from the narrator, Ishmael. I can’t read Moby Dick without seeing Melville sitting at his lantern-lit desk, quill pen in hand, writing the damn thing. I became so bored and disturbed by this book I thought about writing a prequel, working title A Whale Called Richard (I think dropping the diminutive says it all), thinking maybe I could do better.

As I said, a bad start. However, I had better luck with Valentin Louis Georges Eugène Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time. Admittedly it took time—six volumes. And at times I got pretty damn bored. But all in all, I was glad I stuck it out. Madeline sponge cake will never be the same. Also, I loved The Odyssey translated by Emily Wilson—an excellent translation. Yes, I have read Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley, a must read to exorcise the film versions from your mind, if only for a moment. Hint, the monster wasn’t the bad guy. And, of course, I read Les Misérables by Victor Hugo, a book I really enjoyed, though it would never get past a professional editor today. I can also add to my list:

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

Great Expectations by Charles Dicken

Nineteen Eighty Four by George Orwell

The Trial by Franz Kafka

Beloved by Toni Morrison

The Stranger by Albert Camus

Well, I could go on, but I think you’d agree I’ve got a pretty good start on things. Though were are the female authors? I’m now reading Catch-22 by Joseph Heller to be followed by Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes.

In-between reading great Western books I have been reading books from other cultures, just so I remain connected to the rest of the world. If you’re interested in venturing into other cultures, I recommend the following as a start:

The Meursault Investigation by Kamel Daoud

Chachar Chaochar by Vivek Shanbhag

Shatila Stories by nine Syrian and Palestinian refugees from the Shatila refugee camp in Beirut

Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra

The Vegetarian and Human Acts by Han Kang

Copyright © 2018 Dale Rominger

[1] Rose, Danis. James Joyce Ulysses: A Reader’s Edition. Picador: London, 1997, p. xviii-xix.

[2] Ibid. p. xiii; p.

[3] Ibid. lxxviii.

[4] Ibid. pp. 163, 165.

[5] Melville, Herman. Moby Dick. Penguin Books: London, 1994, p. 21.



Did I Tell You I Used to Hate Books ~ I Mean Really Hated Them

I don’t know if any of you watched the PBS Great American Read and, indeed, participated in some way. I watched all the shows, which I found interesting, and voted several times.

The Great American Read started with 100 books, chosen, they told me, by readers “just like me.” I’m a little skeptical. If they were readers just like me then Fifty Shades of Grey and even The Da Vinci Code wouldn’t have made the top 100. Don’t get me wrong. The Da Vinci Code was a real page turner, which I enjoyed. And I’m fully aware that Dan Brown has sold millions of books and I’ve only sold a handful. I’m suitably impressed by Brown’s storytelling ability (and I believe his wife’s research), but good writing it is not. I had to keep reminding myself that the Great American Read was not necessarily about good or great literature, but about books Americans enjoy reading. And so you get the likes of I, Alex Cross next to Don Quixote, and Twilight next to The Grapes of Wrath. It really hurt to hear that The Sirens of Titan, at #87, came in one behind Fifty Shades of Grey at #86. Anyway, the top five finalist were in order of first to last: To Kill a Mockingbird; Outlander (series); Harry Potter (series); Pride and Prejudice; and The Lord of the Rings (series). If you want to look at how the voting ended, click here: The Great American Read

I bring this up because the program, while about authors and their books, was also about the importance of reading, and that element got me remembering. When I was young I hated reading and I hated books. I literally had a negative physical reaction to books. They made me ill. The reason was simple. I’m slightly dyslexic—not debilitating so, but enough to cause real problems when you’re young. And I was young long before anyone wrote their Ph.D. dissertation on the subject. We had to read out loud in class and that was a real difficult and humiliating experience for me. If I had to read “The dog chased the cat down the road,” my eyes and my voice could get stuck on the word cat, for example, and so I stopped reading, stuck. I knew the word was “cat” but I just couldn’t get it out of my mouth before my teacher hit me with a ruler and announced to the entire class that I was stupid. I kid you not! So, I hated reading and I hated books.

Two things happened to me that saved my life. First, even though books made me physically ill—did I say I hated books!— I still told myself I had to read a damn book, and then another, and then another. If I didn’t read several damn books I’d never get into college, and I was telling myself this as a little kid (I tended to worry about the future). And so, I went to the library and found Powder Keg: A Story of the Bermuda Gunpowder Mystery by Donald E. Cooke, The John C. Winston Company: Philadelphia and Toronto, 1953. The book is 179 pages long. I took it home, and at night while in bed, I made myself read ever damn word in the book. Every damn word! I couldn’t skip even one. It was important to me. If I failed to finish the book, or skipped even one word, then I would have failed. I had to read the entire book. As it turned out, I really enjoyed it. By the time I got into junior high school (which I guess is called middle school now) I was heavy into sci fi. I’d lie in bed in the summer reading to three in the morning. But Powder Keg is the first book I read, and I mean every damn word.

About five years ago I started thinking about that book. I didn’t have the title right in my mind, and I certainly didn’t remember the author, but I went to and started putting in titles. Eventually I found it and now I’m a proud owner of a first edition of Powder Keg.

The second miracle that saved me from a life bereft of books was a teacher. I think I got all the way to the 5th grade without being able to read worth shit and one day at the beginning of the year we were, of course, reading out loud in glass. At the end of the day, the teacher asked me to stay and when everyone was gone, she sat with me and simply asked straightforwardly if I could read. She asked in such a gentle and respectful way I simply said no. For the first time I told the truth about my inability. After faking it for years, it did feel good. She arranged for me to come to her house on Saturdays and she and her daughter, who was young than I, taught me to read. We ate tapioca pudding and read. Truly amazing. What a good person and teacher. I can still see her face, and interestingly her hands, but I do not remember her name. She’s long gone now, but she saved my life.

I now read all the time and love books. As I write this I’m in my study surrounded by books: fiction literary and popular, philosophy, theology, history, politics, narrative theory, theater and film theory, robotics and artificial intelligence and on and on. Now, I write books, though none of them got into the 100—go figure. Perhaps my time will yet come, but if it is going to come, I’d like it to be sooner rather than later.

So, forgiveness (if you can) to all the stupid and mean spirited teachers, and blessings and thanksgiving to all the intelligent and lifesaving teachers.

Copyright © 2018 Dale Rominger


Is Laughing at Trump a Good Idea?

From the moment Trump announced he was running for president a lot of us have been laughing at him. There’s so much material. If you are a satirist, you must be hoping he’s elected again in 2020. We laugh about his hair. We laugh about his small hands. We laugh about his long red tie. We laugh about things he says. We laugh about is narcissism. We laugh about his lack of experience. We laugh about his lack of knowledge. We laugh about his worldview. We laugh about the way he expresses himself. We laugh at his tweets. We laugh about his bankruptcies. We laugh because he so often seems so stupid (even as we recognize he is a genius at manipulating the narrative). We laugh. However, several months ago I started feeling uncomfortable about my laughter. Something started feeling wrong.

I’m not totally sure where my disquiet came from. In part it is linked to the fear and danger that as a country we are normalizing his abnormal category difference presidency. When he was first elected, there were almost constant reminders not to normalize what was happening. Not anymore. His ongoing attacks on the foundations of our democracy are now only expected. We hardly notice anymore. We all know he likes white supremacists. Nothing new there. We know he demeans women. Same old same old. We know he loves authoritarian leaders and dictators. So what? I’m worried that our laughter is simply part of the new normal. Every late night talk show host has a field day with him almost every night. Every day he creates new material for mockery. However, it’s hardly shocking because it’s now what we expect, it’s routine. What absurd, or immoral, or outrageous, or dangerous thing did he do or say today? Let’s make a joke.

I think also I associated the laughter with the hope that Trump simply wouldn’t, couldn’t, be around that long—and I felt that even though I have never thought, and do not now think, that he will be impeached. I think the deep down feeling that he was surely only a temporary aberration was because it was so difficult to believe that he was actually elected in the first place. It was, and perhaps still is, as if we elected to the presidency a man who openly defecates on the Oval Office carpet and brags about it as millions of his supporters applaud the act. He tells it, and shits it, like it is. Surely this was just a mistake to be corrected soon, and in the meantime we could have a good time laughing at him until he was gone. Thing is, he is not gone. The only way we will get rid of him is by winning an election, and with the Electoral College favoring the red states and the GOP doing everything it can to suppress the vote, winning elections gets harder and harder. So is my laughter now simply a way of hiding the terrible fact that we really will need to replace the carpet when he finally leaves—cleaning it just won’t do. Is my laughter an act of self-deception?

A couple of weeks ago my wife bought me a copy of #SAD!: Doonesbury in the Time of Trump by Garry Trudeau. It’s a great little book reproducing many of Trudeau’s cartoon strips he wrote and drew “in the time of Trump.” Reading the book I particularly loved Fox News reporter Roland B. Hedley’s and his tweets. However, I mention the book here because of Trudeau’s short introduction. In it he addresses the purpose of, in his case satire, but I’m including also the purpose of the laughter—the jokes, monologues, single cartoons, SNL skits, etc. He was asked if the flood of satire has changed even one mind. That question itself was interesting because I realized I had associated my laughter to the hope of change. Surely Trump couldn’t stay above water given the tsunami of satire and laughter at his expense. Could I be so naïve?

Trudeau’s answer to the question was: “That’s not the goal. It never was.” Trudeau wrote:

If satire has a mission statement, it’s surely a variant of humorist Finley Dunne’s famous prescription for advocacy journalism: to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted. On this first point, it’s well know how sensitive the president is to ridicule…”

So, I guess I’m to take some pleasure that my laughter might make Trump uncomfortable. I can accept that, but it doesn’t strike me as a very noble aspiration, to cause discomfort, unless…Unless, I take pleasure in afflicting what he’s doing rather than who he is. Having said that, it is difficult to separate the man from his performance.

As to the second phrase—to comfort the afflicted—Trudeau suggests that laughter and satire are at least antidotes to Trump’s bumbling and cruelty. Again Trudeau wrote:

If the president is determined to fill our every waking moment with revulsion and outrage, our solace is to see it all mercilessly mocked in a kind of therapeutic reset before bedtime.


[J]ust because two-fifths of the country are still in the thrall of a humungous con 'like no one’s ever seen before,’ doesn’t mean that the rest of us—appalled, disenfranchised, withering in embarrassment for our country—should forgo the comfort of laughter. At this benighted moment, it’s all we have.

Sobering but encouraging. So, I laugh because it’s therapeutic and comforting, and because it’s all I have. I laugh because it mocks the new American normal where the leader of our country falls in love with a cruel dictator and calls a woman Horseface. I laugh because, at least not yet, our man-child president and his supporters can’t stop me. Admittedly, my laughter won’t bring down a president, but still it is something.

I had a dear friend many years ago who said that in our age laughter is a prophetic act. That is so true now. We must laugh in the face of this political and personal cruelty and danger as if it will change the world.

Copyright © 2018 Dale Rominger


Rainy Day Musings on My Insignificance

It has occurred to me that I serve no purpose. I don’t say this because I am struck with some morbid debilitating melancholy. I don’t say it because I am depressed by self-doubt. I don’t say it because I am afflicted with self-loathing. No, all in all, I’m okay with myself. Yes, improvements could be made, but overall I’m okay. At least for now. Still, three immediate points need to be made.

One, a cold hard rain is falling outside my window.

Two, I’m saying I serve no purpose, not that have no purpose.

Here’s the definition of “have”(today I’m using the English Oxford Living Dictionary):  

  1. Possess (a quality, characteristic, or feature)
  2. Provide or indulge oneself with (something)
  3. Be made up of; comprise.
  4. Used to indicate a particular relationship.
  5. Be able to make use of (something available or at ones disposal).
  6. Have gained (a qualification).
  7. Possess as an intellectual attainment; know (a language or subject).

I clearly have a purpose. My very existence mandates I have a purpose. Well-being. Health. Self-improvement. I have qualities and characteristics and features. Who doesn’t. Yes, I do indulge myself (sometimes). Not answering the phone. The extra glass of wine. The money I spend on books, cooking magazines, the occasional t-shirt advertised on Facebook. I’m made up of a seemingly endless assortment of experiences, influences, memories, thoughts, feelings, and relationships. I have a wife. I have friends. I have acquaintances. I have enemies. I make use of many many things. How could I not? I have gained qualifications. Two, almost three. And I know a hell of a lot of things. I’ve been around for a while after all. I have purpose. But none of this is what I’m talking about.

Here’s the definition of “serve” (again the English Oxford Living Dictionary):

  1. Provide (an area or group of people) with a product or service.
  2. Be employed as a member of the armed forces.
  3. Spend (a period) in office, in an apprenticeship, or in prison.
  4. Present (food or drink) to someone.

At first glance, it would seem I also serve a purpose. While I do not provide anyone with a product or service, at least not in the formal sense, I’m not in the armed forces, and I’m not in an office, apprenticeship or prison, I do provide someone with food and drink. Which leads me to the third immediate point I need to make.

Three, when I say I serve no purpose I’m talking about the big picture, the grand scheme of things, the whole damn universe, not the everydayness of life. In the everydayness  of things I cook my wife’s dinners and she counts on my doing so. I serve a purpose. I share my body with some 90 million microbes. About 57% of the cells in my body are not mine. They belong to around ten thousand other species. I’m a walking ecosystem. I definitely serve a purpose every day. I keep 90 million microbes alive, not to mention all the tiny creatures making their home in and on my skin, and I present food and drink to my wife, just to name two of the more important services I provide. But again, these kinds of services are not what I’m talking about.

Perhaps if I quote John Lennon it will help to make my point. Actually, perhaps if I tear All You Need is Love[1] apart a bit, leaving out the “all you need is love” bit, you’ll understand.

There's nothing you can do that can't be done Nothing you can sing that can't be sung
Nothing you can say, but you can learn how to play the game
It's easy
Nothing you can make that can't be made
No one you can save that can't be saved
Nothing you can do, but you can learn how to be you in time
It's easy

There's nothing you can know that isn't known
Nothing you can see that isn't shown
There's nowhere you can be that isn't where you're meant to be
It's easy

I’m a big Beatles fan and I know the song was more than well received in 1968. All you need is love, and flower power. But for me at least, while love is great, love is imperative, it’s not all we need, not in the face of the above lyrics. Not in the face of one’s utter irrelevance, so callously made obvious by Lennon. Nothing, nothing, nothing. I relate better to what Devin McKinney wrote about the song[2]:

Even the anthem written as benedictory to the Beatle-hippie triumph, “All You Need Is Love,” was conflicted: buoyed by an aura of revelry, it was at its core as bone-tired and fuzzy-tongued as the ragged end of a long party. John sang the words of the title with an unmistakable flatness of vocal aspect, laying sarcasm and the smack of chewing gum between the lines.

And, of course, “it” isn’t easy. More than not “it” is hard. Certainly learning how to play the game, which ever game you’re talking about, can be hard. Ian MacDonald described the “It’s easy” refrain as “half-ingenuous, half-sarcastic.”[3] However, I digress. I don’t really care if the song was the flower power anthem of all time or the most shallow, lazy, cynical lyric ever written. My point here is that it nicely represents how I feel about things on this raining cold day. Nothing I have done hasn’t been done before. Nothing I can imagine hasn’t been imagined before. It’s even possible, nothing I have thought hasn’t been thought before.

Over dinner I asked my wife what the difference was between having a purpose and serving a purpose. Without hesitation she said: “Having a purpose is about identity. Serving a purpose is about utility.” She was right. Having a purpose is easy, in that I am the purpose. But serving a purpose, having genuine and unique utility, now that’s something else. I serve no unique utility, or if the word utility seems too mechanical, substitute efficacy, or effectiveness, or even worth.

Remembering we’re taking about the really big picture, it’s time to ask: So where’s the light?

Václav Havel wrote, and I must confess I don’t remember where, that the Soviet dominance in eastern and central Europe collapsed in part due to the almost entirely unnoticed actions of individuals. He gave this example: A person writes an samizdat essay, makes twelve carbon copies which are handed from reader to reader. The act itself is insignificant—twelve copies of one essay read by a handful of people in the face of Soviet oppression. However, Havel insists that the accumulation of virtually invisible acts brought down the great Soviet edifice. If true, that unseen writer with his almost unnoticed essay had a purpose in the big scheme of things. 

Let me put it another way. The moral and ethical integrity of an act is not determined by its efficacy. Years ago when the world began acting to end apartheid in South Africa, I withdrew my $500 from the Bank of America because of that bank’s investments in that country. I wrote a letter to the bank president explaining the reasons for my decision and actions. I never heard back from the president. I dare say, the withdrawal of my pitiful $500 went unnoticed in the bank. However, two things are important here.

First, the moral integrity of my decision and action was not undermined by the efficacy of the action. Regardless of the acts almost meaninglessness in the big picture, the bank, it still had value and served a purpose, in this case the purpose of moral/ethical integrity. Obviously I’m making an assumption here, that moral and ethical integrity are import in the big picture.

Two, like the thousands of invisible samizdat writers in Eastern Europe years ago, the accumulative effect of little people like me removing our money from a big bank did eventually have an impact, and since I was one of the invisibles, I too served a purpose.

I think that’s the best I can do, though more thought may be needed. Or, perhaps, a sunny day would help.

Copyright © 2018 Dale Rominger

[1] All You need is Love by the Beatles, credited to Lennon—McCartney, but written by John Lennon.

[2] McKinney, Devin. Magic Circles: The Beatles in Dream and History. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2003, p. 200.

[3] MacDonald, Ian. Revolution in the Head: The Beatles’ Records and the Sixties. London: Fourth Estate, 1994, p. 210.


The Great Philosophical Question about Half Filled Glasses

I often say this to people:

When someone asks me if my glass is half empty or half full I say: ‘Glass? What glass? Where the hell did you get a glass?’

Of course I mean it as a joke, an exaggeration. Still, while it implies that sometimes my glass is way worse than half empty, it certainly does state that within the parameters of the question, my glass is always half empty.

I suspect it is generally thought that having a glass half full is better than having one half empty, and the implication of that is that people with half full glasses are better off than people with glasses half empty. After all, being an optimist must be better than being a pessimist. Optimist are happy, pessimists are unhappy. Right?

I googled like crazy to discover the etymology of the idiom, but could find no consensus. However, I did find two references. The first claims the first recorded citation of the words came in 1985 from a Ronald Reagan quote in the New York Times: “you can say it’s like the glass half full or half empty…” I confess it’s hard for me to believe that a great psychological and philosophical tool came from Ronald Reagan, but as we know Trump is making all past Republican presidents look great.

The second reference claims that the expression is part of a proverb that originated in the first half of the 1900s. The proverb asks whether a glass that contains 50% water and 50% air is half full or half empty. Obviously in the proverb the glass is always full, so if you say the glass is half empty you have a negative worldview and if you say it is half full you have a positive world view.

There are, of course, two ways to ask the glass question: Is your glass half empty or half full; and, is the glass half empty or half full. The first is psychological and the second philosophical. The first can be seen as a kind of litmus test to determine a person’s psychology and/or worldview. The second indicates that a particular situation can be seen in different ways, both positive and negative.  

I’ve often found that half full people don’t appreciate my half empty perspective, and on occasion get downright annoyed with me—for God’s sake quit all your bitching. Here’s the thing:

Whether it was the cause of nature or nurture, or both, ever since I can remember there has always been a “but” in my life. My mom says, “It’s a beautiful morning,” and I respond, “But it might rain this afternoon.” My wife says, “The Paris climate change accord is a great step forward,” and I respond, “But it all depends on follow through, which is doubtful.” I say to myself, “I have a wonderful home,” and respond to myself, “But millions of people are living in abject poverty.”

Somewhere along the way I realize that this “but” and my half empty glass area a sensible technique for maneuvering my way through life. It dawned on me a long time ago that my “but” and my glass are not signs of negativity but evidence that I embrace a hermeneutic of suspicion and always have.

The term “hermeneutic of suspicion” was first coined by the philosopher Paul Ricoeur in his work of interpreting texts. In general “hermeneutics” is the theory of interpretation and began with the interpretation of biblical texts. Since the nineteenth century the term and methodology have been expanded to include the interpretation of all texts, including literary fiction, pop songs, legal documents, etc.

Ricoeur was uncomfortable with, indeed suspicious of, the notion that we the reader are capable of discerning the intentions of the author, especially if the author had been dead for some time. He thus wanted to ground his interpretation in objectivity, rather than in a subjective reading of an author’s intentions. In other words, he wanted to ground his interpretation in the text itself, not in the author’s mind. He believed that the text itself will guide us to its correct truth, though it is imperative to appreciate that “the truth” included a range of possible understandings. But, while there may be many interpretation of the truth of a text, there is not an unlimited number of valid interpretations. Because there may be a range of possible truths, but not an unlimited number of truths, it is important to proceed with a healthy dose of suspicion. Ricoeur argued that we had to remain open to what the text is saying to us, which he believed could and would lead us to its truth. Ricoeur wrote, "Hermeneutics seems to me to be animated by this double motivation: willingness to suspect, willingness to listen; vow of rigor, vow of obedience."[1] In a nutshell: be suspicious and be open; remain disciplined and meticulousness.

As the term and methodology moved from biblical texts to all texts, it has also moved from textual analysis to the areas of cultural, social, anthropological, feminist, and theological studies.[2] In cultural, and particularly feminist interpretations, the methodology demands we are suspicious of the dominant culture, politics, status quo. A theologically a hermeneutic of suspicion states that all aspects of God’s good creation can become bad.[3] So, borrowing from Ricoeur’s textual methodology, we must be suspicious of human thought, practice, traditions, behaviors and be open to what they can tell us. We must be disciplined and, as far as possible, objective in our study.

I had no way of knowing it, but as a child I embraced a hermeneutic of suspicion. It’s the “but.” It’s the half empty glass. It’s the best way I can survive the journey of life. It is not negativity or negation. It’s suspicion. It is not hopelessness. It is suspicion. It’s not the denial of sunshine. It’s the steadfast refusal to forget or ignore that dark clouds have gathered somewhere.

Admittedly, an all embracing hermeneutic of suspicion is a challenge to maintaining a steady state of happiness. Still, I’m comfortable with who I am. Those who find me unbearable can always unfriend me, though I bet they wouldn’t mind having me around if those dark clouds are gathering around them.

I do wonder from time to time what I would say about the glass if it were half filled with red wine and air.

[1] Ricoeur, Paul, Freud and Philosophy: An Essay on Interpretation (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1970), 27.

[2] Often people utilizing a hermeneutic of suspicion treat the cultural, social, or theological area of study as if it were a text.

[3] Even love if an obsession becomes a negative.


Remembering One Hot Summer in Areopolis ~ Joy, Spiders, and Bemused Tourists

Years ago I had a friend who owned a small house in Areopolis, Greece. I once spent a month there by myself. I spent a lot of time sitting in a taverna called Estiatopion writing in my journal.

Areopolis was hot. As I sat in a taverna on the piatsa I knew just how hot. The taverna was called the Estiatopion. It was owned and run by a family and a young girl served me as often as not. I would discover that her name was Joy in English. She found my name interesting and was utterly curious about me. She asked in broken English, what I was doing and, as best I could, I explained I was writing down in a journal what I was seeing and experiencing and that she was now  in my journal as well. When she finally understood, she was thrilled and beautifully self-conscious.

AreopolisI sat drinking retsina taken from a large wooden barrel in the kitchen and served in an orange aluminium half pint pitcher, old, chipped, and dented. Before me, on the railing of the taverna, was a spider weaving its evening web. I could not see the web itself nor where it was attached to the railing. It seemed the spider hung in mid-air, oblivious to the demands of gravity. It was, nonetheless, busy, creating invisible and dangerous threads.

From my table I looked out upon the open piatsa. To my left was one of the twenty churches in Areopolis, small, attractive, well taken care of, and open. I wondered what purpose it served here on the public plaza. Perhaps just the purpose of being taken care of. Perhaps witness.

As I poured more retsina into a small glass, the spider finished its construction and sat quietly and patiently in the middle of its web. Joy came from inside the taverna with my bread, tzatziki and salad. As a gift she brought me watermelon. She seemed to like me, and that was welcomed. The spider made its first catch, a small gnat, the very kind that liked to swim along the surface of my retsina. A little girl passing in front of the church crossed herself three times. In the piatsa boys played football, young men strutted their stuff, and young girls tossed their hair. At a table to my right a grandfather ate with his grandson, demonstrating such tenderness toward the boy that it almost brought tears to my eyes.

AreopolisThe next day Areopolis was hotter still and I returned to the Estiatopion. Joy brought me a frappe without my asking. The Estiatopion was one of five tavernas in a row facing the piatsa. To the right was Nicola's Corner. Interestingly, Nicola's was the second in the row, not on the corner at all. Obviously, Nicola (and I chose to assume there actually was a Nicola) did not want us to read the word "corner" literally. In fact, Nicola demanded that we put aside our Enlightenment and scientific positivistic seductions and deceptions and read corner poetically. If we did not, could not, we missed the whole point, and poor Nicola would turn out looking like a bloody fool. But if we did, well, the word "corner" would evoke all kinds of images, feelings and desires, some of which Nicola's Corner would satisfy. But I mention Nicola's Corner because it was also where the buses stopped. Local buses, Athens buses, tourist buses.

Opposite Nicola's Corner, across the street, on the actual corner of the piatsa was a small kiosk. Inside the kiosk sat an old woman in black. She sat there all day and late into the night. She sold ice cream, smokes, snacks of all kinds, plastic offensive toy weapons and time on the telephone. You really had to want the time, however. It was expensive.

About half the piatsa was covered with tables and chairs owned by the five tavernas and identified by territory and colour. Whites, yellows, reds, striped large coverings on metal frames, huge white umbrellas all busy until midnight. Also on the piatsa was a statue of the local hero who started  a revolution that swept across old Greece.

Petros MierrokasAreopolis is a town on the Mani Peninsula and the name means the “city of Ares,” the ancient Greek god of war. On March 17, 1821 the Greek War of Independence was started in Areopolis by Petros Mierrokas, the very man now standing frozen in time in the piatsa. Now the children play at the base of Mierrokas’s statue. The weeds grow and the tourists take pictures, though I'm sure they have no idea who the man with the large sword actually was.

As I sat drinking my frappe, a tourist bus arrived in front of Nicola's Corner. From it exited, it seemed to me rather reluctantly, white, limp, camera laden tourists. Some came straight to Nicola's Corner and took a seat. One family ventured up the three steps of Estiatopion. Some walked across the street to the piatsa and took pictures of the local statue. And a few ventured into town.  

The centre of Areopolis was to the right of the piatsa perhaps 100 meters down a narrow street. As these few adventurers walked down that street, they passed a post office, a chemist, a couple of old markets selling fruits and vegetables, and a few rather cheap shops selling goods to tourists. At the point where the road narrowed still more, they turned and came back to the bus. There they hovered aimlessly waiting for the bus engine to come to life and the door to open.

Sadly, if they had continued walking, they would have entered the old plaza at the end of the narrow street. They would have walked upon cobbles aching with age and history, the actual place where the local hero began the revolution. They would have seen the old church and the old bakery. If they had had real courage, they would have bent low to pass through the small door of the bakery, tripped over hard bread covering every inch of surface space, and seen an old woman sweeping soot out of an older stone oven with a carbon black cloth on the end of a long wooden pole. Outside the bakery, they would have seen old houses and the famous Mani towers. But instead they returned to their bus.

Copyright © 2018 Dale Rominger


What Did Sandy and Heihei See in the Dark ~ I Don’t Really Want to Know

I have been fortunate to welcome in my home two nonhuman guests. I know the “nonhuman” is insulting. It’s like saying “nonwhites” or that women are human beings without penises. Nonetheless, both were female mammals, the first a small dog by the name of Sandy and the second a kitten called Heihei. I have to say both Alexa and Hey Google were somewhat vague on the meaning of the name Heihei and so I had to email Heihei’s owners who are Chinese. Heihei is a Cantonese name, the Chinese character being . The name means “joyjoy.” Fortunately, Alexa and Hey Google were more forthcoming with the name Sandy: originally a diminutive of Alexander and as a feminine name a diminutive of Alexandra or Sandra. Of course, it also refers to a color and in the case of my guest it was very appropriate. Sandy means “protector of humankind.” I have no difficulty seeing Sandy as a protector, in this case of me for a week, and Heihei as joyous. She sure liked to play, or sleep. It was playing or sleeping and not much else. However, I digress.  

I must say, Sandy and Heihei were excellent guest, though I found Heihei more challenging—I did worry sometimes her very sharp claws would meet my favorite brown chair in the snug, which I will get to momentarily. They both were pleasant and enjoyable to have for the week each stayed. They both enjoyed playing and neither did any damage. They both liked to sleep in my lap. They both quickly became loving companions. For the record, they were much better guests than some humans I’ve had, though it’s best not to elaborate. It was sad to say goodbye to Sandy and Heihei when their respective weeks ended. However, there is a “however” coming.

SandyIf you sit on my sofa in the living room, across the room the dining area is directly in front of you and the kitchen to the left of the dining area. At a 45 degree angle to your left in a direct line of sight is a small room my wife and I call “the snug” (we lived in Britain for 30 years). The snug is where Roberta practices her cello and I read, though not at the same time, obviously. It’s a very pleasant room with three bookshelves descending in height from tall to medium to short along one wall. There is a big leather chair and foot rest in the corner next to small and large windows. In the summer I open the large window and luxuriate in a gentle breeze while reading. There are large and small cabinets, a floor lamp next to the chair, and a small table lamp on the small cabinet in the corner opposite the chair and windows. Above the medium bookshelf are two original paintings from Venice and above the small bookshelf an original piece from Shanghai. To the right of the large window, as you look at the window, is a 300 year old map of Scotland (I’m still fascinated that I own a map older than the United States of America). Above the large cabinet is an abstract metal sculpture holding several small candles. And above the small cabinet is a painting by my wife’s father. All in all, it may be the most pleasant room in the house.

On more than a few occasions, as the evening was slipping into night, and night into late, while Sandy and, then months later, Heihei were sitting with me on the couch, they both, independently and in their unique way, suddenly struck a pose of what I can only describe as extreme alertness. Their back feet on the couch seat and their front feet on the arm of the couch, they held their bodies perfectly still and rigidly tense. Their faces were frozen concentration. Though it sounds contradictory, they both looked ready to attack or flee at a moment’s notice. When I turned to them and asked what they saw, neither moved. Neither turned her head towards me. Neither acknowledged my existence. Their eyes remained staring lasers-like into the dark snug.

I’m not a superstitious person, though I must confess I am afraid of the dark, just a little. I assume my fear is simply a species specific genetic inheritance. Such is life. However, I must also confess, seeing first Sandy and then Heihei so suddenly and utterly zoned in on the dark snug did make me to feel more than a little uneasy. As I said, when I questioned them, neither acknowledged my presence when just a moment ago we were pleasantly watching TV together.

HeiheiOf course I assumed they were seeing or sensing something in the snug that I could not see or sense. The fact that two different mammalian species independently and at different times from one another had almost identical reactions to the sung served to confirm that supposition. I also assumed that the “something” either seen or sensed, or both of course, was more ethereal than corporeal. And I chose to believe that whatever Sandy and Heihei were seeing/sensing was benign, if not friendly. I chose to believe this because the snug is such a welcoming and peaceful space.

Do I believe anything I just said? Probably not. Do I believe in ghosts? Probably not. Do I believe animals can see/sense things I can’t? Probably yes. I have come to think that being agnostic about many aspects of reality is probably the more intelligent and reasonable way to be. Am I agnostic about everything? Absolutely not? Am I agnostic about what’s going in on my snug late at not? Probably yes? Do I read in the snug late at night, even without my mammalian friends? Definitely yes. Do I wish I could somehow “speak” with Sandy and Heihei in order to identify what they were experiencing? Probably not. Eventually they both turned their heads to look at me, then back at the snug, and then did an about face and returned to my lap. Neither seemed concerned. In fact, both fell asleep.

Copyright © 2018 Dale Rominger


False Equivalencies All Over the Place

The grocery store is a short walk from our house. I walk a path along a rather pleasant wooded area filled with trees, bushes, plants, ducks, rabbits, squirrels, birds, and goodness knows what else. When it rains the entire area becomes a large pond or marsh. The path leads me to the back of the grocery store where trucks and vans make deliveries.

Today as I stepped from the path onto the blacktop behind the store there was a white van with the radio blasting. The first thing I heard was that the male announcer’s voice was aggressive, angry, and hate-filled. I heard Rosa Parks’ name mentioned though I don’t think his hate was directly aimed at her. He was saying, almost shouting, that taking a bullet in a foreign country for the United States of America was real service. You, you just sit at the phone everyday asking for donations and you think you serve the United States of America. Taking a bullet is real patriotism. He went on in this vain, and as I said, I don’t know who all the venom was aimed at and what it had to do with Rosa Parks, but I wouldn’t be surprised if race had something to do with the hate-filled tone.

Next to the van were two men. One I assumed was the driver making a delivery and the other a grocery store employee accepting the delivery. They were both yelling, Yea! Yea!, and applauding the announcer. Whatever was going on they sure agreed with him. As I walked by, the following scenario played out in my imagination:

I walked up to the two men and said: Hi, I’m not sure what the guy on the radio is talking about, but I don’t think drawing an equivalency between taking a bullet for your country in a war zone  is fair. Two things bother me. First, if you’re talking about service to your country, what job equals serving in the military in a combat zone? And second, what sacrifice is equal to being wounded, maimed, crippled, or killed? I mean, if your criteria for patriotism is being shot for your country then hardly anyone is a patriot, including the hundreds of thousands of men and women in the military who have never seen combat and the hundreds of thousands of men and women who have been in combat but have never “taken a bullet.”

It’s not fair. You’re a van driver and delivery man. Compared to the person taking that bullet you’re not a very great American. Right? I mean, you just drive your van every day. And you, you work at a grocery store taking deliveries. Same goes for you. Same goes for me, because I’ve never taken a bullet for my country either. And here’s a flash. I wouldn’t be overly surprised if that fucking announcer has never taken a bullet for his country either—though I don’t know that for sure and if he has, my apologies. But even if he has, he’s still spewing hate-filled false equivalencies that none of us can live up to. The guy’s full of crap, and really stupid crap at that.

So, listen you guys, you van driver and you stock boy, have a great day. And remember, given what you’ve been applauding, there’s nothing you can do to make that guy happy except signing up and going out and getting shot. So, good luck with that.

Two things need to be made clear. First, I didn’t stopped to talk to the two men. Second, there is nothing wrong with being a van driver making deliveries and there’s nothing wrong with working in a grocery store accepting deliveries. In fact, both jobs are important for keeping things going, for holding society together, for feeding people. What’s wrong are false equivalencies and we’ve been hearing a lot of those lately.

Copyright © 2018 Dale Rominger


David Bean ~ Remembering an Author

From June 1985 to June 1986 I lived in Castle Carrock, a small village in Cumbria, Great Britain. I rented a small cottage in the village and across the narrow street was a pub called the Duke of Cumberland. The pub was run by Lynn and John, a married couple from Edinburgh. Lynn had been a journalist and John an architect, both giving up the fast life to run a small country pub, at least for a while.

It was in this pub that I met David Bean. I don’t remember how it got started, but I gathered with a small group of men each Tuesday early evening for our “Tuesday Seminar.” The group consisted of a doctor, an architect (John, also pulling pints behind the bar), an ophthalmologist, a minister (me, at the time), and an author (of course, David Bean). We talked about life, the universe, and everything as we drank pints of beer, and the occasional whiskey (it was the doctor, Hugh, who introduced me to Macallan).

I was in the village on a year’s leave from the San Francisco Bay Area supposedly writing my Ph.D. dissertation. For reasons not important now—in fact they hardly matter anymore it was so long ago—I never did get my proposal accepted and instead turned to writing a somewhat mediocre novel (if only I had known at the time).

David BeanI’m pretty sure, unless your British, you will have never heard of David Bean. Nonetheless, he was a human being worth knowing and an author worth reading. He’s certainly worth remembering. David and I became passing friends during that year. He smoked a pipe and I remember the first time I got in his small somewhat beat up red car the floor, on both the driver and passenger sides, was completely carpeted with Swann matches—his match of choice for lighting his pipe. When I knew him he had brown hair and beard, and a face that was both intelligent and kind. We talked books and plays. He gave me a copy of his books Sounding Brass and The Hard Case. I would recommend both, though The Hard Case is the better. I believe his first published novel was The Day of the Bugles. I haven’t read it yet, but did find a hardback copy on

David died at the age of 80 in hospital. I found part of an obituary in The Journal (Newcastle, England) but unfortunately there was not a date included. Nonetheless, David worked for various newspapers when he went north from London to live. In 1960 he went freelance and wrote for The Guardian and the BBC. He wrote plays for Radio Four and films for the BBC. His novels include: The Day of the Bugles; Sounding Brass; The Hard Case; The Big Meeting; Waster’s Sabbath; The Restoration; The Chronicles of Boggerthwaite: An Everyday Story of Lakeland Folk; and more. (That’s all I got from the obituary because I could only read a portion. To read the rest would have meant joining Questia for an outrageous cost.)

When I remember that year in Castle Carrock the two people I think of the most are John (the Duke of Cumberland) and David. Towards the end of my year, during a beautiful summer, David asked me to listen to a play he had written being performed on Radio Four. I said I would, but I didn’t. I don’t remember why, but I do remember the look of disappointment on his face when I told him I had missed it. No BBC on demand back then, so the play was gone. Here was a man who made his living by writing, and he had respected me enough to ask me to listen to his play so we could then discuss it. What makes it even worse is I had asked him to read my novel, and he did!

The novel was entitled The Night is Nearly Over. David’s first comment when we were sitting outside at The Duke on a sunny day under an umbrella was that he wasn’t overly impressed by the title. He had written ten comments about my book, three of which he said were major and seven minor (the comment about the title actually made eleven). We sat drinking our pints and he graciously, kindly, intelligently, respectively talked about my book. When he was done he said something like this: “Those are my thoughts. I could be wrong. It might sell a million.” It didn’t.

David Bean at the Duke of CumberlandThe Night is Nearly Over never got published, though I still have a copy which is sitting on the desk to the left of my computer staring me in the face as I write this. It’s a story of locked in syndrome, lucid dreaming, religious fundamentalism, political intrigue, and love (of course). It begins: “Arthur Mohandas Desai found himself on the corner of High and George IV in Edinburgh, Scotland. It was the twilight hour. The streets were empty.” Perhaps now you have an idea why it was never publish. And was the reference to Scotland really necessary?

I kept a journal that year and only made one reference to David Bean:

I have read The Hard Case and it was very good. David agreed to read The Night is Nearly Over. I have, of course, mixed feelings about this. On the one hand I am very pleased. It is my hope that he likes it and also gives me tips. On the other hand, he may hate the book and give me reason for depression. I have a hope to learn the art of writing. I need some reason to continue.

Poor me! I must have been scared to death. “Need some reason to continue,” indeed. There was no reason to be nervous. David Bean was a kind soul and a good writer. He was not famous, but he did good work, and a lot of it. As The Journal wrote: "Since 1959, Mr Bean is said to have written more than 500 documentaries for television and a comparable number for Radio Four." He wasn’t wealthy, but he made his living and made a difference to people. To ask for more in life might be a bit boorish.

I will always remember his smile, his pipe, the Swan matches, sitting in The Duke of Cumberland drinking more than one pint of bitter, certainly his books, but most of all sitting at the outside table of The Duke talking about my first novel. Too bad about the play.

Copyright © 2018 Dale Rominger


Climate Change ~ I Chose Option 2 and So Should You

I’ve become involved in an energy program in my wife’s church that will increase the energy efficiency of the building, to include changes to lighting, heating, insulation, and the installation of solar panels. Two people came to the church to conduct a survey of the building. They walked through the building asking questions and taking notes. They climbed up on the roof. They turned on their laptop to give us the lowdown on the benefits of solar panels. It was all very interesting and encouraging.

Towards the end of our time together I had a conversation with the person responsible for upgrades to the building. She told me that as a climate change scientist she had made several visits to the arctic and that at one point a number of years passed before returning. When she finally did return she was shocked by the changes in the environment due to climate changes. As a result of the shock, she decided to form a company to help people counter climate change by improving their energy usage.

She said something that moved me to respond, “Yeah, when I see a small child I think to myself that that child might see the end of human civilization.” She responded without missing a beat, “Oh, it’s not might.”

She was dead serious and I confessed that I said “might” because I didn’t want to sound alarmist and crazy, but that in fact I believed human civilization was coming to an end due to climate change and that I was only slightly agnostic about the extinction of our species, along with the millions of other species we will be taking with us. She agreed, again without hesitation and with frightening seriousness. I almost asked her that if she believed things were going to collapse and our very survival was a risk, why she does what she does. I stopped myself, because I thought I knew what she would say.

 If you believe it is too late and the collapse is coming, and especially if you believe the extinction is inevitable, you can do one of two things:

Option 1: You can say there’s nothing you can do to prevent the tragedy, so you’re going to live your life as if the end weren’t coming. You’ll fly here and there. You’ll heat your home with fossil fuels and as warm as you want. You’ll drive a gas consuming polluting car and maybe a big one at that. You’ll invest your money where you can make the most profit, even if it’s in fossil fuels. You’ll eat steak. You’ll use plastic bags to carry your groceries and use your plastic straw only once before throwing it away. You’ll continue to vote Republican (in the US). You’ll do whatever you damn well please because it doesn’t matter anyway. And you certainly won’t waste good money on special light bulbs and solar panels.

Option 2: You can conclude that even if there is nothing you can do to prevent the inevitable collapse, your helplessness and the inevitability does not relieve you of the moral and ethical obligation to live as if your choices and behavior can change the future for the better. Of course it goes without saying, if you chose Option 2, you have to avoid as best you can all those things in Option 1, including voting for Republican Party candidates.

I’ve opted for Option 2, which does not in any way make me a hero. It’s just the choice I’ve made, even though I believe there is little to no hope. And to that end, my wife and I have bought an all-electric car, we rarely use the central heating in our house (each room can be warmed separately), we’ve been replacing the lightbulbs, we’ve made sure the house is properly insulated, we mostly eat vegetarian (though I do eat fish and poultry and the very occasional hamburger in the summer), we’re looking into installing solar panels (when we can afford it), etc.

Unfortunately, not believing climate change is real—like a rock is real, like the round earth is real, like gravity is real—doesn’t make it go away. Disbelieve all you want. Your foot will still hurt if you drop a rock on it. You still have to fly around the earth to get to the other side, not under it. You’re still stuck to the planet. While we can disagree if the sunset is beautiful or not, whether or not the Beatles was the best band ever (obviously it was!), we certainly should not be disagreeing on whether or not the earth is round (here’s a heads-up, NASA checked, it is), and whether the earth is hotting up.

Be clear about one thing. You do not install solar panels to save the planet. The planet will do just fine without us, probably better. Earth can host life for another 1.75 billion years. After we’re gone, and, again, having taken millions of innocent species with us, the earth will recover and numerous forms of life will emerge and thrive. No, the solar panels are an attempt to save ourselves.

If you think I actually am a crazy alarmist always bitching about my glass being empty, I would suggest you’re not keeping up. The human species is facing its greatest existential crisis, ever. Just three very real, real like the rock and the round earth, hints to get you started:

Watch the Methane (CH4)

You think CO2 is bad. CO2 is nothing compared to CH4 now bubbling out of the Arctic oceans and spewing from the permafrost. CH4 traps up to 100 times more heat than CO2 in a five year period and 72 times more heat in a 20 year period. The good news is that CH4 decays into CO2 within a decade or two. However, while it’s in the atmosphere it warms the planet on steroids for that decade or two. Of course, CH4 begets CH4 in a positive feedback loop. As this particular climate steroid heats the planet scientist talk of a Methane Tomb Bomb and a 50-gigaton (that’s 50 billion ton) “burb” of methane from the thawing Arctic permafrost as highly possible at any time. And remember, CH4 is constantly being released into the atmosphere. So don’t take too much comfort in that decade thing, if you know what I mean.

Watch the WBT

WBT stands for “wet bulb” temperature, a measurement of the deadly combination of heat and humidity. Once WBT reaches 35C the air is so hot and humid the human body cannot cool itself by sweating. Even healthy people die within six hours. Your body won’t really care if you believe in climate change or not. It will still die. By the way, we are already nearing a WBT of 35C in many parts of the world. Since air conditioning feeds climate warming, don’t put your hopes there. It’s another one of those nasty climate change positive feedback loops.

Watch the Coastlines

The maps included with this blog give an indication of what the earth will look like after climate change. The earth’s coastlines will change dramatically as the sea level rises due to the melting ice sheets and glaciers. As I write, Iceland and Greenland are melting. Bad news for New York, London, Shanghai, to name but three huge coastal cities. It's estimated that over 634 million people live in coastal areas that are at risk of rising sea levels. This number represents one-tenth of the global population—at present! As the sea levels rise and coastal cities fail to cope, a lot of people are going to migrate inland. Raise your hand if you think that will happen peacefully.

I could go on, but those three very real and well-argued expected changes should get you started. My advice: chose Option 2. After all, maybe I’m wrong about the future. If I am, you might help save civilization and the species (and I’m sure the millions of species on the planet will be very grateful). If I’m right, well, perhaps you can postpone the inevitable for a little while, but if not, you can still feel really good about yourself. However, if you have children and grandchildren, you have no excuse. Option 2 is really your only choice if you want to be both honest with yourself and sleep at night.

Copyright © 2018 Dale Rominger


You Got a Revolution, Just Not the One You Expected

For those of you who, like Susan Sarandon (a most articulate spokesperson for the cause), thought it best to have Trump instead of Clinton as your president because reaction to a Trump presidency would usher in an immediate Sanders-like revolution, well you got a revolution, just not the one you expected. Thanks.

Make no mistake, we are living in a political revolution. The president of the United States attacks, and thus far fairly successful if the polls are to be trusted, every foundational principle of our democracy:

The president of the United States seems to favor authoritarian rulers even as he criticizes and attracts our allies. He supports and praises rightwing nationalists groups in Europe that want nothing less than the break-up of the European Union. Some of the rulers Trump has voiced support for or admiration of: Vladimir Putin (Russia), Xi Jinping (China), Kim Jung-un (North Korea), Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (Turkey), Rodrigo Duterte (Philippines), Prayut Chan-o-cha (Thailand), Viktor Orbán (Hungary), Marine Le Pen (France), Nigel Farage (Great Britain).

The president of the United States is undermining the agreed consensus of the West (political, economic, and military) that has been in place since the fall of Hitler and fascism, which can only delight Putin and Xi Jinping, and maybe his new friend Kim Jong-um. He declared that NATO is a “bad thing.” Europe is actually having to ask itself it the United States is now an unreliable if not hostile state. Trump tried to persuade France to leave the European Union

The president of the United States said that there were good people among Nazi marchers. He’s a favorite among the KKK, American Nazis, and the alt-right. He has brought known white supremacist into the White House.

The president of the United States has, not only encourage violence, but has called for it (against protestors and suggested the police should treat suspected offenders with more aggressiveness).

The president of the United States is in large part defined by his mendacity, so impressive that it is difficult to believe anything coming out of his mouth. The Washington Post has documented his lying: 3001 lies in the first 466 days of this presidency, or 6.5 lies a day. The lying, while a reflection of the man’s character, is much more than a personal failure. Trump’s lying undermine our shared understanding of what is factual and thus our very democracy. As James Pfiffner writing for Brookings reminds us, the frequency and character of his lying contradict our commonly held understanding of the Enlightenment principle that there are actually things we identify as objective facts identified through rationality, investigation, empirical evidence, and the scientific method. Given that “political discourse involves making logical arguments and adducing evidence in support of those arguments,” the very nature of our democratic process is undermined by a president who apparently can’t stop lying.  Pfiffner writes:   

Even though his narcissistic lies are detrimental to the democratic process, Trump’s continued adherence to demonstrably false statements about politics and policy strikes at the very heart of democracy and the whole project of enlightenment epistemology. If there are no agreed upon facts, then it becomes impossible for people to make judgments about their government or hold it accountable.

You were right. Trump did usher in a revolution (and I haven’t even begun to address his supporting cast: his kleptocratic gang in the White House and cabinet, and, of course, the radical rouge party known as the Republican Party). We are now beginning to reap the benefits of the revolution, which include, to name only a few:

  • A budget that supports the oligarchy and vastly increases the national debt;
  • A radical dismantling of provision for ordinary people in favor of the oligarchy;
  • A possible trade war that is already costing the jobs of some those forgotten and left behind workers;
  • The legalization of gerrymandering;
  • The attack on Medicare and Medicare;
  • The sabotage of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare);
  • ICE and the separation of families;
  • The suggestion to cancel due process and the rule of law on our national borders; and
  • A travel ban based on people’s religious faith.
But let me mention one consequence which is having a profound impact one our society and will continue to do so for decades into the future: The Supreme Court.

This really is American politics 101. The president nominates a candidate to become a Supreme Court justice. The Senate confirms by a simple majority. Through a political coup Trump has so far nominated one justice. Given that Kennedy has announced his retirement, Trump will nominate, and the Senate will confirm, a second right-wing judge to the Court. And given Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s age, it is not totally unreasonable to worry that Trump will nominate a third. The implications of a rightwing Court are frightening to think about. Of course, Clinton would have nominated moderate to liberal judges, but you wanted a Sanders-like revolution.

Well, suck it up. Fasten your seatbelt. Things are going to get much worse. And there’s nothing you can do about the next Supreme Court appointment. As it stands, given that it takes a simple majority to confirm a candidate, there is nothing the Democrats can do to stop an confirmation before the November elections. Not fair I hear you cry, since the GOP help denied Obama a nomination with almost a year until the next election. Hypocrisy you scream. Do you think the GOP gives a damn about fairness and hypocrisy? Get real. It’s a done deal. So resist all you want, but remember this resistance will last for decades. You can’t vote out a Supreme Court justice. They leave when they retire or die.

Yea, Clinton wasn’t perfect. She didn’t embrace all your values. It didn’t occur to you that the election wasn’t just about you. It was about the commonwealth and the common good.

Well, welcome to the revolution.

Copyright © 2018 Dale Rominger