Island Life


All who wander are not lost- I keep telling myself that. I have done my share of wandering, and at times have berated myself for my apparent lack of direction. But then, I get to the end and look back at where I’ve been and say: oh, that’s why I was there. After college graduation my parents gave me a three week trip to Europe that was also a photography “class” of sorts. I gave class the quotes because it was basically a group of people wandering around taking photos in foreign lands with a half-assed bit of critique and assessment at the end by a photography professor from Rochester Institute of Technology. Most of the people on the trip were high school art teachers, and as I soon learned, they had been getting together on these trips for years during their summer breaks. They would take some photos during the day, and then meet in Herman’s room for “smart drinks” when the day was done, or nearly so. The rest of us would wander more diligently with cameras always at the ready, not that we were going after a grade or anything- we just had slightly different priorities.

At the end of the three weeks, we met in London for our final critique. After that was over I had the option of staying for another three weeks, as I had gotten a 30-60 day ticket. Having been kind of wandering already for the three weeks, I gathered the momentum, made a transatlantic call to my parents for another $250, and with that in pocket I stuck my thumb out and headed to the Lake District. I eventually wound up in southwest Scotland at a B+B, as I was in need of overnight accommodation while waiting to take the ferry to Belfast the next day. It didn’t matter that these were the times of the Troubles, and I would soon find armed English troops in the streets that next day- I was just wandering. Having made it safely through Belfast and on down to Dublin, I then hitched my way to the Limerick airport through that second three weeks and came home with more than a few dollars, or pounds, still in my pockets- those were the days.

But before I further wandered the streets of Belfast and lived to tell about it, I spent the evening before in a pub with a British couple, talking about stuff. They were there on holiday- that’s mostly all I remember. But I also remember what they said as we called it an evening, and that was: “You can’t be an American- you’re nice.” This kind of baffled me. I had heard about the ugly American stereotype, but I hadn’t thought that it was so widely and firmly held. I mean, weren’t we always the good guys? I guess not. This vision of me, and us, has stuck with me ever since. It has echoed through my brain cavities right up until today, as I stood and watched on the big teevee as American citizens stormed the steps of the American capitol building at the behest and urging of what for a few more days is the visage of a person occupying the office of the President of the United States. If I had thought more about what possible mutations to the American dream might manifest themselves in the forty five years that have passed since my pub night in Stranraer, I would never have come up with the abomination that unfolded today on the U.S. capitol steps. I don’t know if the singing group known as the Capitol Steps that used to parody in song (do they still?) the quirky machinations of our American government could have conceived of it either. But in fast forwarding to the now of a few hours ago, it seems that the people in charge of security in the nation’s capitol should have known that the deranged ramblings of the enabler in chief would most likely inspire actions around the capitol that would not end well, either in terms of aberrant physical actions, or as embarrassing visuals that would further the impression of ugly Americanism around the world.

But in truth, none of this should come as any surprise to any of us. It was the perambulatory hemorrhoid known as Steve Bannon who mentioned at the beginning of this four year dumpster fire that the focus of that administration was going to be to “deconstruct the administrative state”. Those words stuck with, and on, me as they emerged from his mouth in a form only slightly distinguishable from the rest of the sputum he originated. As we have seen, the various agencies of what used to be a functioning government here have been systematically laid to waste. One need to only look at what is left of the Centers for Disease Control and this government’s response, or lack of it, to the ongoing pandemic to understand only a fraction of the damage that has been done by the Orange Turdball and his band of ass clowns. It seems that the mantra of the Republican party has for a long time been the diminution of “big government”, although I have never really understood why. One of the misadventures that a few us went on during the first night of our European Photo Study Workshop, as it was euphemistically known, was a late night drinking fest with a pair of Danish citizens on our first and only night in Copenhagen. They worked for the government, and told us how they  paid somewhere around forty percent of their salary (I think- maybe it was more) in taxes. But they were good with that, because of all the services they got in return. It is, after all, what government is supposed to do, and so it has always baffled me as to why someone would want to get elected into the government, and then actively work to tear it down. That would be a bit like getting hired as a baker and then adding crushed glass to the bread dough, or like just hand-tightening the lug nuts on every tire change you did at the service center and calling that good. It would seem that one wouldn’t last at these jobs much longer than the time it took someone to recognize their incompetence, so why do these government haters keep getting reelected, term after term, and why do some of us keep voting for them?

It was on a one way westward trip across this country back in late 2015 when I realized that all of the Make America Great yard signs I was seeing might be a greater indication that we were in for an election eve disappointment a year later than what we were otherwise being led to believe. It was disturbing, but at the time it resolved in my mind as: “well, you get what you deserve.” I saw Mr. Drumpf as the embodiment of ugly Americanism, and so it seemed that he was a perfect fit with boorish redneckism that personified the base of his voters. What I didn’t see was his enabling of the sleeping giant of latent racism throughout this country, or have any indication as to the depth he was willing to go to disable so many facets of common sense government regulations that had been put in place over decades as a means of assuring a common good. And then there was the lying, which in spite of all warnings against its normalization, like pretty much else he has done, it has gotten and continues to get repeat passes from his supporters and much of the media.

It seems, though, that we are finally moving toward the end of this kakistocracy. This was a word I had never heard of before, and in looking into the dungeons of the internets for it, it seems that it was mostly unused, if not unknown, until the incipience of the reign of the current, clothesless child-emperor. It remains to be understood why a word for a “government by the worst people” should exist, let alone the reality or embodiment of it. But then again, as one after another of this administration’s cabinet chiefs were named and rammed through in confirmation, it became ever more clear how thorough of a deconstruction was underway as we were dragged through these interminable, Drumpfian years.

So where should we go from here? There is of course the often repeated dogmatic response of “moving on” from all of this. Unless there is some accounting for the fraud, corruption, lying and disinformation of these years there will be no stopping a repeat of this disaster. As a remedy, the full investigation and prosecution of the offending buffoon president should be high on, if not at the top of the response list. Some say he should be impeached again, which would seem wise, and this time eminently achievable, given his most recent excursion into extortion and vote rigging as evidenced by an hour of perfectly good phone recordings. It is said that moving on would “help the nation to heal”, but that would be like expecting a cancer patient to get better without first removing the tumor.

It is not only the lying and twisted truth by the person currently residing in the highest political office of this land, but it is also the lying and mistruths by lesser members of the government, as well as by certain news organizations and their mouthpieces, that needs to be curtailed and disallowed through standards, regulations and legislation, such as a revisitation of the Fairness Doctrine, which disappeared under Reagan’s FCC in 1987, and had held broadcasters responsible for showing both sides of controversial issues, and would require all broadcasters to actually be fair and balanced, and not just say that they are. One might also start with requiring the establishment of a baseline for truth. At some point it needs to be universally recognized that a belief can exist in either fact or fiction, but a truth or a fact can only be found whilst wandering in the non-fiction section.