Sunday, February 14, 2021

THE POSSIBLE END OF THE TRUMP ERA (2021): A Return To Normalcy?


The second senate impeachment trial ended, unsurprisingly, with the acquittal of Donald J. Trump.  The vote was 57 to convict and 43 to acquit, significantly short of the two-thirds vote required. 

 Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, voted against impeachment, but then boisterously attacked Trump for his conduct during the January 6 attack on the Capitol.  Nancy Pelosi was quick to attack McConnell as a hypocrite for not breaking with his party.  Ms. Pelosi likely forgot her own party’s partisanship.  No Democratic senator broke rank with their party, while seven Republicans voted for conviction.  Maybe the only surprise about the vote was that Louisiana’s Republican Senator Bill Cassidy, who earlier voted the impeachment of Trump was not constitutional, voted to convict this time around.

 When prosecutors decided against calling more than one witness to the impeachment trial, it was apparent to even them that this was a show trial.  They wanted to have their say and get it over.  The excuse was that they did not wish to distract from the Biden early agenda for his administration.

Indeed, it appears that Joe Biden wishes to be cautious and thoughtful.  He is probably already thinking about the midterm elections of 2022.  Biden was Vice President when President Obama signed into law the Affordable Care Act.  Partially as a result, the U.S. House and Senate went Republican in 2010.  Biden wishes to distance himself as much as possible from Donald Trump by almost appearing dull and conventional.  And following the Trump presidency, it would be difficult for him to appear otherwise.  Biden, who is 78-years-old, has been a political insider for nearly 50 years.  Trump won the presidency by promising to “drain the swamp” in Washington, D.C.

 Biden’s harshest critics will continually portray his policies as merely appeasing the “radical left.”  And undoubtedly, Biden did choose his running mate, Kamala Harris, as someone who would appeal to those with more progressive leanings.  But Biden is also aware of how close the election of 2020 actually was.  If not for the global pandemic, Trump would likely have won reelection.  And even with the pandemic, Trump may still have won if he made an effort to appear more compassionate in his response.  Instead, Trump mocked Biden for wearing a mask.  What I’m saying is that Biden will have to straddle the fence of bipartisanship if he hopes to complete any portion of his agenda.

 So what is to become of Donald Trump?  He promises that he will be back.  And he still has a small but entirely devoted group of followers.  His followers were the swing votes that gave him the election in 2016.  They are the ones that the pollsters, time after time, somehow managed to ignore.  Finally, they showed how much importance they put upon Trump by what occurred during the Capitol riots.

 As an outsider, Trump had the opportunity to make positive changes.  The economy was going full hilt, and only a pandemic slowed it down.  But even with the pandemic, the stock market continued to sore.  Unemployment, though rising dramatically in March 2020, has come down significantly in the following months.  And despite criticisms of his handling of the pandemic, neither House nor Senate Democrats saw what was coming, either.  

 Trump is an opportunist who, in 2016, turned negative campaigning into an art.  He knows how to poke at his opponent’s vulnerabilities.  Trump is willing to turn on allies who were significantly responsible for his success.  The nicknames he labels his opponents with, if somewhat cruel and unfair, are usually apt.  Trump has no reservations against making personal attacks.  

 The primary and presidential debates of 2016 had a huge television audience for reasons of entertainment.  Yet Trump’s first debate with Joe Biden in 2020 was almost surreal.  Hopefully, it will forever get rid of the notion that presidential debates contain an ounce of substance.  Biden didn’t do all that much better in that first debate and probably lost the second debate to someone he labeled a “clown.”

 The problem with it is such tactics grow old.  Eventually, people saw Trump for maybe what he was all along: narcissistic.  Trump remained tone-deaf to issues of race and suffering within our country.  Because of his shortcomings, I hope that we do not hear about him again.  I’m guessing that he will never again hold public office.  Nothing below the presidency would likely satisfy him at this point in any case.  And whatever his messaging may be, history will paint him as the President who watched his followers break into the Capitol.  After all, we will remember James Buchanan as the President who took no action when the Confederacy overtook Fort Sumter. 

 I’m okay with acquitting Trump during the Senate hearing if only because it allows us to talk about other things.  I’m also uncomfortable with the Senate holding impeachment hearings for an individual no longer in office.  It’s an expansion upon their authority to try something never before done, and they already have too much power.  But Trump also abdicated his responsibilities as well, probably since the announcement of Joe Biden’s election.

 But Trump will not likely disappear, nor will his followers.  We will continually hear them shout their discontent.  An unsavory portion of his followers wave the Confederate flag and hold notions regarding race and immigrants all of us would be better off without.    Still, some of them are also blue-collared workers that both major parties ignore.  These are men and women supporting families and who feel left behind.  If we are to talk about inclusiveness, we need to include them in the discussion as well.

 I have not added a blog post for months hoping that events may eventually calm down enough so I could catch a breath.  Maybe the calming will now occur.  But we have to get beyond political leanings and the arrogance that we, whoever “we” may be, have all the right answers.  Citizens of the United States need to abide by a sense of decency.

 February 14, 2021


 © Robert S. Miller 2021



Saturday, May 30, 2020

THE DEATH OF GEORGE FLOYD – And the Protests that Followed (2020)

Anyone seeing the video of George Floyd dying on the streets of Minneapolis at the hands of the police has the right to be outraged. His death was everyone’s loss.

I also take issue with those hijacking protests in his name to loot, vandalize and commit arson. For whatever reason, the protests spilled over to the Midway neighborhood of St. Paul. More than 170 businesses in that city were looted, damaged, and/or burned to the ground. Such businesses set on fire included:

  1.  Lloyd’s Pharmacy on Snelling Avenue – a store that served the Midway area and senior citizens for close to 50 years
  2.  Big Top Liquors – A store that survived many changes in the area
  3.  Footlocker – Looted entirely before burned to the ground
  4.  Sports Dome – Business opened approximately ten years ago unique to University Avenue.
  5.  Springboard for the Arts – On University Avenue close to the State Capitol
  6.   Bole Ethiopian Cuisine – Owned and operated by an immigrant from Bole, Ethiopia

Wonderful establishments such as Axman Surplus and The Turf Club also sustained substantial damage.A friend of mine, living in the Midway area with his wife and three daughters for twenty years, said the following: “My neighborhood is gone.”

For those who believe they can justify such violence, there is no use in speaking to me about it. Changing my opinion on the matter will not change the circumstances. Preach it to the young Ethiopian woman whose dream, livelihood and years of effort to open a restaurant on University Avenue just went up in flames. But I truly hope nobody has the conceit to convey such a message to her.

Let’s honor the memory and legacy of George Floyd by protesting in his name peacefully and with dignity.

May 30, 2020

© Robert S. Miller 2020

Thursday, April 30, 2020

BECOMING WHO I WAS (2017): Tutor and Protégé

At 95 minutes and distributed in mostly independent theatres, it’s not surprising that this documentary only grossed around $270,000.  Yet Becoming Who I Was is a moving film not because of the subject matter, but because of the relationship of the man who tutors a young boy who is to become a Rinpoche.  For those who do not know what that is, a Rinpoche in the Buddhist faith is an incarnated lama.  Thus, we have the title of this film.

Yet, for me, the merits of this movie have practically nothing to do with reincarnation, Buddhism, or any other mystical element that the New Age community may latch upon.  It’s a good story because the filmmakers somehow were able to capture the devotion and kind-heartedness of the elderly tutor who wants to see his pupil succeed.

The film starts slowly enough.  It portrays Angdu Padma, our future Rinpoche, anywhere from the ages of 9 to approximately 12 or 13.  What we notice about him is that he seems so very much like a typical young and likable boy.  He claims to have memories of a past life, and that seems to generate all of the fuss.  Those his age don’t seem that impressed.  Some even tease him about his lack of ability to play soccer and his short height.

His tutor, Rigzin Urgain, on the other hand, believes that Padma is special.  At first, it seems like Urgain only took on the role because of the requirements of the religious community, but when we see to what lengths he goes in helping his pupil, we know his devotion to the child goes much deeper than that.  Urgain is a humble man in the very best sense.  He doesn’t even seem to realize that he is doing something extraordinary in helping Padma gain a better understanding of the world.  It doesn’t matter that the two are Buddhists.  His tutorship would benefit the boy under any sort of instruction. 

So like Urgain, this is a humble movie – outside of its title and spectacular scenery.  Yes, it is a South Korean film winning: (1) the best feature film at the Berlin International Film Festival; (2) best documentary at the Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival, Phoenix Film Festival and Seattle Film Festival; (3) and the Moscow International Documentary Film Festival.  I’m not sure anyone cares.  It is probably too low-key ever to have substantial viewership.

For all practical purposes, this is a slightly offbeat father/son relationship story.  The film’s picking up on this relationship, especially in the second half of the movie, is what makes it unique.

And in this film, we have a pilgrimage with the two traveling across much of India and relying on the kindness of others to have Padma educated in a Buddhist monastery – supposedly so that the boy could better understand his gifts.  Yet watching the film, it appears that Urgain would be a better instructor than anyone else who would try to fill his role.

To me, the title is misleading.  Padma is not becoming who he was, but instead is becoming something better than that.  He is becoming a real human being. 

April 30, 2020

© Robert S. Miller 2020