Sunday 22 November 2020

Winners & Losers 2020 Elections

Who are the winners and losers of the 2020 political campaigns?


Donald Trump is perhaps both. Love him or hate him he has changed the political landscape in four dizzying years.


His Republican Party has so far managed to hold on to Senate power and clipped Speaker Pelosi’s wings in the House, but Mr. Trump has been unceremoniously shown the door.


Yet watching him barnstorm the battleground states in the final week of the campaign I could only marvel at the man. He singlehandedly battled the entire Democratic Party to a standstill, and had the campaign lasted an extra week he would likely still be president.


God alone knows how much illness, and even death, he caused at his super-spreader events, but he still made Mr. Biden and his masked Democrats seem anemic and often self-righteous.


What a force for good he could have been if he wasn’t poisoned by his own toxic narcissism.


And so he conspires and tweets away his remaining days in the White House, unable to face any reality except his own.


And what of Joe Biden? Talk about a comeback! The Scranton Kid will become president on this his third attempt, hopefully restoring decency and competency to an office once universally admired.


For better or worse, the new American order will be comprised of Biden, McConnell and Pelosi – three pragmatists who worked their way to the top by sheer grit and resolution. 


An exhausted nation turns its eyes to them in hope that commonsense will reign again in Washington DC. 


And not a moment too soon, for the COVID-19 pandemic is surging across the country and will not be stopped until there is a unified Federal response.


Forget about Mr. Trump, with his head full of vengeful fantasies, and so much cable television to critique, he doesn’t even have time to support a badly needed economic stimulus. 


Meanwhile millions sink further into poverty, with one in eight households having less than enough to eat.


When we do finally come through this crisis there’ll be two inevitable consequences – Mr. McConnell’s new Republican party will have once again become fiscally hawkish, and financial inequality in the US will be even more pronounced. 


The former occurs every time a Democrat becomes president, the latter is just a fact of American life.


Apart from President-Elect Biden, who was the biggest winner in the recent election? 


Stacey Abrams, without a doubt. When she lost the gubernatorial contest in Georgia two years ago she set about organizing and registering voters. Last week she turned Georgia blue.


I wouldn’t use the term loser on Staten Island Congressman Max Rose. He was a rare bridge between blue and red, and like Ms. Abrams he will turn this defeat into victory and go on to bigger things in DC or NYC.


The big loser was the Democratic Party. It neglected the Latino vote and magnanimously ceded the white working class to a reactionary Republican party.


True, Democrats won Arizona and the presidency, but they suffered what may turn out to be debilitating losses in both the Senate and the House. They have yet to learn that raising money is no substitute for boots on the ground in a political campaign.


However, on January 5th they have a chance for redemption in Georgia’s two run-off Senate races where Stacey Abrams and her activists will once more go to bat for them.


Meanwhile Mr. Trump raves on, refusing to admit defeat until every obtuse legal option has been exhausted. With 9 weeks to go before he unwillingly vacates the White House, anxiety is rising that he may have some surprise up his sleeve for us.


And what of the next four years?  Will he play golf and write his memoirs, or become another Mussolini searching for his balcony?


Time will tell, but the real winners in the election were the American people. Despite a raging pandemic many stood on line for hours to exercise their democratic right to vote.


Here’s to the new triumvirate – Biden, McConnell, and Pelosi. We can only pray that they’ll overcome old rivalries and speedily enact a new stimulus bill that will both rid us of this pandemic, and begin to address the inequality that has dimmed the lights of this shining city on a hill.


Monday 9 November 2020

The Ospreys have flown

The ospreys are gone. They’ve been like friends through much of the pandemic. I knew they’d head south in the fall and yet I came to dread the day they’d leave.


As it turned out the parting was no big deal: I got preoccupied with some small crisis or other, and one morning realized I hadn’t seen them for a while.  


Since they can travel up to 170 miles a day, they’re probably already down in South Carolina replenishing themselves before taking off for Southern Florida.


From there it’s on to summer in South America, forsaking us in the chilly North East.


I’ve been attracted to hawks ever since my father pointed them out to me on the farm outside Wexford town.


They ruled the skies above those lush fields, swooping down on unsuspecting mice and unlucky rats. 


Ospreys, though from the hawk family, only eat fish and thus live close to the sea or inland lakes and lagoon.


About 20 years ago I began to take notice of hawks again. I was then traveling the roads of America with Black 47. The journeys were long and rambunctious, punctuated by long periods of silence when you became keenly aware of the passing countryside.


The hawk is hard to miss for it tends to hover on high before swooping down on its prey.


Over the years their numbers seemed to multiply and it was a rare journey when I wouldn’t catch multiple sightings.


When I mentioned this to an amateur ornithologist he said their numbers had increased since DDT was banned in 1972, at first slowly but in leaps and bounds since the 1990s.


What an effect we humans have on all species we share the planet with; and how odd that in our own season of pandemic and pause I should become more aware of the ospreys.


This year I was hell bent on finishing a novel that I had dithered over for a long time, and thus was rising in darkness and working through the dawn.


In ways it was idyllic for I have a view of a large bay. The darkness faded early and there was an hour or two of gorgeous muted light before the sun surfaced on the horizon.


It was in that time that I first noticed the ospreys.


Occasionally I would see two of them, but after the first month more often than not it was just the one. 


I took it that the female had finally laid her eggs and was guarding them while the male scouted from as high as 100 feet before diving spectacularly into the bay.


He moved so swiftly I thought he went head first into the water, but later I noticed that he pirouetted just before breaking the surface so that his talons could grab hold of the fish. 


As he rose back into the sky he methodically turned the fish head first to lessen air resistance on his journey back to the nest.


My ornithologist informed me that the chicks thrived on this diet of live sushi and can usually fly within 60 days of hatching.


Writing novels is a solitary business but never a lonely one – your head is full of characters and their ways; it throbs with the thwarted logic and inanities of the human condition until you want to cast the whole shebang away from you.


At such moments I would break away from the accursed laptop and gaze out the window. Soon enough the osprey would appear from the west.


What a majestic flyer with a wingspan approaching five feet! He could cover football fields in seconds before hovering gracefully, then plunging swiftly below the waves.


One morning in September five of them appeared, three young hawks learning to hunt under the watchful eye of the male and female. I almost cheered. They had raised three healthy offspring in the midst of our crisis.


They came every day and my spirit soared. By then I’d finished the novel. Cornell University Press will publish Rockaway Blue on March 15th.


I hope that you and I and all who read this column will be hale and hearty when the ospreys return a month or so later.  It’s something to look forward to.