What the Coasts Don’t Know

I don’t want anyone to think I have any sympathies toward the new Administration, I don’t. But I get how they got elected. (I’m more than a little concerned that the Party of “Left” is still seeking insight.)


Do you want to peek inside the mind of a guy who voted for the Blowhard in Chief? No, really, do you want a peek in there or just stand here outside and project what you fear is in there? If you want in, you have to promise to remember you are a guest in there and you should act like one. I don’t want to hear any negative judgment or watch your side eye. Listen to his memories and feelings. Feel the sounds of his life and the music on the radio in the truck. Take in the smells of two-lane highways and the ways you have to take care of your kids. Shiver with the lack of cash. There’s never enough cash.


You folks on the coasts kinda came back pretty well from 2008. Not so much out here in the Red parts of the states. In fact, the folks that screwed us all back then ended up in great shape and we didn’t get very much. We’re kind of still trying to see the other side of that hole in the ground. I mean, the guys who did it didn’t lose their houses, or their vehicles or their self-respect. They didn’t lose anything. So, why should it surprise you when I say I want someone to shake it up. It sure as shit ain’t getting any worse for me. 


But do you know who gets it? No, I mean he’s been getting it for a long time: James McMurtry. The guy McMurtry writes and sings about is the guy who would vote for Joe Biden but wouldn’t cross the street to shake Chuck Schumer’s hand. A piece of me gets that too. So, here’s the deal, I want you to read this article  and to listen to McMurtry’s latest album, Complicated Game. You can stream it for free at the bottom of the page. That’s your homework. We can figure out a way to use that insight down the road. But we better get it figured out before 2018.

When Was America Great (Before)?

Speculation on my FaceBook page is that the Trumpster is thinking of pre Voting Rights Act, Pre Civil Rights Act when he thinks of the America he wants to take us back to. I tend to think it might specifically be the years 1956-1964. Those would have been very formative years for The Donald. Pre-civil rights, pre-womens’ liberation, pre-Vietnam War protests. you know, back when it was a White man’s world.

Consequently, I believe we should try to communicate with him and his Trumpsters via those images and appeals. They aren’t very good at doing the 21st Century. So, here’s my first appeal.

Eddie Cochran co-wrote and performed this song, originally released in August of 1958. I have only changed a little of it so as to not shock his system too drastically. Think of me as a pacemaker. He has been a little erratic lately, so I’m the pacemaker. Bzzt! Straighten up, Donald.

Feel free to play the Eddie Cochran video below and substitute the lyrics below. Kind of karaoke-style. If you play the guitar, make a video and I’ll link to it too.

I give you, Ain’t No Cure for the Trumpertime Blues.

I’m gonna raise a fuss, I’m gonna raise a holler
About a-workin’ all summer just to end up with the Donald.
Every time I call my baby, and ask him for a date
“No dice,” Trumpster said, “you need a lady mate.”
Sometimes I wonder what I’m a-gonna do,
But there ain’t no cure for the Trumpertime blues.

Well my mom and poppa told me, “Son, you gotta make some money,
“Cuz there’s no pensions left, now ain’t that funny?”
Well I didn’t go to work, I was too damned sick
“You’re fired!” Trumpster said, “cuz you didn’t work a lick.”
Sometimes I wonder what I’m a-gonna do
But there ain’t no cure for the Trumpertime blues

I’m gonna take two weeks, gonna learn me some knowledge
‘Bout the kinda damn fools in the ‘Lectoral College.
Well, I called my congressman and he said “Whoa!
“I’d like to help you son but you’re too broke to vote.”
Sometimes I wonder what I’m a-gonna do,
But there ain’t no cure for the Trumpertime blues.

Review–Light of the World by James Lee Burke


This is the twentieth novel in the Dave Robicheaux series. If you have read and enjoyed the earlier ones, you will enjoy this one too. And if you have not read any of the earlier efforts by Burke in the series, this is not the place to start. Start with Creole Belle. This series and this character have both grown over their career-long development. I do hope there is at least one more Robicheaux novel set in Louisiana.

All of our favorite characters are present and accounted for: Dave Robicheaux, Clete Purcell, Dave’s daughter Alafair Robicheaux, Clete’s daughter Gretchen Horowitz. And bad guys. No one paints better bad guys than Burke. In this case, Asa Surrette is an asshole, a first class asshole. He even stinks of shit, literally. Kidnapper, rapist, murderer, mass murderer, torturer. More. A deeply committed asshole…with skills.

The first third of the novel goes to great lengths to set up tension between Dave and Clete on one side and the official law enforcers of a rural Montana County on the other. That is what Clete is for. Everyone knows Clete just wants to get stuff done and he doesn’t care too much about the bright line of the law. He is a P.I. after all. Dave’s job is to keep Clete just on this side of legal. He often fails.

As usual, Burke’s general themes play out at length. What is the source of evil? What are “good” men to do about the problem of evil? Can we get in the ring with evil and get out without its stink clinging to us? Toward that purpose, we get passages like this: “The evil in our lives comes from men’s greed, and the manifestation of that greed is in the corporations that cause the wars.” (252)

At least we can agree on politics.

But what of mortality? How long should a man live in the face of evil? When have we had enough? Albert is a teacher of creative writing who has lived longer than he thought and longer than his wife. He also had Asa Surrette as a student at some time in the past. How does Robicheaux feel about Albert? “I loved Albert and felt bad for him. I hadn’t meant to hurt him or remind him of the loss of his wife or call up the feelings of loneliness and mortality that beset all of us when we live longer than perhaps we should.” (252) In short, Burke is reaching for an elusive thread that reveals that “good guys” and “bad guys,” if they live long enough, are not very clearly different from each other. Some pessimism, I suppose. But the older I get, the truer it feels to me.

And later, one more distinction to draw: malevolence as it relates to evil. There are lots of cruel people. But even in understanding that, Burke offers this apologia. Robicheaux says, “I have known many cruel people in my life. Their cruelty, in my opinion, was the mask for their fear. It’s as simple as that.” (280) I must concur. I’ve never known a bully who wasn’t a coward; I’ve never known a cruel person who wasn’t fearful of someone being cruel to them first. Can we still love humanity if we know these things?

If all of this existential dourness is true, what is the point of reading a Dave Robicheaux novel? Or reading at all? Or breathing?

“I have never set much store in psychological stability or what we refer to as normalcy. I don’t believe the world is a rational place; nor do I believe that either science or the study of metaphysics can explain any of the great mysteries. I have always fled the presence of those who claim they know the truth about anything. I agree with George Bernard Shaw’s statement that we learn little or nothing from rational people, because rational people adapt themselves to the world and, consequently, are seldom visionary.” (604)

And so, throughout history, the artists have thrown in with the crazy, the deluded, the drunkards, the addicts, the other artists.

Whether we like it or not, we are approaching the end of the life of Burke. He has written a shelf-full of fiction and what does a writer like that generate after a lifetime of examining the human condition? How about this pearl?

From the epilogue, Dave Robicheaux says:

“I have never bought into the notion that time is linear, in the same way I feel that straight lines are a superimposition on the natural world and contravene the impetus that drives it. All matter aspires to roundness and symmetry, in the same way that seasons are cyclical and that God in His way slays Himself with every leaf that flies. In other words, inside eternity, the alpha and omega meet and end at the same place. I guess a simpler way of saying it is that things are often not as they appear.” (627)

Thus it is with evil.

Open Letter to the White House


I wanted to start this letter on the 100th day of your Presidency but I couldn’t wait. I fear I won’t recognize my country by then. I also wanted to start it with “Dear President Donald Trump,” but I couldn’t force myself to type those words. I’m not alone in that. Courtesy considered but not extended.

In addition, I wanted to avoid reference to specific policies. I might agree with your action on TPP and oppose your restrictions on immigration, but that is not the point. My objection is deeper. It is to the WAY you approach the office that I think is most damaging. Please consider a different approach in governance. Please consider “presiding” rather than “ruling.” I know Bannon will not agree with that offering. There is nothing about that man that is (small d) democratic. But your place in history depends on that simple choice.

America has survived several “bad” presidents. It has also failed to progress during periods governed by brilliant men who didn’t seem to have the knack for leadership. Which way will you want to be remembered? Today, going on only these few first days, it looks like you think a President issues edicts. There is something to be said for unilateral action by a President when faced with a recalcitrant congress or opposition. You certainly don’t have a recalcitrant Congress. This is a Republican majority Senate, House and, if they approve your recommendation for the Supreme Court, it will be a conservative majority court as well. In that situation, using the prescribed processes for legislation goes much further in creating an image of a President of the United States using the power of government, proving that elections have consequences. But twenty Executive Orders in ten days shows a different kind of personality. It seems you don’t trust your Senate or House. Do you fear they will turn on you? And you don’t seem to trust the Courts. I know, it takes a long time to have the courts review and rule. You appear to only trust the unilateral powers of the office of the President and you are apparently dedicated to the exercise and expansion of those powers.

In this way you appear to me to be very much like Nixon but far more impatient and less respectful of the legislative process of representative democracy. How else should I take it? That begins to look like disrespect for and assault on the state itself. And it’s not like Bannon hasn’t said exactly that kind of thing very recently in public. I’m open to a different interpretation, but I don’t find one. People are using the words “coup,” “war,” “shadow leader” and the like. No one is asserting this is a “military junta.” In many ways the military is as shocked over these actions as the rest of the American populace.

This blitzkrieg of orders has me looking for historical counterparts. I can only find them in the worst possible scenarios. All of them fall variously into the term “regime change.” And I understand about how political thinking and action tends to run in cycles. It is often called a pendulum swing. But in this case, it feels like the clock fell off the wall and is bounding across the floor, spraying springs and gears with each overreaching new order. I think your approach most resembles Benito Mussolini’s rise to power, but others point to Hitler. I think Hitler is less like you, especially since, in the beginning, Hitler really admired Mussolini, even calling him a mentor. I don’t think you are working in admiration of anyone else, but the change in direction of our government might be more akin to other social and political revolutions. Lenin? Stalin? Mao? It may be too early to make those kinds of judgments. That is the purpose of this letter.

Please change the way you approach this job. You are not rescuing a failing company you just purchased at a discount. You can’t cut up its departments and sell off the ones that aren’t “producing.” It should be your goal to make them produce, not make them ineffective, weak and irrelevant. Government is very different from business. There should be no elite shareholders. We are all in this together. Think of us as customers.

I appeal to you today on a level I believe will have a chance of touching you. Your place in history is certain, now that you have ascended to the Presidency. The perception of your place in history is now up to how well you govern, how your hand holds the tiller of the ship of state. A tiller needs a steady hand with an eye on the safe passage of the ship. It does not need a hand looking for a chokehold, or a rapid change of course that can threaten to capsize us. I encourage you to reveal this kind of governance very soon. The waters are growing rougher each day. And the winds are dirty.

I have been an American for 66 years and I have never seen a fourteen-day span that has shaken my faith in leadership like these first two weeks of the days of Trump. Please consider moderating your approach. This might be my last polite appeal.

Steve D. Marsh
American Citizen