How to Stop the President and Save the Republic


(1)  Violence:  Dear FBI, Secret Service, and FaceBook Minders:  I know that violence against the president is completely illegal and dangerous, and it is not something I or anyone else I know or support have in the past, are now, or will in the future state, desire, or agitate for as a goal.  Sure, it has the benefit of finality.  But were something like that to unfortunately happen, we would have to endure Mike Pence.  Consolation Prize:  As wildly conservative as he is, Pence looks (slightly) better now, just by comparison with Mr. Trump.  Of course, anyone would come off looking better when compared with the Mango Mussolini.  Except perhaps Mussolini.

(2)  Accident:  While extremely unlikely, due to his Secret Service detail, and his limos and his helicopters, a golfing accident could happen.  While motoring across one of his money-losing golf courses, a tree might collapse right on top of the presidential golf cart.  Again, finality, and not much the Secret Service could do about it.  They’re prepared for active shooter scenarios.  Active falling tree?  Not so much.  Another possibility is that, while swinging a nine iron, one of his golf buddies (Real buddies or Fake Buddies?  One wants to know) loses control of his club and it flies head first into the head of the Leader of the Free World (though I daresay Trump does not see himself in that role).  Downside:  He might survive, suffer brain damage, and emerge from the hospital even more deranged and delusional than he is now.  So, in the accident scenario, a falling tree is definitely much better than a nine iron.

(3)  Heart Attack:  Despite what the now-former White House physician and suggested VA Secretary – Dr. Ronny! – said in his absurdly positive review of the president’s health, Mr. Trump is a fast food cholesterol bomb waiting to explode.  Golfing is pretty much his only exercise, though his thumbs do get quite a workout, what with all that tweeting.  Look at it this way:  cheeseburgers + physique + golf cart exercise = heart attack.  It would be the easy way out (for the country), but once again, we would have to put up with Pence afterwards.  And if not Pence, then the Speaker of the House (P. Ryan), and then the President Pro Tempore of the Senate (O. Hatch).  Any of them would be an appalling follow-up act to The Great Pretender.

(4)  Resignation:  Talk about too much to hope for.  Next?

(5)  Impeachment:  This is not a possibility so long as the Republicans control Congress, mainly because the vast majority of Republicans in the House and Senate are either craven power seekers or spineless weasels.  It’s hard to say which group is ascendant at any given time, though it seems the weasels are predominating right now.  In any case, the grounds for impeachment – high crimes and misdemeanors – do seem to exist.  For example: failing to protect our election system from interference by a hostile foreign power (despite overwhelming evidence both that the interference took and is taking place, and that the foreign power in question is indeed hostile to us); obstruction of an on-going federal investigation; enriching his and his families’ businesses as a result of his position of power.  There may be other reasons that have yet to come to light, but these seem sufficient.  If only someone would start the process.

(6)  Vote:  This is clearly the most preferable method of evicting Mr. Trump from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  Sadly, we are a long way from Tuesday, 3 November 2020.  To be precise, it is 831 days from the day I write this.  However, it is only 104 days until Tuesday, 6 November 2018, which is our first opportunity to turn back the red tide unleashed and encouraged by Trump and his acolytes, and abetted by his apologists.  We cannot remove Trump from the presidency this coming November, but we can thwart his agenda, and blunt his ignorant and dangerous impulses.  Untold mischief can be done and chaos unleashed in the next three months by the enfant terrible with the fragile ego who lives (part of the week) in the White House, but the preceding five options are either illegal, unlikely, uncertain, or some combination thereof.

I continue to believe a greater percentage of Americans cherish democracy and distrust Trump, than do those who love and support any little thing Trump says or does.  I also believe that if the people of this country fight back against voter suppression and gerrymandering, if we register to vote, if we show up on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November and vote, we can stop Trump and his ilk, and save the republic.


And yo, FBI:  I’m still not advocating or hoping for assassination, so please don’t let my little piece of satirical political writing distract you from investigating Russian spies, collusion between politicians and foreign agents, or interference with our electoral system by a hostile foreign power or powers (looking at you, Russia and China).  Thanks!


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God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (Let Nothing You Dismay)


Christmas is once again almost upon us.  And “upon us” is how it feels this year.  Well, in reality, it feels that way almost every year for me.  That may, in part, be due to my (adoptive) parents having died around Christmas.  Him, three days after, in 1983; her, five days before, in 1993.  I wasn’t that close to them, but their deaths, amid a time of year that our society heavily identifies as being all about comfort, joy, and Norman Rockwell-style family dinners, probably do cast something of a shadow over the whole “season” for me. 

I want to love Christmas.  I really do.  All the lights and trees and fake snow.  The multiplicities of Santa Clauses (but imagine the confusion small children feel).  The spirit of bonhomie that, sought or not, descends upon us, sometime around the last Thursday in November (if not before). 

I know there’s a lot of authenticity in all of this.  Yet, there is also much about it that feels rather forced.  You know what I mean:  the gatherings, the dinners, the office parties; to say nothing of the trips to parent’s or in-law’s homes that are performed out of a sense of obligation or expectation … or just plain guilt.  Sometimes, the joy does not flow in a natural way, of its own accord.  For that matter, sometimes the joy simply refuses to flow at all, regardless of how much effort is expended in trying to make it happen.

It does not help that Christmas has become a cudgel wielded by right-wing conservative politicians and mega-church preachers (the latter actually being politicians by another name) in the fake “War on Christmas” that they themselves have ginned up as a way of attacking liberals and other progressive types.  It was fine when all they wanted to do was carry on about Jesus being The Reason for the Season.  I never saw it that way – it’s about Santa Claus, heartwarming stories, crackling fires in beautiful fireplaces – but to each their own. 

However, if you do want to go with The Reason for the Season theory, then you should at least be consistent enough to accurately represent, if not in fact emulate, the deity whom you purport to worship, and whose supposed birthday falls on 25 December.  By this, I mean, among other things, the following:

  1. Jesus, if we are to believe the mythology associated with him, was a working class Jewish man – a carpenter – from a family of limited means.
  2. Having been born in what we fancifully used to call the Near East, he would have been a comparatively darker-skinned person of Semitic stock; not that tall, blond-haired, Caucasian Jesus of my childhood, attired in a long flowing white robe that – miraculously! – remained pristine, despite the conditions of life at that time.
  3. Most notably, in regard to this Christmas story I’m writing, was his habit of associating with prostitutes and thieves and lepers, all of whom he treated with compassion and care.
  4. I’m sure I don’t need to remind these devout Christmas Warriors of the words in Matthew 25, but I will anyway: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”
  5. Despite those lovely words, we have constantly before us the spectacle of alleged Conservatives, allegedly defending what they sanctimoniously call The Judeo-Christian Values of America by cutting Federal government aid to poor and hungry people, turning away refugees who are attempting to escape repression or poverty in other parts of the world (remember America as the Land of Opportunity?), creating legislation that will reduce or eliminate healthcare for millions of Americans, and encouraging the construction of more private prisons which will be filled with victims of the Conservative’s renewed draconian sentencing for low level crimes. They appear to have also forgotten these words attributed to Jesus: “Inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me.”

So much for comfort and joy.  So much for rosy-cheeked, Norman Rockwell family dinners in well-appointed, middle-class homes, all the happy generations sitting around a table overflowing with beautiful, fresh, nutritious, home-cooked food.  The self-appointed saviors of the republic, completely ignoring the Savior whom they pretend to honor at this time of the year (and, when convenient, at other times of the year), are instead bringing poverty, hunger and ignorance to the people whose best interests they were elected to serve. 

Ho, ho, ho.

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The Daily News

It’s the news.  It’s always the news. 

Every day.  Every night.  Every week. 

All. Year. Long. 

There’s a very real danger that if I pay attention to everything – every new scandal or revelation or exposé involving the incompetent cabal of malevolent narcissists running the show in Washington, D.C. – if I were to do all that with my complete and undivided attention, there is a very real and visceral danger that my head might explode. 

This would be unpleasant not just for me (because I would no longer have a head) but for everyone in the immediate vicinity.  It would be messy and disgusting, and could very possibly set off a chain reaction.  Others nearby who have been in a prolonged state of news-avoidance could be traumatized.  Thrown without warning into extreme panic, their heads might also explode, creating an Augean Stable of blood and gore. 

Like nuclear fission run amok, the contagion would metastasize, becoming a veritable Chernobyl, but without the Russians.  Or Fukushima, without the tsunami.

But maybe there would be Russians.  Maybe there already are.  Maybe they’re behind the whole thing.

The Byzantine cyber-subversions, the emails, all those foxes guarding all those hen houses.  They’re showering paranoia and discord over us like a vast radioactive fog. 

People who watch Alex Jones or Fox News, or who listen to Rush Limbaugh, have been spared though. 

How, you might ask?  It’s very simple. 

They have all been issued Russian-made helmets, crafted from the finest tin foil, protecting them from the harmful effects of facts and science, and reality in general.  They are compelled to wear these protective devices at all times, lest they fall under the influence of Secular Humanism or – worse yet – Socialism!  Sometimes, if you look very closely, you can see little bits of the tinfoil sticking out from under the wigs they wear to hide their complicity.

I know all this because I read it on a completely reliable Facebook page.  Or maybe it was a Google ad.  Whatever.  It doesn’t matter, because I know this to be absolutely true, despite what you or anyone else may be thinking or saying right now, in front of me, while I’m trying to explain all this in a very rational manner.

That’s fine, as long as you understand:  It’s weird out there, and we all need to be very, very afraid.

I think I’m going to stop now, before my head explodes. 


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Baseball with Harold

I’m sitting at a bar, having dinner, and a baseball game is on the TV above the bar.  San Francisco versus the Mets, I think.  This recalls for me that baseball was one of the ways (perhaps the only way) in which my father and I bonded – insofar as Harold and I bonded at all.

I remember going to a baseball game with him.  Dallas didn’t have a major league team in 1959, and the game we attended was a small affair.  Wooden bleacher seats; I remember that, and the lights on the field.  I don’t know if I ate a hot dog, or if Harold drank a beer.  Both of those things are possible, but I don’t know.  They’re not part of what I remember.  I just recall being there with Harold, and the rough wood of the seats, and the glaring brightness of the lights.  Oh, the teams, of course, but they were out beyond the chain link fence, so a bit remote.  And in any case, they were just the supporting cast for the central attraction:  doing something with my father; something that was fun, not tedious, or aggravating; something that would give us an opportunity to talk with each other about anything other than grades, and discipline, and keeping my mother happy.

There were other people in the bleachers, but not a crowd.  Some of them were heckling the batter, and criticizing the umpire; talking, as a way of shaping an outcome.

Part of my memory of Harold is that he never really transmitted anything to me.  We went to a baseball game.  Maybe two or three; I don’t know.  We played catch in the back yard a few times.  My kid-sized leather glove went the way of all things years ago, but I still have my bat.  It’s a Louisville Slugger.  Child size, of course.  I used to have a baseball that I think I got at a game.  (I caught it?  Harold caught it?  I don’t know.)

Baseball could have created a thread of communication between me and Harold, but it didn’t work out that way.  My fault, I guess.  Even at 12 years old, I wasn’t really into sports.  In seventh grade I was on the football team for my elementary school.  Football has a venerated place in Texas society, so perhaps that was part of my motivation.  Or maybe I wanted to belong to something; be part of a team, which was not the case in the rest of my life.  Whatever my reasons may have been, in one game I fell and my chest was stepped on by a much larger boy from the other team.  After that, I decided that football just wasn’t for me.

Looking back on it, I think I was something of a disappointment to Harold and Dorothy; as though I was never the kind of boy they thought they’d gotten when they adopted me.  Not boy enough, not tough enough or sporting enough, or … something.

Perhaps joining the seventh grade football team, or volunteering for the Army nine years later, were attempts to prove something to Dorothy and Harold.  Or did I do those things to prove something to myself?

Around the same time I was playing football, when I was twelve or thirteen years old, I was being set upon (bullied is what it would be called now) by a neighborhood kid.  He hit me at one point, and bloodied my nose.  I went home, and told Harold about what had happened.  He exhorted me to take this kid on.  He told me that I needed to stand up for myself and go fight this boy, and then proceeded to give me advice about fighting: pointers on pugilism.

It was bad enough that I felt pressured by Harold to do something I had no desire to do.  There was also the fact that my father had never seemed like a fighter to me, so it was rather jarring for him to want me to go fight this (now completely forgotten) neighborhood boy.  But I don’t know; maybe during his teen years in Tulsa and Denver he had to fight to defend himself.  If so, he never shared any stories about those experiences with me.

The man was an absolute cipher to me.  I know he delivered newspapers in Tulsa, and he was a bike messenger for the Continental Oil Company in Denver, but I know that mostly because of research I’ve done in the years since he died in 1983, at the age of 79.  I know he played baseball in Denver for a team sponsored by a Texaco gas station where he worked.  I also know he was a musician in a large dance orchestra.  He played the banjo.

I know all these facts about him, but none of the passion or joy that must’ve animated those pieces of his life was ever shared with me.  Perhaps when Dorothy and Harold adopted me in 1948, not knowing what to do with this child who had been dropped into his life four and a half decades on, he relied on memories of his relationship with his own father.  I guess.  I don’t know.  I just don’t know.  And that not-knowing, along with complete ignorance when I was growing up about my birth father, left a certain void in my life.  The place for Mother was filled to overflowing by Dorothy, but the slot for Father was barren.

I tried to counteract that, I tried to fill that void, by being a different kind of father to my three daughters.  I had no template for that, no exemplar to which I could refer.  Harold had not given me what I felt I needed – his stories; his living, emotional self – so I tried to share my own true self with my daughters.

At the same time, I was sorting out just what that meant to me, but I didn’t want my daughters to have to guess who I am.  I didn’t want them to have to look for clues, left like a trail of breadcrumbs through the forest.  How can you construct an understanding of someone from breadcrumbs, or from photographs with nothing written on the back, or old newspaper clippings that told you something about your father that you never knew until a decade after he died?

I wanted to know Harold as a person, not as a cardboard-cutout of “Dad”, but there was no warmth between us, no bond of any sort, in fact, except for the fact of living in the same house together.  It feels like he just hovered around the edges of my life when I was growing up; a gray, opaque presence who, like footprints on a beach, has been washed away with time.

That’s how I have felt about him for many years:  a ghost who left no trace of himself.  But then, a few nights ago, I realized that he had transmitted something to me, if only by osmosis.

Harold didn’t love nature, or art, nor did he like to read books.  He wasn’t interested in architecture, and he never talked about politics.  What he did love was music.

This realization came to me while in the middle of a prosaic task, as realizations so often do.  I was listening to music while making dinner.  One of the CDs was recordings by people like Artie Shaw and Benny Goodman and Harry James; a kind of jazz that we now classify as “Big Band” music.  It’s music that I heard over and over again while I was growing up (along with other musicians, like Al Hirt and Pete Fountain).  Until I was old enough to have my own record player, and develop my own musical tastes, it was the soundtrack of my life, and it’s music I still like.

So, when that CD started playing, it put me in mind of Harold, and made me smile a bit.  That’s not the same as knowing him, or hearing stories about his life as a musician.  It’s not the same as connecting with him.  Hearing Benny Goodman play the clarinet on “Don’t Be That Way” reminds me of Harold, but it doesn’t make me nostalgic about him.  How can you be nostalgic for something or someone you never really knew?  It’s like trying to recall a dream, hours after you wake.  You were doing something – what, exactly? – and there were other people there – who were they? – and it seemed really significant when you were in the dream.  But now that you’re awake, you can’t quite put your finger on what that was all about, or who those people were, and eventually, the dream fades completely away.


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How to Laugh in Chinese


There are a number of different ways of laughing in English:  chuckle, snicker, guffaw, chortle, grin, and plain old laugh, among others.  It’s much the same in other languages.

In Chinese, for example, you can laugh Hā Hā (哈哈); an everyday laugh.   Or, you can say Hē Hē (呵呵), a soft laugh that can indicate sarcasm or mockery.  Then, there’s Xī Xī (嘻嘻), the equivalent of “hee hee.”

I wonder in what way the Chinese – Xi Jingping in particular – are laughing right now?  Could it be Hēng Hēng (哼哼), a kind of short, sardonic sneer, or perhaps Mu Hā Hā (木哈哈), which is considered informal, evil laughter?

I don’t know, of course, but what I do know is that, while we are all distracted by the non-issue of “Covfefe” and the very real issue of the on-going Russia scandal, Mr. Trump, through his myopic arrogance, to say nothing of his colossal ignorance, is leading our country to ruin.  While supposedly making America great again – we didn’t actually need your help, Donny – he has withdrawn the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement, after having earlier cancelled participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a free-trade arrangement that would have put America in a strong position of leadership in East and Southeast Asia (there’s plenty of blame for demonization of the latter to lay at the feet of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, by the way).

Whichever sort of laughter it is coming out of Beijing today, it bodes ill for us.  The interference of Russia in our 2016 election, and their meddling in European politics, and in the Middle East, are challenges, to be sure.  They are dangerous, and they are behaviors that have to be addressed and dealt with.

China is another matter.  The threat from them is truly existential.  They do not want to cooperate on the world stage, except insofar as it might further their actual goal.  And that actual goal is to displace the United States as the leading world power, the power that, for all of our faults and missteps, has done great work in the years since World War Two, to protect and further democracy around the world.  The Chinese could care less about protecting democracy; indeed, they will shred it wherever they find it, if they can get away with it (and they have worked very hard to do so in Tibet and Hong Kong).

You could say that Putin’s Russia has the same goal.  That is true, but there is a very significant difference:  Russia is a neo-czarist, oligarchic kleptocracy that presides over an unstable economy largely dependent upon the price of oil and natural gas, and on the strength of their military.

China has a strong economy, a billion people to provide cheap labor, and a growing and modernizing military.  Most significantly, they are awash in money, a great deal of which they have accumulated by first, making and selling cheap crap to the rest of the world, and then by copying or outright stealing the ideas and processes and designs of others.

It is China that needs to be the main focus of our attention, not Russia.

Mr. Trump, ignorant of history, to say nothing of politics, has set about creating power vacuums in the world.  It is the nature of such vacuums to not stay empty for long, and it is Chinese laughter that we will hear as they are filled.

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Fifty Words on Easter Morning

Dying eggs                                                                                                                                   Invisible rabbits                                                                                                                                                     The magical blood of lambs

Full moon                                                                                                                                 Flowering trees                                                                                                                                                     Sacrifice at sunrise

Rebirth                                                                                                                                                 New love                                                                                                                                                                 Twenty-eight days

Rabbit in the moon                                                                                                                             Fly in the ointment                                                                                                                                              The return of spring

Hope and faith                                                                                                                   Regeneration                                                                                                                                                        Astarte has risen

Look up now                                                                                                                                       And see the stars                                                                                                                                                  Such wonder everywhere.

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Saying Goodbye


I’ve said goodbye a lot in my life.  To people.  To things.  To houses and places.  Some I’ve been sorry to leave; others, not.  Some left me.  It’s all goodbying, though, whether you open the door or someone else does.  What matters is how you feel when you walk through the door.  It also matters – perhaps even more – how you feel and what you do on the other side of that threshold.

Are you looking back, or are you looking ahead?  Maybe you have regrets, or sadness.  Perhaps you regret not leaving sooner, or you regret leaving at all.  But leave you did.

The past can hold you, if you let it, and entrap you, like a sticky web.  Maybe the past is lonely, since we’re always leaving it, moment by moment, day by day.  Because of that loneliness, it will conspire with your memories to keep you, and draw you back.

I try not to let that happen, just as I try to “live in the moment,” a popular concept in these times.  I’m not always successful at living just in this moment, and then this one, and this one, because the past is always calling, and the future always beckons.  I know it’s false to tell myself that the past was awful, but the future will be golden.  Or vice versa.  It’s always some jumbled mix of awful and golden, separated by periods of transition, if not equanimity.

If I could make golden happen, you know I would.  So would you.  I don’t expect it all the time, though.  In fact, I’m often surprised when such a moment happens; so much so, that I forget to give thanks to whomever or whatever helped cause it.  Not being the religious sort, I ascribe such things to the forces of Chance or Fortune.

Then again, it might be the work of the Fates, whose tasks are to spin out the thread of life, determine its length, and then to decide how and when to cut it.  If you believe that, then you believe that the whole scheme of life is really out of our hands, since how long we have to live, and the manner and time of our death, have already been determined.

I don’t think that’s true.  We have the power to choose, and what we choose determines what happens next.  That’s Consequence, not Fate.  Still, I do see life as a set of vast, interlocking cycles; rather like the Mayan calendar, but which are beyond our ability to comprehend or predict, at least at this point in our evolution.  As a result of the way in which the cycles mesh, things happen, opportunities arise, people come and go.  You can call these occurrences curses, or you can call them blessings.  Either way, they’re not just beyond our ability to predict; they’re beyond our ability to control.  The power we do have rests in our ability to make choices: to stay, or to go; to love, or to give up on love; to live, or to give up on life.


There’s a restlessness at the heart of my life – an empty space filled with goodbyes and unfinished stories.  An aching need is also there: a need for love, a need for home, a need for connection; a need for the restlessness to end.  The thing is, I don’t believe it will ever end.  If the past is a template for the future, then that’s the only conclusion I can draw.  I know – I know – the past doesn’t have to define the future.  That’s what we all want to believe.  Like the fine print in personal injury or investment advertisements: “Past results are no guarantee of future returns.”

And, as I wrote above, I believe we have the power of choice, even if the choices don’t always seem particularly appealing.

Still … my life thus far casts something of a shadow over my optimism, especially on gray, chilly mornings like one in which I’m writing this.  I guess a shaded optimism is better than all shade and no optimism, though.

Ugly things lie in wait down that road.  I know.  I’ve been there, hoping I can get through the night without doing something unfortunate and irreversible to myself.  When optimism fails, when hope is a chimera, it’s important to have something outside yourself to which you can hold fast.  It really doesn’t matter what it is, so long as you can hold on to it, and not let go:  a memory, an icon or a photograph, or your desire to see the sun come up.  For me, it was my daughters, but anything will do, if it keeps you from that last goodbye.

Nevertheless, a last goodbye does await all of us.  When the cycles click together in a certain way, at a certain moment, we will leave, whether we’ve said goodbye or not, whether we have unfinished business or not.  That’s Chance at work.  We can hasten the day, but we cannot delay it.

I’m at a place in my life from which that final goodbye is becoming more visible.  I know it’s looming up there in the clouded future somewhere.  Lying in wait, as it has lain in wait at other times in my life.  I avoided its grasp years ago, for reasons that are not completely clear to me, but that have to do, I imagine, with Chance, if nothing else.  I don’t feel so special as to believe that I was spared for some higher, altruistic purpose.  No – I survived, and have lived, and loved, and said goodbye, over and over again.

Because of all that living and loving and goodbying, I feel more keenly now the press of time.  Tempus fugit, and all that.  I used to jokingly translate that phrase as “time fidgets,” but it is we who fidget, not time.  The original phrase (from a poem by Virgil) is, fugit inreparabile tempus: “it escapes, irretrievable time.”

Irretrievable.  It’s a word that puts a fine point on the questions of, “What are we doing, and why?”  I suppose you could also ask, “What’s the point?”  For some, it’s living in a certain way, so as to insure your passage through the Pearly Gates.  For others, it’s living in a certain way, so as to have a better life after reincarnation.  Believing in neither Pearly Gates nor reincarnation, I am left with only this life, and I am left with love.  Since I cannot give life – not in the saintly or godly way – I can only give love, and hope to receive it in kind.  As anyone over the age of twelve knows, that doesn’t always happen.  However, I suppose my optimism isn’t all that shaded after all, as I continue to live, and to love:  fully and optimistically.

We have the power of choice, but what other choice do we have, but to live, and to love, and to carry on as though the end is not looming over us all?   I have lived my life as though I was not in danger of dying, but that clearly is not the case.  Nevertheless, I continue to choose life and love, and, insofar as I have faith in something, I have faith in those two things, and in the incipient possibilities that they hold for us, whether we say goodbye or not.

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