Ah, Maplewood!

Helplessness is a feeling I so thoroughly dislike, yet one that is seemingly ever present. As I drive through the countryside I see signs around me posted in yards and along the highway promoting a president who has done so little to bring our diverse population together during racial protests, turmoil and a health pandemic that has killed more than 200,000. So much “political popcorn” that I’m reminded of the 1975 publication of Alvin Toffler’s “EcoSpasm,” which, in part, described the economic situation in Germany in the 1930s that gave rise to Hitler’s dictatorship. 

More recently we have watched from afar to witness how Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán can now rule by decree for an indefinite period of time. That such an erosion of democracy could happen openly in the heart of Europe has caused an uproar, with many questioning what, if anything, the European Union can do to stop one of its own from undermining the very values that underpin the bloc, according to the Atlantic. My son, Aaron, who lived for years in Budapest said, “The scary part is that Orbán’s rise was all done legally, by their constitution. And, it could happen in the States …”

Our president has offered unveiled hints of achieving just that, and so much is in place for it to happen: gerrymandered polling districts, closures of polling sites in areas heavily populated by people of color, voter suppression tactics particularly in Republican states, and most recently an attack on mail-in balloting and the U.S. Postal Service. There are more creative tactics almost daily, plus a Senate that apparently loves sitting on their respective hands!

To escape this current onslaught of chaos and helplessness I find I must head to spots in the timber and prairie where there is a semblance of peacefullness and order; places that offer a convenient and medatative calmness. One such place is Maplewood State Park. Ah, Maplewood!

“For the first time in my life, and maybe for the first time since the Civil War, the fate of constitutional democracy in the United States is on the line, and it’s on the line because the president has put it there,” said William Galston, chair of the Brookings Institution’s Governance Studies Program. “It is a clear and present danger.”

Ah, Maplewood!

“This is unprecedented for us — the scope and scale of the size of these wildfires and the impact they are having on people around the state,” said Dale Kunce, who heads the American Red Cross Cascades Region in Oregon.

Ah, Maplewood!

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who championed women’s rights — first as a trailblazing civil rights attorney who methodically chipped away at discriminatory practices, then as the second woman to serve on the Supreme Court, and finally as an unlikely pop culture icon — has died at her home in the nation’s capital.

Ah, Maplewood!

The Postal Service, long an afterthought in the political process, has been drawn into the fray after its new leader, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, implemented a series of cost-cutting measures that delayed deliveries nationwide. The changes have sparked a flurry of legal challenges and caused concerns over the agency’s ability to handle the anticipated crush of election mail this year, although DeJoy has said it will be the Postal Service’s top priority.

Ah, Maplewood!

The U.S. death toll from the coronavirus topped 200,000 Tuesday, by far the highest in the world, hitting the once-unimaginable threshold six weeks before an election that is certain to be a referendum in part on President Donald Trump’s handling of the crisis.

Ah, Maplewood!

America’s worsening climate change problem is as polarized as its politics. Some parts of the country have been burning this month while others were underwater in extreme weather disasters. The already parched West is getting drier and suffering deadly wildfires because of it, while the much wetter East keeps getting drenched in mega-rainfall events, some hurricane-related and others not. Climate change is magnifying both extremes.

Ah, Maplewood!

With Siberia seeing its highest temperature on record this year and enormous chunks of ice caps in Greenland and Canada sliding into the sea, countries are acutely aware there’s no vaccine for global warming. “We are already seeing a version of environmental Armageddon,” Fiji’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama said, citing wildfires in the western U.S. and noting that the Greenland ice chunk was larger than a number of island nations. This was meant to be the year “we took back our planet,” he said. Instead, the corona-virus has diverted resources and attention from what could have been the marquee issue at this U.N. gathering. Meanwhile, the U.N. global climate summit has been postponed to late 2021.

Ah, Maplewood!

Revelations that President Donald Trump is personally liable for more than $400 million in debt are casting a shadow over his presidency that ethics experts say raises national security concerns he could be manipulated to sway U.S. policy by organizations or individuals he’s indebted to. New scrutiny of Trump, who claims great success as a private businessman, comes after the New York Times reported that tax records show he is personally carrying a staggering amount of debt — including more than $300 million in loans that will come due in the next four years. “Americans should be concerned about the president’s debt because it’s a national security risk for our country,” said Donald Sherman, deputy director of the nonprofit government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). “This is information that the president has aggressively and repeatedly tried to keep away from the public.”

Ah, Maplewood!

Given that Trump’s eldest son has a documented track record of trying to corrupt our elections and subvert the national interest on his father’s behalf, it’s not surprising that Donald Trump Jr. is now actively trying to supply that rationale by calling for an “army” of volunteers to join a campaign’s Election Day security team. 

Ah, Maplewood!

The president of the United States has declined to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses the 2020 election — ratcheting up previous rhetoric baselessly casting doubt on the legitimacy of what polls suggest is a likely defeat.

Ah, Maplewood, where breezes riffle leaves in the silence of timbered wood far distant from the printed page and muted radio; where autumn leaves are colorful and bright, and skies seem clear and often blue. All of which is reflected in the numerous lakes and potholes hidden in the wooded hills; hills with surprises tucked in the timber, and waters with swans adding a sense of poetic grace to the overall peacefulness. How great thou art! 

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About John G. White

Somewhat retired after a long award-winning career in newspapers (Wisconsin State Journal, Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, Denver Post and a country weekly, the Clara City Herald). Free lance photographer and writer with credits in more than 70 magazines. Editor with various Webb Publishing magazines in St. Paul, and a five year stint as editorial director at Miller Meester Advertising.

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