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Because I'm retired, because I'm a proud liberal with many "friends" of the same stripe, because I do some freelance writing, and because I take frequent detours from writing to check in on Facebook, I am acquiring a Facebook sense of how things are in this Brave New World of social media where a few hasty words on Twitter get substituted for thought and money remains the root of all evil.

trump despair

Bigly. Trump is the chief player in this nightmare, but there are others, of course, from crazed religious fundamentalists both Christian and Muslim, to Russian kleptocrats, to insatiable international greedheads, all creating death and havoc around the globe, and adding to the insanity nearly everywhere.

It feels like we're racing toward the precipice, from the Korean peninsula to the Middle East and right on down to us people in this country who have been somewhat sheltered for so long from the worst of things human beings can do to make things miserable for one another.

It is a time of serious woe for men and women of good will, or just plain decent folk trying to get along as best they can, a gloomy moment in human history, with events in the saddle threatening to ride mankind mercilessly hard once again. It feels like we're racing toward the precipice, from the Korean peninsula to the Middle East and right on down to us people in this country who have been somewhat sheltered for so long from the worst of things human beings can do to make things miserable for one another.

We have a shadow population of homeless people on the streets, the parks, and the underpasses of every town and city, we are experiencing a ramping up of assaults on every agency of government and institution we have, and blows against the common good are being plotted and carried out in boardrooms, in K. Street lobbying firms, in legislative halls in D.C. and in state houses in every state.

We have a large body of morally rudderless people who think pedophiles are preferable to people who vote for Democrats. We also have people who don't have anything to offer except "thoughts and prayers" for the ever-mounting number of people who have lost loved ones to gun violence and insane gun laws held in place by the National Rifle Association and lobbyists for gun manufacturers.

A big percentage of American right wingers think education does more harm than good. Across a spectrum of issues, it seems that the center is not holding. Give us each day our daily dread.

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When I find myself experiencing an unexpected good mood in these times that try our souls and oppress our spirits, I try to hang onto that fleeting upbeat feeling. A brief glance at the TV, or the headlines on my internet server, or a Facebook cry of outrage from one of my liberal "friends" will, however, put me back on the path to the realities I can neither evade nor avoid, try as I might, wish though I may. As Yeats wrote in that famous poem, "the best lack all conviction while the worst are full of passionate intensity."

Yet, "in these thoughts myself almost despising," to paraphrase another poet, "haply I think upon" videos posted on Facebook, with images of kittens frolicking, puppies at play, piglets being cuddled by small children, adorable rodents doing adorable things, raccoons eating grapes, baby elephants being tended to by watchful mothers, fawns nuzzling does, lambs gamboling in meadows, ducklings waddling in rows, baby goats at play, or foals on wobbly legs attempting to gallop with the sheer delight at finding themselves alive.

When despair stalks me, I also often find myself rescued from the mood of these Trump times by the sight of a baby being wheeled through a supermarket by her proud mom, or by a glimpse of children walking home from school, splashing through mud puddles for the sheer delight of it. Yeats seems to have been speaking about this, too, in his above-referenced poem when he wrote of the "ceremony of innocence" being "drowned." That drowning is not yet complete, and the blessed beasts and children still help me keep my head above water. Perhaps the same is true for you.

And though I am not a Christian in the sense that I believe a child was conceived and brought to term by a virgin, I do accept the implicit meaning found in that story of a birth of a child in a manger, surrounded by animals, looked over by the better angels of our nature, with hope reposing, as it persists in doing, in each new birth, each helpless child nourished by love, kindness, and the dream of a better future for every living thing on this beautiful and beleaguered planet.

So, Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays to all who celebrate the rebirth of hope in this season. Trump, the Koch brothers, Paul Ryan, and every fuckin' Republican extant put a big lump of coal in most everyone's stocking, so bless the babes and the young of every species who sustain that hope throughout the year.

And then, when the new year comes, we'd better all get off our asses and wrest back our government from the plutocrats and keptocrats, because cute critters and cute babies aren't likely to be enough to keep body and soul together forever.

jaime oneill

Jaime O'Neill