Forum

Nancy--Mad as hell, part of the portrait series, Women Who Refuse to be Invisible
(a series that focuses on women over 60), mixed media, by Anastasia Andersen

Visions for America in this Election Year

Introduction

 

In 2024, the people of the United States will participate in a nationwide election that will determine the future character of the U.S. Congress and the identity of the president of the United States for the next four years, both of which will, in turn, have a marked influence on the direction of international affairs. For, in many ways, the United States continues to wield considerable influence around the globe.

 

With both domestic and international consequences in mind, we have asked our readers to express their visions for the future of the United States—recognizing that U.S. domestic politics reverberate far beyond U.S. geographical borders. In response, we have received expressions ranging from hopeful and generous to fearful and condemnatory—reflecting the powerful emotions generating, and generated by, current U.S. and global affairs.

Persimmon Tree welcomes additional comments on this important topic—observations from those of all political persuasions, for a forum is a place for exchanging different views and learning from one other.

Concern for the future will undoubtedly be reflected in future Persimmon Tree Forums as this year unfolds. In the meantime, we welcome your responses via the Comment section at the end of this page.

The Editors

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Vision for America
 
On February 8, some eight thousand writers – poets, fiction and nonfiction writers, and those who refuse to be categorized – came to my city for the annual AWP conference. Hundreds of publishers covered one entire floor of the convention center, while hundreds of workshops occupied other floors. Jericho Brown delivered a stunning keynote address.
 
In other words, my Midwestern city was invaded–in the best sense of the word–by the latest and greatest, as well as those seeking their wisdom.
 
These were my people – writers. But it felt like another country, one in which there was true diversity, equality, and inclusivity (DEI). Walking those wide halls were people of every color and gender who felt free to express themselves on paper and in life.
 
Traditional bathroom signs were covered with ones that said “all genders.” Workshop announcements pointed out accommodations for disabilities, visible or invisible.
 
My vision for this country’s future is to create the feeling the AWP created–a feeling of freedom, equality, optimism, inclusivity, and respect. I understand that we’ll have to work hard to make this feeling a reality for all of society. Indeed, that is the challenge that I, as an American, look forward to.
 
Maril Crabtree
Mission, Kansas

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am frightened and appalled at the possibility of a second term for Donald Trump, a criminal and a narcissist, a contemptible liar and hate-monger. Should he be reelected there could be massive uprisings and utter chaos. The institution of the presidency would be forever damaged and the United States besmirched in the eyes of the world.
 
We must urge voters to turn out to defeat an ignoble candidate.
 
Hope Prosky
Brooklyn, New York

 

 

 

 

 

 

As a nation, we are polarized and most of us have participated in the fracture. We do it when we repeat a smear, call a name, demonize a group. This election year, let us resolve to discuss issues, realizing that in most cases, our political opponents desire the same things we do: peace and prosperity in equal measure for all. We just want to go about it in different ways. Two people can examine the same evidence and draw completely different conclusions, but we all want a better life, a better world for ourselves and our children. We want our children to be healthy, safe, educated, and prepared to survive and thrive. We want a diverse and colorblind society. We cherish our freedoms, which are granted to us simply because we are human beings, for if our rights and freedoms come from the government, then the government can take them away. Let us respect those who help us, from the clerk at the store to the cop on the beat. Most of us just want to work and go home to our families. Let us discuss all this with sincere and mutual respect, perhaps even love.
 
Rita Ariyoshi
Honolulu, Hawaii

 

 

 


ElainePeace for All, part of the portrait series, Women Who Refuse to be Invisible
(a series that focuses on women over 60), mixed media, by Anastasia Andersen

 

 

 

Failing education, food insecurity, homelessness, unemployment, inflation, immigration, an unprecedented number of wars and global hotspots (Ukraine, Israel/Palestine, Taiwan, Africa, North Korea, the Middle East), lack of transparency in government, an aging population, increasing numbers of people in poor health or at risk of major illnesses and disease—how can one even dare to hope that we as a people have the intelligence, perseverance, and stamina, let alone the desire, to tackle these (and many other) issues? And to be successful in reversing the decline of what makes us a nation?
 
I am disappointed in our country’s leadership, the dearth of objective discourse, the shirking of responsibility, the irrational actions that prevent progress on the serious and significant issues facing the world today.
 
Yet, I dream of a future for our children and grandchildren that is safe, healthy, and compassionate. I do not know how we get from where we are today to a place where we have re-established trust in our leaders and institutions, where differences are celebrated and tolerated, not berated and silenced, and where equity is natural, not forced. I will try, though, to be part of the solution, for the goodness of us all.
 
Patricia Burgess
Chapel Hill, North Carolina

 

 

 

 

 

 

As a nation and world, we are in a difficult time and following a destructive path. So many divisions, so many challenges, and lots of pain for many, if not at least at some level all. What I hope and pray for is that as a nation we find a way to heal the divisions and work together. Mutual respect, caring and lovingkindness are what the United States and the world need right now. Each one of us can create a better world for those around us in how we treat and think of one another. From that, like the ripples in a lake, may come a more peaceful, generous world.
 
The opposite is to continue on the current path to more division, more war, more pain, and more destruction. What will the United States and the world be like in a year, five years, or ten years if we continue on this path?
 
For the sake of all that is living, individuals must make the choice to embrace and build rather than to harm and destroy.
 
Dr. Elizabeth Barbara Brown
Rockford, Illinois

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beyond the Rhetoric
 
(Letter to presidential candidates)
 
As we move beyond the debates and competition for the 2024 presidential nominations, I hope you will move beyond the rhetoric and begin to focus on the critical challenges. We are all too familiar with the current disconnect, disillusion, duplicity, indifference and confusion. I hope we can move beyond the promises, slogans, innuendos, and tired clichés. The domestic and international agendas for our country demand special insight and skills of leadership unparalleled in our history. Too many Americans are disillusioned, pessimistic, and devoid of hope. Unfair competition, dishonesty, and greed in the corporate world have left us morally bankrupt. We are in a crisis, struggling to live our creed. We are pushing human boundaries, caught up in things which prevent us from seeing the best in each other. Our historical documents are not perfect or absolute, but my hope is that we have the capacity to make them more perfect and live out the promise of our experiment in democracy. Our political leaders, once elected, have frequently ignored the mandates and expectations of those they represent.
 
My hope is if you are elected, you will not become just another resident in the White House. I need to know that my vote will not just maintain the status quo. I hope you will select a bipartisan coalition of talented Americans to work with you on critical issues, to restore the dignity and respect of our great country in the community of nations, to move us beyond mediocrity and complacency, to liberate us from the poverty of ignorance, the bondage of class status, the myopia of ethnocentrism, and the curse of cultural conceit. We need leadership that understands “that values travel at the speed of fax and cultures cross at the speed of light.”
 
I have to believe that if elected, you will move beyond the rhetoric and make the terms statesman and politician mutually exclusive. I have to believe that if elected, you will have the confidence, compassion, courage, and vision to restore our dignity, quality of life, and belief in the American dream.
 
CONVINCE ME THAT I AM RIGHT!
 
Barbara Johnson
Las Vegas, Nevada

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Panic Mode”
 
Don’t trust anyone. They’re after us.
 
I heard these warnings all my life.
 
This is the fabric of my Russian Jewish heritage.
 
The pogroms slaughtered my grandparents’ village in Odessa.
 
They were lucky to have emigrated to America.
 
I watched White Supremacists and Nationalists chant, “Jews Will Not Replace Us” at their 2017 Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
 
Fear prickled every muscle, nerve, and bone in my body.
 
Sleepless nights were filled with images of the Holocaust death camp prisoners.
 
Former President Trump embraced the Proud Boys and the Boogaloo Movement.
 
He did not denounce the Unite the Right and blamed the homegrown terrorists, who murdered Jews and Christians where they worshipped, on mental illness.
 
After Biden defeated Trump in 2020, the GOP and their voters supported the former president’s “Stop the Steal Campaign” and dismissed the January 6, 2021, storming of the Capitol in Washington, D.C. as tourism.
 
During the Biden administration, the former president was indicted on 91 felony counts including pressuring Georgia Secretary of State Raffensperger “to find 11,000 votes” to win Georgia.
 
Trump praises Russian President Putin, a dictator who eliminates his adversaries.
 
My fears have escalated to horror if Biden does not win in 2024.
 
Marilyn June Janson
Mesa, Arizona

 

 

 


Vicki, part of the portrait series, Women Who Refuse to be Invisible
(a series that focuses on women over 60), mixed media, by Anastasia Andersen

 

 

 

My English Teacher Said
 
I’m thinking of my students this election year, the ones I taught in college freshman English years ago. Wondering if they remember what I told them—and if they’re the voices of reason in the room, their board rooms, church basements, grocery stores, homes . . .
 
The ones who think. Who question and weigh. Who know how words work and how they can be used. To tell the truth or lie. To persuade or manipulate. The power they have over our lives. How easy it is to be fooled, taken advantage of.
 
I told them that knowing how to think was their best defense, and knowing how to read and write their greatest powers. That if they didn’t know, they were giving their power away or letting someone else take it. Never clearer than this year.
 
What I wish for us all, for our country, is that we not give our power away. That we cherish it and guard it and use it wisely.
 
I wonder, with the things happening today, if some of them are having quiet aha! moments, if they haven’t already [had them], thinking to themselves, “Oh! That’s just what my English teacher said.”
 
Rosetta Radtke
Savannah, Georgia

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beyond Sick with Worry
 
I feel compelled to write because we have a son and his young family living and working in Pennsylvania and my husband and I are terrified for them.
 
Your excessive gun violence and bizarre politics worry us to no end. Your big, beautiful country on our southern border barely survived the insanity of Donald Trump’s last presidency, and yet here you are preparing very possibly to embark on another four years of chaos and undemocratic governance. Why and how is this even possible?
 
Canadians are confused. We witnessed this man refuse to concede to Joe Biden and then purposefully incite a scary insurrection where people died. We’ve heard New York find him and his sons guilty of fraud in how they run their business in that state. There are more indictments than is conceivable pending or appealed or blah, blah, blah surrounding this man, and yet he has the kind of hold on your Congress that makes them not pass a bill that Ukraine desperately needs to happen. Again, to be clear, he holds no office right now and is still the puppet master. Are there no Republicans with the brains and backbone to oppose him? Can you not imagine the pumped, vengeful, erratic president/dictator he will be if elected next November? Horrifying for the U.S.A. and for the world!
 
But most unforgivable of all, Trump is in that murdering monster Putin’s pocket. He’ll help Putin destroy Ukraine and then move on to Poland and other NATO countries, triggering WWIII. That MAGA red hat he and his delusional far right base wear is a symbol for “Autocracy in America,” and they’re all blind to it. Trump and Putin exist for power and their sick narcissism feeds their addiction every day.
 
Sylvia Fiorelli
Brampton, Ontario, Canada

 

 

 


The Four Horsemen of the (Possible) Apocalypse, cartoon drawing by Ciel Downing

 

 

I wake up, again, to the news that more children are murdered in their classroom. Friends gather for a midnight vigil, praying, singing, holding candles that burn through the night and through our hearts. Teddy bears, flowers, and notes are placed with sadness. Grief counselors are called to help. Yet the gun-toters stomp around shouting that their second amendment rights must be upheld. Tell the parents of those slain children about the second amendment. Do we need to hunt down animals in the forest to feed our families? Do you really need to keep your firearms within reach of curious children? Who in this country needs an assault weapon? Is it really such a good idea to promote violence through video games? It isn’t a game when your own child is bleeding to death from a gunshot wound. How many more children must die before something is done?  When can we stop worrying when our kids go to a movie, to the mall, to church? To paraphrase a beloved song of the ‘60s, how many times must our children be shot? Wake me up when this nightmare is over.
 
Mary Hiland
Gahanna, Ohio

 

 

 

 

 

 

We Must End Gun Violence!
 
I am taking a walk in the evening. I am enjoying the ocean breeze on the Malecón in Havana, Cuba, the yellow marigolds and colorful Catrina statues lining the streets for Día de los Muertos in Oaxaca, Mexico. Neither of these cities is in a country known for its safety, but I am breathing freely, not looking nervously over my shoulder when I hear footsteps behind me. That is because in neither place is it legal for people to be armed to the teeth.
 
How much of the joy and excitement of cities has been lost in the United States because of our national obsession with guns. The rest of the world thinks that we have lost our minds, and rightfully so. Parents in other countries are reluctant to send their children to the U.S. to study because they believe it is not safe. Large public celebrations have become terrifying because a mentally ill person or a person with a grudge may at any moment start shooting.
 
I want the freedom to enjoy the cities of my country. I will vote only for candidates who believe that safety from gun violence is a critical priority.
 
Susan K. Glassman
St. Louis, Missouri

 

 

 

 

 

 

Term Limits, Age Limits and Lobbyists
 
If I could choose a future for this country, it would be one where the permanent political class in Washington, D.C., was out of business. Lobbyists would not be allowed to contribute to political campaigns. It would be against the law for any politician or political action committee to take money from lobbyists.
 
I would also like to see term limits set on senators and representatives. Each senator could serve for two terms (twelve years), and each representative could serve for six terms (twelve years). That way politicians could get down to the business of solving the problems in our country instead of voting in order to become a permanent fixture in Washington.
 
I would also like to see age limits set on our presidential candidates. No candidate could run for the office of president over the age of seventy-two. That way we would not be dealing with the problem of mental competency with the holders of our highest office.
 
I would like the political culture to change so that each party would work with the opposing party to get constructive legislation passed and not view “compromise” as a dirty word.
 
Valerie Cullers
Meridian, Idaho

 

 

 


Scream after Reading the Morning Headlines (Self Portrait), part of the portrait series, Women Who Refuse to be Invisible
(a series that focuses on women over 60), mixed media, by Anastasia Andersen

 

 

 

Biden is asking Congress for a second $100 billion for Ukraine, a war just over two years old. Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador suggested the U.S. invest some of those billions across the border instead. U.S. history with Mexico is as bad if not worse than Russia’s with Ukraine, but it seems we’d rather focus on their transgressions than remedy our own.
 
Israel is flattening Gaza and eliminating its residents, dropping mega-bombs the U.S. has given them, along with their annual $3.85 billion in aid. Civilian casualties in Gaza topped those in Ukraine in less than two months.
 
At home as many as six million people are without shelter (the official figure is 500,000 some homeless, but experts believe it to be much higher). A far greater number face hunger and lack of medical care. Let’s tell our representatives and presidential candidates that we want our tax dollars spent on welfare, not warfare, in 2024 and thereafter. The world would be a better place.
 
Sally Abbott
San Francisco, California

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lady Liberty stands like a bulwark. Beacon aloft, she remains our symbol of a fragile, forgiving experiment: democracy. Three years ago, a sacred tradition was assaulted. Violent stains damned her free-flowing robe. When asked, “What can cleanse them?” I respond, “A vote against her demise.” Citizens, the time is now! Push back. Choose her over self. No doubt, moral truth is still the best disinfectant cleanser.
 
Suzanne S. Austin-Hill
Ruskin, Florida

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Most Important Election in U.S. History
 
In this election, separating the candidates from the issues is like separating paint from a wall. No single issue worries me more than others, for all of them could be part of the same horrific picture. Zero gun laws, reactionary election laws, the repeal of Roe: all will dominate the political landscape if one candidate in particular wins.
 
As I write this, a knot tightens in my stomach; I gulp down nausea. The only relief is thinking that life under these circumstances would be short-lived for me and my fellow elders. I have the utmost sympathy for Americans who are young, as they will live with laws that were heretofore unimaginable.
 
Those of us in our final decades have taken for granted the democracy and good will we’ve always known. Even folks who for centuries have been the victims of racism and oppression have a fondness for the freedoms they have had. Under a possible dictatorship, oppression will be more evenly distributed and institutionalized. Only a relatively small group of devoted loyalists will be entitled to special favors, slapped upon them by their very own despot. But they, too, should prepare for the unexpected.
 
Denise Beck-Clark
Yonkers, New York

 

 

 

 

 

 

My vision for America’s future is a positive one because I believe events will shape how America changes, which will give opportunities to learn. Sometimes we need hard lessons, upheaval, and difficulties to force changes of thinking and behavior that help us to be stronger and more at peace individually and collectively. For example, if there were a financial crash, aided by climate change events, what are the positives relating to this? Would there not be less stress and burden on people’s shoulders as materialism is finally brought to heel? Maybe equality will emerge on every level as people are forced to come together in new ways of living where respect for the individual and truth are valued.
 
America’s future should not be looked upon in isolation, because imbalance is a worldwide problem. We are all living through a “storm” of our own making and, as events unfold, we should perhaps ask “why?” and “how?”— particularly in relation to the influence of evil and the destruction it has caused. Will reason, logic, and truth, and coming together to face our changing world, not bring about a positive, healthy and balanced future?
 
Julia Griffin
Laxfield, Suffolk
United Kingdom

 

 

 


Sylvia, part of the portrait series, Women Who Refuse to be Invisible
(a series that focuses on women over 60), mixed media, by Anastasia Andersen

 

 

 

In this election year and the decades ahead, our country needs to recognize the contributions of our elders and to provide for their needs to a much greater extent than we now do. People are worried about Joe Biden’s age, citing his halting gait and his occasional stumbles, both physical and verbal, but they rarely mention his decades of experience and the wisdom and judgment he’s accrued.
 
In many societies, from ancient Greece to present-day Asian and Native American cultures, elders are revered for their wisdom and ability to pass down traditional values and traditions, and they remain an integral part of their families and communities. But in America they are shunted aside. The affluent segregate themselves in gated senior communities or on cruises, making only occasional contact with their families. The less fortunate struggle to survive with inadequate governmental support for medical, home care, and transportation needs.
 
We’re fixated on physical fitness and beauty, spending billions on cosmetic surgery and serums to keep us looking younger than our chronological age. Yes, Biden appears old, even frail, but we should evaluate him by his judgment and wisdom, not his looks.
 
At 82, I’ve trademarked my business, Creative Crone Press. I’m proud to flaunt my age. Other women can too!
 
Julie Lomoe
Wynantskill, New York

 

 

 

 

 

 

For me, the thought of Donald Trump becoming President again is scary and depressing. I am the child of immigrants who came to the United States fleeing Nazi Germany. My parents instilled in me civic pride, [the imperatives] to always vote, to revere the office of the president. President Trump’s words and actions often made me cringe. My parents taught me and my siblings to be decent people, not to disparage anyone for a handicap or infirmity. If I had to sum up the worst trait I have seen in our former president, it would be that on several occasions he made fun of John McCain, ridiculing his damaged arm sustained as a prisoner of war. I am at a loss as to how our country can support a person who at his core is a bully. This makes me shudder.
 
I have always thought that Joe Biden is the opposite—a “mensch,” a decent man who has been through enough personal tragedies that his humanity shines through again and again. Sure, I wish he were ten years younger. (I wish that I were ten years younger too.) However, I would take a mensch over a bully any day.
 
Joanne Jagoda
Oakland, California

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Numbers
 
There is nothing united in a nation when a former president pronounces [that he has won] an election he numerically and legally lost, and his infuriation sparks a vicious attack by thousands on the seat of government, and a massive contingent of the populace continues to believe in him and his lie.
 
There is nothing united about the Supreme Court’s nullification of 108 years of New York state law restricting who can carry a concealed gun, a law supported by eight out of ten New Yorkers. That same Court nullified a 50-year-old law providing women the right to abortion – a Constitutional right legalized in 1973, supported by 52-57% of women, and I surmise, some percentage of men.
 
As each of these [Supreme Court] events occurred on different days of [one] week, I felt despair while others celebrated. I sought more, and came upon the term “illiberal democracy.”
 
…According to [Fareed] Zakaria, illiberal democracies are increasing around the world and are increasingly limiting the freedoms of the people they represent.
 
I fear for my grandchildren and little great-grandson. And yours.
 
Norma S. Tucker
Bethesda, Maryland

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I interact with the public in general, I’m noticing an increase in the intensity and meanness of our society. Behaviors and events that would have been horrendous to us 10 or fewer years ago are so commonplace we almost don’t notice. Seeing a strong potential for a repeat of history, I actively envision a change in attitude, practices, and behaviors that turn fear into confidence and dread into joy.
 
Starting with listing 25 things to be grateful for at the beginning of the day and ending with 25 at the end, I feel a change within myself. Even when it is a horrific day, I focus on one gratitude gem to hang onto. It’s not a complete change, but it is a start.
 
Margaret Hutchens
Mason City, Iowa

 

 

Miami in Virgo
A Feminist, Mystical Novel
by Sally Mansfield Abbott
  A disturbing encounter with a hermaphrodite at a county fair presages teenage Miami’s loss of innocence in 1970’s California. MIAMI IN VIRGO is a literary fiction coming-of-age novel narrated by precocious seventeen-year-old Miami. She and her friends form a tight-knit circle practicing feminist Wiccan ritual, as her childhood fundamentalism casts a long shadow. Conflicts with her friends over boys threaten their newfound feminist solidarity. An anticipated trip to a women’s demonstration devolves into a nightmarish questioning of her sexuality, further fracturing her friendships. An ill-fated romance at a Halloween party becomes thoroughly spooked when Miami winds up exiled in her new family after her mother’s remarriage. Her peccadilloes take on a spiritual dimension and she goes through a soul-searing scrutiny which eventually leads to the resolution of her conflicts through the deepening of her character. The twists and turns of her fast-paced story make a compelling read.   Learn more about the book and its author: https://miamiinvirgo.com/ Available from Amazon or from your independent bookstore.
Thirty Years Hence, A Novel
by Denise Beck-Clark
  This debut novel provides a wonderful sense of the New York City of the 1970’s. Washington Square Park, Greenwich Village, squalid six floor walk-ups and posh co-ops, streets crowded with hustlers and cabbies, all come to life. The bars Michelle frequents have characters right out of central casting. The reader becomes submerged in the sights, sounds, and smells of NYC. Beck-Clark does a great job of tackling weighty topics in a way that inspires introspection without detracting from the narrative flow. Given the exploration of trauma, it might not always be a comfortable read, but it is an important one. - Erin Britton, San Francisco Book Review 
 The novel’s plotlines are excellently weaved throughout, and the novel’s narrative moves ever forward, with several twists and turns maintaining the interest of the reader. The characters are fully developed as the reader gains a large measure of intimacy with them and identifies with their struggles and motivations. At the end of the day, Beck-Clark succeeds in spinning a true to life tale of Holocaust memory, trauma, and recovery, that is both sad and inspiring. - David Keenan, Manhattan Book Review Available at Amazon.com, B&N, Apple, Bookshop.org, and most booksellers online and in bookstores. For more information: www.denisebeck-clark.com

Bios

Anastasia Andersen was trained as an illustrator years ago at the School of Visual Arts. Though she took a long break from creating art, she has since quit her job and has returned to drawing that she intends and hopes will have an activist influence.

Ciel Downing has held several one-woman shows, and her paintings have sold internationally. Her photography was chosen for the cover of the annual Squid magazine. She won the NW Editorial cartoonists prize for her illustrations.

One Comment

  1. We find ourselves at a crossroads. Put in motion by the events of January 6, 2021. In retrospect People were plotting ways to co-opt the US government. In Donald Trump they found the perfect carrier for plagues of hatred and bigotry that defined his presidency. Once elected, lies became truth, hatred, shifting of blame, greed, stupidity became the norm.

    I was taken unaware. I worked for Obama’s election and for his re-election. Did the same for Hillary Clinton. Yet, ignorance and bigotry won out over a clearly principled, educated, and superior woman candidate.

    Aghast at what our country was becoming under Trump’s presidency, I worked hard to elect Democratic candidates up and down the ballot in Arizona where Republican candidates are attempting to seize control.

    We must be involved. I hope and long for a better future for all children and grandchildren. We cannot grow weary or despair. Death and destruction in Gaza, Ukraine and Sudan, reproductive rights ended, migrants treated inhumanely, LGBTQ+, trans rights, controlling what people think, book banning and the numerous other rights being assailed within our own country and around the world. I don’t have the luxury of being tired. I cannot surrender my hope.

    Linda F Piotrowski
    Green Valley, Arizona

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