Friday, December 2, 2016

Mr. Trump, Please Shut Up

("Trump's Breezy Calls to World Leaders Leaves Diplomats Aghast")

Mr. Trump, please shut up. It is more than a month before you even take office and already your big mouth has caused potential problems abroad.

Your cavalier remarks, your back of a matchbox knowledge of the most inflammable of situations, is a grave danger to this country. Your using adjectives and adverbs as a crutch to hide your embarrassing deficiencies is not of help as you maneuver through the most combustible, complex political mazes.

You don't study and don't comprehend and that is the worst of all combinations. You cannot bluff your way through, as each word you utter will have consequence, each phrase you toss out will be analyzed, each tweet dissected.

If I have one piece of advise, it is that you say nothing, not one moronic syllable. Silence is golden Mr. Trump. And we know how much you love gold.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Processing Donald Trump

I have grown quiet in recent days, my pen resting by my side. I feel, as do many like me, that I am going through the grieving process, trying to cope with a profound loss.

The mind wants desperately not to live in a state of negative being. That is why it would rather I wipe the slate clean for the President-elect, treat his past sins as meaningless peccadilloes and permit him the latitude to create his vision for our universe without pre-judgment.

But that is near impossible given the continuing tweets reminding us of the dangers that lie ahead for constitutional safeguards and those freedoms we hold dear, the cabinet choices that reinforce the notion that our worst fears will be realized for the future of our economy, our environment, our poor and suffering, our women, our immigrants, our standing in the international community.

We are informed that control is now in the hands of the dangerously wrong and  the critical beliefs that should constitute an immutable framework for this nation are in serious jeopardy of being cast asunder.

So I must not become complacent or indifferent to what I witness. Must not stand idle and allow this tragedy to unfold without comment. Must awaken from my stupor to give voice to my concerns.

Forget the five steps. Acceptance of the reality of Mr. Trump's presidency is not an option.

Friday, November 25, 2016

The Difference Between a Joke and a Joke

 It is the difference between light and dark (only not in that way) between high (only not in that way) and low between "he's fired up" and "he's fired".

One tells a joke, one is a joke, one makes us laugh, one makes us cry, one is a moral person, one is amoral.

I will miss much about Barack Obama but maybe nothing as much as his capacity to laugh at himself. I fear much about Donald Trump but maybe nothing as much as his capacity to laugh at others.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

The Price of the Times (The New York Times) - to the tune of "You'll Be Back"

You say, your freedom to speak does not suddenly seem free at all
You cry, every time that I speak what I speak is but merely a lie
What's so bad
Remember I helped sell your paper and I'll keep you king
But don't get me mad
Remember I can pull out my guns if you don't kiss my ring
You'll be back, wait and see
You'll be lining up on bended knee
You'll be back, headlines sell
And we'll serve each other very well
Obama's gone, Hillary's small
And you'll wait to hear my Trumpian call
So don't speak 'til I say
The First Amendment's the price of loyalty you'll pay

da da da di da (etc)

You say the cost I'm asking's too much to pay
You say free speech is free no matter what I say
But you don't know my power
Know this, no's make me sour
This is my finest hour
Don't dare to make me dour
Not ever, not ever or ever or ever

I have your back that's for sure
Just don't swear at me or start a war
For I'm good, for I'm kind
Just the kind who'll kick your behind
So be gone, but don't be mad
And for Trump's sake just don't be sad
Cuz if you push and you shove
I will kill your stupid newspaper
To remind you of my love

Da da da di da etc

Sunday, November 20, 2016

We The People

We the people are flawed, imperfect, never certain of where this journey will lead and never quite sure of where we are.
We the people, almost like clockwork, change our minds and our loyalties every eight years, like changing out of an old pair of socks, now worn and full of holes.
We the people are about the hope of tomorrow whether with the audacity of Obama or the anger of Trump.
We the people will never be an easy fit because we are not one thing, not one belief, not a homogeneous whole, but an accumulation of differences.
We the people is an ever evolving process. The one certainty is that we the people will be different tomorrow than we are today.

There's a Million Things He Hasn't Done, But Just You Wait, Just You Wait


"Donald J Trump, his name is Donald J Trump, there's a million things he hasn't done, but just you wait, just you wait."

And thus, one "acting" vice-president, spoke to the next real one, breaking down the imaginary fourth wall to voice the concern of the cast and much of the country that Mr. Trump not build his actual wall, not build on the hatred of his campaign, not build on the division of this nation.

And in reply, the thin skinned tweeter in king,  the petulant child who huffs and puffs, the master baiter who can't tolerate dissent, the bully who sits in regal command high in his golden tower, demands an apology for "insulting" Mr. Pence and by extension the office of the Presidency.

For those of us who value freedom of expression, who condemned Mr. Trump for his relentless unfounded attacks on President Obama, on his heritage, on his very right to lead, but understand the protections of the first amendment, for those of us who comprehend that we have something more to fear than fear itself, the tirade of Mr. Trump sends stark warning.

There's a million things he hasn't done, but just you wait, just you wait. The mind recoils.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Sleepless in New Jersey

It is 4 AM as I write this and while it may be my normal waking hour, it is not yours. But over the past 10 nights you have not slept well.
We are slowly absorbing our new reality. Like me, you cope by reading less of the news, poring over less of the expert ruminations. You don't have the mental stamina to listen to the pundits analyze what our world looks like today and suggest what it is likely to look like tomorrow.  It has all felt a little like responding to some terrible personal tragedy, maybe even like the death of a member of the family. And you don't want someone else directing your grief.
I received a number of worried calls in the days immediately following the darkest night in our collective memory. The "are you OK" with its implicit warning not to give up. You did too.
But our brains work in mysterious ways, fighting hard to make the worst appear less so with each passing hour. It is our essential coping mechanism permitting us to function, informing us not to dwell too long or too hard on our deepest hurt or our worst fears. It instructs us that the sun will rise tomorrow, that the stars will shine in the night sky, that our hearts still beat, even if they occasionally appear to stop for just a moment.
A friend called me yesterday and said she noticed that we all appear to be recovering, as if we had a virus that was now slowly dissipating.
Soon you and I will turn again to that writer who seems to have an understanding we trust, to that learned person who is consistently observant and astute. We will allow our pain to diminish even as it will not disappear.
We have stopped our crying and soon we will start to laugh again, will become reacquainted with our petty annoyances and find some of our old joys. We will  recapture our lives.
And while we will never trust what we read or hear in quite the same way, will never be as we were before November 8 when, for a moment or two it felt as if the earth had stopped moving, as if time had lost its meaning, as if reason and logic had been rendered without purpose, while we will never be quite as sure nor quite as sure footed, we will survive.
And even as I enjoy the companionship at 4 AM, I hope in the tomorrows to come you don't awaken until the first rays of daylight appear on the horizon.  Get your rest. God knows you (and I) will need it.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

One of the Best Days of My Life

This is a tale of one of the best days of my life.
Last Tuesday morning began with not a cloud in sight. Crisp, maybe heavy sweater weather,  a day to be outside enjoying mid-fall.

I woke early, as is my habit, went to a local bagel place for breakfast and headed to my niece's home where I had stayed overnight. This part of Philly was teeming with the young and white. While I am considerably older than young,  I fit in without notice here.

By mid-morning I had traveled about five miles into a different universe. This area of North Philly had been through hard times, it's inhabitants having been witness to a world far removed from the one I had just left.

My assignment for Election Protection on this day was to cover three polling districts to assure no voting irregularities had occurred. I had studied the video, read through the one page cheat sheet on how to deal with various problems that arose, worried about the dirty tricks that I feared Republican operatives might use to keep the people in this area of town from casting ballots.

I was paired with a young woman, a lawyer who had grown up in China, arriving in the US at age 14.  Over the course of the day, I would learn her story, as well as that of a remarkable group of the most friendly, open people I have ever met.

First, my partner. She came to this country, and settled with her family in Brooklyn, hardly a word of English at her command. She began high school unable to comprehend any lesson her teachers were imparting. "How", I asked, "had she survived academically"?

She told me she copied down everything written on the blackboard. Then each night she would sit and translate, word by word, until she could find meaning in the phrases.
One class proved particularly frustrating, as nothing on her piece of paper could be found in the dictionary. It would be some time before she would realize she was taking a Spanish course.
Four years later she would graduate as salutatorian, attend an Ivy league university, then a well respected law school. Now she was employed at one of Philly's top firms.

Our first stop was at Sixth and Indiana. It was a little after 10 AM and a steady flow of people arrived at this polling place. Two men, in their late 20's or early 30's, were giving out handouts reminding those about to enter the school auditorium of who the best candidates were on the ballot.
What I noticed here, and elsewhere, was how warm and friendly everyone was, not only to each other, but also to these two strangers, this young Asian woman and this old Jewish guy, who were assuredly not from around there.
We took pictures of the two young men who would spend from first light of day to last in this locale. As one of them posed and instead of saying "cheese" mouthed "gangsta", there was a sense of camaraderie between us. The plastic chairs they brought to allow them some rest for weary legs were offered to myself and my partner during our watch.
From our first locale we moved a few blocks, on foot, to our next stop. As we walked the streets of row houses, most neatly maintained but some showing the ravages of time and scarce finances, my partner said some had questioned why she had chosen this neighborhood for her volunteer work. This day would provide her the answer.
Standing guard outside our next destination was a man, seemingly about my age, who told his life's tale without prompting. He was two years my senior, had lived in this part of town one year shy of half a century. He was a father of four, grandfather of twenty two, and great grandfather of two. He spoke of next year being his 50th wedding anniversary, of renewing his vows before an expected crowd of 170. I learned of his large family gathering on Thanksgiving and of his wife baking pies for three days straight. Within minutes I was referring to my new friend as Gramps and had invited myself to this year's Thanksgiving gathering.
After several minutes of  this monologue, my new friend turned away from me to greet a woman who appeared to be slightly younger than us. She was with three girls who I guessed were her children.

He gave her a deep hug and told her that he was sorry. I thought he was apologizing for not noticing her. Within seconds it was clear his words had a far different meaning.
The night before, but a few blocks from where we now stood, this woman's son had been shot and killed, outside her doorstep, in a confrontation with the police. Yet, here she was, in the midst of that tragedy, arriving to vote.
I interceded, with but one question. "Why have you taken the time to come here."
"It is just too important to make sure that Hillary wins."
I thought about how I would have responded to a similar event in my life, and where an election, even a Presidential election, would have fit into the day after such a horrendous tragedy. But I also considered what I could never know: how hard life must be for so many who live here, how violence and loss is more part of the fabric of this neighborhood than I could ever perceive, and that maybe this woman had learned a perspective that was remarkable and far beyond my capacity to grasp.

From here, my partner and I walked to our last stop. My son had gone on line to help me map out the route of the places I would be monitoring and he remarked as to the beauty of the fa├žade of the community center, home to this polling site.
Here, the exterior had been painted in glorious designs and colors, with an overlay that was sculpted and fit perfectly into the motif.
A long folding table sat just outside the entrance. There I struck up conversation with a gentleman, also approximately my age, another local face standing guard.. He was Muslim, his skull cap giving expression to his beliefs. He informed me that he had lost seven of his siblings in the last two years. I did not ask the circumstances and he did not offer explanations.

But I did ask how he had coped with so much loss. "When we arrive here and when we leave, is written and ordained. I am just happy and grateful for the time I had with all of them."
He would soon be called upon to deal with an issue posed. As my partner and I stood there, another man approached.
"I am Legend, and my name is written into this building." With that, he walked me around to the other corner of this community center. There, inscribed, was a thank you to those who had been instrumental in what was most likely the revitalization of this site. And yes, there was Legend's name.

He had been a local sports hero growing up, a multi talented athlete. He had gone to college for one year, a basketball walk-on who did not make the grade. But here he was a half century later, in this same neighborhood, volunteering to coach the game he still loved and telling kids that the only way out was with their brains.
I was just the vessel for these people to express the stories of their lives and their neighborhood. They were more open and forthcoming as a group than any I had ever encountered. Theirs were stories of love, of perseverance, of finding balance and grace in difficult and often tragic circumstances.

There was a calm and joy here, people greeting one another with hugs, smiles and an undeniable sense of community and belonging.
My studying of the information given to me had been unnecessary. There was but one question posed to me during my entire watch. As an issue of proper registration to vote was being discussed, a poll worker ran outside and told the young man to return to the booth. It had all been resolved.

People watching out for each other. People making me and my partner feel welcome and appreciated. People who were in many ways, some of the finest people I have ever had the privilege to meet. It was one of the best days of my life.
Followed shortly thereafter by one of my worst nights. Ever.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Trump and his Sicko-phants

It should be called Mr. Trump and his sicko-phants. As the President-elect begins to assemble a team of cohorts, the picture that emerges is one that should cause retraction of every statement made that Trump will govern in different tone than the ugly rhetoric of his campaign.
It appears that Trump is putting together his own Murderer's Row. Bannon but the first, Giuliani soon to follow and can the likes of Christie, Gingrich and maybe even Palin be far behind? A group that will counsel destruction of civil liberties, decimation of environmental regulation, death to the department of education.
It is an evil cabal, a covey of corrupt ideas and ideals that will do almost incalculable damage to this nation. A softer, kinder Donald Trump as President? The answer is an emphatic nyet.

Monday, November 14, 2016

The Death of the Boomer

We came in with protest, angered at the wrongs committed by those in power and determined to make our nation and the world a better place to live in. We tuned in, turned on and raised our voices and the conscience of our nation. But now the boomers have busted.

If the polling figures are to be believed, and who really can trust our Dewey beats Truman pollsters today, Donald Trump can thank his almost contemporaries for his most improbable ascension. How did we go from a generation trying to make America great again to embracing this charlatan?

When did our better selves die and why? When did the world turn into such a dark place? In our youth it was us against them, the small minded, the heartless. Now we are them, and we are responsible for what we as a nation have become.

The boomers have lost their way. They have found redeeming value in a man who has not spent one day, one hour, one second in seven decades in pursuit of a common good. Today I am saddened to be part of the boomer generation.

Today there is a funeral being held and a period of mourning to follow. Today we bury the best of what being a boomer was all about. And the eulogy is being given by the President-elect.