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Thursday, December 29, 2016

New York Times Best Letters of 2016

My letter on Muhammad Ali was chosen by the Editor of the Letters Department of the New York Times as one of the best of 2016. I set forth the unedited version below. Hope you enjoy a second look (or a first) at this post:




MUHAMMAD ALI

He came to us as a curiosity and stayed as an icon who altered our landscape forever.

Far beyond the confines of a ring, Muhammad Ali was defined as a fighter with quick fists, quick wit and an indomitable spirit. He willingly forfeited riches, his crown and would have his freedom, if it had come to that, following the dictates of his religion and his heart. He might have arrived as part showman but he remained as a dedicated, serious ambassador for his beliefs.

Parkinson's may have sapped him of his most obvious strengths, making him a physical shadow of his earlier self and taking away much of the sound of his voice. But Ali's poetry was not limited to his outward beauty or rhymes. His was the heart of a lion, the will of David against Goliath, a life equal parts passion and compassion.

He was, for half a century, an American treasure. And he will forever remain one of the most influential voices of our time.

Born Cassius Clay, lived long as Muhammad Ali, died a legend and a hero to countless millions around the globe. Forever may he be recalled as one who was both butterfly and bee, a man filled with enduring beauty, grace and power.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Response of the Democrats to the Inaugural Address of Mr. Trump

(With a little help from Mr. Lincoln )

Four score less six days ago a minority of  our electorate brought forth on our nation a new leader, conceived in infamy and promulgating the proposition that all rich white men are created equal.

A great many have been outraged by his uncivil war, testing whether our nation, or any nation, so ill conceived and so wrongly dedicated, can still endure. We will soon meet in great battle in our most hallowed halls.We have come to dedicate ourselves to that war, and pledge to never take respite or rest until each of those in our nation who have put their lives in our custody has a better place to live. It is all together fitting and proper that we should do this for the very least and the very last among us.

We cannot desecrate -we cannot castigate - we can not call fallow - this ground where we must now tread. The brave men and women, living and dead, who struggled in these very halls to make us more than we now appear, have made sacred this space, far more than our power now to diminish or expand. The world may little note or long remember these words in the cacophony of the coming hours.  It is for our party, those who now stand beside me, beside us, to rededicate ourselves to the battle, to proclaim that the work of those who came before us, who so nobly pledged their hearts and their lives, will not be cast asunder, will not be lost to the blur of history or the blink of an eye. It is rather that we be ever mindful and ever committed to the hard task that is now before us- that from the strength and courage, the passion and dedication, the vision and vigilance of those our honored forebears, we are renewed and revitalized, with increased devotion to those challenges for which they gave their last measure - that we firmly resolve that our causes will not be forgotten or compromised and all our efforts will not be in vain- that this party, this nation, undeterred, shall have a rebirth and a resurgence - and that this government, despite the protestations of those in power who would wish us less, will remain now and forever of the people, by the people and for the people, and we shall not fade slowly into the night but we will, as one, emerge stronger, wiser and better.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Small Hands, Big Mouth

("Trump Says the U.S. Should Expand It's Nuclear Policy")

So Donald Trump has small hands and a big stick. How could someone, still almost a month from taking office be doing such damage, giving the Twitter finger to a two state solution in Israel, and poking a finger directly in the eye of nuclear diplomacy?

He has tweeted China that he may not keep his tiny hands off Taiwan. He has doubled down on his no Muslims allowed policy. He is building a foreign policy tsunami while sitting in his underwear in his palace in NY or Florida.

Do you know the worst possible job in the world? Communications director for Donald Trump. Each day trying to turn a 140 character rant into a coherent thought. Stepping back the principal mandate in this job description.

While Trump fiddles around, Obama must be burning. His legacy, and the office itself, already in tatters. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

A Freudian Slip?

This was the headline of today's news alert for WNYC:

"A Trump Tower Resident Asses His Neighbor"


A Freudian slip? More likely a victim of a malicious auto-correct (the error was quickly noted and "Asses" became "Assesses")

Finally, a reason to laugh.


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Electoral College Is Here to Stay

("Time to End the Electoral College")

Historical perspective matters not. Present reality dictates and Republicans, who control state and federal government are as likely to move this country away from the electoral college as Mr. Trump is to stop tweeting.

It is a waste of time and resource to contemplate a universe that will never exist in the current environment. The electoral college is the best hope the Republicans have to remain in control of the presidency in a country whose demographics is shifting decidedly blue.

Gerrymandering, undocumented allegations of voter fraud, "fictional truths", are but tools of the trade. The mother lode is the electoral college and protecting its future is critical to the future of Republican control of the Oval Office.

It is time to wake up and start dealing with issues that can be challenged and impacted not one that cannot.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

In Search of a Missing L - The Lost Rules of Spelling (Speling)

I am in search of a missing L.  I know it is around here somewhere, I just can't seem to locate it.
 
What happened to all those double consonants that have disappeared (soon it may read: what hapened to al those double consonants that have disapeared)?  I was recently reading an article that discussed (discused) the "skilful" rider. Was the other L left by the roadside, victim of a hit and run driver?
 
Are we shedding (sheding) letters (leters) to save time? Are we abandoning duplication? Are we worried (woried) about our 140 character limit?
 
What class (clas) must I take to learn the new rules? When is doubling up still permissible (permisible)?  Will we soon do away with bunk beds and twin mattresses (matreses)? We have lost double features at the movies and we now even have split doubleheaders in baseball (basebal).

 
It is all (al) a little (litle) too confusing. If you see, I have not, to this point, included the double vowel in this lament for it does appear (apear) at the moment to be a bridge too (to) far. But what if even that bridge disappeared (disapeared)?
 
Are we now to abandon double negatives (no, not that one), discard double entendres and do away with that dastardly double cross (double cros)? Can we no longer double down or double up? Are we done doubling our pleasure, doubling our fun?
 
And what about two for one bargains? And will (wil) one no longer be the loneliest number but two? 
 
I long for simpler times with simpler rules. When we knew to cross (cros) the street (stret) looking (loking) both ways. When night followed (folowed) day, seven hadn't eaten nine and i followed e, except after c.
 
Now it is all (al) a mess (mes). And I can only hope a skilful rider can navigate the terrain (terain) successfully (sucesfuly) and arrive (arive) home to sip a double (single) latte (late) before it is too (to) late (latte), oops (ops).

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Dr. Frankenstein's Lament

Dr. Frankenstein is unhappy with the monster he created?
 
Party leadership and right wing pundits have led us, crumb by crumb and step by step, to Donald Trump's doorstep. For years they have fed their followers disinformation and obfuscation. For years they have railed about fictional wrongs and filled their speeches and their writings with factual "inaccuracies'. It was a means justifies the ends attack on everything Obama, everything Democrat.
 
From a foreign born Muslim President, to health care death panels, from snowballs in Congress to refute climate change to the directive from Mitch McConnell to be first, last and always obstructionists, this was a determination to abandon truth as a predicate for opening one's mouth or penning one's words.
 
And how could those who believed in their party, believed in their media personalities, how could they distinguish between all the past lies that had accumulated over so many years and all the present ones that spewed forth in dizzying succession from Mr. Trump.
 
You cannot walk away from past transgressions so easily Mr. Sykes. You cannot merely wash your hands of the President elect and think all is forgiven. No, it is your job to right your wrong and raise your voice in continued opposition to the monster you created.

On the Roof of Mr. Trump's Limousine





Is that Mitt on the roof of Trump's limousine? And next to him, Christie?

Who can forget the image of the New Jersey governor looking like he just ate way too much humble pie as he lap dogged behind Mr. Trump?

And Mr. Romney being sickeningly effusive in his praise of the president elect as he kissed not only his ring but his derriere in his audition for a part in "Donald Knows Best."

Counting on the mercurial leader to forgive and forget is, as one might say to Mr. Christie, a bridge too far. Remember, Mr. Trump's favorite son in law had a little score to settle with the former attorney general of NJ for putting his dad in prison attire. And Mr. Romney's fifteen seconds this campaign was spent almost entirely on letting the world know Seamus would make a better President than Donald.

So Mr. Trump's dalliance with Mitt has passed and he has concentrated on choosing only the best and brightest of his former opponents for meritorious appointment: Ben Carson picked to head Housing and Urban Development even as the good doctor himself advised that he was not qualified for the position and Rick Perry, the man who would abolish the Department of Energy if only he could remember it's name, now chosen to lead it.

You can't make this stuff up.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Property of Charles Metzner

The name is written in cursive, the letters faded but, amazingly, still legible. I do not know Charles Metzner, never met him, but almost 100 years ago, almost 30 years before I was born, he gave me a gift.

Between 1921 and 1924 the Exhibit Supply Company manufactured a set of 193 baseball cards. The cards measure 3 3/8" by 5 3/8". Black and white images of many of the stars of the game are pictured. Players in various poses, and at the bottom of each card is a cursive spelling of the name and a smaller, all capital letters description of their position and team.

Geo. H. 'Babe' Ruth
OUTFIELDER, NEW YORK, AM.L.

I recently went on a collector's website and learned that the key cards in this set were Ty. R. Cobb, Rogers Hornsby, Walter P. Johnson and Babe Ruth. Charles Metzner did not have the Walter P. Johnson card but the others are at my fingertips at a moment's notice..

Today is the 37th anniversary of my dad's passing. The memorial candle flickers on the dining room table. The same table where last week the book that once belonged to Charles Metzner sat.

My dad was in summer camp in the mid 1920's. His counselor, at least one of those summers: Mr. Metzner. I can only imagine the passion that my dad displayed for his sports heroes. Even in  1932, when my dad was 14, he compiled a book of clippings of the most significant athletic events of the moment. This book has for many decades been nestled next to the other one which once belonged to Charles Metzner.

I don't know what motivated Mr. Metzner to give my dad this gift. Maybe he thought that this collection was but a child's undertaking and he was outgrowing such things. Maybe my dad was relentless in his request. Maybe it was a spur of the moment decision. Maybe it was deeply contemplated and considered.

My memories of baseball cards and camp are decidedly less uplifting. When I was but six, I spent my first summer at sleep away. And much like my dad before me, I was consumed with my love of sport. But my attraction to the baseball cards of my counselor was less honorable. I remember being held back from activities one day as my counselor scolded me for taking some of his cards. I was not a master thief, unable to read the cursive handwriting that showed the rightful owner's name. But this is not a story about my failings. Well maybe not entirely.

The baseball cards that sat on the dining room table last week were not there solely for my viewing pleasure. Also sitting at the table were two auctioneers, one of whom took particular interest when I had mentioned, almost in passing, what was once the property of Charles Metzner.

It has been so many years since I really looked at this book, or at the many hundreds of baseball cards that I had collected in the 1950's and early 1960's. When my children were much younger, we would occasionally pull these out of storage and they would be saddled with a few minutes of my reminiscences of my dad and of my own youth. But my children are now both in their 30's and what really was the purpose of holding on to Mr. Metzner's past belonging?

I sent a text message to the auctioneer the following day and asked about the extent of his interest in Ruth, Cobb and Hornsby. But even as I wrote this note, I was filled with a sense of uneasiness. These were vestiges not of baseball played almost 100 years ago, but of my dad and me, and a shared passion.

He wrote back shortly after and expressed his continued willingness to acquire these pieces. But the more I thought about it, the clearer it became that I would be dishonoring the memory of my dad and also the gift from Charles Metzner if ever I were to say yes to an offer, whatever it might be.

And so today, I watch the burning candle and remember everything that my dad was, and everything that he meant to me. And I am glad that the gift from Charles Metzner is where it now and forever belongs, safe at home.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Storyteller


What is politics, what is existence, if not storytelling? We discuss, consider persuade and cajole through the art of the tale. We talk, we live from one short story to the next.

And Donald Trump for all his many faults, his eccentricities and foibles, was a far better story teller than Hillary Clinton. Maybe because he talked so often in fictions, his possibilities were endless. He is practiced in the art of manipulation by deception and illusion, building a career and a fortune on his capacity to weave his particular madness into gold.

Yes, his images were full of darkness and fear, of desperate times and evil people. But where all we heard was the sound of a charlatan at work, he captivated and propelled those who were hypnotized by his words.

Hillary Clinton spoke in phrases that were mired in concrete. She did not stir the mind and the heart in any of the ways that Mr. Trump did.

And so the profane, the obscene, the ridiculous and the nonsensical became the story that far too much of America heard. And believed. 

We will be soon led by a storyteller in chief, a person consumed not with policy considerations, but   merely creating a narrative that fits neatly with his vision. Carrier is but the first of these imagined triumphs. 

And our task for the tomorrows to come is to find a powerful voice to tell our story of our nation, and ultimately to wrest away the attention of those now gathered at the feet of Mr. Trump. It is all in the hands of the storyteller.

Bright Lights - A Christmas Tale

This is not a tale of religion, so don't turn away. This is, as the saying hanging in the kitchen of one of my dear friend's announces, a story of "excess is best".

As we drive down the block, I am struck not so much by the size of the houses, but the lights that make the night sky bright. To my left or right I am given constant reminder of the season at hand. Though no snow appears on the ground, I am certain that Christmas is nigh.

But whatever brightness emanates here, it soon seems merely the darkest of evenings as the road bends to reveal the house I am soon to enter. Not only is the yard, front and back, saturated with glowing and moving figures announcing that Santa would soon be heading down the chimney, but if the radio was turned to 107.7 FM, a Christmas song, followed by a series of jokes, could be heard all emanating from a continuous looped broadcast from the house.

Walking across the yard, the window in the front was showing a cartoon on its shade. The senses were assaulted and overwhelmed by holiday cheer.

But if one were to stop here and never step foot inside, it would be like only seeing the Mona Lisa from the nose up. For if the outside of this home announced it's intention to celebrate, the inside screamed it.

It was more museum, more exhibit than one could almost imagine. Room upon room filled from stem to stern with every possibility. Santa climbing up and down a ladder in perpetual motion. Santa on a zip line, with the clap of a hand, descending from the sky, and with a second clap reversing his course. Two Christmas trees, each festooned with seemingly a thousand ornaments,  little treats to be discovered one by one as the eye tried desperately to take in all the information and convey it to an overwhelmed brain.

There were winter villages composed in the most particular detail, trains moving up and down the hills,  a tram carrying it's occupants heavenward. The enormity of what lay before us, one room more intricately conceived than the next, is almost impossible to report.

And in the midst were the revelers, intentionally dressed in some of the worst looking holiday sweaters imaginable, a wink and a nod of the head to deliciously bad taste.

For me, who grew up in a neighborhood where Christmas trees were hard to find, and Christmas lights were few, it was as if I had woken in a Disney, or more accurately, a National Lampoon movie. Think Chevy Chase on steroids. 

There is the moment when over the top is no longer in the worst of taste but the best. And this house, this evening, this extraordinary testament, was nothing short of the best. Excess in all its wonder and glory.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Lost and Found

You know that lost weekend in your past? I just found mine 

My son always says I have no recollection of my youth. That when he visited my old college campus with me I remembered living for two years in what turned out to be the administration building. And yes, almost all of what happened almost half a century ago long fell from my brain and was carted away with the trash. But not everything. 

I have been dealing with another lawyer for almost two years on a transaction. His name sounded vaguely familiar, but having lived almost 65 years not much doesn't sound vaguely familiar. But he never asked if I was the same person he had gone to college with and I think everyone I meet along the way lived for two years in the administration building with me. 

Today we met face to face for the first time on our deal. At least he met my face. As for me it was all a blank. 

"Are you the....." I was. And with that he rattled off a series of questions about my former roommate, one of my friends who did not even attend our school and whether I married my old college girlfriend. Who was this guy and why did he know so much about me? 

Like I do in so many situations, I pretended.  I didn't lie, I just sort of made it seem he had made a more lasting impression on me than the "who the hell is he" response that was circulating around my mostly empty cranium. 

We finished up our conference, I promised we would get together soon along with my old roommate, and then I made my way outside. 

It was not until about half an hour later that the dim lightbulb in my head suddenly began to flash, in all neon. 

I picked up my cell phone. "Were we together that weekend on that road trip when we went to visit my friend (the name he had mentioned to me earlier)?" He WAS. 

That was during my single period, when my girlfriend had graduated and I was participating in some activities that were not for PG audiences. And that weekend, that road trip, well I can't really tell you much about it. Not because I don't remember but because I now do.

I would venture that youthful indiscretions are something many of us look back upon in later years with a mixture of embarrassment and delight, simultaneously slightly repulsed at our misdeeds and in equal measure wistful for those unforgettable times. Only I mostly forgot them, at least this one, until now.

Am I the rule or is he? Are a lifetime of events, important, innocuous, innocent or otherwise, stored and ready for retrieval in your head? How could people so central to such tales disappear? Where did they go? One of us carried in stark detail in his back pocket that time of life when we were young and more than a little wild. And then there was me. But with help, a flood of long dormant brain cells had stirred to life.

My suddenly new old friend and I laughed over memories rejoined. Our past now simultaneously recollected, our present but excuse for this strange, wonderful coincidence that filled both of us with such warm, warped thoughts of a very naughty weekend I retrieved from the lost and found.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Person of the Year

It is like a sharp stick in the eye as I stare at the image of Mr. Trump on your cover as Time's Person of the Year.
 
I understand that this is not an endorsement of his policies, but merely a recognition of his impact on the present and future landscape of our political and global universe. 
 
But that does not lessen the pain of Mr. Trump's "here I am" half glower, that look that speaks a million words, that self-satisfied picture of him having proven all of us, his horrified critics, so completely wrong.
 
Donald Trump sells, and so your magazine will do well this week. But at what cost, what steep price will we all have to pay? I think your cover should have more appropriately been entitled "Person of the Year???"

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Numbers Game

("Derek Jeter's No.2, Last of Yankee Single Digits, to Be Retired")

When my children were young (they are now both in their 30's) I challenged them to give me the names of the players whose Yankee numbers were retired out in Monument Park. My son created a mnemonic, a running tale in which all the most hallowed of pinstripers played a role.

With the list soon to be a staggering 21 upon the ascendancy of "number 2, Derek Jeter, number 2",  I am quite certain my son's story would now be almost as long as the game itself.

I now assign a new simpler task, recalling the single digit lineup as follows:
 
Leading off, at second base, number 1, Billy Martin

Derek Jeter, shortstop, number 2, batting second

Babe Ruth, batting third, number 3, right field

Lou Gehrig, cleanup, number 4, first base

Joe D, center field, number 5, hitting fifth

Joe Torre, third base, sixth in the lineup, number 6

The Mick, number 7 , batting seventh, in left

Yogi and Bill Dickey sharing the catching duties and the number 8, batting eighth

Roger Maris, as DH , number 9, batting ninth

And announcing the game, Holy Cow, Phil Rizzuto, number 10.

Single digit numbers on a jersey were at one time intended to correlate to batting position in the starting lineup. It is almost a perfect fit, as the one to nine Bronx Bomber team, in numeric order, forevermore strides to the plate.

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

AN EDITED VERSION OF THIS POST IS SCHEDULED TO APPEAR IN THE RECORD, A BERGEN COUNTY NEWSPAPER

"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.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Aunt Shirley

My Aunt Shirley died Tuesday night, election night. The family was convinced that she did not want to awaken to a universe with Donald Trump as her President-elect.

Maybe that was so, and if that was her predicate for moving on, then I applaud her wisdom and judgment. But this is not a story about the state of our political demise, but rather the near end of a family dynamic that has been a constant presence my entire life.

Shirley was one of five siblings in what to me, has been an almost mythic family. The Smiths of Lodi, four girls and then, at last, a boy. A group whose bonds tethered not only them but those who followed thereafter.

My aunt would have been 94 later this month and the gathering at her funeral reflected this. There were no contemporaries, no friends of hers and the only sibling still alive, my mom was nearing 99 and far, far too removed from this universe to attend or to even be made aware that her younger sister and life long best friend was no more. But my aunt was far from alone.

Three of the sisters settled in Teaneck after marriage. Memories of bonded households abound, but there was always a special place in my heart for Aunt Shirley's home. Not only was her son Larry only weeks my junior and always a good and loyal friend, but Aunt Shirley was forever a second mom. Her house was the one I would run to when my parents were away, her kitchen the place where I would listen to tales of her "bad list".

I was a lousy French student from my introduction to the language in grammar school to the mangling of it in high school. Aunt Shirley and I had our own way of making light of this bad situation  and the following was the exact way we began every conversation for nearly a half century.

" Robert, (imagine this in my Aunt's Lodi laced French) comment allez-vous aujourd'hui?"

"Tres bien, merci et vous?"

"Boney, bon, bon."

At the funeral home, cousins from all five branches of our clan gathered to pay our respects, to give tribute to Aunt Shirley and to share our love for her with her children.

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite day of the year, a time when all the family gathered, when there was a feeling of closeness between generations that could not be elsewhere duplicated. I often wondered what it must have felt like to grow up in that house in Lodi, with all its tumult and activity, all its life and love, and it was on this one day of the year, on Thanksgiving, that I could get at least the tiniest sense of that feeling.

I worry that this feeling will soon die out. That my children will never be able to impart to their children just what I have had the privilege to know. That the Smith family gatherings will not last another generation as time, distance and remoteness of lineage make the story of these wondrous siblings just a tale to be resurrected on ever rarer occasions, just an emotion to be recalled and not enjoyed.

As my aunt was lowered into the ground at the gravesite she now shares with her husband of over 66 years, my Uncle Harold, with my dad, and one day in the not too distant future with my mom, and we silently said our final goodbyes, I couldn't help but recall my life long running conversation with her.

"Adieu, Aunt Shirley, until we meet again at Thanksgiving."

You Are Invited to a Party

As the election neared and the prospect of a Hillary Clinton victory seemed inevitable, my son suggested we show our thanks to the outgoing President. "Why don't we ring the White House the day before the swearing in of our new leader and merely applaud to demonstrate our appreciation for President Obama?"
 
While the sting of Tuesday night is still fresh and the thought of any celebration seems so contrary to our present state of mind, I say now is the right time to plan a party.
 
Let there be a show of force in Washington on January 19 coming from all corners of this country, from all walks of life, to state emphatically that we are still here, we still have the core beliefs that Mr. Obama so eloquently articulated on our behalf, and that he is still and forevermore deserving of our praise and our thanks.
 
I ask everyone who reads these words to spread the message. Let us all meet as one on January 19 to inform the world, with the clapping of our hands, of our gratitude to Barack Obama for what he has attempted to do to make this country and this world a better place.

Friday, November 11, 2016

The Eight Year Itch

1952 to 1960 - Dwight Eisenhower - 8 years - Republican
1960 to 1968 - Kennedy/Johnson - 8 years - Democrat
1968 to 1976 - Nixon/Ford - 8 years- Republican
1976 to 1980 - Carter - 4 years - Democrat
1980 to 1992 - Reagan/ Bush - 12 years - Republican
1992 to 2000 - Clinton - 8 years- Democrat
2000 to 2008 - Bush - 8 years - Republican
2008 to 2016 - Obama - 8 years - Democrat
2016 to ? - Trump - Republican
 
Of the eight changes of party rule over the past 64 years, the last 16 presidential elections, 75% occurred at the end of two terms of control. Through war and of peace, through assassination and resignation, through civil rights and uncivil wrongs, through fathers and sons, through impeachment hearings and missile crisis, through incompetence and corruption, through the best of times and the worst of times, the one almost universal certainty is that after eight years of being led by Democrat or Republican the voters will demand a change.
 
Despite his obvious and oft times overwhelming flaws, despite his seeming repeated attempts to undermine his own candidacy, despite his pronounced lack of preparation and understanding of the task that lay before him, Donald Trump was still in the right place at the right time.
 
Notwithstanding that Barack Obama had turned a monthly loss of 800,000 jobs into a prolonged period of reduced unemployment, despite 15 million who found work over this time of recovery, despite a revitalized stock market, despite a return from the brink of epic disaster to at least a stabilized economy, despite the fact that President Obama had stopped our nation's bleeding, it was not enough to assuage the anger of the masses. If life was better, for many it was still not good enough. 
 
A different party, after eight years of not being in power, always can promise better. Even if it can't deliver, and the Republican plan, if there even is one, is very unlikely to do so, all it has to do is to say it can. The Democrats and Hillary Clinton could only say they would try harder. That was not, and never is, the right answer.
 
This nation is nothing if not perpetually dissatisfied with its station. No matter what the basis for this election's insurrection, whether it be immigration, the inevitable march of time and the understanding that minorities will soon to be in the majority, the ascension of a black man to the highest office and the contemplation of a woman to take his place, the feeling that others around the globe no longer stop and listen when we speak, no matter if it is these matters or others that weigh on the voters, it always boils down to the same inevitable conclusion that two terms is more than enough for the party then in power.
 
When history is written about this election, and those with the benefit of hindsight attempt to dissect the reasons we handed the keys to the car to someone who has never driven and is blind to the dangers on the road, we should first and foremost ask how we did not see that this was the most likely outcome of all.

Why?

Why? Why with a call to hate and fear, with images of a dystopian universe, with such a poor messenger and such a poor message, why do we find ourselves staring directly into the abyss of a Donald Trump presidency?
 
1. Because the balance of power most often shifts parties after a two term President, as our country forever searches for the next best answer to the problems of our day.
 
2. Because a woman following a black man into office was just a bridge too far.
 
3. Because the last scandal in a campaign marked only with scandals wins (or more precisely loses). Goodbye to Billy Bush and hello to Anthony Weiner. In a landscape of sexual impropriety focusing on private parts, you couldn't have created characters for a television show with two more jarringly bad names. Thanks for nothing James Comey.
 
4. Because a family political dynasty for the Democrats following shortly after a family political dynasty for the Republicans was another bridge too far.
 
5. Because Hillary Clinton could never generate any excitement on her own and relying on surrogates like the Obama's, as striking as they were, was no match for the fervor created by a master entertainer playing on the basest instincts of his supporters.
 
6. Because we have an electoral college that effectively negates the concept that every vote is of equal weight.
 
7. Because we didn't believe in our hearts that a buffoon could actually ascend to the presidency and that his lies, his lack of knowledge or understanding, his hatred and lack of compassion would outweigh the reasons why so many seemed drawn to him.
 
8. Because the Republican party was so effective in painting Hillary Clinton as a crook and an inveterate liar, thus deflecting attention from the fact that Donald Trump was the true crook and inveterate liar.
 
9. Because we "liberals" are perceived by so much of America as smug and pompous, considering this our land not theirs, and we were going to be informed in the most direct terms that we were wrong.
 
10. Because shit happens.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Occupy Trump Tower

Dear President-elect Trump:

 
This is a message from the majority of American voters who cast their ballots in favor of your opponent.
 
We have a list of issues we would like to address now, so that there is no uncertainty when you take office on January 20, 2017 as to where we stand:
1. Do not take away health care protection for the 20 million newly insured
2. Do not consider the environment as a disposable commodity.
3. Do not renege on your promise to resurrect our crumbling infrastructure.
4. Do not give tax handouts to the wealthy
5. Do not abandon our NATO allies
6. Do not be fooled by Vladimir Putin
7. Do you put your hand anywhere near the nuclear button
8. Do not build that wall.
9. Do not appoint a justice to the Supreme Court without real advise and consent
10. Do not denigrate those that live peaceably and with honor in our country.
11. Do not think that mass deportation is the right answer
12. Do not bring back torture as an acceptable method of interrogation
13. Do not support tariffs that will only damage our nation
14. Do not treat your job and your responsibilities lightly.
15. Do not forget that we are here.
16. Do not forget that we are watching.
17. Do not forget that the mid-term elections are only 2 years away.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Hell

Tell me the world is flat, and I will no longer deny it. Tell me that birds can't fly and I will nod in agreement. Tell me that up is down, the sun revolves around the earth, day is night and two plus two is three. I can no longer distinguish truth from fiction.
 
Tell me that this country has fallen under the spell of a dunce, that we have gone from the oratorical brilliance of Lincoln to the insipid ramblings of Moe, Larry and Curley, that we have jumped off a cliff without a parachute, that everything that can't be is.
 
It is nearing 3AM and I am fearful of what the dawn will bring. I am afraid to close my eyes for I am certain to awaken to a nightmare without end. I feel helpless and hopeless, disgusted and discouraged.
 
My son has advised me of certain trite phrases I am banned from using to communicate my thoughts and feelings.With due apologies to him, I am breaking his rule. I can hardly breathe in contemplation of a universe ruled by an evil imbecile, a Congress under Republican dictate, a Supreme Court filled with Antonin Scalia wannabes, an environment toxic in word and deed, a walled off land in which right is wrong, good is bad and decency has no seat at the table.
 
This is not how it was supposed to be, not what every fibre of my being told me it could possibly be. This cannot be my land, not my country, not my home. I can't imagine existing in a place in which this is the best we have to offer. That in a nation of over 300 million there was not one, not even one, that was better prepared to lead us on this journey. That we were drawn into this man's lair and are trapped here for eternity.
 
"Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow creeps in this petty pace from day to day 'til the last syllable of recorded time. And all our yesterday's have lighted fools the way to dusty death."
 
Tomorrow is today and time has lost its meaning. We awaken in purgatory.

Monday, November 7, 2016

James Comey and "Rigged" Elections

 AN EDITED VERSION OF THIS POST IS SCHEDULED TO APPEAR IN THE LETTERS TO THE EDITOR SECTION OF THE NEW YORK TIMES TOMORROW, ELECTION DAY, NOVEMBER 8, 2016


("Emails Warrant No New Action Against Hillary Clinton, FBI Director Says")
 
The follow up announcement of Mr. Comey "clearing" Ms. Clinton cannot undo the damage done a week before.

How many million ballots were cast with the initial proclamation of the director ringing in their ears? How many went into the poll booth, or mailed in their vote assuming the smoking gun was hidden in the trove of emails on Mr. Werner's computer? How many races, not only for President but down ballot were seriously impacted by the reckless statement and the imagined implications of the words uttered by the director of the FBI in the very heart of the early voting process?
 
These questions hang over this election with as much weight as a Florida chad. While their answers are unknowable, the consequences of one horribly wrong speculation, only now shown to be wholly unfounded and without merit, are undeniable.
 
And Mr. Trump's wild accusations of a "rigged" outcome could in fact prove prescient. Only not in the direction he would suggest.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

The End is Nigh


Why, even to the very bitter end, do we dose out criticism in equal measure? Can't we, in this our moment of grave discontent and even greater danger, finally place the threat that Donald Trump represents in its own unique category?

This is not the end but the beginning of a national nightmare if this small handed, small minded caricature of a candidate wakes up Wednesday with a mandate to tear down this country by building walls, to ignore the reality of climate change, to indiscriminately dismantle old alliances and forge bonds with those who would seek our destruction, to threaten, to prevaricate, to stumble into disaster, to tax our country to the limit by trickling down long discredited economic theory, to stoke the fears and hatreds of those who believe control of the country and their destiny is slipping away, to remove safety nets and health care coverage for those most in need, to pack the Supreme Court with Scalia-lites, to condone torture and run roughshod over the foundational precepts of our democracy, to turn 401Ks into 201Ks, to close our minds and shut our hearts, to find darkness and danger everywhere we look, to do lasting and maybe irreparable damage to our stature in the eyes of the world.

In stark contrast, Hillary Clinton is as ready, willing and able to take on the rigors of the hardest job in the world as any person who has ever sought this office. Her email problem, her reflexive secrecy after she has been poked and prodded for 25 years are not her most laudable traits. But Donald Trump is not worthy of comparison to Ms. Clinton in any measure, as his faults are staggering, omnipresent and belong solely in their own dismal universe.

"The end is nigh" should  not be a review  by Ms. Dowd of the relative faults of the Democratic and Republican nominees but rather the title of a book contemplating an America under siege, under Trump. For a Donald Trump presidency promises nothing so much as the end of the world as we know it.

Friday, November 4, 2016

The Heart of the Game

("Cubs, Nerds and 'True Baseball' ")
 
It is a sport saturated in statistics, analyzed, dissected and categorized. Sounding at times more like a science experiment than an endeavor of the body and soul.
 
But that was not the definition of game seven, wrapped in drama that resonated in the very core of both fans and the artists who drew a masterpiece worthy of Picasso.
 
Was there nothing more beautiful than the conversation in the Cubs dugout where the grizzled veteran, in the final chapter of his career, counselled calm to the young star (the cub) struggling to control his emotion?
 
This was a moment where all the norms and dictates of facts and figures were cast asunder, where starters appeared in relief, where pitch counts disappeared, where adrenaline carried exhausted arms and legs forward, where decades and decades of disappointment and frustration were about to end for one of these franchises, where the travails of the outside universe were, for a brief moment, forgotten.
 
This night may have been the result of intense study by "nerds" of numbers and deviations from the norm, but tell that to the pitcher who cried in the dugout after one of his triple digit offerings was turned around into a game tying blast, or the pure joy on the face of the first baseman as he tucked the ball he had secured for the last out, deep into his back pocket.
 
One can argue that baseball, without its clock, with its sometimes endless maneuverings, can seem anachronistic, an endeavor for last century and for those who have too much time on their hands to wade endlessly into troves of numbers. But not on this night, which represented none of that, but was rather filled with absolute joy, unremitting heartache and the ebb and flow of a contest that will stand forever more as a testament to the heart.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

108 and Done

Like a punch-drunk boxer, the Cubs were staggering, their four run lead evaporated, their invincible closer suddenly vincible. And then the rains came, and an excruciatingly wondrous game and a 108 year odyssey lingered ever longer into the Ohio night.
 
Given the history of the franchise, this team's return from the edge of the grave down three games to one, and the magnificent, torturous flow of this ultimate battle, virtually everything special and meaningful in a sport deeply entrenched in tradition and lore was on full display.
 
Echoes of epic battles past resounded. My own thoughts turned to 1960 and the intense pain of an eight year old Yankee die hard, dying hard when Mazeroski's drive sailed over Berra's head and the left field wall.
 
And with tonight's last out, and victory secure, somewhere in a corner of the baseball universe, Steve Bartman just exhaled.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

A Response to Donald Trump's America the Ugly

Your barrel full of specious lies
That ever hurts the brain
Your purple worded travesties
So warped your fruitless claims
America! America!
Must bring disgrace to thee
We're filled with good and
brotherhood
That you refuse to see

We're beautiful with wondrous feat
Whose passion makes us blessed
A nation cares for those who flee
Across the wilderness
America! America!
God knows we have our flaws,
But firm our soul, show our control
And liberty for all

Your ugliness for heroes proved
Your sad, pathetic life
And only self you gave
your love
No virtue in your eyes
America! America!
In him no gold you'll find
All his success brings emptiness
His every grain a lie

O beautiful, for perfect dreams
That see beyond the fears
Thine silver shining mountains gleam
Our cities ring with cheer
America! America!
Must bring disgrace to thee
We're filled with good and
brotherhood
That you refuse to see

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Christie and His Underlings



It was a corrosive atmosphere, a corroded home to ugliness, orchestrated by a master bully.

It was clear, even from the first taunting denials of Governor Christie, the first press conference in which he dismissed the connecting the dots theory as balderdash, that his bravado and mockery could not hide one undeniable truth. Those under his command were emboldened to act by fiat of a boss whose hubris knew no bounds, whose petulance was omnipresent and who believed payback was both his right and the duty of his underlings.

Governor Christie may have been unindicted, he may not have moved the cones as he so derisively stated, but he moved all the pieces on the chess board as an example for the ages of everything abusive about power placed in the wrong hands.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Fear of the Deafening Sound of Silence

("What Drives Donald Trump? Fear of Losing Status, Tapes Show")

It was the cheers of the crowd that mattered, that gave him that rush of adrenaline. It was the political incorrectness, the one liners that berated others but thrilled those chanting his name, wearing the hat with his signature line. He was a cliff jumper, always searching for a higher elevation, an ever more perilous risk to be taken.
 
And when those around him counseled that he stick to the script, play the game, he could not for it would have meant that the enthusiasm for him could have waned. Then he would have been like all the rest, mundane, maybe even boring. And for him that would be the worst sin of all.
 
And if he dies, he will go out with guns blazing, not fading slowly in the night, but exploding like a shooting star leaving a flame in the sky as it descends to earth.
 
Of all the things that could cause him to suffer, the worst is to say we didn't notice that he left.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

An Unforgivable Sin

I used to bear malice towards none but that no longer holds true. I cannot and will not forgive and forget the pain the Republican candidate for President has caused me. What galls me beyond all else is that I am prohibited from playing golf on any course with the name you know who in it.

I mean I have withstood a lot. His face twisting, hand gesturing, finger pointing, fact contorting dystopic meanderings have often left me angered, bewildered, perplexed and just about every other angst ridden emotion one can contemplate. This bozo leading the free world. Please (not that kind of please but the ironic, rhetorical one).

But as that danger ebbs and we can begin to contemplate a day when we will not be saddled with the world according to him, as the sun begins to peek out between the clouds, as a warmth begins to reenter my system even as the cold of winter begins to descend, even at this moment when it seems we can begin to turn our thoughts to puppy dogs and puffy clouds that look just like the profile of Abraham Lincoln, even then his icy tentacles will grab a hold of me where it hurts the most (not there, this is an ironic, not literal turn of phrase).

For nearly all my life I have chased a golf ball down any fairway that my eye fancied and my wallet permitted. Of course (golf speaking) those that built a wall to keep away the undesirables (meaning those of insufficient weight, financially speaking) were well beyond my sight and contemplation, but all others might one day find me hacking and cursing within its boundaries (or possibly just outside its bounds).

But that uncontested truth is no more. No longer can my gaze fix upon that long five, it's green guarded by white deserts or deep rivers, nor my mind contemplate the swirling winds that bedevil me. My feet will not touch this terra firma nor my dollars depart my hands, if this patch of land contains even the faintest smell of you know who.

I have both friend and family who have sworn allegiance, at least of the dimpled Titleist kind, to layouts bearing the name of you know who. I have been invited as guest to some of these establishments and have, in days past, occasionally found myself within their confines. There is even, within striking distance of my home, one where the hoi polloi and their dinero (sorry, English only spoken when discussing you know who and his you know what) are welcome (muchas gracias).

But I have to draw a line in the sand that cannot be crossed (sorry for that Assad reference). My family would lose all respect for me if I meandered over to the dark side (metaphorically speaking) and allowed the one whose name I cannot mention, whom I so vehemently oppose, to benefit from my presence at one of the many golfing homes bearing his name. I would lose all respect for myself, for what is the worth of a man if his most deeply held beliefs can be cast asunder for a well shaped dog-leg, a pretty face of a bunker, or a perfectly placed hole (for those of you whose minds are now on the Bush bus, please get off at once)?

And so I will cast my vote, pledge my allegiance, get down on my knees and pray to many golfing gods but not this one. This is a bridge too far, a wall too high, a hazard too severe, to traverse.
A universe where I am constrained in my hopes, my aspirations. An America (and beyond) where there are places I cannot enter and people I cannot see. For that restraint upon my dreams, more than the other countless sins committed by you know who, for that there is no room for forgiveness.
And if one day I should falter, if the passage of time and the distance of distaste should dull my memory, if I should find myself thinking that it could not have been as horrid as the picture I painted, on that day may the golfing gods turn my driver into a snake and my golf ball into dust.
 
You know who, a stain upon this nation, who could never make this country great again in a thousand lifetimes, but who could make (or at least alter) a few pretty good courses. Attempted killer of millions of important dreams. And one of slightly less cosmic significance.

Friday, October 21, 2016

The "Undecideds"

The "undecideds". That is theoretically the sum and substance of what this, or any other presidential election, is about. Convincing those, who by reason of lack of interest or lack of understanding, have been unable to determine which candidate more closely meets the vision of the America they believe in.
 
Donald Trump has done a wonderful job of convincing the "decideds" that he is their person. He has been the living embodiment of his pronouncement that he does not have time to be politically correct. From the opening dog whistle on Mexicans to the final bell on nasty women, he has called out virtually anyone and everyone in the most politically inappropriate manner conceivable.
 
And for his committed base, for the many millions in our midst who see the America that Mr. Trump sees (or at least pretends to see for his adoring audience), he has been a breath of fresh air (well maybe not so fresh). A man who is willing to bring voice to our inner demons, to express the hatreds and contempts, the annoyances and the grievances that no other politician dare enunciate.
For his "decideds", Donald Trump is hero, martyr. He is unwilling to compromise his beliefs (or at least theirs) in the face of a cacophony of dissent, unwilling to accept even the possibility that what he says is wrong on so many levels. He does not back down. And if he goes down, he goes down swinging.
 
He is all about the adoration. How many times he has told us who loves him, even if they do not. Women, blacks, Hispanics. The list is exhaustive and pure fantasy. But Mr.Trump wants, no he needs, the praise to feed his ego, and so he will give his base, his "decideds" all the red meat they need to make this happen.
 
And along the way, he will have alienated almost every "undecided" in this country. Who, but maybe the old, rich white guy, has not been the subject of his vitriol. Immigrants have been his prime target, but in pushing every button for his most loyal subject, there has been almost no category not derided: from war hero to the disabled, from fat to ugly, from those who did not kiss his ring in his own party to those who stood on the stage and challenged him, from past president to the first black president not born in this country, a secret Muslim intent on destroying this nation that he hates, from the "Wall" to "Bush-gate". Over the past 16 months he has thrown most of this nation under the bus.

And, in this non-stop attack, fed by the cheering crowds, by the "lock her up" chants, by the multitude wearing the hat with his signature line, in all this he has accomplished what was once thought inconceivable. Donald Trump has handed Hillary Clinton almost all the "undecideds" from sea to not so shining sea.
 
Barring a catastrophe in the next 17 days, Hillary Clinton will be the next President of the United States. If she wins by a large mandate, if those who were not firmly in her court come to her en masse, if the "undecideds" speak in unison, Hillary Clinton will have one person to thank above all others.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

He Once Said

He once said he would not pledge not to run as an independent if he believed the Republican hierarchy was not fair to him.
 
He once said he would not attend a  Republican debate because the media was not fair to him.
 
He once said he would not allow the result to stand if the Republican convention was not fair to him.
 
He now says he would not accept a defeat on November 8 if the election process is not fair to him.
 
What has not been fair is Donald Trump's candidacy, his ugliness, his thin skin, his anger, his lack of knowledge, his lack of understanding,  his pettiness, his rambling, nonsensical, dangerous comments, his total and complete lack of qualification for the office he seeks to hold. What has not been fair is his mistreatment of this nation.
 
So on November 8th, when the votes have all been cast, the only thing that would be unfair is if Donald Trump did not, with whatever shred of decency resides within him, leave the stage with even a touch of grace and dignity.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Vast Conspiracy Against Donald Trump

The election is in fact rigged.
 
What other conclusion can be reached when no major newspaper in this country, not one, has endorsed Donald Trump. A vast left AND right wing media conspiracy.
 
What other conclusion can be reached when so many courts have overturned legislation intended to control the massive non-existent voter fraud Mr. Trump insists is real. A vast judicial conspiracy.
 
What other conclusion can be reached  when Mr. Trump feared that his own party's nomination would be "stolen" from him.  A vast Republican conspiracy.
 
Mr. Trump sees conspiracies everywhere he looks.  What other conclusion can be reached but that Mr. Trump is omniscient. Or maybe that he is totally delusional, paranoid and unable to accept responsibility for his own impending political demise.