I (Don’t) Love a Parade

U.S. Electoral College Vice President Mike Pence and his wife were seated in a box next to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s sister at the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in South Korea this weekend and when everyone stood and cheered as the North Korea and South Korea delegations historically entered as one Korea, Pence and his wife chose to remain seated.

Of course, this is their prerogative. There is inherently nothing wrong with not cheering at a show of national unity when other people are cheering out of either support or respect.

Except if you believe one is required to stand when everyone else does so during a ritual at a sports stadium. Or if you believe that protesting a fervent show of nationalism towards a regime with whom you disagree with by remaining seated is abhorrent and offensive to the country in which said event is taking place.

uh oh

Gavin Newsom, California’s Lt. Governor and soon the be gubernatorial candidate, said it best, and even provided a gif and accompanying article and image to illustrate this point:

I, for one, have never been big on national anthems or ceremonial deference.

My earliest experiences saluting a flag or being required to sing a song in order to display my loyalty – to a system of religion, of government or of some moral law –always felt not only silly but ill-advised.

What does singing this dumb song or saluting like an idiot along with everyone else prove, my younger self thought and sometimes verbalized, much to the chagrin of several adults around me. Either I liked the thing I was being forced to respect or didn’t – making me do it along with everyone else doesn’t prove ANYTHING.

Pretty sure this was my face for much of my childhood #sass

As for parades, my feeling is have at it if it floats your boat – or, um, float – but don’t make me do it. That said, I have attended events like the annual Gay Pride Parade in West Hollywood over the years – but usually as a means of strength and protest AGAINST people like Pence or our current US Electoral College POTUS – not as an oath of loyalty or respect to either a particular system of belief or any single individual or group.

This is why the Oval Office/right wing hysteria over the #TakeAKnee movement spurred by Colin Kaepernick always perplexed me. In the same way the protocol of bowing, curtsying or whatever you’re supposed to do to royalty in the last two centuries has always left me secretly laughing and not so secretly rolling my eyes.

Watch it, Chairy #kween

Really? A song, a crown, a scepter and a flag? Those are items that in your culture or mind REPRESENT an overarching IDEA. They are not the IDEAS themselves. Better to show in your ACTIONS that you are LIVING the IDEA than show your deference with some world worn SYMBOL. A salute or a couple of bars of a chorus is a ceremonial cheat. It’s like having your spouse or boyfriend/ girlfriend pledge their fidelity to you during the day and then be allowed to rendezvous with their secret lover that very same night.

maybe I’m overcompensating

And speaking of the Electoral College POTUS currently in the Oval Office, the latest is that he wants a military parade down Pennsylvania Ave. because, well, he can.   Oh, sure he can. Think of it as part of the discretionary powers of the job, supported by a kind of mad money fund of millions of taxpayer/governmental dollars one gets to spend when one determines one’s country/employees/subjects are in need of a celebration.   Though it could be that it’s only the ONE who fancies an impromptu blowout, which in essence is the same thing since the ONE is the defacto leader of everyone else and, in essence, speaks for EVERYONE.

Snicker, snicker #toogood #ihadto

The last time we did this type of thing was 27 years ago after the Persian Gulf War and it cost between $8-$12 million. So, with rising expenses and inflation, by today’s standards it could be… oh well, let’s not think about that when it comes a ceremony of patriotism. It might LOOK like we don’t support the troops. To whom, I don’t know

As I often say to my screenwriting students, you can’t film an absence. Who a character is, is what he or she actually does. Or pretends to do. It’s then up to the audience to decide what actions are real and whether to get onboard the journey.

Of course, that’s movie talk. Which has little to do with reality. Unless one chooses to live life like a movie. Or worse, a reality TV show.

“Don’t Rain on My Parade” – Barbra Streisand (from Funny Girl)

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A New Year?

It was a simple thought, really. But is anything simple when it comes from 2017’s most admired man in America?

Talk about the Audacity of Hope. Or Despair. How you read this message depends on what you see as the world and how you want to change it.

(Note: And yes, I’m calling it a message. I refuse to say what the above guy writes are tweets).

So – what HAS he written that has provoked so many negative, vitriolic responses? Things like:

— Empty words from a souless man  

— Liberalism: Logic’s Retarded Cousin

Or my personal favorite:

— Isis has run out of money now that Obama’s not in office.

Yes, those were real. And no, I didn’t include the very worst of them. One of my 2018 resolutions is to be more positive and the year has barely even started yet.

So then — let’s break it down.

Get Involved.

Get Engaged.

Stand up.

Don’t we ALL want (our fellow) citizens to do this? Or, maybe only the people who are fighting for what’s right. People on OUR SIDE.

You feel me???

I’ll cop to some of that. It was appalling to me that this was the year I saw tens of thousands of people unfazed that actual NAZIs or NAZI supporters were marching through the streets of Virginia – with weapons and lit Tiki torches they bought at Home Depot – shouting anti-Semitic and racist chants at Blacks, Jews and anyone else who would listen.

No, I didn’t want them to NOT be allowed to march. I was just mortified that so many other people I’ve probably met in traveling across our country don’t really care. Or, in part, agree with them.

I wonder if the drowning of sorrows has been good for the wine industry #illtakeabottle

So yeah, there’s a chunk of me that does NOT want them standing up any more than they already have or getting engaged any more than they probably did for fear that they will win. And continue to do so.

Each of us can make a difference, and all of us ought to try.

On the other hand, the healthier part of me relishes their engagement.  Because I can’t believe that the more engaged they get the more educated and real their worlds will become and they will meet enough Blacks and Jews, or be exposed to so many more real facts on their issues, that they will realize the error of their ways and spread the word to those who are like-minded.

Pass me the rosie shades

Historically, hate and exclusion always does LOSE in the very long term because human beings have the power of critical thinking and, at the end of the day, will do the right thing…after they’ve exhausted all other possibilities.

Okay, I didn’t make up that last part. It’s an unconscious paraphrase of what Winston Churchill once presumably said about us:

You can always count on the Americans to do the right thing after they have tried everything else.

Or a paraphrase of a key line from Anne Frank’s famous diary:

In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death. I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness, I hear the ever approaching thunder, which will destroy us too, I can feel the sufferings of millions and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again.

Trying to find that optimism

Anne, like Martin Luther King, Jr. and others after her, didn’t live to see the days of peace and tranquility. But we all stand in proof that they did happen. Which does not answer a question that always comes to mind when thinking about such wise, forward-thinking individuals:

What would they think of iPhones? What would they be like on social media? And – who would THEY say their most admired American is of the last few years? Or ten years?

So go keep changing the world in 2018.

I suspect that they might agree with the majority of Americans in every Gallup poll of the last decade and choose Barack Obama.

Mic drop forever

Yes, it was announced a few days ago that he once again topped the poll for the 10th time in a row. But it’s the fact that he did it this time that makes it so record-breaking. 2017 was the first year EVER that an elected American president did not win in his first year in office.

So clearly the world has not changed enough for some people.

Perhaps that is because our current president – nee ELECTORAL COLLEGE POTUS –wasn’t so much elected by the majority (Note: He LOST the popular vote by more than THREE MILLION) but barely chosen by a Constitutional anomaly (i.e. the Electoral College – a system designed to protect the voices of smaller states but, given the radical population shifts away from them in the last century, has caused a more lopsided tilt of power in recent years towards a much smaller but very vocal conservative base).

There’s that optimism again #help

This is not to tar and feather all of that base with raging responses citing Isis, a lack of soul and the 2017 politically incorrect use of the word retard.   Just some of them.

Do I really want them to continue to be engaged?

Oy.

Do we(I) have a lot of work do to.

A Taxing Situation

The best part about the Senate Republicans passing this week’s tax bill was watching the video put up by Sen. Jon Tester from Montana – a fairly middle of the road Democrat.

He showed us the bill – all 479 bound pages of it with many hundreds of cross outs and handwritten new lines and paragraphs in the margins – and asked if any of us could decipher it for him. This was because he had literally just received these pages in his office and was being asked to vote on it in just a couple of hours.

Here’s the thing – as an experienced college writing professor I’ve read thousands of pages with handwritten cross-outs and wouldn’t swear to what any of them mean, much less cast my vote for or against. In fact, usually I require students to just resubmit.

It’s even worse with the stuff I’ve written over a lifetime as a screenwriter and journalist. One of my dirtiest little secrets is when I’m on deadline I am often forced to take my OWN scribbly, handwritten pages in hand and beg my OWN husband to translate something I once thought of, then rethought, which I now deem essential.

not mine, but might as well be #saywhaa

Yes he often does this (he knows me and my handwriting far better than I do) and yes this is yet one more of thousands of reasons why I married him despite the fact that the vast majority of Senate Republicans objected to it.

Though it is not merely for that reason that I more than see Mr. Tester’s point.

Let’s face it, almost no one really WANTS to read almost 500 pages in tax law or listen to endless hours of hearings about it (Note: The latter was done prior to the passage of Obamacare, no matter what you’ve heard).

… and the Senate is meeting them

In the same way almost no one really WANTS to go work out every other day, or really WANTS to go to the doctor every year or two for a physical, or really WANTS to go to work on a sunny day or even really WANTS to brush their teeth, be nice to their parents, spouse, friends and/or lovers in those off days when they’re sh-tty and you’re just not in the mood.

We do usually because we know it’s the smart choice and have learned through experience that when we’re not smart we’re stupid and that never ends well.

One way to cope

Often life – and its choices – are no more complicated than that.

We could spend a lot of time here trying to make a case why it’s not good to support an unread or half-read or barely or mostly read bill that will cause 13 million Americans to lose their health insurance, massively slash taxes for corporations, give the bottom 10% of earners in America $50 back in taxes and the top 1% $34,000.

In fact, we could go on about any number of things, but are instead providing just a few links that will explain it all for you far better than WE could:

There’s this one   ….. or this one  …… oh and this one too

Instead, know this:

YOU are in the —

Top 1% if your income is over $481,000.

Top 10% if your income is over $138,000

BOTTOM 50% if your income is under $39, 275.

Ummmm…. what?? #help

What?  That’s right. If you’re making MORE than $39,000 & change per year you’re living LARGE – better than 50% of the country.

Let that sink in – especially if you live in a big city where it’s a lot more expensive to live. Why, you’re practically rich! Or at least on your way! Though where – well, no one can be exactly sure.

But do we really need to be? That’s A LOT of reading.

Is there such a thing as “kidsplaining?” #orisitjustpatronizing

So instead, here’s some daunting math to once again review. Yes, it’s boring and not your subject, but still:

In 2019, if you’re in the bottom 10% of earners you get a $50 tax cut. But if you’re in the top 1% you get $34,000.

And the further good news is if you own or are a corporation you go from paying 35% in taxes to 20%.   Though that lets out about 90% of us, if not more, don’t worry. The new strategy is that all this new found money the rich gets will trickle down to you because THEY will put back in the economy.

LOL #whiteguys

Which means in about a year and a half, here’s what you’ll want to do:

Close your eyes, keep your hand out, go in the middle of the street and try NOT to think about the last time an Uber wealthy person bought a beach house or a new plane and as a result money came blowing back towards you. Or hit you on the head when you weren’t looking. Or reading.

How dumb do they think we are?

Seriously.

George Michael – “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime”

Spin Cycle

There was no such thing as SPIN when I was a grad student in journalism at Northwestern University.

What?

No really – there wasn’t.

Oh, there were lies and bullshit and half-truths – sometimes by interview subjects, almost always from public relations flacks and, on the most difficult of stories, a consistent combination of all three. But our job as journalists, we were told, was to sift through ALL of the information and present the facts of a story, as we understood them, in the most coherent way possible so our readers could then draw their own conclusions.

OK, this method was frowned upon

– There were no alternative facts.

– There were no versions of Fox News and MSNBC with commentators telling us versions of the story we wanted to hear.

– There was no social media from which to consume fake news and no politicians or public figures in this country who would dare to deny even the most basic rudimentary truths that everyone knew were, well, TRUE.

That was what it was like in the late 1970s – a few years after Richard Nixon resigned in the wake of his knowledge, involvement and lies about Watergate and the dirty tricks he employed in order to win his election to the presidency.

seems quaint now

There was a demand for truth.

One wonders if that is even the case these days since there are so many more pleasant alternatives regardless of what side of the political or moral spectrum you are on.

For instance:

— It is much more pleasing to believe that global warming is inconclusive or even a hoax by elite scientists than to believe the Earth’s temperatures will make our planet uninhabitable by the end of the century.

— It’s also much more desirable to believe this doomsday scenario is nothing more than a liberal talking point than to acknowledge an exhaustive research report from our 13 government agencies that conclusively acknowledges our rising temperatures are, indeed, man made.

Nothing wrong here. Nothing at all.

But no need to stick merely to politics.

— Who in Hollywood wants to believe the 57 women and counting who have accused one of our most powerful industry figures over the last three decades – Harvey Weinstein – of various combinations of rape, sexual abuse and sexual harassment?  Even if you loathe him, and many did long before this came to light, how do you acknowledge the community was so scared silent about his actions for so long when you were one of the many thousands who heard the rumors?

Are our careers all that much more important to us?

sigh

Yes, that was rhetorical.

— But if you don’t want to answer that then do answer how everyone could’ve heard about, and in many cases witnessed, Kevin Spacey’s thing for young boys for all those decades and done nothing? (Note: See Bill Cosby. Or so many others).

And while we’re shedding a light on my fellow liberals – Hollywood and otherwise – let’s talk about some spin on something far less serious.

Excerpts of Democratic National Committee chairwoman Donna Brazile’s new book have just come to light and in one of the most publicized sections she writes about how she considered replacing Hillary Clinton as the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee, less than two months before the election, after Mrs. Clinton fainted going into a limousine following her attendance at the NYC 9-11 memorial ceremonies.

  1. The mere advancement of this statement implies Ms. Brazile would have had the power to make this happen – which she did not.

Really not the time for this Donna.

  1. Imagine all of the things you considered under stress, including MURDER, and then consider how much of a chance they had of becoming a reality.
  2. Then consider the lessons I mentioned from journalism school and decide whether you are really telling the truth about all of the above (Note: Especially the part about you replacing her with Joe Biden for president and…Corey Booker as his vice-president???) or whether you are merely spinning a story for your own salacious benefit i.e. in order to sell more of YOUR OWN BOOKS

Not ready to buy my t-shirt quite yet

Research and analytical skills are important but so is context, instinct and experience.

As adults, we’ve all been human for more than several decades so it is in all of our collective powers to surmise THE REAL TRUTH when something doesn’t sound or feel right.

We might not have the journalistic patience or skill to prove our cases for all of the above but we can use reason to decide for ourselves exactly when we’re being spun.

To whit —

If many of the top people in the very American company you co-owned were proven to have met secretly with numerous Russians yet professed no memory of those meetings after first publicly denying them, would you believe them?

Are we all in a Men in Black sequel? #20yearoldMovieReference

#NyetRuskies?

Or would you think you were being spun in an adult version of that nauseating amusement park ride you were barely able to endure as a child?

A talented writer friend of mine named Mikko Alanne, who also happens to be a former student at the college I teach at, created the eight-part National Geographic miniseries The Long Road Home. It debuts on Nov. 7 and is based on ABC reporter Martha Raddatz’s best-selling book that takes you INSIDE the U.S. involvement in the post-Iraq War in 2004.

a must watch

The show is riveting, dramatic and sometimes difficult to watch because it shows us the real HUMAN cost of war and death and bloodshed and ideals – on all sides – and allows the audience to come to its own conclusions by re-enacting just the FACTS as much as possible. Without spinning.

Yes, stories are condensed and judgments were made. It’s certainly not a documentary and definitely not a literal re-enactment of EVERYTHING that happened. This is not the purpose of television or even film drama, whose objective is merely to get to the SPIRIT of what is true as it entertains and hopefully, in some way, informs.

I’d settle for that instead of what we’re being fed now by too many real-life sources. The half-truths, the lies and the ongoing general line of bullshit is making not only us but all of our heads worldwide spin so fast and so quickly that it really is as if we are all on one giant collective Tilt-A-Whirl ride with no way to get off.

Try not to hurl

But as any adult knows there is always a way to get off.

Blood Sweat & Tears – “Spinning Wheel”

What’s Happening (and What Happened)

It isn’t easy to speak out against injustice when it threatens your livelihood, your friends and family, or your physical and/or psychological self.

But what can be worse is NOT speaking out when any or all of the above are being threatened or at stake.

As news publicly broke this week of showbiz mogul-producer Harvey Weinstein being a serial sexual predator – in rolling stories and testimonies chock full of the kind of salacious details one’s eyes and brain wish they could un-see but certainly never will – I was ironically reading What Happened, Hillary Clinton’s book explaining her 2016 presidential election loss.

No, the irony did not escape me.

No man can write with much authority about the very particular challenges women face when a powerful man tries to crush her and centuries of patriarchal power automatically conspire to protect him and ensure his victory and her suppression. But en masse pushback and testimony from both women AND men can begin to slowly dismantle this kind of oppressive traditionalism and hopefully one day assure this kind of bull crap doesn’t continue.

oh it does… just ask abbi and ilana

As a gay guy, I never bought into the macho stance of patriarchal power despite the fact that I’ve clearly benefitted from it. I am not threatened by powerful women. In fact, I usually gravitate towards them.   Before it was fashionable, they gave me a chance and didn’t judge me by an unintentional swish of a hand or an unconscious sibilance from my mouth.

Is it obvious?

I’d like to say my attitude was merely because I was raised by this type of female and am an innately nice guy but in my heart of hearts I know it was more than that. Each of us are a product of our environments AND experiences and in turn are imbued with both learned and inbred prejudices we have a responsibility to recognize, dismantle and not make excuses for.

So as a male who is close to Mr. Weinstein’s age and who also grew up in his hometown of Queens I can say with great authority that he’s totally full of S*IT when he chalks up his actions to statements like:

I came of age in the 60’s and 70’s, when all the rules about behavior and workplaces were different. That was the culture then.

Yes, Amy, he REALLY said that.

Well – that I know of.

… and of course what I saw on Mad Men #poorbobbie #utzchips

Of course, this is part of the problem. We just can’t fathom someone we know fondly in one context being a predatory pig in another. Or even if we can imagine it, we don’t want to believe it. Or even if we believe it, we’re not sure it’s our business or what we can do about it. Or even if we can do something about it, if it’s worth the risk because surely we can’t fight someone with all of that fame, power and money.

This goes for women as well as men, albeit for different reasons.

Which brings us to Hillary Clinton.

You rang?

There is no need to itemize the litany of predatory jabs Mrs. Clinton has been hit with over many decades of public life based on her gender. It’s bad enough to be accused of not being able to do the same job as a far less qualified man (Note: Or man/boy serial sexual predator), or slammed merely for the tone of your voice; likability; hair, makeup and wardrobe; or lack of…stamina?

Still, it’s quite another brand of gender politics when your man/boy opponent goes so far as to weaponize your husband’s former mistresses (LITERALLY) in front of you and the world in order to somehow get the public to place the moral blame on you for his dalliances during a presidential debate.

I can’t even…

Hillary has many things to say about what happened in her book, which manages to finally cut through all the doctrinaire thinking about her and her campaign and do the one thing she seemed unable to do for enough people during the campaign – humanize her. And that’s a value judgment coming from a guy who always saw her as human. At least, I thought I always did.

Which made me wonder, what is it about what she writes in this book that makes her seem even…more human? Perhaps it’s passages like these, when she reflects on her feelings the morning of her concession speech:

… I wear my composure like a suit of armor, for better or worse. In some ways, it felt like I had been training for this latest feat of self-control for decades. Still, every time I hugged another sobbing friend – or one stoically blinking back tears, which was almost worse – I had to fight back a wave of sadness that threatened to swallow me whole. At every step, I felt that I had let everyone down. Because I had.

Excuse me while I do this for the rest of time.

There is nothing more humanizing for us than a woman not only admitting defeat but blaming herself for it.   One hates to believe this is why certain sections of her memoir paint a more appealing Hillary but one also can’t fail to recognize it greatly contributes to the reason.

Nevertheless, it feels a lot better to focus on what Mrs. Clinton (Note: Why do I feel disrespectful consistently calling her Hillary?) humbly and wisely writes about learning from one’s mistakes and the ability we all have to use our virtues in order to soldier on for a better tomorrow.

Margaritas also help

Quoting a long passage from one of her favorite books, Henri Nouwen’s Return of the Prodigal Son (Note: Imagine that, a presidential nominee who reads!) about how she began to personally recover from her loss, she reflects:

Nouwen calls that the “discipline of gratitude.” To me, it means not just being grateful for the good things, because that’s easy, but also to be grateful for the hard things too. To be grateful even for our flaws, because in the end, they make us stronger by giving us a chance to reach beyond our grasp.

My task was to be grateful for the humbling experience of losing the presidential election. Humility can be such a painful virtue. In the Bible, Saint Paul reminds us that we all see through a glass darkly because of our humbling limitations. That’s why faith – the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things unseen – requires a leap. It’s because of our limitations and imperfections that we must reach beyond ourselves, to God and to one another.

No, The Chair has not gone soft. I cop to not being a particularly faithful person in the traditionally religious sense. Still, here’s what coming of age in the 60s and 70s did for me – it gave me an undying faith that love and peace and caring could eventually win the day.

that…. and everything in the musical Hair

Sure I might not always remember this, and it will take time and we all might not be around to see the final result. But if time teaches you anything it’s the value of baby steps, the path of incremental change and the revelation that evolution means this all keeps going ad infinitum (hopefully).

Mr. Weinstein’s behavior is, sadly, just one more mere iteration of Mr. Trump’s. It’s not about who is more ill or who is more dangerous. It’s about all of us speaking out for what we know is right the moment we realize something is very wrong.

Tonight Show Female Writers Read Thank You Notes to Hillary Clinton

A Tribe Called…

A 2010 gray Dodge Challenger registered to and driven by a 20 year-old Ohio white man at a white supremacist/Neo Nazi rally on Saturday barreled into a crowd and mowed down more than 20 people, killing at least one.

Those white supremacists and Neo-Nazis demonstrated the night before in front of a black church in Charlottesville, Virginia – yelling out the phrases “blood and soil.” This was a Nazi chant – about purity of blood and an ownership of land in the country one was born into.

Torch bearing white supremacists. This is 2017.

The problem is America is a nation of immigrants and no one other than Native Americans were born here. This country is not by birth or ownership inherently white. It is, as Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe stated on Saturday afternoon, an ever-evolving “mosaic.”

A few hours after the violence on Saturday, Electoral College POTUS Trump said it was time to heal and that for a long time there has been “hatred, bigotry and violence — on many sides.”

Say whaaaaaat? #twilightzone #TrumpAmerica

Well, actually, not in this case.

These demonstrators, with helmets, sticks, bats and loaded rifles, weren’t doing civil disobedience. They were doing intimidation. And at least one or more did domestic terrorism by getting into a car and using it as a lethal weapon.

All of this because the local city council voted to take down a statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee – the Civil War military man who led the Confederacy fight to, among other things, preserve slavery.   Yup, more than 150 years after the defeat of the South and General Lee, a group of American representatives decided that it was finally time to take away the very public honorarium to a man warring in order to preserve the rights of wealthy white landowners to own and beat (and if they wanted to, kill) brown African humans at will.

Bet they are real proud of themselves #toolittle #toolate

What is this world coming to?

Let’s stop pretending that Trump’s qualifiers like on many sides aren’t in the same family as his racist dog whistles of bad hombres and people who come here who don’t speak English and that all of them aren’t a strategy to anything more than this:

A re-whitening of America through government mandated exclusion based on race.

Let’s also refrain from the make believe that his proposed mandate to ban transgender people from the military is anything more than homophobic hate support to mollify those who believe LGBT people don’t have the same rights to their country that they do.

And while we’re at it, let’s additionally not naively believe that because Trump has a Jewish son-in-law and a daughter who converted to Judaism – or a few Black people in his cabinet – that he won’t specifically malign and attack Blacks, Jews or any other race or religion as a whole if a particular member of that group publicly speaks out against him or disobeys a particular type of behavior (nee proposed edict) he wants normalized.

The garden is blooming

To qualify or allow for racism and hate is to lie down with it. To whit – the night before the guy in Charlottesville used the car to plow into the crowd – several hundred other white supremacists and neo-Nazis also assembled on a nearby University of Virginia quadrangle, shouting:

You will not replace us, Jew will not replace us.

When your chief strategist, Steve Bannon, is a man who ran a vast media platform admittedly for the alt right – an invented polite word for white supremacists and Neo-Nazis – and your deputy assistant in the White House is Sebastian Gorka – a man who openly wears a medal from a Nazi-linked Hungarian group to your inauguration – there’s not much left to be said. This is because you’ve already said it by NOT SAYING anything about whom you’re associating yourself with and what you’re enabling.

This reference never gets old.

Tribalism is not pretty but to some extent we’re all guilty of it. Meaning – we are all a part of something even if we don’t want to be or forever, to the nth degree, choose to be. This starts with family and continues or discontinues up or down depending on your point of view.

This week I found myself binge-watching all three seasons of Amazon’s acclaimed series Transparent. Yeah, you’d think I’d have seen it already and been a big fan.

I mean, I’m a gay Jewish guy from a family with more than its share of scandals and the fictional Pfeffermans in Transparent are a scandal-ridden Jewish family with not only a transgender patriarch but two lesbian sisters (well, maybe bi but one leaning far towards lesbian).

the real “modern family”

Still – full confession – after watching the pilot when it first appeared three years ago – there was something about this family that I SO DID NOT want to be a part of. I mean, they were too selfish, too neurotic and way too privileged for my taste. I mean, I grew up middle to lower-middle class and knew exactly who these people were despite the gay and the Jewish parts of them. They were the very people that, all through my life, annoyed the hell out of me. And looked down on me. I mean, I couldn’t..can’t…bear people like them.

Well, suffice it to say I was WRONG.

Because to some extent, yeah — they are me – or parts of me – no matter how much I may have wanted to run away from it.

Pretty much.

There is something about their cultural Jewishness – even with them being from affluent Pacific Palisades and me from middlebrow Flushing, Queens – that was undeniable in the bagels and shmeers and overwrought over-intellectualizing.   My family may have been far less outrageous sexually (well, that I know of) but we made up for it with other outrages of taboo behavior that I will save for another time.

As for neurosis, privilege and sheer self-involvement, they slowly became only a mere artistic exaggeration of behavior I had always known, too often exhibited and too often chose to forget, the more I watched. This was my reality, no matter how much I didn’t ever want it to be. And I sort of loved them for it, and in spite of it.

Now I’m not saying Trump or anyone in his White House should take a hard look at Saturday’s alt right (ahem) Neo Nazi demonstration of death and embrace that part of them the way I’ve done with the Pfeffermans. First of all, that analogy wouldn’t be fair to the Pfeffermans, even though I’m sure at least one of them would think nothing of pushing the same metaphor, and even worse, on you about me if they were real and I was fictional.

ahem…. Ali

What I am proclaiming is that each and every one of us – from every possible family and ethnic group there is – every last one of us – do that work for each and every last one of them. Make the analogy, claim the metaphor and push daily the very truth we see before our eyes in the White House and its association with the alt right/white supremacist/Neo-Nazi groupthink.

Trump rose to power and is now the president of American racism and Neo-Nazi/white supremacist behavior. So it behooves us all – every last one of us – who do not want this to continue to be our familial reality – to speak out against IT. Every day. Maybe even more than once a day. Before we no longer have the chance to safely do so.

Cher – “Half Breed”

Heads of State

Let’s look at the images side by side.

No – let’s really look.

I mean, there’s free porn all over the Internet featuring people (and god knows what else) doing sexual things you never dreamed of. And your kids – or nieces and nephews – have accessed this stuff more than once or ten times.

NOPE. NOPE. NOPE. #denial

Trust me, I know – I teach college juniors and seniors who reached puberty in the Digital Revolution.

But this week we’re not talking about sex, are we? It’s about political violence via comedy – or imagery – or something in that area.

So, how far is TOO FAR? Does it depend on the person being depicted in the image? Maybe it’s about the amount of blood or how vivid the photo is? Can a drawing be as offensive and tasteless as a photograph? What about taking iconic commercial photography and transforming it with a few clicks and inserts into something vile and offensive?

Oh.. so more offensive than this?

Well, I remember Judge Potter Stewart once famously said in a Supreme Court case that he couldn’t tell you what obscenity was but he knows it when he sees it. So I guess that would include not only sexual images but also violent ones, since in a broader definition the latter could also be considered pornographic, right?

I’m getting to the images.

Yes. imageS.

Having grown up in the sixties and seventies, I still subscribe to the Fairness Doctrine, which ostensibly ensured that when reporting on current events one needs to present both sides of a story.

This also works.

So it’s not enough to look at the comedian Kathy Griffin holding up the bloody severed head of our current Electoral Potus in a bizarre photo shoot.   If you’re going to critique an offensive image from one side, you need to show one perhaps equally offensive (Note: Or not, it’s your call) from the other.

Now, let’s really study them and see what we think because, really – if they’ve been on the Internet once, they WILL be there a million times more. I know it. You know it. And THEY all know it. Whoever the collective condemning THEY are in any particular moment.

Okay – ready. Here goes. Make your kids leave the room and make sure your heart medicine is nearby – that is if you need it or have any room left in your said, perhaps damaged, heart, for those on the side you particularly despise.   And yes – we’re all taking sides on this one.

Now. Once again. Ready, get set and…….go!!!!!!!

BEHOLD

There.

That wasn’t so bad, was it? Or was it??? Is your heart still even beating???

Take a breath.

Gimme a minute, Chairy!

Now you might be more offended by one or the other. Or perhaps you’re not offended at all. Maybe you think it’s all good under freedom of expression.

Or – maybe it’s nothing like that at all.

Maybe the severed head of a sitting president particularly offends you when its held by a popular left wing comic with whom you vehemently disagree with and never found funny.

Still, maybe taking the iconic campaign image of the previous president – the first BLACK president – and depicting him with a lynching rope around his neck as if he were a runaway slave who was caught and hung in the pre Civil War south – might bridle you more. Especially since it was also circulated when he was in office. 

I’m not one to judge for you. Only you can judge for you.   I mean —

As Rod Serling once wrote, it’s all in the “eye of the beholder.” Right?

Twilight Zone or how I imagine all Twitter Trolls?

Here’s what you need to understand. The image of Barack Obama lynched was widely passed all around right wing Republican circles and beyond with nary an apology or much massive regret at the time. And oh yes, what’s that I see, there’s even some red blood dripping down from the rope around his neck. Right above his tie. Which is right above the word ROPE – which substitutes for 44’s much quoted catch-phrase – HOPE.

Here’s what you also need to understand. The California Republican Party has just this weekend started using the Kathy Griffin/Trump beheading image in a FUNDRAISING EMAIL/LETTER.

Pretty much sums it up.

That’s right, they are so offended that are actually referencing and passing around the image over and over again in order to — make a buck.

Now — if that doesn’t make America great again, I don’t know what will.

#Resist

And save the outrage for real life. That goes for both sides. God knows, there’s enough to go around.

Seven more innocent souls were killed in London on Saturday and the blood they bled was real.

Stay strong london

Think about it the next time you decide to pile onto the tar and feathering of a comedienne in our virtual town square by supporting all those on your side of the aisle who feel the need to separate themselves from the motley pack of the rest of us by grasping for what is now our non-existent high ground.

Higher Ground – Playing for Change