Sheets of Privilege

I’ve watched Tina Fey downing a sheet cake while she excoriated Trump and the white supremacists at Charlottesville EIGHT times so far – and counting. It’s the only thing that’s made me laugh in quite a while.

You’ve probably seen her now viral appearance on Thursday night’s summer edition of Saturday Night Live Weekend Update – the one where she called the neo-Nazi man boys “chinless turds,” referred to Ann Coulter as “yard sale Barbie,” and countered Trump and his supporters with “who do you think drove that car into the crowd – Hillary’s emails???”– as whipped cream and all kinds of other carbs came pouring inside and outside of her mouth.

If you haven’t – here. And you’re welcome.

Sheetcaking, as she called it, is one answer to the post-racial right wing racism (and all kinds of other isms) that is now sweeping our country thanks to the campaign, election and reign of our first bull-in-the-china shop Electoral College POTUS – Donald J. Trump – or Donny John – as Ms. Fey more aptly derides him and his cheaply made real estate.

Still, however appealing it feels to gorge oneself on sweets and carbs in response to the upside down view of the world that Donny John and his white supremacist followers espouse – it is by no means the ONLY response.   It is the comedic response of 2017 so far and, as in any great satire, should not be taken as an absolute. It is wish fulfillment and is borne out of anger, frustration and a penchant for mouthy snideness that many of us “ethnic types” prefer.

It is the contemporary version of the fictional Isaac Davis’ cocktail party retort in 1979’s Manhattan after he incredulously mentions that he’s heard Nazis may actually be marching in New Jersey.

We should go down there and get some guys together, get some bricks and baseball bats and really explain things to them.

Even when one guy counters that there is a devastating satirical op-ed piece in the (NY) Times on the subject, Isaac counters:

Well, a satirical piece in the Times is one thing but bricks and baseball bats really gets right to the point.

Let’s be honest. There is no ONE way to battle the lunacy that is now overtaking our nation. On Saturday morning, I woke up to find that two dozen Nazi white guys marched in downtown Boston but 40,000 people showed up in solidarity to counter the hate-filled rants of a crowd that had mostly dispersed by the time they had arrived.

#BostonStrong

That doesn’t account for the tens and thousands more who were home sheetcaking, talking to their neighbors, exchanging kind words with people of other religions, skin colors or sexual persuasions, or perhaps frequenting ethnic businesses and organizations that didn’t share the world view of the Charlottesville chinless turds.

The Electoral College POTUS response to Boston was classic. The first tweet:

A follow-up one several hours later, presumably after a talking to and some human contact:

Still, it begs the question of which protestors he was applauding – the two dozen or the 40,000. Certainly, it couldn’t be ALL of them.

I couldn’t pretend to know what is in Electoral College POTUS’ heart, mostly because I am sure he doesn’t even have o….well, skip it. Let’s not get sidetracked here.

Just have a good scream…. OK I’m good now #dailyrituals

The point is, you can’t believe anything he says in any given moment. Because at any given moment later – meaning five or ten seconds, minutes or hours – he might say exactly the opposite. Sometimes it’s even in the same run-on sentence.

This requires all of us to be especially aware, thoughtful and conscious about our actions as we navigate what the solutions are to our many problems. As a college professor I’ve learned over the years to avoid the word problem and refer to them as challenges. Yet in these tough times and in this particular instance I’d say problems is the more apt term.

21st century compassion

That being said, let’s not pretend that with all of our PROBLEMS we, who were fortunate enough to be born into this country, are not a heck of a lot better off than those born into third-world poverty elsewhere in the world. Even luckier are those of us born here into a higher economic class, or loving families, or, or, or, or…..

You see where I’m going with this.

There is so much chatter right now about PRIVILEGE – who is and who isn’t and how none of us are going to take it anymore. About safe spaces. About real American values and the lack thereof and who has them and who definitely doesn’t.

Yet it always seemed that the one thing we could agree on is that Nazis were bad.

Pretty much sums it up

And yet – Charlottesville showed not even all of us could agree on that. I hear reports from people I know that outside of the coastal cities and big urban areas that people are hoisting Confederate flags, brandishing their weapons to anyone ethnic — or Jewish or gay like me –- just in case they’re thinking that we’re friends or share any kind of values at all. Of course, that could just be what they normally do on a Saturday.   How would I even really know???

Well, certainly choosing to pretend this isn’t happening is not the solution to all this. Nor is Tina urging us to stay home and away from the white supremacist rallies and choose sheetcaking instead. But neither is Isaac Davis’ idea that we all get together to attend the Nazi rallies armed with bricks and baseball bats.   Two of these are extreme answers to extreme behavior that none of us truly knows the solution to. The other one is just plain dumb. I’ll leave it to you to figure out which is which.

Take your time Elmo

As a teacher whose role it often is to reach compromise I would propose that we need to incorporate not only the extremes but EVERYTHING in between. Unlike the multiple choice SAT there is no one correct answer here – except to rule out the dumb choice immediately.

Therefore, if you want to protest at a right wing, Nazi rally – do it. Yes, this is how they thrive and recruit people – by showing all the people like me and you who are against THEM – but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be continually confronted for their hate (and vigorously).

But if as Tina suggests, you want to stay home and instead frequent an ethnic business – e.g. a bakery – then that is also valuable. So is donating money, being kind to a right-leaning friend or neighbor, manning a phone bank for a cause or holding your nose and trying to talk about all of this with a relative who you’ve always loathed – or a colleague who seems to have values opposite of yours.   We have to do them all and we need to do it quickly. And don’t think the thought of this thrills me either. Though I vow to do it if you will.

We can figure out better strategies

This week I heard a former Neo-Nazi named Arno Michaelis, who runs something called the Forgiveness Project and wrote a book about his days of white supremacy in his teens and twenties, say that one of the few things that managed to change him was the kindness he was shown by a lesbian supervisor at work and a black co-worker.

Now I’m not saying kindness and money is THE WAY to fight Nazis. But please can we refrain from the now empty post liberal phrase this is privilege speaking when one dares to suggest anything else except the method you’re arguing for? We need it ALL – especially the comedy of Tina Fey.

The only act of privilege is sitting it out entirely.

Elvis Costello & The Attractions – Peace, Love and Understanding

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Who Run the World?

Generally I’ve always liked women more than men. On the surface, this would seem ironic for a gay man. On closer inspection, it’s really not.

When I was growing up it was just easier to be closer to the gals. I didn’t like traditional “guy” things like playing sports, though I did collect baseball cards and loved the NY Yankees in particular. In fact, I actually knew (and still know) their entire starting lineup from 1966.

OK.. and their smiles didn’t hurt either

Oh, don’t be so surprised. I’m certainly not.

We’re all a bit of an imperfect puzzle and if you’re homosexual those imperfections feel that much more complicated, especially to mainstream America.   Yes, even still.

But let’s table the rainbow soapbox for the moment and stick with women. I did for decades in every which way but sexually. They shared my interests in the arts, or even if they didn’t they liked hearing about it. They really listened to me when I spoke, liked to engage in discourse and seemed to generally care even when the world didn’t.

Not to mention, they seemed receptive to my opinions, so much so that at one point towards the end of high school and all through college there were almost too many women in my life to handle.

Yep, that’s me!

I remember late one afternoon my stepfather being absolutely flabbergasted at the beautiful young woman who had come over to hang out with me for the first time (Note: In retrospect, she was pretty stunning. And smart. I looked her up on Facebook recently and she has become a respected lawyer).

But even at the time I knew he couldn’t fathom how this short, slightly less than macho, snide young man he had lived with for the last five years could EVER attract the attention of the gorgeous creature he couldn’t stop staring at in our entryway.

A John Hughes rendering of the situation

It amused me to no end that I had the secret that would always elude him, and too many straight men, especially in the late sixties and early seventies.

I was actually INTERESTED in her. Instead of being interested in HER.

I won’t go into the Mika Brzezinski/Joe Scarborough brouhaha this week (Note: This can fill you in. Or this.)…

…Other than to say when the current ELECTORAL POTUS insults you on Twitter with bon mots like crazy, low I.Q., dumb as a rock and his requisite reference to any attractive female who challenges him – their BLEEDING from one orifice or anotherwell, you know you’re doing something right.

You’ve gotten under his skin.

Shakespearean in scope

Still, what’s gotten under my skin this week is Friday’s UNANIMOUS ruling by the 9-member Texas Supreme Court reversing the city of Houston’s decision to extend health and life insurance benefits to the spouses of city employees in same sex marriages.

Instead of these benefits being an automatic right based on the U.S. Supreme Court ruling two years ago legalizing gay marriage across the country, these Texas judges want a trial in Houston where this issue can be fought out in court. Though how this can be anything but a waste of time and taxpayer money is beyond me since same-sex marriage is the law of the land.

It is interesting to note seven of those nine judges were men. Two were women. All were Republicans. I maintain if any one of the many women I grew up with – especially the now adult aforementioned woman in my entryway who stepdaddy stared at all those decades ago – were on the court the ruling would surely not be unanimous. There would be at least one dissent. Which would be a start.

Let’s not forget that Wendy Davis is a proud Texas woman. #theydoexist

Still, I grew up in NYC and not Texas so perhaps mine is as irrelevant and regional an opinion and argument as the one coming from the Texas Supreme Court ruling will (hopefully) eventually be.

Fortunately, there will be THREE women from my neck of the woods – all of them from the various, glorious boroughs of NYC – on the US Supreme Court when later this year they hear the case of the Denver baker who in 2012 refused service to a gay couple that merely wanted him to bake them a wedding cake.

Yes, that one’s actually going to trial.

Even though on a recent episode of The View the baker, Jack Phillips, said:

I don’t judge people when they come in. I try and serve everybody.

Summon some Alice realness right now #eyeroll

Still, he chose NOT to try and accommodate the two about-to-be married young men, previous customers of his establishment, when they merely asked for a cake for their wedding reception. In fact, he told them it was against his religious beliefs. Even though it is against the law for a public business like his to refuse this service.

I can only imagine what Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor will make of this. Actually, I intuitively KNOW what they will make of it based on decades of experience with women like them – women who have spent years making their voices heard to those who choose to listen – or not – to them.

YES. YES. YES.

These are women who, in turn, have devoted their entire adult lives listening to others in an attempt to level the playing field for many who have come after them and have, for various and nefarious reasons, also not been heard and valued for what they had to do or say.

The trouble is there are once again NINE Supreme Court justices and this time a full FIVE of them are straight white males (and the other is Clarence Thomas). Not to tar them all with one brush.

I mean, it is 2017.

Cmon man, get with the times!

Who in their right mind would do that to someone based on their sex, or sexual preference, even if they have said things and done things in the past and present with which they vehemently disagree?

Well, certainly not anyone in their right mind. Certainly, no one in the highest echelons of the court.   Or the government.

Which begs the question of just when WILL we elect a woman president and how much worse IT (Okay, HE) will have to get before we finally come to our sense and do so?

“Respect” –  Aretha Franklin

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

Laughing Matters

Think of it as a concentric circle that gets smaller and smaller until there’s nothing left. Like the gyroscopes I used to look at when I was a kid. Or the background logo to this tackily addictive sci-fi adventure series on ABC I watched in the sixties – Time Tunnel.

Exhibit A (or the inner workings of my mind)

That’s the number of individuals who know the real facts of what’s going on in the head of the man who resides in the White House’s Oval Office these days.

Unless, of course, you count the number of Russians listening in through the bugs they likely got to plant several days ago when they, and not the American press, were invited to the inner sanctum for the latest in an endless stream of propagandized photo ops.

Did I take it too far?

But I digress.

An angry, ranting, vengeful POTUS, who by all accounts spends more time on his Twitter rants than reading policy books – or on policy in general – and certainly on any type of books in general, which he proudly claims he doesn’t need or have any desire to read – is simultaneously entertaining and scary.

Much like a seminal episode of Big Brother or The Bachelorette. Or a bag of potato chips chased with a super-sized Snickers bar and a Big Gulp.

Solid advice

But are any of the above good for you? Well, one supposes that’s a matter of opinion. Certainly, we can agree it can be fun to indulge.  So perhaps the more benign question to ask is —

Just how entertained do we want to be?

Don’t answer that.

I’m as guilty as everyone. The mere 10-second snippet of “Spicey” being wheel-ied down 58th St. in New York City on his Segway-fueled podium spewing insults made me giggle with delight on a Friday morning. And that was a day and a half before his actual appearance on SNL this week where I could be seen in my living room squealing with delight among friends and family. But really, is it funny???

Sean Spicer Returns to SNL

Of course it is. And isn’t.

Well for me, it’s certainly a lot more entertaining than watching the real thing. Who said it – imitation is the sincerest form of flattery? Let’s correct that. Imitation is infinitely more preferable to the real thing because it’s actually bearable – and anything but flattering.

I am quite aware that the way I laugh at the ridiculousness of the Spicey parody a la Melissa McCarthy and Alec Baldwin’s orange drenched, open mouthed and thick lipped Electoral POTUS, is probably akin to exactly the opposite of what his base supporters scream at with delight. In my mind, that would be at the very least the apoplectic reaction citizens like me have to the many, many regal pronouncements (Note: What else can you call them but royal edicts?) the real 2017 POTUS (Note: No, I DON’T mean Hillary) makes from the actual presidential and/or press podium.

Laughing.. Crying… I JUST DONT KNOW!

EXHIBIT A

Me: Seriously??? So in other words, he lies any time he wants?

Them: HAHAHAHAHAH!!! THAT’S RIGHT. LIKE YOU DID!!! AND HE’S YOUR PRESIDENT, NOW!!!

EXHIBIT B

On Comey’s firing to Lester Holt on NBC:

He (Comey’s) a showboat. He’s a grandstander…In fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story…

ME: Showboat??? Is this the 1927 musical or the 1936 film from MGM? What year does this moron live in? Not to mention, he’s firing the guy who’s investigating him!!! How can anyone look at this and think this is okay?

I can’t even #wheretobegin

THEM: HAHAHAHAHAH!!! YOU FIRE THEM ALL, THEY DON’T TOW THE LINE!!!   YOU TELL ‘EM!!!

EXHIBIT C

To Judge (ahem) Jeanine Pirro on Fox:

We don’t have to have press conferences…We just don’t have them, unless I have them every two weeks and I do them myself…I think it’s a good idea…you have a level of hostility that’s incredible and it’s very unfair.

ME: What is he, a f-ckin despot?? What is this, third grade? Not fair???? We don’t have Royalty in this country. He’s not a King!! Unless he’s the Madness of King George. We operate on a free press here. Well, he’ll see!! We’ll go around him. And we’ll f-ckin BRING HIM DOWN!!!! There’s a price to pay for not reading the Constitution. Or not even having one of your buddies from the Gulag explain it to you! You orange, lying road kill sack of crap!!!

THEM: HAHAHAHAHAH!!! HE’S GOT ‘EM! AND HE’S RIGHT! CROOKED MEDIA!! THE HELL WITH ‘EM! WHO’S HE WORKING FOR ANYWAY? NOT THEM!! US!!!!!

This x INFINITY

Just writing this has my heart palpitating. And I don’t know which was worse – spouting my own truths or inventing the reaction from the other side. Certainly, I was equally at ease doing and imagining both. They’ve how long and often they’ve been heard – with no end in sight. He’s been campaigning for almost two years and is still going.  And he’s actually been in office only three and a half months.   Impeachment notwithstanding, how many more do we have do go?

PLEASE…don’t answer that.

There’s not much I know these days but one thing I’ve always been sure of is that humor is as great a release as the truth – which any number of wise people before me have argued …will set you free.

Step right up! #chockfull

Somewhere at the intersection of both is where the answers lie.   I hope that we find them, even one, and when we do, we are able to sober up. No, I don’t claim to know what even one of those answers is.   I am only sure that if or when we find them, even one, it won’t be funny. Or at least, it shouldn’t be.

What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love & Understanding – Elvis Costello & the Attractions   

Truth to Power

There was a Law and Order episode on this week where a young and ambitious female investment banker accuses her firm’s billionaire client of rape and is eventually offered a $5 million a year job at a competing firm that will require her to keep a low profile. Which ostensibly means dropping her case.

This being the fictionalized world of both Law AND Order, the young woman, who was indeed raped and rightly accusing the slick billionaire of sexual violation, eventually decides NOT to take the money (Note: A guaranteed $20 mill over four years) and instead stands up publicly to him in court. When asked why on the witness stand she proclaims – parroting the words of our beloved Lt. Olivia Benson, nee Mariska Hargitay – it is because “I will not allow him to steal my dignity one more time.”

I light mine every night. #SaintOlivia

The proclamation of dignity vs. submission, and the forfeiting of personal wealth and power for a greater good (i.e. standing up to criminal behavior and thus saving other potential victims) is, to say the least, reassuring. As is, as always, the show’s subsequent final credit, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER DICK WOLF.

But life is not an episode of Law and Order where people are convinced to do the right thing because we all want to live in moral clarity. Where we all have a conscience that moves us to the better choice. Where good wins out in the end over evil. Or at least over selfishness, money and immoral actions.

You can’t appeal to people who are sociopaths. Who don’t live in aspirational morality. In trying to “do the right thing” and “be better.” To make the right choice that will benefit not only us but the most people.

Those who live primarily in selfishness and self-aggrandizement, whatever their reasons, are playing a different game. Putin, Trump, or whoever you like. When power and money and ego are at the center of your world you are working for yourself.

Gag me

You might occasionally note to the outside world that you are NOT working for your own inner world and might even convince yourself of that from time to time. But inside you instinctively know better. You have a knee jerk reaction about what makes YOU feel good. About yourself. About what you exude. About what you can provide for LOYAL FRIENDS and FAMILY MEMBERS around you. Even about what you can provide for “your people.” In your country.

But the definition of “your people” has less to do with who you will lead by their birth into your world and your responsibility to them, and everything to do – once again – with loyalty. But to the state – which in your mind – means to YOU.

This skewed view of the world means that anyone who disagrees with you, and those who most certainly look down on your world view, are not your problem. You will go around them or mow them down. They are not your responsibility. In fact, in many ways, they are your enemy. Because they are getting in the way of the agenda you seek to execute and provide. Essentially for your FOLLOWERS.

A 90s cartoon that is all too real now #help

This is essentially how White House chief strategist Steve Bannon thinks. His uber nationalistic view. His determination to tear down the international liberal world order he sees as poisonous. He doesn’t want his kids to go to school with “Jews” because, as his ex-wife stated, he doesn’t like their “values” and “whining.” Bannon’s background is militaristic, two terms in the Navy, and someone who was educated at Harvard, weaned by Goldman Sachs out of the military and then went to work in Hollywood, selling syndication rights for multi millions of dollars for Seinfeld (Note the irony), which made him personally rich. And then opening his own consulting firms where he made hundreds of millions in international deals worldwide with clients such as a Saudi Prince who was one of the richest individuals in the world.

A striking image

Bannon actually was educated among Jews, made money for and with them and then somewhere along the line (or perhaps he always felt this way) decided they were a turn-off once they provided the experience and means he benefitted from in order to enable him the platform to hang with the big boys and create his own international power platforms. Which he did quite ably. He boosted alt-right racist and sexist ideology at Breitbart News in order to blatantly challenge an accepted morality that the majority of the world operated on. Who knows how he really felt at the time? Was it a means to the end or did he really believe this stuff? Perhaps both. Perhaps either one. What seems clear at the moment is that it almost doesn’t matter. What is clear is that what he sees is the big picture of power. And like Trump and Putin, it is a world where there are pockets of power that he and a handful of others control.

… and all too easy to get drunk on that power

There is not an overall mass morality. The MORALITY is survival and power, POWER and SURVIVAL – of the FITTEST. The idea of what is “right” – whether it’s okay to “rape” a woman, deceive a small group of people who don’t understand, or an entire state or country who won’t ACCEPT, this order, is immaterial. It’s not particularly in the picture. It doesn’t fit into HIS world view. And really, HE doesn’t appear to have much conscience about it. Certainly, HE doesn’t fit into a Law and Order episode “arc” or morality.

Fin, for the win

The sooner we can all accept this, that we’re not playing the usual game, the more effective and psychologically better off we’ll be. You can’t intellectually argue with this kind of ILLOGIC. You can only accept this is THEIR view of the world and work with those who share a more traditional similar morality or right and wrong to save the world. You cannot expect THEM to play under your RULES. You can’t play poker with people who by themselves decide deuces are wild and one-eyed Jacks are higher than an ace without telling you. Or perhaps inform you after the fact and expect you to play under these rules. Which they assumed you should have known. Or always knew and are now lying about.

Some say it’s a matter of perception

What this means is hardball. It means resistance. We can’t act like a hurt school boy or gal who is in a relationship with the absolute wrong person but thinks if they only reason with the person that they love and they know (deep down) LOVES THEM, they can get them to change. This kind of continued, emotional, prolonged attempts at negotiation are the very definition of insanity.

What we need to do is distance ourselves and breakup with a person who doesn’t hold our values. We need to be very, very strong and not be seduced by whatever seductions or appeasements they may offer. We need to be vigilant, as we would with any person, or people, who we are ENABLING to ruin our lives. Contrary to what we think, in LOVE and in political power struggles of self-determination, the CHOICE is always ours. We DO have the POWER.

You got that right, Chairy.  #MaxineWaters #TruthtoPower

Here are two links immensely helpful in shedding light on this psychology. One is by Molly McKew, a woman I caught on cable news who has spent her adult life consulting with leaders opposing Putin.

The other is a detailed history of Bannon’s worldview formation and strategies that recently ran in the Washington Post.

Real information is THE most powerful weapon of the 21st Century. Don’t be clouded by populist rhetoric or shiny new promises. To be forewarned is to be forearmed. So to speak.

Open Books

Does anybody really want to be private anymore?  Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and their many future and inevitable iterations would say otherwise.

The idea that each of us can express opinions on a mass scale and actually be heard – well, read and seen, which are close but not exactly the same thing – feels revolutionary.  Rather than shouting in the wind, or to your family and friends, one can literally shout at the world these days and it is entirely possible that a person or mass of people that one’s never met will see, hear, perhaps even listen… but most importantly RESPOND.   Of course, not always kindly.  File that under be careful what you wish for.

Oh days of yesteryear

Still, one could argue the situation these days is a lot more preferable than it used to be.  There was a time not so long ago that one could die in frustration with one’s inner thoughts or angry outer thoughts that the world too often turned away from.  Certainly not everything one has to say or voice is important to the world but what is certain is that it is very much important to that person.

We all, each of us, have at least one thing in common and that is the desire to be heard, and in turn, hopefully, understood.  By someone.  Or many.  Why?  Well, it varies.  Sometimes it’s on an interpersonal issue with someone we know.  In other more existential moments it is on larger topics and what we believe about ourselves.  about the world, and about humanity.  And in loftier but no less meaningful moments it is about a pressing desire to proclaim what is RIGHT AND WRONG in  ALL of the aforementioned orbits.

It really is hard being the smartest person in the room

When we can’t stop shouting about an instance, an argument or an issue, it’s more than pressing.  It’s crushingly personal.  And we can’t shut up about it no matter how much we try or don’t attempt to.  This, in particular, is where a 2017 life comes in handy.  Even if one doesn’t receive a direct response (DM) there is a feeling that somehow, somewhere, someone listened.  And might act on what was said.  By US.

Oh, and by the way and on a very much-related topic – this – more than anything else – is the dirty little secret about being a WRITER.  (Note:  Though certainly, not the only one).

Was someone spying on me? #meeveryday

On a recent and quite brilliant stand alone episode of Girls, Lena Dunham’s emerging writer Hannah Horvath is summoned to the breathtakingly gorgeous and sprawling apartment of a famous writer played by The Americans’ Matthew Rhys.  It seems Hannah has written a think piece for a feminist blog about this man, one of her all-time literary heroes, and his misadventures with a series of four different college age women he mentored and taught with whom he had unwanted or perhaps manipulated wanted, sexual relations.

Hannah tells him she wrote the piece as a means of support to thousands of young women who are forever scarred by a situation of abuse at the hands of someone more powerful.  But the writer makes a powerful case that although her words are brilliantly executed by someone with rare talents, they only tell a partial story of what she merely chose to see based on second and third hand accounts that she read.  For to be a true writer, he tells her, is to not only respect all sides but to dig deeper into one’s subject and understand reality, motivation, connection and situational circumstance in order to truly determine what constitutes the truth.

At which point, Hannah and the author have their own new interaction that EXACTLY mirrors one of the aforementioned circumstances, leaving it to the audience to determine who was right or wrong.  Or if, indeed, such a thing even exists at all.

Oh how I’ll miss you, Girl #hannah4ever

There are all types of writing and each has their individual demands.  But what they all have in common are two very specific things:

1. The truth

and…

2. What the writer believes the truth to be.

Of course, there are few absolutes in the world outside of math and science and lately even those have been brought into question.  Which really only leaves us with #2 and brings us full circle.

As both a writing teacher and someone who annually reads numerous works of writing from all over the country for various grants and scholarships, it becomes joyously and sometimes painfully obvious to me that when reading a writer one learns as much about that person as one does about the issue or subject being presented.  Often more.

You can’t help but begin to wonder – why of all the subjects in the world did this person choose to concoct a story about homeless LGBT youth?  What happened in their background that provoked this individual to pen a story about a 1930s honkytonk in the southwest with such fervor?  Who would choose to devote years to telling the tale of gnome who appears to a young lad in the middle of a cornfield at turn of the 20th century Midwest?

Or a tiny sprite of a girl who loves eggos

I choose these because in the last year all three have been among the most outstanding student and professional pieces I’ve read from young, unknown authors.  And in the cases of at least two of the three (Note: I do not know the author of the third) I know the writers revealed quite a bit more about themselves than they ever intended.  And to their great credit.

I’ve quoted it before but it bears repeating that no less than six famous writers are credited with having once famously stated (and I’m paraphrasing because five of them most certainly did):  Being a writer is easy.  Just open a vein.

And add to that in less witty parlance:  There is no other way to get to the truth.

Perhaps (?) (!) that was what Margaret Atwood was doing in the early eighties when she wrote the now famous A Handmaid’s Tale – a work of fiction in a dystopian world that not only went on to become a best seller which has since never been out of print but has spawned both a feature film and an upcoming Hulu television series where Ms. Atwood herself makes a cameo guest star appearance.

And…… PEGGY!

In her story, a Christian fundamentalist movement takes over the United States -which reeks of pollution and sexually transmitted diseases – and installs a totalitarian regime that subjugates women and forces a particular class of them to serve as the term vessels of unwanted pregnancies to a more powerful group of men forcing their wills on them for what they believe to be the ostensible survival of society.

Well, of course this is a work of fiction!

Fact almost seems more surreal than fiction these days

So much so that Ms. Atwood herself penned a piece several days ago for the NY Times explaining where she was and what she was thinking when she first wrote her perennial bestseller.

As well as what she could offer as to it’s meaning in what has been promised to be a new and improved United States that will once again be great again.

It’s a curious position to be in – addressing the real possibilities of a fictional story written in the past of an unimaginable dictatorial future some believe we are headed towards in the present.  But like any great writer she demurred on how prescient she was, attempting to be vaguely encouraging without providing answers.  In the age of what we’re constantly being told is instant communication, it’s up to all of us to draw those conclusions in the present.  Loudly.  For our futures.  Revealing not only where we stand but real parts of ourselves.  Before that is no longer a possibility.

Carrie On

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Directly after Carrie Fisher’s funeral this week, her brother was spotted carrying away a sizeable urn in the shape of a giant Prozac pill containing her ashes.

I’d love to report this was her joke from the grave, a surprise last bit at her funeral for survivors and fans – both public and private. In actuality, the idea is credited to her brother Todd and her daughter, actress Billie Lourd.

It seems that one of Carrie’s prize possessions was this oversized tribute to the famed anti-depressant that she picked up years ago and she always treasured it as some sort of comic talisman (or taliswoman, as she might write, though probably in a much funnier way).

A true original

A true original

So after going through various other options that “didn’t seem quite right,” they figured why not permanently contain her in something that truly gave her joy – not to mention permanent stability, at least metaphorically.

Full Confession: The sight of this drug literally carrying Carrie around for all eternity made me laugh out loud. And more than once. Because I kept clicking on article after article just to keep getting more details and as many different perspectives of the image as I could.

It seriously never gets old

It seriously never gets old

See, renowned for her wit, her writing, her portrayal of Star Wars’ Princess Leia and her Hollywood pedigree, she also joked that she was equally famous for “being crazy.”

But what this really meant was that she was equally known as a tireless mental health advocate and for sharing her lifelong battles with her own bipolar disorder in books, interviews and pretty much any other avenue available to her in an attempt to help both herself, and perhaps one hundred thousands of others like her, cope with the seeming unreality of their realities.

You certainly brought it, Ms. Fisher. #thankyou

You certainly brought it, Ms. Fisher. #thankyou

There’s a lot of unreality floating around right now so it’s more important than ever to remember that even when everything is so serious you yourself can’t always be that way because it will literally make you crazy crazier. If nothing else, this is something Carrie Fisher leaves us and in her memory it would be a fitting tribute to act on it accordingly.    That is, aside from dressing like Princess Leia every so often on Halloween.

To this end, I often imagine what it must be like when Trump showers in his gold gilded marble bathroom – mirrors everywhere – and catches that magical 3-D reflective glance as his numerous selves get out of the shower. Delusional though he might be – what do you think he sees? Bradley Cooper? Jon Hamm? Even more age appropriate John Kerry? I don’t think so.

Please stop there!

Please stop there!

More like a balding Jabba the Hutt –the white fleshy overhangs of age moving every which way; a naked, liver-spotted pate up above topped not by a sea of combed over shining, swirling straw but by long limp clumps of sad, wet droopy side tresses of unruly human waste.  A forever Queens, NY version of Jabba the Hutt, twaddling around his newly chosen nest but never able to quite break free of what a lifelong indulgence of personal vices and himself have caused him to become. At least physically. Sure, it might be no longer than a second or two but that is enough. Daily. And as I imagine it during the tough weeks it amuses me endlessly and differently. Each time.

What.. too graphic? #ahhhhh

MAKE IT STOP!

Now perhaps this makes me a less than good person but I don’t think so. In some real sense, it just makes me human. For humor is very personal and I’m not Carrie. But neither are any of us. Point being, you’re not awful or unserious if you occasionally indulge your dark side (Note: And, um, Star Wars, duh!). Especially if it gives you fuel to keep fighting the good fight and relieves some tension.   And unlike drugs, drink, food or violence, the worst it will give you is a sick laugh. Imagine, that’s the absolute worst. My former worst was as a kid telling those god-awful Helen Keller jokes. And I bet most of you have done no worse – despite what you may advertise to the world or what the world thinks you or your secrets are guilty of.

On that note, what do you think they stored Antonin Scalia’s ashes in?

Too soon?

Oh Chairy #meanit #loveyou

Oh Chairy #meanit #loveyou

Okay, then imagine David Bowie. Or Nancy Reagan. How about Prince? Now c’mon, you know he’d have come up with something genius had he even put a fraction of that brilliant mind to it. But he had music and other stuff to keep him perpetually amused and entertained. Not all of us are so blessed.

There was that time he went on the Today Show dressed as Bryant Gumbel

There was that time he went on the Today Show dressed as Bryant Gumbel

This past week I watched Ava DuVernay’s thoughtful and troubling 13th, a documentary on the history of Black enslavement in the US, and I found myself talking and shouting back at almost all of the white people onscreen who, even when caught with their racism showing, figured out a way to rhetorically wrestle themselves away from reality. I see this same marginalization reflected by too many contemporary white supporters of Trump, not to mention others – though not all of them would look as repulsive as him getting out of the shower.

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no more Chairy! I just can’t take it! #myeyes #myeyes

So what do you do – that is aside from demonstrating, donating, ranting or running against them, and generally fighting against their regressive views of humanity?

Well, spewing a sea of snide retorts at them either virtually or in person when you get the chance helps immeasurably despite what most rational thinkers will advise. Don’t consider it the surefire thoughtful antidote or magical bullet. Rather a small but very, very useful tool among many in the arsenal of your survival.

Sort of like your own personal melon baller or kitchen paring knife.