When We Rise… and Rise and Rise

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There was a moment in this past week’s When We Rise – ABC’s 8-hour miniseries retelling the gay liberation movement through the personal and professional travails of four real life activists – where one realizes that it is only when the political becomes personal that a true activist is born. Or perhaps it’s the other way around – meaning it takes something awfully personal to happen to us before we muster up the energy to try and save the world.

8 hours well spent #chairreview

8 hours well spent #chairreview

Of course, no one can truly save a world, despite what politicians, billionaires or real estate moguls will tell you, and sometimes in the body of the same person. And moreover, that moment when it all clicks in and causes action is different for all of us.

A noteworthy screenwriter friend of mine named Anna Hamilton-Phelan once wrote a script on the women’s movement called The Big Click and it is only now – 25 plus years later – that I truly get what she was talking about. Oh sure, I’ve been politically active over the decades and understood the basic meaning of what she was saying. Who could argue with the idea that there are episodes in all of our lives when something goes from simply bothering us to pissing us off so royally that we are moved into action. Or from understanding in hindsight that unknowingly there were reasons ingrained in us from childhood that causes us to be passionate about an issue rather than merely just sympathetic towards it.

There are some parents in need of a medal for this gem #girlpower

There are some parents in need of a medal for this gem #girlpower

The gay heroes in When We Rise had many motivating factors but the commonality that clicked in for me was that at least one parent rejected them from an early age because of their sexual orientation and that these brave men and women had the strength to know that the problem was not with themselves and the temerity to devote their lives to enabling the world to see the truth. What this translates into was being a part of a movement to change the world even though, at its basic core, all they were really doing was standing up for freedom, equality and honesty.

This seems easy but it is anything but when the world at large, not to mention your close circle of friends and relatives, informs you in every way through words, deeds and general point of views, that you are wrong. As a gay person it is always chilling for me to revisit the outward hostility and rejection of gay people as any sort of normal through my lifetime by mainstream society.

When I was a boy in the sixties and a young teenager in the first part of the seventies, the notion of showing a same sex couple making love on a major network was as likely as, well….NOTHING. In fact, I can’t imagine anyone at the time who would have considered it a viable notion.

Well.. at least we had Charles

About as gay as it got on TV #thankyoucharles

Certainly no one in the early eighties could have imagined the full pandemic of AIDS or the experience of literally watching your friends and lovers drop dead all around you as the mainstream forces of government and religious institutions turned its back on you or leaned in with hateful condemnation and we told you so indifference.

Yet, like the leaders of civil rights and women’s liberation and so many other movements for social change these people remained undeterred, motivated in some part by the very injustices that they were consistently met with, and often from a very early age.

Horrific as the AIDS era was for our community (and others), I have always believed that without it the country never would realize so quickly that almost everyone in America knew and loved (or very much liked) a gay person. Compared to DEATH, or at least WATCHING DEATH, the onus of coming out began to feel almost laughable at some point.

Amen to that

#Reality

But then quite strangely and surreally this begat the slow opening of the door to what the majority of mainstream society now accepts as normal – gay marriage. How odd that our forbearers had to die in order to achieve it. And yet, when you look at the history of our progress towards racial equality – how obvious that this would be what it would take to achieve.

Of course, none of us should be fooled into thinking that as we progress we have achieved anything near equality in either of these areas – or many others. In the case of the LGBT community, there is currently an international brouhaha that the upcoming Disney release of the new Beauty and the Beast even features a gay character.

THE HORROR!

THE HORROR!

A movie theatre owner in Alabama pulled it from its schedule, publicly noting in a statement that: if I can’t sit through a movie with God or Jesus sitting by me then we have no business showing it.

This is followed by threats to Disney that Beauty might entirely be banned from Russia for essentially the same reason. A prominent lawmaker there has publicly called for its culture minister to screen it in advance and then bar it if he finds elements of propaganda of homosexuality. 

Never mind that the gay character in question is (and has always been) named LeFou, is merely a sidekick that has a crush on the male lead, Gaston, and that the gayest thing he reportedly does is dance a little too enthusiastically with a friend. When it comes to Disney the gay thing is still sacrosanct, in several if not many more corners.

I mean.... do we not remember Scar? #letsbereal

I mean…. do we not remember Scar? #letsbereal

Certainly a gay Disney character is not the most burning issue in LGBT freedoms but with our new administration rescinding an executive order to disallow transgender students from using the bathroom of their choice, and new religious freedom laws brewing nationally and in many statewide government offices to override other existing gay civil rights rulings in other related areas, any blanket normalcy of the community seems as far as it’s ever been.

Aside from being gay I’m also Jewish and the rise of anti-Semitic crimes of defacement and violence in the US is still in line with the ongoing history of persecution we Jews have endured through the centuries. Sure, it’s been a long time since 6 million or more of us died in Nazi concentration camps (or has it?) but as everyone in any minority group knows just when you think you and yours might be primarily safe is the very moment when you need to pay attention. And this does not necessarily mean solely watching out for members of one’s immediate minority group but to those in others, be they Black, Muslim, female (even though they, like those who voted for the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee, ARE in the majority), Mexican and…(fill in accordingly).

Pretty much sums it up right now

Pretty much sums it up right now

I’d like to say members of my particular minority groups are already doing this (and perhaps they are) but the most recent evidence I can provide is this news story about two Muslim-American activists who raised more than $20,000 in over two hours in order to repair the massive damage done last month to more than 100 headstones in an historic Jewish cemetery in St. Louis.

“…Through this campaign, we hope to send a united message from the Jewish and Muslim communities that there is no place for this type of hate, desecration, and violence in America,” read the crowd-funding webpage started by Linda Sarsour and Tarek El-Messidi

The recognition that hateful actions towards ONE of us are hateful crimes towards ALL of us feels like 21st century activism. Ever personal, ever angry but rooted in problem-solving, progress and the united hope for a better future, along with the knowledge that, like it or not, it’s both an individual AND a group journey.

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DER ORANGE FUEHRER

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It’s difficult to watch the real life Leni Riefenstahl style propaganda film Donald Trump is trying to live each day he serves as the Electoral College president of the United States.

And yes – Riefenstahl was the official director of the Nazis – Hitler’s personal chronicler – with such films as Triumph of the WILL (Note that word in the title) to her credit.

And double yes – I am saying Trump fashions himself as a modern day Hitler – one who demands to be adored and rule with an iron hand as he WILLS to personally wipe out ANYONE and EVERYTHING that stands in the way of his adoration.

WAH!

WAH!

And, well, um – yeah – I’m not ruling out his attempts at future US concentration camps for particular groups of outliers he doesn’t like if he continues to remain in power. It will have to be craftier, done in a 2017 style and method, and I doubt he could pull it off. But I’m not eliminating it as his final solution.   Because I also doubted this ignoramus would be elected.

We don’t want people with bad, bad ideas coming into our country.

That was just one of many rousingly vague bromides that spewed out of his mouth in Saturday’s latest propaganda speech in Florida.

In the context of the remarks he was referring to immigrants.   So let’s take him at his word, even though he doesn’t seem to have one worth taking, only many that stream out of his sub-consciousness in scattershot directions.

What exactly ARE bad, bad ideas? Who decides they are bad? And how?

Believe me, this country already knows BAD ideas

Believe me, this country already knows BAD ideas #SAD

Well, he indicated in his speech the answer laid somewhere between his skewed interpretation of the appeals court opinion overturning his recent executive order to limit immigration and the actual special powers granted a president to enforce laws via our Constitution. So to prove his point he quoted said law in his speech, reading the following from a piece of paper.

Whenever the president finds that the entry of any alien, or any class of aliens, to the US detrimental to the interests of the U.S., he may by proclamation and such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens…or any restriction he may deem to be appropriate.

What the subject of his own Riefenstahl mind movie leaves out – and what separates the U.S. from past and present dictatorships – is presenting some sort of reasonable proof or argument of one’s assertions of detriment to the gatekeepers of checks and balances enshrined in our constitution. That is to say that blanket refusal of entry – and in many cases – RE-ENTRY of tens of thousands of people, many of whom already hold green cards and are actually re-entering their own homes, dorm rooms or childhood homes – needs to be reasonably defensible in court, in life, or otherwise – or it is illegal.

And we know a few things about illegal dealings... don't we Don?

And we know a few things about illegal dealings… don’t we Don?

As is the case with dictatorial thinkers (nee the president who lost the popular vote by almost 3 million), there is an outright rejection of anything that challenges their ultimate power. In fact, his voice grew fiery and his body physically jolted as he bridled at how his people were now hard at work on a NEW (world?) ORDER to challenge the court’s blockage of his original executive one. This was most apparent in the words he chose to describe his view of what the Constitutional statute enshrining his powers that he had just read from did to anyone who opposed him.

Every word here is a total KILL for the other side.

That’s right – KILL. As in – you’re dead. Lie down.

LET ME HEAR YOU SAY IT!

LET ME HEAR YOU SAY IT!

There is a style and rhythm to the way this guy speaks, haphazard though it might often be. One of the few consistencies is – there is not a lot of nuance. KILL means just that. Whether in a competition, or the court system, or perhaps literally. In America we will win, win, win. At what cost? Well, you tell me. Or perhaps he is already telling – us.

Again, he’s not that complicated.

As the man continues to speak about fake news from our most vetted and fact checked information sources (eg. The New York Times and Washington Post); appoint people who have fought their entire adult lives to dismantle the very government agencies they are now being charged to steward (eg Scott Pruitt EPA, Betsy DeVos Dept. of Education, Rick Perry, Dept of Energy); and stacks his closest inner circle of advisors with white men who, like himself, have ZERO to little experience in governing or foreign affairs (son-in-Law Jared Kushner, charged with achieving peace in the middle east, and the unmentionable former Breitbart “news” chief and avowed Leninist Steve Bannon, who I’ve unfortunately just mentioned, as his top consigliere on EVERYTHING) – we all need to CONTINUALLY ask ourselves.

WHAT. EXACTLY. IS. THIS?

Gotta get it together!

Gotta get it together!

Since the majority among us, certainly among those reading here, are reasonable people, the answer is, once again, as uncomplicated as a Trump speech:

IT. IS. EXACTLY. WHAT. YOU. THINK. IT. IS.

What this in turn means is that we all need to act accordingly:

#RESIST #DEMONSTRATE #ACT #DONATE

LOL (but also, YES!)

LOL (but also, YES!)

Do not stop. Call your representatives in Congress. Post on social media. Talk to friends. Go to meetings. Argue with relatives. Take to the streets. This is how the country came into being centuries ago, has continued to flourish through difficult decades, and is the ONLY road for survival. Despite how much our new dictator-in-chief rails against it.

How do I know this is needed? Because these days I even find myself, a life-long liberal, occasionally agreeing with John McCain from the sidelines. Yes, that’s right. The guy who brought us Sarah Palin.

We need a free press. If you want to preserve democracy as you know it you have to preserve a free and adversarial press. That’s how dictators get started.

Nailed it #maverick?

Nailed it #maverick?

Sure, he walked back that statement hours later by saying he wasn’t equating Trump with a dictator. But I’m not. I’m in full equating mode. Well okay – perhaps that’s a bit harsh in light of recent court opinions. Let’s just say that at this point – he’s an aspiring dictator.

When I told my husband about what I was writing, he reminded me of the brilliant Susan Sontag’s 1975 essay for the New York Review of Books on the work of Leni Riefenstahl entitled, Fascinating Fascism. In it, she factually and intellectually goes on to debunk and devastate the Nazi chronicler’s attempt to rehabilitate the reality of the extensive period of her life in service to Hitler into a gauzy creative representation of an unfairly marginalized artist who simply shot what she saw.

I'll save you the trouble it looked something like this #dumpsterfire

I’ll save you the trouble it looked something like this #dumpsterfire

Let’s hope someone, or more than one, are able to do the same thing en masse with Trump that Sontag did with Leni. And that it sticks.   If history is any indication, this person, or people, will come from what our modern-day American Fuehrer in training likes to most sourly call: THE CROOKED MEDIA. Which, given the reach of global internet platforms these day, is not only the NY Times and the Washington Post but each and every one of us Americans who gives even a whit about democracy and freedoms – not only for ourselves but for all of our non-immigrant, and immigrant, brothers and sisters throughout the world.

Do You Smell It?

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My mother used to tell me about how, as a little Jewish girl in the Bronx in the 1940s, she used to have nightmares that Hitler was coming to get her and woke up crying.

Now you have to understand that my Mom was about as far away and protected from Hitler as a little girl could be, living in a Jewish enclave in New York City in a democratic country – in fact the strongest in the world – the one that was leading the fight against him. Not to mention she was the daughter of Jewish Hungarian immigrants who wisely chose to emigrate to the U.S. in the early 1930s, no doubt sensing the imminent threats in their homeland.

What a difference almost a century makes.

... or not. Dr Seuss cartoon, circa 1941.

… or not. Dr Seuss cartoon, circa 1941.

I was hoping to write about La La Land and the Oscar nominations this week. Instead, I’m lying in bed watching the news in horror. Laying? I can’t recall which one. That’s where I am at the moment. Viewing a radical racist sociopath on television who doesn’t understand that the very country he conspired with the Russians to lead runs on one simple idea:

YOU ARE WELCOME TO BECOME A PART OF A NATION OF IMMIGRANTS WHERE EVERYONE IS EQUAL AND FREE.

Sure, sometimes we don’t quite rise to our aspirations. We too often stumble around our principles in individual cases. But for the most part, this is who we actually are. Certainly, it’s who the vast majority of our elected officials are. A melting pot of cultures, religions and differences bound together under that guiding principle.

No more.

This fish rots from the head on down.

Not sure there is enough lysol for this

Not sure there is enough lysol for this

And it’s getting smellier and smellier with each passing day. As if we’re all caught in a refuse center without any vents and nary a room deodorizer in sight. There seems only one option at this point. Get rid of the racist… I mean rancid animal… by breaking the doors down, airing the whole thing out and then, when we’ve reached something approaching a new stasis – rebuilding.

If that’s at all possible.

A dear friend of mine gave me the perfect metaphor for this.

Having to deal with DJT on a daily basis is like being in an abusive relationship.

Abusers evoke feelings of powerless, depression, anger and frustration. Experts advise you to leave an abusive situation. But short of turning away from the daily horror of DJT’s actions – which in my mind is being complicit in his actions as if this were Germany in the 1930s and you partied as your country devolved into a dictatorship – this is an impossibility. This is not to say you need to focus on him 24/7. Life should and needs to go on, especially the consumption of chocolate cake, wine and other pleasures I won’t get into here. And it will make us stronger and piss him off. Especially if you include social media baiting him in the mix and subscribing to your favorite newspaper, preferably the New York Times, Washington Post or Boston Globe. Because that is who (whom? – oh, who cares) will likely/ultimately bring him down.

While back in reality, subscriptions are surging. #Watergate4EVA

While back in reality, subscriptions are surging. #Watergate4EVA

There is a movie out at the moment called Lion that is based on the true story of a very young, very poor Indian boy who gets lost, becomes a street orphan and winds up getting adopted by an Australian couple living in an appealing home by the water on the shores of Tasmania.

It’s a wonderful film for a variety of reasons – fine writing, acting, direction, visual design… Well, let’s just say they all combine to effectively tell a unique story.

Still, perhaps the most compelling moment in Lion comes at the moment the now grown up “boy’s” very WHITE, adoptive Mom explains to him why in the world she wanted to voluntarily raise and love a little BROWN kid who was not her own. I mean, clearly she had no other choices, right?

Wrong.

But no spoilers here. Watch the movie and you’ll understand why not only she does but why, at the end of the day, the world sways towards justice and inclusion — despite what we’re seeing right now at all of the nation’s major metropolitan airports (Seattle for the win below).

You can twist your words into a pretzel-like logic to explain your abusive behavior and regressive actions in the service of your master plan to discriminate against whole swaths of people based on ethnicity, religion or “otherness.”

But what you can’t ultimately do in the light of day and in the annals of history is to remove the stench from yourself. By issuing an executive order that bans innocent citizens from seven (and counting) countries from entering or re-entering the U.S. (Note: Yes, some people CAN’T get back in to their HOMES – one woman noted she doesn’t know what will happen to her DOG), DJT has officially gone from toxic waste dump to the BP Oil Spill in the eyes of the MAJORITY of the nation he theoretically seeks to guide. And it’s officially only been…one week.

We're with you lady lib. #buckleup #bumpyride

We’re with you lady lib. #buckleup #bumpyride

If only The Statue of Liberty could speak.

Oh wait. She can.

#RESIST #ACT #DONATE #DEMONSTRATE

WE. ARE. THE. MAJORITY.