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.

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This is Us

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One of the most popular shows of the new television season is This Is Us, a series that follows three generations of an American family back and forth in time. Though it primarily focuses on three grown “triplets” in their thirties, the hallmark of the story is that it flows easily through the decades as if they are continuous scenes on our screens – much the way we surf everyday on our desktops to follow variations of the same news story or subject matter. The latter is purposeful and is a large part of what makes This Is Us so timely and relatable.

This is... a hit

This is… a hit

The focus of the show is about being seen and heard. The brilliant African American kid from drug addicted parents who was adopted but never quite fits in; the fat girl who grows up into an obese women and has trouble letting people see the real her beneath what they view of her exterior, assuming they’d ever care to; and the hot TV actor who was once the least noticed in the bunch who now hides behind his looks and success because he can’t face the pain of always knowing that inside he really is and always was second rate. And these are just the triplets!

This is Us echoes a popular show from my past, thirtysomething, which pulled off a similar feat in the 80s but with the focus on a contemporary group of friends of a certain age who had indeed become each other’s family. However, while This Is Us moves constantly through past and present, thirtysomething dwelled primarily in the present with only occasional echoes of the past.

There was a limit to how willing we were to look backwards for answers in the “Greed is Good” eighties. These days, perhaps presciently, This Is Usfocus is on searching the past in desperate hope for answers about who we are today. Each psychological and actual crisis seems to rest in a series of past incidents – though after seven episodes they provide mostly brief insights and few satisfactory answers or solutions to changing actual behaviors. Perhaps it will go more fully down that road as it continues and takes notes from network execs. But right now, its characters seem to be desperately exploring. They know they’ve suddenly woken up in crisis and are willing to do almost anything to either NOT feel the pain or to somehow begin to forge a new way in which to live on.

You... You're good! #seewhatyoudidthere

You… You’re good! #seewhatyoudidthere

Perhaps some of you might see where I’m going with this. Though I’ll bet half of you don’t… which could be my fault but is probably indicative of the fact that I dwell in deep blue state America. Did you think you’d get a break from it all here? Rest assured there will be little escape for at least the next two four years. Though we’re probably not headed in the direction that you think. In either place.

The Electoral College election of Donald Trump and Mike Pence to President and Vice-President – despite the fact that they will have lost the popular vote by close to TWO MILLION people by the time the final tallies are counted – is currently wreaking havoc on the American family. Yet how we see our present via our past seem to greatly differ, depending on what side of the ideological fence we stand on.

Let’s take the example of what happened when Mike Pence attended the Friday night performance of the hit Broadway musical Hamilton in New York City, a deep blue state renowned for its multi-ethnic population, some of whom work in what is renowned as its sexually diverse theatre community (Note: Meaning, there are a ton of us gays employed on Broadway, and 99.999% of the straights are among our staunchest allies).

...said no one

SURPRISE! …said no one

If you haven’t heard, upon entrance to the theatre, the veepee elect was spontaneously booed among small bits of applause. Sort of like what would happen in an alternative universe if president elect Hillary wandered into a Chick Fill A in Mississippi a week after voting ended.

We've been down this road before #stopandsmellthechicken

We’ve been down this road before #stopandsmellthechicken

Being that Hamilton specifically tells the story of an IMMIGRANT’s rise in American history it is unsurprising the audience cheered at various pro-references to immigration nor is it shocking that upon Mr. VP’s re-entrance to the theatre in the second act a specific line about just how much we immigrants (Note: Yes, my grandparents came from Russia, Poland and Hungary – though not all of them – some were killed by the Nazis) can accomplish if given the chance drew thunderous applause.

That was seemingly about it until after the curtain call, when one of the lead actors read a statement (partially written by Hamilton creator-turned-cultural-icon Lin-Manuel Miranda) as the audience filed out. It read exactly thus:

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To which that night our 2016 President Elect who will lose the popular vote by TWO MILLION (Note: It’s sort of like an asterisk to a home run record), sent out TWO THREE TWEETS via Twitter. They read exactly thus:

So much for the land of dissent – at least in theory. As for practice, well, that’s still up in the air until AFTER January 20th.

But let’s not stray too much from the subject at hand, which would be looking back at our lives and our families in order to provide information, insights and answers about who we are, how we can heal and in what fashion we will move on.

Since Make America Great Again is THE SLOGAN that won Trump-Pence the electoral college vote, many non-T/P voters found themselves recoiling from their anti-immigrant, often racist, sexist and xenophobic campaign rhetoric; their embrace by white nationalists; and rallies where hysteria to Lock Her Up (Yes, you know which “her”) was the war call of both supporters and candidate.

The thinking:

Wait, aren’t we mostly a nation of people who mostly came from other countries? Wasn’t civil rights for Blacks and other non-whites a given, at least on paper, after a checkered racial history culminating with eight years of our first Black president? Isn’t a large part of what makes America great the fact that we don’t en masse scream for the incarceration of an individual until they are proven guilty, or at least until they have been formally charged with a crime?

No friends, THIS is us. #dontleave

No friends, THIS is us. #dontleave

On the same, token, numerous T/P voters and supporters clearly don’t feel great. The discernible issues cited seem to be not enough jobs in the white working class, our country’s benchmark welcoming policy towards immigrants in an age of global terrorism and a general disgust with the status quo in Washington, DC, but more particularly with the liberal coastal elites.

Wait, you fixed the economy for yourself but not us; you don’t care that many of our American factories closed; we were attacked by non-whites on 9/11 and you’ve never faced it; our government is going bankrupt and all you want to do is spend, spend, spend??? Well, there are no free rides anymore, buster (and busterettes).

All of these issues, every one of them, are valid issues for a family to discuss. And what is our country, or any country, after all, if not a family of people???

Just don't bring this up to Aunt Nan at Thanksgiving #shestouchy

Just don’t bring this up to Aunt Nan at Thanksgiving #shestouchy

The question to be answered is how do we, as a family, settle our real differences? Do we look back into our past – one that included slavery, a Civil War, the fight for women to simply VOTE, two World Wars and any number of others, our coming together as a people and landing on the moon, our rise to becoming one of the most financially and socially admired places on Earth? All of the above?

Meaning, What are the PRINCIPLES and ACTIONS that actually made AMERICA GREAT? And if you don’t believe we ARE great, which clearly the majority of the Electoral College voters do not, HOW DO WE BECOME GREAT AGAIN?

If past is prologue it won’t be about limiting freedoms, closing borders, or judging people by their personalities and lifestyle choices. On either side. At least, that’s what our newest, most beloved television characters are beginning to realize. (Note: Thanks, NBC!)

On the other hand, real life America is certainly not lived in via the reality of ONE hit television series, is it?   Or…is it?