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.

Indivisible

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I don’t know about you but I’m beginning to HATE hearing phrases like:

There ARE actions we can all take to create the change we want.

What I find equally annoying are my own bromides. Statements such as:

Just remember, WE ARE THE MAJORITY. There are 2.85 million more voters in this country that DID NOT VOTE FOR TRUMP than DID vote for him.

Really, Chair?

Please, someone make me – and them – STOP.

It’s not that I don’t believe these to be truisms, along with many others. It’s just that these days I am royally pissed off, scared and sometimes foaming at the mouth (Note: Believe me, folks, it’s true). Mostly, that my country is about to be led by someone who for the last year and a half I’ve considered a racist lunatic and who, with each passing day, makes statements, speeches, tweets and actions that only confirm those feelings tenfold.

Me, 90% of the time

Me, 90% of the time

It takes a certain kind of person to endure this kind of pressure with a combination of action, dignity and grace. People like Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) who said this week what the majority of us in the country are all thinking – that Trump is not a legitimate president because his election was illegitimate.

There is convincing evidence Russia significantly interfered with the election process, Rep. Lewis explained.   He and others also added that based on conversations with the FBI and others there is also apparently widespread suspicion and isolated pieces of mounting proof that members of Trump’s campaign, and perhaps the candidate himself, were willing and/or active participants in this swindle.

Courtesy of a Zurich based German language newspaper. #nailedit

Courtesy of a Zurich based German language newspaper. #nailedit

So for those many reasons, Rep. Lewis then announced he will not attend Trump’s inauguration in less than week. Nor will, following his announcement, a growing list of other members of Congress, who are pressing for an internal and/or external investigation into the election and Trump. One that they will likely get – in detail.

See, that’s exactly how action happens. Unvarnished, calm truths – elucidated by a few facts and plausible theories – followed up with a plan to resist, protest and create the change you want based on those truths.

Of course, Rep. Lewis marched with Dr. Martin Luther King at Selma in the 1960s fighting segregation, got his head beaten in by police, and nearly lost his life doing it. He’s bold, courageous and well trained.

trump712

Or as some put it “all talk.” #eyeroll #enough

But what’s the average passive scare-dy cat like me – and perhaps you — to do?

This brings us to INDIVISIBLE: A PRACTICAL GUIDE for RESISTING THE TRUMP AGENDA.  

Required reading #doit

Required reading #doit

It’s readable, smart and snappy and was written by former congressional staffers who wanted to chart out step-by-step, to us ordinary folks, the best ways to make Congress listen . You can read and/or download the breezy 26 page pamphlet here: indivisibleguide.com.

Think of it as Advocacy/Politics/Change for Dummies.

Indivisible has only been posted a matter of weeks and already there are Indivisible GROUPS springing up all over the country that use the short, printed guide as a jumping off point primer on how to get lawmakers to stop crazy people from hijacking the country you love.

How to become your own version of Mr. Smith

How to become your own version of Mr. Smith

No, I’m not apologizing for my words. I’m speaking to you – not to those who disagree with me or to those on the fence who I want to persuade. I have to be more polite to them to affect change. At least publicly. Which doesn’t mean I can’t be passionate, strong-minded and direct in their presence. Or scream, yell and curse when they’re not around.

See, that’s what I learned at one of the advocacy groups inspired by Indivisible I accidentally attended this weekend. Some weeks before a friend of mine saw one of my feverish political posts (Note: Or rants, or pick your applicable verb) on Facebook and realized my verve had potential but my methods could use some, um…honing (?) to get me to the next level. So he invited me to join him in a Saturday afternoon of “advocacy training” at someone’s house led by a professional.

Right. At first I didn’t want to go even though I realized I should. Then I considered the alternative – more foam. So I decided to join him. And then the day before the event – where I would be required to walk into a room full of all these strangers – my personal news oracle, Rachel Maddow, actually had one of the founders of the Indivisible Guide on her TV show reporting on the very type of event I had unknowingly agreed to attend the following day.

Jees, this sounds so smart, I thought. I should get involved in that but probably won’t. Little did I know I already had committed to do so and was about to.

I say all this not to pat myself on the back to encourage all of you to take a small step out of your comfort zone into unknown territory. You can still foam, or drink, or tune out and do nothing the rest of your time. But if you allow yourself, there is also room to create some sort of active plan to counteract all of your worst (or on some days, best) instincts.

In no particular order, here is some of what I re-learned, learned for the first time, or was astounded by in the course of my training:

— Did you know you get some of the best results talking to your member of Congress? They (okay, their office) will answer ALL constituent calls and log them. But be precise and direct. This is far more effective than emails or other correspondence, which are largely ignored.   And their local phone numbers are easily found on the web.

Real people, folks!

Real people, folks! #imaginethat

— ASK for a staffer in your rep’s office that handles the issue you are calling about.   These people are almost as important as your rep because they write all the legislation and do the grunt work. Also, ask for the scheduler in the office and when you’re ready you can get a meeting on the books with the staffer and eventually the rep. Go with up to four people, armed with a personal story on your “issue.” Prepare a few thoughts, facts and questions. Know your rep’s stance. But remember, you don’t have to be an expert. It’s more about forging an ongoing relationship with them on an issue(s) you care about. And note: NEVER mention you contributed money to their campaign. That sounds like you want quid pro quo. It’s much more powerful to be a constituent with friends in their district because that means you can en masse vote them out of office.

— If your rep AGREES with all your positions CALL THEM ANYWAY. They need to know you have their back and can use your ideas. In fact, they welcome it, particularly now when the going is tough. Also, attend any town halls they have in your district. You can find these out signing up for their newsletters.

Be part of the political human pyramid!

Be part of the political human pyramid!

— If you go to sites like majorityleader.gov or senate.gov you will get a calendar for a FULL YEAR that will tell you when you rep (actually, all of them) will be in your district and state and when they will be in Washington, DC working. Schedule calls and meetings accordingly. You can also go to congress.gov and check on what bills are in what committees and on which subjects.  Check out committees your specific rep is on and contact them about the issue.

— Become part of a local organization fighting for your cause because there is more strength in numbers. This doesn’t mean you turn your life over. You go to an event or two and do what you can in the beginning. Here are some sources and ideas:

Common Cause — I am particularly interested in investigating Trump and the election. This group is on the case and effective in holding elected officials accountable. They are also BI-PARTISAN. Commoncause.org

Citizen’s Climate Lobby – An effective group if you are particularly concerned with climate change. Citizensclimatelobby.org

Funny, but missing the point ;-)

Funny, but missing the point 😉

Facebook Groups:

— If you are a white person who is particularly concerned with racism towards non-whites try White People For Black Lives.

— If you want a simple task to do everyday that will make some difference join the group Rise When We Fall. They offer options and action plans. You can also get daily emails from them. Risewhenwefall.org

— Sign up for a google news alert about the activities or any Congress member of issue you want to know about. You can choose how often you get them. It’s a summary of the latest developments and a way to stay informed.

— If you want to take a step towards a Trump impeachment, demand your reps and others support a bi-partisan independent investigation into Russian/Trump activities in the 2016 presidential election. If there is an investigation done solely within the Senate, a distinct possibility, Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has the power to keep specific evidence, testimony and findings secret and you will NEVER KNOW the FULL STORY.

— If you are overwhelmed with issues and can’t choose one, you are not alone. Know most of us feel this way. Go to charity navigator and peruse many worthy causes. It is a guide on what organizations do and how to donate time or money. Spend some personal time soul searching and realize you cannot do it all. And that whatever you don’t choose, someone else somewhere will choose.

When it feels like this... remember you are not alone!

When it feels like this… remember you are not alone!

Finally, the woman who ran our workshop wisely pointed out that although often it’s quoted that all politics are local, what that really means is all politics is personal. She then hesitatingly offered us the quote often attributed to Russian leader Joseph Stalin (Note: Appropriate in the age of Trump) – the death of one person is a tragedy; the death of one million is a statistic.

Meaning –- this stuff is all personal and if you relate what is meaningful to you and yours it will carry more weight than you realize.

Though if Russian orthodoxy makes you uncomfortable at this point in time – and why wouldn’t it – think instead about what Mother Theresa once said:

If I look at the mass I will never act.

And then, yeah, act. Which in turn might bring you, just a little bit of hope.

Basket Case

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The iconography of the US represents freedom and diversity. Of course, this is theoretical. No icon, or its iconography, is 100% real. It’s an ideal to strive to at best. It’s a fictional image, at worst.   Still, and purely by comparison, it would not be an understatement to say that the United States does have more diversity and freedom than most places in the world and that those words, though not perfect, are as good as any to represent the principles upon which this country aspires to and was founded on.

You know.. those tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to be free #sheknows

You know.. those tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to be free #sheknows

This week is the 15th anniversary of 9-11, the day multiple terrorist attacks exploded the Twin Towers and Pentagon and caused 3000 plus lives to be immediately lost – not to mention the respective bombings, wars and various other mega-skirmishes spawned in its wake that cost the lives of tens of thousands of others.

That said, not a bad week to reflect on freedom and diversity in the U.S., wouldn’t you say?

Hillary Clinton stood up at a fundraiser this week and categorized HALF of the supporters of Donald Trump for president as being a basket of deplorables. She elaborated to define this group as Islamophobes, sexists, racists, homophobes and various other ists or obes. If you’ve been paying any attention at all you know who they are. The people who almost daily voice or post nasty remarks that categorize anyone who do not agree with them as anti-American or threaten and/or insult the dissenters by focusing on some element of their personal selves – be it race, sex, ethnicity or sexual preference.

Truly headline news

Truly headline news

If you’re not quite following or don’t agree, here’s some help. Examples of the latter would be things like calling Mexicans murderers and rapists; singling out Blacks as police haters who primarily live in poverty and are dangerous criminals who should go back to Africa; generally referring to most or even all Muslims as anti-American and advocating they all be thrown out of the US; coarsely categorizing women they don’t like in terms of their body parts, looks and FemiNazi tendencies; and condemning LGBT Americans as a corrupt influence on the general moral fabric of the country, particularly when it comes to raising children.

I’m not sure if these people make up 50% of Trump supporters. It could be slightly less. Or it could be significantly more if they were forced to take a lie detector test. Of course this is my opinion – but it’s supported with the thousands of articles and speeches on the presidential campaign I’ve heard or read about in the last year and a half.   And that’s more reading than Mr. Trump admittedly does himself.

Well.. that's if you don't count anything more than 140 characters

Well.. that’s if you don’t count anything more than 140 characters

What is surely true by any reasonable conclusion, based on what we see and read, is that the 50% number is at the very least in the ballpark. That said, I’d be willing to go as low as, say, 33 and a third in order to get my point across. I’ll bet I could even get the vast majority of us vs. them to agree on that.

Here’s the thing – you don’t bring a noodle to a gunfight.

Or as Sean Connery’s Malone tells Kevin Costner’s Elliot Ness re capturing gangster Al Capone in The Untouchables:

“He pulls a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. That’s the Chicago way.”

Donald Trump has in the last week praised Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un for their strong leadership and popularity in the polls of their respective countries –thoroughly ignoring that both rig pubic opinion by exiling or murdering dissenters, many of whom bear a resemblance to or are supporters of the types of people his aforementioned deplorables despise.

He also gave a speech this weekend where he proudly said all he cares about are making the best deals for the country and if this meant liking or acting like Russia, and North Korea it was immaterial to him.

Let freedom ring. And screw diversity while we’re at it. If we can get the equivalent of a $5,000,000 NY condo at the bargain basement price of diversity and/or freedom – hell, let’s live it up in gulag-like luxury. Who cares what it cost cause it won’t cost a lot.

Or will it?

Not everything is measurable in money and deals. I, for one, hate gold gilt. Nor was I ever partial to the color orange, except in juices. And tempting as it is to do a luxurious comb over, when you get to be a man of a certain age, I’m gay enough and manly enough to realize that living in truth, especially when it comes to your pate, will ultimately trump the illusion or perverse fantasy of imagining yourself as a 2016 Gorgeous George with a1970s Farrah ‘do in the long run. After all, there comes a moment when your control over time, not to mention your money, will cease and all that you’ll be left with is your actual mirror image. (Note: Ask Sumner Redstone).

I'm looking at you too, Larry.

I’m looking at you too, Larry.

Which is really the point. Some 15 years since the collapse of the Twin Towers what do we see? If we are to believe they hate us for our freedom, we still have to at least aspire to our principles, don’t we?

This starts with truth – not faux facts or fantasy beliefs. From both sides. It is not easy to run for election without offending someone or exposing oneself to inscrutable scrutiny. This means admitting you didn’t always do right when it came to drawing within the lines of each governmental guideline throughout your political career. And admitting your past and present mistakes. But more to the point it means you don’t lie, malign and slander whole ethnics groups, religions and even sexes when they dare to criticize you. Nor do you make up facts like whether you supported past wars or if you have any sort of plan at all for how you will govern (other than a secret one). Not to mention, it requires you to occasionally read a book, apologize when you misspeak and study the facts as they are – not how you wish them to be.

In short, it requires a look in the mirror.

Own your basket.

Is this Happening?

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What is our world coming to?

The new de facto leader of the Republican Party brags he wants to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. and limit the rights of other foreigners, such as the tens of thousands of Syrian refugees fleeing genocide in their native country, from ever getting inside our borders.

As a Jewish fellow, all I can say is good thing he wasn’t around when my grandparents entered the country. I’d have a whole different life. Or no life at all.

Here’s what it says on The Statue of Liberty, which at last glance still stands in New York Harbor:

Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

Maybe we take the Statue down in light of 9/11? Or just erase the words. After all, it was a gift from France. They probably wouldn’t mind because of what happened in Paris a few months ago, right?

We could replace it with a shiny gold building that looks like a Dunhill cigarette lighter. That’s Gloria Steinem’s analogy about Trump towers, not mine. Because, well, how can you say it better?

Jugs of Justice

Jugs of Justice

Apropos of something, I have another question. When Trump skipped the last debate before the Iowa primary on Thursday, he claimed to have instead spearheaded an event that raised $6 million for our wounded war veterans through his website. But the only donation link on his website was to his Trump Foundation, which the PUBLIC TRUST(s) will go to our vets. But if this is so, can’t he still get some sort of personal TAX DEDUCTION from it? It’s His Foundation, right?

Any accountants out there know how to maneuver cash as a deduction amid all of the full legal slime written on a multi-billionaire’s federal tax return? Cause every little bit counts – that’s how you get and stay rich to begin with – so I’d love to get a full reading on this. That would be my American Dream at the moment. Assuming anyone could out-maneuver him or his money. Hillary? Bill? Bernie? Bueller? Anyone???

Sorkin, can you hear meeeee?

Sorkin, can you hear meeeee?

A friend of mine wrote on Facebook last week that he doesn’t see how discrimination and exclusion can be remedied by discrimination and exclusion. Okay, he was referring to the Oscars and how under the Motion Picture Academy’s new rules to remedy #OscarsSoWhite people like the lesbian female writer of Nine to Five; one of the biggest child star actors of the sixties and seventies; and another woman who was a pioneering animator back in the day, would have their voting rights stripped despite many decades of membership that always guaranteed voting. Where do these new Academy rule makers think they are – Florida? Don’t they remember that almost a decade ago, they gave Al Gore the Oscar?

Um... no no... we're good

Um… no no… we’re good

Of course Donald Trump’s frontrunner status can be compared to Oscar voting. To quote the words Mel Brooks’ character of Hitler sings in his megahit musical The Producers:

The thing you’ve got to know is…

Everything is show biz….

After which point he sings:   Heil myself, Heil to me….

Ring a bell – or lighter – yet?

#HomerKnows

#HomerKnows

Try explaining the current state of our affairs to small classrooms full of 21 year olds as I attempted this week. Sure, these were writing classes, not political ones, but to be a good writer one needs to draw from real life. Which means an understanding of human behavior in the world as it exists is essential in order to convincingly portray anything remotely recognizable in your made up world.

Somewhere along the line I got flummoxed and actually found myself reduced to phrases like:

It wasn’t always like this.

Or –

Yes, it was crazy, but never this crazy.

And then finally –

No, I’m not sure this is a joke. So why are we all laughing? Well, um, good question!

In the end I’m not sure I did any good at all. I was only hoping at that point, not to make it all seem any worse than it already is.

Me, every 10 seconds

Me, every 10 seconds

Fortunately, teachers are not held to the same standards as doctors. First Do No Harm dictates the Hippocratic oath. Yeah, right, that wasn’t happening.

I can’t blame any of this on the Trumpless Republican debate because I wasn’t watching, Instead, that night I was actually teaching one of these mini-groups. But unfortunately in an effort for clarity I recorded the damned thing and perused the highlights several days later.

Insert "Elephant in the Room" pun here

Insert “Elephant in the Room” pun here

Here are some, courtesy of the Washington Post and my viewing brain:

Jeb Bush: Look, I am in the establishment because my dad, the greatest man alive was president of the United States and my brother, who I adore as well as fantastic brother, was president.

Retired neurosurgeon Dr. Carson: I’ve had more two a.m. phone calls than everybody here put together, making life and death decisions, put together very complex teams to accomplish things that have never been done before.

Sen. Ted Cruz: I would note that that the last four questions have been, “Rand, please attack Ted. Marco, please attack Ted. Chris, please attack Ted. Jeb, please attack Ted…” Let me just say this…

Moderator: … It is a debate, sir.

DO NOT LOOK DIRECTLY INTO HIS EYES!!!

DO NOT LOOK DIRECTLY INTO HIS EYES!!!

Another Moderator: Can you name even one thing that the federal government does now that it should not do at all?

Gov. Chris Christie: How about one that I’ve done in New Jersey for the last six years. That’s get rid of Planned Parenthood funding from the United States of America.

Moderator: Anything bigger than that?

Christie: Bigger than that? Let me tell you something, when you SEE thousands upon thousands upon thousands of children being murdered in the womb, I can’t think of anything better than that. 

Sen. Marco Rubio: Well, let me be clear about one thing, there’s only one savior and it’s not me. It’s Jesus Christ who came down to earth and died for our sins..Because in the end, my goal is not simply to live on this earth for 80 years, but to live an eternity with my creator. And I will always allow my faith to influence everything I do.

Walk the walk, Rubio

Walk the walk, Rubio

Oy vey iz mir, as my grandmother used to say. How can this be happening? I have no idea. And I am more confused than ever. But luckily, I’ve never been intimidated by Dunhill lighters. I’ve always thought they were tacky. And the people who used them dumbasses.   And I’ve never been afraid to say so.

Neither should you.

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