Sorry, No, Not quite

My dear friend, whose parents were Holocaust survivors, and who is also a Jewish lesbian married to a blonde, native-born German woman both she and I and my husband adore, told me to write about this.

Not that I wouldn’t have.

The this is one of thousands of takeaways I had the day after watching the hours-long live stream of what now looks like approximately 5000 (mostly) White domestic terrorists storming the doors of Capitol Hill more than a week ago.

But first a Quick Recap of Their Mission:

To HANG MIKE PENCE!, kidnap and/or murder House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and stop the count of the Electoral College votes that were about to ratify Joe Biden as our new president.

All so they could ultimately… keep Donald J. Trump in the White House?

Still… trying… to… understand

Yeah, as crazy, unlikely and run-on-of-a-sentence-and-scheme all of the above would seem, especially to friends of mine who died in the eighties and nineties, every bit of it is true.  

What is also true is the cornucopia of crazy among the crowd.  A veritable live basket of the very same metaphorical deplorables that Hillary Clinton got castigated for calling out, say, some 1000 years ago at this point.

She won’t say “I told you so” but we know… we know.

You had the conspiracy theorists and the racists.  The amateur militia men and women playing dress-up, as well as the real-life former, present or retired men and women of the military and/or law enforcement who decided, well, enough is enough with the rule of law they’d spent most of their lives defending. There are some things that are simply worth dying and defacing for.

There were also the tourists there for a good time taking selfies, the scatological freaks who wanted to relieve themselves somewhere in the Capitol Rotunda so they’d have a story to tell their grandchildren (Note: What other reason COULD there be???), as well as any number of regular people that like to blow off steam at massive Trump rallies, especially ones where he says he’s going to fight along with them but fails to deliver on his promise (Note:  Are there any other kind?)

Easy to identify because they have a uniform

And then, somewhere in this very large and very motley group, because why wouldn’t they be, were the Jew haters.

Now I’m not saying there weren’t haters of many other stripes and colors worth noting.  But with so much hate boiling over so many in the US citizenry these days it’s surprising that I, Jew that I am, wouldn’t take this for granted. 

For when it comes to attempted executions and hate-filled rhetoric in a White nationalist revolution, we Jewish people have a permanent place on the menu.

No need… we know how this goes.

It’s like I know it, and yet, I sometimes forget, what with all my other offensive identities during the Trump years.  These include:

  1. A gay man from New York
  2. Who lives in Hollywood
  3. And alternately works as both a screenwriter AND as a college professor
  4. After being trained as a journalist and starting out as a reporter, nee member of the fake media
  5. A person who is and always will be a liberal Democrat, NEVER hesitates to share that with anyone and is ALWAYS up for an argument
My own version of a Golden Ticket!

Any one of these could probably get me trampled, pummeled, kidnapped or killed at any Trump event.  But add Jew to the mix at an insurrection and, well… it’s practically overkill.

So when I got a glimpse at the photo now seen round the world of the Jew-hating Trump supporter wearing a sweatshirt emblazoned with the words CAMP AUSCHWITZ (Note: the renowned Nazi concentration camp) along with the sub-heading, WORK BRINGS FREEDOM, the English translation of the expression tacked right above the gate of the camp that tens of thousands of Jews entered but never exited from, is it any wonder all I could think of to do was roll my eyes and sigh,

Really, is THAT the best you can do?????

Full Miranda moment

It’s not that the man and his outerwear are not disgusting and outrageous but the truth is that just felt soooooo 1950s, standing there in a sweatshirt that was just that plain dumb and that plain uninspired. 

Where did you buy that, at the Third Reich outlet store in Boise?  Or Alexandria?  Is it poly cotton or all polyester?  Like we don’t know what you’re trying to do.

Sure there’s an element (well more than an element) of danger about it, but there’s not as much safety to be had these days as there used to be.  The key is to speak out to the imminent threat but to do so in a way, and with the folks and at the time, it will be the most effective… and most worth it.

It made me think of the incident writer-humorist Fran Lebowitz recently recounted in the great seven-episode limited Netflix documentary series her friend Martin Scorsese just directed about her, Pretend It’s A City.

Maybe the only person they’d hate more than me

Sometime in the eighties or nineties there became renewed interest in Nazi propagandist filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl, whose fetishized images of the Third Reich and Hitler in such technically innovative films like Triumph of the Will and Olympia, began to be rediscovered and re-examined in light of her talents as a female filmmaking pioneer.

So much so that Ms. Riefenstahl had traveled to New York City, where a member of the artist crowd Fran knew invited her to a small dinner party he was planning to have with, um Leni, in attendance.

I have no interest in having dinner with her, Fran (LEBOWITZ) cuttingly replied.  And when he tried to get her to admit Leni was a great artist and how could she blah, blah, blah, she reiterated –

I. HAVE. NO. INTEREST. IN. HAVING. DINNER. WITH. HER.

It needed to be repeated #icant

It’s like arguing Hitler was a brilliant politician and for that reason alone he’d be worth a chat.

Or if Trump manages to avoid jail in his post-presidency and somewhere down-the-line he tries to get re-examined and re-invited back into mainstream acceptance, well maybe we can learn something from being in his presence again that we couldn’t discern on our own.

Can you even imagine?

Though one can’t help but wonder what would that inevitable dinner party look like?  Who would attend?  It certainly wouldn’t be any of the types just seen barnstorming Capitol Hill.  They are not how you rehabilitate an image.  They are simply an inconvenient truth.

Speaking of which, Trump’s alternative fact master, the very nimble though not a smidge more sincere Kellyanne Conway, proved this as a guest on Real Time with Bill Maher Friday night,the first stop on her mainstream rehabilitation tour.

Revealing it has been 8-9 months since she’s done a TV interview, to which Mr. Maher politely thanked her for choosing him because she had soooo many choices, the two paired for a cutesy old friends fest of polite jabs, fun times (Note: Remember that red, white and blue suit KCon wore to Trump’s inauguration – Bill loved it!) and gentle political banter.

Nope… no thank you… please go now.

Not only was it off-brand for the usually prickly Mr. Maher, it felt like the first step towards another type of revisionist history.  This would be a 21st century version of rehabilitation for yet another woman who, for reasons only truly known to herself, chose to employ her talent to promote a white male sociopathic political leader intent on bending the world to His Will and taking down anyone, and any country, including his own, in his way.

There should be no dinner parties, no Dancing with the Stars appearances and certainly no intellectual reexamination of anyone from those patently obvious end times we’ve just barely managed to live through.

Never forget this shanda

Instead we might consider justice through a series of trials for all those culpable like they did in Ms. Riefenstahl’s days, as well as the re-adoption of that age old, timeless slogan Never Again as we all attempt to pick up the pieces of our country and truly soldier on.

I know that’s this Jew’s plan.

The Chicks – “Not Ready to Make Nice”

Check out the Chair’s newest project, Pod From a Chair , now available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify!

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