As I listen to the droning of the impeachment trial, I have one deep, heartfelt wish.
I wish, oh, how desperately I wish, that the US Senate contained one truly inspiring orator.
Not a person who can repeat the same details over and over, in something close to a monotone. Not a person who can make one of the most mind-blowing events in our nation’s history seem as interesting as having your grampa read the phone book.
I wish for a real, live, Frank Capra inspired, Jimmy Stewart style oration.
This is what I want to be hearing from the Democrats today:
Dear colleagues, friends, fellow members of this august body,
I stand before you today not to repeat to you the same words that you have read and heard for months now. I stand before you, not to spin the facts or to impress the voters.
No. I am here now, on this most serious of days, to remind you of who you used to be.
I ask you, my friends, to look back into your own lives. I ask you to remember that moment when you heard for the very first time about the courageous events that took place in Lexington and Concord. When you first imagined the raw courage of the men, and the boys, who stood firm in the face of tyranny, knowing that they might give their lives in the name of democracy.
I ask you to cast your thoughts back to the moment when you first decided to run for public office. On that day, in that moment, did you not whisper to yourself that you would do your very best to serve your country with courage and honesty?
My fellow Senators, I ask you today to recall the moment when you raised your right hand and swore your allegiance to the Constitution of the United States. I ask you to think back and to remember your thoughts as you took your oath of office.
Didn’t you hope, somewhere in your deepest heart, that you would have the courage to emulate those famous men of the past? Did you not look out at your children, your spouse, your parents, and hope that you would somehow manage to make your mark on the history of this great nation?
Today we are faced with a situation unlike any we have seen before. Our country has found itself nearly torn in two, unable to agree on what is true, what is real, what is fact.
We find ourselves aligning behind the letter that follows our names. Am I a “D” or am I an “R”? We find ourselves under terrible pressure to shape the events of the day in a way that will best support our parties.
Dear colleagues. I have worked with many of you for years. I know you to be honest, sincere and dedicated to the ongoing prosperity of our country. A country that we all love and that we all share.
I ask you, today, as we look at the evidence that has been laid out before us, to think about your hopes and your dreams when you were sworn in. Did you not tell yourselves that in a moment of crisis you would plant yourself firmly on the side of truth?
Did you not hope that one day, perhaps a hundred years from now, your name would be recorded in the history books as one of those brave souls who stood up against the corrupt power of a tyrant?
Think about those dreams, my friends. Look to the future.
What is it that you want your grandchildren to read about you in their history books? Do you want them to read that you were one of the many who averted their eyes as the honor and integrity of the United States were sold to the highest bidder?
Or do you want to go down in the annals of history as one of the brave few who was willing to make a sacrifice to ensure that the heart and soul of the American nation would survive?
I trust you, my friends, to do what you know in your hearts is right.
Yeah. I know. This isn’t giving evidence. It wouldn’t be allowed.
But don’t you wish we could have heard it today? If not from Jimmy Stewart, then maybe from Adam Schiff?
I’ve been a Red Sox fan since June of 1967. That was when my fifth grade teacher took our class to Fenway Park for a night game. I don’t remember who the Sox played that night, but I remember that the game went into extra innings, and that Tony Conigliaro hit a home run in the bottom of the tenth to win it.
I also remember that the picture of Tony C. in the program was about the cutest thing I’d ever seen in my life and my first real crush was born.
As was my life as a Red Sox fan.
If you follow baseball at all, you’ll know that the Boston team used to be famous for it’s inability to win. Year after year, we Sox fans would cheer ourselves hoarse in the spring and cry ourselves hoarse in the fall.
That all changed in October of 2004, when the Sox finally overturned the curse that had plagued them for 86 years. They won the World Series.
All of New England celebrated that victory. We were beyond thrilled, beyond excited, beyond proud. You would have thought that every one of us had pitched in the playoffs!
What made things even sweeter for us was that in order to make it into the World Series, our beloved boys has beaten the despised New York Yankees.
All year long, all through the 2004 season, and for several years afterward, everyone in New England talked about how much we hated the Yankees.
I remember how everyone talked about the two teams. Our guys were “The Idiots”; the Yankees were the “Evil Empire.” We adored the relaxed, fun feeling of our team. So they drank in the clubhouse, so what? We were charmed by the antics of Johnny Damon, chuckling at the image of his naked pull-ups.
And we all knew, deep in our very souls, that A-Rod was weak, whining and pitiful. We loathed Derek Jeter, who we considered to be cold, emotionaless. An automaton with no soul. Don’t even get me started on what we thought of Joe Torre, a manager as sour as our own Terry Francona was sweet.
Curt Schilling? Our brave hero!
Mariano Rivera? A fool.
And on and on it went. It was kind of fun, you know? Our shared adoration for one team and shared hatred for the other gave us a sense of belonging. It gave us a feeling of safety and security. It gave us a sense that we were a clan, protected by our loyalty to ourselves.
It was only during one of the off seasons that it occurred to me that we were being a little closed minded. I listened to an interview with Derek Jeter on XM Radio. I was surprised to realize that the man was articulate, intelligent, warm and funny.
And then I was surprised at my own surprise.
I am embarrassed at how long it took me to realize that just because a guy wore a Red Sox jersey, I couldn’t assume that he was a prince. The whole “team” thing was really only about baseball games, not character.
When all was said and done, Curt Schilling turned out to be someone I wouldn’t want to sit next to on a bus, while Derek Jeter is a guy I’ve truly come to admire.
So what does all this have to do with politics, you ask?
It’s the whole “Vote Blue No Matter Who” thing, that’s what. It’s the way that we immediately write off anyone who watches a different cable news channel than we do.
I know it can be fun to laugh at those memes about how stupid the “sheep” are because they can’t “think for themselves.” But this stuff is only funny when “our” side is saying it about “their” side. When the barb is turned around and aimed at “us”, we bristle and comfort ourselves by saying how hateful the other side is.
Here’s the thing: I have really strong political views. I’m a far left, progressive, Medicare-for-all, tuition-free-public-college, hippy snowflake. It would be really easy for me to pick a team.
But I’m no longer willing to assume that every other liberal thinker is a saint and every conservative a sinner. “We” aren’t smarter than “they” are. “We” aren’t kinder, or more gentle, or more deserving.
And we are NOT a team.
I don’t think of the political parties as teams. I don’t think of their followers as teams. I now realize that everyone who wears my favorite uniform isn’t a good guy and everyone who wears the other jersey isn’t criminal. I am no longer willing to vote for a candidate just because there is a D next to their name.
I have finally realized that I won’t be pitching in the playoffs. In fact, I know now that this isn’t actually a game and that I’m not bound by clan loyalty to help one team come out on top.
Because we live (at least theoretically) in a democracy, I am free to cast my vote for whichever candidate I prefer.
Many people experience panic attacks at some point in their lives. The symptoms can include a racing heart, shortness of breath, dizziness and chest pain. People in the throes of a panic attack may feel like they are dying. Many end up rushing to the hospital, where serious physical issues can be ruled out.
Last week, President Donald Trump made a sudden, unplanned visit to Walter Reed Hospital, amid all kinds of speculation about what was wrong. Theories ranged from a heart attack to a fear that Trump had been poisoned.
The official White House explanation was that the President had a little extra time on his hands, so he “got a head start” on his annual physical. The physical that is not due until February.
Skepticism about this explanation was everywhere.
On CNN’s Reliable Sources yesterday, Dr. Sanjay Gupta reported that Trump’s doctor accompanied him in the car to the hospital. He stated that having a doctor ride along beside the President is highly unusual, especially for “routine tests”.
Further, Dr. Gupta said that the tests reportedly done on the President during his two hour visit to the hospital could easily have been done at the White House. He also questioned why this visit, unlike past Presidential “check-ups” didn’t include an announcement to staff, the closure of local roads or the closure of key hospital wings.
The President was only at the hospital for about two hours, which means that there were no signs of serious physical health issues. They checked him out, then sent him home.
All of this made me wonder: Could President Trump have experienced a panic attack?
There is certainly enough pressure on the man to have caused one, with the ongoing Ukraine scandal and impeachment proceedings.
This theory seems plausible to me, although I am neither a doctor nor a mental health professional.
This morning I read that the President is doing less and less work in the Oval Office. Instead, he prefers to remain in the residence, where he is insulated from most staff.
Again, this leads me to wonder about the President’s state of mind. Why does he feel like he needs to isolate himself? Is he afraid of leaks? Of spies?
Or is he afraid of another major panic attack, like so many people who have suffered through one of these terrifying events?
I don’t know.
But I sure do wonder.
And I am more than a little worried. For all of us.
Donald Trump and his good buddies seem to be having a really hard time figuring out how to address the question of whether or not there was a quid pro quo in the Ukraine situation. I mean, its kind of amusing to watch them bouncing around trying to figure how to talk about it.
“There was no quid pro quo!“
Trump has said it, Giuliani has said it, Mulvaney, Sondland, Pence. They’re all saying it.
Until they get confused and say something entirely different. Something along the lines of “Sure we refused to give Ukraine any money until they did what we wanted. We do that all the time!”
But “There was no quid pro quo!”
The problem, of course, is that the phrase ‘quid pro quo’ means “The giving of one valuable thing for another.”
Why are the Trumpsters having such trouble with this phrase?
I have a thought about that.
I think it goes something like this:
There’s Donald, seated behind the “resolute desk”, seething and stewing about Hillary’s emails and Pelosi’s walkout. He grinds his teeth, glances up at the TV, then hits the call button on his desk.
“Bring me my quid pro quo!”, he snarls.
“Sir?” the befuddled secretary asks.
“My quid pro quo! Bring it to me! I’m pretty sure it’s in my sock drawer.”
“Just do it!”
A hasty conversation ensues between the frantic secretary and the Acting Chief of Staff. Mulvaney enters the Oval.
“Mr. President,” he begins.
“I want my quid pro quo. I heard that many past Presidents have refused to use theirs. I heard that some people say you can’t use it. But I’m gonna use mine!! I want my quid pro quo. I’m gonna use that thing so much, like the world has never seen! It’s made gold, right?”
“Ah….well, see, it isn’t actually an object, sir. A quid pro quo is a Latin phrase. I think it means something about withholding food from foreign guests.”
“That’s it! We’ll quid pro quo the shit out of them!!! We invite Shifty Schiff and Screamin’ Nancy over for dinner, and then……bam!!! We refuse to give them cake!!!”
“Sir, I don’t…….”
“We’ll see who wins the quid pro quo then, won’t we?”
He gleefully rubs his hands together.
Mulvaney walks out, scratching his head and muttering, “no, it means foreign guests……”
An hour later, Rudy Giuliani appears on CNN, his beady little eyes darting left and right as he waits for Chris Cuomo to introduce him.
When Cuomo asks about the quid pro quo, Giuliani starts to spit out words as fast as he can think of them.
“Here’s the thing, here’s the thing, why aren’t we looking into the DNC and what they did and Joe Biden and Hunter, here’s the thing, there was no quid pro quo! There was golf and there was talking about it, great talking, talking and it was on the phone, and yes, why aren’t we investigating Crooked Hillary because she probably asked the Ukrainians to hide her own quid pro quo, who by the way, was here illegally while golfing with Bill Clinton and anyway, everyone had cake!”
Cuomo looks immediately outraged and begins to shout over Giuliani which makes the little lawyer twitch and spit.
It made the rest of us turn off the set and pour a drink.
I wish this story seemed a little more farfetched.
I like the way Mark Twain described patriotism. He said, “Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.”
Lately, the word ‘patriotism’ has been tossed around by both Democrats and Republicans as a way to paint themselves as the good guys and their opponents as the evildoers.
You know what I mean, right?
Trump claims that progressive Democrats “hate America”. He tells them that if they are so critical of our country, they should just leave. I don’t know about you, but I remember hearing similar sentiments from Republicans in the past, when the left was critical of various wars and regime building exercises. Feel free to leave if you don’t like it here with us!
We all know people who fly flags to show how patriotic they are. They wear red, white and blue shirts and sport “America First” hats.
And I don’t mean to point fingers at the Republicans alone, either. We have plenty of Democrats who are trying to seize the moral high ground. Maxine Waters demanded not long ago that Republicans must “prove their patriotism” in the age of Donald Trump.
So what is patriotism?
Is it blind loyalty to a piece of cloth? Or loyalty to a chunk of soil? Is it devotion and total acceptance of one politician, or one party, or one economic philosophy?
I say no.
I say this: Patriotism is the belief that my country is a place where people can live well and prosper. It is a determination to make that claim true.
So I will no longer register as either a D or an R. I won’t automatically support the person with the D or the R after their name on the ballot.
I will be a patriot by doing everything I can to make my tiny part of this huge world safer and kinder for as many people as possible.
My patriotism, from this day on, will be shown by listening to people with whom I disagree. It will be shown by donating to my local Community Action Committee. By donating towels and shampoo to the homeless shelter and volunteering at the hospital.
I’m a patriot because I believe that humans are the only part of the country that means anything. Humans need food and homes and clothes and jobs. Humans need education and health care. They need a sense of belonging and of a shared destiny.
Humans need to be able to raise their kids without fear. They need to be able to go through every day focused on the next meal and the upcoming holiday and the weather.
They need to be protected from the dangers of war, or xenophobia, or mass killings, of extreme poverty and sickness.
I’m a patriot when I greet the new cashier at my local grocery store, admire her bright red hijab and ask her what country she’s from. I’m a patriot when she and I share recipes for bone broth and wish each other a good weekend. I’m a patriot when I turn off the never-ending partisan blather about impeachment, corruption, lies, lawbreaking and who is less of a patriot than whom. When I turn on music and sing with my grandkids. I’m a patriot when I teach them how to make the Italian foods that I learned at my own Nana’s table and when we research new recipes together from countries we’ve never seen. I’m a patriot when I meet a Mom at the local park and learn that she came to Massachusetts from West Africa and we both hate the same ice-sleet storms that plague New England in late winter.
I’m reminded of a line from one of my favorite movies, “The American President.” The girlfriend of the President is upset with him because he doesn’t stand up to his opponent, who keeps bashing the people who do support him. She says, “How can you keep quiet? How do you have patience for people who claim they love America but clearly can’t stand Americans?”
I’d like both of our ruling parties to think about this quote. If you can’t stand half of us because we disagree with you, then you don’t “love America”. You are not a patriot.
WE are America. You either love us all, govern us all, protect us all, or you are clearly no patriot. And you are not fit for public office.
At the time we thought it was just his hugely inflated ego speaking, but now it looks like he was right.
Watching the latest evidence of corruption, lawbreaking, lying and stonewalling from the White House it has become evident that there is nothing Trump could do to provoke a reaction strong enough to get him out of there.
It’s obvious that no one in the GOP has any intention of turning against “their guy.” And it is not because they have such respect for the man.
Lindsay Graham, one of the best known and most respected Republicans in the Senate, called Trump a “kook” before he was nominated in 2016. After abruptly leaving the House of Representatives, former Speaker Paul Ryan said this about Trump:
I told myself, I got to have a relationship with this guy to help him get his mind right. Because, I’m telling you, he didn’t know anything about government.
One after another, nearly all of the conservatives chosen to work in the Trump administration have either been fired or have walked away from the chaos in the White House.
But other than one or two minor actors in the GOP (Just Amash, Jeff Flake), no Republicans have stepped up to admit that Donald Trump is unfit for the highest office in the land.
Instead, they are choosing to circle the proverbial wagons and stick together to protect their party’s interests.
As infuriating as that behavior is, however, I find it more upsetting that it is taking the Democrats so long to take action against this President.
It seems glaringly obvious that a strong case could be made for the 25th Amendment. There is the strong evidence of a neurological disorder on display every time the President speaks. There are the hundreds of mental health professionals who are convinced that Trump shows a serious personality disorder that makes him a danger to the world.
And then there are the daily lies, the refusal to allow anyone in his circle to testify before Congress, the complete contempt for the rule of law.
From where most of us sit, there is plenty to work with if the Dems decide to proceed with impeachment.
So what is it that makes Speaker Pelosi so reluctant to take any action against Trump? What is it that has the Democratic leadership insisting that “we must have all the facts” before proceeding with an inquiry intended to elicit those very facts?
It sure isn’t a love of the Constitution, that much I know for sure.
In Article II, Section 4 of that famous founding document, the case for removing a President from office reads like this:
“The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors”.
There is nothing in these words to indicate that the decision to impeach should be based on the likelihood of getting a conviction. Nowhere in the Constitution does it suggest that the House of Representatives should initiate impeachment proceedings only if they are positive they’ll succeed in ousting the target of the process.
Nevertheless, that seems to be the thinking among the Democratic leadership.
“We can’t go ahead with impeachment,” the thinking goes, “because the Senate won’t vote to convict and remove the President. That would mean a failure for our party, and we might lose seats in the next election.”
In other words, it doesn’t matter how many high crimes and misdemeanors the President commits, we won’t hold him accountable because that would cause our party to lose votes.
The GOP is only interested in protecting the reputation of the party. They want to hold onto the Senate more than they want to save the republic from a crook (or a “kook”.)
The Dems are only interested in protecting their votes in the next election. They want to hold onto the House and flip some Senate seat more than they want to save the republic from a mentally ill, unstable, possibly demented narcissist.
To put it another way, it no longer matters how crazy, how criminal, how dangerous the actions of any future President may be.
As long as that President is a member of the same party that controls the Senate, they will be free to do anything they’d like to do without any worry.
Including, presumably, shooting someone on Fifth Avenue.
The Founding Fathers must be spinning in their graves.
So before you go accusing me of being a super boring politics nerd, I have to tell you that I don’t watch C-SPAN all that often. I mean, sure. Sometimes I tune in to the morning show where the obviously sedated extremely calm host takes calls from both right and left as they discuss the topics of the day.
But I rarely watch actual Congressional hearings.
Today, however, my close friend told me that her daughter-in-law would be giving testimony, and would be on the live coverage. That sounded pretty exciting to me, so I tuned in right at 10AM to see her give her professional and well respected opinion on issues of national security.
I clicked on the set and was both surprised and nauseated to find myself listening to the brain melting drone of Mitch McConnell as he scolded the Democrats for not passing a spending bill.
Oh, the hypocrisy.
I switched over to C-SPAN2, where I was forced to endure a series of Congressmen moaning and gnashing their teeth over the terrible danger that vaping is posing to our youth. One after the other, they got up to declare (with surprisingly straight faces) that they will NOT stand by and simply DO NOTHING while the health and safety of our youth are at risk!
Each one sounded more sincere then the one before. If you didn’t know any better, you would have thought that this was group of national leaders who would do just about anything to stop a classroom full of six years old from being shredded into bits by a crazed gunman.
I kept flipping the channels back and forth, hoping to see my friend’s smart and articulate DIL.
Instead I was treated to a bunch of wrinkly old white men complaining and whining about the other wrinkly old white men who weren’t playing fair. “They won’t follow the rules!” was followed by “THEY won’t follow the rules!”
The language was most likely more sophisticated than what I am offering here, but this old retired elementary school teacher knew exactly what she was hearing.
Having mediated at least 1,000 recess and classroom disputes in my career, I know that what I was hearing was this:
“I want to play it MY way!”
“But I want to play MY way!”
“No, me!” “No, me!”
“You’re a doody pants!”
“He called me a doody pants! YOUR a doody poopy pants!!!!”
It was…..ridiculous. It was absurd. It was disgusting and demoralizing and it was validating.
It was proof positive that this country absolutely must move beyond the two entrenched, corporate parties.
Otherwise I fear that no one will ever have a chance to listen to the wisdom of those who actually run things every day. Instead we will be left with the choice of tuning out completely or subjecting ourselves to the worst juvenile behavior that any fifth grader could even imagine.
Let me introduce myself, if you haven’t read my work before now..
I am a retired speech/language pathologist. For more than two decades, I spent every workday diagnosing and treating language disorders. I have helped people with a wide variety of communication deficits. I was very good at my job.
That’s why, in spite of the fact that I’ve been out of the field for several years, I am completely confident when I write that Donald Trump is exhibiting a serious language disorder.
Let me explain.
A deficit in expressing and/or understanding language is called aphasia.The term is most often used in diagnosing people who were not born with the disorder, but who acquire it later in life. Aphasia can be caused by a head injury, a stroke or as a part of a more significant cognitive decline in older adults.
One aspect of aphasia impacts a person’s expressive language. This is the kind of language disorder that is more obvious to those who interact with the affected patient. The person struggles to say what they mean. They may have difficulties in expressing ideas logically and specifically They might be seen to be searching for the right word as they speak. Many aphasic people develop an overreliance on empty words and phrases. I have known patients who included a favorite phrase or two into nearly every sentence spoken, as the rote language makes it easier to get out a full thought.
Some aphasic people make up words when they can’t find the one they need. The new word might or might not sound similar to the one that is missing.
People with expressive aphasia sometimes substitute one word or phrase for a similar one (ie, saying “chicken” when they mean “duck” or saying, “off the book” instead of “off the hook.”) Their conversations may seem rambling, with rapid jumps from one topic to another without any explanation. A story can go off on any number of tangents, leaving the listener confused.
Many people with what we call “fluent aphasia” can string together a long series of words that seem to make sense until you realize that there isn’t much content there. There are lots of pronouns and adjectives, but not enough nouns to make the meaning clear.
Aphasia can impact receptive language, or comprehension, as well. Aphasic people may struggle to follow complex conversations. They often misunderstand directions or fail to grasp the meaning of a question they’ve been asked. They find it confusing when more than one person is speaking at a time, or when the topic shifts in mid-conversation.
Some people with aphasia have problems with reading and writing. They may struggle to read anything other than the simplest of texts. Their writing can contain mistakes in syntax, word order or spelling that weren’t seen in the past.
Does this sound familiar to you? It certainly should.
The President of the United States is showing every one of these symptoms.
“Mr. President, are you demanding that the fed chairman lower interest rates?”
“No, I don’t demand it but if he used his head he’d lower ’em. In Germany, they have a zero interest rate and we do compete. Much stronger than Germany but we do compete with Germany. In Germany, they have a zero interest rate. And when they borrow money, when you look at what happens, look at what’s going on over there. They borrow money, they actually get paid to borrow money. And we have to compete with that. So, ah, if you look at what’s happening around the world, Jay Powell and the Federal Reserve have totally missed the call, I was right and just about everybody admits that. I was right. He did quantitative tightening, he shouldn’t have done that. He raised interest rates too fast, too furious. And we have a normalized rate, I, we call it that. And now we have to go the other direction. We’ll see if he does that. If he does it, you’ll see a rocket ship, you’ll see….. And if he doesn’t, we have a very strong economy.”
“But we could have. We could be, we could be in a place that this nation was seldom at if we had interest rates cut by the federal reserve. The Federal Reserve has let us down. They missed the call. They raised it too fast and they raised it too high and they did quantitative tightening and they shouldn’t have done the tightening and they shouldn’t have raised them to the extent that they did. We could have had some raising but nothing like what they did.”
“Mr. President, what happened to your strong appetite for background checks?”
“Oh, I have an appetite for background checks, we’re gonnna be doing background checks. We’re working with Democrats, we’re working with Republicans. We already have very strong background checks but we’re gonna be filling in some of the loopholes, as we call them at the border, and speaking about at the border, it would be really nice if the Democrats would indeed fix the loopholes because it would be really nice. But despite that, I want to thank Mexico. They have 26,000 soldiers at our border and they’re really stopping people from coming in.”
“But what does that have to do with background checks and guns?”
“So what happens is….with background checks….we’re dealing with Republicans, we’re dealing with Democrats, we’re dealing with the NRA, we’re dealing with gun owners, we’re dealing with everybody. And I think we’re gonna have something hopefully that’s meaningful.”
Note the repetition of phrases in this small sample. “We’re dealing with” and “we’re working with” were used over and over, with no description or clarification. Does he mean that he is meeting with those groups, or that he is making deals with them or something else? My impression is the President relies heavily on memorized phrases, which are easy to pull out and use.
Watch any of Trump’s unscripted remarks and try to count how many times he says, “We’ll see what happens.”
Note the word “raising” in the phrase “We could have had some raising.” The meaning is clear, but the word choice is troubling to this language specialist. We would expect the President of the US to say, “We could have had an increase.”
I’m sure you also noticed the rapid and inexplicable jump from the topic of background checks to that of the Mexican army at the border. It’s as if the word “loopholes” triggered a thought of the border crisis for some reason and that thought let made Trump jump completely off the track of the question.
Look at the discussion of Germany. Trump says,
“In Germany, they have a zero interest rate and we do compete. Much stronger than Germany but we do compete with Germany.”
What’s much stronger than Germany? We can make a guess that he’s referring to our economy, but the language of the sentence is clearly abnormal. In English, we don’t use a comparative like “much stronger” without including the referent.
Then there is the repeated phrase “missed the call”. We have a few idioms that are close to this one (“missed the boat” or “missed the mark” come to mind.) But we don’t say “missed the call” unless we mean a phone call. Or we’re referring to a sports referee.
Do you recall when the President recently met with religious refugees in the Oval Office? The following exchange happened between Trump and a young Yazidi woman.
“All this happened to me. They killed my Mum, my six brothers, they left behind them… “
“Where are they now?”
“They killed them.”
She told him that her family had been killed. He asked “Where are they now?”
He did not have the slightest understanding of what she’d said.
We saw the same lack of comprehension this week when Trump was asked about having second thoughts on his trade war with China.
“Mr. President, do you have any second thoughts about escalating the trade war with China?”
“Yeah. Sure. Why not? Might as well, might as well.”
Once again, he completely failed to understand the question. A question which was then repeated by a different journalist, to which he replied,
“I have second thoughts about everything.”
Did he even understand the meaning of “second thoughts”? I am not at all sure.
Reading and Writing
Donald Trump is well known for his aversion to the written word.
When Rex Tillerson, the former Secretary of State, spoke about his time at the White House, he said that Trump didn’t like to read. Tillerson was told that the President would not be reading the usual briefing notebook each morning, but instead would only accept bullet points or charts.
Mr. Trump himself has stated that he doesn’t like to read. In an interview with Axios shortly after his inauguration, Trump said that he doesn’t like to read, preferring bullet points to full essays.
“I like bullets or I like as little as possible. I don’t need, you know, 200-page reports on something that can be handled on a page. That I can tell you.”
Although he is the author of several books, we know that each had a ghostwriter. Trump claims to have attended the best of schools, but has never let his school records be made public.
I say all of this because it brings up the diagnostic question of whether or not the man has always struggled with reading and writing, or whether this is a new phenomenon.
Whether or not that disorder is progressive is difficult to say but when I analyze his conversations from years ago, I believe that it is. His past interviews were far more coherent and much more linguistically sophisticated than what we hear now.
Whether or not the language disorder is developing as part of some type of dementia is up to a neurologist to diagnose.
I am not qualified to say whether or not Donald Trump has a personality disorder or a mental illness. But I am qualified to say that when I listen to him speak, I am increasingly convinced that he has significant aphasia.
What I know is this. Something is most assuredly amiss in the brain of the President of the United States. And he is the one with the nuclear codes.
I was thinking about Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib today. I was thinking of her because she isn’t going to visit her grandmother, and that makes me so sad.
I’m a grandmother, too. I love my two grandchildren so much that sometimes I think it might be too extreme. I love their smiles, their hugs, their sweet voices.
I love their hair, and the softness of it against my cheek. I love their deep brown eyes and all the emotion those eyes express.
Being separated from them, even for a week, is a pain that tears my heart.
I live because my children and grandchildren breathe and laugh and sing and because they love me almost as much as I love them.
I can’t begin to imagine how awful it would be to be kept away from them.
So I think of Rep. Tlaib. I think of her “sity”, her 90 ish year old grandmother. I imagine how much the old woman craves the embrace of her beloved granddaughter, and how much Rashida misses her grandmother.
The Congresswoman wanted to travel to Israel/Palestine. She wanted to go to see her family, but also to address the desperately important issue of how the USA’s key ally treats its Muslim citizens. She and her colleague, Ilhan Omar, wanted to have some oversight of the country that receives one third of our foreign aid.
That’s their job, after all.
But Israel, with a push from the Donald Trump, denied them entry. The Israeli government claimed that the two Muslim women, who support and promote the idea of Palestinian autonomy, would be coming only to damage Israel.
Two young women.
And the most powerful country in the middle east was afraid of what they might say.
After a strong pushback from Americans of both political parties and many Christian, Muslim and Jewish groups, the government of Israel offered a tepid compromise. Rep. Tlaib could go to see her grandmother, but could not engage in any conversations or activities that would promote the cause of Palestinian activists or criticize the Israeli government. Rep. Omar, lacking a local grandmother, would not be allowed in at all.
Ms. Tlaib rejected the offer, saying that it violated her right to free speech and diminished her role as an elected official of the USA.
“Why doesn’t she just accept Israel’s offer to let her visit under a humanitarian visa?” I thought yesterday, as the story of the Congresswoman’s thwarted visit to her ancestral homeland unfolded.
“Why not just go, and hug her grandmother, and thank her for her years of care and guidance? Why not just brush off Israel’s rules about not mentioning the conditions under which the Palestinians are living? Just go, and don’t be so political!”
But then I started to think. I realized that I was thinking like a grandmother, and not like an educated citizen of the world.
And I remembered a moment that happened to me long ago, in the summer of 1973. I was living as an exchange student with a Muslim family in Tunisia. They were open minded, very well educated and as kind as any family could be.
We were talking about the increasing tensions between Egypt and Israel and the threat of war on the horizon. I said something about Israel, and there was a sudden silence in the room.
My sweet, kind, loving Tunisian Papa said to me, very gently, “Karima, ici on dit Palestine.”
“Karima, here we call it Palestine.”
Not Israel, but Palestine.
That simple phrase opened my eyes.
That land is both. It belongs to both. Both have roots in that place. But the needs and wishes of the Palestinians have long been pushed aside as the west tries to make amends for what happened during the Holocaust.
I understand both sides. I support both sides. I think there is room for both peoples to live in that ancient land.
But I also support Rashida Tlaib in her decision not to go there now. Not to visit her much loved grandmother.
I support her desire to go at a time when she can address the governments of both the US and Israel and say, “Here we call it Palestine.”
It’s been a long and scary day here in Massachusetts. One, or maybe two, tornadoes touched down on Cape Cod. We saw roofs blown off, power taken out, trees uprooted, roads blocked.
And of course we saw dozens of people stepping up to help their neighbors, their friends, and total strangers.
It got me thinking.
When the storms blow in, and everyday life is turned completely on its head, we humans immediately become our best selves. We bring each other water, and give each other food. We pull the trees off of our neighbor’s houses and we offer to share our generators.
I’ve seen it.
In 2008, a huge ice storm hit this part of New England. My street was without power for nine days. But our neighbors across town offered hot showers, a place to do laundry and a community meal. Our neighbors across the street emptied their swimming pool into barrels and brought them around to all of us who couldn’t flush our toilets because our water runs on an electrically operated pump.
We shared food, wood stoves, water, chain saws. It was wonderful and awful at the same time.
Disaster mentality. It’s not a bad thing.
So how about this?
How about if we all approach each other as if we were in the middle of a disaster? How about if we look at each other as people, humans, neighbors?
I know that when the power went out, I didn’t ask my neighbors who they were voting for. I didn’t ask their thoughts on immigration or global warming or race relations or anything.
I just asked if they needed anything. They asked me that back.
So wouldn’t it be a wonderful idea if we all decided to think about each other as if we’re in the middle of a major disaster? If we could ask each other, “What do you need?” or “What will help you?” instead of asking how we feel about Medicare for all?
I don’t know if it would help.
But it couldn’t be worse than what we are doing right now. It couldn’t be worse than judging each other by which T shirt we are wearing.