Am I a Patriot?


At a time of such intense political and social stress, we hear the word “patriot” thrown around quite a lot.

“You aren’t patriotic!” people yell at those who disagree with them.

“A true patriot wouldn’t do what you’re doing, wouldn’t think what your thinking, wouldn’t believe in your beliefs!”

I don’t know if I’m a patriot or not. I’ve written before about the fact that it makes me uncomfortable to describe myself as someone who loves “my” country more than other countries.

What does it mean to “love my country” anyway? Does mean that I love the soil itself, the rivers and forests? Is it love of that which is familiar to us? Do we need to feel separate from others, and superior to them, in order to feel comfortable in our own place?

Or is patriotism a love of those who share our national community? Is it about loving and defending other Americans?

I don’t know. I’m not sure what other people mean by the word, and certainly have no clear definition myself.

But these days we are watching our President set himself up to dispute the results of our national election, should he lose. We’re hearing people vow to take up arms to protest the election results, or to defend them. Americans are already carrying loaded weapons into our cities to murder those on the “other side” in name of “patriotism.”

It seems likely that violence and disorder are facing us in the next few weeks and months.

So I’ve started to ask myself, “What am I willing to do in the name of my country? What would I risk in the name of patriotism?”

I’m not sure. But this is what I think.

I am sure that I will buy extra food, medicine and emergency supplies so no matter what, my family will have enough. I’m willing to can tomatoes and freeze batches of veggies and fruit.

If things get tough, and supplies become scarce, I’d be willing to share with my neighbors.

If it really gets bad, and people are hungry, I think I could manage to kill a dove or a duck or even a turkey. I’m not sure about my ability to kill a rabbit or a deer. But I don’t know; I’ve never been hungry or seen my family starve.

I would be willing to march in the streets with signs to defend a person or a group that was under attack. I’ve done that more than once already. I’d be willing to occupy a park or a building in the name of protecting other Americans.

But what I would not do is hurt or kill another American. I can’t see myself ever coming to that point. Not to prove my “patriotism” or to defend a political idea.

Because for me it isn’t important to love the dirt on which I live. I don’t consider democrat lives to have more value than republican lives. I will not hurt or kill any person who thinks differently than I do. I will not take up arms in defense of “America.” Not on the streets of Portland or Boston or this little town.

I believe that I could kill if I were forced to protect my family. I hope that I would be willing to do anything to save the life of any child.

But to use weapons against others to protect an abstract idea of “my” nation, or “my” party?

I wouldn’t do it.

At least, I fervently pray that I wouldn’t.

Now I just need to pray that most people feel the same way.

Image attribution:https://www.youthvoices.live/category/american-creed/

Helplessly Hoping


Enduring the anxiety that is 2020.

The global pandemic of Covid-19 continues to rage around the world. The entire west coast of the US is in flames. Protests continue in cities across America, and the violence is slowly increasing.

But that’s not why I am so afraid.

I’m terrified, my friends. I’m really scared right now, more than I have been at any other point in my life. What has me so frightened?

I’m afraid of my fellow citizens. I am afraid of a second civil war.

You gotta give it to Donald Trump. The man has managed to create his own reality out of thin air. He has grasped control of the facts and twisted them around to support his own narrative on every subject.

And he has made it impossible to argue effectively against him.

He’s done all of this with two simple, powerful words.

“Fake News”

No matter what facts are presented to Trump’s followers, they are able to easily wave them away. “Nah, that’s just the corrupt media making stuff up!”

“Fake News”

I see this over and over again on social media, and on news reports. I have had my own relatives and friends say it to me. When it’s pointed out that the raging wildfires are tied to global warming, Trump’s people respond with claims that “antifa” is setting the fires to create chaos. People believe it, because when you try to tell them the truth, they answer that the media is creating “fake news.”

There is no possible way to refute this kind of thinking. For instance, out there in Oregon, the FBI (THE FREAKIN’ FBI) has publicly stated that there is no truth at all to the antifa arson stories. NONE. And they should know. They have investigated it at LOT. They found nothing!

Pretty official. Pretty convincing to the vast majority of thoughtful and intelligent folks, right?

But look at a few of the responses that this one tweet got:

See what I mean?

If these people believe that the FBI is in the hands of the radical left, then what hope is there of convincing them of the truth? Reality has lost all meaning. Facts have no power.

So I am truly afraid of what is going to happen on Nov.4th and beyond. I’m afraid.

Fox News and other right wing outlets are claiming that Democrats, the left, and antifa are all threatening violence if Biden loses the election. They claim that they need to grab their guns so they can defend the country from the raging angry leftists.

And left wing media outlets, like Forward.com, predict that if Trump loses, the far right and it’s militias will engage in violence to protest what they will see as a “rigged election.”

And so left leaning militias are promising to take up arms to stop the right.

You see why I’m scared?

I’m scared because the one thing that Donald Trump truly excels in is controlling the national conversation.

He is a master liar. Perhaps because of his deep seated psychological disorders, Trump is able to lie without a hint of remorse. He can repeat the same lie over and over again with no qualms. He tells us that the election will be rigged. He repeats over and over that the election results will not be legitimate. He warns of violence. He talks about rioters and looters as antifa. He successfully whips up his followers and he does it by calmly stating over and over and over and over and over that any statement with which he does not agree is a lie.

Do you see how terrifying this is?

He can tell people literally anything, and they will believe it. As you read these words, there are people in the inferno of the American Northwest who are refusing to evacuate their blazing neighborhoods. They feel compelled to stay at home to protect their property from the “antifa hordes” who have set fires in order to loot property.

Even as I write this morning, people are walking around in stores without face coverings because they believe that “There is no Covid. It’s all a hoax to take down the United States.” Or they believe that it was created by the Deep State to control citizens.

This is, of course, beyond delusional. It’s outright crazy. But they believe it. Because Trump has gotten his followers to disbelieve the press. He has convinced them that his own FBI, CIA, Homeland Security are not to be trusted. He has told them over and over that our own CDC is lying to us.

And if facts are presented, all he has to whisper is his favorite motto.

“Fake News.”

It Isn’t Paranoia


“we’ll become” by Genista is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The year was 1980. I was sitting in a dimly lit hospital room. The pale yellow walls were streaked with cigarette smoke. A woman sat on the edge of the bed, her arms pressed against her middle, her eyes fixed on the floor.

She rocked back and forth, a rhythmic self-soothing motion that was somehow both sad and frustrating. A lit cigarette dangled from her dry lips.

I was in the room with a young and eager psychiatrist, newly minted and ready to help. His questions were asked in a gentle voice, in perfect American English. I was there to translate them into the Russian spoken by our elderly patient.

She was a recent immigrant to Boston from what was then the Soviet Union. She was one of a wave of Russian Jews who were coming to the US with the help of the aid organization HIAS. I was one of a handful of young interpreters who helped with their resettlement. Today I was interpreting an intake assessment for a severely depressed older woman and her psychiatrist. She had been admitted to the hospital the night before when her son found her unable to settle, to stop pacing or to be calmed.

The assessment didn’t take long, because the patient failed to answer most of the questions. Instead, she repeatedly mumbled about strangers in black jackets who she feared would break down the door. She stood up a few times to peer out the small window, scanning the street for the “black cars” that would come to take her away to an unknown prison.

After the interview, I sat with the psychiatrist, another doctor and a psychiatric nurse to review and clarify what had been recorded. As we finished, the young psychiatrist turned to his supervisor and said, “It certainly seems like paranoid delusions. She actually believes that strangers are going to come and take her away in the night.” The team was planning to treat her for psychosis.

“Wait,” I said. I didn’t usually say much in meetings like this, because I was only a 22 year old Soviet Studies major with no medical training. But this time it was different.

“She isn’t making this up,” I told the team. “In the 1930s, under Stalin, the secret police broke open her door in the middle of the night. She and her husband were taken away and put in prison. He was sent to Siberia and he never came back.”

I looked at the frowning faces in front of me. They didn’t know the history of the Soviet Union under the dictator Josef Stalin. In the middle of an American summer day, the idea of unmarked secret police taking people away without any evidence of a crime seemed improbable enough to make them doubt my story. This was the United States. There were laws protecting citizens from this kind of illicit action.

They couldn’t believe that such a thing was possible. But I knew it was. I had studied the history, but I had also spoken to the survivors. This frail woman, rocking and smoking and living in constant fear, was not the first survivor of Stalin’s regime that I’d met. I head heard her story from her son, and from her current husband. I had heard similar stories of men going out to work and never coming home. I knew one man who had been snatched off the street and sent to a labor camp where he was held for five years, never knowing whether his family was still alive.

I finally convinced the team that what I was telling them was true, and they verified it through the patient’s family. Her treatment was adjusted and within a few weeks the worst of her severe depression and anxiety was eased.

I think about her sometimes.

Lately, though, I think more about that medical team. If they are still alive now, what do they think of what is happening in the US today?

Do they realize now how easy it is for people to slowly lose their rights? Do they understand how an autocratic leader can convince people that in order to be safe they need to give up some freedoms?

I hope that as they watch the news unfolding in Portland, they recognize the incredible danger facing the US at this moment. I hope they speak out, loudly. I hope they share the story of that one old survivor and what happened to her family.

E Pluribus Unum


Here we are in the United States of America, in the year of our Lord, 2020. We are in an election year. We are in a year of record high temperatures around the globe.

And we are in the year when the world is grappling with a new and deadly disease for which there is neither a treatment nor a cure.

I wonder why our conversations online don’t reflect these facts? I wonder why the headlines aren’t focused on how to address any of these concerns?

I wonder.

Today I read about whether or not we need masks. I didn’t see a lot of factual information, and I didn’t see any ideas about how we might make the wearing of masks a more positive experience. I didn’t read much about making masks free or affordable.

What I did read is that people who wear masks are weak snowflakes who are buying into Bill Gates’ attempt to take over the world. I read that people who won’t wear masks are ignorant, selfish rednecks who want to kill all the old people.

Today I read stories and posts about whether or not Black lives matter in this country. I read about the question of whether or not racism exists. I read that the Black Lives Matter Movement is a Marxist attempt to take over the country. I read that every person who timidly states that they’re not racist is a history denying, ignorant self-centered privileged “Karen”.

We’re furious at each other about statues and about pieces of cloth and about words painted on city streets. We’re pouring all of our famous American ingenuity into meaningless memes that make the “other side” look stupid.

Fellow Americans: What the HELL are we doing???????

Here’s what I know.

A lot of radical lefties are in the ICU with COVID-19. They are in the same unit with a lot of right wing conservative MAGAs. They’re all on the same oxygen that keeps humans alive.

I know that a bunch of completely apolitical people have lost their jobs and their insurance and are scared to death of what’s coming next. I know that a bunch of political activists have lost their jobs and their insurance and are scared to death to think about next month.

You know who is at risk of COVID? White people. Also brown ones. And Asians. And dark black recent African immigrants. And Europeans. And Pacific Islanders and red heads and Puerto Ricans and Japanese and Bahamians and New Zealanders. Don’t forget Russians, Poles, Italians, Greeks, Egyptians, Tunisians and Siberian residents. People with glasses and people who run marathons. Singers and accountants and engineers and teachers and Grandmas and babies.

Every. Human. Being. Is. At. Risk.

Why aren’t we focused on how to make it better? Some of my very conservative family members are businessmen. They are creative and efficient. Why aren’t we seeing them come up with efficient solutions to help businesses stay open and stay safe? Is it because they’re too busy finding and sharing memes about “owning the libs”?

Some of my very liberal friends and family are artists and therapists and teachers. They are creative, imaginative and flexible. Why aren’t they publicly sharing ideas about how to maximize our human talent in ways that will support the community? Could it be because they are getting some weird pleasure out of finding and sharing memes about the stupidity of conservatives?

I don’t know.

I’m as guilty as anyone else, though, that I will admit.

Today I argued with my Uncle about the definition of “antifa”. My Uncle, who I have known and loved my entire life. My uncle, who is one of the funniest, most clever, most intelligent guys in the world. He is informed, he is smart, he is articulate. We completely disagree on political and economic issues, but so the hell what?

Why am I not asking him how he’d approach the reopening of businesses in this climate? Why am I wasting my time pointing fingers and arguing about which side’s vandals desecrated a truly sacred memorial?

I don’t know. I know that I’m scared. I know that I want this to be over. I know that I want to be able to hug my mom again, to kiss my sons again. I want to be with my friends and I want to know that this blessed earth is a safe place for my children to raise more children.

I’d like to find a way to remind my loved ones, conservative and liberal, that everyone is in the same boat and that the storm is raging. It doesn’t matter who is captain right now. It matters that all of us mere sailors start working together to bail her out, keep her steady, and get her back to shore.

The D’s and the R’s can call each other names all they want. Nancy and Chuck can point fingers at Mitch and Donnie all they want and vice versa.

But we, we Americans, we the people, we damn well better find a way to work together and stop our stupid bickering. If we don’t, this old boat is going to crash itself on the shoals and we are all going to go down into the endless deep together.

E pluribus unum.

Time to find our unum.

Is This Offensive?


Does it even matter what I think?

It seems more than a little bit odd to me to hear people out there arguing about what is offensive and what isn’t.

It’s especially strange to hear white people, who make up pretty much my entire social circle, arguing about what makes something offensive to black Americans.

Is Aunt Jemima’s image on the syrup bottle “offensive” or is it just a meaningless picture? How about Uncle Ben? Is a statue of General Lee offensive? Or is it a monument to a cultural history?

As is so often true, when I think about the big questions that trouble adults, I turn to my experience as a classroom teacher to guide me.

I’m remember one particular year of teaching fifth grade. My students were a sweet combination of innocent and sassy. As ten year olds, they were still gentle and tender. They liked me, I liked all of them, and we had a good rapport. But as almost-adolescents, they’d begun to test some of my limits. A few kids had tried out “bad words” in the classroom, and we were discussing why some words were offensive.

One of the best parts about teaching kids this age is watching when one or two of them get that glint of mischief in their eyes and try to push the envelope a bit. In this case, a few of the kids wanted to experience the thrill of saying the forbidden words, so they started to ask me, in whispers, which words to avoid.

“Is ‘shit’ a swear?” (Giggle). “Can I say ‘dammit’?” (Giggle)

I realized pretty quickly that it was time for us to regroup and talk. I gathered the kids on the rug in our “meeting area”.

“OK,” I began. “I am not going to give you a list of acceptable and unacceptable words. There are millions of words in the English language and we aren’t going to check each one.”

I looked around the circle at all the eager faces and bright eyes.

NOTE: If you ever want to capture the attention of 25 ten year olds, tell them you’re going to talk about swears.

“A swear is a word that hurts someone. It’s a word that makes someone feel bad, or makes them uncomfortable. Even if it’s a word or a phrase that you don’t mind at all, if it hurst someone else, you don’t say it.”

They were thoughtful for a minute. A hand was raised.

“So is ‘stupid’ a swear?”

I let the kids talk about it. They realized that they knew the answer. If I say, “This stupid shoe won’t stay tied,” then it isn’t offensive. If I call my classmate “stupid”, then it is.”

I’m sure they were a little disappointed that we weren’t going to try out various spellings of the f- word, but my point had been made.

Next I asked the kids to do me a favor. I told them that sometimes we say or do things that offend others and we don’t know it. I told them that I would appreciate it if they’d tell me any time I said or did something that hurt them or offended them.

One sweet, kind little girl raised her hand. I was surprised, because I couldn’t imagine what I might have done to offend her. I asked her to tell me what was wrong.

“Could you please not say “God”? My family goes to church, and my mom says it’s wrong to say “Oh, my God”, but sometimes you say it.”

She was right. I said that phrase a LOT.

But I looked into the deep brown eyes of my trusting student, and I promised her that I would do my absolute best never to say it in front of her again.

“God” was an offensive word to this religious little girl, when I said it in that phrase.

The kids understood the lesson and we never had to revisit the question of what words were offensive.

If your action, your logo, your statue, your language, your clothing hurts someone else, you can’t keep using it.

Thanks, children. As usual, you show us the way.

Trump’s Leadership Style.


Wait. Is there a leadership style??

You know, I used to be a teacher. I’ve spent a lot of time studying the different learning styles that people exhibit as they go through life. There is all sorts of research into the whole right brain/left brain approach. There’s the math/language description and the sequential vs. gestalt learner approach.

I’m fascinated by all of this. And the neurology that underlies these learning differences.

I used all of these different perspectives as I assessed and taught kids over the years.

I’m also very interested in the different “leadership styles” that are exhibited by those who take positions of authority. I have done a lot of reading, research and rumination on this particular topic. I became fascinated by the idea of leadership styles when I experienced a wonderful leader, a very good leader and an absolutely appalling leader within a five year period.

What I have learned through my personal experiences and my study is that we can often break leadership style down to two distinct patterns.

PATTERN #1: The micromanager. This is the supervisor/leader who double checks the number of paper clips that each department is using. It’s the school principal who wants to see which color sticky notes the teacher is using on her teaching charts.

PATTERN #2: The laissez faire leader. This administrator may very well set the tone for what the staff should do, but they will let everybody take responsibility for their own decisions. When things go really well, this leader points to the staff member who created the success. When things go wrong, this leader justifiably denies any responsibility. “I let them fly, if they crash, it’s not my fault.”

So what am I to make of the “leadership style” of our current president?

All I can say is……I dunno. I got nuthin’.

Every time I try to listen to Donald Trump, I find myself confused. Not only does he continuously torture the English language, he also constantly shifts from foot to foot in terms of his leadership.

Sometimes the President insists that he is the micromanager. “No one can handle this the way I can.” “No one knows more about XXXX than I do.” “I alone can fix it.”

But in his very next breath, he insists “I had no idea” about what was going on. “I take no responsibility.”

My head swims.

Today is a perfect example of Trump’s bipolar approach to leadership. First he seemed to state that he was the man-in-charge, the decider, the capo-di-tutti-capi. But almost immediately after that, he took the position of “I didn’t do it! I know nothing! Don’t blame me!”

It made me picture all of my elementary school students, who were so quick to place a forefinger on their nose when I asked, “Who dumped the paint into the toilet?”

Let me point out the actual quotes from the leader/notleader.

Last Friday evening, the District of Columbia was roiled by loud, sometimes violent protests. People were marching in the streets, heading for the White House. The DC police responded to the anger of the crowd. Tear gas was thrown, rubber bullets were fired, bottles and bricks were hurled. Fires were set not far from the White House.

In the midst of this scary outburst of rage, the Secret Service apparently did their jobs, and brought the President down to the safe room (or “bunker”) in the White House.

Of COURSE they did. For good or ill, he is the actual POTUS and his life has to be protected. So down to the bunker he went.

Naturally, his critics laughed and made fun of him. #Bunkerboy and #Bunkerbaby were trending on social media. Ha. Ha. Ha.

Then on Monday evening, Trump and his staff cleared out all of the peaceful protesters in Lafayette Park outside of the White House so he could stand in front of a historic Episcopal church and hold up a bible. The whole thing was horrific at worst and incredibly awkward at best.

So here is what the nominal “leader” of our country had to say.

In terms of having been taken to the bunker, to insure the safety of the President, Trump claimed that he only went down to the bunker “during the day, when there was no problem!” He claimed that he was there for only a “tiny bit of time”. Best of all, he is trying convince us that he went to the bunker just to “inspect” it.

As in, “I am a micromanager as a leader. My hand is in everything. I would never allow a room in the White House to just sit there unless I personally inspect it to make sure that it is up to my very high standards.”

M’kay.

But here’s where I get confused.

Today Trump was also asked about the way that his staff (our Attorney General, our Secretary of Defense) used tear gas, metal shields and flash-bang grenades to clear a park of protesters. Those peaceful protestors included several members of the local clergy. It was a full half hour before the curfew was set to begin.

Even so, police marched into Lafayette Park and forced out every single protestor/pastor/civilian. They did this so that Trump could march across the street from the White House, hold up a bible, and claim the moral high ground as our “law and order” president.

Naturally, since peaceful protestors and religious leaders dislike being shot at and pepper sprayed, there was an outcry against what had happened.

How did our “I’m the leader” president respond?

He said that he had no idea there were protesters out there in the park! He insisted that nobody tells him these things! How could he know?

Um,

Yes, this is the exact opposite leadership style from what Trump showed us when he claimed he was inspecting the bunker.

I mean, really.

Let’s think.

Is it actually possible that one man, one leader, could simultaneously be inspecting the room where he might someday be sent for safety, and yet not know that right outside of his window hundreds of protesters were gathered?

I don’t buy it.

Nuh, uh.

What I think is this:

This man has no leadership style. None.

What he has is a self-preservation style. He finds it perfectly plausible to claim that the nation is under so much threat that he needs to call out the military to restore order, while at the same time claiming that he is totally unaware of the huge crowd chanting and singing right outside his window.

What I think is that Donald Trump has no concept of truth or fact. He pulls and shapes reality to fit his personal needs and denies the existence of any event that he dislikes.

That is no kind of leadership.

Peace Without Justice?


The picture above is not a picture of me. I’m a chubby, grey haired white grandma. The picture above is not one of my sweet grandchildren. They are three little white kids, with white skin.

But these two are the people on my mind today. Everyone who shares the same tone of skin has been on my mind. Every fellow citizen of mine who shares the same curly hair has been on my mind. Every American who wakes up in the morning as part of what I’ve grown up thinking of as “the minority community”, that’s who is on my mind.

Last night I watched the news. I saw people marching, shouting, protesting in the streets of Minneapolis and St. Paul. I saw fire and tear gas and glass breaking.

“Oh, no,” was my first thought. “Oh, no.”

I’ve seen this scene before. I’ve seen an unarmed black American dying at the hands of an American police officer or at the hands of a self-appointed patriotic vigilante. I know what happens. It’s a repeating playbook. At first white America reacts with outrage at the death. We shake our heads and tell ourselves with great sincerity that “something must change.”

Then the friends, neighbors and family of the dead black American take to the street. They are joined by other angry, horrified, sad, terrified black Americans. They are loud. They are profane. Someone throws a rock, and tear gas flies. A fire is set, a building it breached, people take things, damage is done.

And the reaction, every damn time, is “I understand that rage, but rioting is not the way to make change.”

I agree!

I’m a nice, middle class retired teacher lady living in a small, rural town. I don’t think burning buildings is a good idea. I don’t think that violence is a healthy choice.

But as I lay awake in my bed last night, I tossed and I turned and I pictured beautiful young Americans like the two pictured above. And I asked myself,

“If violence isn’t the right path, then what is?”

Should our black fellow citizens stage sit-ins in public places? Just some quiet, passive actions to show that people are unhappy?

I realized that those actions have already been taken. Some half a century ago, brown skinned Americans sat down on busses and at restaurants and in public offices to show that they wanted to be treated equally. That held sit-ins. They were entirely peaceful, even when they were dragged to jail.

Black Americans are still being murdered in public by the police and those who wish they were police. So that technique doesn’t work.

Maybe, I thought, we should find some highly educated, highly successful, brilliant brown skinned fellow citizens to speak up and express the unfairness of our racial situation.

Ah, but that, too has been done. Over and over and over again. Martin King, Malcolm X, Ralph Abernathy, John Lewis, Angela Davis, Medgar Evers, Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou and on and on and on. Great artists, great leaders, great orators, true American treasures.

But dark skin can still get an unarmed American shot to death for jogging.

So what could our African American brothers and sisters do to express their pain? We don’t want violence, but….what?

Remember when this young athlete decided to peacefully and silently protest the deaths of so many black Americans?


I do. I remember the reaction when he knelt during the National Anthem. The President of these United States of America went public in his attacks. He said that the football player should have been suspended for quietly protesting the deaths of his fellow Americans. The Vice President walked out of a football game when Colin and some of his teammates knelt in gentle protest.

So.

Peaceful protest has achieved…..nothing.

There were “Black Lives Matter” marches and signs and protests. The answer was a rush of “Oh, yeah? Well, Blue lives matter!” and “All lives matter!” Both of which completely missed the point, and neither of which did anything to stop the flow of blood on our streets.

George Floyd was still murdered right there in broad daylight on an American street, surrounded by American citizens who watched in horror as his life was snuffed out by an American white guy in an official uniform.

I tossed last night, and I turned. I found no answers.

I don’t know what it will finally take for this country to break out of its racist history and begin to move forward toward a just and loving place where every single American life is treasured and valued and protected.

I pulled the sheet up over my shoulders last night, looking for some comfort on that steamy night.

Suddenly I saw the face of Tamir Rice in front of me. I saw his smiling, little boy face. I thought about my white sons playing guns one sunny day at Universal Studios, with none of us giving it a thought.

I saw the face of Treyvon Martin, walking on a rainy night with a pocket full of skittles. I thought about the days when my teenaged boys and their white friends would walk the streets of our little town at all hours of the night, and how once in a while the police would pull up beside them and urge to go on home to bed.

I thought about how I’d feel if they had been killed. I thought about how I might feel if I’d spent my lifetime asking, begging, praying and working for justice for people who look like my children.

And I realized that if I had done all that, and yet my sons, my nephews, my friends, my neighbors were still being recklessly killed while jogging, shopping, sleeping, sitting in a car or committing a misdemeanor?

Well. You can be sure that even with my creaky joints and fading eyes, my grayhair and my wrinkles, I would absolutely, positively march my old white ass out there and set the world on fire.

No justice? No peace.

Image: “Beautiful man” by rigogarcia1575 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

I Just Can’t Do This Anymore


For almost five years I have tried to write about the insanity that is the American political system. As a student of history, a news junkie and something of an activist, I’ve always found the machinations of government to be fascinating.

From my high schools days on the “Model UN” to my college degree in Soviet Studies, I’ve been excited to discuss politics with friends, relatives and strangers. I loved the debates, even when they got heated. Exchanging ideas, presenting facts to each other, back and forth and back again. I used to learn something with each discussion. I worked hard, if not always successfully, to keep an open mind.

Back in 2015, I was writing for an online publication called “Liberal America.” Rather obviously, we had a lot to say about the prospects of a Trump Presidency. I thoroughly enjoyed writing these pieces, because they expressed my political views and even let me earn some money by writing.

After the election, I kept on writing and was submitting to a variety of sites. Once again, I wrote to point out what to me was so glaringly obvious: that Donald Trump is totally unfit to serve in any public office, much less the Presidency.

Now, at last, we find ourselves in the final few months of Trump’s term. Our long, chaotic decline as a nation has been well documented by real journalists in thousands of ways. Facts about Trump’s inept handling of international relations, his attempts to bully Congress, the hundreds of instances of corruption and graft….it’s all there in black and white.

So why doesn’t it seem to matter that the whole world can see exactly how dangerous and ugly this administration is?

Trump still has the support of more than a third of American voters. The Republican Party is still protecting him and backing him up, even though at one time most of them were horrified at the idea of him winning.

How is this possible?

Because Trump has performed a miracle. He has undone the truth. Facts no longer have any relevance. As Trump apologist Kellyanne Conway famously stated, they have their own “alternative facts.”

This administration started out by lying about the most obvious of facts (the size of the crowd at Trump’s inauguration) and has gone downhill from there. They lie freely, openly and with complete seriousness and they do it every. damn. day.

How do you fight that?

How do you continue to respond when facts have no meaning anymore?

I can’t do it. I can’t keep it up. I am worn down, worn out and exhausted. So, it seems, is the Democratic Party, whose entire campaign seems to be “at least we’re not Trump.”

If you’ve ever engaged in a conversation with an angry toddler, you will recognize the overwhelming fatigue that comes with trying to convince someone of something that they refuse to see.

“I didn’t eat the cake that was on the table!”

“But you have chocolate frosting on your face.”

‘NO I don’t!”

‘I’m looking at it. I see the frosting. And there are cake crumbs on your shirt.”

“No, there aren’t! I didn’t do it!”

After a few rounds, you end up grabbing the kid, washing their face and sternly saying, “Don’t eat dessert unless you ask me first!” You recognize that you are engaged in an argument that cannot be won.

That is exactly how American politics feel to me now. We point out that Trump was completely nuts when he suggested injecting disinfectant into humans to kill Covid19. The response? “Oh, he just said we should study it. No big deal.”

What the absolute hell! No, it should NOT be studied!

We write about the flagrant inappropriateness of Ivanka and Jared having their fingers in every aspect of government, when neither has been elected, appointed, Senate approved or vetted. The Trump apologists simply turn the facts around on us. “Look at Hunter Biden!” they cry. Or, “What about Hillary’s emails?”

And the worst, the most egregious warping of reality happens every single time Trump and his enablers hear something that they don’t like.

“FAKE NEWS!!!!” they scream in unison. Fake, false, a hoax, all made up!!

But we can see the damn frosting on his face. We can smell the chocolate on his breath and count the crumbs on his shirt. There are photos, there are tapes, there are Tweets to prove that what we say is a FACT.

They never respond with facts. They respond with insults, lies, and Trumpian pseudo-reality.

I can’t do it anymore. I can’t argue with these angry toddlers anymore. I’m out.

I’m going back to writing about things I understand and can process. Like global pandemics, the inner life of children, and the magic of the natural world.

Image:“File:Goran Gatarić, Woman At the Dock ll, 40×50.5, Oil on canvas.jpg” by Tomicmilos90 is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

What I Wish We Were Hearing


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.

No.

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?

How the Boston Red Sox Changed My Political Views.


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.

Thanks to Derek Jeter for helping me to evolve.

Image attribution: Red Sox vs. Padres, Fenway Park July 4th” by djanimal is licensed under CC BY 2.0