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 

Is Trump Having Panic Attacks?


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.

The Quid Pro Quo Problem


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:

Bring me my quid pro quo!

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.”

“But…..”

“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.

My Idea of Patriotism


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.

Patriotism has been defined in the past as “My country, right or wrong.” Yeehah.

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.