Lunch With Donald Trump


I’ve been trying to dabble a bit in fiction writing.  I’m not real good at creating the old “story arc”, but I do OK with dialogue.

I was just watching the President on TV.  And I got to thinking.

What if I had been Donnie Trump’s fifth grade teacher? I wonder what the conversation would have sounded like at his lunch table. I think it would be something like this:

Jack: That essay was really hard.

Donnie: Not for me. I wrote the best essay ever written. It was incredible, believe me.

Jack: Dude, you finished it in five minutes.

Donnie: Because I’m fast. I’m the fastest. That’s why the teacher loves me so much.

Dylan: (snickering) She hates you.

Donnie: She loves me, believe me. Many kids are saying it. She says nice things about me. The nicest.

Suzie: Actually, I heard her talking to the Principal, and they were both saying you’re a pain. They said you’re “challenging” and we all know what that means.

Donnie: The Principal is very low IQ, very low. He’s not smart like me. Many kids are saying, and I’ve been saying it for a while. 

Suzie: Then why did you tell us yesterday that you’re going to win the Principal’s award this year, because he’s such a good judge of intelligence?

Donnie: I’ve never trusted him. Never. He’s a disaster. I’ve been saying it. People have been saying it. 

Jack: Well, the teacher hates you, too.

Donnie: She’s a real lowlife, that one. Nobody likes her.

Jack: We do!

Donnie: Believe me, nobody does. Nobody. She’s slime. Scum. The worst. 

Jack: You’re an idiot.

Donnie: This is a witch hunt!

The kids all get up and move to another table, leaving Donnie alone with his soggy fries.

Donnie: (muttering to himself): They’ll see. They’ll all see. I’m a genius and they’re all gonna pay. They’re all my enemies.

The lunch bell rings and the kids crowd toward the door. Donnie drops his trash on the floor and shoves a first grader out of his way so he can be at the front of the line. She cries, but he ignores her. Head held high, he swaggers out the door and onto the recess field.

Walking over to a group of giggling girls, he yanks the hair of one and pokes his finger into the ribs of another. As they yell at him to stop, he grins.

Donnie: (to no one in particular) The babes love me.

I can’t help it. Every time the President of the United States of America opens his mouth, I feel like I am right back in an elementary school classroom, trying to figure out the best way to deal with a “challenging kid.”

And, for the record, I have never, EVER met a kid anywhere near as “challenging” as this one.

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Don’t be fooled by the innocent look.

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What Would I Do?


I remember one of my favorite classes, back in high school. We were asked to pretend that society had never been created. To pretend that there was no government, no social order, no bureaucracy.

Our teacher put us into small groups of three or four kids, and told us to set up a social order that we would find comfortable. I remember that she used the word “comfortable”. Not “fair” or “profitable” or “stable.” She went with comfortable.

I remember that my group of young, idealistic, foolish kids created a “social order” where people were expected to work in a way that gave something back to the group. People would be asked to create some kind of productivity (food, technology, infrastructure) that would make life better for the group. Then those workers would get food, shelter, health, safety, education.

It seemed so simple.

We were teenagers living in a time of idealism and hope. We thought that the lessons of the 1960s had been valuable. War is not the answer. Love is the key. Share what we have. The world is a very small blue planet that we all share.

We were beyond naive.

Still.

If you ask me today what it is that I would like to see from my government, here is what I would have to say.

I want to live in a place where the “government” is made up of regular folks. Where we take turns serving and then we go back to the “real world.”

I’d like to live in a country where the sole purpose of government is the provide security, health, safety, peace to the majority of the governed. Where laws are designed to create equality of access. Where companies and corporations are viewed simply as groups of workers to provide products to the people. Where those products are valued based on how much they needed. And when they are no longer needed, those products and those companies would fade into history and would be replaced.

So I guess if I was the one in charge, I would have stopped all the petroleum based corporations way back in the 1960’s, when the first evidence of global warming was being discussed. I would have had my government throwing its weight into renewable energy.

I bet if I was the one in charge, I would have shied away from letting private companies rake in millions and billions on medical discoveries. In my simple, naive world, medicine would be seen as a benefit to the people in the society, not as a source of riches to a tiny few.

If I was the one who had designed our society, I am pretty sure that I would have made sure there were no “parties.” I would absolutely have tried to design a system where two groups of rich and powerful people weren’t able to be in charge of everything.

Most of all, if I had been the one to create this system of government, I would have set it up in such a way that it would have been a lot easier to scrap.

Cuz I have to be honest. I am sick and tired of being the ping-pong ball in the endless game of “which party has the worst villain.” At the moment, all I know for sure is that it will be a very cold day in hell (global warming notwithstanding) before I will cast a vote for either of the corporate owned parties in charge of things now.

What a freakin’ mess.

Makes me yearn for those innocent days of high school, when we still thought things could be made better.

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So Who Should I Hate?


We are living in difficult times.

I am finding myself increasingly confused about who I’m supposed to hate these days.

I mean, I know that its wrong to hate people because of their race, their gender, their gender identity, their sexual preferences, their native language, their religion, their favorite baseball team (even Yankee fans)….

I’m a liberal middle aged white woman. I have marched against nuclear power, the Vietnam war, the slow passage of the ERA, the idea of a gas pipeline going through my town, income inequality, this President, and a few other things I forget at this point.

But.

Here’s where I’m confused.

If I believe what I see on social media, I am supposed to hate- with a deep and abiding passion- everyone who voted for Donald Trump. More, I’m supposed to detest and vilify everyone who still thinks he is doing a good job.

Even in said person is my very own family member, someone I love and treasure.

That’s really hard. I tend to be a relatively kind person, even if I am passionate about my political beliefs.

When I watch the news, or read online news stories, I realize that there are millions of my fellow countrymen who are being convinced that they are supposed to hate ME. If they want to seem like good Americans, real patriots, they are supposed to be calling me names like “libtard” and “snowflake”. They are supposed to scream at me because I want “open borders”. They are supposed to yell that I support the “deep state” and that I love crime, drugs, pillaging and rape. (OK, maybe that last part is over the top, but it’s hard to tell.)

Here’s the thing.

Years before the Donald was ever heard of, Americans were arguing about politics. I remember the 60’s very well, when every family gathering was marked by shouting over the war. I remember long, tortuous arguments with friends and relatives about Iran (way back, during the time of the hostage taking), about Israel/Palestine, about environmental concerns. I’ve been sneeringly labelled a “tree hugger,” a “lefty,” a “commie”.

None of that came with the level of absolute hatred that is soaking our interactions today.

Years after the Donald will be nothing more than an embarrassing chapter in US history, the citizens in this country will argue over everything from tax rates to school curriculum.

It’s what we do. We’re informed Americans. We vote. We try to be informed.

But today is not “years ago” or “years from now”.  Today is today.

And we are in a very very scary place. We think its fine, even admirable, to type obscenities on Twitter at people who disagree with us. We cheer when a member of our “team” is able to embarrass and humiliate people from the “other team.”

I blame the anonymity of social media for this.

We have fallen for the lie that we are good patriots if we publicly attack each other for our beliefs.

I blame Donald Trump for most of this. But I blame the gullible media for it, too. They loved the ratings and the fake outrage and the easy reporting that comes with their coverage of people screaming at each other.

Mostly, though, I blame us.

I mean, seriously folks. What the absolute hell?

If you voted for Trumpy, I think you made a huge mistake. I don’t think you are the spawn of the devil. I do not think you are part of a giant racist neo-Nazi attack on liberty and democracy.

If you voted against Trumpy, I don’t think you wear a halo. I don’t think you have a special entry into Heaven. I don’t think you are kinder, braver, harder working, smarter or more moral than those who voted the other way.

In the end, the rich and powerful will keep on being rich and powerful. They’ll keep on pushing for laws that will make us work harder to earn less while they protect their own billions and zillions and gajillions.

Remember: this happened. It will no doubt happen again in the not too distant future.

Donald Trump Sr. and Melania Trump Wedding, Self Assignment, January 22, 2005

We are NOT each other’s enemies. The press who reports on this bullshit is not the enemy. The people who make us attach each other in defense of THEM? They are our enemies.

Don’t mistake my point here. I hope, with every fiber of my being, that Donald Trump’s big old orange ass will land in jail in the not too distant future.

In the meantime? I refuse to inch any closer to civil war in defense of his actions or those who opposed him in the election.

I know. Half of you are outraged.

Let me hear what you think.

 

Is This the Border?


Traveling to Europe a few weeks ago was an amazing and eye opening experience. I learned so much.

And I have so many questions!

For example, when we took the train from Innsbruck to Milan, we had to cross the border between Austria and Italy. Austria is a financially stable and thriving country, while Italy continues to struggle with a weak economy, an unstable government, and an influx of immigrants that it can neither house nor feed.

You’d expect the border between the two countries to be pretty secure, wouldn’t you?

You know what?
It’s completely invisible.

We boarded our international train in Austria and got off in Italy. The only way that we knew we’d changed countries was that the signs at the first station were in German and then Italian, and at the last they were in Italian and then German.

There were plenty of business people and other types of workers on our train. They were speaking German as they entered Italy to work for the day.

In the station we saw people with briefcases or work uniforms waiting to go from Italy into Austria to work for the day.

I was astounded.

Where were the armed guards? The passport and visa checkers? Where were the fences and gates and drug sniffing dogs?

Wouldn’t Italians be trying to get into Austria to have a better life, given the differences in the two economies?

When I asked about this, people were baffled.

“Well, we are Italians and we live in Italy, but we go to work in Austria. Then we come home at the end of the day.” The explanations were given with just the slightest hint of “what the hell don’t you understand about this?”

What a concept.

An open border. And it doesn’t mean that millions of poor, struggling Italians are infesting Austria to rape and pillage.

Nope.

It means that people on both sides can work where there are jobs. Presumably, both economies benefit from the connection between workers and work.

At night, everyone gets back on the train, or the bus, or into their cars, and they drive across the invisible borders to go back to their families, their towns, their languages and their respective soccer teams.

Wonder what my country could learn from this situation?

the border

Somewhere along the border. I can’t tell you exactly how far on either side of the line this was.

One Last Thought Before I Go


I can’t stand Donald Trump. He is a liar. I hate liars. He is willing to turn us all against each other to achieve his own power and his own gains. I hate that kind of selfishness.

But I love a lot of his followers. I love my relatives who have come to every birthday party for my kids, sent graduation gifts, danced at family weddings, made me dinners just for fun. I love my neighbors who kayak with us, go out to dinner with us, share perennials, gripe about the lousy weather and sit through endless town meetings with us.

I despise the media moguls who control our thoughts by following the orders of their corporate overlords. Fox News is a wholly owned subsidiary of Trump and his Corporate organization. They’re ridiculous. They aren’t news. I would never look to them for news.

CNN is less obvious, but “Breaking News” every hour on the hour for the past 10 years? Seriously, dudes? One big story per week, with endless repetitive talking heads pretending outrage and tears? That’s your idea of news?

Come. On.

I hate the ugly words that are being hurled around by people who disagree on the latest core issue. I hate seeing people berated for their beliefs, their life styles, their religious choices, their sexual preferences. I hate it. I hate the swears, the offensive remarks, the name calling, the hatred, the plain old meanness.

I don’t love my country, because I don’t know what that means. Am I supposed to love the dirt? The trees? The highways? Am I supposed to love the flag, no matter where it waves or who is holding it or how it is used? I don’t know if I’m expected to love my government? The bureaucracy of it? The big money that owns it?

I do love my countrymen. I love them because they’re also trying to make sense of the struggles we face every day. They want jobs, they want some financial security, they was to know that if they work hard they will be able to provide a safe life for their families.

I love my countrymen because they are humans. I love my fellow humans. I don’t hate the ones who are different from me. I don’t hate or fear the ones who have different colored skin than mine. I don’t hate of fear the ones who are more or less religious than me or the ones who call the divine by a name I don’t recognize. I don’t fear or hate my fellow humans if they are richer or poorer than me, or if they speak a different language or if they live in a different part of this earth.

And I don’t hate or fear my fellow humans, my fellow Americans, my fellow community members because they disagree with my views on gun control or border safety or trade or taxes.

I hope that I am smart enough to find some truth in all the complete bullshit that is filling our world. I hope that I am brave enough to listen when people have different ideas than my own.

And I hope that I am kind enough, evolved enough, thoughtful enough to grant my fellow family members, neighbors, coworkers the right to their own opinions.

I will still work as hard as I can to move my country and my world in a direction that seems the best to me. I will still work as diligently as possible to bring a positive, loving, kind world into being.

But I will try my best to do that without screaming at my friends on the “other side.”

I don’t know if my plan will work. I just know that it’s the only way I can proceed and still feel proud of myself as I look in the mirror every day.

I wish more people shared my view.

It might make us all a lot safer and a whole lot better informed.

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Trying to be my best self.

What The Kids Are Learning


I used to be a teacher. I used to spend a lot of time ruminating about what my kids were learning. I used to evaluate my lessons in order to carefully measure the exact idea that was being taught, and how well each child had mastered that concept.

I know, after thirty or so years of teaching kids, and after raising three of my own, that kids learn a LOT from what they observe. They don’t always grasp the fine points of the various graphs and pictures in their text books, but they do learn from what they see and hear.

So I’m wondering.

I’m wondering what our 8-16 year olds are learning in the age of Donald Trump. What are they taking away from the ongoing drama that keeps unfolding on our TV’s, in our social media, on the front pages of our newspapers? What have they figured out about successful behavior from the actions and reactions of their parents and other adults?

I have a few guesses, based on my decades of assessing children’s learning. See what you think, and let me know if you agree.

1. Lying is a powerful tool

Even though I’m sure that every kid in the country has gotten into trouble at least once for lying, they must be learning that if you lie often enough, your lie will be accepted.

I’m sure that our kids are watching as their President makes claims that are OBVIOUSLY lies. He claimed that thousands of Muslims were out on the streets of New York cheering when the towers came down on 9/11. There is no proof, no evidence, no pictures, no reports, no corroborating reporters. But Trump repeated the lie so many times that you can find people on Twitter now who repeat it as fact.

Our kids are learning how to lie. Do it often. Repeat as needed. Act completely convinced of the righteousness of your lie. Repeat again. Never back down.

Bam. Your lie has won the day.

2. Bullies Win

Donald Trump appears to have won the most important and powerful job in the country by being what every elementary kid would recognize as a bully. Our children have learned that its a good idea to call people ugly names. “Crooked Hillary”, “Little Marco”, “Slippery James Comey”.

Every kid at recess must be thinking about the social stature he can earn by making fun of “Fat Georgie” or “Jimmy the Fag.”

They must be wondering why their teachers pressure them to accept their disabled peers. I mean, Trump was applauded for publicly mocking a physically disabled reporter. Why should they be kind to that weird autistic kid in their math class?

Teachers and parents can’t really compete with the image of the most powerful man in the country and his powerful bullying attacks.

3. Blame everyone else

What can I say?

Donald Trump is happy to blame his spokespeople for repeating his bullshit. He is delighted to blame nonexistent voter fraud for his loss of the popular vote. He blames the “fake media” for pointing out his many lies, distortions and screw-ups.

The lesson for our children surely must be that best way to avoid the consequences of bad behavior isn’t to behave well. It’s to do whatever the hell you want, and then point the finger at someone else.

Awesome.

4. Take NO responsibility for any error. Ever.

Trump and his team have absolutely mastered the skill of looking right into the camera and saying, “I forgot.”

“Did you or any of your staff ever meet with any Russians, anywhere, at any time?”

“No, no, again we say, no!!!!”

And then when it is proven that your campaign manager, your top advisor, your own damn SON, actually met with a whole boatload of Russians on a whole boatload of different dates, you just shrug your shoulders and say, “Gosh. We forgot.”

Never mind the fact that if you guys actually are so addled and mentally deficient that you DID you forget, then you aren’t in any shape to be running the country.

Never mind that you are clearly demonstrating dementia.

You have taught our kids how to respond if we ask them, “Did you eat that chocolate cake I left on the counter for my office party?” Our kids will just give the big eyes and say. “Nope.”

When we point out the frosting smeared across their faces, they will just shrug their tiny shoulders and say, “I forgot.”

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“I didn’t throw that toy in the toilet. It was that stupid kid. Or, if I did it, I just don’t remember.”

None of this is funny, although I’m trying my best to make you laugh.

None of this is normal.

We will be working hard for the next decade, at least, to undo the damage done by this lying, self absorbed, irresponsible blowhard and those who follow his lead.

This is awful.

 

 

 

Too Shocked To React


I wonder how many of you find yourselves filled with a sense of impending doom. Or with a profound but diffuse anxiety, like a balloon filling up ever more tightly in your chest. I wonder how many of you walk around waiting for that balloon to burst.

I feel these things every single day.

I blame Donald Trump.

Why? What’s going on? I have some thoughts.

Maybe our reaction is simply one of stunned disbelief. Maybe its the reaction of the sane and reasonable in the face of insane and unreasonable actions.

I remember once when my kids were very young, I took them to our local mall to pick up some new shoes. There was another Mom there, with her two kids. They were acting up, and the Mom was clearly frazzled. I remember that at first I was sympathetic, but then she suddenly turned on the two little boys. She started to scream and swear at them. As the kids began to yell back, she suddenly flicked out a hand and slapped one boy across the face.

Everyone around went into immediate shock. We all made quiet protest sounds, “Jeez,” and “Oh, no!”  But nobody yelled at the woman, nobody grabbed those crying children. No one called the cops. No one spoke or took a breath. We avoided each others’ eyes.

After a few more seconds, the angry woman grabbed her boys by the arms and marched out of the mall, still cursing, but no longer violent.

I remember that I stood there in complete disbelief. This is simply NOT how people in my world behave. This is not how we respond to cranky children.

I was stunned.

My family finished our shopping, and drove home. I don’t remember what I said to my children.

But I remember the feeling of failure that stayed with me for weeks. I remember feeling enraged, helpless, frustrated with myself for my inaction. I remember the feeling of having swallowed a balloon filled with rage, and being unable to push it away or empty it.

Why had I done NOTHING?

After talking with my husband, I realized that the woman’s horrific actions had just completely stumped me.  I think that when someone behaves in a completely shocking and unexpected way, we revert to our most polite, appropriate selves. Maybe we’re trying to show the culprit that THIS is the correct behavior. Maybe we fear that we’ll sink down to the same low level, and we can’t let ourselves go there.

Or maybe the whole situation is so completely surreal that we have no idea of how to respond. We witness something so unbelievable that we can’t force our brains to accept it.

Is that what’s happening with the Trump administration?

Are we all just getting too shocked to react?

What we are hearing and seeing is so completely abnormal that we simply stand there.

First the President tells a straight out lie. It’s an obvious lie, easily disproven. He lies about crowd size, about immigration numbers, even about his own previous statements.

Lots of his lies are only aimed at making him look better to the world at large.

“A reporter for Time magazine — and I have been on their cover 14 or 15 times. I think we have the all-time record in the history of Time magazine.”

No he wasn’t. And that was easy to prove, since Time keeps records.

People call him out, point out the lie.

Trump and Fox and that whole group immediately repeats the lie a hundred times. It starts to sound like it might possibly be true. I mean, come on, would an entire White Staff and a whole news station keep telling the same lie? We start to doubt ourselves.

But people in public and the media call it out again. “That’s a lie!”

Trump and Co. respond by screaming about bias, liberal dishonesty. They stay on the attack.

We are stumped. Stupified.

The next day it happens again.

And again.

Today we heard the President of the US wistfully stating that he wishes “my people” would sit up for him like they do for President Kim of North Korea.

“Hey, he is the head of a country and I mean he is the strong head,” Mr. Trump told Fox News’ Steve Doocy on the White House lawn Friday. “Don’t let anyone think anything different. He speaks and his people sit up at attention. I want my people to do the same.”

Because we have studied history, we know how awful a thought this is. We are astonished. We don’t know if the man is delusional, dictatorial, stupid or all three. We hardly know how to react.

The media points out how completely wrong, undemocratic and dangerous the comment is. The Trumpers immediately yell about media bias, call the critics “haters” and fall back on “It was a joke.”

Trump is winning, just like that horrible woman won when she smacked her child with no repercussions. He is winning because every time he says, “witch hunt”, “Crooked Hillary” or “fake news”, we are swept by a feeling of “why bother?”

I wake up in the morning. I check the news, look at the latest Twitter rants. I see Trump blaming the Democrats for his abuse of children at the Southern border. I see him trying to tie FBI mistakes to the Mueller probe. I read the words “witch hunt” and I want to scream about the number of witches who have been indicted or jailed already.

Then I do nothing. I don’t write. I don’t call my representatives. I am helpless. My stomach fills with that same helpless rage and I want to cry.

I hate this situation. This is the country that my grandparents embraced in immigration. It’s the country my father defended in World Word II.

Now it has been reduced to “You’re a liar!” “No, you are!” “Nuh, uh! You lie!” “You do!”

We can’t win an argument like this. There is no sense to it. There is no reason. Logic has no role, nor do facts.

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“He likes me.”


I used to teach fifth grade.

I remember about ten thousand conversation where ten year old children were whispering to their friends that “He likes me, but I don’t know if he LIKES me.”

I remember at least 20 thousand conversations where one child confided in another, “I like her, but I don’t LIKE HER like her.”

They were little kids. They were trying to work out the nuances of enjoying someone’s company while a) not necessarily sharing any interests b) not necessarily agreeing with each other c) not wanting to run off and get married and make babies (how do you do that, anyway?)

When I was a teacher of young and innocent kids, these conversations made me smile. They made me appreciate the innocence of youth.

Now that I am a retired old grandmother, and the “He likes me!” comments are coming from the 73 year old, three times married President of the United States, my reaction is somewhat different.

I’m fighting off simultaneous urges to vomit and to run screaming into the night.

Yesterday I listened to Donald Trump’s comments as he left the G7 summit. I listened carefully to his every word.

And I must say, I have not changed my view that this man demonstrates a very significant language disorder.

He made many incomplete utterances. He left out specific nouns and verbs, leaving the impression that his ideas were drifting and pointless.

I suggest that you watch this video. Watch what happens when Trump strays from the script at about 3:18.

Note the incomplete, rambling thoughts.  Note this mess:

“From the standpoint of trade and jobs and being fair to companies, we are really, I think,  committed, I think they are really starting to be committed to a much more fair trade situation for the United States because it has been treated very unfairly…. Last year they lost 800, we as a nation, over the years, but, the latest numbers 817 billion dollars on trade and it’s unacceptable and everybody was told that.”

Say, what?

And then there was Trump’s assertion that our trade and international relationships were “a ten”, because the members of the G7 were reasonably polite to him.

He insisted that the relationships are fabulous because none of the leaders of the developed world stood up and called him a doody pants.

No matter what they thought of the big lying buffoon, all of the OTHER leaders of the free world had enough self control to be at least marginally civil to Donald J. Trump.

Unfortunately, that gave our incredibly immature national leader the impression that all of those other powerful people “liked” him. And that was enough for him.

He assumed that because they “liked” him, he could safely call them names, accuse them of theft, criticize his predecessors who had been dealing with them for decades, and then tell them exactly what they had to do.

He thought that being “liked” meant that nobody would get mad at him, no matter what.

I must tell you, as a former teacher of fifth graders with autism, oppositional defiant disorder, cognitive disabilities, language disorders and other learning and behavioral challenges, that this underdeveloped ability to comprehend the nuances of human relationships is a major problem.

Our country, our beloved United States of America, is in the hands of a person whose intellectual and emotional development has not yet reached the level of a ten year old. A person whose mastery of the English language is both immature and obviously disordered.

I have no idea what it is that goes on the mind of Donald J. Trump, but I am very, very sure that whatever it is, it is based on the ideas and beliefs of a selfish child. I am very, very sure that what he thinks is never articulated in a way that makes any sense.

I am very sure that we are in a very dangerous place right now. This country is being led by a pouting, angry child whose emotional, intellectual and linguistic development are all dangerously impaired.

“I don’t like him. And I don’t know what to do.”29381357345_27b53e0902_b

 

To Honor Those Who Gave All


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It’s Memorial Day. Once again, I find myself conflicted as I read the messages and see the tweets and watch the news.

I am an anti-war liberal. A progressive who believes that war is never the answer. I am a bleeding heart liberal.

I came of age during the Viet Nam war, when my brother and my older cousins and dozens of their friends waited every year to find out their number in the annual draft lottery. I came of age during the years when progressives fought against that war by protesting against the soldiers who had to fight it.

Now, from the vantage point of full adulthood, I don’t understand why a stance against an undeclared war turned into anger at the soldiers who were drafted against their will to fight it. Now I am ashamed to have supported that view and that action, even though I was only a young teen.

Since then, I have learned to study our wars. I have read about our oldest wars, going all the way back to King Phillip’s War in the seventeenth century. I have read about the Seven Years War in the mid 1700’s.

I learned a lot about the American Revolution when I was teaching fifth graders. Then there was the Mexican American War, the War of 1812,  and the Spanish American War.

Of course, I have also read about and studied the most deadly, most horrific, most terrible war in our history. The American Civil War was so awful and so damaging that it’s impact is still felt today across the Southern United States.

During my own lifetime, only 6 decades so far, I have lived through the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the first Iraq war, the second Iraq War, the Afghan War.

I have never fought for my country. I have never been a soldier. None of my children have fought.

So I hesitate, I have always hesitated, to speak up about war. But this year feels different for some reason. This year feels more important.

As I watch our impulsive, narcissistic, supremely self-absorbed President posturing about possible nuclear war, I find myself compelled to speak out.

Did you know that more than a million Americans have died in war during our very short lifespan? Did you know that this country has been at war for 93% of our history?

And even though we have been at war almost without a pause, we have an army that is now made up solely of volunteers. We have a military that is at war across the globe, even though no war has been declared by our Congress since 1942.

So here I am. Coming into Memorial Day Weekend.

I choose to honor, respect and value the million Americans who have given their lives for this country. I choose to honor them by demanding that those who are in power step up and do what is right. To Congress I say, either declare war or bring our young soldiers home NOW. To our President I say, either go to war or declare that we are at peace. And bring our soldiers home NOW.

To those who willingly take up arms for our country I say, be fierce. Be demanding. Make those who send you to your possible deaths explain to you WHY you are fighting. And do not accept the tired, worn, useless platitudes about “defending our freedom” or “protecting the homeland.” You are fighting in places that are so far from our homeland that many of us don’t even know what continent you are on. No one is threatening our shores with imminent invasion.

If you are fighting for oil, they should tell you that. If you are fighting for pipeline rights, you should know it. If you are fighting to maintain American control of foreign soil, you should know that too.

I honor your courage. I honor your sacrifice.

I vow to work as hard as I can for as long as I can to keep you safe, to let you stay at home protecting OUR shores.

Memorial Day is a day for all of us to commit to stopping our endless wars. It is a day for us to remember all of those who have died in service to our military. But it’s also a day for us to demand honesty and openness from that military and it’s leaders.

A flag on your grave is not enough.

On this Memorial Day, I vow to honor our million war dead by working to stop those terrible numbers from rising.

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Are We Really All That Bad?


I don’t travel very much. I have spent the majority of my life in Massachusetts, safe in my comfort zone. I know how people around me generally behave, but I don’t know all that much about other places.

But last weekend my niece got married way across the country, in far off San Diego, in the distant land of California. I really love my niece, and her family. So my sister and I got tickets and headed across this great land to celebrate the big event.

As we set out on our epic journey, I wondered what I would see as I mingled with Americans from all over. Would I see the same hateful, dangerous, sickening levels of racism that are reported over and over again in the press? Would I see people shouting at those who spoke Spanish, demanding that they “Go back to Mexico”? Would I see people spitting on those in middle Eastern dress?

I was ready.

I was pumped up and prepared. I had even internally practiced some of my responses. “Please stop. You are being a racist. Stop.”  Or, “Where were your grandparents born?” I was scared to face the reality of Trump’s America, but I was ready to strike back.

I was channeling my inner Bernie Bro as I got Logan Airport in Boston.

But.

Now that I am back at home in my rural, safe, quiet little New England town, I have to say that I am mightily relieved at the reality that I witnessed on my trip.

My sister Liz and I spent time in Boston, San Diego and Chicago. We mingled with hundreds of humans of all races, ages, ethnicities. We had the pleasure of people watching in some of this country’s largest airports.

And these are some of the memories that I brought back with me:

1. A Spanish speaking family with a beautiful little 2 year old girl was seated across from us on the plane. The little girl shrieked at one point as she watched a movie on Mom’s iPad. Her young parents tried to shush her, but the people seated around them chuckled, laughed and commented out loud about how well behaved she was.

2. An African woman (perhaps from Somalia?) was waiting at one gate at O’Hare. She was dressed from head to foot in a gorgeous deep blue robe that covered her head. She had to little girls with her. They were somewhere between 6 and 9 years old, I guessed. The girls were each dressed in robes like their mom’s, although the colors differed. All of them had deep, dark brown skin. All had gorgeous white smiles. The two little girls were dancing as I walked by, so I stopped to watch. They were whirling around, their blue and deep green robes swirling. They were laughing. Their Mom looked like every traveling parent on earth; tired, impatient, anxious. But she was smiling at the kids.

I gazed around, worried at how people might be reacting to this obviously not “American” family. I saw an Asian man laughing as he watched. I saw a red haired woman smiling at the woman. I saw a group of teen aged typical white kids giggling and smiling at the girls.

3. At one point, Liz and I were in need of a quick food fix. (You’ve traveled, right? You get it!) I decided to grab some spring rolls and rangoon from a Chinese place. I got in line. In front of me were two handsome, youngish businessmen. They were carrying leather briefcases and wearing expensive suits. They were chatting casually as they waited. They were speaking Spanish.

This struck me funny, given that we were waiting for our Chinese food. Then I realized that I was buying food for two middle aged Italians. I glanced behind me and saw a black teen, two blond women, and three more young black men.

Not an Asian in sight.

As we got to the check out, I heard the men chatting with the cashier in Spanish. The only word I caught was “soy sauce.”

4. I saw a young black woman with gorgeous braids holding a door for an older white man. They were smiling at each other as he thanked her and she answered, “No problem!”

5. When we got to our gate in Chicago, needing to catch our connecting flight to Boston, we weren’t able to find two seats together in the waiting area. So I sat down and held our luggage as Liz went in search of a rest room. An Asian man, perhaps Korean, took his bags off of the seat beside me and said, “OK.” as he nodded at me. I thanked him, but he didn’t seem to speak English.

A few minutes later, his teenaged daughter came along and saw that she had lost her seat. “Hey,” she said to her Dad, who answered quickly in his native language. “I’m sorry,” I began, “You can have the seat.”

She wouldn’t hear of it. “No, no! It’s fine” she said in perfect English as she gracefully slid to the floor and opened her laptop.

I was so relieved. So grateful. I saw a big mix of people, all helping each other get through the frustrations and joys of travel. I saw people smiling at babies, oblivious to the color, language or nationality of said babies. I saw young people respecting their elders and elders smiling at youth.

I saw the proverbial “melting pot” in action.

When we were on our way to Boston, I told Liz about what I had observed. I told her that I was relieved to see that “in spite of” the hatred spewed out by the Trump administration, we were managing to rise above it.

Liz is usually more astute than I am, and this time was no exception. She shook her head and said, “It isn’t in spite of Trump. It’s because of him and his awful followers. Everyone is going out of their way to prove him wrong. Everyone want to prove that they aren’t part of his toxic view.”

I think she’s right.

And I love it.

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