“Stand Up For What’s Right, Even If You Stand Alone”


Well, this is a fine kettle of fish.

I find myself, a lifetime progressive activist, in the unsavory position of disagreeing with my “side” on one of the big news stories of the day. It would be easy for me to just sit back and let this relatively meaningless furor rage and fade.

But I can’t seem to make myself keep quiet.

Huh. Maybe that’s why I’m such a bleeding heart liberal; I see what I believe to be an injustice, and I have to speak out about it.

So what has me all huffed and puffed up on this lovely spring evening?

The White House Correspondents Association Dinner, that’s what.

Last night the WHCA held it’s annual dinner, as it has since 1920. The dinner was, as usual, an occasion for members of the general media to meet with correspondents who cover the White House. It was, as usual, filled with powerful members of the media and the government that it reports upon.

Everyone in the room knew that a sharp tongued comic would be presenting remarks and everyone knew that those in power would be roasted and laughed at.

In the past, comedians and other entertainers have poked fun at the administration. The whole room has laughed as the President and his cabinet are made to seem silly or ridiculous. It hasn’t always been easy to be a target, but since 1920, every President has attended the event and has smiled through the humor.

But now we are in the age of Donald Trump. Now we have a President who is so fragile and thin skinned that he refuses to show up for the dinner. Instead, he sends his representatives to take the heat.

We also live in a time when that same President of the United States glibly mocks disabled reporters, calls the media “slime” and “terrible people” and “liars.” He makes up insulting names for anyone who disagrees with him and thinks nothing of making crude and debasing remarks about women.

President Donald Trump is a disgusting pig of a human being, and I’d refuse to speak to him if I ever ended up in the same room. He makes me sick. He is the worst example of greed and selfishness that I have ever seen in my 62 years of life.

I don’t think much of anyone who works for him, either. I have little respect those who represent him.

Take, for example, Sara Huckabee Sanders, his Press Secretary. How she can stand to say the crap she says every day in defense of his actions, I do not know.

But last night, at the WHCA Dinner, she was made the butt of the kind of cruel comments and name calling that are usually made by Trump himself. These weren’t “jokes” because they didn’t call on any clever use of words, they didn’t use irony, they didn’t require a witty turn of phrase. And they were spectacularly unfunny.

So I find myself coming to her defense. I find myself criticizing the speaker (I won’t say comedian. She is. not. funny.)

If it’s “edgy” comedy to call someone a liar and to publicly smear their character, then Donald Trump is a comedian.

If we hate it when Trump humiliates people in public and says things that are spiteful and cruel, then we have to hate it when other people do the same thing.

Fellow progressives, I get it. We can’t stomach this guy. We despise him. We despise his minions. I get it.

It’s easy to laugh at them. It’s easy to post memes that make them look stupid and ugly and somehow beneath us. I’ll admit it; I like it when a whole group of my like minded lefty pals share a good guffaw over the Bloviating Blotus.

Still.

When we behave in exactly the same way that makes us cringe when it’s the other “side” that does it, we have all been diminished. Nothing is better. Nothing is going to get better.

We can all keep ignoring what we know to be civil behavior and we can keep lowering our expectations of ourselves and others. We can keep assuring ourselves that we are the good guys because “they did it first.” We can keep sinking down and down and down.

But if we do that, we all just end up in a hole that’s too deep to climb out of.

I can’t stand Donald Trump. I will work as hard as I possibly can to see him defeated in 2020 (if he stays in office that long). I’ll campaign for progressive candidates and make calls and knock on doors and push for universal health insurance. I’ll march against wars and guns and in favor of public education.

But I won’t laugh at unfunny insults hurled by people who seem to use the Donald himself as their inspiration.

Sarah_huckabee_co_wh_presser_04

 

Advertisements

I Think I Know Why Nothing Gets Done


We’re constantly wondering, we Americans, what exactly has gotten into our government leaders. We watch them bluster and blather. We hear them pontificate and pander.

But do they ever actually accomplish anything? Pass any new laws? Set some clear policies? I don’t know, maybe figure out an actual workable year long budget?

Nope, nope and nuh-uh.

Don’t you wonder why?

Well, I think I’ve figured it out. It’s actually pretty simple.

They don’t have time to govern! These are very busy people!!!

I mean, look what our leaders are up to at the moment.

Screen Shot 2018-04-18 at 8.38.30 PM

Yup. The big boss of our duly elected House of Representatives is doing his best to prevent his opponents (also our duly elected representatives) from working to get our votes.  He doesn’t have time to legislate.

Then there’s this:

Screen Shot 2018-04-18 at 8.47.06 PM

See? They don’t have time for insignificant details like keeping the lights on, or protecting our Social Security. They can’t be bothered with the minutiae of approving or disapproving of the bombs we drop overseas. They’re busy with pre-emptive actions to prevent something that hasn’t happened and might never happen.

These people are BUSY! They have important work to do!

For example,

Screen Shot 2018-04-18 at 8.50.09 PM

Oh, sure, Mrs. Clinton LOST the election that took place almost a year and a half ago. Comey has been fired. But our Congress is busy trying to root out any possible infraction of any possible law that one of them might have committed at some point in the past. They don’t have time to work together to reach a compromise on little things like the impending death of the planet.

So it’s easy to see that our members of Congress are so busy trying to poke each other in the eye that they can’t be bothered with keeping the country going.

I suggest that we lock them all in a big room and let them play a killer round of “Words With Friends” or “Trivial Pursuit.”  Or maybe “Cards Against Humanity.” The winning team gets to run things for six months, then there’s a rematch.

It would save us billions of tax dollars in “investigations” and, God willing, we’d never have to hear the words “Benghazi” or “Pee-pee tape” ever again.

 

 

 

 

We Cannot Remain Immune


As I have done every day for the past two school years, I took care of my granddaughter today.

My beloved, sassy, funny, incredibly beautiful Ellie was here with me on this cold April morning. Her sweet baby brother, Johnny, was here, too.

Just as I do every day, I picked them up and brought them into my house. I settled them down to play in the living room, surrounded by all of their familiar toys. I went into my well stocked kitchen and made them a nice healthy breakfast. I sat with them, laughing and smiling as two year old Ellie chattered on about her imaginary friends and Johnny used both hands to fill his mouth with pancakes and blueberries.

When breakfast was over, I cleaned them both up, popped the dishes into my dishwasher, and got out some clothes for the day. We got dressed, we brushed hair, we made a plan for the day.

Because we live in Massachusetts, we sometimes watch a movie in the morning. It is too cold and snowy to go outside, and our indoor activities are a bit limited. So I settled Ellie in front of the TV to watch “Leap” and I put Johnny on the rug with his favorite cars and balls and drums.

And I opened my laptop to check on the news.

I saw the images from the Syrian gas attack.

640px-Ghouta_massacre4

I saw a tiny girl, probably two years old. Her hair was dark brown, like my Ellie’s. It curled around her face, just as Ellie’s does. Her eyes were closed, and the lashes that brushed her cheeks were long and dark.  

She looked just like my Ellie, when she sleeps so safely in my bed, her pink cheek resting on my pillow.

But her eyes were closed in death. Her cheeks were ashen.  Her body was still.

And my heart almost stopped.

I looked at her. I couldn’t look away.

I could feel the smooth texture of the skin on her tender chest. I could imagine, so clearly, the smell of her curly dark hair. I swear to you, I could hear her peals of laughter.

She must have had a grandmother who adored her. She must have had a mother who looked at her and asked the universe how it was possible for one human to be so inexpressibly lovely. She must have had a father who swelled with pride at each of her achievements. And a grandpa who turned into a puddle of foolish love whenever she turned that sweet face toward him.

Were they all dead,?I wondered.  Was this little baby alone in her death, or did all of those who loved her so much die with her as the poison filled their home?

And I started to sob. I tried to hold it in, to let my own little ones continue to play in the innocence of an American morning. But I must have made a sound, because Ellie turned to look at me, her dark, dark eyes finding mine. “Nonni, why are you sad?”, she asked.  I had no answer.

So I picked her up in my right arm, and settled her against my chest. I pulled little Johnny into my left arm, and held them both against my body. They squirmed and giggled, as little ones do when they are pinned in the arms of a grownup.

I leaned my face into them. I smelled the soft, clean, tender smell of their hair. I kissed the satin of their necks. I felt them breathing.

And I realized that THIS is why I will never again believe in an omniscient God who rewards us for living well.  I will never ever believe in a deity who chooses who should live or die.

Because that beautiful little girl who died horribly was just as joyful and as lovely and as valuable as my own beloved girl. Her parents were no doubt just as loving and as good as my daughter and her husband. Her grandparents must have felt the same overwhelming love that we feel about our grandchildren.

I have to wonder. How can it be that humanity has lived this long without learning anything? How have we come to a place where we can visit other planets, solve the riddles of DNA, understand the workings of nature, yet we haven’t figured out a way to stop slaughtering our babies?

I refuse to believe that there is nothing we can do to stop this. I refuse to accept that our only recourse would be more death, more war, more killing, more dead beautiful babies lying in the arms of their dead parents.

If we can solve the riddles of genetic mutations, we can solve the riddle of human violence. If we can find a way to split and atom and find a way to destroy our planet, we can find a way to stop these mass murders.

Maybe we all need to see images of dead babies who look just like our own.

I don’t know.

But this can’t be the best that humanity can achieve.

 

If I Carried a Gun


Books

I keep thinking about the idea of teachers carrying guns.

When the Newtown massacre happened, I was teaching fifth grade. Immediately after the horror of that day, the NRA and dozens of political leaders tossed out the idea of “arming teachers.”

Even now, five years after this stupidity was mentioned as an answer to school shootings, the idea continues to be thrown about.

There are so very many practical reasons why this is a completely idiotic idea, including impossibility of safely keeping a loaded gun in a room full of kids.

But one issue hasn’t been raised yet, and it is the biggest problem as far as I’m concerned.

It is the moral question of killing, even in defense of others.

What would happen to the spirit, the soul, the conscience of a teacher who successfully shot and killed another human being? How have so many come to believe that all there is to killing is pulling the trigger?

I was a pretty typical American public school teacher. I’m a mother, a wife, a grandmother. I loved my job because I loved being with children. I loved laughing with them, exciting their interests, forming relationships with each of them.

I have spent a lot of time imagining myself in an active shooter situation.

I try to imagine myself with a gun in my hand, knowing that my 24 students are cowering against the wall. Knowing that outside our door there is someone trying to kill us.

I imagine the door bursting open as I raise the gun, pulling the trigger, hitting the target.

I imagine the face of the young man in front of me exploding in a shower of blood and bone. I can hear the screams of the kids behind me as he collapses. I imagine watching him die in front of me.

What then?

What if he turned out to be a student I knew? Maybe one of the many struggling kids I had taught myself some years before? What if he was a former student at our school?

What if I knew his family?

Would I be expected to walk back into my classroom a day or a week later, ignoring the newly laid flooring where his brains and blood had damaged the carpet? Would I be expected to focus on my math lessons and recess and homework corrections?

What would I feel as I looked into the eyes of my young students? Students who had come to trust me? What would I be expected to say to them?

I would never be able to look at myself the same way. I’d never feel clean or whole again.

Oh, I know, the press would call me a hero, the survivors would cheer me, there would be articles in the paper and on and on.

But I would have been changed from a teacher to a killer. The very essence of my self would be smashed and reshaped into something unrecognizable to me or those who love me.

There may be times when it is reasonable to kill another human being outside of wartime. I don’t know.

But I do know that is deeply wrong for people to casually toss out the idea of “arming” civilians so that we can protect ourselves from each other.

It is morally wrong to lightly suggest that those who have not chosen to be members of the police or military could simply shoot to kill and then go back to teaching phonics.

I think we need to step back, away from the growing pile of weapons in front of us, and take a deep breath. We need to ask ourselves if we really believe that killing is anything other than a life changing, painful, horrific event for the killer.

Life is not a video game. None of us is Rambo. Causing the violent, ugly, bloody death of another human is not a joke. It’s not a part of life in civilized societies.

Where are our morals? What happened to our souls?

 

 

Being the Change


IMG_20180324_095037

I’m heading out in a few minutes. Going into Boston to join the revolution.

The March for Our Lives has left me soaked in tears. I feel hopeful, uplifted, empowered, renewed. When I see the clear eyed courage of our young leaders, I feel strong enough to get myself out there and march.

But every time I close my eyes, I see the faces of those little one from Newtown. I see the images from Columbine. I see the images of the teachers who died trying to save them.

I am thrown back to the day of the Sandy Hook shooting, standing in the window of my fifth grade classroom, watching my students run and play at recess. I was terrified. I wanted to bring them back in, I wanted them with me. I wanted them where I could touch each of them, and hold them safely beside me.

I once again feel the hopelessness of that day. I remember moving the furniture in my classroom, after the children had gone home. Maybe if I put this book case near the door, I could push it over if someone burst in with a gun. Maybe I could hit him with my broom.

I remember being told to keep cans of beans in my classroom. Being told that I should be ready to throw beans at an invading assassin. I remember the rage I felt when those whose lives are protected by the armed Secret Service simply shrugged off my fear.

Last night I dreamed of the kids who were in my care on the day of the Sandy Hook massacre. I dreamed that they were being swept away in a crowd, and I couldn’t keep track of them. I dreamed of trying to scream their names, but having no voice.

Last night I dreamed of trying to save my students with a can of beans.

This morning I am drying my tears, putting on warm clothes, and getting my aging self out there. My heart still hurts. I’m still afraid.

But today I don’t feel hopeless.

Today I feel enraged. Today I plan to channel the anger and the power of those Parkland kids and all the young activists around this country. I plan to scream until I’m hoarse.

We will be the change we want to see in the world. We will.

Thank God for children, whose energy and spirit and determination can bring the rest of us along the right path.

NEVER AGAIN


59e4999f85600a175d7f1fc3

I once had a job that changed my life.

I was 22 years old, a recent graduate with a dual degree in political science and the Russian language. It was 1978.

I was hired by Jewish Family Services of Boston as an interpreter. The agency worked to resettle Soviet Jews who were beginning new lives in the Boston area.

My job was to interview the new families, and to interpret between the immigrants and their social workers. I also took them to the doctor. I was an interpreter of Russian at Boston’s Beth Israel and Children’s Hospitals.

At the innocent age of 22, this Italian Catholic had the opportunity to learn all about the lives of Jews who had lived through World War II. I had the honor of interpreting their stories to social workers, doctors, psychiatrists, landlords, dentists, eye doctors and obstetricians. I interpreted at a birth, and at a cardiac catheterization. I learned so much about medicine.

More importantly, I learned what it is to live history. I learned what it meant to have survived the Holocaust.

I knew a woman who had lost part of her eyesight from untreated diabetes. I took her to the eye doctor. I can still see her, her gray hair curling and thick, her sky blue eyes staring up toward the ceiling. As we waited for her turn to see the doctor, she told me about living through the siege of Leningrad. She talked about eating her shoes as a child, about her father going out onto the ice of the frozen Neva River to bring home meat from the horses that had died trying to drag supplies across the river.

I can still see her.

There was a woman who was very hard to understand. She had a badly scarred face and a poorly repaired cleft lip. She was old, overweight, always angry. She was hard to like. One day she wanted to cook for me and her social worker, as all of these immigrants did to show their gratitude. She made us a pile of Ukrainian dumplings called pelmeni. As we ate, she told us her story.

When she was a young wife, the war broke out. Her husband went off to fight against the Nazis. She was left at home, pregnant and raising a two year old girl. Her village was attacked by the invading Nazi army. Every house in the Jewish town was set on fire. The young mother ran into the woods, her two year old in her arms and her 7 month fetus safely under her heart. As she turned to look back at her burning home, a bullet hit her in the face, tearing through her upper lip, her palate and the back of her throat. The bullet fell back into her mouth, having failed to kill her. She spit it into the grass and kept running.

I will never forget her face as she told the story of sleeping in the woods with her terrified daughter, or of walking through the forest to find safety in another little town.

I saw the tattooed numbers on the forearms of many people. They were grandparents now, leaving behind everything they had ever known so that their children and grandchildren could live in a country where nothing so horrific could ever happen. They brought their scars, their fears, their illnesses, their terror. They brought their determination to become good Americans.

They brought their faith in the American dream and in the populism of American society.

Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day.

I remember.

And I vow to fight as hard as I possibly can against a repeat. I will fight with everything I have against labelling an entire religion as “terrorists”. I will fight as hard as I can against the demonization of an entire nationality and against the naming of “us” and “them.”  I will not sit by while a giant wall is built between this country and its neighbor. I won’t stay quiet as people in my community are rounded up and thrown out.

NEVER AGAIN.

Never again.

It’s in our hands to make sure that when we say never again, that is what we truly mean.

 

 

Visiting the Shit Hole


Guess where I’m going next July?

I’m going to be celebrating my 40th wedding anniversary in Italy! Isn’t that wonderful?

Our two sons and their beloveds are coming, too! We’re going to see Rome, and the Amalfi Coast. We’re going to stay in Pompeii, and walk through the Cinque Terre and drink wine in sidewalk cafes wherever we can find them.

And, perhaps best of all, we are going to visit the little villages that hold our ancient roots. My father’s family came from a small town outside of Naples. They were farmers, providing mostly for their own families. They lived simple, difficult lives.

Back at the turn of the twentieth century, that part of Italy was facing hard times. Life there was….I don’t know…how shall I say it?

It was a shit hole.

And my mother’s family came from Augusta, Sicily. An even more impoverished part of Europe during those first couple of decades of the twentieth century.

Even more of a shit hole.

My family, my grandparents, left behind every single thing that they knew and loved. They gave up home, safety, family, love, language, music, friends. They dared to dream of a better life, and they boarded those overcrowded ships. They waved goodbye. They looked forward.

They left those shit holes, and they entered Ellis Island.

They weren’t quite brown, but they weren’t blue eyed blonds, either. They faced the discrimination of the lighter skinned, English speaking immigrants who had come before them.

But they stuck it out, and they made a great new life for their children. And their grandchildren, like me.

Their efforts gave rise to several doctors, some lawyers, business people, teachers, nurses, EMT’s, musicians, actors, therapists. They are my heroes.

So next summer, I will go to the places where they lived and grew and fell in love with a better idea. I will honor and bless the ground where they walked. I will give thanks for their courage.

And I will vow, right out loud, to do everything I can for the rest of my life, to make sure that no matter what kind of “shit hole” other humans are living in, I will welcome them into my country, my state, and my own home.

IMG_20180111_222104

Angelina Fantasia and Carmine Merullo with their youngest son, my father.                                         My heroes, all of them.

Don’tch Wonder Who’s Concealing and Carrying?


emoji-2744064_960_720

Not long ago, I went to my local grocery store on a busy Saturday morning. There was a man there who was blocking the aisle. He looked angry. He looked scary. He was dressed in scruffy clothes, had scraggly gray hair and a day’s worth of stubble on his scowling face.

I stood there awkwardly for a minute, but I wanted to get buy him and be on my way. I told myself not to be so judgmental. I cleared my throat and said, “Excuse me….?”

He looked up and smiled, revealing beautiful blue eyes and a disarming dimple. We had a short, friendly chat about the virtues of low fat ice cream, and I finished my shopping feeling great about the interaction.

But ya know what?

If that same thing had happened after the passage of the “Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act,” that whole thing would have gone far differently. You know the bill I’m talking about, right?

The latest bit of NRA inspired insanity would allow anybody who can legally carry a concealed weapon in their home state can carry one in mine.

Which, of course, means that when strolling through my local store, I will have no idea if my fellow shoppers are armed.

So in the best case scenario on that recent shopping trip, I would have turned around and gone the other way. I wouldn’t have dared to talk to that scary looking old guy.

In the worst case scenario? I might have been carrying a concealed weapon myself. A loaded one. I might have felt threatened enough by his big bulky self blocking my way. I might have reacted with a jolt of fear, especially if the guy had his hand hear his pocket.

I might have feared for my life and I might have shot his face off.

Call me naiive, but I would very much like to continue meeting new people as I go through my days. I’d like to take my grandkids to the mall without worrying that the young guy with the shaking hands isn’t about to pull out his gun and start shooting us up.

#GunControlNow

Why the Media Reminds Me of My Puppy


I love my puppy Lennie. He is sweet, energetic, full of love. He is cute. He’s silly. My granddaughter even said to me this week, “You need a new Lennie. This one is crazy!”

I mean, the nutty little fool chases his own tail every time he gets excited! That’s pretty crazy.

My sweet little canine buddy is also…how shall I put this?….Um…

Welp. He’s as dumb as a rock.

How do I know this?

I know it because sometimes I want to get him down into the backyard so that I can close the gate and keep him away from the slider doors while I’m having company. When I need to move my happy, loopy, goofy little guy out of the way, I step out onto the deck and pretend to throw a ball into the yard. I yell, with great excitement, “Go get it, boy!!!!”

And my darling dopie head runs down the stairs and chases….nothing.

See why this dumb-de-dumb-dumb behavior makes me think of the media?

You don’t???

Well. Think about this. North Korea has tested the most dangerous weapon in the past 50 years. The Special Prosecutor is closing in on our President. The Secretary of State is about to be fired.

And what’s going on?

The President spends his time tweeting out pure unadulterated bullshit. He actually retweeted several posts from the British version of the KKK. Videos that are fake. Videos that are ugly. Videos that only the most ignorant knuckle draggers among us would watch. Videos that try to convince us that all Muslims are dangerous criminals.

And what happened?

The media raced down the steps after the big old fake bone. They’re covering it in detail, giving it all kind of legitimacy that it doesn’t deserve.

The media isn’t talking about the mega rocket aimed at our hearts. It isn’t talking about the horrendous tax “reform” package that will make the rich even richer.

Nope. The media, lead by CNN, is chasing its tail all around the muddy backyard. Barking at the idiocy of those stupid, ignorant, pointless videos.

So.

This is why the media in our country, at this insane moment in time, reminds me of my beloved but not very bright little dog.

Scary, right?

Yes, Dammit, It IS a Gun Problem


I am speechless. I have no idea what to say, or how to respond.

Yesterday I was taking a quick check of Twitter when I read the breaking news about the latest mass shooting. More school children cowering as bullets fly overhead. More innocent victims cut down as they go through their daily lives.

I commented on Twitter, because I can’t stand it anymore.

Now, you have to know that I hardly ever tweet. Sometimes I respond, and I often retweet what others have said. But this time my anger, my sorrow, my rage made me send out my message.

Because, come ON! Of course it’s a damn gun problem!!!

All of the usual arguments against gun control are just so stupid. They simply make no sense.

I won’t even go into them all. I can’t.

I just can’t.

My heart hurts. My head hurts. My logical brain? It doesn’t hurt anymore because it melted.

Oh, the responses I got.

Holy hell.

What the absolute fluff is wrong with these people?

Let me be clear (to quote every politician in the past 50 years). The people who responded to me were articulate, smart, well informed and respectful. There was no name calling and no profanity. On their part or on mine.

But do you know what they believe??! Are you ready for this?

These American citizens, living in what most people would consider to be a relatively civilized country, these people scolded me for my belief that I am in danger because so many people around me are carrying concealed weapons.

These are a few of their responses to my insistence that the problem is a gun problem.

And also

Uh, huh. So….the answer isn’t to limit the number of deadly weapons. The answer is to arm the schools. And churches. And movie theaters. And malls.

What the hell?

Then there was this:

This is just about the saddest, most distressing image of the United States that I have ever seen. These people honestly believe that the police have no duty to protect us. They truly believe that their only defense from people with guns is to carry guns.

They are unable to grasp the fact that in EVERY OTHER developed country on earth, this is untrue. They believe that every young mother who takes her babies out to the park should be packin’ heat. Every teacher should be armed. Every grandmother like me should have a gun in my purse before I take the kids into the grocery store.

This is, of course, insane.

But the fact that these intelligent people believe it is just about the most depressing thing I’ve seen in years.

It is also just about the least patriotic thing I’ve seen in years. They distrust the government, the police, the fire department, the laws of the nation. They distrust and dislike the United States.

And they honestly believe that we living in the age of the OK Corral.

Isn’t that just awful?

I still think its a gun problem.

Conservape-tan-NRA