I Know What’s Wrong With Trump


Let me introduce myself, if you haven’t read my work before now..

I am a retired speech/language pathologist. For more than two decades, I spent every workday diagnosing and treating language disorders. I have helped people with a wide variety of communication deficits. I was very good at my job.

That’s why, in spite of the fact that I’ve been out of the field for several years, I am completely confident when I write that Donald Trump is exhibiting a serious language disorder.

Let me explain.

A deficit in expressing and/or understanding language is called aphasia.The term is most often used in diagnosing people who were not born with the disorder, but who acquire it later in life. Aphasia can be caused by a head injury, a stroke or as a part of a more significant cognitive decline in older adults.

The American Speech/Language and Hearing Association describes aphasia as a deficit in a patient’s ability to communicate effectively in everyday life. It can be variable in its severity, but it always involves a diminished ability to communicate.

One aspect of aphasia impacts a person’s expressive language. This is the kind of language disorder that is more obvious to those who interact with the affected patient. The person struggles to say what they mean. They may have difficulties in expressing ideas logically and specifically They might be seen to be searching for the right word as they speak. Many aphasic people develop an overreliance on empty words and phrases. I have known patients who included a favorite phrase or two into nearly every sentence spoken, as the rote language makes it easier to get out a full thought.

Some aphasic people make up words when they can’t find the one they need. The new word might or might not sound similar to the one that is missing.

People with expressive aphasia sometimes substitute one word or phrase for a similar one (ie, saying “chicken” when they mean “duck” or saying, “off the book” instead of “off the hook.”) Their conversations may seem rambling, with rapid jumps from one topic to another without any explanation. A story can go off on any number of tangents, leaving the listener confused.

Many people with what we call “fluent aphasia” can string together a long series of words that seem to make sense until you realize that there isn’t much content there. There are lots of pronouns and adjectives, but not enough nouns to make the meaning clear.

Aphasia can impact receptive language, or comprehension, as well. Aphasic people may struggle to follow complex conversations. They often misunderstand directions or fail to grasp the meaning of a question they’ve been asked. They find it confusing when more than one person is speaking at a time, or when the topic shifts in mid-conversation.

Some people with aphasia have problems with reading and writing. They may struggle to read anything other than the simplest of texts. Their writing can contain mistakes in syntax, word order or spelling that weren’t seen in the past.

Does this sound familiar to you? It certainly should.

The President of the United States is showing every one of these symptoms.

I’ll give you some examples.

Expressive Aphasia.

The following exchange was part of Mr. Trump’s remarks to the press on August 21.

“Mr. President, are you demanding that the fed chairman lower interest rates?”

“No, I don’t demand it but if he used his head he’d lower ’em. In Germany, they have a zero interest rate and we do compete. Much stronger than Germany but we do compete with Germany. In Germany, they have a zero interest rate. And when they borrow money, when you look at what happens, look at what’s going on over there. They borrow money, they actually get paid to borrow money. And we have to compete with that. So, ah, if you look at what’s happening around the world, Jay Powell and the Federal Reserve have totally missed the call, I was right and just about everybody admits that. I was right. He did quantitative tightening, he shouldn’t have done that. He raised interest rates too fast, too furious. And we have a normalized rate, I, we call it that. And now we have to go the other direction. We’ll see if he does that. If he does it, you’ll see a rocket ship, you’ll see….. And if he doesn’t, we have a very strong economy.”

“But we could have. We could be, we could be in a place that this nation was seldom at if we had interest rates cut by the federal reserve. The Federal Reserve has let us down. They missed the call. They raised it too fast and they raised it too high and they did quantitative tightening and they shouldn’t have done the tightening and they shouldn’t have raised them to the extent that they did. We could have had some raising but nothing like what they did.”

“Mr. President, what happened to your strong appetite for background checks?”

“Oh, I have an appetite for background checks, we’re gonnna be doing background checks. We’re working with Democrats, we’re working with Republicans. We already have very strong background checks but we’re gonna be filling in some of the loopholes, as we call them at the border, and speaking about at the border, it would be really nice if the Democrats would indeed fix the loopholes because it would be really nice. But despite that, I want to thank Mexico. They have 26,000 soldiers at our border and they’re really stopping people from coming in.”

“But what does that have to do with background checks and guns?”

“So what happens is….with background checks….we’re dealing with Republicans, we’re dealing with Democrats, we’re dealing with the NRA, we’re dealing with gun owners, we’re dealing with everybody. And I think we’re gonna have something hopefully that’s meaningful.”

Note the repetition of phrases in this small sample. “We’re dealing with” and “we’re working with” were used over and over, with no description or clarification. Does he mean that he is meeting with those groups, or that he is making deals with them or something else? My impression is the President relies heavily on memorized phrases, which are easy to pull out and use.

Watch any of Trump’s unscripted remarks and try to count how many times he says, “We’ll see what happens.”

Note the word “raising” in the phrase “We could have had some raising.” The meaning is clear, but the word choice is troubling to this language specialist. We would expect the President of the US to say, “We could have had an increase.”

I’m sure you also noticed the rapid and inexplicable jump from the topic of background checks to that of the Mexican army at the border. It’s as if the word “loopholes” triggered a thought of the border crisis for some reason and that thought let made Trump jump completely off the track of the question.

Look at the discussion of Germany. Trump says,

“In Germany, they have a zero interest rate and we do compete. Much stronger than Germany but we do compete with Germany.”

What’s much stronger than Germany? We can make a guess that he’s referring to our economy, but the language of the sentence is clearly abnormal. In English, we don’t use a comparative like “much stronger” without including the referent.

Then there is the repeated phrase “missed the call”. We have a few idioms that are close to this one (“missed the boat” or “missed the mark” come to mind.) But we don’t say “missed the call” unless we mean a phone call. Or we’re referring to a sports referee.

Receptive Aphasia

Do you recall when the President recently met with religious refugees in the Oval Office? The following exchange happened between Trump and a young Yazidi woman.

“All this happened to me. They killed my Mum, my six brothers, they left behind them… “

“Where are they now?”

“They killed them.”

She told him that her family had been killed. He asked “Where are they now?”

He did not have the slightest understanding of what she’d said.

We saw the same lack of comprehension this week when Trump was asked about having second thoughts on his trade war with China.

“Mr. President, do you have any second thoughts about escalating the trade war with China?”

“Yeah. Sure. Why not? Might as well, might as well.”

Once again, he completely failed to understand the question. A question which was then repeated by a different journalist, to which he replied,

“I have second thoughts about everything.”

Did he even understand the meaning of “second thoughts”? I am not at all sure.

Reading and Writing

Donald Trump is well known for his aversion to the written word.

When Rex Tillerson, the former Secretary of State, spoke about his time at the White House, he said that Trump didn’t like to read. Tillerson was told that the President would not be reading the usual briefing notebook each morning, but instead would only accept bullet points or charts.

Mr. Trump himself has stated that he doesn’t like to read. In an interview with Axios shortly after his inauguration, Trump said that he doesn’t like to read, preferring bullet points to full essays.

“I like bullets or I like as little as possible. I don’t need, you know, 200-page reports on something that can be handled on a page. That I can tell you.”

Although he is the author of several books, we know that each had a ghostwriter. Trump claims to have attended the best of schools, but has never let his school records be made public.

So.

I say all of this because it brings up the diagnostic question of whether or not the man has always struggled with reading and writing, or whether this is a new phenomenon.

Whether or not that disorder is progressive is difficult to say but when I analyze his conversations from years ago, I believe that it is. His past interviews were far more coherent and much more linguistically sophisticated than what we hear now.

Whether or not the language disorder is developing as part of some type of dementia is up to a neurologist to diagnose.

I am not qualified to say whether or not Donald Trump has a personality disorder or a mental illness. But I am qualified to say that when I listen to him speak, I am increasingly convinced that he has significant aphasia.

What I know is this. Something is most assuredly amiss in the brain of the President of the United States. And he is the one with the nuclear codes.

It Is So Simple


I had a wonderful conversation today with two intelligent, thoughtful women. One is a college student. Incredibly bright, well read, an engineer in training, and a gifted singer. The other is her grandmother, born and raised in the Netherlands, but an American for many decades.

We were chatting about life at a family party, and the topic of motherhood came up. The young woman has her doubts about wanting to raise a child. As I teased her and prodded her about the joys of parenting, she said something that brought my words to a halt.

“I don’t know where this country will be in five or ten years. I don’t know that I want to bring a child into a place like this.”

That lead us to a discussion of national politics, and to the scary and bewildering place in which we find ourselves.

We talked about the current horde or Democratic candidates, and realized that all three of us are firmly behind the progressives who are running. We all shared our excitement about the fact that there seems to be a competition to shake out which one of them is the most liberal.

How refreshing, I said to them both, I’ve been calling myself a Socialist since the 1970s!

That’s when my new friend, the woman raised in the Netherlands, began to share her thoughts.

“I don’t understand this strange reaction to the word Socialist! It doesn’t mean that you don’t want any kind of capitalism! It means that capitalism must have a conscience!”

We talked about the fact that a healthy and thriving country is one that takes care of the very basic needs of it’s people. About the fact that our friends from Europe are unable to understand when we tell them that our daughter will only have six weeks of unpaid leave after giving birth to a child.

We talked about the fact that if a country is able to produce a healthy, well educated, financially secure next generation, it is likely to have a stronger economy than a country whose people live in poverty.

“It’s so simple!” said my friend. “Socialism means that the government takes care of the social needs of the people. Why don’t Americans look at the lives of Europeans and see what it could be like here? Why don’t they look at life in the Scandinavian countries? Or in the rest of Western Europe?”

I had no answer for her, obviously. But I agreed with her assessment.

It is so simple.

Taxes should be paid to the government so that the government can provide the basic needs that individuals can’t grant to themselves. Education, paved roads, healthcare, national defense, a secure retirement, a healthy environment.

“It is so simple.”

Yes. It really is.

I wonder if the United States can ever get itself to see that fact.

Solving Problems


We are your lawmakers.

I watch a lot of news. As in, way too much news.

I was a political science major way back in the seventies. And I studied and taught history for a bunch of years. I am a huge fan of the United States of America, and of its founding principals.

So I am feeling pretty freaking frustrated at the inability of our elected officials to solve any problems.

ANY PROBLEMS.

Even the most obvious, most smack you in the face problem can’t seem to find an answer.

For example, let’s look at the suddenly-salient-once-again issue of abortion. So many of our elected “leaders” are suddenly determined to stop all abortions. They are so serious about stopping this medical procedure that they are threatening women with life imprisonment or death if they find themselves so desperate to abort that they go forward with the procedure in spite of the laws.

Those on the right scream about being “pro-life!” and pat themselves on the back for being the protectors of innocent children.

I get it. I was a patient at an infertility clinic for several years. I would have given anything to have had a baby. I understand the pro life position. I do.

But then those on the left scream about the attacks on women and on female power. They insist that they are protecting the rights of women to protect their own bodies, their living children, their family units.

I remember when I found myself shockingly and unexpectedly pregnant when my second child was only 6 month old. The child who was conceived using a boatload of high tech interventions.

I never thought about abortion, but I was badly shocked and thrown off to find myself pregnant, anemic, nursing and working full time.

The fact that I could have made choice to end that pregnancy, protecting myself and my other two kids, gave me a sense of peace.

I get it. I REALLY get it.

I chose to go on with my surprise pregnancy, but nature ended it for me only four weeks later. I grieved for a long time for that lost child, but I am eternally grateful that I had the freedom to choose whether or not to go on with the pregnancy.

I understand the desire to end our need for abortion. I understand our desire to keep our choices in place.

But here’s what pisses me off.

If we, as a society, TRULY wanted to limit the number of abortions in this country, we could do it tomorrow.

It isn’t that hard.

We just need to do more research into the best and safest forms of birth control. We need to be putting a whole boatload of money into finding a successful male contraceptive.

And when birth control is safe and effective, we should offer it out there to EVERYONE. It should be given out at high schools, at colleges, at workplaces. It should be free. Easy to use. Easily talked about.

There should be public kiosks where you could get yours.

Cuz, you know what? The whole idea of limiting unwanted pregnancies by limiting sex is so far beyond ignorant that it can only elicit a laugh.

ALL life is designed to procreate. Mammals do that through sex. We all want sex. A lot. Babies are a side product of our natural, God given, scientifically proven desire to mate.

If you want to stop the unwanted pregnancies, you don’t do it be shaming people about sex. (Weren’t these legislators ever teenagers? I mean….seriously!) If you want to stop pregnancy, you push for birth control.

Easy. Logical. Clear.

So why isn’t that the plan?

I don’t know.

Maybe because those who hold power benefit quite a bit when we “little people” are engaged in street fights about our bodies and our sex lives.

All I know is this: If those people being paid with our tax dollars really wanted to eliminate this problem, they could do it.

Right Now.

If A, Then B


As we all squirm, worry and heart palpitate our way through today’s national vote count, I have a few questions for my conservative friends and family.

I just can’t quite figure out the logic behind some of conservative, GOP talking points. I’m trying to use simple, basic reasoning to make sense of some things.

For example, I don’t understand the sudden panicked hysteria about immigration. As some on the right keep screaming, “Illegal immigrants are ruining the country! They are stealing jobs!!!!”

But, if that’s true, how can they also be boasting about the fabulous economy and very low unemployment numbers? If A is true, B can’t be true at the same time.

I can’t figure out the fixation on voter fraud, either. I mean, Trump and the GOP have been ranting about the “rigged” election since before it happened. They keep trying to convince us that millions of people voted fraudulently.

I mean, OK. So the election was somehow completely inaccurate, false, rigged, tainted.

If that’s true, then wasn’t the WINNER of the election the beneficiary of those failures? Then why do those on the right keep claiming that it is the Democrats who refuse to accept the legitimacy of the Presidency? You’ve heard those claims, I’m sure. “The Dems just refuse to accept that they lost!”

But it’s the R’s who keep telling us that the election was a mess, full of illegal votes.

If A, then not B.

I just don’t get it.

Anyone care to explain?

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Happy Labor Day


I have to admit. I have not always been a big supporter of labor unions. At one point in my life, I served on my local School Committee and was charged with negotiating a new contract with our education union.

I admit it. I was frustrated by the union, even though at the time I was a teacher myself. I thought that sometimes they were more focused on themselves than the kids. It made me angry.

But a couple of years after that experience, I took a class on the Industrial Revolution. We went to a bunch of mills, tenements, factories. We read a lot of first hand accounts of the young men and women who worked in these places. We learned about the originally altruistic intentions of the factory owners.

And we learned what happened when competition began to make it harder and harder for the owners to maintain those rich life styles. We learned about the increasingly long hours that were required from each worker, and of the decreasing salaries.

I was surprised to learn that when it became too expensive to pay local workers, the factory owners turned to immigrants to fill those jobs. At the turn of the 20th century, millions of desperately poor immigrants flooded into the United States. Legally. All were welcomed, because they were hungry enough to provide the endless hours of working hands that the new factories required.

Men willingly went to work gutting fish, shucking oysters, canning fish. Women and men signed on for 90 hour work weeks in the textile mills, spinning, weaving, cutting cloth. And children went to work, picking berries, harvesting potatoes, working in the mills and factories of the newly affluent United States.

Our class looked at photos of those immigrants working in our new industries. I saw these.

And I thought about how I would feel if my children were forced to work as these little ones were, just so that our family could survive.

I was shocked. I was brought to tears. This could have been my child. My Italian child. Instead of snuggling in my arms and reading books, or going to kindergarten to learn how to share, my child could have been in this field.

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When I learned all of this, when I found out what had happened in my country just around the time that my family arrived from Italy, I was overwhelmed with anger and sorrow.

How could this have happened? How could children and desperate mothers be forced to work in such terrible conditions? How could this be the story of my country?

Luckily for me, our class went on to study the labor movement. We read “Bread and Roses” and “Triangle“. We learned about corporate greed and about desperate workers. We read letters and news reports and books and stories.

We learned about the people who stood up for their basic human rights.

We were taught the story of the American Labor Movement. And I was able to shake off my grief and embrace the power of united workers, united and supportive average Americans.

The professor taught us about the first Labor Day, and the significance of it’s recognition.

So.

I no longer feel frustrated when teachers demand a quiet place to work and plan. I no longer think that unions are simply self-serving.

Now I know that in the absence of workers’ unions, we would not have a forty hour work week, or mandated weekends. We wouldn’t have sick time, or vacations, or health insurance.

We would have no child labor laws. Can you even imagine?

Now I know that on Labor Day, we need to look at the tender faces of those little children working endless hours in terrible places. I know that we need to pull up the images of five and six year olds facing a life of physical labor, with no hope of education or betterment or a happy and healthy future.

Happy Labor Day.

I hope that on this Labor Day you will enjoy your cheeseburgers and your families and your ice cold beers. But I also hope that you’ll take a minute to think about the 146 young workers who died in the Triangle Fire. I hope that you’ll spare a thought for the thousands of little children who labored in our textile factories and our fish canneries and our berry farms.

I hope that you will raise a glass to the Union movement and that you will give a silent salute to those workers who fought and suffered and sacrificed so that we could have a weekend like this one.

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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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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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“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.

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NEVER AGAIN


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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.

 

 

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?