Category Archives: Uncategorized

THROUGH INCREDULOUS EYES DO I REVILE YOU.

On 11 September 2001, I sat transfixed in front of a computer in my office watching 3,000 people, mostly Americans, disintegrate in the ashes of the World Trade Center.  I felt helpless, and insignificant, and alone.  My receptionist eventually came to the office but her brother, my friend and legal assistant Alan White, could not leave his phone.  His daughter in NYC had not yet gotten through to confirm that she had not died in that terrible tragedy.  He waited in anguish all day until a phone line finally opened long enough for them to speak.  His anguish has not faded from memory — not from mine, and certainly not from his.

Those feelings heaved from the pit of my stomach yesterday as I scrolled through story after story about the separation of children from their parents seeking refuge and asylum in America.   I cannot imagine how the parents of children torn from their arms can handle the terror of that act, let alone how those children will ever survive.  The revulsion in my belly mirrors a fraction of what those people must endure.   As a guardian ad litem representing abused and neglected children in Missouri, I have taken enough workshops in the neurobiology of trauma to fear what these experiences will do to these blameless children.   They will be irreparably harmed, in ways that only scientists and other victims can hope to comprehend.

This senseless situation does not flow from the parents’ decision to bring their families to America.  Our country boasts a statue proud and visible on our eastern shore, seeming to welcome them.  Perhaps they can be forgiven for failing to recognize the bitter significance of its placement on the Atlantic rather than beside our southern border.  Perhaps they did not realize that the words on that statue’s base have an invisible asterisk, an ironic qualification excluding the tired, the poor, and the huddled masses from Central America.

My sense of being unable to stop the onslaught of this despicable, deplorable desecration of human rights  intensified as yesterday waned.  Though this crisis has no immediate personal impact, I see both my tight circle and the broader context of my existence crumbling.  I could not escape recognition that at least three persons whom I love voted for the current president and seemingly still support him, his bumbling and inept administration, and his treacherous policies.

As of 1:00 a.m. today, one of those persons feebly clung  to articulated and erroneous belief that Trump’s decision to separate children from their families followed a statutory mandate, and one enacted by a Democratic Congress some years ago.  I love this woman.  I respect her.  I will not name her, because of my regard for her.  But she is wrong; and her delusion frightens me because of my admiration of her.  If such a woman, a smart woman fiercely protective of children in her own right, believes these lies, how can any mere mortal reject them?

Among the many staggeringly awful stories about this situation — the ‘tender years’ camps; the audio tapes of children sobbing for their parents; the sight of small bodies wrapped in stiff, crackling, silver fire protectant fabric — you would think that Corey Lewandowski’s awful declamation of “womp, womp” about a child with Down’s Syndrome would seem the least disgusting.  But somehow, perhaps because I have a beloved nephew with Down’s Syndrome, I found myself nauseated anew as I read that story.  Good God, man, I thought.  Have you no heart?

And so we come at last to the contemplation which fills me with such revulsion that I can barely function despite my distance from these events.  I cannot overcome the grief of it:  This vision of Americans, citizens of the Land of Opportunity, turning their backs on defenseless children who come to our doors seeking the life which they believe we lead.   American has apparently become heartless.

As a mother, this horrifies me.    Put aside that neither these children nor their parents have yet been convicted of any crime.  These are children.  We are taking them from their parents.  We are placing them in chain-link pens.   We are housing them among strangers who have been instructed not to hug them or to allow them to hug each other (an allegation which those who run these facilities deny, to be fair in my reporting).

Lewandowski and others blame the parents.  They say that the parents come illegally.  They say we must deter their unlawful entry.  They shrug and dismiss their own complicity.  The president whines that it is the fault of the Democrats, despite the fact that it is his administration which instituted this policy which no law mandates.  He blames the Democrats notwithstanding one immutable reality:  Republicans control the House, the Senate, and the Oval Office.

I call B.S.  I’ve already explained why, from the standpoint of a lawyer, I think all of these arguments miserably fail.  But there are more basic values at work here.  These children did not choose to come here.  Their parents did, just as the parents of DREAMERS brought them to America to start anew:  Here, where they hoped to be free.

Those parents flee famine, war, poverty, political abuse, and the threat of execution.  They do not make a journey of months — weary, hungry, dirty, sick — on a whim.  They haven’t folded their designer clothes in Louis Vuitton bags and boarded a jet for New York.  They cram clothes in a duffel bag and start walking.  They jam themselves into trucks, on boats, on the tops of buses.  The journey on which they embark is not one which I can imagine surviving.  Yet they do.  They present themselves at the gate of this land, a nation whose current condition rose from the fertile soil of its native inhabitants tilled by immigrants no better and no worse than those whom our leader now disdains.

In times past, I looked with admiring eyes to the elected officials in Washington.  Now I revile them through a fog of astonishment.  Perhaps, though, that astonishment arises from my own naivety.  I have been imagining that America held herself immune from such corruption.  Evidently, I myself suffered from the veil of delusion.  It can happen here.  It will, if men and women of good conscience do not arise and say, “No more.  Not here.  Not now.”

 

 

 

Post Script:  I checked NPR.org before posting and there had been no announcement of action by Trump.  A half-hour later, it came.  In fairness then, I’m adding this post-script.  

 

It’s Time To Openly Legislate Morality: One woman’s argument in favor of life

One of the first principles taught to entering law students admonishes that governments cannot legislate morality.  This flows from the inevitable logic that my morality might not coincide with yours.  Therefore, if we let you legislate morality, what about my beliefs?

That’s poppycock, of course.  Congress and our state legislatures enact laws which address principles of value on a daily basis.  Courts construe those laws in a manner which purports to uphold our social compact.  “We hold these truths to be self-evident” starts that process by announcing what our nation supposedly believed, and the foundation of our communal adventure.

I don’t pretend to be a constitutional scholar.  I practiced family law in Missouri for twenty-five years, including about ten years of service to Missouri’s foster children as well as to some of their parents through court appointments.  Prior to starting my family law practice, I worked for a law firm in Arkansas which defended family farmers against predatory lending practices by private and federal banking institutions.  In my early days as a Missouri attorney, I worked as a city prosecutor and as a county prosecutor.  My knowledge of immigration law is practically nonexistent.  My only foray into that realm involved getting a divorce for a young woman from Japan who had married an American who abused her.  Her actual immigration lawyer told me that we needed a factual finding of that abuse in order to support her bid for permanent residency.  We got the finding; and she became a permanent resident.

With that framework, I share my thoughts on the immigration situation today.  Take this as what it is:  One woman’s argument in favor of protecting life.

The people who cross our borders in what we call an unlawful manner should receive due process.  “Due process” has always been a loosely defined set of standards.  “What process is due” can vary depending on your situation, and you will be deemed as having received it according to prior precedent and the facts of your case.

But we can define that due process.  Courts and legislatures often do.  The case of Clarence Earl Gideon, Gideon v. Wainwright, stands as a defining moment in the right to counsel.  Prior to the Supreme Court’s decision in that case, criminal defendants did not have a right to counsel even if they could not afford one.  After the decision, they did have that right.  The due process given to them evolved.

We can do that with respect to “illegal immigrants”.  I believe that we should.  In the first case, we value life.  Whether or not you call yourself a “Christian”, “pro-life”, or any other appellation, our society takes strong stands in favor of protecting human existence.    The group of humans coming across our borders have done nothing as a class to deprive them of this imprimatur of worthiness.

In the second case, our nation subscribes to the belief that people are innocent until proven guilty.  The people coming across our borders stand accused, by and large, of one crime:  Immigrating “illegally”.  But there are defenses to that charge.  Some of them might be entitled to asylum.  Some of them might fit within some other exception, which now exists or which we might consider instituting.  Until we know the facts in each case, I believe we should afford these persons the assumption of innocence.  That assumption includes the potential that the alleged accuser can establish an affirmative defense, that is, a defense which claims, “I did what you say I did, but I had a legally cognizable reason for doing so which entitles me to escape punishment”.

In the third instance, I would argue that the offense of crossing into the United States of America without following the legal channels for being allowed to do so is in and of itself a rather harmless “crime”.  In the law, we have a set of offenses described as “malum prohibitum”, which means, something which is unlawful merely because we say it is.  These crimes are distinct from crimes which are “malum in se”, that which is inherently evil and therefore forbidden under the law.  Unless we suspect a particular individual of some offense other than “illegal immigration”, can we not consider the individual to be essentially harmless?  Must we treat the man, woman, or child crossing our borders as equal with a suspected murderer?  I would submit that the two crimes are not the same, and that the latter exceeds the former in severity.

Finally, I consider the pre-trial conditions in which we seclude those coming across our borders.  We put the adults in jail and the children in crudely constructed detention facilities.  This treatment defies my compassionate understanding.  We jail men and women for the alleged offense of wanting the same American dream which we pursue with the state’s blessing?  We tear their children from them, just to prove to the children that their parents should not have entered the country without our permission?

Would we do that to each other?

Would we do that to our own children, our own parents?

For nothing more than the crime of striving to improve the quality of existence for themselves and their families?

None of this makes sense to me.  I don’t much care whether it is being done by the current administration or was done by past administrations.  Focusing on claims that current practices of this ilk stem from the policies of prior presidents begs the question:  Is this how America treats people yearning for its shores?  If it is, then this country has become something that I believe its founders never intended.  If it is not, then we must change the policy, practices, and process of how we treat people crossing our borders.  If necessary to be able to change the policy, practices, and procedures, we must change the laws.  If doing so requires that we legislate morality, then by all means, throw that old saw out the window and openly do so.

Common values exist here.  We share a dedication to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”.  We need look no further to justify changing how we treat those who cross into our nation even without having secured advance permission to do so.  Let us offer forgiveness to those who have not secured permission.

We cannot say that we hold certain truths to be self-evident, while applying them selectively.  We cannot claim to be the land of the free and the home of the brave while erecting walls to restrict others from entering our country and tearing children from their parents’ arms.  These are not my values, and I do not believe that these are the values of the United States of America.

 

Anguish In the Land of Forgotten Oaths

In 1980, I spent an inordinate amount of time completing the necessary paperwork to start law school.  When I reported for attendance, I assembled in a lecture hall with one-hundred and fifty other first-year students to tender my fingerprints.  The Supreme Court of the State of Missouri had to be certain that I was of sufficient moral character to hold an attorney’s license.

On 21 September 1983, at a pub in Kansas City, my mentor and boss Loren G. Rea swore me to the Bar.  I pledged —

I do solemnly swear that I will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Missouri;
That I will maintain the respect due courts of justice, judicial officers and
members of my profession and will at all times conduct myself with dignity becoming of an officer of the court in which I appear;
That I will never seek to mislead the judge or jury by any artifice
or false statement of fact or law;
That I will at all times conduct myself in accordance with the
Rules of Professional Conduct; and,
That I will practice law to the best of my knowledge and ability and with
consideration for the defenseless and oppressed.
So help me God.

I had a choice of taking the oath before any judge or notary.  Loren meant more to me than a faceless man in a black robe in Jefferson City.  He imparted a somber tone to the proceeding, despite the boisterous setting.  He made me raise my hand.  He had me repeat the words; and then he signed the license which I still treasure, though his signature has faded and the frame hangs crooked on the wall.

A few months later, a federal judge again required me to raise my hand, this time to take the federal  Oath of Office so that I could do business in his courtroom.  Its words bound me to  a narrower but equally firm constraint:

I DO SOLEMNLY SWEAR
THAT AS AN ATTORNEY AND AS A COUNSELOR OF
THIS COURT, I WILL CONDUCT MYSELF UPRIGHTLY AND ACCORDING TO LAW, AND THAT I WILL SUPPORT THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES.

As I watched the news this week, my oaths of office weighed heavy on my heart and on my shoulders.  I scrolled the internet on Tuesday, 29 May 2018, until I found a station about to broadcast the announcement of Eric Greitens, governor of my home state, regarding his intention to resign.  I listened to his feeble attempts to blame his fate on anyone or anything but himself.  Today, 30 May 2018, I watched the announcement by the St. Louis prosecuting attorney of the deal which led to Mr. Greitens’ resignation.  The same thought plagued me over and over as she spoke:  He sold his office for a dismissal; and she sold hers for something so much more than what he gave.  I felt her remorse:  She did not expect him to spit in her face as he exited.  She thought he would be gracious in defeat — or maybe, grateful.  He certainly showed neither inclination.

I had to search for it, but  I finally found a site which told me what Mr. Greitens had sworn when he became Missouri’s governor.  The words had a familiar ring:

I do solemnly swear, or affirm, that I will support the Constitution of the United States and of the state of Missouri, and faithfully perform the duties of my office, and that I will not knowingly receive, directly or indirectly, any money or other valuable thing for the performance or nonperformance of any act or duty pertaining to my office, other than the compensation allowed by law.

I found myself wondering if he spent as much time worrying about violating this mandate as he spent arguing over whether he had broken any laws.  Perhaps the oath had no meaning for him.  Perhaps he did not feel bound by it.    Maybe he did not raise his hand as seriously as I did, thirty-five years ago, my eyes fixed on the keen gaze of a man from whom I had learned much about my obligations at the Bar.

From higher still, from the nation’s capitol, comes word that the president of the United States of America asked the highest-ranking attorney of our nation to maintain control of an investigation from which he had recused himself.  I have not pretended to admire Jeff Sessions.  But his decision to recuse himself from the work being done by Robert Mueller gained him some measure of respect from me.  He made the right choice, the choice dictated by our Rules of Professional Conduct.  He claimed that a federal regulation disqualified him, and that might be so.  But I have known for nearly forty years that certain matters would require me to refrain from representation. Certainly potential implication in the matters under investigation, whether as material witness or any other close actor, would fall within the gambit of recusal.  Yet the president remains outraged that Mr. Session will not take back the reigns and steer the carriage  in some direction away from where the truth appears to lie.

I shake my head.  I feel a growing sense of sorrow, a heavy fear that all of these forgotten oaths will weave together and become the cloak of ruin for our nation.

These times and these events deeply trouble me.  For three and a half decades,  I have often clung to sleep with trembling hands, worried about some duty that I feared I did not faithfully discharge.  I rake my client lists even now, with my practice nearly closed, panicked that a name or a date might have gone untended.  I strain to hear my voice mail messages, lest one of them be the querulous tones of a client who believes that I  have undertaken some urgent task on their behalf of which I have no  recollection.

For some of us, certain truths seem self-evident.  My current grief arises from the awful knowledge that the principles which I hold dear seem to have lost their value.  Those principles  dictated how I managed most of my adult life.  I have always understood them to be the foundation of our society.  When indifferent politicians crush these ideals beneath their careless hooves, I can almost hear our country’s founding fathers  groan from beneath the crumbling marble of their headstones.  I have no doubt that I can hear Lady Liberty weep.

 

 

An Open Letter to the Norwegian Nobel Committee

Dear Norwegian Nobel Committee, sirs and madams:

I read on the Internet that eighteen members of the American House of Representatives have signed a letter nominating our current president, Donald J. Trump, for the Nobel Peace Prize.  I write tonight with a fervent prayer and a passionate plea:

Don’t do it.

You ask, Why should we listen to you, a silly American woman with a mere score of followers, of whom we have never previously heard?  I take your point, Sirs and Madams, and yet, I stand before you and ask just that.

More importantly, I ask that you consider whether this nomination meets or thwarts the objectives and spirit of the Prize?

I remind you of that purpose, Sirs and Madams:

“The said interest shall be divided into five equal parts, which shall be apportioned as follows: /- – -/ one part to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”

The Members of Congress who nominated Mr. Trump doubtless used as their pretext, the current seeming move towards peace announced by the leaders of North and South Korea.  While it is true that their seeming reconciliation makes reference to, and occurs in the time of, the current administration, can it truly be said that Mr. Trump has done “the most or best work” towards this development?

If “most” or “best”  actually refers to “loudest” or “most shrill”, then perhaps one can cite Mr. Trump’s near-trigger of a nuclear war between the United States and North Korea as a precipitating catalyst for the apparent truce between the two halves of the troubled peninsula.  I cite the arguments pro and con the wild machinations of the president, but I also mention the vast nervousness which infested America with each erratic post by the man in the Oval Office.  The last few months have reminded me of my childhood in the Cuban Missile crisis, during which my parents kept cots and kerosene ready in our basement.  With each blare of the siren, we children huddled under blankets, terrified of impending disaster which we barely understood.

But let us not fall into a pretense, my dear Committee members.  I cannot say, from this position in history, whether the efforts of Mr. Trump have or will effect peace in Korea, whether by design or happy chance.  Time might tell, and fortunately for you, nominations for 2018 have closed.    Your consideration of this nomination will be for next year, when the events will have evolved and no doubt also will have been dissected ad nauseam.

When you do consider this troubling nomination, please do so in the greater context which your secrecy allows you.

Consider the fear which gripped sexual assault survivors when the election gave nearly unassailable power to a man who bragged about assaulting women on the basis of his position.

Consider the sharp increase in hate crimes against Muslims in America since Mr. Trump’s bold and unfettered attack on Arab immigration and open disdain for  Islam and Muslims.

Consider Mr. Trump’s unrelenting proclivity for divisiveness, as evidenced by his habitual levying of insults in the most vile and gross manner, both before and after his election.

Consider his praise of Nazi-sympathizers and white supremacists after the death of a peaceful protester in Charlottesville.

Consider the staggering record of Donald Trump’s lies.

Consider his gross mocking of a disabled reporter, and his utterly incomprehensible statement that he finds the men and women of the ParaOlympics “tough to watch“.

When you have considered these matters, men and woman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, then ask yourself, What would Alfred Nobel have thought of this nominee?  Would Alfred Nobel approve of giving an award for peace, to a man who also cultivates hatred and abuse?

Of Mr. Nobel, your stewards have written:

“Alfred Nobel also viewed himself with detachment, or shall we say, philosophical skepticism. He often described himself as a loner, hermit, melancholic or misanthrope. He once wrote: “I am a misanthrope and yet utterly benevolent, have more than one screw loose yet am a super-idealist who digests philosophy more efficiently than food.” Even from this description, it is clear that this misanthrope was also a philanthropist, or what Nobel called a super-idealist. It was the idealist in him that drove Nobel to bequeath his fortune to those who had benefited humanity through science, literature and efforts to promote peace.”

Would such a man praise Trump, for what might well prove to be his one good effort, ignoring the plethora of malaise?

I leave it to you, Members of the Committee, to make that choice when, in your deliberations, the question presents itself.

With my most sincere thanks for your courtesy and consideration, I remain  —

A sexual assault and rape survivor; a disabled American daughter of Syrians, Austrians, and Irish commoners; and a firm believer in equal justice for everyone: man, woman, nonbinary, gender-fluid or child, regardless of gender, religion, sexual orientation, country of origin, ethnicity, previous condition of servitude or descendance therefrom, marital status, bank balance, or party affiliation.

 

Mary Corinne Teresa Corley
Isleton, California

 

 

 

 

A Mother’s Day Letter to My Son

Mother’s Day hovers around the May corner.  As one of the oldest living unwed mothers in America, I consider myself extraordinarily fortunate to have the honor of addressing a child from this status.  I started adulthood sure that I would give birth to a large rambling brood as my mother had.  By thirty-five, I had despaired of even one.    But one I had; and oh, what a joyful experience!

So. . .

Dear Patrick, from your mother, “Mrs. Patrick Corley’s Mommy”:

I have so many platitudes in mind for you, Patrick; but I happen to know that you disdain reliance on weak literary devices.  So I’ll try to avoid cliches as I embarrass you with what’s clamoring to escape my brain as I think of you this morning.

I’ve set so many horrible examples for you.  I practically single-handedly validated the US Census statistics about American divorce rates.  Yet I remain hopeful that you will find a partner with whom to make a life; and I encourage you to keep your heart ready for her when she wanders across your path.  If you need examples of enduring marriages, look no farther than your aunt Ann or your uncle Frank.  In fact, make sure you cultivate them, so you can observe their behavior.  Emulate them, please, and not me, in the progress of your relationships.

As for communication style, you brought Non-Violent Communication to me, so I won’t bother to suggest a course of action for your own human congress.  I vividly recall my astonishment as I watched what we called “the Red Shirt Videos”, a series of talks by Dr. Marshall Rosenberg, who created NVC.  While I have not yet fully conquered my life-long proclivity for jackal-speak, two of my clients report that their lives have been immeasurably improved by NVC.  One of them did so well with his conversion to nonviolent communication that we won his custody trial in part because of his memorably gracious treatment of his former spouse on cross-examination.  The judge actually complimented him on his kindness towards the treacherous vindictiveness confronting him.  I would not have known to recommend that he try NVC had you not brought it to me and suggested that it might change my life.  You were right.

What I know of loyalty, I also learned from you.  Though you criticize yourself more than I think you deserve, you have always defended victims from bullies.  I will never forget the phone call from your grade school vice principal assuring me that you were all right.  The 5th-grade bully had choked you and slammed you against a locker while I was hours away in deposition in Chillicothe.  You had stepped between the bully and a smaller child, and suffered the consequences without hesitation.  The irony of the occurrence lay in the suggestion that you should be disciplined for sassing the principal during the ensuing investigation.  Your crime?  Gesturing to the boy who assaulted you and remarking, “And these are the Catholic kids that you think I should emulate?”  I could not have been more proud.

You have a tender heart.  When your faithful dog finally fell into her last decline, you did not hesitate to authorize the vet to ease her pain.  But you also felt the loss with an intensity that bespoke of your enduring attachment to Little Girl.  Though you did not get to be present in her last moments, be assured that she always loved you as much as you loved her.  Popular country songs caution that women should judge men by how they treat their mothers and their dogs.  You pass both tests with flying colors.

As for your choice of profession, writing, I encourage you not to surrender to the fear of failure which sabotaged your mother’s ambitions.  I understand that maternal critique of what you author means little.  I have every motivation to lie, and little to be honest.  Except this:  I’m a writer, too; and I abhor mediocrity.  Your stuff sings.  Your insight and your attention to the flow of ideas makes your writing truly memorable.  I wanted to “be a writer” but sold out, and for my cowardice, I got a life-time of average lawyering with little to show for my efforts.  If I have any actual advice for you, it lies here.  Trust your gift.  Keep writing.  Write for yourself, but write for the world, too.  Your voice and your pen will contribute to the salvation of society one day; and in the meantime, what you write provides some damn fine reading.

I will always remember the moment when I discovered that a child grew inside me.  I stood in the bathroom in my house in Winslow, Arkansas, with the plastic stick of a home pregnancy test reflected beneath the astonished face of my image.  This occurred in November of 1990.  I was 35 years old and unmarried.  Though I would have moments when I did not think I could handle being your mother, I have never had one second when I wished that test had been negative.  My only regrets relate to how I  performed as your mother.    You have been the absolute best son that a mother could have ever wanted.  Being your mother has been the most marvelous experience, even counter-balanced with any anguish that I might have known along the way.  It’s water under the bridge, Patrick; let it flow.

So, now that I’ve made myself cry, I’ll close with just a few more sappy sentences.    As Mother’s Day approaches, I find myself thinking of my own mother as much as I do my son.  She died six years before your birth, more’s the pity.  You would have liked her, Patrick.  She had many of your finest qualities — loyalty, gentleness, and a certain tendency to wear her heart conspicuously pinned to her sleeve.  But she also gave you that  sassy attitude which you’ve brought to many of my darkest hours, evoking laughter when I would have otherwise despaired.  You’ve done so much for me, my son, helping me through crisis after crisis with the indomitable spirit which you get from your Grandma Lucy.

Happy Mother’s Day, Patrick.  Thank you for everything.  And don’t forget:  Just as I promised you when you were 5, I intend to live to be 103 and nag you every day of your life.  I’ve got forty more years to go and I intend to get there.  As you always said, “a promise is a promise; and Mothers have to keep their promises”.  So I shall.  But remember this, too:  You retorted that you would annoy me every day of my life.  You’ve fallen down on that count, Patrick! You are the opposite of annoying.  In fact, you have done nothing but bring me joy.  So thank you.  Thank you.  And again:  thank you.

With much love,

Mary Corinne Teresa Corley

otherwise known as your mother

Patrick and me. Photo credit Penny Thieme

 

March For Our Lives — Sacramento

On Saturday, 24 March 2018, I took another step towards feeling good about my life.  I rose at 7:00 a.m., made coffee, had my usual soft-scrambled eggs in butter, and high-tailed it off the island.  I made the hour’s drive to Sacramento and joined the March For Our Lives.

I had my picture taken by a man who said I looked beautiful.  He’s supposed to text it to me — and I hope he does, because otherwise the only proof I have that I attended the rally in Sacramento consists of my own videos, pictures, and Facebook Live clips.  I want posterity to know that I participated.  Change might come; change might not.  But I walked my values from a handicapped parking spot to the steps of the capitol building and stood with thousands of others who think that #enoughisenough.

I recall marching to Take Back the Night after a series of rapes in St. Louis during the late 1970s.  A half-decade earlier, I served cold bottle water to hundreds of high school and college students raising money for urban development in rural Missouri in the Walk for Development.  My activism isn’t a new phenomenon.  But this time has a different cast to it.  The world frightens me more than ever — perhaps exponentially so.  Even here on my protected island — for I truly do live on an island — the terrible burdens of the world have impact.  We try not to think about it, but it hits us anyway — the deaths in Florida, and Maryland, and even in Sacramento where 22-year-old Stephon Clark fell to police fire while standing in his grandmother’s backyard holding a cell phone.

“Nowadays, the world is lit by lightening.” (Tennessee Williams, A Glass Menagerie).

But now, the lightening isn’t something uncontrolled and threatening.  Instead, the wrath of young people  flashes through the sky.  They will not tolerate further killing.  Not one more.  They will not stop until every step possible has been taken to curb gun violence in America.

I could not let their demonstrations pass without my attendance.  I went to Sacramento to honor the passing of the torch to a generation which I believe will carry it higher, and farther, and to better end than we have seen for many years.

After all:  They #marchforourlives.

 

 

#ISTANDWITHPARKLAND

 

Lies and the Lying Liars who Lie

The recent news about Trump fabricating a claim regarding our trade with Canada shouldn’t disturb me as much as it does.  In a month where we’ve heard stories of firings, deaths, bridge collapses, and accusations of insider dealing, another lie by Donald J. Trump shouldn’t upset me.

Yet, it did.

Think about this:  A man elected by a majority of our electoral college and about 48% of the popular vote went into a meeting with the president of Canada and fabricated a statement.  People whom I know to be intelligent voted for this individual.  Yet he plays fast and loose with the truth.  PolitiFact, a NONPARTISAN website, has found him to be one of the top liars of our day.  Oh, if you support Trump you’ll say that PolitiFact slants its decision-making.  No matter:  The man LIES.  He doesn’t even seem to MIND lying.  He lies as effortlessly as other people drink water.

America used to have a good reputation.  The world considered us to be strong, dependable, and trustworthy.  We would stand behind our allies.  We would bring other people to the bargaining table.  It didn’t seem to matter if we had a few smudges on our face or if our flag showed signs of wear.  The world could rely on us.  We could depend on each other.

Now we can’t even expect our president to know the facts or make accurate statements.  What have we become?  A nation that cares more about guns than children; a country in which the teenagers have to gather in angry crowds to be heard over the sound of rifle-fire.  A place where truth matters less than power.

I don’t mean to suggest that no other politician has lied, or that presidents whom I’ve supported or candidates for whom I’ve voted always told the truth.  I don’t see this as a competition — I see this as a sign of how low we have sunk, that the man whom nearly 49% of our voting population felt deserved the highest elected office in the land walks into a meeting, fabricates facts, and later brags about having done so.

I was outraged at his boasting that he can sexually assault woman because of his position and money.    I recoiled when he mimicked a disabled reporter.  The stunts he has pulled while in office sadden and anger me.  Now this:  He admits to having lied in a meeting with the president of one of our allies.  He seems to think lying is an acceptable way to govern our nation.   He basically shrugged about it.    What is worse, that he didn’t know the truth, or that he doesn’t care if he spoke it?

I no longer want little children to aspire to be president.  Now I want them to strive to be brave and valiant men and women who slay the dragon which has coiled itself in the tower and spews fire on us struggling villagers.  They can do it, with the power of their vote, their willingness to raise their voices, and their resolve to run for office.  The rest of us should do what we can to support the generation which could be our salvation.

I don’t know if America will ever be the same.  But first, we have to clean house, from the top down.  We have to start by speaking the truth:  The 45th president of the United States of America has brought shame to the office which he holds.

He must be stopped — but friends, mark my words:  Mike Pence is worse.  

We are in serious trouble.  Tighten your belts and hold onto your hats.  The storm has not yet abated.  Its wind will blow with an unrelenting fierceness before the calm.

 

Surviving

The president of the United States defended one of his staff members from allegations of abuse in a recent twitter post.  Let that sink into the morass of thoughts that you have to manage on a daily basis during this astonishing administration.  Now read the actual tweet:

Well, we wish him well. He worked very hard. I found out about it recently, and I was surprised by it. But we certainly wish him well.It’s obviously a tough time for him.
“He did a very good job when he was in the White House, and we hope he has a wonderful career, and hopefully he will have a great career ahead of him, but it was very sad when we heard about it, and certainly he’s also very sad now.

 

“Very sad. ” . . . “Mr. Porter is very sad now.”

 

No expression of concern for the survivors of Mr. Porter’s alleged actions.    No instant condemnation of physical assaults, on women or anyone.  The automatic response of the president of the United States to a serious allegation of violence by a member of his staff:  Sympathy and good wishes for the alleged perpetrator.

 

My mother, siblings and I experienced family violence before an industry arose around such chaos.  In the 1960s, we endured beatings, knife-throwings, screaming, and worse.  We also bore the stamp of sorrow which comes from living in hell.    No one prosecuted my father nor were we removed from the situation.   Society had not yet decided that the abuser should be punished for family violence.

But we know better now.  We know that beating people should not be tolerated.  We know that anger needs to be controlled.  We know that survivors deserve our help, our support, and our compassion.  Research tells us that trauma impacts neuro-biology; that patterns of domestic violence repeat in generational cycles; and that those who do violence will not stop unless they face censure.  We take these allegations seriously.

Yet our president wishes Mr. Porter well.

 

He does not say, “I await an investigation; but in the meantime, I support the survivors of these alleged assaults, and I will insure that my administration does not hire anyone with a history of domestic violence.”

 

He says:  “We wish him well.”

 

I’ve got a few wishes of my own.  I wish Mr. Porter due process.    I wish justice for his apparent victims.  As for the nation, my wish remains the same:  That those who govern due so honorably, wisely, and conscientiously.

I began writing this article before the St. Valentine’s Day massacre of seventeen people at a Florida school by a former student armed with an AR-15.  I tried to compose this entry with a conscious regard for even-handed and noninflammatory commentary.  But now I am angry.  I’m angry that this nation seems to hold its citizens in so little regard that we elected a president who brags about being able to sexually assault women and expresses best wishes for a departing staff member accused by two former spouses of assault.  I’m furious that the NRA can make massive donations to elected officials and block gun control.  I’m livid that Trump suspended Obama-era regulations regarding gun purchases by people with mental health histories.    I am outraged that this nation seems to take abuse, gun violence, the senseless injury of family members and the murder of children, with an equal lack of seriousness.

 I survived a terrible childhood besieged by family violence.  I escaped injury in a senseless stranger shooting incident.  These maladies are hardly new, but they worsen rather than abate.  I’ve blended my anger over these conditions into one post because I see similar attitudes to each being displayed by the current administration.  The same officials who send thoughts and prayers to the families of shooting victims, send good wishes to abusers and dismiss the disgusting comments of the president as “locker room talk”.

 

I’m sick of it.  I feel helpless, and hopeless, and appalled.  And I did not even lose anyone to gun violence this week.  Imagine what the parents of those children feel.  In fact, you don’t have to imagine.  I’ve got no punchy closing  this time.  Just this — a message from the parent of a fourteen-year-old to the president of the United States of America.

 

 Click on her picture, listen to her anguish; and then tell me what you’re going to do about the senseless scourge of violence in America:

 

Pomp and Circumstance

The news about the current president directing the military to stage a parade troubles me.

I have no gripe about pomp and circumstance as a general rule.  In certain times, bringing the nation together with a victorious celebration or a glorious display of patriotism seems appropriate, even useful.  On the Fourth of July, for example; with the mayors and the governors and the local high school marching band, we can stand with hearts on hands and remind ourselves how great our nation has always been, and how much more we have to bind than separate us.

But this parade, this forced, laud-me-now demonstration requested by the president of the United States on the eve of a government shutdown which he himself dismissively invites, feels wrong.  I envision a certain Emperor before whom a small child stands with wondering eyes, proclaiming his nudity.  This parade, as it has been described to us, settles on our country’s bones like an ill-fitting shroud or a heavy hair-shirt.  We wear it to do penance for Trump’s unpopularity, for the agitated debates which block his bidding in Congress.

If our stock market had not taken a crazy downward spiral, perhaps I would not even care.  If the number of homeless veterans had not spiked, I might not notice.  If VA hospitals across the nation did not stagger under the weight of patients left to die from negligence, I would not raise my voice.  But the starving children, the rampant opioid epidemic, the cuts in benefits to our elderly and disabled citizens —  these stark economic realities demand a tightening of the federal belt, not a frivolous squandering of our American coins.

What celebration transcends the rest of us in importance, such that a military parade should siphon funds which could feed, clothe, and cure Americans including our honored soldiers?  We have not won a war, even assuming that such victory would warrant a lavish and costly display.  We have not cured cancer, or ended addiction, or eased the suffering of those who have lost family and friends in any of last  year’s disasters.  Puerto Rico still has no power and Flint’s water still reeks.

I struggle to see the sense of it, but I hold no hope that sense has any influence at Pennsylvania Avenue.   I see no potential that anyone will stop this horrible waste of our strained resources.  Sadly, the only good which might come of this will be if it serves as yet another nail in the coffin of this dying administration.

And that, my fellow Americans, is as sad a commentary on the state of our nation as I ever dreamed of uttering.

God help us all.  God help the United States of America.

 

COLORS

In order of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I’d like to tell a story on my son, Patrick Corley.

When Patrick was a child, I got licensed as a foster parent.  On one occasion, we had a baby girl placed with us.  I invited the child’s CASA worker to see her at the house.  She had not planned to come, but I wanted her to know that we were providing good care for her client.

When I opened the door, I had the baby in my arms.  My son stood beside me.  We greeted the woman, and asked if she wanted to come into the house.

The woman blurted out, “You’re white!”

Before I could say anything, she gasped in dismay, “And this baby is BLACK!”

I was speechless.

But my son had an immediate response:  “No, no, she’s not!” he corrected the woman.  “She’s the exact color of a Hershey bar.  I checked!  And we’re not white, either.  We’re more of a beige.”  He then gestured, “Come in!  Come in!”  He led the woman into the living room, having settled, in his mind, the question of colors.

On another occasion, I took my son shopping for t-shirts.  Seeing his selection, I gently suggested that he might want to keep looking.  “Pink is a girl color,” I told my four-year-old.  He reached out and patted my hand.  “No, no, Mom,” he said.  “Colors do not have genders.”

I accept that people fit into cultures, “races”, genders, gender-orientations, nationalities, religions, and statuses.  But I reject the notion that we can paint large groups of people with the broad brush of judgment based upon such designations.  I once interviewed for a job at a New Orleans law firm.  I didn’t expect to get the job; I knew within five minutes of my arrival that I couldn’t make the grade in the cut-throat atmosphere.  But I slogged through the entire process, down to the lowliest associate on the hiring committee in the closet which served as his office.

He looked at my resume and remarked, “I see you made law review, we like to hire people from law reviews.”  I shook my head.  “Sir, you mistake what I’ve done for who I am, ” I replied.  “I made law review because I’m good; I’m not good because I made law review.”

I clattered out of his office in borrowed grey pumps and a cheap suit, and never looked back.  I spent the next forty years trying to understand the judgmental gene in human beings.  I’m still trying.  It’s taken me a long time to be able to discern how I want to choose my own associates.  But I’m getting closer to having a good set of criteria by which to separate the wheat from the chaff, and skin color has nothing to do with the distinction.

MARTIN LUTHER KING’S SPEECH

To Our Infinite Shame

The potential that America can rise above the infamy heaped upon us by the person currently holding the office of president diminishes every day.  America reels under each new onslaught of racism, misogyny, and classicism uttered by this individual whom more than half the electorate and 49% of the popular vote chose for this office.  I hang my head and shudder, overwhelmed by the latest ugliness which this individual, this politician, spoke.

I acknowledge that I have relatives who voted for the current president.  It saddens me to say that they did.  At the time of the election, his character had been revealed to any who didn’t already know.  I love my relatives, even those who voted for this individual.  But I do not understand their decision to vote for him, and I do not understand their silence in the face of his continued, consistent disgusting behavior.

We cannot tolerate racism in any person, particularly not the president.  We cannot remain silent while this continues.  If we do, the stain of our infinite shame will indeed be indelible.  The flag which  waves over our land once stood for freedom, liberty, and justice.  With this current administration, that flag  might just as well be lowered and marked with the stamp of oppression, dictatorship, and tyranny.

I call upon all persons, here and around the world, to stand in solidarity against the current elected president of the United States.  We as a nation must be unified in our opposition to this treachery.  We as a people must tell this president that he does not speak for us.  We must stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of Haiti and any other nation seen by this man as constituting a “shithole”.  We must proclaim that our shores will not be closed to anyone who wishes to seek harbor here, let alone to those who live in poverty, in political degradation, in famine, or in the turmoil of disaster whether natural or human-inflicted.

The time has long since passed when it is even nominally acceptable to turn a blind eye or a silent voice to this atrocious behavior.

I stand with Haiti.

I stand with immigrants.

I stand with other women, with children, with my fellow disabled persons, and with members of the LGBTQF community.

I stand with all citizens of this nation, and with the Dreamers who yearn to become citizens.

I stand with the people of our global community.

I raise my hand, and I point my finger to the person occupying the office of president and I declare him to be unfit and, further, to be a disgrace to our great nation, the United States of America.  I declare that he does not contribute to the greatness of this country but to its demise and ruination.  I will stand alone if I must, to deliver this message in a voice that will not be stilled.

I invite you to stand with me.

#Resist #TakeBackOurNation

 

Presidential Bearing

Good morning, guys and dolls of the American public — and the twenty-five subscribers who must have become convinced that I’d lost interest in the political scene.  Not true.  In reality, the shenanigans in Washington and around our nation have so overwhelmed me with sadness that I could not bring myself to comment.

With the unsealing of the first indictments pursued by Special Counsel Robert Mueller arising out of his investigation of the Russian hacking of our election and other nuances, I felt compelled to speak.  Perhaps you will find the subject of my morning ruminations mundane; perhaps you will disagree.  Grouse on, my friends; you are entitled to do so.

What awakened my ire in the last days has been fulminating in my ulcerous gut for the last year or two.  A minor point, perhaps, but none the less, it’s my platform and I’ll cry if I want.  (For a platform on which I disdain complaint, cruise on over to My Year Without Complaining.)  Here it is, folks:  The lack of presidential bearing of the man who currently occupies the White House.

I like my presidents to be — well, presidential.

I don’t like them to whine, grouse, use third-grade vocabulary, or spend all morning thumbing their phones instead of striding with purpose towards Capitol Hill to sleigh dragons and kick butt.  I prefer them to avoid angry tirades unless directed to dastardly deed-doers who attack America and its allies, rather than political opponents from last year’s news.  In my view, presidents should remain calm in crisis, hold a steadying hand for the men and women of the Armed Forces, and conduct themselves above and beyond any personal reproach. (And yes, Bill Clinton violated that last dictate.)

I recently posted two clips to speeches that portray presidential demeanor at its finest.  They span from Republican to Democrat,.  They hit the airwaves on the same weekend, at a time when so many of us wish that somebody else, nearly anybody, had won the election other than the person who got the electoral college vote.  I watched the clips several times, recalling each man from his own years in the White House.  One had my vote (twice) and my political alliance; one captured neither.  One looked and sounded as he always does, intelligent, knowledgeable, and articulate; the other came across better perhaps by comparison to the social media rants of the current president but still: good, solid, measured.

I’ve spent a week reflecting on my overall discontent with Mr. Trump.  I disagree with his politics, his personal behavior, and his misuse of his office.  Overlaying that:  I object to the way in which he demeans the office and the country’s image by his constant, childish harangues on Twitter.

Trump brags about having the nation’s ear via this instant vehicle for vitriol and vehemence.  But I don’t think the president should air the nation’s dirty laundry at all, much less 140 inane words at a time at two a.m. with his dinner fermenting in his own troubled craw.

Rather, the leader of the greatest nation on Planet Earth should be a calm guiding force.  He or she should understand and honor the U. S. Constitution even if he or she wishes to support a different construction of its terms than presently popular.  The President represents the United States on the world stage.  He or she should not be known for pussy-grabbing, tantrum-throwing, or name-calling.  In-house disputes should stay there.  Firings should be done in private and described with circumspection when unveiled in carefully-crafted press releases.

If Donald J. Trump worked for me, I would have sanctioned him in writing by now.  We’d be on phase three of an action plan with termination looming.  His computer password would have been changed to something that I can access, and a key-stroke recording application would be installed on his desk-top.  I’d be suggesting, quietly, that he might want to start looking for a job within his skill set.

I don’t know if Mueller’s investigation will bring down the White House.  A fair number of heads would have to roll before everyone in the administration flees and the grown-ups retake the castle.  In the meantime, I’d like to suggest to #45 that he follow a few simple rules.  Think before you speak; and when you’re done thinking, don’t speak.  You have two ears and one mouth for a reason:  Use them in proportion.  Study the actual work history of your employees and lean on those with experience in areas that you have not previously worked.

Above all:  Study past presidents, and walk the walk.  Talk the talk.  Do your country proud.

Here’s looking at you all.  Stay strong.  Remember, America has always been great.

We Cannot “Agree to Disagree”

There are not two acceptable sides to the white supremacist and Nazi debates. We cannot “agree to disagree” about this issue.

You might consider my words disputable, but I do not. I accept that some may disagree with me, and that the First Amendment allows the articulation of any belief.  But my conscience will not allow me to stand silent when I hear the pronouncements underlying white supremacy, Nazi-ism, and bigotry.    I will not remain mute.  I will express my unwavering belief that all persons have equal value.  All persons deserve to walk our streets in safety, to enter our buildings without hesitance, to send their children to school without fear.  No person, no law, no government, and no action should endorse bigotry of any kind without meeting a forceful and public rebuttal.

You may believe that you are superior, and you might even give voice to that belief.  But I will not let such a repugnant belief echo through the air without resounding and relentless opposition.

I will no longer defend the right to articulate ugliness.  I  cherish the First Amendment .  But when others use freedom of speech to express vile thoughts, I will raise my own voice in response.  I will raise my voice loud.  I will drown out the gross distortion of fact.  I will let my cry join with the cries of  men and women who share the fundamental values of acceptance, equality, and unity.

Be prejudiced.  But be forewarned:  I will no longer meet your bigotry with tacit acceptance.

We cannot be silent in the face of this stain on the record of the great American experiment.   The citizens of this nation must unequivocally reject those who preach supremacy based on skin color, national origin, gender, religious belief, or any other human characteristic or benign behavior.

We cannot simply “agree to disagree”.  When we hide behind the supposed virtue of that particular tactic of civil discourse, we send the unintended signal of endorsement.  We must not let bigotry stand behind the veil of our gentility.  Rather, men and women who prize equality must join hands, combine strength, and answer bigotry with a hail of unrelenting rejection.

Least of all should we tolerate even the slightest hint of violence levied in aid of bigotry — not for the briefest increment of time, nor with the merest speck of our being.  We cannot meet terror such as the gross act which we saw this weekend in Virginia with anything less than swift and sound condemnation.

Any elected official who responds to this travesty short of full outrage should be taken to the strictest task.  Americans fought, Americans died, both in battle and in the streets of our cities, for the cause of equality.  We fought Nazis with our wounded bodies.  We marched til the blisters rose on our feet.  We fell into jail cells and prison camps.  We became martyrs to the cause of civil rights.

We cannot surrender even a fraction of an inch of that which we gained by these bold and noble efforts.  Nor can we yield the momentum of the years and the battles gone by.  If we ‘agree to disagree’, we spit in the face of those who died in our streets and in the battlefield so that the rest of us could walk as equals on this land.

Say it with me then:  the name of the most recent, the newest, American who died for freedom:  Heather Heyer.

Call your senators.

Call your Congress members.

Call City Hall, the state house, and the White House.

Tell them.  Tell them all.  You will not let this happen in your city, your state, your country.  And you will not remain silent.  Your voice and your vote will be your rejoinder.

We do not agree to disagree.  We will never agree to disagree.  If you speak the words of bigotry, we will call you out, every time.  We will not stay home and we will not stay silent.

Speak  her name:  Heather Heyer.  She died in the act of protesting bigotry.  Now I will step forward to speak her message. I will speak for equality. And I will speak for her.

 

Resisting the New Normal

Every day our senses endure the assault of gross behavior, argument, hatred, and lies.  I’m talking about our elected officials and their staff.  They bombard us from Twitter and the news, using vulgar language; recitations of allegations so patently incorrect as to be clear lies; and attacks on each other and our way of life.

Do I need to provide links?

The current president  hires a man so vulgar he makes his boss look tame, a man who refers to a colleague by reference to masturbation.

The president goes to Europe and comments on the physical appearance of the wife of another head of state.

The president lashes out at an entire class of people based upon their sexual identity, pronouncing that they won’t be allowed to serve.  (Don’t get me started on the bizarre, unpresidential method of making the announcement of his new policy or the lie about consulting generals, who claim to have known nothing of this.)

That last absurdity reminded me of the Alice’s Restaurant lyrics.  You know the part i mean, right?  The narrator has been sitting on the Group W bench in the draft office due to his prior conviction for throwing a pile of garbage out.   There he is, at the draft office, sitting on the Group W bench, and this exchange occurs:

I filled out the Massacree with the four-part harmony. Wrote it down there Just like it was and everything was fine. And I put down my pencil, and I Turned over the piece of paper, and there . . . on the other side . . . in The middle of the other side . . . away from everything else on the other Side . . . in parentheses . . . capital letters . . . quotated . . . read The following words: “Kid, have you rehabilitated yourself?”

I went over to the sergeant. Said, “Sergeant, you got a lot of god-damned Gall to ask me if I’ve rehabilitated myself! I mean . . . I mean . . . I Mean that you send . . . I’m sittin’ here on the bench . . . I mean I’m
Sittin’ here on the Group W bench, ’cause you want to know if I’m moral Enough to join the army, burn women, kids, houses and villages after bein’ a Litterbug.”

That’s how this whole distraction about trans gender service members feels to me.  I mean no service member any disrespect, nor do I mean to make light of the difficulty facing trans gender persons.  And that’s the point.  This is kind of like Catch 22, isn’t it?  You have to be sane to want to fight; but what sane person would?   Here’s the deal:  If you want to join any branch of the military in this day and age, you probably love your country and feel drawn to protect its ideals.  If you meet the standards of the physical challenge and a shrink certifies you as competent to tote a weapon and march; to huddle beneath fire, friendly and not; to jump from a plane surrounded by rapid fire; well, then, who am I to question your fitness based upon whom or how you love?

In fact, if a person summons the courage to stand before his or her family, friends, and cohorts with the news that they want to change their gender, that person has established that he or she has strength of character.  I want such a brave human standing between me and the enemy.

On the other hand, the type of person on whom I would never rely is the one whose mind has such narrow limits that it defines worth by the contours of its mirrored image.  The person whose vocabulary has stymied in the sixth grade could never effectively dialogue with men and women who determine the world’s destiny.  The man who leads by creating an internal environment of crude attack rather than of thoughtful cooperation will take his lemmings over the cliff to certain death, gleefully wearing the only parachute among the thoughtless, maddened crowd.

We cannot let this become the new normal.  Our country spent 240 years growing, maturing, changing, and improving.  We learned to be inclusive and expansive.  We cannot now shirk from this undeniable, internal threat to our citizens.  We cannot allow the putrid stench of discrimination to foul the expansive air which this country has always sought to cultivate.

This is not a race issue, or a class issue, or a partisan issue.  The threat to our nation runs much deeper than any single group.  The very fabric of our existence has fallen under attack.  We have woven the American tapestry with richer and more vibrant threads as time has shown us the virtue of acceptance.  To return to a day when we placed value on sameness and on gross treatment of anyone not fitting into a single mold would not make us any greater.  Rather, such a regression would and will diminish the greatness that we have known, and that we would have our children inherit.

Perhaps you feel powerless to stop this trend.  But you do not need to fight alone.  This army accepts everyone, regardless of race, regardless of color, regardless of religion, regardless of gender or sexual identity, regardless of where you were born or whom you love.  There’s a place for you in this fight against the new normal.  Come along; or lead the way.  America needs you.

 

 

 

 

Of noxious weeds

I’ve taken a tour of the 45th president’s speech in Poland and find it disturbing.  This sentence lurks in the skillfully crafted rhetoric:

“We must work together to confront forces, whether they come from inside or out, from the South or the East, that threaten over time to undermine these values and to erase the bonds of culture, faith and tradition that make us who we are.”

Trump’s Speech in Poland, set out here.

The speech contains numerous other references to “faith” which disturb me, but this sentence most clearly shows Trump’s apparent intention.  He seems unaware  or unconcerned that our country does not promote “bonds of faith”, but, rather, disdains them.

As one of our founding fathers wrote:

“Religion and Government are certainly very different Things, instituted for different Ends; the design of one being to promote our temporal Happiness; the design of the other to procure the Favour of God, and thereby the Salvation of our Souls. While these are kept distinct and apart, the Peace and welfare of Society is preserved, and the Ends of both are answered. By mixing them together, feuds, animosities and persecutions have been raised, which have deluged the World in Blood, and disgraced human Nature.”

John Dickinson, Pennsylvania Journal, May 12, 1768, reprinted in The Founders on Religion, ed. James H. Huston (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005), 60–61.

Broadcasting the intent to promote “bonds of faith” signals a dangerous course.  Americans represent extraordinarily diverse religions.  Many have no religion whatsoever.  Some have no faith whatsoever, instead self-identifying as atheist.  Of 35,000 Americans surveyed by the Pew Research Center in 2014, 9% stated that they did not believe in God.  The percentage of Americans identifying themselves as Christian dropped  from 78.4%  in 2007 to 70.6% in 2014 .

While these statistics show by extrapolation that Americans are predominantly religious and Christian, nevertheless, it is not all Americans, and the number seems to be shrinking.  Moreover, the separation of church and state has not been abrogated in our nation.  Our government was not formed on the bonds of faith but to escape those bonds.

Some have said that the smoothly talking Trump shows a scripted side that does not reflect his true inclination.  Such pundits point to the late-night, erratic twitter rants of Trump as being a more accurate reflection of his nature and proclivities.  Crude, self-absorbed, vindictive, and outraged, Trump thumbs away at his phone with one-line blasts and condemnation which critics say give voice to his genuine agenda.

If that be so, then who wrote the Poland speech?  Who used Trump to articulate this declaration of intent, this challenge, this defense of faith?  Who defies the Constitutional mandate that the government forsake involvement in religious matters?  “As president, [john] Adams signed (and the U.S. Senate approved) the 1797 Treaty with Tripoli, which reassured that Muslim nation that “the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.”    The Atlantic, 15 June 2011.  Yet now we have a president who stands in front of a largely Catholic nation and professes that our two countries should ally in defense of faith.  

How come we here?  Did we, as comedians aver, fall asleep at the wheel and let the fox sneak into the chicken house — or something worse?  Is Trump the ranting late-night tweeter?  Is he the cool collected defender of faith who stood before a crowd in Poland bussed into the arena to strengthen the local impact of Trump’s message?  If the  suave, appealing speech in which he underscores the importance of faith signals his actual agenda,  the consequences are dire enough.  But what if his scripted speech has its origins in a hidden puppet master who seeks to erode our secular nation?

I find myself shivering at the thought that institutionally endorsed religious persecution will find its footing and come out from the shadows.  I fear that this ripple of “faith-based” rhetoric will creep into our schools, our city halls, and our state capitols right after it entrenches itself in Congress.  I do not think I am overly alarmed.  From the Secretary of Education’s preferences for private school to Trump’s avowal to join with Poland to protect the bonds of faith, Church oversteps its separation from State in many Washington corridors these days.

Be alarmed, my friends.  And do not be complacent.  1984 came and went 33 years ago, and with little fanfare.  But now it seems that its insidious elements have been germinating.  They might now come to flower.  Make ready the weed-killer, for the roots of this invasive pest have grown deep and remarkably strong.

A Pen So Mighty

Of all the extraordinary and disturbing news out of Washington, the current administration’s blocking of news coverage  hits nearly closest to the bone.  Compounding the occasional and increasing selective admission of certain journalists and exclusion of others, yesterday’s pronouncement that recording of briefings would be barred sends a shiver through the heart of America.

The framers of our Constitution pronounced these principles:

“The last right we shall mention regards the freedom of the press. The importance of this consists, besides the advancement of truth, science, morality, and arts in general, in its diffusion of liberal sentiments on the administration of Government, its ready communication of thoughts between subjects, and its consequential promotion of union among them, whereby oppressive officers are shamed or intimidated into more honorable and just modes of conducting affairs.”

Source: The Heritage Foundation,  heritage.org,  quoting  Appeal to the Inhabitants of Quebec, written by the First Continental Congress in 1774.

Think about those words.  “The importance . . . consists [of], besides the advancement of truth. . . its diffusion of liberal sentiments on the administration of government. . . ready communication of thoughts between subjects, and . . . promotion of union among them.”  And what is the purpose of these endeavors?  To “shame or intimidate” oppressive officers into “more honorable and just modes of conducting affairs”.

Conversely, inhibiting the freedom of press allows for less honorable and less just modes of conducting the affairs of government.  These nefarious developments result from prohibiting the “ready communication of thoughts” and preventing “the promotion of union” among the subject of governmental action.

Can you identify any Constitutionally defensible purpose for a wholesale prevention of open reporting on our current administration?  I do not question the careful and selective protection of certain actions which, if publicized, would unduly threaten state secrets or national security.  But such items do not appear on the agenda in White House briefings.  Rather, the ordinary business of governance receives air in those daily affairs.  The people have a right to be informed as to such matters, and we look to the press for information.

The curtailment of a free press promotes governmental corruption, tyranny, and fascism.  We must not tolerate these dangerous actions by our government.   Citizens must protest, or risk watching the America which we love become a distant and wistfully regarded reality.

The English words “the pen is mightier than the sword” were first written by novelist and playwright Edward Bulwer-Lytton in 1839.  Though originally intended as a way of describing a cleric’s defense of himself by peaceful means, nonetheless the phrase reminds us that we can keep our American experiment alive by speaking.  Do not let the pen be stilled as it writes of truth.

John Adams wrote in 1765 in his “Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law:

“Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people, who have a right, from the frame of their nature, to knowledge, as their great Creator, who does nothing in vain, has given them understandings, and a desire to know; but besides this, they have a right, an indisputable, unalienable, indefeasible, divine right to that most dreaded and envied kind of knowledge, I mean, of the characters and conduct of their rulers.  Rulers are no more than attorneys, agents, and trustees, of the people; and if the cause, the interest, and trust, is insidiously betrayed, or wantonly trifled away, the people have a right to revoke the authority that they themselves have deputed, and to constitute other and better agents, attorneys and trustees.”

One of the first principle taught in law school directs attorneys to attend to their fiduciary duties. The fiduciary duty is an obligation of loyalty and good faith to someone or some entity that is the highest duty known to the law.  Our elected officials owe no less, but without the accountability inherent in a society with a free and unfettered press, their exercise of this duty cannot be monitored.

I lament the shadow thus cast on the integrity of our great nation.  Anyone who does not share my outrage either lives beneath a rock or welcomes the descent into intolerance and the limits of freedom which tyranny demands.  The rest of us must resist.  When the emperor strolls past, block his path and loudly remark upon his nakedness,  with the cameras rolling and the mighty pens poised.

 

Abuse of Power

Hairs feel the swift whack of a sharp blade as Congressional minds split them.  Rarely  has testimony been parsed so cleanly except from the elevated perch of Senate and House hearings.

Today former FBI Director James Comey quoted the president as saying to him, of Comey’s investigation relating to General Mike Flynn, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”    A Republican on the committee receiving his testimony pounced on the verb ‘hope’, demanding that Comey agree that ‘hope’ has gotten no one prosecuted.

Ah, but we know what Trump meant.  He set the stage:  “Alone at last, so I can say what I want and my underlings can’t shield you.  Grab ’em by the . . .[paycheck].  You like your job, Jim?  Hmmmm?”

Comey did not rise to the bait; and the gavel fell on his tenure which Trump had previously urged him to continue.

This cannot pass the smell test.  It reeks of  rank manipulation of superior bargaining position.  Abuse of power.  Well beyond mutual back-scratching, don’t you know.  Trump is the president of the entire nation.  

Consider this:  “In the end, the constitutional separation of powers supports both sides of the argument over a President’s proper authority. It reinforces a President’s right or duty to issue a decree, order, or proclamation to carry out a particular power that truly is committed to his discretion by the Constitution or by a lawful statute passed by Congress. On the other hand, the constitutional separation of powers cuts the other way if the President attempts to issue an order regarding a matter that is expressly committed to another branch of government; it might even render the presidential action void. Finally, separation of powers principles may be unclear or ambiguous when the power is shared by two branches of government.”

Sourge:  Heritage.org

The FBI investigates.  That assignment of authority put the matter of what Flynn did or did not do and how to respond squarely in the province of Comey and his agency.  Trump had no business hoping for a certain course of action.  Even less should he have expressed that hope out loud to the person responsible for the investigation after sequestering him by ousting others from the room.

Listen:  If I go out to my secretary Miranda’s desk, lean close so only she can hear, and whisper, “I hope you change the date on the Stamps.com print-out to make it looked like I timely mailed my tax return,” she knows what I mean.  I want her to do exactly what I’ve said but I want to avoid directly asking for it.  Plausible deniability.  If she gives me what I hope to get from her, she becomes complicit in my attempt to skirt the law.    Is she free to say no?  I pay her.  I control her employment.  She knows that “hope” means “if you want to keep working here, make this happen”.  (Not that I would; in the apt words of #44, this is an analogy.)

You can dance around the deal all day long, people.  Comey knew what Trump meant.  He meant, wink wink, nudge nudge, you want to keep your job, make this go away.  Comey declined to comply and now he bears the title of Former FBI Director. Cause and effect.  “You like your job?  Gosh I hope this will happen.”  It doesn’t happen; boom.  End of job.  Connect the dots.

I don’t fool myself into thinking that Trump will fall due to Comey’s testimony.  Republicans have too much ego vested in appearing to be righteous.  When Trump falls, he’ll trip over an accumulation of garbage strewn in his wake as he slaughters democracy with blow after blow.

Comey has added to that putrid pile.    Whatever else he might be, he has shown himself to be  honorable in this instance.   He knew that if he did not respond with acquiescence, his job would be forfeit.  He followed his ethics.  He put this country before himself.

Thank you, sir.  Well done.

As for Trump, I fear that we have much to endure before his ugliness topples him; and those standing next in line seem worse.  Our country has a long dark night ahead of it.  Build your fires high.  We’ll need them.  It’s always darkest before the dawn.

FLORENCE + THE MACHINE:  SHAKE IT OUT

Trigger Warning: ANTI-BIGOTRY RANT!

I’ll warn you from the git-go:  I intend to rant.  If you do not want to read a rant, STOP READING.  The subject of my rant?  “Race relations”.

I find it more than outrageous that I still have to use that phrase in 2017.  Twenty-seventeen!  Not Seventeen-seventeen!  Not Nineteen-fifty-seven!  The twenty-first century in what I used to consider the greatest nation on earth, and I have to start a post not only with a “trigger warning” about a rant, but with the phrase “race relations”!!!!!

My rant flows from the recent revelation that a Flint official resigned after being caught  in his bigotry.  I chose these words with deliberation.  He only resigned because someone recorded him.  He did not resign because he is a bigot, but because someone publicized his bigotry.  Make no mistake about the distinction.

As reported within the last twenty hours:

“A Michigan official that manages tax foreclosed homes for the county where Flint sits has resigned after an audio recording of him blaming the city’s water problems on “n—ers (who) don’t pay their bills” surfaced online.

“Phil Stair, who was a sales manager at the Genesee County Land Bank, was recorded using racial slurs by local water activist Chelsea Lyons who later posted the recordings to the website Truth Against the Machine.

“In the recording, Stair is heard saying “Flint has the same problems as Detroit, f–ing n—ers don’t pay their bills, believe me, I deal with them,” he said.”

Source: NBC News online.

That bigotry even exists in 2017 sickens me.  That the citizens of Flint suffer at the hands of a bigot nauseates me.  To be honest, that   this issue still exists overwhelms me with exhaustion, and I’m a white, middle-class middle-aged lady in middle-America barely touched by racial bias except by familial affiliation.

If this despicable behavior drives ME to extreme anger, imagine how a person “of color” feels. (God, I hate that phrase too — “of color”.   We’re all ‘of color’, as my son once taught a CASA worker who accused me of being white.  My wonderful then-five-year-old chirped, ‘No she’s not, she’s beige.’)

A year ago or so, someone whom I actually love told me that he was “a little bit racist”.  I said to him then, and I say to him and everyone now:  (a) You cannot be ‘a little bit racist’; and (b) I will no longer tolerate any racial bias.  None.  Nada.  Nothing.  NONE.  I will call you out, and I will take you down.

One can meet a person, interact with him or her, have direct experience, and conclude that their behavior departs from what you find acceptable.  That is not bias.  You’re allowed to choose your associates based upon personal experience and conclusions about individuals.

You are NOT allowed to look at a person’s skin color, or “ethnicity”, and draw conclusions about them based upon their skin color or ethnicity.  Pigmentation does not dictate  worthiness, nor does it drive an assessment of value.  Nowhere.  No how.  No time. Never.  If laws exist which still allow different treatment based upon the hue of a person’s epidermis, those laws repulse me and should repulse everyone.

Hear me now:  Those of us who fit within the definition of “white” started this terrible philosophy of divisiveness based on “color” or “race”.  We caused the need to dialogue about “race relations” by enacting laws which treated Americans differently based upon race.  Those laws arose from our internal choices, that is, the decision that certain humans should be considered superior to others because of their skin color.

While the civil rights movement has pushed us a few inches forward in reversing the path of discrimination, no genuine evolution has occurred because the hearts and minds of bigots resist the change.  Those who have suffered discrimination have worked too long to change it.  They should not be required to change laws which they did not enact and from which they suffer.  Moreover, no one who secretly favors inequality should have any say in the social compact.

I’m aligning myself with those who demand that we stop expecting the victims of our discrimination to cure this evil.   If my refusal to be complicit in the perpetuation of bigotry pushes me into the category of the far left, so be it.  I’m done with pablum.  I’m done with courtesy.  Check your bigotry at the door.  I will no longer make even feeble excuses.  Regardless of your age, your upbringing, or your closeness to me, I will name you:  BIGOT.  I will reject you.

WE RESERVE THE RIGHT TO REFUSE SERVICE TO BIGOTS.

And we will no longer smile when we shut the door in the face of anyone who persists in their bigotry.

We will not hate, but neither will we tolerate.

You are warned.

 

 

 

Unfair Comparisons

The scowl on #45’s face topped a caption proclaiming that he had declared war on the filibuster rule.  Our current president now wants the Senate to suspend the requirement of 61 votes to pass legislation.  We have gotten to 30 May 2017, more than 100 days into the current administration.  The stench of desperation hangs in the dank summer air.

I remembered the recent bestowing of an honorary law degree on Trump, and contrasted that with the actual Juris Doctor possessed by Barack Obama.  My mind naturally began comparing the two, driving me to the internet to recall just how well Obama’s first 100 days had gone.

At Wikipedia, I read the litany:

“Obama began to formally create his presidential footprint during his first 100 days.[1] Obama quickly began attempting to foster support for his economic stimulus package, American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.[2] The bill passed in the House on January 28, 2009, by a 244–188 vote,[3] and it passed in the Senate on February 10 by a 61–37 margin.[4][5]

“Obama stated that he should not be judged by his first hundred days: ‘The first hundred days is going to be important, but it’s probably going to be the first thousand days that makes the difference.’[6]

Obama’s accomplishments During the first 100 days included signing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 relaxing the statute of limitations for equal-pay lawsuits;[7] signing into law the expanded State Children’s Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP), which the White House said provided benefits to 4 million additional working families; winning approval of a congressional budget resolution that put Congress on record as dedicated to dealing with major health care reform legislation in 2009; implementing new ethics guidelines designed to significantly curtail the influence of lobbyists on the executive branch; breaking from the Bush administration on a number of policy fronts, except for Iraq, in which he followed through on Bush’s Iraq withdrawal of U.S. troops;[8] supporting the UN declaration on sexual orientation and gender identity; and lifting the 7½-year ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.[9] He also ordered the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, in Cuba, though it remains open, as well as lifted some travel and money restrictions to the island.[8]

“At the end of the first 100 days 65% of Americans approved of how Obama was doing and 29% disapproved.[10]

First 100 Day of Barack Obama’s Presidency, Wikipedia.

A little butterfly beat its wings against my ribcage as I ran the related search for #45.  Other than signing a slew of executive orders, of which the most pivotal found immediate death at the hands of federal judges, Trump’s only real accomplishment seems to have been returning the Supreme Court to its 5/4 Conservative split.

“Structurally, President Trump had the advantage of a Republican Party majority in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate, but was unable to fulfill his major pledges in his first 100 days and had an approval rating of between 40 and 42 percent, “the lowest for any first-term president at this point in his tenure”.[3]”  

The First 100 Days of Trump’s Presidency, Wikipedia.

It’s an unfair comparison in many ways.  Obama’s intellectual abilities sharply contrast with those of Trump.  His ability to reason and articulate; his solid oratorical style; his quiet composure; all give Obama an advantage as a statesman.  Moreover, Trump’s main ability seems to be in the down-and-dirty game of cage-rattling, possibly useful in high stakes business maneuvers but not the stuff of true leadership on a global scale.

I can’t decide whether Trump’s multiple business failures mean anything to his supporters.  I’m hopeless at business myself, but even I would never hire Trump based on his track record.  He principally seems to skate on his masses of inherited money, some of which surely has been lost in bad ventures but much of which must have been busily multiplying.    I’ve heard his supporters call him a smart man, but his limited vocabulary and seeming inability to distinguish between fantasy and reality belie such pronouncements.

My idle speculation leads me to the conclusion that 62,979,636 people looked at Donald Trump’s swagger and envied him.  People tend to elevate those whom they admire to positions which they themselves feel inadequate to fill.  By the same token, when we  feel threatened, as many did under President Obama, we look for something most unlike that which we fear and cling to it for safety.  The lingering nuggets of bigotry; the uncertainty planted by the birther movement; the doubts flowing from the slow, steady improvement in the economy driven by forces that the ordinary citizen couldn’t comprehend; these factors lured 62,979,636 voters into reaching for a sharper, wealthier manifestation of what they thought they saw in the mirror.

We cling to what looks like us, especially if that familiar image seems to have risen to the zenith of success with little effort.

So in many ways, the comparison between Obama and Trump fails from fatal flaws.  Obama stands no chance.  He did what his detractors most resented:  He succeeded, even without white skin, crude talk, or sensational scandals.  How dare he?  In the face of such audacity, the masses fling aside substance and grab at Flat Stanley, who has made his one-dimensional way around the world.

And come home still wearing his idiotic grin.

 

 

In Which My Watching Eyes Shed Tears

The Republican General Assembly of Missouri reached a new low this week when Rick Brattin of Harrisonville defamed a significant portion of the population.  Brattin objected to an amendment to a proposed anti-discrimination bill by stating that:

“When you look at the tenets of religion, of the Bible, of the Quran, of other religions,there is a distinction between homosexuality and just being a human being.”

The amendment would have extended protection from discrimination  to include gender orientation and identity.  The bill’s sponsor scrapped the amendment though presumably not directly in response to the outrageous statement made by Brattin.

Put aside that Brattin’s interpretation of “religion, the Bible, the Quran and other religions” has no legitimate place on the floor of a state legislature.  Ask yourself this question:  Do you want your state representatives to have such narrow minds as Brattin?  Is it acceptable to allow our governing body to cast its sweeping and senseless condemnation on our fellow citizens?    I do not accept this.  I reject his bigotry.

My eyes wept when news of Battin’s statement hit my inbox.  I wanted to gather all of my LGBTQF friends to my bosom and shield them from his ugliness.  I found myself trembling in rage.

Then I thought even more broadly to the implications of Brattin’s terrible condemnation.  What about me?  I had a child without benefit of being married to the child’s father.  Am I lumped in the religious zeal of this little man’s crass rejection because of Biblical condemnation?  Is there a Scarlet letter “A” upon my chest which makes  me something other than “a human being”?   And what of my son — who once would have been called a “bastard”.   Would Brattin say that he too is less than human because of his status?  Or that he should be denied the equal protection which our state and federal constitutions afford all persons?

Brattin takes his courage to speak such wretched vitriol from the current political climate.  This tears the social compact asunder and threatens the very essence of our values.  We cannot condone this.  We cannot let this slip past.  We must #RESIST.