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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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. Obama quickly began attempting to foster support for his economic stimulus package, American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The bill passed in the House on January 28, 2009, by a 244–188 vote, and it passed in the Senate on February 10 by a 61–37 margin.
“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.’
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”.”
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.
“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.
I struggle to understand what has happened to American values.
The Google Fiber technician who replaced my old equipment today understands these values. He came from Iraq in 2011 with his wife and two small children. They have all become American citizens. He stood on my steps reading the sign in my window and then held both of his hands around mine. The contrast hit home: My small beige hand against his strong brown fingers. Thank you, ma’am, thank you from all of us. It seems that some immigrants appreciate being welcomed; possibly most of them do.
Where were American values when 49% of those casting votes last November picked a pussy-grabbing, disabled-persons-mocking, creditor-shafting man ignorant of geography, history, and civics as president?
I do have Republican friends, though we avoid each other these days. I would mainly gape at them in chagrin, trying to understand what kind of person wants to reverse progress and make life substantially more difficult for most Americans. I don’t think they are all outrageously wealthy or cold-hearted. But when Republicans in Congress push a healthcare plan that makes even doctors and hospitals shudder, you know that American values fell by the voting wayside.
My liberal friends post the same three or four questions on Facebook these days, most of which end with the call to Trump voters to admit that they’ve been had. I don’t think anyone understands that the Trump voters have been had but that it’s too late. Extracting admissions won’t help. All we can do now is band together and try to save America from those in Washington who seemed hell bent on driving us over the cliff.
Most developed nations have some form of Universal Health care, rather than the garbled junk that Trump and his cronies want to foist upon us. Ask yourself this question: Why does Congress want to deny Universal Health care to the citizens of this nation? I can think of no good reason. Universal health care benefits everyone, not just the wealthy.
Oh wait. Perhaps I just answered my own question.
And that, Virginia, proves that Santa Claus is a Democrat. Maybe even a socialist.
On the way home from court today, I nearly ran my car off the road when I heard that the Trump administration relaxed federal rules about school lunches.
Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue blamed healthy food for discouraging consumption. At least, that’s how it sounded to me. His actual words:
“If kids aren’t eating the food, and it’s ending up in the trash, they aren’t getting any nutrition — thus undermining the intent of the program,” said Perdue, who traveled to a school in Leesburg, Virginia, to make the announcement.
I corrected my swerve, shaking my head. Good Lord almighty, I said outloud, to no one.
Is our Secretary of Agriculture so uninformed as to believe that healthy food cannot taste good, perforce, if you serve healthy food, then kids will not eat it?
The PBS article continues by stating that whole grain grits have little black flecks which children do not like. Fair enough. I’m not a fan of grits myself. I realize people in the south adore them. In fact, when I lived in Arkansas, I learned that the three major food groups were grits, grease, and gravy. But relaxing the rules on serving whole grains seems like throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
Perhaps instead of allowing schools to receive federal money even if they utilize processed, high sodium food, we should consider funding nutrition and culinary lessons for school cooks. I fed my son whole grain bread his entire life. He attended a pre-school where they ate without protest whatever was served, and as far as I know they were not physically abused. The kids adored their teacher. She fed them foods that corresponded with the letter of the week — Avocado, artichoke, Borscht, broccoli, carrots, cucumbers. . . you get the picture.
Surprise, surprise, Secretary Perdue: Healthy food, including whole grains, can be delicious even to children if the person who prepares the food has the skills and knowledge to do it well.
I’ve abandoned hope that the current administration will apply logic and reason to what they do. I can’t stomach hearing the president. He sounds petulant and stoned in turns. I turn away. I’ve stopped listening to NPR in the morning. The erosion of our American values frightens me. With each new announcement, I shudder and cover my ears.
But when the administration attacks such solid rules encouraging progress in how America nourishes its future, my skin crawls and I realize that I must protest — even though I’m convinced that no one in Washington cares what any of us think.
For the record, then: You are what you eat. Healthy food has been demonstrated to increase student performance. See, e.g., Caldwell D, Nestle M, Rogers W. School nutrition services. In: Marx E, Wooley SF, Northrop D, editors. Health Is Academic: A Guide to Coordinated School Health Programs. New York, NY: Teachers College Press; 1998. pp. 195–223. “Nutrition has been called the single greatest environmental influence on babies in the womb and during infancy 1, and it remains essential throughout the first years of life.” The Urban Child Institute, Nutrition and Early Brain Development, 25 March 2011.
Moreover, studies have shown that making healthy food available for school lunches does make a difference:
“Increased availability of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products as components of school meals may be an effective strategy to promote healthy eating behaviors among children. Improving the nutrition standards for foods offered in competition with federally reimbursable school meals may enhance the positive effects of school meal programs on student eating behavior.”
Yet rather than applying its considerable power to helping schools comply with the regulations that have been in place for five years while still satisfying their students’ desire for deliciousness, the current administration scraps the pivotal portions of the rules. Go ahead and give them processed flour and salty snacks, Perdue seems to be saying. Better they eat junk than don’t eat! Not true, sir; not true.
When my mother-in-law grew weak enough to decline healthy food, I encouraged my father-in-law to let her enjoy the ice cream bars with which he had been trying to bribe her. “Calories is calories,” I assured him.
While it might be true for a frail, elderly woman, that principle does not apply to children. They need to consume calories that count. Good nutrition promotes their development and hence their success. Our last president and his entire administration understood the difference. Evidently that understanding has left the building.
For four years, I was married to a white Christian male who voted Republican and worshiped at the altar of The O’Reilly Factor. He commandeered the couch and the tube every evening to pay homage to the hate-mongering on Fox News. I retreated upstairs to a book and a cup of tea, not because I did not love my husband but because I could not tolerate the screaming and the hatred.
Now the monument to the very worst of American men has crumpled beneath the practical realities of capitalism. Don’t believe for one moment that the people who amass their wealth from the powerhouse which is the Fox network care about women or diversity. They care about money. O’Reilly’s continued presence at their network cost them advertising. Apparently Rupert Murdoch could handle the few million bucks thrown at claimants to silence them. But when fifty advertisers pulled their contracts from the O’Reilly Factor, well, as Trae Crowder would say, That shits wild, man, we ought to be payin’ attention.
O’Reilly’s racist and sexist attitude spoke to millions. I can’t help thinking, though, that if the companies whose advertising dollars floated him for twenty years had developed a collective conscience sooner, perhaps the November election might have gone another way. Our current president rode O’Reilly’s lava of anger to the White House. Certainly, other hoarse voices sounded the call to arms of the Trump voter. But O’Reilly bellowed the call wearing an expensive suit in front of millions every day. He gave legitimacy to bigotry.
A wise millennial who shares my DNA and convinced me to vote for Bernie Sanders predicted that America would get the president whom it deserved. I fear that he might have been right. We fell asleep at the wheel and while we dozed, our baser instincts took over and steered us straight into Hades.
My mother raised me to believe that we ought to treat every human being on the planet the same. The same. I vividly recall the moment when she flinched with something I now recognize as regret. I came home from school one day, early in my Freshman year of high school. I brought an article from TIME magazine which contained a story about a family, complete with pictures.
I’m confused, I told my Mom. I have to write an essay commenting on this article, but I don’t understand what’s so great about these people. The TIME writer had been a little oblique. I stared at the photographs of a happy, loving bunch — Mom, Dad, five or six kids. A small family by my parish’s standards. I couldn’t figure out why my teacher felt this to be worthy of a five-paragraph exposition.
My mom gestured to the breakfast room table. We sat down and she spread the pages of the magazine open. Do you see anything odd in this picture, she asked. I shook my head, genuinely mystified.
My mother laughed, but her laughter carried that hint of chagrin. She skimmed the article itself, but couldn’t find any reference to the remarkable nature of this story. She finally told me: One of the daughters was black; her siblings were all the white biological offspring of their parents. In 1970, a cross-racial adoption merited headlines.
America has not come so far after all. A majority of us still assemble on either side of an imaginary colored line. In fact, deep in the gut, many of us still shudder at the sight of oddity: The unshaven filth of homeless bodies; the covered heads of Muslim women; the flash of metal braces on crippled legs. These frighten and confuse us. So we sit on couches and bond with racist old men who grope the interns in the break room. As long as the bills get paid, those who employ the angry mouths who spew vitriol at the camera turn a blind eye to the divisive rhetoric which drives their ratings.
Yes: that’s it. Let’s consign the criminals who rape our women and slander our citizens to the corridors of justice. Instead of expanding the fifteen-minutes of fame accorded to people who promote racism and sexism, let’s snatch the microphone from their hands. Let’s take it into the audience, and find others who quietly move America forward, towards acceptance, and harmony, and peace.
Like this guy — say his name — RICK STEVES.As told by the Seattle Times,
“In 2005, Steves formed a unique partnership with the YWCA and Edmonds Rotary to improve and operate his Trinity Place apartment complex as supportive housing for families.
“The 24 units in Lynnwood have since helped 61 impoverished families, including 125 children, get back on their feet and avoid homelessness. Most current occupants are single mothers seeking to get their children back after overcoming addiction.
“This was more than just philanthropy. It was also a creative and compassionate retirement plan. Steves benefited as the value of his property increased, but even more so from the pleasure he derived from helping those desperately needing a home.
Steves, 61, has now made enough money with his Edmonds-based travel business that he no longer needs the asset to retire comfortably. So he recently gave the $4 million complex to the YWCA Seattle-King-Snohomish outright.”
The job being done by this administration frightens me. You see, they want to decrease the availability of decent health insurance, healthcare for poor women, school lunches for kids in need, and better education for all. I can’t even fathom that the five or six people whom I know who voted for the current president support such appallingly discriminatory policies.
My twenty-something son and his girlfriend march every week in support of a better government but I wonder if we have any control over the insanity. Trump’s press secretary either stupidly or arrogantly denies that Hitler used gas on his own people when thousands of German Jews suffered during the Nazi regime, many of whom were slaughtered in the gas chambers. Trying to recover, he refers to concentration camps in which six million Jews died as “holocaust centers”. I’ve heard people say that he wasn’t intending to deny the Holocaust, he is just a buffoon.
Is that supposed to reassure me? That I have to choose between the White House Press Secretary being a Holocaust denier and being an idiot?
Trump fires 59 missiles on Syria after tipping off the Russians about his intentions so that Syria can hide their aircraft. All he manages to do is damage an air strip. He drops the MOTHER OF ALL BOMBS on Afghanistan, then flies down to Florida to golf. He sends Pence to South Korea but warns that he might have to retaliate on North Korea. Oh good. Then if Trump gets impeached and Pence gets bombed, who’s next in line?
Why aren’t more people TERRIFIED and PROTESTING?
Well, lots of people are protesting; thousands some weeks, hundreds other weeks. Rogue federal employees risk their jobs by tweeting or Instagramming the truth as they know it. But really, people. What can we do? The Republicans control Congress and the White House. An insane person occupies the Oval Office and could not care any less about most of America, including his own base. Our country’s foreign and domestic policies depend upon his mood and whether he’s awake at 3:00 a.m. sending out irrational tweets to people who criticize him.
Which the First Amendment allows us to do, by the way.
I was just about to write a post about the egregious abridgment of our First Amendment rights implicit in the current administration’s attack on Free Speech by demanding to know the identity of an anti-Trump Twitter account. Twitter has sued to block the efforts.
And then, I got a message from a friend:
Trump has ordered a strike on Syria.
Good God almighty. I’m scrambling to figure out what this will mean to the people of Syria, already war-ravaged and persecuted. What will this do to the men and women of our Armed Forces? And for what? Is this a reasoned, rational, intelligent, well-planned move?
I understand that the president felt constrained to act when he heard stories of children being killed by chemical warfare. But did this move take into consideration the whiplash effect of attacking Syria? Will the people of Syria suffer more heinous retaliation after the dust settles? Will this launch America into a full-fledged military effort? What of the UN? Were UN officials consulted?
USA Today reports that:
“The attack essentially follows the plan that the Pentagon had set in September 2013, according to a senior Defense official not authorized to speak publicly about the operation. That plan was devised after President Obama had set a “red line” on the use of chemical weapons. Syrian President Bashar Assad had used the weapons that killed 1,400 civilians, but Obama did not order an attack. Instead, Assad agreed to turnover his stockpiles of chemical weapons, a pledge he obviously reneged on in light of Tuesday’s use of what experts believe was sarin gas on civilians.”
Syria kills 1,400 civilians and Obama makes a plan, and uses the existence of that plan to broker a deal. Then Syria reneges on the plan four years later, killing 27 children. Trump responds within twenty-four hours by launching a military strike.
Is this well-advised?
This strike apparently happened shortly after Trump’s friend Putin in Russia threatened retaliation against us if we did just that. My head spins — what has happened — now we have launched a military strike, tomorrow we will be defending ourselves from an invasion by Russia. Does anyone in Washington have the presence of mind to devise a comprehensive plan for our international relations?
When 48% of the American voters translated into a majority of the Electoral College and placed Donald J. Trump into office as the 45th president of the United States of America, one thought flashed in my brain:
We are rightly and truly screwed.
I’ve been raped, robbed, run over, shot at, smacked around, and presumptively doomed. Though I’ve never been an undocumented immigrant crossing the border in the dead of night or the child of a crack addict left on the doorstep of a dingy police station, I’m no innocent. I understand politics. I know that a president’s term only lasts four years. Winds shift. Sands drift. We survived Bush 2.0. Surely we can survive this, too?
One of the few Republicans of my acquaintance who spoke to me about the election results said that he intended to give Trump a chance. I rolled my eyes as I read that e-mail and calculated the likelihood that our friendship would survive the first 100 days. I haven’t heard from him since early February.
Over in the House of Representatives, the fox seems to have gotten cozy among the hens. Devin Nunes, chair of the House Intelligence Committee now conducting an investigation into dealings of the Trump administration with Russia, already denies a conflict of interest when the smallest child in the dimmest classroom would say otherwise. His cloak-and-dagger duck-and-run involved an Uber car and an unidentified White House staff member slipping Nunes onto the House grounds, supposedly without the knowledge of the West Wing. HIs committee appears befuddled and outraged but ineffectual. They cry, “Foul!” but he’s the chair and won’t recuse himself. The White House shrugs and the Democrats wail.
Meanwhile, the efforts of the last eight years to protect Earth’s climate from the deleterious effects of human activity face certain reversal. The rights of the LGBT community seem to be on shaky grounds. Even school lunches face the chopping block.
Not that I ever believed that Donald Trump could impact America’s greatness, but I have to ask: How could anyone think that what we see happening in Washington translates to #MAGA? I don’t ask this question rhetorically. I troll the internet trying to find a sane defense of the current administration’s behavior. My search finds decidedly mixed reviews, like this one from Rich Lowry. The best that one could say for #45 is that he’s good material for the late-night comedians.
I worry about America. It will take a lot of beating and keep its head high. The nation has endured two world wars, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights revolution, a Great Depression, a Great Recession, and the assassination of two of its greatest sons, John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy. We’ve survived the Dust Bowl, the Japanese-American internment camps, inflation, Black Friday, and the collapse of the housing market.
But we have never had a presidential administration which seems so determined to sacrifice our nation on the horns of its ego. When rich, powerful people play Let’s Make a Deal with the American dream, it’s difficult not to panic.
I’m holding out for a hero. Or a heroine. Or both. Illuminate the Bat signal and call for Wonder Woman. It’s show time.
After seven plus years of voluble criticism of the Affordable Care Act, Republicans and the president failed to pass their hastily composed substitute. They didn’t just “fail to pass” the bill; they pulled it from consideration. It turns out that eight years did not provide enough time for them to create legislation which could secure enough votes in their own party.
Meanwhile, legislation continues to be submitted and voted into law signed by the president. For a list of bills which have made it to the desk of #45, click HERE.
And in other news, Trump’s wife still resides in NYC costing tax payers millions each day (so the press tells us; I’ve not yet found a government report but I’m considering a FOIA request). Trump has gone golfing something like 12 times which hits the budget for a whale of money each trip. The “we didn’t talk to the Russians” story developed a myriad of tiny cracks because, well, they did. Bernie Sanders has prepared a single-payer health insurance bill — because, well, he’s Bernie and he and Elizabeth Warren continue to try to save us from ourselves.
Each has a potential positive effect on America. Neither poses any harm to America. Each is given a 1% chance of passage. Just F all Y’all’s I.
Meanwhile, the president of the United States continues to spread warmth and love. He’s setting falsehood records and feuding with his own party. When Trumpcare got pulled from the roster of legislation being considered by the all-Republican Congress, he first blamed Democrats (credit which they’d love to take but, well, did I mention it’s an all-Republican Congress?) and then blamed Paul Ryan. And in other news, he’s insulted numerous folks in the last week, and Prime Minister Angela Merkel of Germany managed not to vomit when she had to cover her degrees to make the U. S. President feel less stupid. We women have gotten adept at pretending we’re inept around unqualified men.
Trump cemented his reputation by handing PM Merkel a fake NATO bill, causing international embarrassment and insuring that the USA will be stricken from Germany’s Christmas card list.
So what’s a person to do? I’m still watching. Still marching. Still making phone calls and wearing a safety-pin on every jacket and sweater to let people know they are safe with me. I’m still writing letters. Still praying.
And I’m still listening to my twenty-five year old son, whose insight seems to be rock-star and who gives me a reason to hope for America. I haven’t yet despaired, even though we have a buffoon for a president and Russian fingers in every American pie.
I found the one Republican couple in Northern California and had to bite my tongue to avoid getting caught in the quagmire of their self-delusion.
I had fair warning.
As I stood in the little office of HI Pigeon Point Hostel waiting for the manager to finish his cigarette and re-open, I foolishly smiled at a young Korean mother, thinking her to be a visitor from abroad. My smile encouraged her to ask from where I came, in a disturbingly American accent.
“Kansas City,” I admitted.
“Oh, that’s amazing,” she cried. “Have you heard of IHOP? Not the restaurant but the Church? It is my LIFE-LONG DREAM to go there! If I could go there, I would fulfill the number one item on my bucket list!”
My smile dimmed, but I remained valiant. We chatted a little more (about which I have elsewhere blogged), and when Michael returned, I let her go first. I didn’t even snicker when she insisted that she herself could not sign the register, a task she deemed suitable only for men, an idea that Michael certainly didn’t endorse but which her husband apparently also held.
See? Fair warning, indeed. One, International House of Prayer. Two, Men Sign Registers. Three — well, to understand the third element of my fair warning, see my blog entry from Friday. And no, I’m not linking to the International House of Prayer. I don’t want to be complicit in their mission by sending anyone to their website.
I didn’t see the Korean lady and her husband again until Saturday. I sat on the back patio of my dorm, innocently eating tofu and carrots, pretending that I had not been embarrassed by setting off the smoke alarm. The two of them abandoned their own back patio to sit on our deck chairs. I had just apologized to a young lady from France for the political climate which she had found on arriving in the US. I invited her to return again in four years. “Or maybe eight, if we’re not lucky,” I cautioned.
“Oh yes,” said the Korean woman. “Our country has been in such bad shape but now it will get better.”
Didn’t I tell you that I had been warned? But did I remain silent? Of course not. “How do you figure it has been in bad shape?” asked I.
“In 2016 the unemployment rate was at an all-time high!” she exclaimed. I shook my head. “2008, you mean,” I corrected her.
“No, no, 2016 under that criminal man, that Muslim Obama!” My stomach lurched. “But now Mr. Trump will save us!” she continued.
“You’re confused,” I tried again. “The Obama years brought the country back from the Great Recession. We made a recovery and the economists say the recovery will continue, slow but steady, depending on the policies of the new administration of course.”
She shook her head and her husband, who had been silent the entire time, let out a belly-laugh. The woman said, “You are absolutely 100% wrong. I lost my job in 2009 and have not been able to find a new one. None of my friends have jobs. The economy has slowly gone down hill under Obama. Thank God we got rid of him.”
By this time, my tofu had gone cold and my stomach had twisted into a knot. But I persisted. “I think you should try getting your news from another source,” I suggested. “Fox won’t give you the truth.” She scoffed. “It’s the only real news,” she maintained. “I don’t watch fake news.” And she lifted her baby from her husband’s arms and trounced away.
I saw a woman with whom I had previously chatted come out of the next-door house. I stood, making my way to the table at which she sat.
“May I join you,” I asked. She gestured to the bench beside her.
“I couldn’t stay over there,” I admitted. “Apparently, the one Trump supporter in Northern California thinks that Obama wasn’t born in the US, is Muslim, and caused her to lose her job.”
The woman laughed. “We’re not all like that,” she assured me. “Don’t worry. Some of us out here in NORCAL are sane.”
We fell silent, watching the sun set, while I plotted my revenge on a certain lady, of Korean descent, who apparently has no idea that she’s been deluded by alternative facts.
Fair warning: I am on the coast of California. Right at this moment, I sit at a kitchen table in Seal, one of the houses of Pigeon Point Lighthouse hostel. Children have been running through the living room singing in French, German, and English. Therefore I might make less sense even than normal.
But I have been thinking about food.
Specifically, I have been pondering the subject of what type of American president would advocate getting rid of the Meals on Wheels program. As an adjunct to that thankless contemplation, I have been reviewing the characters of the handful of people whom I know who admitted to voting for Trump — even bragged about it — and trying to determine if they will be happy about legislation which adversely impacts Meals on Wheels.
If so, I seriously misjudged most of them.
Oh, not Trump. I recognized him for what he was from the start: A rich, self-absorbed con-artist. I recognize the con when I see one, because my father was a bit of a con-artist himself. He’d say, You can’t con an old con-man, you know. I would laugh and say, I know, Pops. We had that conversation in my childhood but also later, when I was in my 30s and went to visit him. Never trust a con-man, Mary, he would remind me. How right.
So: I’ve seen all of the statistics being bandied about the internet. A billion a day to keep Trump’s wife at her separate residence in NYC. Maybe 10 billion. Maybe a million. Similar exorbitant, unthinkable sums for those weekly golf trips that Trump takes. Certainly we have to protect the president. Other presidents have taken golf trips, though not every weekend and not while advocating cutting No Kid Hungry and Meals on Wheels.
Food. Not golf, or a gold-lined living room in Trump Towers. Not a weekly trip from Washington to a swank residence in Florida. Food.
And not just food but a bit of companionship, a regular knock on the door. Meals on Wheels volunteers know the folks on their routes. My best friend manages a Meals on Wheels program at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Kansas City. She’s been known to do so much more than deliver food for the people whom she serves. My son did some of his service hours with Katrina and her children at that MOW program. I know first-hand how vital she is to those who receive the meals which she cooks and brings, and who also depend on her for errands, a kind word, and even emergency assistance if they’ve fallen.
Put aside partisan politics. Ask yourself: What kind of person would find it acceptable to spend millions on weekly golf trips while threatening funding which makes possible the provision of weekly lunches for impoverished and often disabled elderly Americans? What kind of person would vote for someone who finds that to be a fair reallocation of tax dollars?
Marshall Rosenberg tells us that negative behavior “is a tragic expression of an unmet need”. I try to empathize with Trump — I really do. I reject the notion that any person is purely evil. But Trump? Close. Close. Meals on Wheels, people. How can this be a partisan issue? Is it just Democrats who see the value of feeding the poor elderly among us? It isn’t as though those octogenerians are falling down on the job. They did their job already.
I had an argument with a Trump supporter last fall about whether there was a hunger problem in America. It’s a myth, he insisted. There is no hunger in America. Besides, if kids or seniors are hungry, the government will feed them. I just stared. I couldn’t believe that anyone could start a sentence with the words, “There is no hunger in America”. Perhaps not in your house, I wanted to say. But I grew up middle class. I once saw my mother use a straw to save milk from the floor after one of us kids shattered the bottle of the only gallon she would have for a week with which to feed the eight of us. And we weren’t even poor, not really; not as I have seen poverty since then, going on home visits as a guardian ad litem.
Seniors in high rises, with bed sores and COPD, creep to the door when they hear their MOW volunteer knock. They gesture to the metal folding table by the worn recliner where they sit, day after day, looking at local news shows or staring out of the window. They clutch their house-coats and their thin cardigan sweaters. Their tired faces crinkle. In trembling voices, they thank the person delivering their food.
Some of them have never flown, much less to another state for a golf weekend. Some of them barely can pay the water bill for their one-room apartments.
Trump’s budget does not directly defund Meals on Wheels. But it does call for the elimination of one program on which some of the nation’s 5,000 Meals on Wheels groups rely, Community development block grants, a $3 billion program intended to give states and cities more flexibility in how they combat poverty.
“The majority of Meals on Wheels programs get most of their federal funding through the Administration for Community Living, an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services that serves the elderly and disabled. That agency has a $227 million line-item for ‘home-delivered nutrition services’.
“Those programs are authorized though the Older Americans Act, a law so popular that its renewal passed Congress last year without any recorded opposition. And while Trump didn’t single out that specific program, Health and Human Services will receive a 16% across-the-board cut.”
Sixteen percent. A hefty segment. So that brings me back to what I’m pondering. Who does that? What kind of president thinks it’s preferable to budget the weekly decampment of him and his entourage so he can hobknob with other wealthy folks and play golf in Florida, while slashing a program which feeds poor, elderly Americans? A person who considers his weekly golf trips to be more important than feeding poor, elderly Americans.
What kind of person is that? I cannot decide what unmet need Trump attempts to meet by putting his lavish lifestyle into the national budget while taking community block grants out of it. I can’t decide what kind of person votes for someone who prioritizes spending like that.
I’ll keep pondering. In the meantime, if you’re confused about these issues too, click on over to John Pavlovitz’s blog, and take his theories for a spin. They might resonate with you.
Unless, of course, you voted for Trump. Though come to think of it, if you voted for Trump, you stopped reading long before I got to that link.
Political and social commentary from the Missouri Mugwump.