Sanity and Hope in the Age of Trump

The daily assault on equality, honor and respect. It wears on a soul.

The coddling of the lazies:

If you are an unskilled white laborer, you have been putting blinders on for years.  There have been re-training programs required by companies that laid you off.  You didn’t take those courses. 

Now comes Akmal from Syria.  He is a medical doctor in intensive care.  He will treat you.  He didn’t take your job away.  He helps your medical problems. Medicaid or Medicare pays for it all.  (G-d bless America.)

You go home in one piece.  Medicaid is a government program.  SNAP grants are government programs and so is welfare.

It doesn’t change that you allowed denial to take you livelihood away.  I don’t know how you square that with the our basic precept:  In America, we pull ourselves up by our bootstraps.  We don’t go on food stamps or relief.

SO IT IS OK IF YOU ARE WHITE AND TAKE GOVERNMENT SUBSIDIES, BUT NOT OK IF OTHERS DO? [Did you know that the TRUE BLUE DEMOCRAT NorthEast pays those benefits for the rest of the country?)

Immigrants would never do such a thing.  I know, from experience.  As bad as life got in the Depression, the one thing that made my grandparent’s generation hold their heads up high was that they never applied for help from the government.

And yet, the demonization continues for hard working people who came here — as my grandparents did — for a better life for their children and their descendants. (Surely, the crime of illegal immigration should have a statute of limitation shorter than, let’s say, a robbery?)

The daily Executive Orders forget that:

immigrants built this nation, and

that rugged individualism was touted in the Reagan years (and which we know only survived only in settler communities that hunkered down in hard times),

Reagan’s was the first whistle call about welfare mothers driving in Cadillacs [which is a lie]; and

that affordable quality healthcare is a right.  (We know It is only a privilege until you need it and then it is a right.)

The daily assault on women’s rights and their bodies. 

A woman’s right to make decisions in consultation with their doctor and but Mike Pence has to be presence and make arrangements to bury the aborted fetus.(P.S.: Pence hates women so much, a person could wonder . .. . )

Trump locker room talk and Harvey Weinstein revelations. In 2017 for Goodness sakes.  They should share a cell together.

The daily demonization of citizens who are not white men. 

  • The absurd response to the Black Live Matter movement as if it were some sinister plot to mis-characterize the grotesque inequalities that lie like a fault line between whites and people of color. Black lives matter.  People of color’s lives matter.  Muslim lives matter. Disabled lives matter.  I can go on.  We all matter.  And we all need seats at the table of a government of the people, by the people and for the people.
  • The absurd Muslim ban.
  • The absurd wall with Mexico.

The daily assault on the values of America of my youth — work hard, give charity, extend a hand to someone who needs extra help, take your share and leave a little on the table, pay taxes to the nation that gave your parents a great public school education so it will fund future amazing public schools, so that education and opportunity are at every child’s finger-tips. Not what DeVos is doing.

The daily assault of half-formed ideas, incoherent policy, and raising up people like Bannon who wish to do harm to our form of self-government.

The daily threat of annihilation by crazy boys with bad toys.

So, besides having too much wine and running until my body is in ruins and working harder than a 50+ person should, what do I do?

Small acts of protest. Be kind and open to whomever passes your way.  Monthly contributions to Planned Parenthood, ACLU, Southern Poverty Law Center.  March whenever there is something on the weekend, even schlep there. Show up to the Muslim American Day Parade with a sign that says Jewish New Yorkers welcome our Muslim neighbors. (and when they ask us to mark, we roll with it!!) Sign petitions.  Be out, loud and proud of your stance of on all of these issues.  Canvass. 

Trump has taught me that I am not free until we ALL are free. 

The Wreckage

Mom’s and Dad’s house is empty of the objects that made it our home.  In fact, worse — the built-ins have been torn down with the most ginormous crowbar and sit as wreckage in the living room. 

The apartment looks like sullied shambles of an ordinary place. 

But it isn’t ordinary.  It is where our young lives happened and generations argued and celebrated, laughed and cried, welcomed new life and mourned those who died. 

And it is ok that realtors fix a value to a life-battered, empty, and unrenovated space.  The price is what the market will bear.  Memories don’t add value.  How could they?  They are only priceless and unique to us who lived them.  And those memories — the love and hurts and pain and epiphanies (few) — don’t live there.  They live in the three of us — my siblings and me.

So, on Saturday, as we schlepped the last boxes of slides and books that HOSOB (husband of sister of blogger) so lovingly packed up, POB (partner of blogger) asked me if I wanted to take down the mezzuzah on the doorpost of house.

I couldn’t.  At the time, I didn’t understand my visceral “nooooooo!”

Later, I realized that removing the mezzuzah was the final, symbolic gesture that would transform my parents’ home to a vacant apartment up for sale.

But, at the time, I knew it was too much for me to bear.  And too much to do alone.  It was a moment that needed all of us kids to do.

So, I will wait for SOB (sister of blogger).  Next weekend, she and I, with our brother on the phone, will take down the mezzuzah.  We, three.  Together. 

And, we, three, together, will close a chapter. 

Memory and Meaning

Memories. 

“So beautiful and yet, what is too painful to remember, we simply choose to forget.”

Barbra Streisand is right.  She sings the definition of nostalgia — a glossy overview of the truth.

Today, I was alone in Dad’s apartment.  Mom’s and Dad’s apartment.  My siblings’ and my home.  55 years of life and memories and stuff.

Alone.  With the walls that talk. 

While I unscrewed the extra shelves in the closets and bathrooms, in preparation for the walls to be skim-coated and painted, I was bombarded by memories — some good, some great, and other not-so-much. 

Teenage years.

Being gay before Mom and Dad accepted me.

Other painful times, just because parents and children don’t always (or often) get along.

I think the physical activity of cleaning made it easier to process the memories. 

And, I was afraid of some of them, because they do not fit the vision of perfect parents of my blogs  — an assault on my revisionist memories.  My “truth” of later years.

And with all of it,

the teenage “I hate you, FOREVER” moments and

the moments of abject despair as Mom and (to a lesser extent) Dad seemingly turned their backs on me because I was gay,

it all turned out ok.  (We all figured it out.  They forgave me for being gay and I forgave them for needing to forgive me.)

Our parents loved us.  And we loved them.  And no one was perfect.  And we were safe in our homes and knew that every resource would be available for us.

Why am I nostalgic?  Because through the shit times, Mom and Dad were present and connected (not always in the way we wanted).  But, when we needed them, they were there. 

I often wonder if I will measure up to their commitment when tested.

So, I was bombarded by memories of shouting, anger, etc. today, and still I think I am incredibly lucky. 

So, to Mom and Dad, on Mother’s Day — thank you both for nurturing me and standing by me (almost always), whether or not you agreed or approved.

I love you.

Dear Mom

 


Dear Mom:

SOB (sister of blogger) and I had to have a little time today.  She went to Dad’s and your apartment alone and looked through pictures. What was she thinking?

The house is still filled with happy memories, even with your and Dad’s deaths there.  For each of you, the months before your deaths were the most honest, hilarious, screwball-comedic and emotionally devastating episodes of our lives. 

If you read my blog, you know that we made sure Dad had everything, including his cocktail hour — his sacred time with all of us.  Even if we had to use an eye-dropper to share wine with him.  And I know you would have laughed at all of this, because you loved that your kids were crazy when it came to you and Dad.  And you loved that, when we took over, it was gently and lovingly.  You raised us right — with love and humor.

You died before your peers.  They were there to mourn you and comfort us.  Luckily, there were many to mourn Dad.  He staked out a place in people’s hearts after you were gone.  Hard to believe but true.

He never forgot you.  We tried to get him interested in others.  But he was married to you and that was the beginning and end of the story. So, we took special care of him because he, like us, live every day with you in our hearts.

SOB and I are having a hard time on the weekends, because they centered on visits with Dad.  I think I drink a little too much wine on Friday nights so I can’t get up on Saturdays for the usual routine. 

But, the hole needs to stay for a while because, to fill it, would erase Dad.  And we cannot figure out how to fill our weekend and keep Dad’s spirit with us.  Yet.  Maybe soon.  But it is a process.

I don’t think we ever thought that both of you would be gone and we would relinquish our home with all of the memories that soaked right into the walls, shoring up the very building’s foundations. 

The other painful part is memory.  We can’t figure some of the faces in the pictures.  That is too scary for us, because maybe in two generations, no one will pick out you or Dad in the pictures.  And that is more painful that you know. 

Life is a journey.  And death is a legacy and that legacy is a gift to the generations that follow.  If only we make sure they remember.

I love you, Mom.

~ Blogger

And a Firewall Holds

American exceptionalism is an oxymoron these days. 

Because a moron is in the White House and 63 million people thought that was a good idea.

We are a drifting hulk and striving for steady leadership. Or even a little respite — comic relief — in our search for direction. (Thank you, Justin Trudeau, for your choice of socks on May 4th. May the Fourth always be with you.)

The abject corruption and self-dealing in this White House is so abhorrent and anathema to our 250-ish year-old experience (ok, the Teapot Dome scandal was amateur hour compared to this Administration), that we have no response. 

We keep thinking we are crazy because it can’t be happening, and surely the Congress and Department of Justice would investigate.  Oh, wait, this is the Congress that passed AHCA and a DOJ that imprisoned someone for laughing at Jeff Sessions.

First Brexit and then Agent Orange made the sane among us worry about the portents of a World War II redux.  One in which fascism/nazism would win precisely because 45 is enamored of strongmen and dictators.

If France “fell” to Le Pen and Merkel didn’t do well in local elections, then the conventional wisdom is that the world would devolve into conflict that would end the world.  Because now, as distinct from 1945, many groups have nuclear weaponry.

I believe that conventional wisdom.  And I am grateful for the election of Macron — which meant, for me, that people who love liberty, even for those they may personally despise, won the day — and the shoring up of support for Angela Merkel. 

But we must remain vigilant.

Because no one has to like another person, for any reason or no reason, but all of us must believe in a person’s rights to believe and behave as they do, within the confines of the law.  That means if you beat up someone, you go to jail.  That means if you don’t want “others” in your town, suck it up or move.  It means that you are responsible for your choices and your destiny and there are no scapegoats for your sorry life.

The beauty and reality of a free society. 

These tenets are under siege.  And I will fight for them.

THE REST IS ADDRESSED TO WHITE AMERICA WHO VOTED FOR TRUMP:

I am white, educated, and reasonably well-heeled.  My immigrant grandparents struggled and so did my parents.  And now my siblings and I are successful. We stand on the shoulders of two generations.  And our children will get everything we can give them.

Because we know where we came from.  And the gift that is this nation.

Too many people after too many generations here forget the gift of this nation.  And then chose to despoil it with a con man and grifter.

Let me be clear about something:  if you are white and voted for Trump and you take assistance — food stamps, medicaid, or go to the emergency room for medical care — you are a scourge on the society.  You depend on me for your care.  And that aid ended with the election of Agent Orange.  And I am good with it.  Because immigrants deserve the promise of this country more than those born into it who feel more entitled than grateful.

Maybe Reagan poisoned you with the “welfare mothers driving Cadillacs” which was a whistle call and untrue.  But if you had any self-esteem or any drive, you would have seen through that.  You are lazy and you think white privilege will grease the wheels. 

Would I give you a managerial job if you failed 6th grade?  Are you kidding me?

You are so interested in entitlement reform?  Most of those who receive benefits are white (and Republican).  I am good with it.  I don’t want to pay for you.  You were born with more rights and privilege than anyone else in the world.  If you and your family blew it, it is on you.  And because AHCA was passed, you need me to pay for your ER visits.  Instead of making me pay those taxes to provide those services, I will get a tax break.  Thank Paul Ryan and Agent Orange.

I am tired of you.  Get a job.  Harvest the fields.  Like my grandparents who worked in sweat shops and my parent who did odd jobs from when they were 5 years-old. And studied when they could and learned about the world.

I will contribute my tax savings to people like my parents and grandparents who struggle to make it here so their children will have good lives.

No, I have no sympathy, except for the coal miners who will lose their medical coverage now.  But if they voted for Trump and the Darwinian view of life, then, well . . . .

Don’t cry to me when you are turned away from the ER. 

I voted for Hillary. 

Which meant more taxes for me. 

To take care you and everyone else. 

Because I believe in the promise of America. 

But you don’t believe in that promise.

Because you elected Agent Orange and a Congress that would repeal ACA.

I believe in the sanctity of human life – from inception to the end.  My heart bleeds for every unnecessary death and for every injury or malady that can’t be repaired or remedied.  I can’t even read about a child dying without tearing up.

Oh, and you should know that I am a lesbian raising a child with my partner.

You may think that is a sin and beyond the pale.  And you would be wrong.  We live a life with the same principles as in my parents’ home: work hard, be compassionate, be humble (here is where I fell down), and pay it forward.  I would compare my charitable giving and my civic involvement to make everyone’s life better against 45‘s in real dollars and as a percentage of our incomes.  And have it posted.

But, you and I, we are very different: my family and I take responsibility and work for a better world.  My family and I don’t wallow in what is.  My family and I are forward-looking and seek to heal the world.  The latter a commandment in my religious tradition.  I am not a person of faith, but I believe in the wisdom and directives of our ancients.

And as far as sins go, what you all allowed –i.e., electing 45 — puts you in a Hell that even Jesus didn’t anticipate.  Jesus is on my side.  And you know it.

So, if you obeyed even just these three commandments, how did we get here?

Love your neighbor as yourself.

Don’t bare false witness against thy neighbor.

Do not covet that which is your neighbor’s.

Yeah, I thought so.  You screwed up.

The Dollars and Cents of Lives

So, my dear and long-time friend, who is experienced in estate matters, came over to Dad’s house to help me assess how to clean out everything.

As gently as she could, she told me that there was very little there of any intrinsic value.  Maybe the silver.  The rest would essentially cost money to remove.

Of course it was true.  But it was hard to hear.  My parents’ possessions are just like the detritus of any other people’s lives, and often laid bare in garage sales.

But these were not any people.  These were my parents.

And these were not just any possessions.  They cluttered a home and carry all of the appurtenant emotional value — and baggage — of more than 50 years.

And some, like PanAm playing cards from our 1969 family trip to Europe, are — to us — priceless.

Other than masterpieces of art (which themselves gain and lose value according to prevailing tastes), I guess things only have the value you give them. 

And, when you are gone, they are only as valuable as the good memories they evoke.

 

Cleaning Up and Cleaning Out But Never Moving On

When Uncle Larry and Aunt Roz died, I was part of the family team to clean out their homes.  We found things we never needed to see.  In fact, I never needed to see pictures that blinded me for days.

When I had to clean out family friends’ final effects, I had to surrender an unregistered fire arm.

I was scared to clean out Mom and Dad’s house.  Because private lives are private until death.  And while I am somewhat inured to kinky facts about relatives, I would have a hard time processing that information about my parents.

Maybe my siblings cleaned that stuff out.  If they did I am grateful.  Because all I have seen is tarnished silver and keepsakes amassed over the decades.

We found the manifest for my parents voyage on the QEII in the late 1950s.  The dinner menus and the passengers at their dinner table each night.

We found our letters from camp.

We found our art projects from Kindergarten (ok, my sister’s hung in the Lever House lobby on Park Avenue in the 1960s).

We found commendations and letters of recommendations and war commendations.

We found 100 year-old pictures with Yiddish on the back.  Mom was the repository for all family pictures because many of her aunts and uncles outlived their children.

We found a scary looking dude with an old-world kipah who turned out to be our great-grandfather.  (We still refer to him as Super Scary Man with the Beard.) [Great-grandpa Eli to others.]

 

I recognize a lot of the people in the photos.  Osmosis, I guess.  Maybe I am channeling Mom.  Mom always knew.  Even for those on Dad’s side.  Dad would say, “You can’t prove by me.”

Thank G-d Mom knew.  And now, my siblings and I have to know.  We have to dig deep into the recesses of our memories.

Because if we don’t remember, no one will.  And then, Aunt Fanny, Uncle Lou, crazy Cousin Eli, Uncle Lazar, Aunt Jenny, etc., will never live again in someone’s memory.

We are now the keepers of two generations of memory.  There is no time to waste in passing those memories on to the next generation.

Lest we forget.  Because then members of our family — including , after we are gone, our own grandparents — will become part of the nameless sea of souls that came in and out of the world with no one to claim them.

Every time I see a picture in my parents’ house — and which I will bring to mine — I will remember those in that picture. 

I will claim them as my own.

Because I am part of the unbreakable chain they started.

Because if I don’t remember them, then they will truly die.

And I hear Mom’s voice telling me that that can never happen.  And so it won’t.

It just won’t.

What POTUS didn’t know

In hearings about Nixon’s involvement in the Watergate scandal, Sam Ervin famously asked in an exasperated and a time-to-tell-the-damn-truth tone: 

“What did the President know and when did he know it?”

Today, we have a (way) lower bar.  So low you might not know you are stepping over it.

So we ask:

“How could AGENT ORANGE not know that being POTUS would be hard?”

Trump startled the world by his statement that he didn’t think the presidency would be as hard as his previously cushy life. The one in which he inherited wealth and if he had put it in mutual funds, he would be 10 or more times as wealthy as he is.  Which means he sucks as a businessman.  Be leave that for another blog.

I want to focus on his not thinking that the presidency of the United States would be so hard.

Stupidity in this instance is a high crime and misdemeanor.  In other words, an impeachable offense.

The buck, as Harry Truman famously said, stops at the desk in the Oval Office.

What a president says can move markets, and worse, nuclear warheads.

What a president does can affect industry, employment, climate and international relations.

What a president decides can put our brave military men and women in harm’s way, and can kill innocent civilians.

What a president orders can separate families, divest hard working people of their medical insurance, and wipe out preschool for working parents.

With enormous power, privilege and wealth come profound responsibilities to the citizens of this country, those who live within its borders and the world at large.

Or he can enrich his cronies. Which his tax plan does.

For a president elected by accident, some humility is in order.  And he should stop enriching his businesses by making the government pay for Secret Service to accompany him to his properties.  And he should stop talking about chocolate cake while he bombed an empty air force base in Syria which he thought was Iraq.

And he ought to play less golf.  Because he can’t bluff his way through complicated trade treaties and military alliances.

WARNING TO ALL WHO VOTED FOR AGENT ORANGE:

You deserve to be deported as enemies of the State.  I will take an undocumented person working in the fields or a restaurant kitchen over you.  You don’t deserve the citizenship that is your birthright.  You forfeited that right when you elected Agent Orange.

And for those of you whose family comes from Eastern Europe, I hope you are choking on the Russian scandal.

God bless the United States of America and all of its inhabitants.  May we survive this presidency.

Darling, so good to hear your voice

My calls with Mom and Dad (and then just Dad) always started:

“Hi [Mom][Daddy], it’s [Blogger]”

And every time, no matter the hour and what I might be interrupting, Mom or Dad would say, in the most enthusiastic and happy way:

“Darling!!! So good to hear your voice!”

Everything else was gravy.  And now I just smile at the memory.

Old fears. New fears

Forgive me the historical inaccuracies; I am going from memory on this one.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

When I was a kid, the common apocalyptic prediction was annihilation courtesy of the escalation of a routine dust-up between the US and the USSR (remember?) that literally went nuclear.

We fought proxy wars — the Korean Conflict, the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Vietnam War (and used chemical warfare — specifically Napalm and Agent Orange even though our own troops were in harm’s way).  Oh, and there were always “misunderstandings” along the Berlin Wall. 

In the 1960s, Mr. Kruschev famously promised during a visit at the UN, “We will bury you!”  He was referring to the US.

And the years spun by.  Kruschev was followed by Brezhnev, followed by Andropov (for a second), followed by Chernenko (for another second) and followed by Gorbachev (who had the map of the Soviet missiles set as a birthmark on his forehead — see SNL skit from 1985).  And Kennedy to Johnson to . . . . Reagan.

And the USSR was showing signs of age. 

Then Perestroika led to Glastnos (or vice-versa). Then the Berlin Wall came down and, ultimately, so did the USSR.

And Yeltsin emerged.  As the President of Russia.  Still controlling some of the former soviet socialist republics.

But, for a moment in time, in that way that only Americans can (as if looking out to the great frontier), we decided not to worry about the unguarded nuclear arsenal of the former USSR, and bask in the serenity that nuclear war was not our existential threat.

Then we realized that it was easier having only one “enemy”.  Because who is minding the nukes??

And then we remembered that India had The Bomb.  And the US gave Pakistan the information to make The Bomb.  And Israel . . . . And Iran started . . . .  And, of course, China must have had it for soooooo long.

And there were also the WMDs (Weapons of Mass Destruction).  Which includes, I think, Dirty Bombs and Chemical Warfare and a whole host of other horrible killing vapors and explosions on a massive scale. Maybe I am getting my jargon wrong, but you get the idea.

But we are Americans and we bluster forward.  If you asked a New Yorker, we would have prescribed sedatives.  (New Yorkers are an untapped psycho-pharmacological resource.)

And then Putin succeeded Yeltsin.

And many nations continued to acquire WMDs.  And then not just nations, but terrorist groups spread far and wide acquired them. 

And then we invaded a country that we knew had them (because we sold them to its leader) but he had already sold them to another leader.  Yep, Saddam Hussein sold them to Bashar Al-Assad.

Yep.  The guy who gasses his own people (as distinct from Sean Spicer’s Holocaust Centers).

And all the while Iran is getting closer and closer to the prototype of The Bomb.  Meanwhile China sits by while North Korea actually tests prototypes of The Bomb.

And our 44th President gets us out of Iraq, because it was time and Iraq would no longer grant our soldiers immunity.  He negotiates with Iran.  He uses military force sparingly.  Perhaps too sparingly sometimes.  He draws down troops from Afghanistan, because that war is unwinnable.  In the middle, he hunts down and kills terrorist masterminds, including Osama Bin Laden.  I don’t love his search and kill missions.  But I respect his decisions because I know he respects the rule of law.  And I believe that he did what he thought was right after hearing from experts and sober deliberation

AND THEN COMES AGENT ORANGE 2.0. WORSE THAN NAPALM AND THE ORIGINAL AGENT ORANGE COMBINED.

Agent Orange 2.0 drops bombs, send warships to tense regions, puts our Navy SEALs in harm’s way.

Agent Orange 2.0 has a bromance with Putin.  Then he acts like they are frenemies in a reality TV show.

Agent Orange 2.0 congratulated Erdogan.  Another strong man grabbing power and pu@@y.

Agent Orange 2.0 threatened Kim Jong-Un.  Another strong man who has power (and maybe grabs pu@@y).

Agent Orange 2.0 acts like he doesn’t know what he is doing.  Maybe he is doing the mad man act to bring rational (fr)enemies to the table.  Or maybe it is not an act.

And maybe what is old is new again.

And maybe the new apocalyptic prediction of annihilation will be a dust-up of egos that literally goes nuclear.  Because Agent Orange 2.0 is {gasp} the — um — um — nope can’t do it.  Can’t say it.  Okay, he is 45.

And maybe, at long last, Mr. Kruschev is right. 

BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMMMM.

A Pyrrhic victory doesn’t even begin to describe it.