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.

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.

A little tradition, a little Seinfeld and a lot of love.

Dad’s funeral service was really beautiful. 

(At a later time, I would like to share some of the eulogies with the permissions of the speakers.)

We headed out to the cemetery, located along the Long Island Expressway, where New York Jews have bought burial plots for generations. 

SIDEBAR:  The near universality of this practice has come in handy over the years.  I remember when both Mom and Dad were much younger, we had two funerals — one in each of their families. 

As we were rushing from one graveside service in order to be fashionably late to another, I heard my mother say under her breath, “a shtetl in life; shtetl in death.  Thank G-d!”

My father was a veteran and the last of his brothers to die.  We requested a honor guard because we thought it an important tribute not just to Dad, but to the whole generation, and to the ideals for which they fought and to the resulting scars that would never truly heal.

We arrived at the family plot.  The two cadets were waiting there in full uniform and at attention. 

When we were ready, we nodded and one cadet started playing Taps.  As he played, everyone had their hands over their hearts.  Even those at nearby graves.  When a veteran is being buried, respect must be paid.  I know that when I see someone in uniform, I quietly pray that they will go home to their families, safe and sound and in one piece.

I looked at my father’s coffin, draped with the American flag.  His generation went to war.  And they fought so that their children would not ever have to do so again (or so that was the hope). 

Our family has demonstrated our love of country through these five brothers and their children and children’s children.  In every generation, a Shapiro has served in the armed forces.

The sun was shining, and the wind was whipping, and the two cadets folded the flag with such precision that I felt as though our family was about to be given something truly priceless.

The more senior cadet walked to my sister and presented her with the flag, saying:

“On behalf of the President of the United States, ——

SCREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEECH!! STOP THE MUSIC.  CUT!! STOP TAPE!!!!!

WHAAAAAAT? We all stopped.  The spell and majesty of the moment were SHATTERED. 

Then a cousin saved the moment by muttering under his breath (but at the top of his lungs, as is our custom):  “He meant Obama!!!!!”

Ok, we could continue ———

——————— the United States Air Force, and a grateful nation, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your loved one’s honorable and faithful service.”

Even with the snafu, the flag is indeed priceless.

And, in that moment, the sad and the beautiful, the creepy, the orange and the inspiring, the funny and the mundane all existed and were inextricably connected, as they are in every moment. 

The rest of the burial went according to tradition.  We shoveled dirt on the grave as a sign of respect in Jewish tradition.  I think we all wanted to shovel more — because of tradition — but at the same time, we didn’t want to bury Dad because we didn’t want him to go.  I think about that conundrum and it haunts me still. 

And I was sad to leave Dad there in the cold but I rationalized that it would be ok because he was next to Mom. 

And he was draped in the flag, although not in the actual grave.  And yet, in life and in death, he was always cradled in the bosom of his family and his country. 

I hope the same end for everyone in this country and, most especially, the members of our armed services who keep the rest of us safe.

 

Dear Hillary

Dear Hillary:

I know you will never read this.  And, why would you, since you are feeling the sting of the election more than anyone.

I believe in you.  People excused the egregious in Trump and skewered the human in you.  We all have our failings and our embarrassments.  You were ready, committed and the most able steward of our country in these treacherous times in these treacherous waters.

Pundits will analyze the reasons you didn’t hit 270 but all that is bullshit.

The excesses of Wall Street that brought our nation to its knees was short-lived by those who caused it; those who suffered the job and home losses, coupled with outsourcing, etc., never recovered.  And then, a Black family — who truly embodies all that makes America great — successfully inhabited the White House and got done what they could with a recalcitrant Congress. And, let’s be honest, they did it better than any white family could have ever navigated the shit that hit January 2009 to January 2017.

And that made the racist and those fearing the end of white privilege foam at the mouth.

Not understanding that view, I didn’t even count it in the election calculus.  (Many of my friends knew better.)

Together with those who were left behind in the financial recovery, the DEPLORABLES voted in that creature.  So, they effectively bombed our system.  People who wanted to stick it to Washington and didn’t care about the outcome.

(And the Democrats were contemplating their navels instead of creating an intractable blue wall.  You ran a fine campaign and won the popular vote.  Bernie would have been buried under the scrutiny of a prime time election.  A socialist and a lifelong politician and he was different? Are ya kidding me?)

So, they excused the inexcusable.  And with the help of the Russians and FBI, gas-lighted the country about your emails.  Let’s just say it — the State Department system was not secure enough for the sensitive emails you needed to send.  You served your country by not saying that in your testimony.

So, a woman, who also embodies all that makes America great and has served her country, was denied the White House.

No, you are not perfect. (You shouldn’t have ever had to be. ) No one is; certainly NOT POTUS45.

I am still inconsolable.  I had 300 wristbands made that say “WE ARE STRONGER TOGETHER” and inside, “Love Trumps Hate”.  (I hand them out.) 

I stopped watching the pundits.  I stopped looking on social media.  I stopped believing the press.

Then the dreaded moment happened.  He was sworn in.  And I couldn’t even watch you walking in (ok, I saw a snippet and cried and stopped watching).  Grace under fire.

But the marches changed everything.  Because we are uniting.  I am ready to fight.

The DC march should have been in your honor.  Because we are all galvanized and united in action because the person who should have been POTUS45 had to watch as this buffoon, this humiliating caricature of the worst of America, took the oath of office.

Hillary, you didn’t win the electoral college, but you won the popular vote and started a revolution.

Maybe, in the long lens of history, you will have done more for us by not ascending to the Presidency.  We will never know.  But, I, for one, am committed to making your vision a reality.  (Although, seriously, do I have to call it a pussy hat in front of my teenage son???)

I predict that the history books read, “Hillary Clinton was the first woman elected President.  She was not sworn in.  Instead, she sparked a revolution that created the change she envisioned implementing as president — equal treatment and equal justice under the law; social and economic equality; compassion for all our citizens and immigrants; and a nuclear-safe world.  She is considered a great stateswoman and a hero of the 21st century.”

On Saturday, I marched with my family and friends. My sister and I carried pictures of our mother and grandmother with us at the march, and we wore your campaign buttons.

#ImStillWithYou.

Love, Blogger

Belonging

When my grandparents came to these shores on a boat (in steerage), they were strangers in a strange land.  And they had nothing.  They remained that way their whole lives.

America.  Such a strange country, America,” is something my grandfather would say as he shook his head about something peculiar he read in the newspaper or saw in person or on TV (female wrestling was one such thing).

America.  Such a vondehful [wonderful] country, America,” is something my grandfather would say as looked at the success of, and integration of his children and grandchildren into, American society.

My grandparents were not of this country, although they were naturalized citizens.  They left their home countries to escape atrocities.  So, they were not of those countries either.

They were displaced people their whole lives.  But they felt safe here.  They were citizens here.  They loved this country.

Next to the pictures of Mom and Dad on their wedding day and our various graduation pictures, was a picture of Franklin Delano Roosevelt signing the Social Security Act. 

Because a person could do anything and be anything in America.  And America took care of its people who worked hard and raised the next generation of contributors to society (and tax revenue).

My parents and we, their children, grew up with a sense of belonging.

We belong.  This is our country.  We are Americans. 

And, in this country, we have the luxury of a prefix — Chinese-, Japanese-, Polish-, Russian-, Anything-American — because 

We belong.

That is not to say that being Jewish or of Polish, German, Russian and Prussian descent was easy.  Educational and employment discrimination, fights and name-calling of my parents’ generation gave way to schoolyard name-calling and social discrimination in mine.

And, in the next generation, there is still anti-Semitism.  Because prejudice will always exist.  Because crazy people vandalize synagogues.

But we belong to this country and we can, and do, succeed in this country.  But we had to work hard and deal with stupid people and prejudice along the way.  That is a fact of life.  But because I am a citizen, I have the same rights as the bigots.  With education, I can make sure they don’t lord over me.

I think about the Algerians and other North African people in France or “guest workers” across Europe.  These individuals and their families can be two or three generations in Europe and still not be citizens.  Bigotry and malice can cripple their advancement.  They are effectively ghettoized.

In Europe, Asian and African immigrants cannot be citizens. Even when two generations have lived there and no where else.  Even when the grandchildren only know how to speak French, Dutch, German, Flemish, etc. and not the language of their grandparents’ country.

And so they DON’T belong. ANYWHERE.

And they have opportunities. NOWHERE.

And their country of birth claims them as citizens. NOT AT ALL.

And they have bright futures and integrate into the larger culture without losing their cultural and religious identities.  NOPE. NOT HAPPENING.

(This sounds like the story of the Jews in Europe (other than, ironically, Germany) up until just before Hitler came to power.)

I wonder what would happen if these immigrants and guest workers, or at least their children or grandchildren, could be citizens.  I wonder what would have happened in my parents’ and my generation didn’t “belong” to our great nation.

What if they belonged . . . .

Let’s all ratchet it down some

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/texas-congressman-labels-obama-worse-hitler-article-1.2076035

Rep. Randy Weber (R-Tex.) said it’s ‘appalling’ Obama didn’t travel to Paris for the unity march on Sunday.

Dear Congressman:

Do you know what Hitler and his henchman did? 11 million people died ghastly deaths. (And — as an aside — do you know about the spike of anti-Semitism in France?)

President Obama is Hitler?  That is so offensive to anyone who has a family member who perished in that genocide in Europe.  Most of my family came here after the first World War.  Those who remained in Europe, perished.  A lucky few went to Cuba in 1938, when our nation closed its doors to refugees.

But what this nation forgets is that US soldiers — my Uncle Willy among them — were sent to concentration camps after being captured in the Battle of the Bulge.  My uncle survived, but, yes, Americans died in the concentration camps.  And America forgot these soldiers.

And what happened in Europe in the 1930s and 1940s was not a holocaust.  That is a ritual cleansing through fire.  What happened in Europe was a shoah, a CATASTROPHE. Not just for Jews but for 5 — yes, 5 — million more people.

So, call it the Shoah.  11 million humans were burned or starved.  Others survived, only to be scarred.

Shoah.  Shoah. Shoah.  SHOAH. Call it by its real name.

How dare you trivialize what Hitler did to Europe and its citizens. To families. To children.

And how dare you, by your comments, trivialize what happened in France this past week.  The terrorized citizens of that great City of Lights.  And, yes, especially the Jews among them.

President Obama should have sent someone to Paris. Bad decision. That is all. It isn’t mass murder.

The president should have been criticized for missing an opportunity to stand in unity with world leaders. The criticism should match the the offense.

What you said undercuts the validity of your criticisms of the president. It makes you sound rabid and crazy. There are very valid criticisms of President Obama (and I am a proud supporter of him).

But you have lost your credibility. Yes. Because you compared the president to Hitler. Because you sound crazy.  (Since our government started an unnecessary war in Iraq that killed hundreds of thousands, would you call our former president or vice president Hitler?)

Try being the sane, loyal and temperate opposition to President Obama’s actions and even some of the president’s supporters might agree with you from time to time.

Why am I so flipped out? Because what you said hit a nerve. Maybe when all Jews who knew someone in a concentration camp are no more, then it won’t be as visceral. I imagine that every group that has survived a slaughter feels this way. We aren’t any different. Our scars are the same.

In the meantime, please brush up on your history.

~ a proud citizen of the United States of America disappointed with the vicious rhetoric

One Nation?

I believe in America, its promise and its endless possibilities.  I also know that, in America,  people live in abject poverty, without adequate schools, and in fear of deportation.

And I know that there are as many Americas as there are colors of skin, nationalities, religions, sexual identity and orientation.

We live in a fractured America.  Some of us cross any number of the shards.  Some, like me, can pass as Christian and straight.  If I even wanted to do so.  I am too old to hide.  But I am lucky; I have a choice.

But is any of us satisfied with this type of America?  Don’t we get tired, after every miscarriage of justice, of assuaging our horror and guilt, by saying, rather apologetically, “but there are good and kind people all across this country”?

Look, everyone has prejudices.  But that isn’t supposed to matter.  The point is that America is supposed to be one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Justice.  Justice.  Justice.

It isn’t just a word.  It is the basis of our nation.

It means that even if you steal, or sell cigarettes illegally, you don’t deserve to be tortured or killed.  Even more, you deserve treatment in accordance with the pettiness of the crime committed.  In other words, there shouldn’t be a bruise on you.

I was taught that wrongs will be done, but justice, JUSTICE, will prevail.

I believed in that.  I placed my faith in the systems of “justice” and government.  Because two generations ago, this country took in wretched poor refugees and gave them opportunities for work and their children a free education.  I grew up hearing, “G-d bless America.”

I still say, “G-d bless America,” except now I also say, “G-d save America”.

Because when our systems of laws and order fail, fractures of our nation becomes shards of glass on the floor.  Almost impossible to reassemble, but stronger if we glue the fragments back together.

Let us all glue this nation back together so that it is again: “indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Rest in peace, Mr. Brown and Mr. Garner.

The War that had to be fought

It was the war that America won.

It was about good versus evil.

It was about humanity versus genocide.

It was about right versus wrong.

And, G-d was our co-pilot.

And it started with D-Day, our shining hour.

Our Greatest Generation.

Those that did what had to be done and those that paid the ultimate price.

For freedom.

For liberation.

For the fate of peoples they didn’t know in a land they’d never been who were being conquered and killed for reasons they did not understand.

These were the sacrifices of our soldiers.

The soldiers fought the war we remember, commemorate and celebrate.

Our government fought the war, as governments did and continue to do.  And, to win the War, the US:

made a pact with the murderous Stalin; and

dropped the Atomic Bomb.  Twice.

Because “the enemy of our enemy is our friend.”  True for dictators and explosives.

 

*************************************

This is still the cornerstone of our foreign policy.  Only now, the calculations and murderous and duplicitous actions of our “allies” don’t take decades to come to light.  They take mere hours.

And even the “good guys” in World War II were not always so good. Still, the monumental evil on the other side silenced even some pacifists.

Had we not carved up Europe and aided Stalin’s brutal rule, would we have won the War?  And if we had won the War without an alliance with the USSR, would we have immediately had to fight Stalin?

Wars since then haven’t been so easily waged.  And they haven’t been won.  Not a one.  Because World War II was the exception: war is so rarely about good versus evil.  War is usually about politics, property and market share.

Recently, radical conclusions are bubbling to the surface: the enemy of our enemy is just as evil as our enemy. And, if we arm the enemy of our enemy, they may become our enemy, too.  And we will have given them the tools of war.

And when that war comes, it will not be a cold one.  It will be a nuclear one.

*************************************

G-d bless the Greatest Generation.  May we learn war no more.

276 girls

http://www.cnn.com/2014/05/09/world/africa/nigeria-abducted-girls/

How is this possible?  There have been decades of atrocities, unbreakable cycles of violence, the world over. Countless children sacrificed to the power struggles over land and its resources.  Nigeria has devolved into chaos.

Legacies of colonialization and Western arrogance.  And backlash.

This is the one case that is gaining international attention.  Because of the brazenness and insanity of the Boko Haram fighters.  How does a militant group, fighting in the name of God, kidnap 276 school girls to sell them into marriage and slavery?

These girls.  These poor girls.  Their poor families.  I cannot imagine what it is to have my child taken from me by lawless gangs who roam with impunity.

This massive kidnapping is about radicalism and the cheapness of human life, in general, and that of a girl’s life, in particular.

And the knowledge of the perpetrators that we, in the United States, will soon turn back to the results of the NFL draft.  And then they can do this again.  And again.  And again.  Until no child is spared from the war crimes.
Our souls, and our beliefs in the sanctity of human life and in the God-given right of a child to realize his or her potential, lie in the balance of our nation’s response to this crisis and others like it across the globe.  Let’s find these girls, airlift them and their families and share the bounty of our nation with them.  It isn’t fair to those left behind, but it is a start.  And, in Jewish theology, it is a person’s moral obligation to save even one life even if one cannot save everyone.

God bless and keep these girls, and keep them safe from more ravages of war.

Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?

[For the song, “Mrs. Robinson”:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9C1BCAgu2I8]

Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio?
Our nation turns [our frightened] eyes to you.  (Woo woo woo.)

Once we believed that our political and sports heroes could save us our innocence and our dreams from the stark realities of war, assassinations and a nation divided.

We looked to them — to Joe after Marilyn’s death, to Jackie after JFK’s assassination, to Coretta after Rev. Dr. MLK’s assassination — to steady us.  To remind us of better times and take us past the tragedies.  To take us back to a winning baseball team, to Camelot, to a place where dreams were possible.

God bless you, please, [this America].
Heaven holds a place for those who pray.
(Hey, hey, hey.)

Today, I am scared.  Because we are a nation so bitterly divided.  Because my dreams are ever less fanciful, my reality ever less comforting, my hopes and expectations ever lower, than just a week, month or year ago.

And there are no heroes, but where is there a parent who wants to tell that to his/her children?

Most of all you’ve got to hide it from the kids.

What is the embodiment of my fears?  Heritage Action for America scuttled any potential deal on the debt ceiling in the House of Representatives.  Because lawmakers are taking their cues from lobbyists-thinktanks-donors and not their frightened constituents.  That very action breaks the very foundation of our nation — representational government.

Laugh about it, shout about it
When you’ve got to choose
Every way you look at this you lose.

And all that people have worked for, and saved for, and paid taxes for, hangs in the balance.  Because we, the people, are pawns in a power grab.

WE, THE PEOPLE.

We whom our government serves.

WE, THE PEOPLE.

About whom no one seems to care.

WE, THE PEOPLE.

Joltin Joe has left and gone away (hey hey hey).  It isn’t the same to turn our frightened eyes to A-Rod.