Unpacking Charlottesville

August 14, 2017

Instead of jabbering on about my own thoughts about our President’s reaction to the events of August 12, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia, I thought I would share some of the most interesting comments I’ve seen to date.

First, some great tweets to give us some much-needed perspective:

• “Thought it was worth noting that more than 750,000 already gave their lives fighting Nazis and the Confederacy.” @pbump
• “Imagine sucking so f***ing bad that being a white guy is hard for you?” @ mikeyfrecks
• “US Army: Charlottesville suspect reported for basic military training but failed to meet standards and was released from active duty.” @jaketapper (Observation: Perhaps Tomi Lahren was right?)
• “Let it sink in: Today a woman died on US soil while fighting Nazis.” @mattaukamp
• “Not many presidents could make threatening nuclear war the second worst thing he did in a week.” @gadyepstein
• “Wish Trump could find the same anger for murderous Nazis as he did for Nordstrom after it stopped selling his daughter’s handbags.” @gilbertjasono
• “Nazis and confederates are white people that lost wars to other white people but somehow its still brown people’s fault.” Open Mike Eagle
• “Trumps thoughts on Obama – Disaster; Paris – Sh**hole; White House – dump; Boy Scouts – liars; Neo-Nazi Rally – many sides to issue.” @MattOswaltPA
• “The only good thing Hitler ever did was kill Hitler.” @blainecapatch
• “The only reason for an American to hold a Nazi flag is if it has been captured in battle.” @TKOastIsBack
• “If you have ever wondered what you would have done in Germany in 1937, or during the Civil Rights movement, you’re doing it right now.”

Next, some strong words from GOP leaders…

• Senator Orrin Hatch, R – Utah: “We should call evil by its name. My brother didn’t give his life fighting Hitler for Nazi ideas to go unchallenged here at home.”
• Senator John McCain, R – Arizona: “White supremacists aren’t patriots, they’re traitors – Americans must unite against hatred & bigotry. #Charlottesville
• Senator Cory Gardner, R – Colorado: “This is terrorism, this is domestic terrorism, this is white nationalism, and it has to stop.”

…even some who ran for president in 2016 (but apparently weren’t racist enough), who thought that the perhaps our President ought to call these hoodlums out for what they are:

• Senator Ted Cruz, R – Texas: “The Nazis, the KKK, and white supremacists are repulsive and evil, and all of us have a moral obligation to speak out against the lies, bigotry, anti-Semitism, and hatred that they propagate.”
• Senator Marco Rubio, R – Florida: “Nothing patriotic about #Nazis, the #KKK or #WhiteSupremacists. It’s the direct opposite of what #Americaseeks to be.”
• Jeb Bush – “The white supremacist and their bigotry do not represent our great country. All Americans should condemn this vile hatred. #Charlottesville.”
• Mike Huckabee – “‘White Supremacy’ crap is the worst kin of racism – it’s EVIL and perversion of God’s truth to ever think our Creator values some above others.”
• NJ Gov. Chris Christie (R) – “We reject the racism and violence of white nationalists like the ones acting out in Charlottesville. Everyone in leadership must speak out.”
• Senator Lindsey Graham, R – South Carolina: “[Trump] missed an opportunity to be very explicit here. These groups seem to believe they have a friend in Donald Trump in the White House.”
• Ohio Gov. John Kasich: “I think a president can always provide some leadership on a subject like this.”

Even some in Trump’s own administration opined that what happened was bad and that white supremacists aren’t cool, such as…

• Vice President Mike Pence: “We have no tolerance for hate and violence from white supremacists, neo Nazis or the KKK. We should be putting the attention where it belongs, and that is on those extremist groups that need to be pushed out of the public debate entirely and discredited for the hate groups and dangerous fringe groups that they are.”
• Attorney General Jeff Sessions: “When such actions arise from racial bigotry and hatred, they betray our core values and cannot be tolerated.”
• Opportunist in Chief, Ivanka Trump: “There should be no place in society for racism, white supremacy and neo-nazis.”
• Homeland Security Advisor Tom Bossert: “I condemn white supremacists and racists and white Nazi groups and all the other groups that espouse this kind of hatred and exclusion.”

Perhaps in an attempt to remind us what leadership looks like, former President Barack Obama had to be all noble and stuff, tweeting a quote from Nelson Mandela: “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love. For love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” But you can just ignore him, because, Hillary’s emails.

Despite the good intentions of those in the Trump Administration who believe that people brandishing torches and carrying Nazi flags are irredeemably despicable, some thought that perhaps our President should have been more clear on that point:

• “If your staff has to clarify that you’re not a white supremacist, you are a galactically sh**y president and/or a white supremacist.” @kibblesmith

But at least ONE group was happy – Neo Nazi Website “The Daily Stormer:”

• “He didn’t attack us. He just said the nation should come together. Nothing specific against us,” wrote Andrew Anglin, the website’s founder. No condemnation at all. When asked to condemn, he just walked out of the room. Really, really good. God bless him.”

As John Oliver said, moreover, “Nazis are a lot like cats. If they like you, it’s probably because you’re feeding them.”

The always gracious Governor John Kasich wondered if perhaps President Trump might be “uncomfortable” discussing the issue, stating, “[t]here are a lot of people who are just not comfortable with the issue…” But, as @epicciuto noted on Twitter, “Trump was more willing to call his country’s intelligence community Nazis than he was to call actual Nazis Nazis.”

Indeed, on January 11, 2017, Trump tweeted, “[i]ntelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to ‘leak’ into the public. One last shot at me. Are we living in Nazi Germany?”

And that’s as good a question now as it was seven months ago: Are we in fact living in a society where Nazism and white supremacy is acceptable and tolerated by those in charge of the government?

By your deafening silence, Mr. President, so it would seem.

The Reluctant Ranter


October 13, 2017

There’s a Billy Joel song that, for me, is a cautionary warning about the dangers of indulging one’s frustration about all that’s wrong with the world. The song is called “The Angry Young Man,” and the pertinent lyrics go like this:

I believe I’ve passed the age of consciousness and righteous rage
I found that just surviving was a noble fight
I once believed in causes too
I had my pointless point of view
And life went on no matter who was wrong or right

And there’s always a place for the angry young man
With his fist in the air and his head in the sand
And he’s never been able to learn from mistakes
So he can’t understand why his heart always breaks
But his honor is pure and his courage as well
And he’s fair and he’s true and he’s boring as hell
And he’ll go to the grave as an angry old man

To be precise, the things about which the Angry Young Man is, well, angry, may have more to do with what seems like a fundamental lack of maturity, personal accountability, and insight, but there’s also a sense that the Angry Young Man may have some legitimate concerns about our culture and society, the Establishment, the military industrial complex, and probably the tax code, too. If you’ve ever met me (or are a Facebook friend), you can probably see how I, who can’t seem to stop posting and blogging about the Moron in Chief and his cadre of scalliwags, might be a little bit concerned that I’m boring as hell and slated to go to my grave as an Angry Old Woman.
Which makes me ask myself, from time to time, “Wendy, why do you do this? Is it possible that your time could be better spent learning how to make hand-milled soap or growing heirloom tomatoes?”

Today is one of those days.

See, I don’t wake up in the morning thinking, “gee, I hope I see something on social media, or hear something on the news, that pisses me off so that I can rant about it on Facebook!” In fact, when I learn of yet another idiotic screed by Captain Toilet Tweet, or I find out just how truly vile certain Hollywood producers have been for twenty years and no one said anything, or that the Secretary of Education is more concerned about men being unjustly accused of rape (happens in 5% of all reported cases) as opposed to the women who are actually getting raped (the other 95%), what I feel is mostly the kind of weariness I associate with knowing I have to clean out the refrigerator because (1) someone spilled a soda in there three months ago and everything’s sticky; (2) there is not one square inch of free space left; and (3) it smells nasty.

I know when I see that article or hear that sound bite on the radio that it’s going to work on me for hours – days, even; so much I what I read and hear anymore is devoid of any verifiable factual support, is rife with false equivalencies, and is fundamentally flawed from a logic/causality perspective. At times, it’s not even the point being argued that drives me crazy, it’s the fact that the person arguing it has the subtlety of a car alarm and the insight of a drill press. Few things push my shrill button like logical inconsistency or disingenuousness, so there’s a lot to keep me busy. I don’t have the time to write about half the things that make me want to throw my shoes at the wall really, really hard, and that’s frustrating, but actually doing the writing is a laborious process, one I don’t really have time for. It requires a singularity of focus that my life does not routinely accommodate, usually involves some research, and seriously eats into my Milano and Koala Video Habit. So, I’m not doing this because it’s fun.

I’m also not doing it because I think I’m going to change anyone’s mind – indeed, those who have access to my Facebook feed and whose minds I like to change don’t read my posts (as their 28th Amendment right-to-ignore-shit-on-the-internet-that-doesn’t-conform-to-my- ideological- worldview permits them to do). I don’t write because I think I’m brilliant or necessarily have anything new to say, or because I’m hoping Salon.com or some other online magazine will read my columns and say, “We want to offer you $17 million to write for us, and we’ll pay for the Milanos.”

No, I write because I can’t NOT write. I just can’t help it, whether it’s our president suggesting, just a few weeks after Hurricane Maria rolled through and leveled the island of Puerto Rico, that its residents (most of whom still don’t have electricity or easy access to clean water) don’t deserve the same level of federal support assistance as their brothers and sisters on the mainland (including those who were hit by Katrina and are – appropriately – still receiving FEMA aid 12 years later); whether it’s the same president who criticized President Obama for his use of executive orders even as he himself has signed twice as many EO’s within the same time period (most of which have terrifying implications for our environment, our neediest citizens, our national safety, and our ability to rely upon the support of former allies who are shaking their heads in disgust). When I view some of the staggeringly absurd (and, usually, atrociously spelled) memes that others post in support of their morally indefensible views; when people who probably couldn’t give you a single accurate piece of information about any war that’s ever been fought by our country but cling to the notion that kneeling during the national anthem is anti-military; when ENOUGH PEOPLE IN THIS COUNTRY WHO CLAIM TO STAND FOR “FAMILY VALUES” VOTED FOR A MAN WHO CHEATED ON HIS FIRST WIFE WITH HIS SECOND, WHO HE LATER DIVORCED; MOCKS DISABLED PEOPLE; AND ADMITTED HE HAD SEXUALLY ASSAULTED WOMEN, well, sorry, man. I can’t let that go.

I think a lot about whether scratching the itch is worth it. I’ve no doubt lost friends over the positions I’ve taken, and I’ve probably annoyed a lot of people that I’m related to by blood or marriage. I’m sure there are plenty who have un-followed me, although I do seem to have a small, loyal, deeply troubled group of friends who cheer me on in my effort to eradicate ignorance and stupidity.

The thing is, I’m not someone who is ever going to run for office. The only time I have ever occupied any position of power was when my kids were too small to know better, which lasted for approximately 3 ½ hours. I’ve never marched in a protest – I know I should, but I’m a person who doesn’t do well in large crowds or in situations where easy access to restrooms is not guaranteed. I’d like to be someone who marches with a sign and adds my physical mass and presence to a cause, or who is prominent enough to speak at such events (if you’re a speaker, you can probably find a bathroom when you need it), or who will ever have the kind of voice, or audience, that would have the potential to make people think twice, if only for a moment. I would argue that even if you don’t like what Nicholas Kristof or George Will may have to say, it’s impossible to argue that they don’t say it spectacularly well, and maybe – just maybe – if something is said brilliantly enough, someone, someday, just may change their mind.

I’m no Kristof or Will (the latter of whom I have been reading since I was ten and regularly devoured his column in Newsweek, even if I didn’t always understand it), but if I do nothing else in my life besides draft motions for summary judgment and take depositions of car accident victims, I’d like to think that I’ve added something to the dialogue. When I die, moreover, I will have a legacy of blogs about swimsuit models and racism and HGTV and why it’s sort of a dick move to spray paint swastikas on school busses, and I am hopeful that this example of pointing out hypocrisy, ignorance, or really, really poor voting choices may spur my daughters to be equally vocal when people act like assholes.

Many have said that no one has ever changed their mind because of something they read on Facebook.

As long as I have fingers to type, we’ll see about that.

Say Goodbye to your Credibility, General

There has been a lot of talk this week about how the Commander in Chief should communicate with Gold Star Families. Following what could be this Administration’s Benghazi, questions arise as to how a President best consoles a family, and a nation, when a young man or woman in uniform is killed in action. In the wake of four military deaths in an area of the world few Americans understood to be a site of active combat operations, the response of the White House was slow, ratcheted up quickly to defensive, hit cruising altitude at insensitive, and bottomed out with empty threats, followed by the staggeringly cruel exploitation of a military lion.

It started when members of the press – those scoundrels – asked His Eminence why had not publicly acknowledged the deaths of 4 Marines. He could have said that plans were in the works while acknowledging the loss of life and the sacrifices of these men and their families. He could have expressed the thanks of a grateful nation and asked for prayers on behalf of these fallen men and those they left behind.

Indeed, this entire flack could have been avoided entirely if the Orange Moron had simply answered truthfully…after all, there were tweets about the NFL to pound out and a humanitarian crises in Puerto Rico to ignore…who had the time? Were Senor Sissyhands not such a slave to his Brobdignagian ego, this matter could have ended before it even began.

Instead, his pathological need to compare himself with his predecessor – declaring himself to be the better man each time he does so – led him to aver, without any proof whatsoever, that President Obama had not called, or in some instances, even written, to the families of servicemen and women killed in action. In a matter of mere seconds, he was forced to walk back that claim, blaming “my generals” if he was found to have misstated the facts. (That’s real leadership, by the way – blaming those in uniform who almost certainly said no such thing in the first place).

It was bad enough that our president (who, apparently, has never gotten on board with the whole “the buck stops here” thing) to try to shift the attention from his own lack of timely response to the deaths of four servicemen in Niger (which, it turns out, I’ve been pronouncing wrong all these years), but even worse to invoke the death of his chief of staff’s son as proof of what a piece of shit our former President truly is. Turns out that when Second Lieutenant Robert Kelly was killed in 2010, his family didn’t get a phone call from then-President Obama. I guess it doesn’t matter that General Kelly and his wife were invited to a 2011 Memorial Day Luncheon hosted by the White House for Gold Star families, or that he sat at the President and First Lady’s table, or that General Kelly has, for the last 6 years, resolutely refused to discuss his son’s death, or that he had no warning that his boss was going to do just that – all so he could prove how much better a leader he is than Obama.

Then we learned that Trump, in a phone call to the pregnant widow of Sergeant La David Johnson, said something along the lines of, “He knew what he signed up for, but still, it’s sad.” Which, if true, isn’t terribly sensitive, and probably wasn’t what Mrs. Johnson needed to hear.

We later learned that U.S. Representative Frederica Wilson was there when the call was made, and neither she nor Mrs. Johnson were pleased by what the Cheetoh in Charge had to say. Instead of calling Mrs. Johnson back, or issuing a public apology, or in some other way attempting to clarify what he meant (which was probably something like, “even though he knew that being in the military meant he could be killed, he did it anyway – what a brave, dedicated man”), Trump did what he inevitably did: He doubled down and made it worse.

As with the Comey revelations concerning his conversations with Herr Kommandant, Trump dared Wilson to repeat her version of the phone call so he could produce “proof” that she was lying. This is standard operating procedure for Officer Orangutan, who once claimed he had proof that President Obama had bugged his office at Trump “Still Only 58 Floors, Even though He Claims it’s 100′ Taller” Tower, but never actually produced any. The White House has since confirmed that there’s no recording of the call (although it’s possible that the microwave oven may have captured the conversation). Not surprisingly, Representative Wilson refused to back down.

So then the Bigliest President Since William Howard Taft did what he always does when someone calls his bluff: He made someone else clean up his mess. He didn’t enlist Sarah Huckabee Sanders (who has gone from Fresh-Faced Snarkmeister to World-Weary, Bitter Middle School Spanish I Teacher in a matter of months). He didn’t tap Kellyanne Conway or another of his ridiculous surrogates to hit the airwaves and explain how he got more electoral votes than all previous presidential candidates ever, combined, or remind us about Hillary’s e-mails. Because Hillary’s e-mails.

No, he called on General Kelly – a man who has never been asked to speak on behalf of the administration on anything – to be his standard-bearer on the ONE issue he desperately DID NOT WANT TO TALK ABOUT. But hey, Trump wouldn’t have asked unless it had been important, right? Anyway, that’s what friends are for.

And General Kelly did his job, as he always has. He gave a press conference in which confirmed that Obama didn’t call him when his son died. He explained what Trump really meant when be spoke with Mrs. Thompson. He talked about respect for women and how you shouldn’t dis Gold Star Families (which is sort of funny given that his boss has done both of those things on multiple occasions).

Still, you could hardly listen to General Kelly without feeling like you had somehow disappointed him, even though it wasn’t you on the phone making that call to Mrs. Johnson or grabbing some woman by the pussy. I felt like I’d personally let him down, even if it’s only because I think his boss is a Ziploc baggie full of maggot pus, because General Kelly had credibility, and we respected him, and we believed that if it came out of his mouth, it was probably worth listening to. Also, those of us who are in serious doubt as to the psychological fitness of our current chief executive were sort of counting on General Kelly to be the one thing standing between Trump and annihilation.

Now we know better.

In the short run, General Kelly’s words probably helped Captain Charming. His base ate it up, and even those who despise Trump had to admit that the Chief of Staff made some good points, even if some of them later turned out not to be true, because, of all the asshats that are usually trotted out to apologize for a president that does most of his governing on the toilet, this man actually had some credibility.

My initial response to all of this was to feel very badly indeed for General Kelly. I worried that that he would become the new Guy Who Fixes Up the Really Bad Shit and that eventually, he’d lose his credibility. I worried that if Trump kept trotting him out every time he needed someone to defend his bad behavior, he would lose the gravitas gained over almost 50 years of military service, 3 wars, and the death of a beloved son.

We didn’t have to wait long for that to happen. In the few days that have passed since Trump was first made aware by the press that four American soldiers had perished in Western Africa, General Kelly has found himself in the crosshairs, and already, he has lost much of the luster that previously attended his service as Chief of Staff. As he was proven to have been incorrect in his allegations concerning Representative Wilson’s conduct at a building dedication in Florida in 2015, and as some wondered about the unnecessary stridency of Kelly’s criticisms of Wilson, it became clear that the Trump Administration had grossly miscalculated the benefit to be gained when it chose to spend the precious political capital of a four-star general’s integrity in service of defending a man who avoided military service based upon alleged “bone spurs.” Surely someone in the administration is wondering why anyone thought it made good sense to ask General Kelly to get involved in a stupid battle Trump alone started, all because of his ceaseless need to prove that he’s a better president that Obama, and remember – NO ONE ASKED HIM ABOUT PRESIDENT OBAMA. NO ONE.

General Kelly may have believed that his words were in service of a greater good, but history will inevitably prove him wrong. What a tragedy it would be for this most selfless of patriots to squander his integrity, his stature, and most of all, the quiet dignity of a heartbroken father, all for a man whose greatest personal struggle during his 70 odd years on this earth has been the way the press just keeps running video of him when he says things.

I feel bad for General Kelly, and the two Johnson families, the Wright family, and the Black familiy, and every Gold Star Family that has ever known the wrenching agony of a life ended too quickly in service of a country that does precious little to show its support and gratitude (that is, unless uppity black men have the nerve to suggest that that institutional racism is wrong, and then only by re-posting semi-literate memes that allow them to feel patriotic AND self-righteous at the same time). This dialogue is about all the wrong things, at a time when consolation, and empathy, and most of all, selflessness, is what is called for from our president. Sadly, Trump is not at all familiar with those qualities, and his behavior gives us little reason to think that he ever will be.

General, I honor your sacrifice and wish you’d been permitted the privacy concerning the death of your son that anyone with an ounce of compassion would recognize as your due. You earned the right to keep your own counsel on this most personal of matters, and shame on the fetid, festering anal fissure that asked you to stand up his flagging legitimacy (if, indeed, he has ever had any), and to do so on the grave of your dead son.

The fact remains, however, that you let him, and let’s face it – you’re not a shrinking flower or someone who isn’t used to dealing with bullies. You were a member of the United States Marines, thought by many to be the toughest, most hard-core of all the branches of the military. To quote the inimitable Jack Palance, you shit bigger than Donald Trump, and yet you allowed him to exploit you the way he exploits everyone who spends enough time with him. If you’re waiting for him to say thank you, get used to disappointment, and if you think you’ve earned yourself “untouchable status” because you spoke out on his behalf, think again: You are expendable as Preibus, Bannon, Flynn, Price, Spicer, Scaramucci, Gorka….well, you get the idea. To be blunt, don’t get too comfortable in your Leo McGarry office. You probably won’t be there that long.

So while I feel sad for General Kelly, I don’t feel too sad. He should have known better; what’s more, as any parent knows, when you don’t allow your kids to suffer the consequences of their bad behavior, you’ve pretty much guaranteed that it will be repeated.

Facebook Patriots and Other Scumbags

Hey, all you Facebook patriots…Maybe instead of all your righteous indignation that Colin Kaepernick has some issues with how Blacks are treated in this country, you could go donate blood, or read a book about the Civil Rights movement or by Ta-Nehisi Coates or Ralph Ellison or Elie Wiesel (look it up), or, really, any book with words and sentences, or maybe take your kids to the Holocaust Museum in D.C. so they can learn what happens when you demonize people based upon their race or religion in order to feel better about the fact that you’re an underachieving loser who thought you were entitled to pretty much everything simply because you were born white.

Or maybe you could actually go visit a veteran of war and ask them what they think about their military experience, what it meant in their lives, how it changed them, and how they feel about being commandeered by narrow-minded, low information voters through craven, pandering memes, in the name of “patriotism”?

Last summer, I spent quite a lot of time with my Dad (West Point Class of 1955, 25 years in the military, a whole host of medals, including a Bronze Star for his service in Viet Nam in 1968-1969). We talked about a lot of things, including his Army tenure, and the impact it had on his life. Most of you “patriots” – you know, all you people who get so outraged at the idea of transgendered servicemen and women (like any of you are brave or selfless enough to serve, or could even pass the fitness test) – have no clue what men and women in uniform endure, especially when in combat, or how it changes them and their families, and you rarely vote for leaders who give a crap about veterans. Still, you’re awfully quick to wave the flag and invoke dead servicemen and women when a black guy with an afro says he’s tired of the racism in this country. And if you’re arrogant or ignorant or just plain stupid enough to insist that racism doesn’t exist, may you be reincarnated, quickly, as a person of color in the United States so you can see how easy it is to walk around in skin that isn’t white.

I am beyond disgusted by those who know nothing – NOTHING – about the facts underpinning most of the nonsense currently going on in this country in the name of “patriotism,” though I do derive some level of mean-spirited schadenfreude knowing that their Fuhrer, President Trump, will soon enough be coming for them (though they will be too dim-witted and self-satisfied to notice until its too late). These people, who get their news from Facebook memes, find themselves without any facts whatsoever to support their despicable opinions, and so they post photos of wounded servicemen and flag-draped coffins in an attempt to use people like my Dad as an excuse to be a misogynistic, racist, asshole.

It would be far more honest if, instead of pretending like you have any real investment in or understanding of American History, our founding documents, or Supreme Court jurisprudence, you’d just post a picture of your face and say, “I hate anyone who isn’t a straight, white, Christian,” (oh, and by the way, maybe use your own words, instead of hiding behind someone else’s moronic GIFs), because that’s exactly what your posts say about you, no matter how many pictures of American flags and wounded warriors you post. To be fair, maybe you don’t hate racial, ethnic, or religious minorities – as long as they know their place and aren’t doing better than you. After all, some people are more equal than others.

My Dad, and men and women like him, understood that part of what they were fighting for was the protection of people like Kaepernick to express himself (though maybe not for fellow NFL’ers who beat the shit out of their girlfriends without fear of white outrage or boycotts, or racist sheriffs who blatantly thumb their noses at the law they think does not apply to them). That’s the same freedom of expression, by the way, that allowed you to question President Obama’s citizenship or loyalty or competency without being hauled off to the Gulag, the way they do in Russia – though that may become the reality soon enough, if your fact-free president has his way.

Those brave men and women didn’t fight in wars or serve their country so that you could post moronic GIFS featuring pictures of them to justify the fact that you are a horrible human being who wishes that people who don’t look like you, or worship like you, didn’t exist. Fun fact? If, somehow, they didn’t, you’d still be a loser, just one in search of a scapegoat.

So just stop it. Stop pretending you’re a “patriot,” or that your values reflect those of the men and women who have fought for the sovereignty of this country or the rights enumerated in the Constitution (which I’m pretty sure you’ve never even read). Stop pretending you’re anything other that what you are, because, guess what?

We all know exactly what that is.

Tips for Trump: Things Not to Say to the First Lady of France (or Any Other Woman, for That Matter)

July 17, 2017

So, you’re just back from Paris, Mr. President. Quite a whirlwind trip, there! What a lovely parade, and so moving to see American and French soldiers marching together to celebrate Bastille Day. When you saluted the American military participants? That was a nice moment.

But that thing you said to Brigitte Macron? Umm…maybe not so much.

So, I know you meant well. I know you thought you were paying her a compliment when you said, upon meeting her for the first time ever, “You’re in such good shape … beautiful!” I know you think that this is exactly what every woman wants to hear when she meets a man for the first time.

Yeah, it’s not.

Hey, could you put your phone away? This is important.

What you said was inappropriate, and not just because of your history of being, well, sort of an asshole when it comes to women. It was clumsy and weird and creepy and sort of suggests that you’re still living in the 1950’s. Which, okay, in many cases, you are.

But to focus on the matter at hand, for the last 100 years or so, women have been trying to communicate an essential truth to men. They’ve tried to say it in a lot of ways, in a hundred different languages, and in a variety of media, but what it comes down to is this:

What I look like isn’t who I am.

Let’s say that together, Mr. President: “What I look like isn’t who I am.”

Now, it’s true that most women – indeed, most people – attempt to present their physical selves in a pleasant and appealing manner. Many women, and even some men, are flattered when someone provides feedback that suggests a positive assessment of one’s physical appearance.

Most women, however, tend to feel uncomfortable when such an assessment is made within the context of a business setting, or at a casual social function that is not a date, at the library, watching or participating in a sporting event, picking up the dry cleaning, test-driving a car, donating blood, getting your teeth cleaned, attending church, standing in line to vote, buying groceries…oh, and meeting your husband’s professional counterpart at a public event celebrating your country’s independence day.

In fact, probably the only circumstances in which it’s perfectly appropriate and even a nice idea to compliment a woman’s physical appearance is when it’s your significant other, but even then, you should also remind her that it’s her formidable intelligence, determination, and creativity that really get you going.

Now, you may not know this (because it doesn’t appear as though the women with whom you’ve chosen to share your life were particularly interested in the cultivation of their intellect, personal growth, or independence while they were with you), so you may need to do some further reading.

Yeah, I know, you don’t like to read.

Okay. Well, maybe we can do it this way. Here is a brief survey of the seminal literature on feminism in a format that even you can read and digest:

  • The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir (1959): Tracks the role of women throughout history and the extent to which they have been suppressed and dominated by men largely by virtue of their ability to bear children.
  • The Feminine Mystique, Betty Friedan (1963): Talks about how suburban housewives in the 1960’s were frustrated that the roles available to them were limited to wife and mother.
  • Sexual Politics, Kate Millett (1969): Discusses how male-dominated culture has produced writers and literary works that are degrading to women as well as the tyranny of sexual stereotypes.
  • The Beauty Myth, Naomi Wolf (1991): Explores the growing social prominence of women and society’s demands for them to conform to specific standards of beauty.
  • Men Explain Things to Me, Rebecca Solnit (2014): Defines and demonstrates the concept of “mansplaining,” in which men attempt to explain to women topics they believe women do not understand, particularly when dealing with areas that are traditionally within the exclusive purview of women (such as the menstrual cycle, which, since the beginning of time, no biological male has ever experienced).

To review:

Men have been treating women like crap for a while, and we don’t like it. We are not here solely to procreate or to serve as sexual playthings or eye candy, whether or not you think we are pretty/sexy/hot enough to make us desirable to you for that purpose. You should treat women with the same level of respect and professionalism as men, and commenting on a woman’s appearance should be avoided.

See? That was easy!

Now, with that in mind, let’s take a look at what you said to Madame Macron last week and examine:

You said, “You’re in such good shape…beautiful!”

Here’s why that was maybe the wrong thing to say:

1.  As we have discussed, you should treat women with the same level of respect and professionalism as men. If you wouldn’t tell a man he was in such good shape and beautiful, you shouldn’t say it to a woman.

2.  Commenting on a woman’s appearance should be avoided. (Yeah, I know I already said that, but it’s worth repeating).

3.  Your comment did not just suggest that Madame Macron is an attractive woman (“…beautiful!”), which, on its own might not have been so awful (though still wildly inappropriate). It also brought her body into the conversation (“You’re in such good shape”), as in, you have a good body, which turns what could have been a relatively innocent comment (“you look nice”) into something undeniably sexual in nature. For example, a father might say to his daughter, “you look beautiful today, sweetie!” and that would be okay, but he would NOT say, “you’re in such good shape, sweetie!” Well, okay, maybe YOU would – and, indeed, you basically HAVE – but most non-creepy weird fathers draw the line at making assessments of their daughter’s bodies. You might want to think about that, too.

4.  Finally, and not to get too personal, but geez, your wife was RIGHT THERE! I mean, show some class, guy!

You may be scratching your head and saying, “wait, I’m not allowed to talk to women about their periods, or their face lifts, and I’m not supposed to shove them against the wall and start making out with them…good Lord, what’s a man to do???”

I’m glad you asked.

Here are several things you might have said to Madame Macron – and, hey, if you want, I can make them generic so you can use them the next time you meet with Prime Minister May or Chancellor Merkel, or President Coleiro Preca (Malta), President Grabar-Kitarovic (Croatia), President Simonetta (Switzerland), President Kopacz (Poland), Prime Miniter Straujuma (Latvia), Prime Minister Bratusek (Slovenia), Prime Minister Thorning-Schmidt (Denmark), Prime Minister Solberg (Norway), Prime Minister Siber (Cyprus), President Jahjaga (Kosovo), President Grybauskaite (Lithuania), Prime Minister Simpson Miller (Jamaica),Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar (Trinidad and Tobago), President Fernandez de Kirchner (Argentina), President Rousseff (Brazil), President Bachelet (Chile), President Geun-hye (South Korea), Prime Minister Wajed (Bangladesh), President Samba-Panza (Central African Republic), President Johnson-Sirleaf (Liberia), or Prime Minister Toure (Senegal).  (Damn, that’s an awful lot of female world leaders.  I wonder when we’ll get one?)

Here are things you can say instead (I used a lot of exclamation points, because you seem to like those):

  • Good morning, Madame Prime Minister! How nice to meet you!
  • I am very much looking forward to our meeting this afternoon, Madame President!
  • What a beautiful country is [insert name of country here], and how excited am I to be here!
  • I bring the well wishes and friendship of the people of the United States, even those who did not vote for me, which is only about seven, but them as well!
  • You are totally smokin’ hot, Madame President! (THAT WAS A TEST TO SEE IF YOU WERE PAYING ATTENTION!)
  • I am very intrigued by the policies you have implemented in [insert name of country here] to advance the cause of equal pay in the workplace, mandatory maternity leave, and universal medical care! (Admittedly, there are only a handful of places where this would be appropriate, seeing as how most of the countries whose leaders you will be meeting have already adopted those policies).
  • Welcome to the White House, Madame Prime Minister. I look forward to our hour-long joint press conference where we will both give responsive answers to all media outlets!
  • I can’t wait to have some croissant/falafel/pad thai/hakarl/fasolada/bulgogi/poutin/pho! I hear it’s incredible!

So, now you’re good to go. You can handle any situation. Keep these simple tips in mind, and you’ll be prepared for anything. Well, okay, not anything. Or even most things. Or, really, anything at all, except how to properly greet a woman you’ve never met before, but, hey, it beats grabbing them by the pussy.Go in peace, Mr. President.

Gun Violence, Abe Lincoln, and Pollyanna

June 19, 2017

After last week’s shooting of GOP lawmakers and staff who were practicing for a charity baseball game, I think we can all agree that the divide between left and right, Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, progressives and the alt-left, has grown so broad and deep it seems virtually impossible that two people on the opposite sides of the political spectrum can have a civil conversation about anything, including, say, pancakes versus waffles (waffles, by the way), let alone about what’s going on in Washington. Every news item that mentions President Trump, Congress, policy, or pretty much any aspect of government, is fodder for thousands of tweets, posts, and panels of screaming lunatics on (insert news show of your choice), and way too much of what’s being said is opportunistic and mean.

Too frequently, what passes for “political discourse” is over-the-top, hyperbolic rhetoric that, when squeezed, will produce a nice tall glass of contempt. There’s little respect, or tolerance, for any opinion other than one’s own, and yes, I’m guilty of that. There are too many people who are as convinced that they’re the smartest guy/gal in the room as they are sure that those who disagree with them are too stupid, and too pig-headed, to listen to and accept reason and truth.

I’m guilty of that, too.

But what to do, I wonder, when the stakes are so high, when the conduct of those who govern appears to be creating a legitimate threat to national safety, the fate of all carbon-based lifeforms, and women’s reproductive rights, just to name a few? How to avoid being shrill as violence against Muslims and people of color increases, as the United States, by and through its Commander in Chief, sends the clear message to the people of the world that they’re on their own, thereby undoing years of relationship building, credibility, and leadership? What words are strong enough to effectuate change (and, at the same time, communicate to those outside our borders that not every American supports the policies being enacted by our government), yet not so strident as to be pre-emptively ignored by those for whose ears those words are intended? Is it even possible to say anything that those on “the other side” would be willing to consider – me included?

In other words, how do we communicate with those who have strongly-held opinions that differ from our own? How do we do that when one side believes that anyone who voted for Donald Trump is a de facto racist xenophobic misogynist, while the other side thinks that anyone who doesn’t support Donald Trump is a lazy godless nutcase who hates this country? Smarter and more articulate people than me have said that we have to be more respectful of each other, and that’s a start. Contempt is a big part of it, too: Malcolm Gladwell, in his excellent book, “Blink,” discusses a study that looked for predictors of divorce, and the number one factor isn’t infidelity or financial problems – turns out, it’s contempt. Stated differently, if a conversation is underpinned by a lack of respect and an abundance of contempt – and that’s pretty much a given as far as political discussions go these days – there’s really no reason to have it in the first place, because no one is listening.

The only thing that has ever changed a person’s mind about an opinion they held to the point of utter certainty, is a shared commonality. Justice Kennedy and Dick Cheney are pretty conservative as things go, but they both have close relatives who are gay, and guess what? Neither one had an objection to marriage equality. A few months go, I posted an excellent article about a man who freely admitted that he used to hate Muslims. His opinions changed drastically when a Syrian family moved in next door and showed him that they weren’t so different, so much so that he babysits their kids and has dinner with them on a weekly basis.

This tells me that if I want people to be open to my thoughts and opinions, I have to find some common ground, and for starters, that means no more name-calling. That’s going to be a tough one, because I don’t happen to have a very high opinion of our president, and, as well, it’s so satisfying to get off a good one. But it has to stop, and it’s going to. That doesn’t mean that I will refrain from criticizing policy with which I passionately disagree (or that I am going to stop being passionate), but I’ll tone down the rhetoric. That’s my pledge. It’s a start.

Next, I’m going to propose that we look for commonality. I’m unlikely to find too many Republicans who will agree with me on healthcare, but here are some things I think we can all get behind:

  1. Pizza.
  2. Pizza.
  3. Koala bears.
  4. Pizza.

Okay, there’s more:

  1. Will McAvoy’s brilliant speech on the first episode of “The Newsroom” notwithstanding, the United States of America is in fact the greatest nation on earth.
  2. Our government, as conceived by our founding fathers, is, simply put, brilliant.
  3. When we get hit, we come together like nobody’s business. Remember how nice we all were to each other after 9/11? We have a tremendous capacity to love and support and share and give of ourselves. That goes for Democrats and Republicans and Libertarians and Socialists and Independents and the Green Party…it’s who we are.
  4. Russia trying to infiltrate our country – however they may or may not be doing it – isn’t cool, and we should all be concerned if that’s what’s happening, regardless of who may or may not be facilitating it.
  5. Pizza.

There’s a reason people want to come to America, and it has something to do with the shared sense of freedom and opportunity and doing the right thing. We don’t always get it right, and there are too many people in our country who are hurting right now, but we are a nation of people who love this country so thoroughly, so vigorously, so passionately, that we are willing to lose friendships over it – except that’s not good, either. So stop doing that.

We need to become what the name of our country says we are – the United States of America. Not black and white, rich or poor, Christian or Jew or Muslim, Republican or Democrat. Yes, we should celebrate our diversity, but we have to start acting like brothers and sisters. We just have to. We really, really just have to.

My favorite movie of all time is “Pollyanna.” Yeah, it sucks that her parents died and she never had a doll and her aunt is kind of a bitch and she falls out of a tree, but she nevertheless brings the whole town together. She shows them how to look for the silver lining and teaches them the Glad Game. She gets Reverend Ford on her side when she says that “no one owns the church,” and she shares with him the immortal words of Abraham Lincoln: “If you look for the bad in people, expecting to find it, you surely will.”

Let that sink in for a moment. (Every time you forget how incredible Abraham Lincoln was, something reminds you, and you say, “damn, that man was a genius.”)

And so everyone in town starts looking for the best in everyone else, and they rally together to build a new orphanage where the kids don’t get burned or drowned or electrocuted (something we can all get behind), and Aunt Polly and Dr. Childers rekindle their love, united in their resolve to help Pollyanna get better, and Mr. Tarbell stands up to Mrs. Tarbell, and Nancy and George get Aunt Polly’s blessing to get married, and then Reverend Ford sums it all up when he says to Pollyanna, as she’s being taken to the train station to go to Baltimore to get an operation so she can walk again (yeah, that actually happens), “We looked for the best in them, and we found it.”

Let’s start looking for the best in our fellow man, and maybe we’ll all come together and everything will be better. Hell, what with my newfound love of pruning, I’ll even fall out of a tree if it would help.

We are all Americans. We all bring something to the table. I love you all. Let’s make things better.

Reba McEntire and the Battle for My Soul

June 4, 2017

Recently, I saw a post on someone’s Facebook page with a link to a Reba McEntire song and the provocative clickbait, “AMAZING New Song Will DESTROY Every Single Trump-Hater In America!”  http://www.proud-patriots.com/reba-mcentires-amazing-new-song-will-destroy-every-single-trump-hater-in-america-video/

What’s this? I thought.  While not strictly a Trump Hater, anyone who knows me understands that I have zero respect for or confidence in the low-information, petulant toddler less than half our nation elected president.  I know I’m not alone in my opinion of Trump – he’s universally reviled by most of the rest of the world (including many of the 51 million who elected him) – and so I was curious:

If I watched this video, would it literally destroy me? (Answer: No. I watched the video, and I’m still here).

Still, I think that what Proud-Patriots.com (translation: White People Who Voted for Trump and Hate You Libtard Snowflakes Who Represent Everything That’s Wrong With this Country) was likely trying to say is, if you watch this video, you fascist, socialist, morally bankrupt liberal who lives off the public dole, you will no longer be able to deny that Donald J. Trump is the Second Coming and maybe you’ll shut up already.  Because Reba McEntire.

So I thought, what if there actually were a song that would change my mind about Donald J. Trump? What if Reba McEntire, of all people, was the one person in the world who could make a good argument for why it’s okay to demonize immigrants, deny access to affordable health insurance to those who need it most, and tell the rest of the world’s people that they’re on their own when it comes to climate change, even though our country has been one of the leading causes of global warming in the first place? Is anyone capable of that sort of persuasion? And if so, how?

I’ve never been a big country music fan (though I do like Faith Hill and Johnny Cash), but I once had a client who was a Reba McEntire impersonater, and she was a nice lady who had a lot of positive things to say about Reba, so I thought, hey, let’s see what I’m missing.  I clicked on the link, and I watched the video, and while it’s not exactly my cup of tea, I thought, “well, that’s nice.”  And then I ate a Milano and I considered some of the other things that Proud-Patriots.com had to say.

First, the USA has become “spiritually poor” because everyone, particularly the “young folks,” have forgotten “the existence of God and the true, moral and Christian values our country’s philosophy was based on.”  I guess Proud-Patriots.com hasn’t read the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, or the writings of many of our Founding Fathers, who made clear their intention that, regardless of their own personal beliefs, the United States of America should be beacon of religious tolerance and diversity for all, even (heaven forbid) the Jews.  http://www.mountvernon.org/digital-encyclopedia/article/george-washington-and-religion/ at fn. 3.  For starters, then, Proud-Patriots.com has got its history wrong.

It’s also worth noting, moreover, that since time immemorial, grumpy old people everywhere have pointed to the declining morals of the young, including a decreased respect for God and organized religion, as the cause of all society’s ills and proof that the End of Days is near.  It’s an oldie but a goodie, and whether and when you may chose to invoke it is also a good indicator of just how far along the Crotchety Scale of Life you are.

I have often found, incidentally, that those who are most concerned with how young people behave, particularly with regard to a lack of religious fealty, are frequently the same people who in their early years were hellraisers themselves.  Perhaps because of their own less-exalted conduct as teenagers and young adults, they are acutely aware of and appreciate the capacity for young people to do things that are in direct contravention with many religious tenets.  Now that they’ve had their fun, of course, no one else should, either.  But I digress.

Proud-Patriots.com next bemoans the level of discord in our country since the election, noting that “Americans are burning flags, dishonoring our military and police officers, rioting in the streets…Clearly, we do need to get this country back to God.”  It seems worth recalling that this is exactly the behavior we witnessed in the 1960’s during the Civil Rights movement and as our country continued to fight an unjust war.  Know what ended those protests? Enacting legislation that forced our nation to treat all people equally and pulling out of Viet Nam.  Or maybe it was God.  Who knows.

Proud-Patriots.com also says that I, and others like me, are the problem with all that is wrong in America because we “don’t want to ‘conform’ to one belief” and are “too cool” to believe in God.  (N.B. – To my everlasting chagrin, I’ve never once been tagged “cool,” but thanks for that, Proud-Patriots.com!)  Call me a wonky egghead who thinks we ought to consult the Constitution on this one, but I just sort of think that people should be able to search their hearts and decide which religion, if any, makes sense to the rational, inquisitive brains that God or some higher power apparently gave us, and then act accordingly, rather than foist one set of beliefs upon the rest of the world.  It would appear, however, that being a Proud Patriot means you ignore the clear import of the words of Madison and Jefferson and all those men who are claimed to have intended ours to be a “nation under God,” notwithstanding that those same men expressly said that under no circumstances was this to be a “nation under God.”  But why quibble with words, or logic, when you can demonize those with whom you don’t agree?

Proud-Patriots.com goes on to say that no one is forcing Christianity on anyone and that what it is most angry about is the “discrimination” Christians endure as disciples of the one true God.  In the interest of full disclosure, I’m a big fan of Jesus and think more Christians ought to act like him, but I’m still struggling with the idea of a higher being named God, who at one point thought it was okay to destroy the entire world (save Noah and his crew) and who was okay with polygamy and spousal abuse and killing people who ate bacon, but then underwent some amazing metamorphosis in which he became more compassionate and forgiving, although I know having a kid can do that to you.  But just for the record, I don’t hate Jesus, even if I’m not sure he or his dad are divine.  (This is why Michael is always worried to enter a church with me).  For the record, I have zero problem with Christians, except for the ones who claim to be but act instead like assholes.

Whatever you may think about Christianity, however, it’s absurd to suggest that those who practice this faith in our country are being persecuted.  The last time I checked, the Congress was overwhelmingly Christian, as has been every man ever elected to the office of President.  Anywhere from 70 – 85% of Americans identify as Christian, as do roughly 1/3 of the peoples of the world, making Christianity by far the most dominant religion on Earth. As Louis C.K. so astutely noted, we measure time based upon the date that Christ was born, – how much more Christian do you Christians need the rest of the world to be before you’ll admit that you won?

As for this alleged anti-Christian prejudice, Proud-Patriots.com is just wrong.  You want to know what discrimination is? Being lowered onto a pointed stick, with or without weights tied to your feet, until your anus was perforated (or until you recanted your deeply held religious beliefs, whichever came first).  Being crammed into railroad cars and whisked to Eastern Europe to a virtually certain death, along with 5,999,999 of your brethren, simply because a certain group of people feel economically threatened by you. That’s persecution.

The fact that some choose to say “Happy Holidays,” instead of “Merry Christmas,” out of deference to the possibility that the person to whom they are extending their good wishes might not be a Christian is not persecution, and the placement of menorahs on the town hall lawn is not discrimination.  It’s called inclusion (look it up), and it doesn’t diminish you or your beliefs unless you faith is so fragile that it cannot withstand the fact that others may not share it.  And yet, those at Proud-Patriots.com (and, to be fair, a lot of others websites, too) claim to be discriminated against because the United States of America allows people who aren’t Christian to live here.

Pardon me if I don’t attend your candlelight vigil, Snowflakes.  You don’t know from persecution and discrimination, not in America, anyway, and if you’re so damned worried about Christians in other parts of the world who are being persecuted for their beliefs, then maybe consider demanding that they be granted sanctuary here in the United States, where they might take all the high-paying jobs and not speak English the minute they clear Customs.  But again, I digress.

So here’s where we are so far:  The United States is in a real pickle because liberals aren’t Christian (like that selfish bastard, Jimmy Carter, building houses for the poor, or that shithead Pope Francis who opened up laundromats for the homeless).

But wait, there’s more:  According to Proud-Patriots.com, liberals are “aching for the kind of values” that faith gives good Christians and that without faith, there are no values.  This is because the only way you can be a morally sound, ethical person, is to be a Christian.  You know.  Because people who aren’t Christians have no morals or ethics.  Sorry, Buddhists.  Hindus, you’re out of luck, too.

Sounds pretty grim, eh? But wait! Don’t get discouraged, all you non-Christians currently destined for an afterlife of eternal damnation and suffering, there is hope!  Thanks to Reba McEntire, soon liberals everywhere will come to know Donald J. Trump and will rally behind him in his faith-based agenda of compassion, unity, and world peace.  See, Reba recorded this song, and it’s going to change EVERYTHING.  All you have to do is tie a Trump Hater to a chair and make them listen to it, and guess what? They, too, will come to see that Donald J. Trump is indeed the answer to all of our problems.


 A few things about the song, “Back to God,” written by Randy Houser in 2008.  Apparently, it’s always been a favorite of Reba’s, one she chose to include on an album that dropped in January 2017 and which was likely recorded before the presidential election had even taken place.  As to why she chose to record this song now, Reba said, “I think it is always the right time to give it back to Him because we seem to mess things up on our own. We all need to just love each other more unconditionally, without judgment, because we can’t do this on our own.”  http://tasteofcountry.com/reba-mcentire-back-to-god-video/?trackback=tsmclip.  That’s a nice idea, even if you don’t believe in God.

If you listen to the song or read its lyrics (I’ve done both), you’ll hear that it’s about dealing with hard times and how God can be a comfort to those who are struggling.  It specifically invokes “the innocent dyin’,” expressing empathy for the heartbroken and those who have lost a loved one before exhorting those in pain to call on God in their time of need.  The video, moreover, includes vignettes of people who appear to be in real agony – though it’s not exactly clear to me why.  It looks as though two teenagers may have died and that their community, black and white, is in mourning, but ultimately comes together in a gorgeous southern Church to unite in their grief and move forward through their shared faith in God, and that’s a nice message, too.  Many people find great comfort in their faith, which is a better way of dealing with hardship than drinking, taking drugs, or shooting up a preschool with an assault rifle.

But the song, like Reba, is utterly silent about Donald J. Trump, or the issues currently facing our country, of the fact that it’s so politically divided right now, or that the rest of the world thinks we’re all assholes.  Nothing in this song – nothing – suggests that it was intended to respond to the state of the nation since November 8, 2016, nor does it advance the idea that El Presidente could fix things if only the liberals, who can’t accept that their (severely flawed) candidate lost, would just pipe down and give him a chance.

Neither Mr. Houser nor Ms. McEntire ever say that Mr. Trump is the answer to all of our problems, but Proud-Patriots.com does.  Wanna know why?

Wait for it…


I swear to God that’s what it says.  Guess what else?

“Donald Trump is going to be bringing God back into this country….He’s put the Lord back in our Pledge of Allegiance.”  I hate to be all insistent that arguments be based upon actual facts and stuff, but the words “under God” weren’t even in the Pledge of Allegiance when it was first written in 1892 (by a socialist minister, no less) or when it was adopted by Congress in 1945.  Just to be clear, though, ever since those words were first inserted into the Pledge back in 1954, they haven’t been removed, there is no bill in the House or the Senate proposing to remove those words, and they’re not going anywhere.  (Also, “Touched by an Angel” wasn’t cancelled because of atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair, who was already dead at the time, either).  But, okay.

So Donald J. Trump is a pillar of Christian morality? Really?  I have an easier time accepting that there may be benefits to abstinence-only sex ed.  I can think of four Commandments (I’m referencing them as they are enumerated by the Catechism of the Catholic Church) he’s violated without even having to think about it over a bag of tortilla chips:  The Sixth (thou shalt not commit adultery – think Marla Maples); the Seventh (thou shalt not steal – you know – all those vendors he refused to pay in full when he was building casinos in Atlantic City); the Eighth (thou shalt not bear false witness – like, every day) and the Ninth (thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s wife – “I moved on her like a bitch”).

It’s not just the sinning that makes Proud-Patriots.com’s assessment of Trump as a man of God so ridiculous.  We all sin, some of us more than others.  Also, I don’t presume to see into and discern the contents of Trump’s heart any more than Proud-Patriots.com and its ilk should purport to comment on the contents of mine.  It’s not that he hasn’t set a foot inside a church since his inauguration, or that he can’t recite a single Bible verse save “an eye for an eye,” or that he referred to Second Corinthians as Two Corinthians – attendance at church and an affinity for memorizing passages from the Good Book is not proof positive evidence of a humble servant’s soul.

Rather, what leads me to my conclusion that Trump is as much a devout Christian as I am a dedicated vegan who works out with weights and tractor tires every morning is the behavior that so obviously demonstrates Trump’s belief that he answers to no one – not Congress, not the American people, and certainly not God.  In a million years, I cannot begin to summon the image of Trump, on his knees, hands folded, begging, pleading, praying, crying tears of pain, “pounding the floor and screaming His name,” as Reba tells us we all need to be doing.

Try to imagine that, if you can; I just can’t.  Trump’s charitable works, in proportion to his wealth, are de minimis; in-depth analyses of his “charitable giving” reveal that he’s awfully good at taking credit for the monetary donations of others but that he has not made a single cash donation to charity since 2011 and had made no contributions to his own foundation since 2008.  http://www.newyorker.com/news/john-cassidy/trump-and-the-truth-his-charitable-giving.  Can you name a single cause or disease on whose behalf Trump has ever worked to raise awareness?  Have you ever seen him visit the sick or tend to the hungry (before he ran for office, that is)?

No.  Because Trump has spent his life in service of one thing and one thing only:  The Promotion and Aggrandizement of All Things Trump.  That’s the single thing he cares about (well, that and pussy), and anyone who genuinely believes that Donald J. Trump is about kindness, empathy, humility, forgiveness, service to others, self-sacrifice, and the betterment of mankind, is either the most naïve or else self-delusional person ever to have lived.

No, Proud-Patriots.com.  Just, no.  Donald Trump isn’t a Christian, and Reba McEntire doesn’t think so, either.  The conversion of liberals, or anyone else who doesn’t practice Christianity, to your way of thinking, isn’t going to save this country until it’s got leaders in Congress, the White House, governors’ mansions, and state legislatures who understand that the United States (1) was founded upon principles of religious liberty; (2) is, was, and always will be a nation of immigrants; and (3) is the most powerful, privileged and prosperous country on earth and therefore must act responsibly, with an awareness of the impact its actions will have on the rest of the world.  When we are a nation that cares about the sick and mentally ill; that refuses to stand by while children in developing countries die from preventable disease and malnutrition; that finds a way to open its hearts and borders to those who are desperate for freedom and opportunity; that leads the way in addressing the threat of climate change; then we can truly call this country a nation that espouses Christ’s teachings, or maybe we could just say that we’re a country of decent human beings.

I’m all for people practicing whatever religion makes sense to them, if it makes them happy, as long as they don’t insist that I do it with them, but if ever anyone wanted to “convert” me, they’re going to have to come at me with better ammunition than Reba McEntire (talented though she may be) or the staggeringly incredible argument that Donald Trump “came from nowhere to bring the message of unity, peace and the love of the almighty god.”

Here’s the truth:  Donald Trump came from the 58th floor of the Trump Tower to bring a message of hatred and intolerance aimed at uniting a base that claims to love God even though they could give a crap about most of His people.  He came because he was bored, and because he’s a narcissist, and because those campaign rallies stroked his ego in a way that grabbing women by the pussy and firing D-list celebrities did not.  He came for the sole purpose of increasing his name recognition and profits, and not once prior to November 9, 2016 did he ever think he’d actually win, which was why he never stopped to think about what would happen if the policies he espoused were actually implemented.

He’s not a Christian and he’s not going to save our nation, but if you’re looking to “destroy” something, Proud-Patriots.com, look no further than to the country you claim to love, or to the “man of God” who’s destroying it.  Maybe Reba McEntire could do a song about that – because that would be worth listening to.

Opting Out

February 22, 2017

Last week, my husband and I were fortunate to get away from the dreary, cold, grayness that is the East Coast in February, enjoying a five-day respite on a sunny Caribbean island, replete with tropical greenery, white sand beaches, and exquisite local cuisine. It was paradise to escape the busy-ness of work and home and family obligations to simply relax, read, and dip our toes into the cerulean blue ocean.

You would think that we would take advantage of this down-time to unplug from politics, social media, and the constant onslaught of television coverage of President Trump’s actions and the backlash generated in response thereto. We didn’t. Indeed, at one point, a dear friend responded to one of Michael’s posts concerning the latest from the White House with this apt comment: “Aren’t you guys supposed to be on vacation?”

Later that morning, as I was floating on my back under a cloudless blue sky, pondering whether to have the tacos or the jerk chicken wrap for lunch (decisions, decisions), I contemplated those words, and I began to ruminate (well, to the extent I was capable given that I was also attempting to keep my considerable girth afloat): Why did I feel the need to be constantly connected to the minute-by-minute coverage of the Trump White House? Would I be so assiduously attuned to every press conference, tweet, and alternative fact if I lived on some sunny, remote island where executive orders and cabinet nominee hearings might seem far less impactful on my day-to-day life? If I could wake up every morning to a breakfast of fresh fruit on the terrace, spend my days lying on a chaise lounge reading, and dine every night under the stars, would I have any interest whatsoever in what’s happening in DC? And, more to the point, if I did choose to opt out of the daily briefings, Jake Tapper’s tweets, and Rachel Maddow’s nightly wonkfest, would that be okay?

But I don’t live in a tropical paradise, and Washington, D.C. is but a three-hour drive from my home. I don’t watch a lot of television, but when I do, it’s hard to avoid any mention of Senate debates, SpicerConwayBannonSpeak, or protest marches. The talking heads are everywhere, including on my Facebook Feed, and indeed, I myself have frequently added my voice to the mix. To truly “opt out” would take a lot of effort: I’d probably have to quit Facebook and Twitter, which I could probably bear, but I’d also have to quit the New Yorker, which I couldn’t. And, let’s be honest: The Trump Administration has become much like a really bad car wreck – you just can’t tear your eyes away, and you keep wondering what’s coming next. Just as I think I have lost the ability to be shocked or surprised, I turn on the television, and there it is: Today’s serving of crazy, just waiting to be gobbled up like so many Cheetos.

It’s exhausting keeping up with all that is going on. There is so much “breaking news” every day, so many media outlets covering it, so many pundits offering their views and opinions. In an effort to remain as objective as I can (pretty much an impossibility at this point), I attempt to balance the sources of the news I consume, but getting accurate, non-biased information isn’t always easy. So much of what I see on Facebook has an obvious (and predictable) bias (in both directions), and implicit in just about every news item out there – whether on social media, in the newspapers, or on television – is a level of high emotion, be it outrage, frustration, or dismay. In the four weeks since Donald Trump took office, it feels as though we’ve all been under attack.

Not surprising, then, that many on social media have called for a ban on political commentary. They’d like it to return to a more innocent time, when people posted cute cat memes, how-to videos, and pictures of the family vacation. No more. Most of what shows up on my Facebook feed has something to do with the Trump Administration, which is partly attributable to the fact that most of my Facebook friends share my angst over our new president’s antics, and partly because that’s pretty much all anyone can talk about these days. The older I get, the more I strive for peace and tranquility, harmony and calm. There’s precious little of that for those who chose to keep abreast of the Trump’s White House. It’s more like the WWF meets a demolition derby.

And so I ask myself, should I “opt out”? For the sake of my sanity, should I resign from Facebook and Twitter until the current climate settles down a bit (assuming it ever does)? In order to become the mindful and evolved woman I strive to be, should I ban all news coverage on the family television and eschew all print media that discusses the Federal Government? The part of me that is exhausted, discouraged, and tired of my own voice raised in outrage says yes, Wendy, yes – turn off and tune out. Stop the madness. Just say no.

While I am sure there are many who wish I would do exactly that, another part of me (the one that went to Mount Holyoke and is a ball-buster) says, no. No, you can’t opt out, because that would be irresponsible. No, you can’t opt out, because someone has to hold our leaders accountable. No, you can’t opt out, because you love this country, and what’s going on is wrong. It’s wrong on so many levels, in so many ways, for so many reasons. That part of me says no matter how exhausting and discouraging and frustrating, no matter how much some of my family members likely despise me for my opinions, I can’t give up and give in, I can’t quit, I can’t go along to get along. I can’t, and I won’t.

It’s hard to imagine living like this for another three years and eleven months. It’s difficult to envision what our country is going to look like in 2020, or even 2018. Those who predict apocalypse, or a country that looks a lot like Germany in the 1930’s, or a nation in which we all speak Russian, may be right, though I try to convince myself that our United States have suffered far worse and nonetheless endured. Perhaps Donald Trump is a twenty-first century James Buchanan, with the promise of a twenty-first century Abraham Lincoln right on his heels. Maybe the Trump Administration will be the last we know of democracy in America, of a country of laws and freedom and justice for all, of a land of immigrants who welcomed all peoples to our shores, of a nation that has been a beacon of hope and opportunity for so many. Perhaps in the not-too-distant future, we will look back on these days with sadness and regret, painfully aware of all we took for granted and everything that we have ceased to be.

I hope not. I think we can make it better – all of us, we can fix this, but it’s going to take a lot of work. So no matter how bad it gets, no matter how many rights the Administration tries to strip away, no matter how many executive orders and SCOTUS appointments and just plain batshit crazy nonsense that may be coming our way, I will be ready, and I won’t stop. No matter how many marches or phone calls to Congressional representatives or Facebook posts or whatever else it takes to right this ship, I’m not opting out. Not today, not tomorrow, and not because people think I’m shrill. I am in this for the long run, and I’m Not. Opting. Out.

More Sheryl, Less Ivanka

April 28, 2017

So Ivanka Trump was invited by Angela Merkel to attend the W20 Summit in Berlin, where the First Daughter was booed by audience members after describing her father – that pillar of orange-flavored feminist goodness – as “a tremendous champion of supporting families and enabling them to thrive.” Ivanka responded to those boos with protestations that His Royal Highness, the Viscount Ermine of Fatback, had always been nice to HER, which is sort of like saying that the serial killer next door is a tremendous champion of people not being murdered simply on the basis that he never locked me in a basement and then ate me for dinner.

But Ivanka is a Trump through and through, and she understands the importance of family loyalty, even as it pertains to the guy who famously said he’d like to date her, has agreed that it’s okay for others to refer to her as a “piece of a**,” and once stated publicly that their greatest commonality was their mutual enjoyment of sex. All of which is really creepy, since he’s, like, her DAD and all.

So I’m not really surprised that Ivanka’s defending Custard McPumpkin Sludge of Horny Hound Mews, even though doing so significantly decreases whatever credibility she may have had in her own right as a designer of made-in-China shoes and – let’s be honest – a line of jewelry that’s sort of tacky.

What IS surprising is that Germany’s Chancellor, Angela Merkel – you know, that lady with the graduate degree in quantum physics? – actually invited Ivanka to participate in the W20 Summit based upon her ostensible accomplishments as a handbag designer (an occupation, it should be noted, that also counts among its member by Jerry Seinfeld’s ex-girlfriend, Shoshanna Lonstein and former White House intern Monica Lewinsky).

It’s not even a little bit depressing that Merkel overlooked women like Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, or Ursual Burns, CEO of Xerox Corp., or Indra Nooyi, CEO of Pepsi, or Irene Rosenfeld, CEO of Kraft….I could go on. Despite the White Male Patriarchy that firmly remains, even in 2017, as the backdrop against which all American business and governmental affairs are conducted, it appears that there are, in fact, at least a FEW women who might have been BETTER choices than Princess Lightweight von TrustFund to represent our country at an international conference where women leaders explored issues such as gender gaps in the labor force, female entrepreneurship, and greater inclusion of women in STEM occupations. Yeah, I’m sure Sheryl Sandberg, who’s just written a terrific book on grieving and previously exhorted women to “Lean In” and demand their seat – and voice – at the professional table, had nothing meaningful to say on any of those topics.

But Angela Merkel invited Ivanka instead.

Ivanka Trump is an easy target, to be sure: How convenient her privilege, family money, and name recognition as the sole explanation for the unexpected level of success she has achieved at a relatively tender age (and that was before Trump supporters starting buying her merch as a show of solidarity with the man who financed those endeavors), especially given the lack of any evidence of formidible intelligence, talent, or sweat.

It’s also fun to hate Ivanka for always looking perfect, even 30 seconds after giving birth. The majority of us women who clean our own toilets and wipe our kid’s butts and noses often feel – justifiably, I think – some level of resentment that this woman, who can jet off to an international women’s summit on another continent without having to worry about who’s going to get the kids to school or make sure they have clean underpants, is always so well-coiffed, her makeup just so, and dressed so as to leave no question that there’s not an ounce of fat or a single stretch mark on her buff physique, notwithstanding three pregnancies. Yeah, she’s easy to hate, even though she’s sort of likeable, especially in comparison to (1) her father; (2) her brothers (the older ones, anyway); and (3) everyone else in the Trump Administration.

I would have expected more from Merkel, however, and I’m dismayed that, according to conventional wisdom, Merkel invited Ivanka to the W20 (instead of, say, Virginia Rometti, the CEO of IBM, or Sheri McCoy, former CEO of Johnson & Johnson and current CEO of Avon) because of the potential access such an invitation may later provide her for networking with President Pillsbury Q. Squeezebottom. Which also raises the question, why does Angela Merkel need ANY access to Frothy O’Sandwich Hands? She seems to be doing just fine without the smarmy comments and “I’m not gonna shake your hand and you can’t make me” nonsense of King Toddler McNeedaNap. There’s a possibility that Ivanka was invited so as to bring attention to the work of W20, but if that was the reason, maybe just invite Oprah Winfrey, or Emma Watson, or Beyonce, even? Same amount of publicity, greater intellectual heft, fewer boos.

I’m disappointed in Angela Merkel and unsurprised by Ivanka, but I am at least a little bit encouraged that the women who DID attend W20 called out Princess Fairy Dust and Pink-Iced Cupcakes for shilling for her creepy, disturbing father and trying to pass him off as a champion for women and families, when even bacteria, asparagus ferns, and mold spores know that he is neither.

The bottom line is, we don’t need to pay attention to Ivanka Trump, whether as window dressing at what was supposed to be a gathering of serious women, or as an apologist for the dryer lint that currently sits in the Oval Office. Ivanka Trump, minus her money and looks, has no greater pretense to be at the W20 Summit than any of the rest of us (in fact, she’s probably got less). We need to showcase women who set a standard of excellence, innovation, leadership, and courage, and Ivanka Trump is none of those things – not by a long shot. What she’s good at – trying to make her despicable father appear more palatable and less, well, despicable – isn’t worth entertaining, and none of us should be giving her any further opportunities to spout her dubious claims that the leader of the free world isn’t a misogynistic racist who would rather the poor, sick, and powerless just die already.

Angela Merkel, and all women who are in a position to elevate other deserving women, should keep that in mind the next time they’re writing out the guest list. Next time, ask Sheryl Sandberg what she’s got to say, and I doubt there will be any boos.