Pot-Smoking Liberals and Gays Take Aim

So Ohio lawmaker, Candice Keller, has finally figured out why so many people out there are shooting up this country, and it’s a doozy. Since she’s now taken down her Facebook post, here’s what it said. Are you ready? Here we go:

“After every mass shooting, the liberals start the blame game. Why not place the blame where it belongs?

“The breakdown of the traditional American family (thank you, transgender, homosexual marriage, and drag queen advocates); fatherlessness, a subject no one discusses or believes is relevant; the ignoring of violent video games; the relaxing of laws against criminals (open borders); the acceptance of recreational marijuana; failed school policies (hello, parents who defend misbehaving students); disrespect to law enforcement (thank you, Obama), hatred of our veterans (thank you, professional athletes who hate our flag and National Anthem); the Dem Congress, many members whom (sic) are openly anti-Semitic; the culture, which totally ignores the importance of God and the church (until they elect a President); State officeholders, who have no interest whatsoever in learning about our Constitution and the Second Amendment; and snowflakes, who can’t accept a duly-elected President.

“Did I forget anybody? The list is long. And the fury will continue.”

Gosh, that’s a LOT of blame! Basically, only Christian Trump Voters (an oxymoron, I know) are exempt from responsibility.

But maybe Candice has a point. Let’s take this one at a time and see who is really to blame for all this gun violence:

The LGBTQ Community: I’d have to do some research, but I don’t think anyone in this group has ever perpetrated a mass shooting, and certainly not in the name of gay rights, although I have to agree that all of those lesbians and drag queens out there have ruined my marriage. I can barely give my husband a blow job anymore, I’m so upset. We’re about to celebrate 30 years of a very happy marriage, but if it weren’t for all those gays out there, we’d be even happier.

Fatherlessness: By this, I assume Ms. Keller means all those dead-beat dads out there that don’t pay child support for or raise their children. Yeah, that’s a problem. And dead-beat dads suck. So do dead-beat moms, because kids need loving parents, and they deserve to be well taken care of. So can we agree that people that don’t treat children well suck? Yes? Okay. Then Republican lawmakers suck.

Violent Video Games: I actually agree with this one. Score one for Ms. Keller.

Undocumented Immigrants: The reason for everything that’s bad in our country, like having fresh produce available for purchase in our stores pretty much any day of the year; or hotels that are clean and restaurants, period; or a poorly-paid labor market to scrub the toilets and raise the children of the rich. It’s really astonishing how those illegals are shooting up the country, like, just the other day this guy drove 10 hours to El Paso, Texas to kill – oh, wait a minute. Never mind.

Recreational Marijuana: If this were true, everyone in Colorado, Massachusetts, California, or Canada would have killed each other already. I sort of think that if you gave everyone who was thinking of shooting up a McDonald’s a few edibles, they’d probably just eat a box of Oreos and fall asleep. So…

The Educational System: Let me see if I understand: Teachers and administrators are responsible for turning out psychopaths who procure (in some cases, illegally) assault weapons or other firearms. I think this is a very good theory because those educators are so lazy. All they do all day is try to impart knowledge to overcrowded, underfunded classrooms of students, some of whom have no support at home, are living in poverty, and don’t have enough to eat, AND make sure every kid gets really high test scores so they don’t get fired. Goddammit, it’s the teachers!

President Obama: Well, obviously.

Professional Athletes: You know, nothing gripes my cookies like those professional athletes who HATE VETERANS. You know they do, because they say it all the time. They say, “I am taking a knee because I want to call attention to aspects of this country that are unfair to people of color (thanks, Colin Kaepernick!) or people who are gay (thanks, Megan Rapinoe!).” That’s what they say, you know, and then whenever they see veterans, they kick them and shove them and beat the shit out of them and leave them for dead…oh, wait…that was Matthew Shepherd. I’m sorry.

A BRIEF DIGRESSION:

Patriot Fun Fact #1: You can’t be a patriot unless you can only have one idea in your head and cannot tolerate hearing another viewpoint without melting into a puddle of Snowflake Juice.

Patriot Fun Fact #2: People who both love our country AND think that people shouldn’t be treated differently because of the color of their skin are NOT patriots.

LET’S GET BACK TO OUR LIST:

We were talking about who’s fault it is that the only place you can go without getting shot these days is a Pizza Hut, and that’s because the diarrhea starts the moment you walk in. If you go anywhere else, you’re going to get shot by:

The Anti-Semitic Democratic Congress: Although Jews make up 2 percent of the U.S. population, nearly 7 percent, or 36 of 535 members of the current Congress are Jewish. Of those 36, 34 are Democrats. Yeah, it’s the Democrats, all right.

All Those Non-Christians: To the extent that you are implicitly including Donald Trump in this group, yeah, I would have to agree. Apparently, it’s impossible to be non-Christian AND not shoot people. Which is why the First Amendment established Christianity as the national religion.

People Who Have No Interest in Learning About the Second Amendment: Are they better or worse than those people who aren’t interested in learning about the First Amendment? Just asking for a friend.

Snowflakes: You mean all those embittered straight white Christian males (spoiler alert: A lot of them are closeted gays who would feel so much better if they’d just accept who they are and meet a nice guy and settle down in a cozy little bungalow with a chocolate lab and frequent trips to Turks and Caicos)? You know – the ones who are enraged to the point of shooting up concerts and churches and synagogues and Wal-Marts and grocery stores and movie theatre and kindergarten children because they can’t handle that just having a pulse is no longer good enough to guarantee them a life of success, happiness, and the assured domination of anyone who isn’t also a straight white Christian male? Yeah, that’s what I thought you meant…Because that’s the actual definition of every Snowflake I’ve ever met.

People Who Can’t Accept a Duly Elected President: Not to quibble, but I don’t think it’s the “duly elected part,” (which, of course, is problematic, what with the fact that he didn’t actually win the popular vote), I think it’s the “Racist, Misogynistic, Sexually Predatory, Uneducated, Incurious, Undisciplined, Divisive, Thuggish, Unprepared, Narcissistic, Mentally Ill, Morally Bankrupt, Disabled-Mocking, Muslim-Hating, Unprincipled, Lying, Deceitful, Untrustworthy, Laughable, Treasonous Son-of-a-Bitch” that has some people just a tad bit fired up.

Surprisingly, Ms. Keller did not mention the mentally ill – and not, I am sure, because she doesn’t think they are part of the problem, but because, I am certain, she opposes any sort of funding for the identification and treatment of mental illness.

So that’s whose fault it is. Not the (overwhelmingly Republican) lawmakers across the country who refuse to enact even the most modest of gun control laws.

Not the NRA, which pours money into the coffers of said lawmakers in order to make sure that they don’t enact even the most modest of gun control laws.

Not a president who encourages hatred and division in order to divert attention from the fact that he’s a…well, you know what he is. Yeah, you do.

Not those who hate/cannot tolerate the existence of anyone who doesn’t look/worship/think like them and who believe that having lots of guns will protect you from having to face the fact that they’re an asshole. Yeah, they are.

Not even those who actually pull the trigger – even though guns don’t kill people, people kill people, and even though the people who have been pulling the trigger of late are overwhelmingly racist, xenophobic, prejudiced dicks.

ANOTHER BRIEF DIGRESSION:

Dear Snowflakes:

You know how you’re all angry and shit because you were too lazy and entitled to achieve your dreams and goals?

Nobody did that to you. Not the immigrants or the gays or the Muslims or women or people of color.

Love, Wendy

LET’S WRAP THIS THING UP, COULD WE?

To sum up, the people responsible for all these mass shootings are the Democratic Atheistic Immigrant Pot-Smoking Gay Teacher-Athletes.

So now you know.

A STORY OF RAPE IN FIVE ACTS, WITH AN ENCORE

OVERTURE

I hear a lot of people worrying about all those poor guys out there who get accused of rape – you know, people like Donald Trump, Jr., who is more concerned about his sons than his daughters where the issue of sexual assault is concerned.

And you know, let’s be honest here:  Guys have it tough.  It’s hard when all women, without exception, immediately report that they have been sexually assaulted (that is, maybe 20%, at best), and most women who accuse men of rape are lying (a whopping 2% – 10% according to one US Study, 8% according to the FBI), so what’s a guy to do?

Lucky for you boys, it looks like you the criminal justice system has got your back.  Between prosecutors who won’t charge and judges who aren’t sure sexual assault is really so bad, you can be free to rape away without cause for concern.  At best, you’ll walk with no jail time, and at worst, you may have to serve a few months (less if she was drunk, because she was asking for it).

Here’s the story – a Play in Five Acts – curated expressly for all those Rapey McRapersons who just can’t keep their hands to themselves.

ACT I:  SAD SWIMMER SORRY (NOT SORRY)

In June 2015, Brock Turner, a student at Stanford University and a member of its swim team, was discovered by two graduate students as he raped an unconscious woman.  Although Turner attempted to flee, one of the students chased him down and tackled him as Turner smiled and laughed.

The victim, whom Turner had approached and tried to kiss at a fraternity party earlier that evening, was taken to the hospital, where she was found to have dried blood on her hands and elbows, abrasions, bruising, and penetrating trauma to her genitalia.  Turner admitted to having consumed nine drinks on the evening in question and had a blood alcohol level of 0.17% at the time of his arrest.  The victim’s BAL was estimated to be roughly 0.22% at the time of the assault, a level which would have precluded her from giving consent.  A year prior to the assault, Turner was arrested on campus for underage drinking; his cell phone texts included extensive discussions of his use of alcohol and illegal drugs.

At trial, the jury convicted Turner of assault with intent to rape an intoxicated woman, sexually penetrating an intoxicated person with a foreign object, and sexually penetrating an unconscious person with a foreign object.

Prior to sentencing, Turner’s father read a letter in which he lamented that his son “will never be the one that he dreamed about and worked so hard to achieve… He will never be his happy go lucky self with that easy going personality and welcoming smile,” and stated that a prison sentence would be “a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life.”

Although the prosecuting attorney had requested a sentence of six years (the minimum guidelines for the charges of which he was convicted), Presiding Judge Aaron Persky sentenced Turner to six months in prison, followed by three months of probation.  In support of this decision, he cited Turner’s youth, lack of a significant prior record, and lack of “criminal sophistication,” noting as well that “there is less moral culpability attached to the defendant who is legally intoxicated” and that a prison sentence would have a “severe impact” on Turner.

In September 2016, Turner was released from jail after serving only half of his six-month sentence.  Turner has never admitted to the conduct which led to his conviction and maintains his innocence.

Takeaway:  A “dry humping” defense may not be particularly effective – a better strategy is to blame it on “the party culture and risk-taking behavior” that is a part of college life.

ACT II:  ALASKA ATTACKER ABSOLVED (…AND ALL THAT JIZZ)

On August 8, 2017, 34-year-old Justin Schneider offered a young woman a ride in his truck.  She accepted, and he agreed to take her to her destination after he stopped to pick up a few things from a friend.  A few minutes later, he pulled over, stopped his vehicle, and asked her to get out of the truck to help him load up.  When she did, he grabbed her by the throat and choked her until she blacked out, all the while threatening to kill her.  He then masturbated to completion on her face.  As the victim regained consciousness, Schneider was zipping up.  He threw her backpack at her and drove away.

Somehow, the victim had the presence of mind to call 911 and report Schneider’s license plate.  Schneider, who is married, did not contest the victim’s version of the events, but he didn’t have to:  In Alaska, it’s not a crime to jerk off all over someone’s face.  Assistant District Attorney Andrew Grannick also declined to pursue kidnapping charges because “the victim willingly got into Mr. Schneider’s vehicle and willingly drove with him to the location of the assault.”

Schneider plead guilty to a single count of second-degree assault and was given a suspended sentence of one year in prison.  The district attorney who agreed to the plea deal stated that Mr. Schneider should be on notice that this is his one “pass,” noting also that Schneider had already received a “life sentence” when he lost his government job as the result of his conduct.  Sentencing Judge Michael Corey warned Schneider, “this can never happen again.”

As he walked out of the courtroom a free man, Schneider stated, “I would just like to emphasize how grateful I am for this process.”

Teachable Moment:  If you ask the girl if she wants a ride and she says yes, anything goes!

ACT III:          EVERYTHING’S LEGAL IN JERSEY

Scene 1:  If There is No Gun, It’s All in Fun

In 2017, a 16-year-old Eagle Scout “from a good family” raped an intoxicated teenage girl, filmed it, and sent it to his buddies with the text, “when your first time having sex was rape.” The video showed the assailant penetrating the young woman from behind and banging her head against a cement wall.  Prior to the assault, the defendant and other males at had sprayed Febreeze on the victim’s buttocks and slapped her so hard that she had visible hand marks even many hours later.  Video of the victim at the time of the rape revealed that she was stumbling and slurring her speech.

After the victim pressed charges, the prosecutor sought to have the assailant tried as an adult.  Judge James Troiano declined to do so, stating that the defendant had good test scores, was from a good family that had sent him to an “excellent school,” and was destined to go to a good college.  Troiano also refused to characterize the defendant’s behavior as “rape,” but suggested what had happened was merely a “sexual assault” because there was only one assailant, and no weapons were involved.

Troiano also attributed the defendant’s admission of guilt via text to “a 16-year-old kid saying stupid crap to his friends” and chided the prosecuting attorney for telling the victim and her family that bringing charges against the boy could have a “devastating effect” on his life.

Scene 2:  It’s Not a Crime, Even if it’s Her “First Time”

Judge Marcia Silva of the Middlesex County, New Jersey Family Law Court, declined to try a 16-year-old boy who raped a 12-year-old girl in 2017, finding that “the offense is not an especially heinous or cruel offense.”  Although the victim reported that her assailant had

pushed her, grabbed her hands, removed her clothing and penetrated her without consent, causing her to lose her virginity, Judge Silva concluded, “beyond losing her virginity, the State did not claim that the victim suffered any further injuries, either physical, mental or emotional.”

A Tip from the Pros:   Location, location, location!

ACT IV:  HERE COMES THE JUDGE (….OR, FIVE IS MAGIC NUMBER)

Judge Calvin R. Holden seems to have a special love of child molesters – let’s look at his record:

  • In 2019, he sentenced 22-year old Joseph Robert Meili, who plead guilty to third-degree child molestation after raping an 11-year-old girl in his Missouri home, to five years of supervised probation, with no jail time.
  • The same day, he issued the same sentenced to 21-year-old Avery Genovese, who was convicted of the statutory rape of a 12-year-old girl.
  • In 2016, he sentenced a 24-year-old man who sexually assaulted an 8-year-old he had agreed to babysit to 30 days in jail and five years of probation.
  • ater that year, Beau Maurice Gormley, 33, who had been convicted of the statutory rape of a 16-year-old co-worker, received the same sentence from Holden.

Practice Pointer:  The probationary period is a great time to get your online degree – at the end, your criminal record may be expunged, and you’ll be so much more marketable!

ACT V:  A FEW FOR THE ROAD

  • A Texas woman who had been hospitalized and sedated was repeatedly raped by a physician, Shafeeq Sheikh. The victim tried calling for help, but the nurse’s button was unplugged.  He was eventually convicted of rape but was given no prison time (2013, Texas).
  • Austin James Wilkerson sexually assaulted an intoxicated freshman at University of Colorado at Boulder, after telling her friends he would take care of her. Judge Patrick Butler, however, said he “struggled” with the idea of putting Wilkerson in jail, ultimately sentencing him to 20 years probation, and two years in a prison work-release program (Colorado 2014).
  • Owen Labrie, a student at the elite St. Paul’s School, was accused of raping a 14-year-old female classmate as part of “Senior Salute,” a game of sexual conquest. He was found him guilty of misdemeanor sexual assault charges and endangering a child’s welfare and was sentenced to a year in jail, of which he served less than nine months, having been released for “good behavior” (2015, New Hampshire)
  • Baylor University student Jacob Walter Anderson repeatedly raped, gagged, and choked a woman at a 2016 frat party. Anderson pleaded no contest to the lesser charge of unlawful restraint, and agreed to go to counseling and pay a $400 fine.  He will not be required to register as a sex offender or serve any jail time (2016, Texas).
  • 18-year-old David Becker sexually assaulted two of his classmates while they were sleeping following a house party, stating he thought there was nothing wrong with his conduct because the victims – who, again, were asleep – “didn’t protest.” He was sentenced to two years’ probation.  Said his attorney, “[h]e can now look forward to a productive life without being burdened with the stigma of having to register as a sex offender.” (2016, Massachusetts)
  • Nicholas Fifield of Iowa, met a woman who suffered from seven mental disorders, including autism and dissociative identity disorder through an online dating website and convinced her caretakers at the group home where she lived to let him take her to the movies. Instead, he allegedly took her to his home and forced her to perform oral sex.  Fifield was charged with third-degree sex abuse of a person “suffering from a mental defect or incapacity, which precludes giving consent.” But plead guilty to a lesser crime.  Polk County prosecutor John Sarcone told the press he would not pursue jail time for Fifield, claiming “prison would not do this kid any good” (Iowa 2016).
  • John Enochs of Illinois received one year of probation after being accused of raping two women; prosecutors accepted his plea to the charge of misdemeanor batter despite surveillance video which clearly showed him entering the room of one of the victim and notwithstanding that the second victim produced an eyewitness, who confirmed her account of rape (2016, Illinois).
  • A South Dakota high school student was raped by a classmate during a summer band trip to Minnesota. The rapist, Nicholas Schumacher, was found guilty of felony sex assault the following year, and sentencing guidelines called for a four-year prison sentence.  Instead, he was given a year’s sentence in the county jail but released after only nine months (2016, Minnesota).
  • A woman alleged that University of Virginia student Stephen Baril (the grandson of a former Virginia governor) offered to walk her home from a bar but ended up taking her to his apartment where he raped and sodomized her. Baril plead guilty to misdemeanor sexual battery and felony unlawful wounding and was sentenced to five years of supervised probation (2017, Virginia).
  • Logan Michael Osborn, met a 14-year-old girl at a high school play, asked her to take a walk, then pushed the girl down, tied a belt around her neck and hands and performed a sex act as he pushed her against a fence and down to her knees. Osborn plead guilty to carnal knowledge of the victim but claimed that the encounter was consensual. Osborn was originally sentenced to 10 years in prison with eight years suspended, but Osborn never served any time after the trial judge issued a stay with respect to the 2 years’ jail time despite seven prior allegations of sexual misconduct (2017, Virginia).
  • 26-year-old Shane Piche admitted to raping a 14-year-old girl who rode the school bus he drove. Piche, who plead guilty to third-degree rape, invited the 14-year-old victim to his New York home, gave her alcohol and raped her. He was sentenced to no jail time and received 10 years’ probation (2016, New York).
  • Alec Cook was convicted of multiple sexual assaults, stalking and choking women at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Cook admitted to these charges at his sentencing hearing, stating “I’m sorry, I was wrong.”  The charges carried a possibility of 40 years in jail.  He was sentenced to three (2018, Wisconsin).
  • Michael Wysolovski admitted to keeping a 17-year-old teenage girl in sexual captivity for more than a year. When she was found, she was severely malnourished and been kept in a dog cage.  Her assailant plead guilty to first-degree cruelty toward a child and was sentenced to 8 months in jail, plus 10 years’ probation (2018, Georgia).

ENCORE, ENCORE!

Are you mad now? No?

Well, maybe you will be when I tell you that there are people sitting in jail right now, who have been sentenced to life in prison, for the following crimes:

  • Attempting to cash a stolen check
  • Possessing stolen wrenches
  • Siphoning gasoline from a truck
  • Shoplifting three belts from a department store
  • Taking an abusive stepfather’s gun from shared home

Consider also that the unfortunate ones below served more time that most of the rapists on the above list:

  • Gary Harrington served a 30-day jail sentence after collecting rainwater on his property. It was apparently a violation of a state law that says that all water is publicly owned, according to the 1925 Oregon law.
  • Ashley Huff spent a month in jail after she was accused of possession of methamphetamine when police found a suspicious spoon in her car. Turns out the residue was in fact sauce from a can of SpaghettiOs.
  • Lori Teel was summoned to appear in court after she forgot to return one Twilight book and two DVDs of the set Twilight: New Moon. When she failed to do that, a warrant was issued for her arrest and she was incarcerated for a night.
  • Tonya Ann Fowler didn’t like her unattractive police mugshot, so she called 911 to complain. She got arrested and had the chance to have a new mugshot before spending three days in custody.

Are you mad now? No?

Well then, I give up.

APPLAUSE

Choice and the 63 Million

Pro-Choice advocates are appropriately concerned about recent laws enacted in Georgia, Alabama and Missouri that effectively outlaw abortion under any circumstances and would imprison physicians who perform them.

These laws are unconstitutional. All sitting Supreme Court Justices testified under oath during their confirmation hearings that, consistent with stare decisis (the bedrock principle of our judicial system) they would uphold the precedent of Roe v. Wade, as that is a matter of settled law.

If the justices act as they have promised they would (so help them God), these laws represent an obstacle for women seeking legal abortion – no small thing – but ultimately one which is temporary.

If the justices do not act as they have promised they would (so help them God), then Roe is overturned and states are free to enact legislation outlawing abortion.

We all know what happens next: Unsafe, life-threatening back alley abortions for the poor; safe, “therapeutic” D & C’s for the rich. Same as it ever was.

There isn’t much any of us can do to influence the make-up of the Supreme Court…that ship sailed 2 1/2 years ago when 63 million Americans put their faith in an unhinged narcissist whose single consideration in all things is, which choice will inure to me greater power and total control?

What we can do is make sure he doesn’t get re-elected, which, given his behavior thus far, shouldn’t be a tall order, except it turns out that our country is a lot more racist, homophobic, xenophobic, anti-Semitic, and misogynistic than anyone ever suspected.

And then there are those lawmakers in Georgia and Alabama. They didn’t just wake up one morning as legislator or governor…someone elected them. A whole lot of people, actually, and one must assume that those people are okay with ending a woman’s right to choose whether or not she wants to have a child, even if that decision was foisted upon her by a rapist.

And so I guess what I’m saying is, if you don’t like where we are headed, then thank the good people of Alabama, Georgia, and the 63 million who elected a king.

Me? I’m proud to be one of the 66 Million.

On Mother’s Day, If You Care About Mothers…

It’s Mother’s Day…time for all who have mothers to be guilted into buying florid, ornate greeting cards, wildly overpriced flowers, or jewelry chain store bling, so as to check off that box.

A time for some politicians, in a transparent act of pandering, to wax rhapsodic about the importance of mothers while enacting legislation that limits reproductive choice, gutting critical educational programs and funding, lifting regulations intended to address the impact of climate change, repealing the ACA, all while enabling children to be gunned down in school day after day after day.

If you care about mothers, support their right to make family planning decisions free from the threat of criminal liability.

If you care about mothers, make sure their children have access to quality education.

If you care about mothers, work to guarantee that their children will have a healthy planet on which to live.

If you care about mothers, insist that they can assure their child’s good health by demanding affordable health care.

Finally, if you care about mothers, scream at the top of your voice for sensible gun control, so that those mothers don’t end up burying their children.

Or you can just buy a card and call it a day.

The Truth About Autism

We recently began watching a TV series in which two parents learn that their son is on the Autistic Spectrum. They freak out. They cry a lot. They act like assholes.

Over the course of several episodes, they consult a specialist because he’s the best, then challenge him…like assholes…when they hear the news that their son is, indeed, autistic. They push their way into a school for kids on the spectrum and berate the director when she tells them the school simply has no openings…perhaps because the school wants to make sure it can meet the needs of the kids who are already enrolled. They eventually get their way, and their kid jumps the line…because his parents are assholes.

They hire a therapeutic behavioralist and immediately challenge her methods, then complain about how much her services cost, but ultimately everyone is happy because now the wife can stop faking her orgasms. Yes. They’re assholes.

It’s a TV show. It’s targeted at people who are 20 years younger than I am. The life lessons it seeks to teach are ones I learned a long time ago, and I can spot most of the conflict coming thirty seconds after the theme music has ended. So, it’s not my thing, and, also, it’s a TV show. Some of it is probably pretty accurate. Some of it is probably relatable. But most of the parents are assholes.

When we found out Allie was autistic, we freaked out, too. There was a whole year where I thought I could “fix” her if only I could combine the perfect combination of therapy, interventions, equipment and a rigorous home program.

This was in the 90’s, mind you. Before Autism Speaks, before the blue puzzle piece logo, before most people knew anything. There was almost nothing in the way of support, and for five years I went from doctor to doctor practically screaming, “tell me what’s wrong!” only to be told there was nothing wrong.

They were wrong.

Allie was diagnosed at 5. It took us 4 years to get an appointment with the only autism specialist in Philadelphia, and during those 4 years we tried to figure it out for ourselves. By the time we got in to see the specialist, she basically told us that she had nothing to offer us other than her seal of approval for the team we had cobbled together for Allie – the occupational therapists and speech therapists, the educators at the school we couldn’t afford but sent Allie to anyway, and the medical specialists (neurology, psychiatry), the behavioral specialist and the TSS and wraparound service people, the meds, the homemade equipment to address sensory integration issues. It was pretty much the best we could do.

Allie is now almost 25. It has already been a long road. She’s been so fortunate to have had outstanding, tireless advocates in the form of teachers and therapists and our dear friends who have loved her and supported her. She had 4 years at a specialized sleepaway camp for kids on the spectrum, and she spent a difficult year in a remote corner of West Virginia with virtually zero support from the faculty at her equine studies program, buoyed only by the amazing young woman we hired who became her champion.

Allie now works at a therapeutic equine program that has embraced her as part of their family, and where she knows and loves each horse as a dear friend. She works part time at a movie theatre. She’s in a book club. She’s the adoring owner of a ginger Maine Coon cat who is almost as beautiful as she is. She’s pretty amazing.

Of course no one rejoices when they are told their child will almost certainly struggle every day of their life, and no one jumps for joy when they think about how hard it will be that their kid is going to be different in ways that may profoundly impact how – or whether – others value them.

So, I get that these parents on this TV show freaked out, because, of course they did, and who wouldn’t, and it’s really dumb to get pissed off by a TV show that exists mainly to sell advertising and generate revenue, and no one ever watched a network television show and said, “that precisely reflects my actual life experience, without comedic or dramatic embellishment.”

BECAUSE IT’S TELEVISION, STUPID!

But here’s my point: People often behave as though autism is a fate worse than virtually anything else that could befall their child, ever. Worse than being blind, or losing a limb, or getting cancer. The fear of autism is so great that many people refuse to vaccinate their kids against DISEASES THAT CAN KILL YOU on the basis of a thoroughly discredited “scientific study” and the say-so of a Playboy centerfold model who got her medical degree from the University of Oh, That’s Right, I’m an Asshole.

My daughter has autism, and guess what? It’s no more and no less a part of her than her startlingly beautiful sapphire eyes, her grace while trotting her horse in a dressage ring, the earnest pride she takes in being a reliable worker, or her determination to lead a meaningful life. Freak out all you want, asshole TV character parents, but even though you aren’t real, I wish I could meet up with you when your TV kid is 25 and ask you whether you’d want him to be anything but what he is.

My Allie is everything I ever hoped she would be – she is hardworking, honest, kind, and empathic. She is loving and silly and a good cook. She has a frighteningly exhaustive memory and looks great in a Carhart coverall. She’s our Boops, our Lissie, our Rosebud. And she’s perfect just the way she is.

A Few Thoughts About the College Admissions Scandal

Dear Felicity and Lori:

When I was a college senior, we typed our applications on an IBM Selectric (if we were lucky enough to have a mom who access to one at work), and we used Wite Out to cover up the mistakes.

We wrote our own essays, we took our own SATs, and we ended up where we ended up.

And we survived.

We were blessed with friends who, with a most loving heart, recommended we read Frank Bruni when, during a rainy visit to Pitt, our beloved Beanie got a shitty rejection from the School of Her Dreams (Fuck You, School of Beanie’s Dreams! Like you would EVER have understood how miraculous she is!)

And we survived.

My kids did not go to USC, they did not pretend to be on a crew team, and we did not have $500k lying around for us to bribe some university coach so we could skip the line.

How did our kids ever manage to survive?

I don’t know, really, but one of them earned a Masters in speech and language pathology and now helps young adults on the autistic spectrum express themselves. One helps others with disabilities gain confidence and greater vestibular/sensory awareness through equine therapy. One hopes to help us better understand our humanity through the paleo anthropological record.

That’s what you do when you don’t live in Hollywood.

Love, A Mother Who Didn’t Pay $500,000 to Get Her Kids into College

P.S. Bill Macy, I thought you were better than that.

Millennials – I Love ‘Em!

Every time someone over the age of fifty (that is, my generation) opens their mouth to say something about Millennials (anyone born between 1981 and 2000), it’s inevitably something negative. They’re spoiled and demanding. They’re snowflakes and need constant reassurance. They’re lazy and entitled. They have no respect for the generations that came before them. And, they’re ALWAYS on their phones.

As the parent of three Millennials who have introduced me to countless more through their group activities and friendships over the years, as someone whose friends’ kids are all Millennials, and as someone who regularly encounters Millennials in the course of my professional life, I call bullshit.

I’ll say it proudly. I love Millennials! As for all of those criticisms? It’s all in the way you frame the discussion. I don’t see Millennials as lazy, I see them as individuals who are trying to learn from their baby boomer parents that having a work-life balance is important. Both my husband and I are professionals who would no sooner have taken a gap year than sliced off a finger or two; rather, we rushed headlong into medical school and law school respectively, and we haven’t had a break in thirty years. Our careers have only gotten more demanding with age and experience, and there doesn’t appear to be an off-ramp or any realistic way to pull back without forfeiting the income we have come to depend upon.

Millennials have watched their parents working relentless hours, answering emails while on vacation and returning business calls well after the end of the work day, and the result is that they have learned they don’t want a career that allows them precious little time for personal pursuits. Is that lazy? I don’t think so; as a slave to the billable hour, I think it’s downright brilliant. If I could go back and recraft my life, I would think seriously about choosing a different job that paid less but left more time and energy for things that nourish my soul. By the time I’ve hit my hourly goal for the month, I don’t have much left in the tank to think about taking up a new hobby or learning Spanish.

I also disagree that Millennials are overly sensitive or are “snowflakes,” a word I detest. Instead, I see a generation who would like to treat those who aren’t White, Christian, American, heterosexual, or cis-gendered, equitably and with respect. Is that a bad thing? If you’re a racial or religious minority, or if you’re LGBTQ, probably not. I see Millennials as legitimately concerned about inclusion and fundamental fairness. They are the ones who shout for those who can only whisper, who gently chide their well-meaning parents about tolerance and respect for things they may not understand, and in so doing, seek to achieve something closer to a level playing field for all. I think that’s admirable.

And disrespectful? Well, if you want to characterize holding accountable the lawmakers and gun lobby for refusing to consider reasonable gun control, or putting a spotlight on the greed of Wall Street, as disrespectful, okay. I call it making asking adults to be responsible.

Here’s some other things that are true of Millennials:

• They are more likely to take gap years, and in doing so, come to a better understanding of how they want to live their lives. This means they don’t spend many years and hundreds of thousands of dollars pursuing education and training in a field that may ultimately not be a good fit.

• They are more likely to participate in mission trips, community service, or other activities that are outer-directed. This means that they are more aware of the hardships faced by the impoverished, the sick, and the oppressed, and are in turn more compassionate and more likely to speak up for those who need their advocacy.

• They are less likely to see those with physical and mental disabilities as shameful, repugnant, or the object of ridicule. Millennials are far more likely to be inclusive and respectful of those who struggle with physical handicaps or intellectual disability; the days of jokes about “riding the short bus,” and the use of the word “retard” as an insult, have greatly declined since I was young and those in the specials needs classes were called “SPEDs.”

• They care about the environment – which is important, since they are the ones who are going to inherit this planet and be charged with the task of cleaning it up. Thanks to my youngest daughter, I’m no longer allowed to use disposable straws, and forget about leaving the water on while washing the dishes.

• They’re innovative. Millennials are responsible for Lyft, Spotify, Groupon, Air BnB and Bark Box. They’re also responsible for most of the hottest online apps, such as SnapChat, Bumble, Tinder, Instagram, and Facebook. Like it or not, they’re digitally savvy and constantly improving how we use technology.

There are lots of reasons to love Millennials, so why do so many seem to hate on them so much?

I suspect some it has to do with jealousy, as in, “in my day, we walked to school in 6’ of snow, uphill, both ways, and so should you.” The misery-loves-company mindset has never contributed anything to the world other than resentment and bitterness, and for those dissatisfied with their lot in life, perhaps calling Millennials pampered snowflakes (rather than praise them for their insight and conscious choices) feels easier than considering whether our own decisions were the right ones (and perhaps they were).

It also has something to do with Baby Boomer Parents who have overindulged their children, and there are plenty of those who have in some instances raised hothouse flowers who can’t cope when faced with the realities of adulthood. But whose fault is that? Eventually, yes, the Millennial must face the music and “adult,” despite the shortcomings of well-meaning helicopter parents, but if you have a gripe with Millennials based upon what you think of as a lack of accountability, motivation – or, really, anything else – think about where the blame should squarely fall – it’s not on the kids.

For those who continue to insist that Millennials are the worst generation ever, however, I have to say this:

Look at the world they grew up in, and ask yourself whether that might have something to do with whatever it is about Millennials that you hate.

Think they’re sissies? Consider that Millennials learned at a very early age that at any moment, some lunatic could break into their school and shoot their classmates, their teachers, or they themselves, and that politicians care more about NRA lobbying money than the lives of children.

Consider also that they learned that in the space of a few hours, a gorgeous September day could end with the deaths of 3,000 innocents, all because of “religious” beliefs.

Consider that they have from a tender age, they have been warned about “bad touch,” but that the people they were supposed to be able to trust – priests and scout leaders, for example – could sexually assault them and get away with it. For. Years.

Consider that they learned that you can grope and harass and rape women with no consequence. Like. All. The. Time.

Consider that they learned if you’re gay, someone might tie you to a fence and beat you until you die.

Consider that the impact of climate change may threaten their very existence.

Then ask yourself whether they have good reason not to want to grow up.

This is the world that Millennials have grown up in. It’s a wonder they haven’t all committed suicide.

Millennials, a lot of us older people suck, we’ve messed up pretty much everything, and we’ve left you a world that is corrupt and hateful.

But I believe in you. I believe in your compassion, your sense of justice, the fact that you are unafraid to take on previous generations to challenge the status quo and demand fairness.

I believe in your ability and desire to do good works for others. I believe in your sincere hope for a better world. I believe that you are good and fine and courageous.

Millennials, I love you, and the rest of the world should, too, for it will be you that finally set us straight.

In Debt We Trust

June 26, 2017

When I’m in the car, I listen to CNN, so I get to hear the same ads over and over again. In addition to learning that Tommy John men’s underwear makes a guy’s junk feel all warm and cozy (I wouldn’t know), I also know that Madison Reed hair color will empower you for only $30.00 a month (note to listeners: Amy Eric looks nothing like you think she will), and that ZipRecruiter takes the hassle out of hiring quality employees. Whether it’s the Third Love bra ladies (Heidi Zack and Rayelle Cohen), Scott Tannen of Boll and Branch luxury linens (thank god his annoying wife, Missy, who sounds much like an anxious Chihuahua, no longer appears in the radio spots), or one of the ten thousand mattress companies that deliver right to your door (like, how is that even possible?), I’ve pretty much got clothing, personal care, and household items wrapped up. All because I listen to CNN.

What I’ve also learned from CNN’s sponsors is that if you don’t feel like paying your taxes, or those pesky credit card balances, you don’t actually have to. After you’ve bought your hair color and luxury linens and pee-pee nestling underpants, you can hire some credit agency, or some tax relief company, and with a flick of the wrist, poof! Your liability dissolves, and you can go on with your life of sleeping on really great mattresses in a bra so comfortable you’ll forget you’re wearing it.

Now, if you know anything about me, you are aware that I am a bleeding heart liberal of the most earthy-crunchy variety (excepting that I don’t like granola, or trail mix, or raisins – particularly raisins. I hate raisins.) I do yoga. I meditate. I read the writings of the Dalai Lama and try to live his teachings. I encourage others to look for the best in people and, when confronted with the assholes of the world – the person who cuts you off in traffic, the lady who jumps ahead of you in line, the sales clerk who is rude – I tell myself that maybe they are having their worst day ever, and I try to find something nice to say to put a smile on their face. It doesn’t always work.

I regularly tout the crises we face throughout our lives as marvelous opportunities for personal growth. I exhort others to practice peace, respect and compassion to such a degree that some wonder if one of my children could just hit me over the head with a shovel already. I’m a sunny and optimistic person who believes in universal affordable healthcare and the idea of America as a welcoming place of love and tolerance for all, where our diversity is our strength, and our strength is our shared commonality of love of country.

Bottom line? I’m a pretty forgiving, compassionate sort who is willing to let a lot – A LOT – slide when it comes to how other people act and what they do (unless they are toxic negative horrible narcissistic people, and then all bets are off), so what I’m about to say may come as a shock, and you may want to hold onto your underpants:

Pay your damned bills, people. Pay your damned bills.

At the risk of displaying some serious privilege here (and feel free to call me on it if I am), if there is one thing I cannot tolerate (besides being interrupted – that really gripes my cookies), it’s a lack of personal accountability, particularly when it comes to one’s financial obligations. That makes me tear-out-my (not Madison Reed colored) hair, throw a shoe at the wall crazy.

I’m not talking about people who find themselves in the middle of a crisis they could not have planned for – a sudden layoff, a catastrophic injury or illness, say – and I am a firm believer that personal bankruptcy laws are an important resource for those who have been confronted by unexpected financial hardship. I’m not even talking about people whose credit card balances largely reflect predatory interest rates and penalties, or those who have been out of work so long they are forced to pay for basic necessities with plastic. I’m talking about people who use their credit cards to buy things they don’t need and can’t afford in the first place, people who refuse to live within their means, people who spend every penny they make not on necessities but on things they could do without, and believe it or not, you can, in fact, do without a 56″ screen television or a Michael Kors handbag.

I have compassion for those who are experiencing real financial hardship not entirely of their own making, but let’s face it: The vast majority of consumer debt that is forgiven was not incurred paying for medical bills or diapers; in most cases, it was the result of a simple lack of discipline, and I have some first-hand experience to back that up: As an attorney arbitrator, I have heard many, many credit card cases in which it becomes crystal clear that the debt at issue was incurred on dining out, clothing purchases, vacations…you name it. Some of these same consumer debt defendants show up for their hearings driving late-model luxury cars which they backed out of the garage of their beautifully landscaped single family home. Don’t believe me? Hang out at the Lehigh County Bar Association, where such hearings are held, and see for yourself.

When it comes to not paying taxes, moreover, I am even less tolerant. Remember when you got your first job making $2.50 an hour, and after working 20 hours, you thought your paycheck would be $50.00? That’s when you learned about taxes, and FICA, and all those other withholdings that someone takes out of your paycheck every month, whether you want them to or not. Responsible Americans pay their share – even for things they might not like paying for (Mitch McConnell’s salary, for example), and when the amount they’ve withheld throughout the year turns out not to be enough, they write a check for the balance. Then they drink an entire bottle of vodka. That’s called being a grownup.

Those earners who don’t have withholdings taken out – the self-employed, the independent contractors, etc. – have to be responsible in setting aside enough of their earnings so that when April 15 rolls around, they can pay the taxman, and the vast majority do. Turns out, however, that some people don’t, don’t get around to actually filing a return, or writing the check that entitles them to drink an entire bottle of vodka. They just don’t pay their taxes. And I’m like, that’s a thing? I didn’t think that was a thing.

Apparently, however, you can not pay your taxes, sometimes for quite a while, before there’s any dire consequences. In fact, if you never apply for credit, if you don’t keep large balances in your bank accounts, and if you don’t own anything to which a lien could attach, you could potentially avoid paying taxes pretty much forever. Yes, I know that they eventually got Al Capone, but unless you’re running an organized crime syndicate, you’re probably okay. Which means that those of us suckers who dutifully set aside a portion of our wages or else assure that our withholdings properly reflect our income tax liability are paying not just our share, but those of a bunch of deadbeats as well. Thank rankles me, and I don’t think they should be let off the hook.

I certainly recognize why credit card companies and the IRS are willing to negotiate with debtors – they’d rather recover something rather than nothing, and it’s cheaper to work things out than to pay for attorneys to file suit and then execute on the debtor’s assets – if there are any, that is. It’s a business decision, not a matter of principle for the creditors, and anyway, credit card companies know that those consumers who end up having some or all of their debt written off will be back, sooner rather than later, applying for credit and running up their balances again, thereby generating profits in the form of interest payments that line the pockets of bank CEO’s. Banks are willing to take less now because they know that people rarely change their spending habits and that the American consumer will not be deterred in the never-ending quest for more stuff.

And that’s part of the problem: While I don’t have any statistics on this, I think it’s pretty much a given that in providing “credit relief,” banks are essentially enabling bad habits and a lack of fiscal discipline that will likely be repeated in the future, because the only way anyone ever learns how to use credit cards responsibly is by having to pay them off on their own. Ask someone who’s had their debt paid off by someone else whether or not they currently have any outstanding credit card balances (not that you would do that, because it would be really rude), and I’ll bet you a nickel the answer is yes. Credit card banks profit when consumers are fiscally irresponsible, and so those banks have no interest in rehabilitating them of their belief that it’s possible to acquire things you can’t afford without ever having to pay for them.

My annoyance that so many end up having consumer debt or tax liabilities forgiven is partially rooted in an embarrassing resentment that stems from the fact that it’s taken Michael and I a long time and a lot of hard work to come to a place of fiscal health. Medical and law school loans and a child with special needs whose therapeutic services weren’t covered by insurance created a sword of Damocles that hung over our head for years. Sure, we’re strong earners, and we have always been able to provide for our family. But at the risk of sounding like my Dad, no one bailed us out when things were tough, and the position we are in now reflects sacrifice, hard decisions, and a lot of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.

As well, at least one former friend expressed surprised at the modesty of our living accommodations based upon her assumptions about our income, having the audacity to say to me about the home we still (and proudly) inhabit, “you guys must have a lot of debt to live where you do.” Michael and I made decisions over the years about what we thought was worth spending our money on (education, therapy services, travel when possible), that’s how we spent it, and not once did we ever ask someone else to foot the bill. Bottom line – you buy it, you pay for it, period. There is no free lunch. Death and taxes. You get the idea.

There’s a larger issue, however, one that’s less mean-spirited and more global: When people don’t pay their credit card debt, it’s bad for everyone. Today, the average household with credit card debt has balances totaling $16,748. https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/average-credit-card-debt-household/ This debt reflects, at least in part, the fact that, since 2003, the cost of living has outpaced income growth by 2%. https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2016/demo/acsbr15-02.pdf For most Americans, this discrepancy has meant not belt-tightening or doing without, but, rather, more credit card debt.

You may say, who am I to sit in judgment of how others spend their money? Perhaps I’m not, until it’s you and me who end up paying for it. At its worst, large-scale unpaid credit impacts the economy even for those who pay their bills: Remember when the housing bubble burst in 2008, and all those banks had to be bailed out? Guess who paid for that? The American public – those who pay their taxes, anyway. We also pay for it in the form of higher interest rates and more stringent credit/lending criteria – anyone who has tried to get a mortgage in the past eight years can tell you that gone are the days of low down-payment adjustable mortgages (which is probably a good thing), and even people with excellent credit, reliable income, and substantial assets are reporting that it’s more difficult than it used to be to get approved for financing of any kind.

I wish I believed that more stringent restrictions on credit would reduce the amount of debt that Americans take on, and would encourage them to be more mindful and responsible in their spending and saving, but they won’t, because we are a society that thrives on immediate gratification – I want it, I have to have it, I get it. While many are aggressive in their retirement planning, few maintain a good, old-fashioned savings account – not one that they feed very often, anyway. According to a Federal Reserve report, nearly half of Americans couldn’t cover a $400 emergency expense without borrowing the money or selling something, and of those who have savings account (roughly one in five do not), almost 30% report having a zero balance, and 62% have less than $1,000 in savings. https://www.fool.com/retirement/general/2016/03/11/the-average-americans-saving-habits-9-scary-statis.aspx. Which is why they rack up credit card debt. And so on, and so on, and so on.

We have to stop living on borrowed money, both as individuals and as a society as a whole. I won’t get into the whole federal deficit and its ramifications, but it’s not good. There are plenty of tips to avoid creating mammoth credit card balances (keep an emergency fund, pay your balance in full each month, etc.) https://www.thebalance.com/avoid-credit-card-debt-960043, but what it really comes down to is this: If you can’t pay for it with cash and it’s not an emergency, you don’t need it and can’t afford it, so don’t buy it and stick the rest of us with the bill – we all have enough of our own. I’ll happily contribute to universal healthcare for all by means of my tax bill; I’ll fork over money to fund the arts, pay for schools, and underwrite scientific research, and if a few extra dollars to Uncle Sam would ensure that no child went hungry, ever, you could sign me up for that, too, but I’m not paying for your trip to Disney, your Home Shopping Network addiction, or your Franklin Mint State Bird spoon collection. Pay your bills, pay your taxes, and stop buying into the notion that more things will make you happier – they almost never do.

I’m going to retreat into my Grumpy Troll Cave now and scarf down some Milanos, which will no doubt return me to my normal bleeding-heart Mother Wendy self in no time, and then I’ll go out for a walk in a new pair of Target socks that nestle my toes and make them feel all warm and cozy. Milanos – $2.49. Six-pack of athletic socks – $8.99. Fiscal responsibility – priceless.

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.