Staying Calm in the Face of Trumpism

A friend of mine recently posted on Facebook a link to a press release from her company that explained the company’s position on how the current administration is handling immigrant families at our nation’s borders. The release said that the company “does not support measures that discriminate against any group or limit our ability to hire the best talent for our business.”

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A mutual friend of ours then responded with a comment essentially calling out the statement as typical liberal overreaction to a basically nonexistent issue. Well, I went off on him, and it wasn’t pretty. The “current administration,” which is the nicest way I can think of to say, “those cruel, spineless, worthless ass wipes in the White House,” has made a complete mess of how we deal with immigrant families coming across our southern border, legally or illegally. (At this point, ICE makes no such distinction.) The issue has become a hot-button topic for me, and I reacted swiftly to his post and, I admit now, meanly.

Just a few days later I was presented, apparently by cosmic fate, two items that have given me a new perspective on how Facebook and other social media have helped to make compromise nearly impossible and how I, in turn, could make my role in protesting obscene policies more effective, rational, and humane.

Cosmic Item #1

The first item was a TED video from a remarkable young man, Dylan Marron, a digital creator who examines social issues in new and illuminating ways. The video, “How I Turn Negative Online Comments Into Positive Offline Conversations,” came to me at just the right time, when I was internally fretting over the string of comments with my friend, let’s call him Garry. My mind was arguing that I was right, but my gut wasn’t so sure.

Dylan talked about the number of hate comments he receives almost daily, and how he decided to engage with as many of his haters as he could — by phone. Most of the people he contacted agreed to speak with him, though some didn’t. Of those he spoke with, most seemed to him quite different than their comments might suggest. For example, at the end of a conversation with one of the commenters, Dylan asked, “Did the conversation we just had make you feel differently about how you write online?”

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The commenter responded, “Yeah! You know, when I said this to you, when I said you were a ‘talentless hack,’ I had never conversed with you in my life, really. I didn’t really know anything really about you. And I think that a lot of times, that’s what the comment sections really are, it’s really a way to get your anger at the world out on random profiles of strangers, pretty much.”

Dylan came away from this project, as did I and, I suspect, many others, with a clearer understanding of empathy in these fraught times. He said, “Empathy is not endorsement. Empathizing with someone you profoundly disagree with does not suddenly compromise your own deeply held beliefs and endorse theirs. Empathizing with someone who, for example, believes that being gay is a sin doesn’t mean that I’m suddenly going to drop everything, pack my bags and grab my one-way ticket to hell, right? It just means that I’m acknowledging the humanity of someone who was raised to think very differently from me.”

Those words, “empathy is not endorsement,” panged my gut, and I realized that I don’t have to feel so angry at Trump Supporters-slash-Hilliary Haters, that I can recognize their humanity while also disagreeing completely with their views. It’s as if I now have a cognitive tool I can use when faced with similar situations: Empathy is not endorsement. Yes, I like it.

Cosmic Item #2

The second item that affected me rather deeply was an opinion piece in the Washington Post, called “Maxine Waters shows why the Sarah Huckabee Sanders-Red Hen story is extremely important,” by Aaron Blake, senior political reporter for WP’s The Fix. In the piece he talked about the now infamous Red Hen brouhaha, the one in which Sarah Huckabee Sanders was politely ejected from a DC-area restaurant. He called the responses by many on the left “valid and understandable,” but also “simplistic.”

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He posits that “the Sanders-Red Hen situation has unearthed (or perhaps vivified) a growing sentiment in our society. It is seen in liberals and opponents of President Trump who are done with playing nice. It is apparent as the Democratic Party gradually sheds Michelle Obama’s declaration that ‘When they go low, we go high’ and trading it for ‘We fight fire with fire.’ It is borne of frustration and a lack of results after abiding by the norms of political discourse while Trump and his allies run roughshod over all the old rules.”

The Left is in new territory, here, and we’re not sure what to do. We’re going through a watershed moment in American history, and we’re finding many issues that need to be discussed, debated, and worked through. How we on the Left deal with friends on the Right, not only on social media but also, and more important, in person, will come to define not only our relationships with others but also how we will function in our rapidly-changing society. It’s a tough time, and I have no idea how things will turn out, but my gut says that, for me, Michelle Obama’s path is the right one.

And so, to Garry, I apologize for my tone, for reacting so forcefully, and for not being open to an actual conversation. And to everyone else whose political views vary so much from my own, I will do my best to take the high road with my commentary and to listen as closely as I can to opposing viewpoints.

But so help me, if that Cheetoh-headed nutjob does just one more evil, uncaring, knuckleheaded thing, I swear to God I’ll…

Deep breath. Hhhhhhmmmmm.

I. Will. Remain. Calm.

For now.

Gotta LUV That Spam!

Still Fighting for Clean Air Today

As I continue to research the Donora smog tragedy of 1948, I am continually disgusted by the anti-environment rhetoric of and actions taken by the current administration. The President, as I write this, is expected to sign an executive order tomorrow that would roll back President Obama’s clean power plan to reduce carbon emissions and curb global warming.

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The residents of Donora didn’t know much about smog in the 1940s. They didn’t know how deadly that rancid fog they breathed every day could be. To them, it was simply part of life. Devra Davis, an environmental epidemiologist and author of When Smoke Ran Like Water: Tales of Environmental Deception and the Battle Against Pollution, grew up in Donora. “Well, if you lived here it smelled just fine,” she writes. “People would come to the town, and they would say, ‘What’s that smell?’ And people who lived here would say, ‘What smell?’ And my grandpa would say, ‘Well, it smells like money.'”

Donorans feared for their jobs, so they quietly and, at the time quite reasonably, buried their head in the steel mill sand. It was just fog, they thought. What’s the big deal?

We now know how big a deal that fog was. We now know a number of things we didn’t know much about then:

  • Air pollution from factories, cars, trucks, wood-burning stoves, and the like cause heart and lung diseases and disorders.
  • Carbon dioxide and other pollutants break down Earth’s ozone layer and cause global warming.
  • Global warming is real, regardless of what the current administration might say. There is no debate about it among environmental scientists. None.

Scott Pruitt, the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency– the very agency that came about partly due to the Donora tragedy and its aftermath — has said he doesn’t believe that the release of carbon dioxide is responsible for global warming. “I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do,” he has said, “and there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact.”

No, Mr. Pruitt, you are wrong. Utterly and completely wrong.

I wonder how Ivan Ceh would feel about Mr. Pruitt’s comments and the current anti-environment agenda now in play in our nation’s capital. Mr. Ceh was the first victim of the Donora tragedy, succumbing at 1:30 in the morning on Saturday, the worst day of the smog.

Or how Ignace Hollowiti would feel. Ms. Hollowiti died sometime that Saturday morning before anyone could reach her with oxygen.

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Or how firefighter Bill Schempp would feel. Mr. Schempp and fellow firefighter, Jim Glaros, worked around the clock, creeping from house to house in the black fog, to deliver oxygen to desperately ill residents.

I think they might feel betrayed. I think Mr. Ceh and Ms. Hollowiti might feel as if they had died in vain, and that Mr. Schempp’s and Mr. Glaros’ efforts weren’t as valiant as they certainly were.

I think they might feel as if the nation, which had been given such a tragic wake-up call, might be going back to sleep, going back to a time when the burning odor of polluted air was just a fact of life.

Stay awake, America. The people of Donora — and you — deserve it.

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The Peaceful Transfer of Power and Hope

Inauguration Day for Donald J. Trump is in three days, and we will watch again as the transition of power from one party to another occurs peacefully and completely in a single day. Quite a remarkable occurrence.An occurrence, in fact, that forms the bedrock of a true democracy. I look forward to that peaceful transition of power this inauguration as I have every one I’ve been old enough to understand.

What I am not as sure of this time is the peaceful transition of hope.

I hope the new president and his team allow themselves to moderate over time, to to take into consideration all segments of society, and to compromise on the small issues so they don’t get in the way of the bigger ones.

I hope the new president and his team can learn to work collaboratively with those who disagree with them.

I hope the new president and his team can find their way through the many foreign policy challenges facing the nation.

I hope above all that the new president and his team really can bring the nation together more than it is now and can provide some kind of hope for us where there is none now.

http://www.history.com/topics/us-presidents/andrew-jackson
There are numerous parallels between Andrew Jackson
and Donald Trump. Jackson turned out to be a
horrible president. I hope Trump will do better.

It’s a big job, and I truly hope the new president and his team are up to the task.

Like millions of Americans, I don’t think they are, but I’m willing to give them a chance, and I believe most people are as well.

I hope they use that chance wisely.

Goodbye, 2016. Hello, 2017

We’ve had quite a divaricate year, all in all, one with a split personality, one that feels differently to me depending on whether I think about what happened in my personal life or what happened in the nation and the world.

Perhaps it is always that way, but 2016 certainly feels different.
Personally I had a lovely year. My incredible wife and I enjoyed good health, a great deal of happiness, and the frequent company of our wonderful friends and family. We welcomed a beautiful new granddaughter, and I retired in the fall and have been busy with our new puppy since then. I’ve been playing better golf, on the whole, and have had many fun rounds with great friends.
Our children have largely been healthy, though there have been instances here and there of less than stellar health. But no one has been seriously ill, and there have been no deaths in the immediate or extended family.
All to the good.
Nationally it has been a time of enormous upheaval, culminating with the election of the worst candidate for president since at least Andrew Jackson and quite possibly since the founding of our nation. We elected a racist, misogynistic, narcissistic sociopath the likes of which this country hasn’t seen since, well, I don’t know when.
We’ve seen the ugly racism that has been hiding just beneath the surface of too many people’s consciousness explode into overt and vicious racism. It’s as if all the grotesque biases lurking in the shadows have been given expression and general approval in the name of “making American great again.” Far too many people are saying, We’ve finally rid the White House of that blackie and have installed our very own white supremacist in his place. Hooray!

Sickening. Disgusting. Abhorrent.
Internationally we’ve seen atrocities in Aleppo, Russian interventions in Syria and Ukraine, and horrors committed by the Boko Haram in Nigeria.
Horribly sad.
I will remember 2016 like I remember 1968, as a tumultuous, life-altering period in our history and my own life. We all will emerge from 2016’s grip, without question, and we will survive as a people the next few years, but we will not be the same. We weren’t the same after WWI, nor after WWII, nor after Vietnam and the Nixon years, and we will be forever changed again after we push through this current period. 
I know not what 2017 will bring, inwardly or outwardly, but I know that we as a people, and I personally, will work through our issues as best we can, day in and day out. For in the end, that is all we can do.
I wish us all a healthy, happy, and meaningful new year.

Maybe It Won’t Be All Right

Donald Trump, a despicable human being, won the presidential election last night, and I am scared out of my mind about what he might do.

  • How many troops will die in a war he is almost certain to start?
  • How many poor people will die without the care they would have received from the Affordable Care Act, if he succeeds in dismantling it?
  • How many LGBTQ individuals will lose their job when laws protecting them are torn apart?
  • How many blacks will be jailed or killed while we make America great again (read: reverting to a time of overt, unjustified, and officially sanctioned racism)?

I wonder whether the political system is strong enough to prevent Trump and his Republican Senate and House from destroying Social Security, reversing gay marriage rights, or repealing Roe v. Wade. Whether we’ll be strong enough to prevent the start of a faux-democratic dictatorship. Whether Trump and the Supreme Court justices he ends up appointing will eventually demolish the social gains we’ve made through FDR’s New Deal and LBJ’s Great Society.

I hated Nixon, and I couldn’t stand George W. Bush and his evil sidekick, but I was never as afraid for my country as I am now. I was never as ashamed of my country as I am now. I was never as disgusted with the outcome of an election as I am now.

Presidents tend to moderate once in office, but this president-elect, this destructive, misogynistic, racist, mentally disturbed cretin is different. No one knows what he will do in office, what kind of damage he will do, what kind of havoc he will wreak. We’ve never faced an enemy like this, and it scares me senseless.

Now, maybe he’ll be okay. Maybe he’ll moderate and collaborate. Maybe he won’t be as destructive as I think. If so, I’ll be enormously, eternally grateful.

But I’m not betting on it.

Now, I’ll give the man a chance out of the gate, I really will. I promise.

But I also promise this: If he proves as Trumpy as he has in the campaign, as I believe he will, I will fight as hard as I can any stupid, corrupt, hateful, insane ideas. I will join any rebellion against him and scream with delight when he is finally, inevitably overthrown.

Getting Ready to Rumble! Or, You Know, Write.

My first two weeks of retirement have been spent partly getting used to being retired and mostly working around the house, doing a bunch of things I needed to do and normally would have done on weekends.

Well, I’m almost finished with those kinds of things and will soon be really digging into my writing. I’ve got so far a pretty solid idea for a trade biography and one for a smaller biography for teens. I’m still working through the concepts and may, in the end, ditch them both, but it’s a good start.

I’m trying, for these first projects at least, to kind of stay within my strengths and knowledge areas. I think that’s safest, but then again, it might be better to break away from that approach and take a leap. We’ll see.

Okay, that’s it for now.

Wait, there’s one more thing. Make sure you get out there and vote. For Hillary.

Not for that moronic, insane, disgusting pile of ass dandruff. You know the one.