Get Over It, America!

The fact is he won: the election and the court case. 

Did he win fairly? In his mind, any time he wins it’s fair. In your mind? Depending on your political bent (Trump or Anti-Trump), maybe not. 

There is room for debate and dismay. He won the electoral vote, but not the popular vote. He had Russia’s help on the election, whether he and Putin had an actual agreement or not. He won the court case, but he appointed the man who chose the winner.

So, now what? If you’re a believer in Trump, you celebrate, give a sigh of relief, and cheer him on. If you’re Anti-Trump, you suck your thumb, whine about the stacked system, and keep attacking him in any way you can.

Either choice is just plain stupid.

I don’t know many people who think Trump is honest, honorable, or interested in anything but himself, including a lot of people who voted for him. Then why did they vote for him? Because they thought Hillary was worse. 

I suspect that opinion of Trump includes Attorney General Barr as well as many of the ret of the people Trump brought into his government. Then why did Barr make the decision he made?  I suspect he felt that was the correct decision according to law.

But none of this speculation matters. None of it.

Trump won. Twice now. It’s that simple. Get over it.

In a little less than two years we are going to have another battle. We’re going to have another choice. We can take sides according to what are now religious beliefs (Trumpism or Anti-Trumpism) generated by one man, Donald J. Trump. We can continue with Hate Politics or try something new.

Or we can grow up and line up according to our vision for the country.

Here are some issues that our two new religions have buried.

Education. Our educational system, once one of the best in the world, is now far behind leaders like Scandinavia, the UK, most of Europe. Many of our teachers are paid like street sweepers. Many of our school buildings and curricula are moldy and inadequate. The system is failing.  And taxpayers, rather than fix the system, argue about the cost and courses.

Infrastructure. We bounce from pothole to pothole on many roads. Bridges are being closed due to risk of collapse. Trains are slowed because the rails they ride on are decrepit. Airports are overcrowded. Water systems are being closed due to filthy and poisonous water. The electric grid is wide open to hacking. Sewer systems are overwhelmed. Subways in New York are running through 100 year old tunnels. In California, the electric company caused wildfires that killed people and communities.

Climate Change. We are not only unprepared for climate change, we’re still debating its existence, even as midwest farms are being destroyed by 100 year floods – every few years – even as the seas are rising, even as the icecap is melting, even as violent weather ravages lives and economies.

Foreign Relations. Once the world’s leader, we’re now being dismissed, not by our enemies, but also by our allies. Europe is sticking to the Iran treaty and ignoring us. China is stealing our technology, not to mention our customers. Russia takes over neighboring countries militarily and we simply wag our fingers at them. Refugees are fleeing countries in desperation, a worldwide problem if ever there was one, and we do virtually nothing. Russia clearly attempts to rig our elections and we don’t even replace vulnerable voting machines.

IT. The internet is wide open to attack. We are allowing companies like Comcast and Verizon to operate as monopolies in communities all over the country. Hackers use the Internet to steal billions; they are even extorting hospitals, by threatening to shut them down. We have no way of stopping them. Companies like Facebook, Google and others are stealing and selling the details of our daily lives without us even knowing. Foreign enemies are stealing and using state secrets against us. We do nothing.

Healthcare. The pharmaceutical companies over- advertise and over-charge, leaving people to die in the process. Insurance companies are over-charging and underpaying our health costs, thereby bankrupting people. Doctors give us 10 minute dollops of time because the country isn’t producing enough of them and the ones we have are quitting due to insurance companies.

These are just a few of what are clear and growing national problems. The next President, the next Senate and House, will have to tackle these problems. Hopefully.

What are your solutions to these problems? Which politicians will pursue those solutions? And how are you going to help elect them?  

What’s your vision for this country we love? Are you going to continue to engage in Hate Politics or are you going to do something productive?

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What to name a French Poodle.

“Monsieur Le Chauffer, I have a question for you”, says my newly “re-homed” black standard  French Poodle the other day.

We are driving to a dog park and the radio has just finished a story on the rise of White Supremacy around the world. He’s spread across the entire back seat. He likes to lounge.

“Sure, Bud!” I say. I rarely get a question from him. Even though he’s only a year old, he has the ego of a much older dog and prefers to answer questions, rather than ask them – in French, English or Bark!

Today, it’s English, which is fortunate for me. I don’t speak Bark! and my French is old school – as in dusty high school French.

About two months ago, when I first got him, I noticed a small white spot at the front of each of his ears, as though he was wearing “Earbuds”. So I named him “Ear Bud”. Clever, huh?… (OK, not so clever. He told me it was “tres stupid! I’m French! Not common!”)

The next day my neighbor saw us walking. “What a beautiful French poodle!!” she said. She gave him a big hug and rubbed his ears. “You are so-o-o-cute!” He reveled in the attention. (Me? I’m just a necessity at the end of the leash.)

We get to the dog park. As I look for a spot for the car, he asks again, “What’s a White Supremacist?”

(I feel like saying it is a white person who believes in the superiority of the white race, kind of like a certain French Poodle who believes in his own superiority. But I am nothing if not gracious.)

“It’s a white person who believes in the superiority of the white race”, I say, and then turn directly to him,  “kind of like a certain French Poodle who believes he is superior to humans.” (Hey, I don’t get many chances, you know.)

“I will ignore that puerile little comment,” he says, as I leash him up.  “Really. What makes white people superior? You are white and you are certainly not superior. In fact…”

(What? What!  How does he do that so effortlessly?)

I sigh. “Well, it’s kind of convoluted. But the idea is that white people are smarter, win more wars, and are more successful than, say Africans, or Asians, or Middle Easterners, and others. So some white people ignore the thousands of years of other cultures’ successes and think their current success is strictly due to the color of their skin. They think they’re superior because they’re white”.

We get out of the car. The other dogs see us and start barking.

“Oh, so you’re saying non-whites are stupid, weak, and losers ?”

“Well, no. I didn’t say —“

“—But you just did.”

“No, it’s what the White Suprem—“

—Suddenly the leash almost pops out of my hand as he yanks me toward to the gate. I open it and unleash him. There’s more barking as he bolts to his friends. I see my friend Stephanie who has just gotten back from France. I join her. 

“He hates the name “Bud”, I tell her. 

“Yeah, well, he’s pretty smart, alright.” (Hey!…)

We watch as Bud plays with a Shelty. Shelties are herding dogs. Although he’s far bigger, the Shelty runs circles around Bud, nipping his heels until he moves where the Shelty aims him.

“Why don’t you give him a French name?” 

Bud does the one thing that only Poodles do. Using one of his huge paws like a hand, he plops the Shelty to the ground. Then, he runs off, this time after a Yorkshire Terrier, who darts under a bench. Bud tries to wriggle under the bench, but is too big. All we see is his big rear with its wagging tail. 

“You could call him Mon Ami.” When she says it, it sounds musical and sophisticated.

“Hey! Monna…Animini…ini !” I shout to him. She laughs. “Or you can stick with Bud. We’re not in France.”  

All three dogs now run after a greyhound, who does what all greyhounds do, leaves them in the dust. 

Bud comes over and stares at me, breathing hard. “C’est la vie” (such is life). Sometimes even French Poodles aren’t best at everything.”  Stephanie wraps her arms around him. “He is so-o-o- cute, isn’t he!”  He looks smugly at me, “But we are best often enough, as you can see.”  

And, over his shoulder, as he runs back to the other dogs, “Especially black French poodles. We may not be superior to other dogs all the time, but to certain individuals, we are definitely superior – bien sur!” (for sure!)

That does it. The name is Bud.

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It’s Not Trump’s Civil War

In the last Civil War, the division was clear: slavery vs. non-slavery. The Greys have always described it as a state’s rights issue, but that was horse puckey then and it is now: the “rights” were to own slaves.

The country today is nearly as divided as it was during the Civil War. Although only a few nutcases are thinking of wielding weapons against each other, it feels like we’re on the verge of another Civil War, this one not between the Greys and the Blues, but between the Reds and the Blues. 

This is not to belittle the Greys. In 1787, the drafters of the Constitution gave black people 3/5’s the voting value of white people. When you’re raised from infancy hearing blacks are 3/5ths of whites, you tend to believe it. 

And it’s not to belittle the fact that there was only one way to plant and pick cotton then, the Greys’ primary way of making money, and it wasn’t with robots.

Nevertheless, it was what it was: slavery. And it wasn’t what it wasn’t: right. 

Even though the ‘Three Fifths Clause” was repealed in 1868, the belief in black inferiority is still in the country’s DNA. 

Aside from slavery, though, both sides in the Civil War shared many of the same values: fairness, integrity, protecting the innocent, morality, and trustworthiness, for example.

The divide over our current Civil War, is far less clear. Is it Globalism vs Nationalism, Capitalism vs Socialism, Climate Change vs (what?) Non-Climate Change, Rich vs Poor,  Progressives vs Conservatives? Or the old standby: Republicans vs Democrats? 

The answer is “Yes”. 

But we’ve survived national differences before. So, what’s different this time?

The first answer might be our Divider in Chief, right? Trump fights his detractors by attacking them, dividing them, and turning them against each other. Anyone who’s not with him is his enemy, and the list changes at his whim. He loves to boil the pot.

But he’s only been doing this for 3 years. And these issues have been growing for far longer.

I suggest the common denominator isn’t Trump; it’s a deterioration of shared values. 

Take corporations, for example. Increasing shareholder value didn’t exist before the 20thcentury. It now directs much of the US economy. This week a Federal Court found United Healthcare guilty of denying coverage to tens of thousands of mentally ill patients. They had insurance, but United Healthcare refused to pay for their treatment. That’s emblematic of the entire health insurance field, not to mention the Pharmaceutical industry. 

So much for protecting the innocent.

Cheating is another relatively new American value. Over the last few decades or so, it has become rampant in colleges, high schools, and even elementary schools. Until now, it’s been pretty much contained to students. This week, though, the Justice Department charged 50 people in a multimillion-dollar scheme of cheating on entrance exams and bribing college officials, including admissions officials at Georgetown, Stanford, and Yale. And the parents were part of it. 

So much for integrity.

(Can you imagine that even 50 years ago? OK, we won’t answer that until Penn publishes Trump’s SAT scores.)

How about an impartial justice system? In the last week Paul Manafort was sentenced to 47 months in jail for defrauding the IRS of $6 million – stealing from the government. And those 47 months will likely be reduced to 22 months. Upon hearing that, a public defender in Brooklyn noted that, in the same week, his client was sentenced to 36 to 72 months – for stealing $100 worth of quarters from a laundry room. 

So much for fairness.

In 2016, the year Trump became President, a Gallup poll showed that only 26% of the country had confidence in our Justice system.

The Catholic Church, the bastion of morality, is finally facing up to raping children. In a January 2019 poll, fewer than a third of U.S. Catholics rated the honesty and ethical standards of clergy as “very high” or “high”.  

So much for morality.

How about the media? Remember when CBS’s Walter Cronkite shined a spotlight on the Viet Nam War?  According to Gallup, trust in the media, at 72% in 1976, dropped to 45% in 2018. Just last week, the Democratic National Committee blocked Fox News from hosting any of the 2020 presidential primary debates. Why? Because they’re biased against Democrats.

So much for trustworthiness.

These are just examples, but they make a point: a deterioration of shared values is causing Americans to lose confidence in our national institutions. And ultimately, ourselves.

Yes, Trump lies, cheats, and steals – more so than any leader we’ve ever had – but he is not the cause of this new Civil War; he’s just a symptom. It isn’t him; it’s us.   

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How To Be A Kid

There are a lot of books, articles, videos and blogs on how to be a parent, “How to be a good parents (with pictures)”, “50 Easy Ways To Be A Good Parent”, “Nine Steps to More Effective Parenting”, etc.

However, all that information begs another, far more important question: how to be a kid.

To be an expert in most things, you have to go to school, study hard, pass a test and get a license. To drive, you have to pass a driving test to get a license. To get married, you don’t have to go to school or pass a test, but you have to get a license.  

To be a parent you just have to know how to play a certain three-letter activity with a somewhat unpredictable outcome.

Which is kind of confusing for the kids. They arrive with a “What the…?!”

And it gets even more confusing from then on. 

As a kid you control nothing in your life. You only get fed when the big woman with the comfy chest decides it’s time. Yucky paper things get wrapped around your middle, often by the big guy with a big face that makes really big noises when the paper things slip. 

No one speaks your language. They can only differentiate between your crying and laughing (how stupid is that?!).  

As you get older, you learn their language (they never learn yours) and then they send you to a place called “school” where you learn boring stuff, but nothing about being a kid.

Later, it gets more confusing. When some of your friends have their own comfy chests, you’re told you can’t even look at them, much less touch them. And they just giggle and point at your funny-thing that they don’t have. Or vice versa. 

And maybe, during all that confusion, the two people who seem to know everything and keep you safe start yelling a lot and it’s scary. And one day one of them moves away and you don’t know why, but you’re pretty sure it’s your fault. 

Or maybe they just take you somewhere and leave you. And strangers give you food and a place to sleep, but the food is only sometimes and the sleep is no longer easy because its a scary place and now you know it’s your fault.

And through all of it, no one explains what happened or why. And even if they do, they use words with too many parts, like or “alcoholism” or “inappropriate”. Nothing about how to be a kid, nothing at all.

Later, maybe you get kicked out of school because math and english and science and history aren’t nearly as cool as smoking and drinking and drugging and doing what you want instead of what you’re told to want. 

And you have no idea why your life is in blurry pieces.

Or maybe you’re one of the really courageous ones and somehow, before it’s too late, you force yourself away from that path, you discover the damage that was done to you, you repair it to the extent you can, and save a life. Yours.  

Or maybe you’re really, really lucky and life is confusing, but laughter and hugs also fill your day and none of the scary stuff happens and you don’t have to save a life. 

Eventually you become an adult, get a job, marry a comfy-chested person or a funny-thing person and have a kid. So, finally, you get one of those books about kids – about the you who is long gone.

Pretty nutty, huh?

Kids have no responsibility or control over their lives. They’re completely vulnerable. They don’t know what’s going to happen to them until it happens. It’s only when they’re no longer kids, when they become adults that they control their own lives. They decide to learn about things like raising kids, having healthy relationships, about children of alcoholics or the impact of divorce, or foster care, and more. All the stuff its too late to do much about.

We are schooled on how to go to the moon, win wars, fight disease, invent new things, make money.  But, on being a kid? Nothing.

Imagine if, along with other subjects in school, there were as many books or courses – not on raising a kid, but on being a kid – as there are on parenting: on dealing with parents and other kids, on the physical and emotional stages of growing from childhood to adulthood, taught in kids terms. 

Imagine a kid understanding and learning how to be a kid – while it is happening – instead of later, when it’s too late to get it right.

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