Relax, America. Just do the right thing.

In St. Louis the other day, a crowd of protesters walked toward the Mayor’s home. They passed a big mansion with columns, in front of which stood a couple, the man with an assault rifle, the woman with a pistol. Both weapons were pointed at the protesters.

For a few moments, emotions frayed. Protesters, already angry at the Mayor, became agitated at the guns. The couple, already angry at protests in general, became agitated by the size and closeness of the crowd. Then someone in the crowd reminded everyone that their goal was the Mayor’s house, and they moved on.

Cooler heads prevailed.

In Philadelphia last week a peaceful crowd of protesters, many of whom had umbrellas to ward off potential teargas, was hemmed by a phalanx of cops in full battle gear. A woman with a red umbrella got too close to one of the cops. He grabbed the umbrella, which scared the woman and other protesters near her. They yelled and fought to hold onto the umbrella.  Other cops, farther back, seeing the wobbling umbrella and the ensuing commotion, started yelling and attacked the crowd. 

Cooler heads did not prevail.

Fear begets anger, anger begets violence, violence begets injury and death.  Because of the police abuse, because of the Coronavirus, because of isolating at home, because of a divided country, because of a shrinking economy, because of expanding unemployment, because of summer heat, because of climate change, because of…all of it, we’re afraid.

And anger is right there, ready to turn vitriol into violence, turmoil into tragedy.

Yes, 80,000 lives could have been saved if Trump had acted in February, if he hadn’t turned masks into partisan statements and social distancing into cowardice. Yes, we want baseball to start again. Yes we want to go to a restaurant on a Saturday night. Yes, we want to take our kids to the park or a movie. Yes we want normal back.

But no, we can’t have that, at least not now.

So, as a country, we’re going to have to do something we haven’t done for over 75 years: become less selfish.

During World War II, the whole country – well, most of it – was unselfish. It accepted rationing, made do with old equipment, and donated to the War effort. That helped win the war. 

Ever since then, we’ve grown more and more self-centered. Advertisements tell us “You deserve …” whatever they’re trying to sell. The American Dream says, “You can have it all.” 

By 2016 we had arrived at the point where “Take what you want and screw the other guy” was the unwritten law of the land. 

And now comes Covid19 and isolating at home and quarantining. It has not only infected 2.5 million Americans and killed over 126,000, it has tanked the economy. And already here is Global Warming, which is far more frightening than Covid 19 and will last, not just a year or so, but for decades, maybe tanking the planet. And in charge of it all a President who embodies all that has made America Ungreat: A bastion of selfishness and corruption. 

A Trifecta.

Even before his election, you could see his character traits nationwide: Increasing racism by resentful white voters, bullying by the police, lying by advertisers, cheating by school students and their parents, selling out to special interests by politicians. He didn’t invent these traits; he just embodies and encourages them. 

We have plenty of reasons to be angry, very angry,

But, while his character may represent many Americans, it does not represent all Americans.

There are some unselfish people, with integrity, respect for others, and loyalty to the common good. The people who have those qualities are the ones we look to today.

They are the police who serve and protect instead of attack and dominate. They are the students who won’t cheat, the politicians who won’t be bought, the advertisers and merchants who won’t lie, the everyday Americans who will isolate and wear masks – not for themselves, but for others – because that’s the only chance we have.

If all of these people will just relax and do the right thing, if they – really you and I – can lead by example, maybe we can get through this the way Americans of old did and actually be great again, instead of just bragging about it on hats and t-shirts.

(If you like this, pass it on. If you don't, pass it on anyway. Why should you suffer alone?)

Almost for Immediate Release

The White House – The President’s personal valet was fired on Sunday, the day after the President’s return from Tulsa. Although there was no official reason offered, an astute observer noted it was in Tulsa that the President discovered he had no clothes.

The White House interior decorator was also fired for not removing all full-length mirrors from the residence. 


AP – Senator Lindsey Graham was recently admitted to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for whiplash. The cause was not a car accident; it was his abrupt shift from attacking Democrats to giving Democratic Senator Schumer control over who will replace recently fired United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Geoffrey Berman. 

“I think it was that last pivot,” said the ER doctor to Graham.  “Have you ever thought of going into politics and forgetting kissing up to power?”


AP – Drs. Deborah Birx and Anthony Fauci have not appeared together in public in over two weeks, which has public health officials concerned. Rumors that they had been locked in the White House underground bunker by President Trump have been denied by White House staff. When asked directly, President Trump admitted to vaguely knowing Fauci and Birx, but was adamant about never hunkering down in the underground bunker.


UPI – Sarah Sanders is forming a new singing group called “Sarah and the Evangelicals”. Their first gig is to be the night after the election in Mike Pence’s living room. It will feature Mike Pence as soloist in honor of his service to the nation and the Evangelical Community. If the Trump wins, Mike’s first song will be “Onward Christian Soldiers”. If Trump loses, Mike’s first song will be a lively musical rendition of those famous words, “Free at last, free at last. Great God almighty I’m free at last.”


Trump Campaign – Because of rules concerning the Coronavirus, and out of an abundance of caution for the health of his supporters, the President has contracted with the Disney Company and Pixar Animation to produce a virtual Presidential campaign for the next 5 months. Disney will create virtual locations around the country, from a Hollywood Bowl to a Grand Old Opry to a Yankee Stadium. Pixar will create a virtual version of the President giving rousing speeches to thousands “maybe millions!” of virtual President’s supporters. The rallies will appear on Disney’s ABC and affiliated networks.

“The ratings, quite frankly, will set records for broadcasting and streaming!” said the President. “Virtually the biggest ever!”

In addition to a campaign “far safer than anything Obama ever came up with”, this “fantastic new approach to campaigning” will allow the real President to spend more real time on his real golf courses.

He will be joined on the links by the real virtual Vice President, Mike Pence.


The Pentagon – Rumors that the President’s nuclear football has been confiscated by the Pentagon are “just one more example of fake news”, according to Dr. Mark T. Esper, Secretary of Defense.

“The President never said he intended to play football with it and it was never confiscated”, said Esper. “It is just being borrowed by the Joint Chiefs until … well…soon.”


(If you like this, pass it on. If you don't, pass it on anyway. Why should you suffer alone?)

You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

Next Sunday is Father’s Day. I think it is kind of a stupid holiday. I have six kids. I ought to know. 

Why stupid? Because I’ve already received gifts – thousands of them – in all those days I spent with my kids: running up and down stairs, with one toddler in each arm giggling and screaming while holding onto my hair for dear life; seeing the smile on a five year old’s face when she said “I love you” and then added “AND I like you!”; watching one son score in soccer; watching another give the most insightful high school graduation speech I’d ever heard, moving a daughter into a five story Brooklyn walk-up; buying the first book a son authored and illustrated.

There is no part of life better than being a father, including all the arguments, the failures (mostly mine, not theirs), the angst over their bumps in the road. While my other career in TV and video had its highs, it wasn’t half as rewarding as my primary career.

And you know what’s really weird about that? I had no training. I had to learn on the job. I had great training for my second career as a producer-director: a good education, a degree in Communications, and had great mentoring. But my training for fatherhood consisted of the old TV show and truism:  “Father Knows Best”; to wit, fathers are benevolent dictators and everyone does what they’re told.  

Our first-born wasn’t 2 hours out of the hospital before I learned the folly of that – the real dictator was a cuddly bundle of poop and smiles.  I relearned it repeatedly over the years, from missing an Eagles score because of a diaper change, to going to a teacher’s conference instead of an Eagles game (you may note a bit of a trend, here). My kids learned the same thing when I stayed late at the studio or had to travel for a shoot.

Raising kids is a balancing act, not a dictatorship.

Another part of parenting – and life – is: you don’t know what you don’t know.

For a ninth birthday party, I took kids and some friends to the Disney movie “Holes”. Toward the end of the movie the African American hero and the white blond heroine kissed. On the way home I asked what they thought about that.

“Oh Dad!” said one in a patronizing voice. And another: “They were in love!” 

That was it. End of discussion. I was proud of them, their friends, and their school. 

A few years later they started complaining about the African American kids at school, that they were pushing and shoving the other kids. They asked me why. I guessed that they had learned that from friends and family – maybe as a way of their fending off bullies. But I really had no idea. So I just suggested avoiding anyone who made them uncomfortable or scared. Over the years, each group went their separate ways.

I gave my kids good educations. They studied the Revolution and learned that “all men are created equal” was written by a slave owner. They studied the Civil War and its disastrous results for the South. They traveled and experienced bits of other cultures.

They learned that democracies need balance to thrive. Your right to speak must be balanced against my right not to be slandered. My right to safety cannot threaten your safety. 

During my second career, I had occasion to see some real poverty, but leave it behind at the end of the shoot.  Only once – in some Tennessee mountains, where the only way people warded off winter cold was to line their clothes with crumpled newspaper – was poverty populated by white faces.

It was always jarring. Where was the balance? Do poor people have a right to eat, to be warm, to go to school, to have babies…? I edited some compelling stories about poverty, but it was always in the comfort of high tech editing rooms, well distanced from what I had filmed. As a result, from the Watts riots to Rodney King to Michael Brown to Colin Kaepernick’s first knee, and more, I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

Being white and comfortable – privileged – has always had its drawbacks. For all of us. It has kept this nation out of balance.

Then came the cell phone videos. Then came George Floyd’s murder. Then came more videos. Then came worldwide demonstrations. 

Then came a Facebook posting from a former professional clown, former bookstore sales person and current novelist. Her explanation of protests is personal, articulate, and full of what I didn’t know. What Kimberly Jones said was so compelling I sent the link to readers of this column last week. 

( In case you missed it.

While full, deep understanding can only come from living in the other person’s shoes, in a few short minutes she sure fits you for a pair. 

Oh, I sent it to my kids, too – an early Father’s Day Present.

(If you like this, pass it on. If you don't, pass it on anyway. Why should you suffer alone?)

What Happened to “Protect and Serve”?

For the last two weeks, Trump and his sidekick, Barr, have been trying to dominate the demonstrators. What a surprise: two old school bullies try to bully their way through a national crisis.

They used a modern version of horse soldiers, national and local police, secret service, and combat soldiers wielding flash bangs, tear gas, and batons to attack fellow citizens peacefully exercising their First Amendment rights near the White House.  

Guess who won? Not the jeans and t-shirt crowd.

“Dominate the streets! ” was Trump’s command of the week. He hurled it at governors in a nationwide phone call at the same time Barr was demonstrating it on the demonstrators in Lafayette Park.

In reaction, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser thumbed DC’s nose at him with a curb-to-curb painting on the street in front of the White House: “Black Lives Matter”. (In politic-speak, “Screw You, Trump!”)

It also drew screams of foul, predictably from Democrats, but unpredictably from a few key Republicans and long admired military leaders.

Is the foundation of Trump’s divide and conquer political strategy starting to crack? Maybe. It’s certainly the only time in US history that the current Secretary of Defense, along with a series of former military leaders, have come out against their President.

The absolute folly of “Dominate! Dominate! Dominate!” was proven immediately as governors started prosecutions against police who wounded or killed demonstrators and as public anger in Minneapolis evolved into a national movement to curtail or “defund” police departments across the country.

Old footage of police of using tear gas and attack dogs against African Americans in the 50’s and 60’s was replayed across the country. The only scene missing was the 1960’s girl placing a flower in the barrel of a soldier’s gun.

Trump’s obsession with reigniting 1950’s racism resulted in, not just the biggest nationwide protests since the 60’s, but protests across the world, from London and Berlin to Australia. 

And you know who has been caught up and trapped in this burst of ego and fear? Those we used to call “Peace Officers”: the police. 

Today police have become part military combat force and part support system. They perform SWAT team duties and settle domestic disputes. They solve murders and rescue lost dogs. They communicate with Phd’s from foreign countries and with high school dropouts from next door. They catch robbers and murderers and rescue people from floods. They attack First Amendment protestors and take a knee with them.

“Protect and Serve” has become “Protect, Serve, Attack, Dominate, and Everything In Between”.

So citizens have become distrusting and police have become self-protective and adversarial. Their loyalty is, above all, to the “Blue Line”. Their union, the Fraternal Order of Police, has become all-powerful. It has established numerous laws giving police virtual immunity from prosecution for anything from assault to murder. Municipalities don’t choose their police officers; the FOP does. Most cities or towns can’t fire police officers; instead they have to go through a lengthy and expensive arbitration system that is heavily stacked in favor of the FOP. 

And police are very expensive. One example: the police costs for five full time and six part-time officers in Malvern PA, a town of about 3000, takes up between a third and half of the town’s entire budget.

As a result and with the catalyst of the last few weeks, municipalities are now looking at reducing police duties and moving those duties and funds to other areas of expertise. 

For example, ever since Reagan emptied mental hospitals in the 80’s police have had to take on the mentally ill. “Defunding” would put money back into the mental health system where real experts can do a better job.

Not every police department needs military equipment or SWAT teams. Not every town needs so many cops. And not all cops need military combat vehicles, flash bangs, tear gas, or assault rifles to protect and serve their citizens.

A few years ago an English police force experimented with training police to actually help demonstrators by directing traffic for them and preventing violence and looting – without wearing combat gear. The result: fewer arrests, less damage, happier citizens.

A few years ago, the state of New Jersey completely replaced the police in Camden NJ. Result: better community policing and support, fewer arrests overall – especially during the last few weeks – and a happier police force.

Imagine reducing the conflict between police and citizens by reducing the demands on police while making them more accountable, by leaving combat to the military, by funding mental health and other services. 

Imagine ignoring Trump’s and Barr’s churlish demand to “Dominate the streets!” and letting police just “Protect and Serve”.

(If you like this, pass it on. If you don't, pass it on anyway. Why should you suffer alone?)

It’s All About The Fear

Remember Elizabeth Barret Browning’s iconic 1845 love poem:  “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways”? It swept the world. 

Sweet, huh?

Compare that to what’s sweeping the country today.

“How do I hate thee?” say protesters to cops response to police killings of black men.

“How do I hate thee?” say hundreds of cops to thousands of protesters converging on them.

“How do I hate thee?” says our President to the press or anyone who questions his dictates.

“How do I hate thee?” say Trumpists to anti-Trumpists.

“How do I hate thee?” say anti-Trumpists to Trumpists.

Anger and the ensuing hatred, according to most psychologists, is triggered by fear. If you want to understand what’s happening in the country right now, substitute the word “fear” for “hate” in all of the above and things become a lot clearer.

The Russians are influencing our elections. The Chinese are stealing our industry. Climate change is destroying the planet. Covid19 is killing us.  

That’s scary.

And those are just the fears we share. Now add the fears that separate us – whites vs. blacks, women vs. men, Urban vs. Rural, North vs. South.

That’s scary.

We’re pack animals. We need each other. But, for the last ten weeks, we’ve had to defy nature and stay separate from the pack. No shaking hands or hugging. No baseball games. No concerts. We can’t even vote the way we used to. 

That’s scary.

The economy is teetering. 40 million people are out of work. American icons like Hertz, JC Penny’s, and Neiman-Marcus are going under. What’s left, Walmart and Amazon?

That’s scary.

Fear and pent-up anger has swept the country. All that was needed to unleash it was a suitable flash point. 

Which was provided on May 25, 2020, by white Officer Derek Chauvin of Minneapolis, who took a knee on African-American George Floyd’s neck, and calmly –with no expression – killed him. 

It was the third murder of an unarmed black person by white cops (or ex-cops) in just the last few weeks. 

Coming on the heels of generations of killings like this, the horror of it triggered riots across the country, from San Francisco to Boston, Minneapolis to Austin, not to mention Berlin, London, Paris, Vancouver, Amsterdam, Lebanon, and more.  

Remember the shot heard round the world? Now we have the knee seen round the world. 

That’s scary. 

Now cops are scared of protesters and protesters are scared of cops. 

And you know who is really, really scared – of rioters and the next election? The guy who has used fear as a political weapon for the last four years, the guy who hid from protesters in the White House bunker last Friday night, our President.

The Constitution is very clear about not using the US Army against US citizens – except in DC. So guess what the phony tough guy with a phony bone spur is doing? 

Yep. Poor DC.

“You have to dominate,” he bloviated to governors on a Monday conference call from inside the safety of a barricaded White House. “If you don’t dominate, you’re wasting your time — they’re going to run over you, you’re going to look like a bunch of jerks…”

“…you gotta’ arrest people, you have to try people, you have to put them in jail for 10 years.”

Across the country a few cooler heads prevailed. Two cops in Queens, NY removed their combat gear and knelt with protesters, calming themselves and the protesters. Officers in Des Moines did the same thing.  One can only imagine the life and property saved if more cops did that. 

After the call, the National Guard, the mounted police, and the Secret Service used flash-bang shells, gas, and rubber bullets peaceful protesters in Lafayette Park to clear a short path from the White House to St. John’s “Church of Presidents” (which President Fear Monger may have attended…once?). He held up a borrowed Bible for some photos then scurried back to the White House. The whole thing took minutes.

“He did not pray,” said Episcopal Bishop Mariann E. Budde. “He did not mention George Floyd, he did not mention the agony of people who have been subjected to this kind of horrific expression of racism and white supremacy for hundreds of years.”

On the phone call with Trump, Governor Waltz of Minnesota said to him, “a posture of force on the ground is both unsustainable militarily — it’s also unsustainable socially, because it’s the antithesis of how we live.” 

The antithesis of hate is love, which brings us back to Elizabeth Barret Browning and a more dignified and human kind of power.

Remember the Women’s Marches every year since 2017: the pink hats, the millions of women across this country and the world who march for equality in the “Me too” movement?

No testosterone. 

No fear.

No-one killed. No-one bloodied. No-one hurt. 

Sweet, huh?

(If you like this, pass it on. If you don't, pass it on anyway. Why should you suffer alone?)