EMBRACING 9/11/2016

I’m writing this on the 15th anniversary of the September 11 attacks. In 2001, I stood on 6th Avenue next to a van whose driver had parked and cranked up his radio, providing a narrative for my neighbors, my friends, and myself as we watched the second plane strike its target, and as the buildings went down. We handed out bottles of water supplied by bodegas on nearby corners to people who were running from the disaster, and later in the day some of us joined the line at St. Vincent's hospital to give blood to the wounded. The next day, a group of us that included my son took food down to the first responders. I have not forgotten a moment of that day, or of the few that followed, and one of the things I have not forgotten was that then-Senator Hillary Clinton stood up for the needs of the people suffering from the repercussions of the event, including the first responders. She has continued to support first responders as, even all these years later, they deal with the physical and mental ramifications of rescuing others in that toxic environment. To all who walked through those days here in New York, and to those who supported your friends and families here, I hope you were able to embrace this day in a nurturing way. Wow! Fifteen years. Time flies and yet I remember that day as if it were a slide show – one glance at a time.  

Beyond that, some of our present circumstances require me to think deeply about my own motto, “The Quality of Life is not determined by the Circumstances ~ But by what we do with them,” and push me to work harder than usual to embrace this long-held belief of mine. Nothing prepared me to live in a country where someone like Donald Trump – let alone the actual bearer of that name – could conceivably be considered presidential. I am reminded of the time I spent in India and South Africa after George W. Bush was elected to a second term, when anyone who caught my accent would query in an accusatory tone, “Are you an American?!” I would respond, “Yes, but I didn’t vote for him!” That statement brought me rewards from hugs to thank-yous, to discounts from checkout clerks. Finally, I got a t-shirt that said simply, "I didn’t vote for him!" It never occurred to me that it was possible to be even more uncomfortable about yet another American politician – one who claims not to be a politician – but I was dead wrong.  

Now, certain factions of America, the country I love, have stooped so low as to cheer and mirror Donald Trump, an unthinking, self-centered, mean-spirited, bullying, misogynistic, bigoted, xenophobic, Islamophobic, wall-lover, whose claim to fame was a vapid television show where he would strut his true colors by telling contestants, “You’re Fired!” I assume he gave himself the role of big shot because he likes to feel in control. It has been so hard to imagine how he or his fans could ever think of him as qualified to be President of the United States, and I’ve wondered what to do about the alarming nature of the things he and his followers believe in. I've done some research and found therapists who agree with my original take on him, which I've repeated more than a few times on Facebook: his behavior is typical of a narcissistic sociopath. I was gratified, since psych pronouncements are a bit above my paygrade. I feel that the behaviors I attributed to him above accurately tell the story of the way he speaks to, about, and deals with, others. Much of the hate speech that he spews sounds more like the rantings of a thirteen-year-old boy than a seventy-year-old adult, all of which leads me to think he’s likely delusional enough to imagine himself capable of being the leader of the free world. More about him a bit further on. 

The Paris Agreement has gone into effect. This is a historic moment for the planet, about which President Obama said, "Today, the world meets the moment. And if we follow through on the commitments that this agreement embodies, history may well judge it as a turning point for our planet." Our President has been working diligently on this initiative to cut climate pollution from power plants, which remains the largest source of greenhouse gasses on earth. These gasses are huge factors in creating the current level of pollution in America and the rest of the world, yet I can almost hear the foolish ravings of all those science and climate change deniers who don't have the sense to understand that their very futures depend on this agreement, an agreement that wasn't possible until the countries responsible for a combined 55% of the world's carbon emissions agreed to sign on. But we can now celebrate the commencement of the Paris Agreement, because the U.S., China, India and the E.U., the world’s primary polluters, are among the 75 nations that have created action plans and signed the agreement to work toward the important goals that may actually save our beautiful planet for future generations. 

What We Can Do:

  1. Familiarize yourself with  the NRDC (the Natural Resources Defense Council), which has played a very powerful part in the amazing process that lead up to this agreement. It’s a great story (www.nrdc.org).
  2. Go to the site and become a NRDC activist and continue to support the health of the planet and the well-being of humanity.
  3. Thank President Obama for doing so much to make this moment happen: www.whitehouse.gov/contact
  4. Also contact your congressmen and senators to make sure they know you want them to do everything they can for the environment: www.house.gov and www.senate.gov.

I want to tell you about a brief, inspiring encounter I had as I sat at my desk trying to figure out how to begin this edition of Don’t Just Stand There ~ Do Something. I glanced out a window to the left of my desk, and there sat what my post-experience research made me think was a male golden eagle. He was standing on the railing of a balcony on the building next door. I was transfixed by his magnificent stature and great beauty, and couldn’t take my eyes off of him. I reached over to the window to shift the angle of the blinds for a better view, and he reacted to the movement and caught me staring at him with wonder. He looked back and, either in reality or my imagination, we locked eyes and held one another’s gaze for what seemed like a very long time, both of us still, frozen in the moment. I felt such joy rise through me, and took a deep breath as something in the distance caught his attention. He glanced down, then back at whatever was calling to him. He stretched out his amazingly glorious wingspan, then vanished with grace. I just sat there for a bit, smiling at my great fortune. I still find myself glancing out the window at the unoccupied railing, wondering if miracles ever come in pairs. Not so far!


September 24, 2016 will go down in history as the day of the long-awaited opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The event was attended by such luminaries as Stevie Wonder, former President George W. Bush, who authorized legislation to establish the  museum 13 years ago, Laura Bush, Oprah Winfrey, Angela Bassett, Bill Clinton, Chief Justice John Roberts, Will Smith, Vice President and Dr. Biden, House Speaker Paul Ryan, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, and Representative John Lewis, as well as President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. I watched a good deal of the ceremony and was so moved by the words of both John Lewis, who is one of my heroes, and President Obama, who said the same thing about Lewis. Here are some excerpts of their speeches:

I've been waiting to see this day for 15 years – and in some ways, my whole life. I've loved history ever since I was a little boy. Growing up in the oppressive shadow of Jim Crow, my teachers would ask me to cut out photographs I found in magazines and newspapers of Rosa Parks, George Washington Carver, and other marchers for justice. I read about Booker T. Washington, reveled in the sounds of the Jubilee Singers, and prayed for a King to reach the mountaintop. To me, history is the foundation of a powerful legacy, and it is important to tell the stories of the millions of black men and women, boys and girls, who labored and sacrificed, and continue the struggle, to build this great nation. When I learned of the decades-long effort to establish a national museum dedicated to preserving that too often untold story, I readily joined the effort. Every session of Congress for 15 years, I introduced a bill to create this national museum. It is important that the National Museum of African American History and Culture tells the unvarnished truth of America's history – a story that speaks to the soul of our nation, but one few Americans know. While the journey has been long, today the history of African Americans will finally take its place on the National Mall next to the monuments to Washington, Lincoln, and Jefferson – exactly where it belongs. It’s a reminder that 400 years of history can’t be buried; its lessons must be learned. By bringing the uncomfortable parts of our past out of the shadows, we can better understand what divides us and seek to heal those problems through our unity.
James Baldwin once wrote, "For while the tale of how we suffer, and how we are delighted, and how we may triumph is never new, it always must be heard." Today, as so many generations have before, we gather on our National Mall to tell an essential part of our American story – one that has at times been overlooked. We come not just for today, but for all time. President and Mrs. Bush; President Clinton; Vice President and Dr. Biden; Chief Justice Roberts; Secretary Skorton; Rev. Butts; distinguished guests: Thank you. Thank you for your leadership in making sure this tale is told. We're here in part because of you and because of all those Americans – the Civil War vets, the Civil Rights foot soldiers, the champions of this effort on Capitol Hill – who, for more than a century, kept the dream of this museum alive. That includes our leaders in Congress – Paul Ryan and Nancy Pelosi. It includes one of my heroes, John Lewis, who, as he has so often, took the torch from those who came before him and brought us past the finish line. It includes the philanthropists and benefactors and advisory members who have so generously given not only their money but their time. It includes the Americans who offered up all the family keepsakes tucked away in grandma's attic. And of course, it includes a man without whose vision and passion and persistence we would not be here today – Mr. Lonnie Bunch (the museum's Founding Director). What we can see of this building – the towering glass, the artistry of the metalwork – is surely a sight to behold. But beyond the majesty of the building, what makes this occasion so special is the larger story it contains. Below us, this building reaches down 70 feet, its roots spreading far wider and deeper than any tree on this Mall. And on its lowest level, after you walk past remnants of a slave ship, after you reflect on the immortal declaration that "all men are created equal," you can see a block of stone. On top of this stone sits a historical marker, weathered by the ages. That marker reads: "General Andrew Jackson and Henry Clay spoke from this slave block, during the year 1830…'" By knowing this other story, we better understand ourselves and each other.
To read the whole speech, click here.
To take a 360 Virtual Reality tour inside the museum, click here.                                    


The opinions I’ve posted beneath each candidate's photo, below, come from various sources, and I admit that since Trump really terrifies me, I wasn’t exactly objective in my choices. The quotes I chose come from celebrated people who, though not politicians, have been deeply interested in and affected by the implications of what these candidates have to offer. Just like the rest of us, they want to know whether each candidate believes in their platform, what their election would mean for our lives, and how they would serve the public on national, state, and even local levels. These supporters are willing to use their visibility to offer their points of view and yes, to perhaps influence those of you who trust them and believe in their vision and what they have to say.

I've watched Hillary Clinton in action and seen the impact she's had on the rights and safety of women and children here at home and in countries where I’ve been fortunate enough to travel as I worked in the co-epidemics of HIV/AIDS and Violence Against Women. Trump loves to say that her work is inconsequential, or that it had negative results, or that when she served as Secretary of State she wrongly dealt with people who were also involved with the Clinton Foundation (even though investigations didn't unearth any conflict of interests, or any quid pro quos). I can say unequivocally that both her work as Secretary of State and the work of the Foundation have produced brilliant, vital, life-saving programs, some of which saved people I know and care about. Hillary Clinton has spent a good part of her lifetime as an innovative, passionate, committed public servant. The list of what both she and the Foundation have accomplished is too long and deep to explore here but, even early on, Hillary Clinton was engaged in supporting innovative, passionate, important projects. For instance, while Donald Trump was trying, against the law, to keep black people from renting in his buildings, Hillary Clinton was working to make sure that black children received educations that were as clear and valuable and of the same quality as the educations provided to white children. I think that Hillary is accurate when she describes how Trump has built his campaign on hate and paranoia, which of course is enough to set him spinning, because unlike her, he cannot tolerate being called out on his dishonesty and lies, and he loses control.

SIGOURNEY WEAVER: "Hillary Clinton gets it. She cares. She's committed. She understands that taking a stand against climate change is not about politics. It's about our moral obligation to one another, to our children, and to the generations that will one day inherit this earth."

PRESIDENT BARAK OBAMA: "Look, I know how hard this job can be – that's why I know Hillary will be so good at it. In fact, I don't think there's ever been someone so qualified to hold this office. She's got the courage, the compassion and the heart to get the job done."

SENATOR ELIZABETH WARREN: "I am ready to get in this fight and work my heart out for Hillary Clinton to become the next president of the United States and to make sure that Donald Trump never gets any place close to the White House."

MERYL STREEP: "What does it take to be the first female anything? What it takes is grit, and it takes grace." 

MICHAEL JORDAN: Hillary Clinton "will be a great president for the American people and she will make sure that everyone has a voice!" 

ROBERT DE NIRO: "I think that she's paid her dues. There are going to be no surprises, and she has earned the right to be president and the head of the country at this point. It's that simple. And she's a woman, which is very important because her take on things may be what we need right now."

What We Can Do:
  1. Be in touch with Hillary Clinton to let her know what your vision is for your future and the kind of world that you want to pass along to your children and your children's children. She has been acknowledged as a woman who listens and is open to ideas and to changes that don't only benefit the 1%. She does know how to be a public servant. www.hillaryclinton.com/forms/contact-us
  2. If you are one of those who fear Trump but aren’t crazy about Clinton, take some time to look at both candidates' platforms, and let yourself notice the difference between their points of view and what it might cost you if you abdicate your vote, or vote for Libertarian or Green candidates who will likely draw votes from Clinton because they have more in common with her than with Trump.
  3. Write to her and let her know what you think of her plans for working with NATO and for dealing with issues from poverty, to pollution, to pre-K education, as well as your thoughts on some of the wonderful ideas she shares with Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and a long list of progressive thinkers.
  4. Also add to her agenda any issues you want addressed and ideas that may stimulate her and broaden her plans to include your suggestions. 

"The only way we can lose, and I really mean this Pennsylvania, is if cheating goes on.”

I actually like a few things about Donald Trump. One is that every dishonest, misogynistic, bigoted, mean-spirited lie he tells is permanently etched into his face for all to see. Please take a good long look. His fake foundation seems to be set up to illegally launder money raised from donors, and to turn it around for his own gain. The public recently learned that funds from his foundation paid for things like a six-foot-tall portrait of Trump himself. And yet, there are Americans who are his fans – who don't seem to care if he has any proficiency in the area of government, or any knowledge of human behavior or foreign affairs. The man seems devoid of any depth of understanding, or the kind of thinking required to be the leader of the free world. I used the word "fan" above because he, despite his aspirations, remains best qualified to be a game show host, particularly of a show in which he gets to say "You're fired!" which I assume allows him to feel like a big shot, a real man, and not a fake with delusions of presidency. Basically, Trump has said that experts don’t know what they are doing and that he knows more about ISIS than the generals. He sounds off like a 13-year-old juvenile delinquent, and when Putin said he was “brilliant,” Trump thought it meant smart, when the word is actually used to describe something that is flashy, or showy, or jazzy. Hence, international polls show that Russians love him, while countries in the Middle East, Europe, and the Americas are wildly alarmed by his lack of knowledge and experience, and by his demeanor and temperament. Oh, and how about Trump's tax returns?!
                                              Take a long hard look and be afraid, be very afraid

KEITH OLBERMANN: "Every few generations we Americans are called upon to defend our country. To defend it not so much from foreign dictators or wars or terrorism, but from those here who have no commitment to progress or Democracy or representative government, no commitment to anything except their own out-of-control minds and the bottomless pits of their egos…."

JANE GOODALL (to The Atlantic): "In many ways the performances of Donald Trump remind me of male chimpanzees and their dominance rituals.... In order to impress rivals, males seeking to rise in the dominance hierarchy perform spectacular displays: stamping, slapping the ground, dragging branches, throwing rocks." 

U.S. SENATOR CHRIS MURPHY OF CONNECTICUT: If you keep suggesting your supporters kill Hillary Clinton someone will listen. The blood will be on your hands (Trump has said, among other things, 'I think that Hillary Clinton's bodyguards should drop all weapons. They should disarm immediately. Let's see what happens to her. Take their guns away, okay? It'll be very dangerous.')"

GORDON HUMPHREY: The former US Senator from New Hampshire told NBC News  on August 4th that he won't support Trump, and would vote for Clinton if the contest in his home state is close. 

BARBARA BUSH: The former first lady told CNN's Jamie Gangel on February 5th that Trump has said, "terrible things about women, terrible things about the military.... I don't even think about him. I'm sick of him."

MITT ROMNEY: The 2012 Republican nominee for president has long openly opposed Trump's candidacy, telling CNN June 10th that his election could legitimize racism and misogyny in America.

NICHOLAS KRISTOF: "Trump’s harsh rhetoric tears away the veneer of civility and betrays our national motto of e pluribus unum. He has unleashed a beast and fed its hunger, and long after this campaign is over we will be struggling to corral it again."

What We Can Do:
  1. Trump stays in the race, despite so many Republicans dropping him, and despite the contempt that his hateful misogynist apologies have received. Please let him know how you feel about the idea of his potential presidency. I doubt that his most ardently devoted fans are reading this right now, but you may know a few such people who may have finally become so disgusted by his latest ravings, his contempt for those unlike himself, and vile comments about women, that you can move them to change their minds. Contact hm at: www.donaldjtrump.com/contact; or, since his favorite form of communication is Twitter: www.twitter.com/realDonaldTrump
  2. Think about his ridiculous arrogance. Is there any way you think he can learn to listen to those who understand foreign policy, and admit that even though he claims to know better than the generals, he needs both generals and diplomats to explain it to him, along with why he'll have to stop threatening war and learn that the leader of the free world’s primary job is the safety of Americans and to be a powerful instrument of peace?
  3. Ask him what actual programs he’s creating to be ready for the job no matter what happens the day he’s sworn in, and who he will choose to be in charge of economic matters so he doesn't bankrupt the country and only be of service to the 1%. 
  4. And last, for now, but not least, you can track his huge number of lies. Check as many of the things he says as possible, since being a liar is a prominent feature of his personality, and maybe one day it will tell us about his damn taxes. www.factcheck.org, www.washingtonpost.com/news/factchecker, www.politifact.com
  5. Activist and playwright (TheVagina Monologues) Eve Ensler asks that starting the night of October 8, 2016 and going forward, as many women send out messages via Twitter, Facebook and Instagram using the hashtag #myangryvagina folowed by their own statement, such as: #myangryvagina refuses a world of trump rape culture; #myangryvagina is not yours to grab or degraded. Her brilliant idea is to, “create a collective chorus that is so united and so loud and so proud, that Trump becomes a bare memory. We have a momentum and we need to go full out."

I was going to write quite a lot about the first debate, but the pundits and press have been all over it, and though some Trump fans will disagree, Hillary actually talked as much policy in answer to Holt’s questions as is possible within the allotted two minutes – even with Trump interrupting and trying to talk over her. And to think that he accused Hillary of not looking presidential! What a joke! As the split screen made abundantly clear, it was Trump who was un-presidential: he made faces, told lots of lies, was rude, and made strange noises. Hillary stood strong. Trump primarily spoke in sound bites in lieu of giving substantive answers to Holt’s questions. I’ve rarely heard the word "I" used so often in such a short period of time. Hillary was steady, firm, called him on things he’s said and done, and suggested to the audience that fact checking would be a good idea. But to me the most important difference between them was that she spoke about life in America and he spoke about himself. Then it dawned on me that their prime difference is clearly inscribed in BIG letters across their airplanes. I rest my case!

                    "STRONGER TOGETHER"                                                                 "TRUMP"

 What We Can Do:
  1. Send in questions for the Sunday, October 9 debate to: https://presidentialopenquestions.com.
  2. Watch the debate at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, where I went to school long ago, at 9 p.m. Eastern Time, 6 p.m. Pacific. Like the first debate, it will run for about 90 minutes. Unlike the first presidential debate, the second debate will be held in a town hall format, with half of the questions coming from audience members and the other half asked by moderators Anderson Cooper of CNN and Martha Raddatz of ABC.

We’ve had some very serious losses since the last installement of my blog. From Edward Albee to Holly Woodlawn, these remarkable people influenced society, style, film, theater, classical music, pop, rock, and sports, and meant different things to different people. I will list them here and then write about a few specific people who impacted me in various ways, with the hope that you too may find meaning in some of their lives: perhaps they moved you, inspired you, and enlightened you. And perhaps you have other names to add to the list.

Here they are in alphabetical order:
Edward Albee, Muhammad Ali, Yogi Berra, Beau Biden, Julian Bond, Pierre Boulez, David Bowie Joe Cocker, Natalie Cole, Jackie Collins, Wes Craven, Mario Cuomo, E.L. Doctorow, Glenn Fry, Frank Gifford, B. B. King, Harper Lee, Meadowlark Lemon, Stephen Levine, Robert Levithan, John Forbs Nash, Leonard Nimoy, Maureen O'Hara, Arnold Palmer, Shimon Peres, Prince, Alan Rickman, Pete Seeger, Percy Sledge, Fred Thompson, Haskell Wexler, Maurice White, Gene Wilder, Holly Woodlawn

Edward Albee
Legendary playwright Edward Albee, widely considered one of the greats of his generation, died at the age of 88. A three-time Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, Albee challenged theatrical conventions in the topics he chose to explore, the quality of the characters he gave birth to, and the number of masterworks he created over the span of his career. Edward Franklin Albee III was best known for works such as The Zoo Story, The Sandbox, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and A Delicate Balance. The first time I saw ...Virginia Woolf I was so impacted by it that I couldn’t get up to leave the theater for some time. Needless to say, I saw the play again, and when I was teaching acting I loved assigning it for student work, because it is so emotionally challenging.  

Muhammad Ali

I had a brief encounter with Mohammad Ali, the world champion boxer who also waxed poetic ("Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee"). It was shortly after he’d embraced Islam, changed his name from Cassius Clay, and refused the draft. At the time, I was a volunteer for the War Resisters League, where I worked with conscientious objectors who sought exemptions from going to Vietnam. I was standing in line outside the Esquire Theater in Chicago with my small son, waiting to see Fantasia, when I heard a familiar voice behind me. I turned and there he was, every bit as beautiful as his image on television, holding the hand of his little girl. I thanked him for refusing the war and told him about the young men I’d been working with. We had a spirited conversation, and I found that I was almost disappointed when we were able to go in to see the film (which, like The Greatest, was a delight).

Julian Bond

Julian Bond was a Civil Rights activist who worked tirelessly to fight discrimination for more than 50 years, and spoke with an eloquence and clarity that helped me understand what the passion to create change looked like. He caught the nation’s attention in 1965, when at 25, he was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives. When he died at 75, President Obama said, “Justice and equality was the mission that spanned his life…. Julian Bond helped change this country for the better. And what better way to be remembered than that.”


Pierre Boulez
I was a fortunate young woman when it came to music. My dad loved jazz, and my mother didn’t, so I got to go with Dad to see all the great jazz players and singers: Louie Armstrong, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, Billie Holliday, Charlie Mingus, Ella Fitzgerald – I could go on. Also, my mother loved classical music, which my dad had little appetite for, so I went to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra with her, where I saw Boulez conduct along with our own Fritz Reiner, Jean Martinon, Seiji Ozawa and many great guest conductors.      


David Bowie
I’ve been a fan of David Bowie for something like five decades, and I saw him in concert on both sides of the pond over the years. Space Oddity is still one of my all time favorite albums. I have to admit that in addition to loving his music, I had a real crush on him. I loved the way he was willing to be as innovative in his life, like when he took his androgyny and shifting styles to the stage, as he was with both his music and the choices he made when it came to films. From Man Who Fell To Earth, to The Hunger, he explored many aspects of his talent, which I think came to fullness in his three-month run on Broadway starring in The Elephant Man.

Stephen Levine
I place Stephen with his beloved life and work partner Ondrea. They redefined the word relationship for me by how they were with one another.  When I began my work with people with AIDS, I was asked to speak with a young man’s lover who was on his deathbed. I said, "sure," but thought, “Yikes! What am I going to say?” I headed to the Bodhi Tree, a spiritual bookstore in Los Angeles that no longer exists, and asked for books on death and dying. I picked up On Death and Dying by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. It seemed a bit didactic, so I picked up Who Dies, by Stephen Levine. Perfect! I later invited Stephen and Ondrea to L.A. to facilitate one of their deeply spiritual programs for a large group who had been through my own workshops. It was a deeply moving experience.

Alan Rickman
In 1985, I saw Alan Rickman in the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of Christopher Hampton's adaptation of Les Liaisons Dangereuses. He played the lead role of the Vicomte de Valmont, which I saw him play again on Broadway in 1987, and for which he received both Tony and Drama Desk Award nominations. I was also privileged see his performance in Noël Coward's delightful romantic comedy Private Lives on both sides of the pond. I’m also a shameless fan of his film roles.

Robert Levithan 

Robert Levithan was psychotherapist, an HIV/AIDS and LGBT activist, and a writer who, among other things penned The New 60: Outliving Yourself and Reinventing a Future. He had a significant influence on LGBT culture, was a theater producer, and was otherwise involved in the arts. Levithan was on the forefront of the reaction to the HIV/AIDS epidemic since the early 1980s. Robert was my partner in facilitating my New York AIDS Mastery Workshops at Friends In Deed, where he inspired our participants to face their fears, to look deeply into themselves, and to risk being their best selves. He was a great facilitator, and never asked anyone to do or expose anything he wasn’t willing to do himself. Robert was my dear friend, and I feel his loss so deeply that it takes my breath away in the same way that his beauty, spirituality, kindness, sense of humor, and grace did in life.  

Holly Woodlawn
Holly Woodlawn was an actress who caught the fancy of Andy Warhol who adopted her as a muse. She was transgender and out about it. Lou Reed immortalized her in his song "Walk on the Wild Side."  “She… plucked her eyebrows on the way, shaved her legs and then he was a she. She says hey babe, take a walk in the wild side. And the colored girls go Doo do doo...."



I want to begin by saying that I am very saddened by the state of the world and that we live in a time of terror, but I am also amazed at and moved by the ability of human beings to learn to include the bizarre, expect the unexpected, accept the reality of a given situation, and more times than not, discover that the best way through is to be fully present. I am not able to write about every terror attack that has taken place in the past year, or even to list them all, because there are so many that we never hear about. So, I wrote about the ones that seemed to reach out to me, or were called to my attention through others, or because of their timing. 

ORLANDO; Photos by David Goldman/AP

ORLANDO: The night before the June 12, 2016, attack in Orlando, I was in Los Angeles for a Board meeting of the Colin Higgins Foundation and a wonderful ceremony to give the winners of our annual Colin Higgins Foundation Youth Courage Awards, to three wonderful LGBTQ young people. These three showed bravery in the face of bigotry, and sought to rise above their circumstances, to reach out to make the lives of similar youths safer and to keep them from feeling alone, and to stand up for the rights of both themselves and others. The event was euphoric, and after cocktails and dinner our LGBTQ winners each addressed the guests movingly and eloquently at the award presentation ceremony. The room was filled with their families and friends in an atmosphere of loving energy and delight for these articulate, talented, proud, and smart gay, lesbian, and trans people. At the end of the evening, I returned to my room at one of my favorite hotels, Chateau Marmont, so grateful to have shared the weekend with these three amazing human beings, and knowing that their continued activism would help so many others. In the morning, I awoke and switched on both the coffee pot and CNN. I could hardly believe what I saw and heard as the story unfolded: a lone terrorist had committed a massive hate crime attack in the Pulse LGBT nightclub in Orlando Florida, killing 49 and wounding another 53. As they showed the photographs of some of the deceased, I thought about the wild difference between the night before, which celebrated the brilliance of LGBT youth, and the event in Orlando, which took or shattered so many valuable LGBT lives.


BRUSSELS: Below, are responses to the terror attack that took place in Brussels on March 25, 2016, by some of the people who are in positions that impact our lives. It was early in the advent of such attacks, and there have been plenty more, many of which we have not even heard about. I have a sense that their reactions and words on the occasion of the loss of life in Brussels says a lot about who they are.    

President Obama, speaking from Cuba: "We stand in solidarity with them in condemning these outrageous attacks against innocent people. We will do whatever is necessary to support our ally Belgium in bringing to justice those who are responsible. We must be together regardless of nationality or race or faith in fighting against the scourge of terrorism. We can and we will defeat those who threaten the safety and security of people all around the world.”

Hillary Clinton, speaking in solidarity: “Terrorists have once again struck at the heart of Europe, but their campaign of hate and fear will not succeed. The people of Brussels, of Europe, and of the world will not be intimidated by these vicious killers. Today Americans stand in solidarity with our European allies. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those killed and wounded, and all the people of Belgium. These terrorists seek to undermine the democratic values that are the foundation of our alliance and our way of life, but they will never succeed. Today’s attacks will only strengthen our resolve to stand together as allies and defeat terrorism and radical jihadism around the world.”
U.S. Representative Keith Ellison (praising the helpers of Belgium): "One of the goals of these terrorists is to drive us apart through fear and hatred. The people of Belgium are reminding us why terror will never succeed. They are providing shelter to tourists and strangers throughout the country, and the hashtag '#ikwillhelpen, ‘I want to help’ in Flemish, is trending throughout Europe."
Donald Trump: He couldn’t stop himself from using this tragedy to his own advantage, calling the morning shows to tell the world that these attacks support his bigot-driven ideas about closing America’s borders, allowing the use of outlawed types of torture, and isolating Muslims, even if it means changing the law.
Ted Cruz: He just had to out-trump Trump in the bad idea department by saying that we need to have our cops keep an eye on Muslim communities, which is a great way to antagonize people living in those communities. Let me remind you that Cruz, Trump, many Republicans, and the bigoted among their fans, who spew such nonsense, represent their own un-American values, which in no way resemble the values of America. In fact, given the hate filled comments by some of the aforementioned citizens, the police should be protecting Muslim communities. It's too bad that when Cruz says, “My Father moved here from Cuba," he forgets that his father moved so that he could raise his family in a country where everyone, including his son, could have the freedom to create their own future. So how come Cruz wants to keep Muslim Americans from creating their own futures? To allow such restrictions on a group because of their religion is unconstitutional and based in fear of the unknown, and will eventually endanger all Americans’ right to worship as they choose, and the freedom to create their own futures. We just can't let that happen. Should you want to contact him: www.cruz.senate.gov.

NEW YORK: I’ve been very lucky: The original attacks of 9/11 shook me to the core, and so I became more alert to the sound of low-flying airplanes, more nervous when I boarded international flights either coming to or going from JFK, and more aware of the many “If you see something, say something” posters around the city. Yet, I settled back into my normal daily life quite soon after the event. But it dawned on me when I heard that the Chelsea neighborhood where I used to live was recently attacked last month, that surprises are on the menu. As far as I know, none of my friends or former neighbors were victims of this foul act. Though it’s foolish to live as though there is no danger, it never ceases to amaze me that we may never be able to take our safety for granted as we once did. The bomb that ripped apart my old neighborhood reminded New Yorkers of our vulnerability, but also of our ability to come together in response to such tragic and sudden events. There are emotional repercussions in times such as these. It puts some of us more on the alert; paying more attention to lingering threats. For many of us, it also heightens our embrace of life for its own sake, which seems like a very powerful and natural response. I love New Yorkers! Whenever we’re challenged, it seems to strengthen our resolve. It also reminds us of our gratitude for first responders, both those who handled the recent event and those who still suffer health issues from the site of that original attack.

CÔTE D'IVOIRE; photo by Cheryl Koralik
CÔTE D'IVOIRE: The following are excerpts that I patched together from a longer piece written by my friend, the photographer Cheryl Koralik. She and her daughter live between New York and Côte d'Ivoire. One of the reasons I wanted to cover this act of terrorism is that Cheryl was rightly upset that hours of television news and an abundance of print media were devoted to terror in Europe, while very little time or space was spent covering African terror. Here in her words is her story: 
I had just walked back from the beach to my room when I heard a few gunshots… and then saw people running… I immediately questioned what was happening and they told me a man and woman had been shot. but it was not clear… was it a spousal argument…? with guns? not at all typical for a beautiful peaceful Sunday in Grand Bassam…but then the second round of fire broke out, and I was immediately reminded of the events of September 11th (2001) in New York City. when the first plane hit the twin towers, we weren't sure what was going on, could it be an accident…? but after the second plane hit, we were convinced it was an act of terrorism. so as the gunshots continued, it was clear this was not just an argument. it was clear this was an act of terrorism. we all found cover…the gunshots subsided. and Aïssata came to my door. my daughter was alive. I was beyond joy. then, Fabrice and Franck, a couple of our employees arrived. they reported that everyone - all of our employees were alive. we hugged. we cried. we laughed…and then, the shooting started up again and we all took cover again. … how long would this continue… would they come to our room… were we going to live…? when the gunshots were no longer heard, we all came out and with great precaution…we saw two people - a man and a woman - lying on the ground close to the beach…we thought they were dead, but then we could hear the man crying out for help and the woman began to move. at that moment, we scrambled to their aid… I called 180 (911) for an ambulance…the ambulance never arrived. . finally, a photo was taken of Aïssata revealing a white woman wrapped in a bloody table cloth… she was extremely courageous and everyone assumed it was me… and this is where the rumor began that I had died. Henrike Grohs, directrice of the Goethe Institute in Abidjan, in her last moments as she suffered from 3 bullets to her back… we tried everything we could within our barbaric means to help her and her friend, Abou, who was seriously hit as well… but in the end, it was not in our hands… 

CÔTE D'IVOIRE; photo by Cheryl Koralik

That's it for this edition of Don't Just Stand There ~ Do Something. Thanks for reading! Please feel free to leave any comments below.