9/11/2015


I awoke this September 11th forgetting that it was the anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center. Of course, being a New Yorker, my concerns that day were more focused on the people of the city I loved than on those at the Pentagon or in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. I know, I know, their lives were equally as valuable, and yet I spent a good part of September 11, 2001, trying to find loved ones who lived further downtown than I did, and receiving the few phone calls that got through. The first person I tried to find was my son, whose office was below Canal Street, which was closer to the Twin Towers. I finally reached someone there, who reminded me that, much to my relief, he was stuck in Toronto, where he had a film premiering at the Film Festival. All of this, as well as everything that followed in the next few days, came rushing back to me as MSNBC replayed their coverage of the day. When I sat down at the computer to finish a piece I was writing for this blog about the nightmare named Donald Trump, the following headline greeted me: “Officials Quietly Warn of Another 9/11 Attack,” followed by: “The United States could be facing another 9/11 attack as factions grow deeper among the Taliban, al-Qaida and the Islamic State group, especially with the recently confirmed death of the Taliban's one-eyed leader Mullah Omar, according to a senior U.S. lawmaker, federal law enforcement and intelligence.” I don’t know about you, but I found this a whole lot less than comforting. 

I remembered how many times since that day I’d been asked, “Where were you?” For the first year, it was unnecessary to explain what “Where” was being referred to. The people I began asking about their whereabouts were taxi drivers. Though I gave up my addiction to drugs and alcohol long ago, I was unable to give up my taxis. So, I would ask each cabbie, “Where were you?” Their stories were varied, often revealing, sometimes harrowing, sometimes moving, and sometimes the answer was, “Watching it on television.” One of the drivers told me he was just dropping a guy off when the attacks occurred, but they sped away. Another said he spent a good part of the day helping people who were carrying heavy-looking things as they fled, or who knew people who were in the Towers. One man even pulled over, thanked me for asking, and burst into tears over the friend he had lost. 

My friend Tony, an event and theater production manager, and his crew had been between the Towers erecting a stage for a production that had been scheduled to go up shortly thereafter. I also had a neighbor who walked down many flights to escape, and two that, for one reason or another, had not gone in to work at the WTC that morning. 

When I awoke that day, I did what I did most mornings: Wearing my pajamas and sipping my first cup of coffee, I settled into the couch to watch the morning news on CNN. At first, I thought the image I viewed of the first plane crashing into the first building was an advert for a hair-raising film. Then it dawned on me that I was watching the news! I listened for a few minutes, as I rushed to rid myself of my sleepwear, don Levis and a shirt, and rush down to see what was going on at my corner at 6th Avenue and 15th Street. 

My friend Jane, who lived on 18th, appeared and we watched in horror and, along with others who had gathered there, listened to the news blasted from the radio of a man’s parked SUV. After awhile, people who had fled the area most affected by the blast and the debris began to run by, and a few deli-owners brought cases of bottled water to hand out to them. Then, there was an announcement on the radio that the local hospitals needed blood. Jane and I lined up at St. Vincent’s Hospital in a desperate attempt to be useful. When we got to the line we waited with the brilliant actor Kathleen Chalfant, whose performance in Tony Kushner’s Angels In America, was transcendent. By the time we made it near the front of the line, the hospital had run out of blood bags and asked us to come back that evening, which we did. We were then horrified to discover that, though they had served some first responders, the beds made up both inside the building and on the sidewalk were bare, because there were not enough survivors to use them. A day or two later, Jane, my son, who had managed to get back to New York via car, and I took cases of water down to the first responders who were working there. It was the least we could do. 

But that was then, and so much history has passed since then. As a political junkie and an anti-war and AIDS activist, I feel as though my personal life story has unfolded almost from my earliest memories in relation to a bigger picture; one I’ve sought to understand and contribute to in my way.  

Looking at the current picture as of September, 2015, one of the things that makes me crazy is that much of the media refer to both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders in the same sentence just because they both appeal to people who aren’t satisfied with the way things are going in Washington. There are miles and miles between the solutions offered by Bernie Saunders, who is the genuine article, and Donald Trump, who presents a fictional creation in lieu of having a philosophy, or an agenda for the country, or a plan for anything beyond gratifying his need for attention.


* * *

IN MEMORIAM

Oliver Sacks

On August 30, Oliver Sacks, M.D., died at the age of 82 in his Greenwich Village home, surrounded by family and close friends. His website noted that he spent his time near the end “…doing what he loved – playing the piano, writing to friends, swimming, enjoying smoked salmon, and completing several articles.” He was a man beloved beyond those close to him. Sacks was born in Britain, but spent his professional life in the United States. He was not only known as a brilliant and innovative neurologist, but also as a best-selling author who drew on his patients' case histories. I believe the first thing I ever read of his was a well-known piece called, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. Some of his wildly popular books, which both entertained and educated readers about the workings of the brain and mind, have been adapted for film and stage. His book A Kind of Alaska is also a one-act play written in 1982 by British playwright Harold Pinter, which originally starred Judi Dench as Deborah, a woman who awakens from years of sleep brought on by a sleeping sickness, with a mind that's still that of a 16-year-old. She has to confront the fact that her body has aged without her prior knowledge or consent. Another of his books, Awakenings, upon which the 1990 film of the same name, with the role of Oliver Sacks played exquisitely by Robin Williams, describes his experiences using a then-new drug, levodopa, on post-encephalitic patients.  

True to himself, Dr. Sacks was writing to the last. On August 14, he published an essay, Sabbath, in The New York Times. Two more articles are to be published this week, one in The New York Review of Books, and one in The New Yorker. He has left behind an archive of manuscripts, journals, and a few books just shy of completion. He also left behind The Oliver Sacks Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to his favorite mysteries: “…the understanding of the of the human brain and mind through narrative non-fiction and case histories.” The Foundation will also ensure that Sacks' legacy is available to the widest audience possible by preserving and digitizing the words and work of this dynamic man for the use of future generations. The New York Times called him a "poet laureate of contemporary medicine."


Wayne Dyer

During the years that I was traveling all over the globe facilitating my workshops and speaking at forums and programs, including the International AIDS Conferences, I very occasionally wound up sharing a panel or microphone with Wayne Dyer. This motivational “guru” and bestselling author of dozens of self-help books passed away the night of Saturday, September 12th, at the age of 75. His family shared the news of his death with Dyer’s 2.4 million Facebook fans on Sunday. The cause of death was not disclosed at the time. The Spring issue of Watkins' Mind Body Spirit magazine just came out and in The Watkins’ Spiritual 100 List, Dyer appears as the eighth most spiritually influential person in the world, right between #7, Oprah, and #9, Archbishop Desmond Tutu. I would say Dyer was in pretty great company. 

Dyer’s spirituality may be what got him through a difficult childhood in orphanages and foster homes. When he was old enough, he joined the Navy, earned a doctorate in educational counseling from Wayne State University, and set off to live a full life. Perhaps his primary work, which espouses the power of positive thinking, grew from the means by which he became a person with a gift and the willingness to give it away. He has written over 40 books, the most recent of which is a memoir, which he had been urged by many to write, and I am grateful that he was able to do it. Dyer didn’t believe in accidents, though he believed in Karma and saw that, as he put it, “Although we may not be aware of who or what is “moving the checkers, life has a purpose, and each step of our journey has something to teach us.” As he also said, “I wasn’t aware of all of the future implications that these early experiences were to offer me. Now, from a position of being able to see much more clearly, I know that every single encounter, every challenge, and every situation are all spectacular threads in the tapestry that represents and defines my life, and I am deeply grateful for all of it.”



* * *


Not All News is Good News, 
But Some, as in Bernie, is:


“We are at a moment of truth. We need to face up to the reality of where we are as a nation, and we need a Mass Movement of people to fight for change--I believe America is ready for a new path to the future.” 

Bernie, as his base calls him with deep affection, is a Democratic candidate for President, though he has a fondness for the social programs that have been embraced by socialists, and has used his beliefs for the welfare of his constituents and the least-represented among us. Born a Brooklyn boy, he evolved into a serious political entity with deep feelings for the wellbeing first of all for the people of Vermont, whom he began serving in 1981 as mayor of Burlington. He is credited with transforming the city "into one of the most exciting and livable small cities in America.” Bernie was successful in providing affordable housing, progressive taxation, and environmental protection, and supporting child care, women’s rights, youth programs and the arts. He then moved on to serve as a man with a conscience for 16 years in the United States House of Representatives. In 2006, he was elected to the U.S. Senate, where he is currently serving his second term. 
  
His website states that “In Congress, Bernie has fought tirelessly for working families, focusing on the shrinking middle class and growing gap between the rich and everyone else. Bernie has been called a 'practical and successful legislator,' and he was dubbed the 'amendment king' in the House of Representatives for passing more amendments than any other member of Congress. As the chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, Bernie worked across the aisle to 'bridge Washington’s toxic partisan divide and cut one of the most significant deals in years.' In 2015, Democratic leadership tapped Bernie to serve as the caucus’ ranking member on the Senate Budget Committee.”


  1. Income and Wealth Inequality
  2. Getting Big Money Out of Politics
  3. Creating Decent Paying Jobs
  4. Racial Justice
  5. Fighting for Women's Rights
  6. A Fair and Humane Immigration Policy
  7. A Living Wage
  8. Real Family Values
  9. Climate Change & Environment 
  10. Reforming Wall Street
[While reading about the Republican Debate, below, it might help to check out Bernie Saunders' tweets from the night (you can read them at www.politicususa.com). He pretty much spoke for Americans like me when he finally gave up on the telecasted debates and called the entire event "sad."]

* * *

The Second Prime Time 
Republican Debate


Almost none of the list of issues that Bernie cares deeply about were even discussed or broached at the Republican debate. This debate included 11 candidates, a few of whom are a lot closer to staying in for the duration than others, though some seemed better equipped to continue on towards the finish line for the prospective presidential candidate. In addition to Trump and Fiorina, who were cast in leading and rival roles almost before their names were listed, there were: Ben Carson, Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, Chris Christie, Mike Huckabee, and Rand Paul. For the most part, the exchanges were civilized, and though I would have loved for some hard Questions to have been asked, and for Jake Tapper, the moderator from CNN, to have asked Trump to explain how he’d be able to pull off all of the miracles he promised, and to have challenged other things Trump said about himself that were obviously untrue. Trump wasn’t the only one who needed to be challenged, but he does have a serious truth deficit. To see the lies perpetrated during the debate by Trump and the others go to Fact-Checking the GOP Debate (www.nbcnews.com/politics/2016-election/fact-checking-gop-debate-n429191).

What We Can Do:

  1. Notice who, if anyone, you are rooting for, either because you like them, if you’re a Republican, or, if you are a Democrat, because they seem beatable.
  2. How do you see these potential candidates doing in a match against Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, or Bernie Sanders?
  3. Perhaps, if you’re so inclined, you could send a list of the questions you would like answered, or the issues you think should be brought up, to the up-coming debates. Check the schedule (www.uspresidentialelectionnews.com/2016-debate-schedule/2016-republican-primary-debate-schedule/), and search for information as to how to submit questions a few weeks before each debate.


And Then There’s Donald Trump....


Trump may not embrace the KKK, but they sure do love him. Guess why!

To no one’s surprise, America’s most popular Neo-Nazi website, the Daily Stormer, has officially come out in favor of Donald Trump. Predictably, the endorsement praised Trump’s racist statements, especially his “willingness to call Mexicans out as criminal rapists, murderers, and drug dealers.” The typical xenophobic right-wing jargon about China and Mexico “stealing our jobs” also features prominently in the endorsement. In reality, of course, immigrants have lower rates of crime and drug use than native-born whites and any “job-stealing” at the hands of China, Mexico, or elsewhere, is merely the result of the  free-market capitalist competition that conservatives supposedly support. Neo-Nazis do not live in reality, and it’s clear that Trump, who has repeatedly proved himself ignorant on these subjects, inhabits his own self-centered universe as well. So no wonder the Daily Stormer considers Trump to be the “only candidate talking about real issues.”

Trump feeds the hungry and mean right wing nuts what they must be longing to hear, by shouting out a crude, bombastic, narcissistic, bigoted, misogynistic, accusatory, rageful, parody that appeals to the worst instincts of his fans. I call them fans because they clearly fall for his bizarre “say it like it is” version of the truth, which anyone with integrity, curiosity, common sense, and the ability to recognize fiction would not tolerate in a President. If they weren’t just fans, they might be smart enough to notice that he has plenty of critical one-liners, but offers no solutions to the issues he raises. His purpose is to blame, not enlighten or heal. 

When I can force myself to watch or listen to Trump, aside from being put off by his appearance, I often think, as I change the channel to make him go away, "Did he really say that? He lies! It’s just not true!!" Figuring which Trump Talk is pure misinformation, which is some fiction he’s invented because he knows so little about so much, and which frightening, inhumane, and just plain wrong things he not only says, but believes, hones my ability to detect bull when I hear it.  

As I wrote this, I decided that I shouldn’t just throw my opinions out there, but let his own words make my point, so I looked up some of my favorite Trumpisims to share with you:

  1. “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” 
  2. “You know, it really doesn’t matter what the media writes as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass.”
  3. "I will build a great wall, and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me, and I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall…” 
  4. “I have black guys counting my money…. I hate it. The only guys I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes all day.”
  5. “Hillary Clinton was the worst Secretary of State in the history of the United States. There's never been a Secretary of State so bad as Hillary. The world blew up around us. We lost everything, including all relationships…."
  6. “If you can’t get rich dealing with politicians, there’s something wrong with you.”
  7. [Spoken to Jorge Ramos, a Latino news anchor who dared to ask a question without being called on at a press conference:]“Sit down. Sit down. Sit down… Go back to Univision.”  
  8. [Spoken with a fake accent:] "Negotiating with Japan, negotiating with China, these people walk into the room, they don’t say, ‘Oh, hello, how’s the weather, so beautiful outside, isn’t it lovely?’ They say, ‘We want deal.’ ”
  9. “They are going to have nuclear weapons. They are going to take over parts of the world that you wouldn’t believe. And I think it’s going to lead to nuclear holocaust.” [As I typed this I thought that if we substituted the words, "I am" for the words "They are," by happy accident, he'd be pretty much describing his own character!]
  10. “All the women on The Apprentice flirted with me—consciously or unconsciously. That’s to be expected.” 
  11. [Reportedly spoken to Rolling Stone about his daughter Ivanka:] “She’s really something, and what a beauty, that one. If I weren’t happily married and, you know, her father…." [A few years back, he reportedly said on The View: "I’ve said if Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.”]
  12. [Regarding Carly Fiorina:] “Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president? I mean, she’s a woman, and I’m not supposed to say bad things, but really, folks, come on. Are we serious?” [He outdid himself in the crass department with that one.]


The last three made me wonder if Trump lives in a house where the mirrors are all covered. Has he never looked at himself? Take a moment and scroll back up to his picture, then to Carly Fiorina's picture (left). I don’t know about you but I would rather share a meal while sitting across the table from her lovely face than from his, with its squinty, almost invisible, eyes, thin down-turned mouth, and slack jaw-line, any day. 
    
I thought that Ms. Fiorina spoke quite well to Fox News’ Megyn Kelly, who also suffered as a Trump Target for making him look bad. I need to amend that: he made himself look bad all by himself. At any rate, Fiorina told Kelly, “Maybe, just maybe, I’m getting under his skin a little bit because I am climbing in the polls.” And I bet that's true. Fiorina's Super PAC released a great ad in response to Trump's comment, featuring the faces of many of the Republican women that Trump might in fact wish would vote for him. It's worth watching (click here to view it on YouTube). 

During the recent debate, Fiorina kept up with Trump eye to eye throughout the evening, called him on his attitude towards women, and yet managed to rise above the setup of their fight by the event's pre-press, and join the other participants in lively exchanges.

What We Can Do:
  1. Be in touch with Donald Trump, and tell him what you think of him; if you’re a fan, so be it; if not, let him know what you think and feel about him, what he says, how he says it, and how he treats people. Maybe you want to ask him just what he plans to do as President, and how he will execute those plans. plans. www.donaldjtrump.com/contactwww.twitter.com/realDonaldTrump
  2. Carly’s views are pretty conservative as well, and like Trump, she over-states her qualifications and history. She also went very dramatic over the alleged Planned Parenthood video, which no one seems to be able to prove is PP, and some think was made to defame them. Look her up at www.carlyforamerica.com; www.carlyforpresident.com, and then go to the Fact Checker: www.nbcnews.com/politics/2016-election/fact-checking-gop-debate-n429191


* * *

Cruz, Palin, & Trump trash the Iran Deal from Capital Hill


Not all of the people we’ve been discussing know one another, or hold similar views, but Cruz and Trump hooked up with Palin, which I thought was pretty funny, to join others like somebody from Duck Dynasty, which I’ve never seen, Glenn Beck, and other assorted folks hostile towards President Obama and his Iran deal. They all took to the microphone to spit on the deal. After all, they wouldn’t want Obama to have such a big win on his watch. Trump, who has trouble putting sentences together, vowed that he intends to get Amir Hekmati and Saeed Abedidi released from captivity in Iran before he even takes office, "because they know that’s what has to happen and they [sic] if they don’t know it, I’m telling them now,” Trump roared, and the crowd went wild. He then said, “We are led by very, very stupid people. Very, very stupid people. We cannot let it continue. It will change. We will have so much winning when I get elected that you may get bored with winning!” However, I have news for Mr. Trump. Stupid is a word that I have heard applied to him, to his like-minded supporters, to Ted Cruz, who misunderstands Dr. Seuss, and to Sarah Palin, for so many reasons that it’s practically her middle name. In fact when I think about them, I am reminded of that great line from the film A Fish Called Wanda: "Calling you stupid is an insult to stupid people." 

When I watched them addressing the crowd, I suddenly saw them as Tweedle Dee, Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dumber. This is partly because they were very supportive of the homophobic Kim Davis, the clerk from Rowan County, Kentucky, who refused to give an application for a marriage license to a couple because they were gay. Crowds outside Congress cheered her as well. She calls herself a Conscientious Objector, but that title was created for people who object to war or killing, and are willing to suffer the consequences. It was not created to let bigoted people off the hook for defying the law or human decency. I was thinking that if she got hooked on her fifteen minutes of fame, she might have to spend more time in jail. Well, apparently she also had some thoughts about that, as she returned to work for the first time since she decided God didn’t want gay men and lesbians to have the same rights to wed as those who marry, and marry and re-marry. She announced that she was, "…here before you this morning with a seemingly impossible choice that I do not wish upon any of my fellow Americans: my conscience or my freedom," then she said she was, “…torn between obeying God and a directive from the judge that forces me to disobey God.”  

Not everyone in her community was so convinced, and when she returned from jail, she was rewarded with this poster (left). I guess all is well that ends well.

As I mentioned, Trump spoke at the No Iran Deal rally, and I have to admit that I didn’t know he was a linguist, but he created a new word, “bigly!” Actually though, it may not be a new word. I’m pretty sure I’ve heard a friend’s three-year-old use it. But otherwise, until today, I’d never heard that word, which appears nowhere in the English language. However, I think, in all fairness, I should use it in a sentence or two: Donald Trump’s estimate of himself is bigly overblown; Donald Trump can be counted on to make up bigly stories that make him look good, which he “swears” are true; Donald Trump is delusional because he thinks women can’t stay away from him because he’s so bigly, majorly handsome. I do, however, think he has found perfect partners in Ted Cruz, and the two he invited to speak at the rally: Trump and Palin. When Palin took to the dais, I had to stop listening, because all she was doing was repeating what the others had said in her high-strung, screechy voice, and even more challenged vocabulary. I switched to Christiana Amanpour for a reminder that there are still powerful clear-thinking folks among us.  

What We Can Do:
  1. Send everyone you know the image of the billboard above.
  2. Watch this timely and timeless clip from The West Wing  (www.facebook.com/OccupyDemocrats/videos/939687696124285)
  3. Let the Kentucky government know that it is inappropriate to ever hire bigots to fill any state-related jobs that might be in conflict with their prejudices.


* * *


The Long and Painful Migration:


All of the self-centered drama above pales in significance beside the very real, and in some cases life-threatening, issues being faced by those who are forced to flee their homes by both natural and man-made disasters. The migration of those fleeing Syria and Iraq is purely man-made. I’m going to go with “a picture says a thousand words” and just post some photos from of this migration that appeared on CNN, the BBC, The Telegraph, and Twitter.



























At the end of a long and painful migration....

A refugee camp in Jordan



A Few More Necessary Words:

European Union nations have "agreed in principle" to relocate across the continent 160,000 refugees from Italy, Greece, and Hungary, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere told reporters Monday, following a meeting of EU ministers. Meanwhile, the European Union Council reached a preliminary agreement to redistribute over the next two years 32,000 refugees from Italy and Greece, primary gateways for a flood of migrants pouring into Europe. The council hopes to raise that figure to 40,000 by December.

The United Nations Refugee Agency estimates Europe has been flooded this year with more than 410,000 refugees and migrants fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East, Africa, and Afghanistan. The interior and justice ministers of the 28-nation EU met in Brussels Monday, as Sigmar Gabriel, Germany's vice chancellor, warned that his country is expecting more than 1 million migrants this year, 200,000 higher that the previous estimate.

In a separate development Monday, British Prime Minister David Cameron paid a surprise visit to a Syrian refugee camp in Lebanon, where he pledged an extra $150 million to help relieve suffering across the area. Britain has now contributed $1.6. billion in aid for refugees in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey. Cameron has said he will let up to 20,000 Syrian refugees resettle in Britain, but only over the next five years, and only from camps such as the one he visited in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley on Monday.

The EU is looking for member states to contribute military ships and planes for an international operation in the Mediterranean to counter human trafficking by smugglers, the Associated Press reported. If the program is approved, the ships could seize and divert vessels that are not carrying national flags in international waters, the AP said, adding that approval could take several weeks. 

Meanwhile, the last I heard, the United States is being woefully cautious with regard to helping refugees. We should be ashamed and we should demand that President Obama and Congress mandate taking in large numbers of these people, and after screening, organizing, and resettling them, have a plan ready to put those who can work to work, and to offer rapid training programs for the unskilled. It should not fall to the NGOs to deal with this crisis. These are people who have lost absolutely everything and need our help, which we can easily afford to offer, and in fact can't afford not to. If we are going to be the country we claim to be, and since we are not exempt from some of the blame for what has happened in Syria, it's the least we can do. I spent a few mornings watching the Migration unfold. CNN's Arwa Damon, who has been walking, and sometimes running, with the Syrians and Iraqis as they headed for Germany blended in with, and cared deeply about, these men, women, and children seeking safety and a new life. Her words, and the courageous people she'd joined on their rush to freedom with only the few things they could carry, left me in tears for their plight, and tears of joy for the promise of their progress.
How can we live without our lives. How will we know it's us without our past?... How'll it be not to know what land's outside the door? How if you wake up in the night and know—and know the willow tree's not there? Can you live without the willow tree? Well, no, you can't. The willow tree is you. John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath
What We Can Do:

  1. First of all, while the migration continues and the people are in camps, you can support the World Food Program (www.wfpusa.org/donate-help-families-syria).
  2. Donate to the International Rescue Committee, an organization that is also helping settle refugees in the United States (www.engage.rescue.org/donate/recurs-donate-now-here-humanity).
  3. Reach out and demand that the U.S. lend more of a helping hand:
    1. The House of Representatives: www.house.gov
    2. The Senate: www.senate.gov/index.htm
    3. President Obama: www.whitehouse.gov/contact 
                                                                                     

The End



 Thank You
  




My last issue was written during what I called “a mean-spirited time" in America, when the circumstances of that time were impacting me in a not-so-fabulous way. This time around, there is some very good news to report, which I’ll do before getting to the less-good news. I’ll start with the Supreme Court’s decision on the marriage of same sex couples, and the unbridled joy that broke out in front of the Court and across the entire nation in response. On the less-good side, is the ever-expanding list of naysaying Republicans, many of whom have placed their names in the race to be the their party's nominee for President. They have swarmed the media with their ill-informed, homophobic, and only slightly disguised racist rhetoric. I have to admit that though it occurred to me that these people have family, friends, and voters who love them, I have been gleefully raking through many of their statements about everything from the Supreme Court, to homosexuality, including their words about President Obama.

Speaking of which, our President rose exquisitely to the occasion of a powerful moment in our nation’s history, when the news broke that 21-year old Dylann Roof murdered the nine-member Bible study group at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, after they had generously invited him to join them. One of the victims, Reverend Clementa Pinckney, was a cherished friend of President Obama, who presented the eulogy at his Memorial Service with soaring, thrilling, moving passion and beauty. His elegant words helped the country to heal, to rise up, and to come together in a spirit of cooperation. And though we are used to being wowed by Obama the speaker, this speech was personal. And yet, many of the insensitive Republican wannabe-Presidential-hopefuls uttered simplistic, obligatory condolences, while trying, but failing, to shoot down President Obama in a variety of ways: by interfering with his process of establishing an accord with Ayatollah Khamenei, by undermining the Affordable Care Act (which the Supreme Court sanctioned the day before they released their marriage decision), and by trying to undermine other of his successes. I’d rest my case, but I have much, much more to say on these subjects and others. Read the rest of my posts in this edition for more....

What We Can Do:
  1. If you missed the eulogy please give yourself a treat and read it or watch it. I know the media gave his Amazing Grace a lot of play, but that’s the media’s idea of what the public can tolerate. Though it was a delightful moment, his whole memorable, powerful speech, in which he asks us to rise to the occasion and be our best selves, provided the country with a healing moment and a call to action. If you missed it, please don’t cheat yourself:  Click here to watch the VIDEO;  click here to read the TRANSCRIPT.
  2. Think about racism in your life, community, the country, politics, how it may impact you both personally or politically, and what you can or would you be willing to do to address it.
  3. Think about a world where we don’t reward bigotry with votes. How would that affect your life? What would you be willing to do to help create that kind of world?
  4. Apply the above thinking to the combination of racism and easily available guns, and what you can or would be willing to do to address the proliferation of easily available life-threatening weapons.
  5. I guess the only thing that makes sense as a follow-up is, go for it to the degree you are able and willing, and last but not least, how about doing even more? 
Thanks for entertaining these ideas – more to follow.

"Maybe we now realize the way a racial bias can infect us even when we don't realize it, so that we're guarding against not just racial slurs, but we're also guarding against the subtle impulse to call Johnny back for a job interview but not Jamal." ~ Barack Obama 

"Today is a big step in our march toward equality. Gay and lesbian couples now have the right to marry, just like anyone else." ~ Barak Obama

I thought I would start off by celebrating the Supreme Court’s shift in the law that came not a moment too soon, yet at a time that is perfect, since a majority of American citizens now support Same Sex Marriage. The Court’s decision righted what I see as a long-held wrong, and set off the wildly joyous and moving celebrations across the country that followed. For those of you who may not be up on the details, until this decision it was more of a state thing. Same Sex Marriage was legal in 37 states and the District of Columbia, which wasn’t bad, and the Supreme Court’s ruling in 2013 that put a stop to the Defense of Marriage Act, which was bad, seemed like a great victory, though it did not offer gay couples the same rights granted to heterosexual couples. According to the most recent Gallup poll on the subject, 60% of Americans thought same sex couples should have the same rights and privileges as any other “legally” married couple. 

Though, as I’ve said before on these pages, my marriage and the marriage-like relationships that followed my divorce didn’t work for me, I’ve fought for years to support everyone’s right to say, “I do!” I’m even a Rev. and happy to say, “I now pronounce you….” So, I am delighted with the Supreme Court’s decision. In political terms: the fact that 76% of Democrats, 64% of Independents, and 37% of Republicans support gay marriage offers no great surprises, nor do the opinions of many of those running for each party’s nominations (we’ll look at those a bit later when we check in on the candidates). 

The Supremes ruled five to four that states no longer can keep same-sex couples from marrying, plus, they must recognize their marriages. Voting against the decision were the court’s four conservative justices: Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Antonin Scalia, Justice Samuel Alito, and of course Justice Clarence Thomas, who, you may recall, was accused of making sexual comments to his coworker Anita Hill, though President Bush thought making him a Justice for life was still a good idea. Scalia presented the dissent: “This practice of constitutional revision by an unelected committee of nine, always accompanied (as it is today) by extravagant praise of liberty, robs the People of the most important liberty they asserted in the Declaration of Independence and won in the Revolution of 1776: the freedom to govern themselves…. Until the courts put a stop to it, public debate over same-sex marriage displayed American democracy at its best. Individuals on both sides of the issue passionately, but respectfully, attempted to persuade their fellow citizens to accept their views.” Click here to read the full dissent. 



Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the elegant majority opinion in favor of the ruling, which was also supported by the court’s four liberal justices, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan. “No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family,” Kennedy wrote. “In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death…. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions.... They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”

What We Can Do:
  1. Write to the Justices of your choice and express your gratitude.
  2. Write to the Justices of your choice and express your dismay.
  3. Write to your legislators and ask them to begin town hall meetings to discuss both Same Sex Marriage and race.
  4. Look deeply into your own heart, experiences, and expectations about race, and see if they support your well being. If not, think about what you can do to change that.

Murder Near the Cathedral

It is shocking to me that one misguided, perhaps demented, hate-filled young white guy could rock our nation with a single act of terrorism. This self-styled vigilante waltzed into the Bible study group at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. The group welcomed him, and he sat among them for something close to an hour, and then took out a gun, which he had no trouble getting his hands on. Then, this youthful white supremacist murdered all nine of the generous, God-loving African American congregants. 

The following is an excerpt from what has been identified as shooter Roof’s racist manifesto: 
"The event that truly awakened me was the Trayvon Martin case…. I can say today that I am completely racially aware. Black people are racially aware almost from birth, but White people on average don’t think about race in their daily lives…. I have no choice. I am not in the position to, alone; go into the ghetto and fight. I chose Charleston because it is most historic city in my state, and at one time had the highest ratio of blacks to Whites in the country. We have no skinheads, no real KKK, no one doing anything but talking on the internet. Well someone has to have the bravery to take it to the real world, and I guess that has to be me. I was not raised in a racist home or environment. Living in the South, almost every White person has a small amount of racial awareness, simply because of the numbers of negroes in this part of the country. But it is a superficial awareness. Growing up, in school, the White and black kids would make racial jokes toward each other, but all they were jokes. Me and White friends would sometimes would watch things that would make us think that ‘blacks were the real racists’ and other elementary thoughts like this, but there was no real understanding behind it…"
The full manifesto is available on Gawker (click here). What I have written is about all I can deal with, though I am always fascinated with criminal minds. Maybe it’s still too soon.

Alas, for the shooter, his objective to create an action that would ignite racial tensions and at best, a full-fledged race war, failed miserably! What a shock it must have been to his system that not only did nothing of the kind happen, but that his murderous actions had the exact opposite effect. The people of Charleston, along with supporters around the country, joined hands across color, religious, and political lines to deal with their grief, shock, and loss, to create a time of peace and harmony, and to generate realistic conversations about race relations as part of a long, inclusive healing process. Our President, Barack Obama, beautifully approached all of this. See the post below for details.

Peacemaker-In-Chief

President Obama gave a remarkable eulogy in Charleston.
To watch the video, click here; to read the full text, click here
On the morning of this travesty, I awoke, and as usual, tuned in to CNN as I ingested my first cup of black coffee, and watched talking heads speculate about what the Supreme Court would do regarding Same Sex Marriage until the good news was revealed. Not too long after that, images of the joyous spontaneous celebrations at the Court and places like the Stonewall Inn in New York City’s Greenwich Village (where the gay rights movement’s first small but powerful protest, dubbed a riot by the police, took place) filled the screen. The talking heads began to address the wonderful words of Justice Kennedy (above), who only the day before cast the deciding vote and read the decision on President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, allowing those already receiving their care through the program to keep their health care (a big win for the President). 

Just about the time I dried my tears of joy, CNN switched to images of the Charleston ceremony honoring State Senator and Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney, 41, the pastor of Emanuel AMC Church, and friend of President Obama. The President sat in the front row as moving prayers were presented by various ministers and the wonderful gospel chorus sang songs of joy and sorrow. Then, he was introduced to the gathered, and he delivered his eulogy for Reverend Pinckney. The President’s words were moving, edgy, full of grace, and as powerful an experience of the President as I've ever had. That day I saw the President I voted for twice. In the course of his speech, which was delivered with the passion of a preacher, which the place and occasion supported, he not only paid homage to the Senator, and to the other Charleston victims, and offered healing words to their families, but he also used the eulogy to become even more presidential by talking about what we have already accomplished, what he intends to accomplish in the remaining days of his presidency, and how we need to change, grow our tolerance, embrace our struggle, and address race. He addressed politics, and Same Sex Marriage as the gathered rewarded him often with applause, occasionally with a “tell it brother,” frequently with lengthy standing ovations, and throughout with tears of profound grief. 

Days before, President Obama caught some flack for a word he used, appropriately, from my point of view, in an interview conducted by comedian Marc Maron for Maron's popular podcast. It was a relaxed exchange in which the President spoke frankly. He said that the United States had not overcome its history of racism, and weighed in on the debate over the racially motivated shooting deaths of the nine black church members in Charleston, South Carolina. "Racism, we are not cured of it," Obama said. "And it's not just a matter of it not being polite to say ‘nigger’ in public. That's not the measure of whether racism still exists or not. It's not just a matter of overt discrimination. Societies don't, overnight, completely erase everything that happened 200 to 300 years prior."

The president said that while attitudes about race had improved significantly since he was born to a white mother and black father, the legacy of slavery cast "...a long shadow that's still part of our DNA that's passed on." Though the President also expressed frustration that "...the grip of the NRA on Congress is extremely strong and prevents gun control from advancing in Congress even after 20 children and six educators were massacred in a Connecticut elementary school in 2012. I will tell you, right after Sandy Hook, Newtown, when 20 6-year-olds are gunned down, and Congress literally does nothing. Yes, that's the closest I came to feeling disgusted," he added. "I was pretty disgusted." 

I want to round this out by saying that once again, the media missed many opportunities to go deeply into these and other topics that we’ll continue to explore in this issue of Don’t Just Stand There. Do something! Instead of reporting on the ideas that President Obama presented during the podcast, every talking head and mediocre daylong talkfest presenter started their conversation with each guest by asking, “What did you think about the President using the N-word?” They should have asked, “What do you think about the President’s desire to confront racism in the country after the slaughter in Charleston? Where do you come down on it?” They also failed to present the dozens of brilliant statements strewn throughout his remarkable eulogy, each outlet choosing without fail to run and rerun and rerun his singing of Amazing Grace, which was a delightful moment, but hardly the appropriate takeaway from the moving and provocative event where he held the nation spellbound.