Thursday, December 22, 2016


For all the daily sucker punches making America great today — the Kremlin collusion, the nepotism, the pay-for-play schemes from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the tweeted slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, all the blatant lies repeated into truths — I will miss a small noble thing most of all.

I will miss the president being presidential.

Barack Obama is presidential.

[This is not about his being president, which is another writing entirely. Though I fault President Obama for failings — notably public education — as I would any president as is my right as a citizen, I fault his foes far, far more, for their cruel hypocrisy against our president. They have twisted their blatant intransigence into something they think of as noble, and have managed to stick Obama with blame for their own failings.]

At times of tragedy and times of wonder, Barack Obama is one who speaks for our shared grief and awe. He stands at the podium, as he has done far too many times than is fair or acceptable, for all those times of massive crushing violence against innocents, and reminds us we are united in these states, in these times. We are together; at least we feel, in this gathered moment, that we are, even if we aren't really.

President Obama makes the words his own. Some are indeed his own, and some the eloquent choices of writers who know his voice, and he speaks them as if they and he are one fiber. He speaks his truth.

President George W. Bush also — sometimes — spoke with eloquence, but so woodenly you knew the words weren't his. Good for him, being wise enough to speak them, to know the weight of the words carefully chosen for him. George W. Bush reached his acme after 9/11, when he spoke through a megaphone, his arm around a firefighter, amid a pile of rubble that used to be the World Trade Center.

Bush let the firefighters and rescuers know that the nation stood with him. Had he also let the crowd know that his administration would soon use this horror as pretense to lead us into 15 years of misguided brutal war, that would have been refreshing and disarming in all meanings of the word.

Bill Clinton was almost too presidential in this regard, so at ease with words that he often overacted them, hammed over them. He had precedence in Ronald Reagan, the Great Communicator, who not only had the choice of the choicest words, but knew how to deliver, a master propagandist.

George H.W. Bush had a tough act to follow, and didn't very well. At least he read the words before him, stiff though they were, tumbling from his mouth.

Donald Trump is not presidential. Not in any meaning of the word.

Can you imagine him presiding at the next great national tragedy? Try to imagine Donald Trump speaking words of comfort and hope as we consider the aftermath.

He will have none to give, nor would he know how to give them; nor will he care to give them. He will instead leverage the moment for some new loss of liberty, some new broad brush of blame against some new group. He'll vindicate himself as having been correct about this tragedy — pick any tragedy, which he can sell as an I-told-you-so — and froth his followers into some new course of extreme action. For our protection, of course.

Trump will not speak with the poetry we will long to hear. He might have someone who can write that poetry, but he will not speak it. He will barely speak complete sentences, chopping them up with needless digressions, usually about his greatness and rightness.

Donald Trump is "interested in two things and two things only: Making you afraid of it and telling you who's to blame for it," as Aaron Sorkin's movie president, Andrew Shepherd, said of his conservative arch-rival, in The American President. "That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you win elections."

Donald Trump will have made the country a slow-motion wreck by then, but I will miss the charitable important act of a president being presidential. It is gone.

Now I tire of writing about Donald Trump, tire of drawing orange pieces of him, tire of paying attention to him, though I pay I must, to keep a wary eye.

As palliative, I instead repeat, for this season, my favorite moment from Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," the instructive moment when Jacob Marley's ghost appears before Ebenezer Scrooge.*

Weighted down by the chains and change-boxes that mark his own selfishness in life, the ghost of Scrooge's business partner has come to warn Scrooge of the horrible burdens he too will suffer in the afterlife. Scrooge will forever drag the "ponderous" chains he has forged in life, if he continues to hole up in their counting house, attending to business rather than charity.

“But you were always a good man of business, Jacob," Scrooge volunteered.

"Business!' cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. "Mankind was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The deals of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!” 

Remember the good, which once was, and can be again. 

*Watch Frank Finlay's version of Marley's ghost in the best version, with George C. Scott as Scrooge. Finlay's ghost is desperate and despairing, frighteningly frantic to make Scrooge see his errors.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016


Forget "post-truth."

Forget "xenophobia," or "fascism" or "kleptocracy" or "oligarchy" or "emoluments," or any of those candidates for Word of the Year, so strange and tangy with menace, that goosestep across your tongue these days.

The true Word of the Year — and for more years than I may be able to stomach — is "with."

Such a simple word, with — so familiar and modest, almost invisible. A preposition that in almost all cases denotes accompaniment, harmony. Togetherness.

Except when it spurts from the mouth of Donald J. Trump. From Trump's mouth, with is a chilling weapon.

In his use, with means opposition, as in this morsel you may have missed last week, when Trump was in Iowa, frothing up yet another thank-you rally, still running for president.

You will be shocked to learn he was fuming over a new criticism, this time about how he'll supposedly drain the swamp by refilling his cabinet with millionaires and billionaires, crony corporate titans:

"One newspaper criticized me: 'Why can't they have people of modest means?*'" he told his rally crowd. "Because I want people that made a fortune! Because now they're negotiating WITH you!"

Not "negotiating for you," as I read so many — too many — media outlets quoting it, as if they assume Trump made a semantic mistake. Fortune Magazine substituted the word for in brackets, like a Band Aid™® over what he actually said. Or the media used "for" in desperate hope he misspoke, that these henhouse foxes are negotiating for you, on your behalf! With your welfare and interests in mind! That must be what Trump meant!

But that's not what Trump said. Nor what he meant.

He said, "Now they're negotiating with you."  

With, as in "against."

Trump didn't misspeak. He's the greatest businessman in the history of the world, of course — as he'll tell you. He's the zen master of the deal, everybody knows. Negotiating is his thing.

How do I know Trump said what he meant? To quote our own glorious leader, "I know words. I have the best words."

So President-elect Trump is amassing a cabinet of contrarians, who not only seem loathe to run the executive functions for which they have been appointed, but who have been chosen for that reason.

We get, among others,
  • An education secretary with no experience, but lots and lots of money, who is against education, unless you can afford it, and wants to pick and choose who gets educated.
  • An attorney general whose experience with civil rights is selective at best. Guess who it's selective for?
  • A housing and urban development secretary, with no experience, who ignores the breadth of social safety net that enabled his self-made self to get where he got.
  • An energy secretary who would lead the department he wanted to eliminate during his own bumbling run for presidency, even though he couldn't remember its name.
  • An Environmental Protection Agency administrator who has demonstrated he thinks his agency is a nuisance that impedes taking profitable resources.
  • A health and human resources secretary for whom health care is a choice if you can afford it.
  • A secretary of state who runs his own virtual state already, and smells of money oil.
  • A national security adviser who has disparaged Islam and helped disseminate the most ridiculous and reckless of fake news.
What aren't fatcats in Trump's stratosphere are retired generals, or presidential hopefuls who stumbled on the campaign trail when Trump tripped them, insulting them as they fell.

It's Eisenhower's nightmare warning of the military-industrial complex, sitting around one table, holding their departments hostage, ready to negotiate with you.

They'll have the butter, and the guns to guard them. What do you have in trade?

Better education? Nah, we're thinking of going private with little accountability. We'll call you if we have a seat available for your kid, but probably not.

Civil rights? What color are you? What gender? Who do you love? By the way, what religion?

Health care? How long can you hold your breath?

Fresh air, clean water? Do you own any mineral rights? That'd be helpful. Love those mineral rights.

Freedom? Stand by. We might need them back. You know, to protect you.

Frankly, you don't have much to interest Trump in a trade.

Down continues to be up, and right wrong.

I finally figured out what the Trump phenomenon is all about: To use vulgarity he'd recognize, Donald Trump is pissing on our backs and calling it rain.

All our backs. Whether you're for him, against him, don't know, that's rain.

His minions spend their waking hours in spin, telling us so.

"Yes, that's rain!" says Vice President-elect Mike Pence, when he dismisses Trump's ridiculous statement that millions of people voted illegally, "I think one of the things that's refreshing about our President-elect, and it's one of the reasons why I think he made such an incredible connection with people all across this country, is because he tells you what's in his mind, tells you what's on his heart." Even it's untrue.

(The popular vote has Hillary Clinton with 2.8 million more votes than Trump. Still counting.)

"It's raining!" says Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway, asked if Trump's lies, Twitter™® attacks on individuals and misogyny are presidential behavior. "Well," says Conway, "he is the President-elect, so that's presidential behavior."

"It's raining!" says Trump surrogate Scottie Nell Hughes, when she declares, "There's no such thing, unfortunately, anymore of (sic) facts. And so Mr. Trump's tweet, amongst a certain crowd — a large part of the population — are truth. When he says that millions of people illegally voted, he has some — amongst him and his supporters, and people believe they have facts to back that up. Those that do not like Mr. Trump, they say that those are lies and that there are no facts to back it up."

Whatever Donald Trump says, goes. What he believes is true.

I'm not so innocent as to believe we don't already live among lies, elaborately made and disguised, around for so long we forget they're there. It's how we get by. It's how banking and finance works. It's how the haves have, how we fight wars, how we ignore atrocities at home and abroad, and still get to call ourselves exceptional.

But now we've entered the Age of Blatancy, where even the hope of a better way, based on facts, becomes mere mist in this thing Trump calls rain.

His cabinet, this would-be wrecking crew, these hostage negotiators. They're ready to negotiate with you.

Don't worry, Donald Trump is with you. As long as you're with him.

*When Trump assumes the role of his critics, do you notice how he leans back, tucks in his chin, purses his lips and lowers the register of his voice, very much in the way Alec Baldwin impersonates Trump on Saturday Night Live. Maybe Baldwin should sue.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Normal eyes

My mom is dead, which is good. These terrible days would have broken her heart all over again, so painfully.

Hillary Clinton was her candidate. I seem to remember she called her "my Hillary" or "my girl." I understand she was sooooo upset when she lost the nomination in 2008 to Barack Obama. I don't understand quite why.

We spoke once a week or so from afar, but about everyday stuff, not politics. At the time I was drowning in my attempt to become a teacher, and when I could crane my neck for a glimpse of the outside world, it was in fascination at the idea Obama could be president, so diametrically opposed from a presidency of questionable and brutal war.

What goes around, comes around, with venom.

My mom, Bonnie Jean, didn't like Obama. Again, I'm not sure why, or why she particularly liked Hillary Clinton. Maybe it was simply that she would be the first woman president, or she did not find Obama genuine.

Nor am I sure what my mom would have thought of Obama's presidency. She died a week into his first term. I imagine that she would have admired his effort to wrest the country out of a recession, but would have rankled at continued war. There would be no pleasing her with him. I imagine she would have given him hell. Mom was at a time in her life when she had a mind to tell someone exactly what she thought, and plenty of time and a computer to do so.

To me, she embodied the Jenny Joseph poem, "When I am old," the ode that inspired the loosely organized organization known as the Red Hat Society, to which she belonged. She was the woman in the poem who would "run my stick along the public railings/And make up for the sobriety of my youth."

But as hard and as faithfully as Mom would have berated Obama, she would have harangued his enemies — the Republican leaders who stymied Obama's every effort, the Fox News pundits barking baseless propaganda at his ankles — so much harder.

And Donald J. Trump — the president-elect should be glad my mom is dead. He'd be no match.

For awhile anyway, then I imagine eventually she would despair at this surreal, unreal, untrue time. She would be so worked up she could hardly talk.

She'd see what I see, the latest being the astounding "thank you" rally President-elect Trump staged last night in Cincinnati, one of several to take place in the swing states he won.

He is truly still running for president, rather than getting ready to be president. He is running down "my Hillary" still, riling his rally crowd into the Pavlovian reaction of "Lock her up! Lock her up!" Still! He is amping his base over the new nonissue of flag burning, of radical Islamic terrorism, the utter bullshit of what he knows his followers want to hear.

Trump is still describing his swing-state wins — while the popular vote stands at two-freaking-point-five million more votes for Hillary Clinton, and counting — and literally pointing to the "dishonest" press who said he couldn't win. We have heard all of this before. Many, many times.

His rally came complete with a public humiliation of a protestor, who "doesn't vote. They never vote!" Trump pronounced. And the people believed!

I will not be surprised today to hear new stories of crimes in the name of hate.

Oh, and by the way, said Trump at the rally, we must come together as a nation.

He has a funny way of showing it.

My god, I can hear my mom saying, when she'd have found her tongue again, is he governing by Beer Hall Putsch? Is this our new presidency, staging rallies to whip up his base?! Can we not see how this rise of despotism, the measured steps, the grooming of we, the people, for this man's rule?!

Hell would have to be paid, right about now, by my mom, in a flurry of letters, so many letters:
  • To Steve Bannon, champion of the white nationalist movement, now Trump's adviser
  • To the proposed cabinet of Trump's billionaire beneficiaries, whose money won't cover their egregious inexperience and delight in making their world safe from us. They are draining the swamp by the girth of their fat bellies
  • To Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, whose plan to obstruct President Obama these last eight years worked too well, leaving us Trump
  • To Rep. Jason Chaffetz, chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, who had hearings lined up to attack Hillary Clinton over her emails, but not a whit of consideration for Trump's staggering global conflicts of interest
And that would have been just a warmup. She'd have laid most of her unrelenting vengeance at Trump, who she'd have seen, as I do, that he's taking our country into danger as he speaks of safety, and separation has he talks of unity.

No email server could have contained my mom's fury at all this hypocrisy, this new normal.

Normalize. Normal eyes. Oligarchy. Gaslighting. Kleptocracy. Fascism. A lover of words, my mom would have rolled these, some new, others resurrected, over her tongue. And spat them out again. The new normal of words.

Even with all this nonsense, what would have really crushed my mom is what's going on near where she grew up in North Dakota, the Standing Rock Sioux and supporters standing against the Dakota Access Pipeline.

I wouldn't have been surprised if my mom had tried to join the encampment against the pipeline. She was raised on stories of the Mandan people near her hometown of Washburn, who sheltered Lewis & Clark and the Corps of Discovery during a terrible winter 114 years ago. She cultivated an affinity for native people, and drew away from the Catholic Church in which she grew up, upset at its complicity against native cultures.

Energy Transfer Partners, Phillips 66 and law enforcement in North Dakota would know my mom's name, for all the missives she would have fired at them, full of choice words.

She'd have stood with Standing Rock, wondering what has come to this country, people being driven again from their land for short-term profit.

As do I.

Rules don't apply

Dear President-elect Tru–

Sorry, still trying to ease into this odd concept. President-elect Trump. President-elect. Trump.

[Okay …]

Probably doesn't matter, anyway: You won't be reading this. I'm not really writing it to you. On this Thanksgiving morning, I'm not writing to anyone but myself

Dear President-elect Trump,

Are you still running for president? Because it seems like you're still running for president.

It seemed like you were running when you met this week with editors and reporters of what you had called the "dishonest" and "failing" New York Times. You opened the meeting with a long recitation of your victory and how many people came to your rallies and how many speeches you gave in a day toward the end of the campaign. Maybe no one has given so many speeches in a day like that, you said in your superlative best/worst/highest/lowest way.

You told the assembled news staff:
"I think I’ve been treated very rough. It’s well out there that I’ve been treated extremely unfairly in a sense, in a true sense. I wouldn’t only complain about The Times. I would say The Times was about the roughest of all. You could make the case The Washington Post was bad, but every once in a while I’d actually get a good article."
I never thought I'd say this in a literal sense but — who died and made you king?
Did your daddy never tell you he loves you? It's like all of this is about getting approval from someone, anyone, who isn't related to you, paid by you, using you or sponging off you.

It's like you want The Times to run headlines like in cartoonist Jack Ohman's latest lampoon of your ideal newspaper, with a picture of you (natch!) pushing merchandise under stacked banner headlines:
You railed against TV news executives and anchors at a meeting before that, called them on the carpet for not being nice to you. As if.

The meeting with The Times almost didn't happen. You tweeted®™— falsely! — that The Times changed the meeting rules on you, so you canceled. "Not nice," you tweeted.©®

Then you met after all, and ended up calling the "failing" Times "a world jewel."

You demonstrate two points here:
  • You are the archetypal politician, telling people what they want to hear, when they want to hear it, for your own purposes
  • You are indeed, as CNN host Fareed Zakaria pointedly called you, a bullshit artist
You don't care about truth or facts and can't be held down by them. Whatever is, is what you say it is.

Convenient for you, hell for the world.

What does it tell you that you twice demanded an apology from the cast of the "overrated" (your tweet) Tony- and Pulitzer-prize winning musical "Hamilton," which urged Vice President-elect Mike Pence to govern the country for all Americans?

Your bullshit tweet said the cast "harassed" Pence, when the world could easily see, by numerous furtive videos, that the cast stood together in a line and the actor playing Aaron Burr read from a statement, calmly and elegantly.

It tells me you don't understand your new job in this republic. Not the governing part, anyway. The branding part, yes. So far, you seem to regard the presidency as another deal done, prime real estate snatched, the Trump brand elevated big league.

What does it tell you that, while you blustered into the "Hamilton" issue on your own, The Times editors had to press you into denouncing the National Policy Institute, led by alt-right white supremacist leader Richard Spencer, which met in Washington D.C. to hail your victory, complete with Nazi salutes?

You acted as if you didn't know about them, just as you did with white nationalist and perennial candidate David Duke:
"I don’t know where they were four years ago, and where they were for Romney and McCain and all of the other people that ran, so I just don’t know, I had nothing to compare it to.
"But it’s not a group I want to energize, and if they are energized I want to look into it and find out why."
Yes, you had better investigate. Very complicated, this thing.

This all tells me you are fear itself.

And/or you don't know what you're doing. Making America great again, whatever manic and magical thinking that has ever meant.

You've made this country unstable and uncertain, even among those who have voted for you. You don't seem to stand for something, so we fall for anything. Except the wall. Apparently you're still gonna build the wall, and Mexico will pay for it.

Oh, and a tax plan. I read two credible sources on your simplified income tax, with fewer brackets. Married taxpayers with children and daycare costs get tax breaks, not much change for other groups. The biggest tax break would go to the wealthiest .1 percent of taxpayers.

How's that for bullshit?

You just named as your Secretary of Education a woman, Betsy DeVos, who is quoted in the book "Dark Money," that her family is the leading donor of soft money to the Republic Party, and expects influence with her millions, in order to achieve "honest government."

Either that's startlingly refreshing or just plain Trumpian frightful.

Drain the swamp, you say.

Bull. Shit.

Your chief administration strategist, Steve Bannon, champions the alt-right white supremacist movement as editor of Breitbart News, and has said he is a Leninist eager to destroy the state.

Bannon?! You and your chief of staff Reince Priebus told The Times. He's never been anything but nice to us, never said a racist thing to us!

Makes me think of words I came across this week, attributed to poet Michael Rosen:
"I sometimes fear that 
people think that fascism arrives in fancy dress 
worn by grotesques and monsters 
as played out in endless re-runs of the Nazis. 

Fascism arrives as your friend. 
It will restore your honour, 
make you feel proud, 
protect your house, 
give you a job, 
clean up the neighbourhood, 
remind you of how great you once were, 
clear out the venal and the corrupt, 
remove anything you feel is unlike you...

It doesn't walk in saying, 
"Our programme means militias, mass imprisonments, transportations, war and persecution."
You don't seem to see a problem with being president and running your businesses — for which there doesn't seem to be any clear rule because there has never been, well, you.

If someone wants to stay in your new Washington, D.C. hotel — great hotel by the way, built under budget, you never forget to say — because your name's on it, whaddaya gonna do about it, am I right?

If you don't see a conflict with that, if you don't see the conflicts and compromises and limitations and blunders that can cause with this country's role in the world, you are alone. Except for those who are related to you, work for you, use you or sponge off you.

You make children cry. Children who wonder if you, in your caprices, will decide they shouldn't live in this country anymore. Families who wonder if you will subjugate them solely by how they worship.

Your chief of staff, Priebus, said you won't rule out a registry of Muslims, that there are some problems with Islam.

What does it tell you that, at an interfaith Thanksgiving service I attended last week, a member of the Methodist church that hosted the service, stood from amid the congregation with the need to tell a leader of the Muslim community here, "We're with you, we're with you, we're with you?"

What does it tell you?!

You're not ruling anything out. You'll look into it. Deportation? Registry? Waterboarding. We'll see.

President Obama suggested we wait, that the presidency has a way of maturing the president.

Two weeks, wait's over. We joined the American Civil Liberties Union (you actually get a card!). I went to the interfaith service, an idea I've always approved of from afar, since the extreme application of our worship has often resulted in hate and war and suffering.

The fight spreads to too many fronts now. Civil liberties. Freedom of speech. The environment, global warming. The economy. Civility.

A Muslim woman at the interfaith service said, "Maybe some good can from this, in ways that we cannot now know."

I'm awake now, Mr. President-elect. And I hope that's a good thing. I will do what I can to act as a citizen, for the good of this great nation.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Sore winner

Should the new president of your country make you feel, "Uh oh!?"

No, the president shouldn't.

Yet holes have opened in me, the wind whistling through, and gravity has loosened its grip, unevenly, on my feet. I read the same sentence over and over yesterday afternoon. I rechecked meager tasks, just to feel like I was doing something until the day was over.

The day needed to be over.

I'm the last bastion in a new variation of the Martin Niemöller polemic against fascism, that begins, "First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a Socialist …" and ends, "Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me."

I'm at the end of that line, in among the last they would come for, the only kind our new president has not insulted and mocked in his ascendancy: A white male. I don't think he's insulted Protestants specifically, or even Catholics, poor specimen though I am. Almost everyone else, though: Mexicans (Latinos by extension), the African-Americans, women, Muslims, Jews by tangential code in television commercials and retweets, immigrants. Almost everyone else he has invited others to scorn and deride and blame.

Our new president.

What he has said and done has now been endorsed and enshrined in the most powerful office in the land.

I have escaped the scorn as a white male, but I can't escape this — this waiting. This feeling of … dread. For everyone.

Nothing so global has felt like this in my adult life. Even the tragic events of Sept. 11. Holes went through me then too, but they filled, and the world moved forward. Forward into tragic war, still fought, but weirdly, 9/11 had a feeling of ending.

A vlog by Luke Bland, an American expatriate in Finland, whom my son and his fiancee followed and used in their decision to study there, posted a video yesterday all about the election. At one point, Finnish coworkers stood around an office TV screen, and when the new president complimented Hillary Clinton on a hard-fought campaign, one of them bowed toward the screen in sarcastic exaggeration. The world watches, even more puzzled

"I'm just waiting for what's coming," Bland told a coworker in yesterday's vlog. Waiting. From all the way in Finland.

A swimmer from Ghana who corresponds with me on occasion expressed sadness and said, "We are hoping for the best."

Before this, no presidential transition I can remember caused me to feel any worse than business as usual, life going on. Even President Obama's historic election did not hit me in any particular way until I took a job as a teacher and witnessed the untrammeled joy of this moment — posters, streamers — of the school administrative staff, most of them black. It made me think of the great personal devotion I've read that many Americans held for Franklin Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.

This, though. This is "Uh oh!" This is What Will Happen? And When? And When Will It End? And none of it feels like hope.

How much of this wall will be built, and at what cost in money and blood? When will the deportations begin? When the sanctioned attacks on immigrant communities, when the escalating war with a new or simmering enemy, in a show of the new president's self-proclaimed unpredictability?

What's to become of our free press? Second Amendment, sacrosanct. First Amendment? Not worth the paper it's printed on. And justice for what's it worth to you?

When will the many threats be carried out, the revenge come due?

I know I'm not alone, which may feel like a sort of hope. Most of the people I "know" on facebook™®, my only real social media, for whatever reason feel the same. Yesterday the posts didn't even have to mention the election result, but the subject was clear. Swimmers were trying to rinse themselves clean. Some offered favorite songs as a kind of antidote, or puppy videos. Others posted lyrics without any context, such as:
Hey now, hey now
Don't dream it's over
Hey now, hey now
When the world comes in
They come, they come
To build a wall between us
We know they won't win
Crowded House
But recipients knew.

Donald Trump rose to office with few detailed plans, little apparent understanding of world affairs, but an intensely brilliant understanding of what would raise the ire of the already angry. I listened to Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams, of all people, supposedly an expert at persuasive techniques, describe the new president's brilliance at this skill, of beta testing catchy insults before his supporters ("Heartless Hillary" or "Crooked Hillary?"), of evading facts with purpose and precision, and getting people to imprint those insults on their intended victim with each new actual or perceived misstep.

I get that folks are angry and frustrated. I don't feel represented; I feel like I hand over my vote like allowance to an indifferent overseer, and I am ushered out through the side door until next time. I understand the angst that the government we have is not the government we should have; that it should serve us, not the other way around. I get that money and power flow to the few, and we live and work below.

I get that change should come. This, though, this is not that change. This is not the eradication of entrenched elitism and favoritism and policies that benefit the few. The rigged economy is not going to unspool under the man who dances in its ratlines.

This is not revolution. This is "Uh oh!"

You say our president will be different in office than on the campaign trail, but his surrogates said time and again, "Why change what's working?" You say our new president will be held in check by our system of government. But the House and Senate remain Republican.

You say the president is an outlier whom Republicans will suspect and rein. I believe our president is Republican ideas unmasked and unvarnished, finally spoken explicitly, ending decorum and restraint.

But I have not been a participant in the process, either. My voting record is full and unbroken, but that's all I've done as a citizen. Even in this moment of great test, I voted and nothing more than donate some money. I did not think would be such a great test, but instead a wearying joke we could stop laughing at Nov. 8.

(Even satire, that rich and voluminous corrective salve in our jewel of free speech, seems to have lost its punch in this new and strange time.)

I need to be that participant now, even if, especially if, I'm late to the tea party. I have stood by, and now I can no longer. I dread the restrictions and limitations to come — which will no doubt happen in the name of liberty — and I want to be ready to work against them. I must stand with those under threat.

Right now I can't listen to any more words from our new president. I tire of hearing his voice, and we'll have four more years of it. But I know I need to. I need to, in his words about something different and cruel, "figure out what the hell is going on."

Damned if I know.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Lefty rube randomly roams the right coast

  • Bostonians, we read on the plane east, don't like you calling their city "Beantown."
  • Without planning to, Nancy and I drive through Salem, Massachusetts, on Halloween Day. More than 200,000 people, we hear on public radio, will converge on Salem this day. The center of town is literally a carnival, with rides and booths. We drive past the Salem Witch Museum, with a bronze statue of Roger Conant, founder of Salem. His flowing robes and pilgrim hat, so close to the museum, make visitors mistake him for a witch, apparently. The night before, a drunk driver killed a women and two children during the weeks-long Halloween celebration. We already resolve not to stick around.
  • Hampton, New Hampshire, is shut down for the year. Not getting around much, as we do, we had not conceived of a town battening itself from lack of use. But Hampton is a beach town, dependent on those beaches filling with people and staying in their ocean-view hotels and eating their hot dogs and fro-yos, and buying their sunglasses and souvenir beach towels. When the beach is empty the "vacancy" signs shut off, and the hotels stand as ghosts in the windy fall mist, and the vendors' markets are clamped down with plywood or iron accordion fences. A few people walked the beach. Who knows where they stayed?
  • After the 26th sighting, we finally succumbed to Dunkin' Donuts. Also at the 27th, 32nd, 36th and 42nd Dunkin' Donuts. Also maybe the 43rd. Dunkin' Donuts is (are?) more prevalent by far than church spires in this coastal New England to which we ventured. We avoided Dunkin' Donuts for about a day, resolving (1) we'd buy local (whatever that means) and (2) I'd had Dunkin' Donuts coffee, made from grounds I had bought at a grocery story a couple of years before; it was awful, the worst I'd ever drunk. At the 27th Dunkin' Donuts, it turns out, the coffee is not awful. The place is clean and cheerful and orange and magenta. A Dunkin' Donuts "old fashioned" is not what I'm used to, the heavy glazed pastry that looks like it was fried in mid explosion, but a plain cake doughnut. We did not dunk.
  • "My son says you must have superpowers," says a mom at Kalmus Beach with her two boys. They are collecting the cast-off armor of horseshoe crabs, with their menacing spike tails, from the beach. I have just finished swimming along the beach, named for a president of the Technicolor company. The water is clear, and below me, parallel to the shore, it looks like someone has furnished an aquarium but forgot the fish. Grasses sprinkled with clam shells sway below me. The water is 51 degrees. It is foggy and I'm leery about swimming. The ferries heading to Nantucket are rumbling and coughing invisibly offshore, shaking the water it seems, and though I think I'm safe from them if I swim very close to the beach, I am not entirely sure. I swim anyway. My friend Doug said that I could have swum past the Kennedy family's house. I didn't get very far, though, happy enough for the swim.
  • On the stone obelisk marking the grave of William Bradford, governor of Plymouth Colony, is a Hebrew inscription, translated as "Jehovah is our help."
  • The State Station stop on the Orange T line subway literally opens to the street from the Old Statehouse building, where All the Trouble Started. Subway riders are just steps away from the Boston Massacre, just a floor below where Colonial governors were being hated and plotted against. Forgive me for filtering history through pop culture, but I couldn't help feeling like we had entered Diagon Alley.
  • Two people were selling Allagash Beer, made in Portland, Maine, while we ate at a pub in Hyannis on Cape Cod. By that, I mean they weren't servers, but sales reps moving from table to table pouring samples of their beer and touting its flavor; but also approving of our choices of beer that did not include Allagash. We told the sellers we were out from California on our first trip to New England. "What part of Cali?" They asked at separate times. They read in our eyes that we didn't like them calling it "Cali."
  • "Welcome! Welcome!" said two women eating at a sidewalk table in front of Coffee Time Bake Shop in Salem. We felt welcomed, and cheerful when they recommended real cream-filled Bismarks, whatever they are. They are delightful fist-sized mounds of heavy whipped cream between bar sugar doughnuts. As in most things last week, we rationalized our wolfing them down by saying we were on vacation. One of the women told us she is soooo glad to be retired.
  • First clear sign I wasn't home anymore: A kid walking through the airport with a hockey stick in hand and two extremely large equipment bags slung around his neck.
  • Finally I can tell people I went to Harvard. The Red T Line train takes you right to Harvard Square, where we betrayed ourselves as tourists, despite our casual wear, by reading every sign available. Lesser known William Dawes rode north past here to warn residents of the British Army's coming. We know this because brass hoofprints are embedded in the concrete, as are words proclaiming Dawes' ride. We know more about Paul Revere's ride, but not much more.
  • Does anyone in California call his/her state "Cali?"
  • Construction crews are repairing brick in the street in front of Paul Revere's home, a very old home sandwiched between buildings in Boston's North End. It is small and cozy, made cramped by all the people visiting while we did, and we wondered how chaotic this place is in the summer tourist season. Revere was but one of hundreds who lived in this 350-year-old house, we learn from one of the many signs posted. Guides in each room tried to tell us things too, but the plethora of signs competed full strength with the guides' narrative, and after a short time we just had to leave.
  • Useful tip: Don't climb the 294 steps to the top of the monument at Bunker Hill immediately after eating fish and chips at the Warren Tavern in Charlestown, or anywhere else for that matter. You'll make it, and the view of Boston's harbors will be as refreshing as the breeze shooting through the openings at the top, but you won't be very comfortable.
  • Warren Tavern's fish and chips: Second best among six fish and chips meals consumed this weeklong trip. We're on vacation, we resolved.
  • "We thought Bostonians didn't like people calling this Beantown," we tell the server at Beantown Pub near Boston Commons. She is from Colombia and had only been in Boston about eight months, and didn't really know of this controversy. Later she returned from the kitchen with the cook's story about why Boston is called Beantown.
  • Beantown Pub's fish and chips: The best of six fish and chips dinners during the week. Also, someone plays two Pearl Jam songs on the jukebox there, and someone else plays a great song we'd never heard, "The Sun is Shining Down," by J.J. Grey and Mofro It sounds like salvation, and we needed saving from a long day of walking through Boston, through the wet cobbled streets in anxious search of a tavern. We had seen Beantown Pub a couple of hours before, and made fun of it. We changed our minds seeing it the second time.
  • Did you know the Boston Bruins logo — A block B inside of an 8-spoked wagon wheel shape — refers to Boston as the Hub City, an idea promoted by Oliver Wendell Holmes who called this the "hub of the universe?" Do you care? I guess Boston has room to brag.
  • Succumbing to serendipity, the real theme of this trip (the officially stated reason was to see Boston), we drove past a pedestrian bridge that led to a peninsula created by a tidal pond corralled for the express purpose of making ice for cutting and selling. Of course we had to walk it and see where it led, which was through birchy woods. The tide was going out, and the water roared under the bridge out to sea. I'm sorry to say so much happened I can't tell you offhand where we were.
  • Evening ritual: Nancy would work her magic finding a place to stay, and we'd end up in a palace of riches — two TVs! Multiple rooms! Fully appointed kitchens! — for a quarter to a third of the usual summer rates. It was a bit ridiculous for one-night stays.
  • Petey's clam chowder was as good as our friend Doug promised, and just the stuff after a swim at Rye Beach in New Hampshire, which Doug also recommended. That was the second swim, the first being at Singing Beach (the sand "sings" under your feet) off Manchester-by-the-Sea, with Doug, my swim friend who abandoned me and returned to his native New England and his beer career, and Martha, whom I had met on facebook®™ but not yet in person. She opened her home as a staging area for the swim, where the clear water was 55 degrees and calm. Rye Beach was windier and a bit disconcerting, since I was swimming by myself with Nancy walking parallel to me. Gulls hovered and dove farther out in the water, and what little I knew about hovering and diving gulls suggested something else was in the water; I swam with long looks under the water back toward the starting point. Waves exploded the sand to little dust storms beneath me.
  • Old Orchard Beach defied the compass. Even with the Atlantic Ocean as our marker, we had a hard time finding the place, and then finding it again when we left the hotel for dinner. We couldn't even find the dinner place we were looking for, and settled for something close, which didn't help us after. Old Orchard Beach is another shuttered summertime playland, the skeleton of its Ferris wheel and roller coaster showing with the next sunrise.
  • We hardly saw one ugly house in a couple of hundred miles of driving. Maybe it was the coast; maybe we had seen a rarified sliver of New England. It was all becoming suspiciously storybook in how many beautiful homes were strung together.
  • Official beast of New England: The rider mower.
  • Useful tip: Plan a whole day to go through the museum for the U.S.S. Constitution in Charlestown, across the Charles River from Boston. It is so full of interactive devices and means of explaining a sailor's and shipwright's life that you need the day and fresh energy to take it on. We had neither the day nor energy, and we regretted not spending more time there.
  • After two days, we had walked 26 miles through Boston.
  • The Freedom Trail, taking you from Boston Commons to Bunker Hill (really Breed's Hill, carved with bunkers in the battle with British soldiers), is for the most part a brick line along the sidewalks leading you through revolutionary history. It took us an inordinately long time to figure that out.
  • We saw the flashing Citgo sign from a distance, marking the site of Fenway Park, from adirondack chairs on a dock on the chilly Charles River.
  • Streets and beaches where we meandered were amazingly clean! Don't mess with New England.
  • Plymouth Rock is a boulder, carved with the year 1620 (which is not the year the year was carved in it, but after the rock had been glued back together in the late 1800s after being split apart). The Rock is on beach sand, covered in footprints despite the famous boulder's enshrinement in its own fenced-off granite temple. Nancy said she thought Plymouth Rock was like Morro Rock, a mountainous formation marking Plymouth. But it's not like we had a conversation about what Plymouth Rock would be like; we didn't necessarily plan to be in Plymouth anyway, so the topic never came up. Now we were at the headwaters of all those coloring pages from first grade, all those lessons about how the Indians saved the pilgrims from starvation with a dinner or corn and squash, and showed them how to fertilize crops with fish. If the buildings and towns are very old, it's mostly because we have forgotten about the people who were here even before that, some of whose names remain on landmarks. Plymouth Rock landed on them.
  • We saw a bronze duck and her ducklings from the Robert McCloskey book "Make Way for Ducklings," celebrated in the Boston Public Garden.
  • We heard a flutist play hornpipes from the bridge over the pond in the park, which was fun until a couple dressed for the opera took up the flutist's time insisting he play songs that the couple hummed for him.
  • The pass for the T Line subway through Boston is called a CharlieTicket or CharlieCard. They're named after Charlie, memorialized in a 1949 protest song called "M.T.A." satirizing subway fee increases at the time. Charlie, spending his dime to take the subway, learns he needs another nickel, which he doesn't have, to get off the train, and is doomed to ride the train forever. His wife throws a sandwich to him through the open window of the train each day from the Scollay Square Station (now Government Center) at a quarter past two.
  • Written for a mayoral candidate who protested the subway fee increases, the song didn't help the guy win. The Kingston Trio made it a hit, after changing the candidate's name because some Bostonians accused him of being a communist sympathizer.
  • The CharlieTicket day pass cost us $12 apiece. We're on vacation, we consoled each other.
  • Our little cocoon in California has nothing on New England for political campaigning. Signs proliferate, including a mile stretch along the New Hampshire shore of nothing but Trump signs. People stood on the overpasses on the Cape Cod freeway, waving signs for their candidates. I flipped off a Trump contingent as we passed underneath. One of them looked straight at me. Shortly after, I think the man said to his cohort, "You know, this just doesn't feel right," dropped his sign and went home to vote early for Hillary Clinton.
  • Despite having co-opted Charlie and angst over the nation's oldest subway system, the T Line is wonderful, especially for this rube who hates driving through cities, especially unfamiliar ones. It squeaks and makes horrible noises and writhes beneath the city — someone should make a symphony from its unnatural sounds — but the T Line gets you all over the area, and every train was crowded. Sacramento's Light Rail is a laughable imitation.
  • At Freeport, Maine, our turnaround point, we bypass the L.L. Bean headquarters (serendipity!) for a walk through a state park along Casco Bay. So many islands out in the water! Such calm water, and no swimmers! What a waste. A woman getting her puppy used to the water asks if we were from "away" (just like I'd read Mainers say!) and said we should go to Acadia National Park, two hours farther north. Damn this woman, enticing us away from our unplanned plans! We had yet to see Boston, our stated goal. We went south.
  • By serendipity, we saw were Paul Revere's family sat in the Old North Church. The floor of the church is penned off, sort of human corrals, and parishioners bought these pens. The walls of each pen are high, kind of like going to church in a modern rabbit warren of office cubicles. We also saw where Revere landed on reaching Charlestown at night to ride to Lexington.
  • A member of the Curley Community Center in South Boston hosts us for a swim in the harbor. Men convened on one side of the center, women the other, and they were generally not allowed on each other's beach or facilities, but they could swim together in the 50-degree water beyond the tall wooden fences that extend into the harbor. Our host was just your average Harvard neurobiology professor (he didn't say this; I found out later), cursing his forgetfulness having left his swimsuit back home.
  • "California Stop" my ass! Massachusetts residents are far more lax about stopping and looking before turning into traffic. They seem to be aggressively polite, by which I mean they are apt to turn left directly in front of you, and are almost as apt to stop in traffic to let drivers turn left in front of them. Turning left is a desperate measure, somehow.
  • On Cape Cod are "breakdown lanes," and at rush hour drivers are allowed to drive on the shoulders. I propose they be called "breakneck lanes," because drivers reached 80 miles an hour along the shoulders, onramp drivers be damned.
  • We saw where John Hancock was buried, in a burying ground (not cemetery) where lichen-licked tombstones lean and lurch. Disney's Imagineers must have had New England burying grounds in mind when designing the Haunted Mansion. Yes, my pop culture is showing again.
  • Nothing's good in movie theaters these days. Thank God, since were forced to see more of Boston instead.
  • Gulls, some cormorants, but not one barking seal, or any other sea life. No birdsong, even in deep woods, except for some chittering along a street one morning in Gloucester. What's going on?
  • Saco ("Socko"), Maine, where Sam Brannan is from, is mostly a city of theme parks now, shuttered for the winter. Sam essentially created the Gold Rush in California, and profited from it, and never went back to New England. What would he think of Saco now?
  • In Wallaston, a Boston suburb, we stayed at a brand new Howard Johnson hotel. I thought the hotel chain had disappeared, but here was a new one, with a giant adirondack chair outside the office as its symbol. Turns out (serendipity!) the first Howard Johnson restaurant was founded by a man named Howard Johnson (go figure!), in Wallaston.
  • We miss the end of the greatest Game 7 in World Series history, and we feel sorry for easterners, who have to stay up so late to watch baseball games.
  • "Paul Revere's Ride," by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, we learn, is a poem that elevates a then relatively unknown man to everlasting memory, and sacrifices fact in order create an Everyman hero to rally support for the Union in advance of the Civil War.
  • We are not happy with Portland, Maine, where Longfellow was born, because it gave us a parking ticket. You'd think parking enforcement would give you the benefit of the doubt if you buy a parking pass but then park in a poorly marked commercial zone anyway. The old port neighborhood is nice, though.
  • This is my souvenir.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Sphere of influence

Another sad thing has drawn me out of blog retirement.

Not Donald Trump sad — not that unwanted, bilious sensation of my soul being pickled. Peh!

This sadness nourishes the soul instead.

Lynne Rivers Roper died last week. I did not know her, except in words and pictures and sound.

First I knew her as Lynne Rivers, as she called herself on facebook®™, where I went to witness and discourse with swimmers from around the world.

"Great name for a swimmer," I thought, especially her kind of swimming, in the torrents and forest-bound rivers and pools of what she called the west country, the southwestern corner of England. Also, the heaving water of the English Channel.

Her swims always seemed to warrant great effort first, long hikes out of civilization into the woods of Elizabethan adventure novels, or climbs down the fossil-packed Devonian layers to the sea. Her Bit-O-Honey®-colored dog, named Honey, led the way and made it into most of the photos.

Lynne called it all "wild swimming," and described many of her jaunts in a blog, wildwomanswimming.

Immediately I liked the term, though almost as immediately I found some swimmers objected to it; swimming is swimming, some swimmers said.

You might not think such a thing controversial, but there you go.

It was the first time I was to get that Lynne was a bold spirit, even about so seemingly innocuous a matter.

Lynne was quite a writer, which I had taken to be just a really good thing she happened to do. But she was a writer writer, the breadth of which I am not fully familiar.

(Forgive me, personal friends of Lynne's, for my lack of knowledge; forgive me also, English friends of Lynne's, for my inevitable botch job on your geography and culture and politics herein.)

Of skinny dipping, for example, Lynne wrote:
Like every activity in our consumerist culture, wild swimming has become a lifestyle choice. It’s aspirational, and visually suited to glossy magazines luring city-folk with a country-living wet-dream. Can nudity possibly be a part of this? Skinny dipping is subversive in a more complex way than that of being cheeky and rebellious, not least in that you can’t sell kit to people who aren’t wearing anything. Once you’ve plunged yourself into a moorland brook on a sunny day, skinny-dipping becomes almost inevitable. What does this represent but the exposure of one’s body and soul to nature, a baptism, a metaphorical sloughing of the skin?
Pick any paragraph of Lynne's descriptions of swims or swimming — of the same swim in the same place meriting vastly different descriptions, or of keeping swim lessons available to English schoolchildren — and her words will dance before you.

I told her several times, though not enough, and she returned the compliment, despite my quite low dancing-word average.

Next I heard her on radio programs in the United Kingdom, speaking out for open-water swimming, and against an English culture that presented any open water as dangerous and not to be attempted. She became a frequent spokesperson for the Outdoor Swimming Society, a UK open-water advocacy group.

In time she became Lynne Roper online — I think she explained more people knew her by that name, so I'm not sure "Rivers" wasn't a nom de plume.

Over time, by tangent, I learned that she had been a paramedic until sidelined by injury, and that she had been an operations manager in the Royal Air Force, and a university instructor. I learned that she had had breast cancer.

Bold by nature, and emboldened by her health care and health scare experience, Lynne wrote frequently and passionately for the National Health Service in England, and against the Tory government of the United Kingdom for working to dismantle or privatize the NHS and make health care harder to get for those who can least afford life without.

Lynne and many other UK swimmers I met on facebook©™ taught me much about the political climate in Britain.

Time passed, and Lynne suddenly began asking facebook™® friends for advice about voice-recognition writing software. I didn't put much stock into it, and maybe it had nothing to do with Lynne's subsequent diagnosis of a brain tumor.

I inferred two things, though: Lynne was having trouble typing — but planned to write anyway.

And write she did. A new blog, Out of My Brains, poured out Lynne's frank, detailed and funny account of brain tumor diagnosis and treatment. I was going to say "unflinching," but I have a feeling even someone I took to be forthright and baldfaced was holding back just a bit, for the sake of family and friends and readers like me.

Her blog featured an x-ray image of the tumor. Lynne named the tumor "Hunt," after Jeremy Richard Streynsham Hunt, the British Secretary of State for Health, upon whom Lynne pinned blame for leading the wreckage of the National Health Service.

In stark terms, Lynne pointed out she was fortunate for health care that so many others may not be able to get.

Equally stark and matter of fact, Lynne said she would not live long. Maybe a year, probably less.

Lynne's last post in Out of My Brains was June 18, and she apologized at the top for typos. She described the dreadful effects of her treatment, her illness, a terrible day for her, for her parents.

She wrote of wanting to describe an idea for her treatment regimen in a later post.

I never knew Lynne personally, but I like to think I know enough that she would want people to remember her for the daily selfies sent from her hospice bed, her head shorn, her face thick from medicines, an angry lump and red scar on her right temple — and a piece of chocolate, melting and messy, held in her lips.

There must have been a good week and a half of these.

But I can't do it. I choose to remember Lynne, a real inspiration found in a virtual world, as she looked in the sea, shoulders above the water, her hair a dry (!) silver mop, her face to the sun, stretched wide in a smile.

After her death, friends filled facebook®™ with photos of her past, when it looks like she had chestnut hair.

It's easy to see, from back then and in the few years I knew her through words and pictures, Lynne lived for joy, for friends, for justice, for honesty, for care of others, for wild water and the chance for more people to share that joy. She lives on as one of those people who packed much more into life than the average person — who lives on in others because of it.

Some of her friends suggested giving to St. Luke's Hospice Plymouth, which cared for her in her last days. It seems absolutely fitting.

In the last few days, I have considered my own open water, not wild swimming by any means. Yesterday, wind under one of the bridges picked up the water, slapping my face, and I thought of Lynne.

Swim for her. Swim because of her.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Descent into madness

Few matters would return me to this blog.

One of them, God help us all, is Donald Trump.

The hypocrite behind the Teleprompter®™. The snake in the tall grass, the lipsticked pig, acting presidential, for Tuesday, anyway.

In writing, I revive the delusion that I can influence anyone who reads this. You have been few but faithful, and I'm guessing you stood in the choir with me, or are too polite to call me a misinformed ass.

Speaking of misinformed ass, Donald Trump. Don't let him become president.

I'm harboring my delusion once more that you might be among the few who (1) read this, and (2) might be voting for Trump.

Don't do it, I'm begging.

When last I wrote, months ago, I also drew Trump at the podium, a windmill of Trumpian bluster who morphed into the Nazi swastika.

That was back when Trump was mostly a sick joke.
Now he's a nightmare of ridiculous proportion.

(Although he still lends credence to my fervent hope he is playing a vast practical joke, set to implode the Republic party on the convention floor by exposing himself as a closet Clinton fan.)

The nation under Mitt Romney as president would have been tolerable. He revealed himself as an elitist snob at the worst time for his campaign against incumbent Barack Obama last election, but he had the chops to be president.

Trump is anything but presidential.

Except for the frown he makes during one-on-one interviews, when he says he's the least racist person that ever lived. The frown is presidential. It reminds me of what John Steinbeck said of a character in The Winter of our Discontent (ironic title), "pulling a frog face."

And Trump owns a lot of suits and ties. So there's that.

Make America great again? For whom? From whom? Trump has insulted and dumped on and denounced whole groups of Americans for pander and sport.

Women. Muslims. Mexicans. War heroes. People with disabilities. Iowa. He calls people names, referring to U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren "Pocahontas," then repeats the names, louder, when someone points out it's offensive.

He divides people and derides them, and invites followers to join in. To echo his own superlative rhetoric, he is the least presidential person in the history of the country.

Trump wants to be president of some of the United States — that which is rich and white and male, mostly. The beautiful people he doesn't make fun of.

Trump vows to build a wall against Mexico, and get Mexico to pay for it. He broadly brushes immigrants from Mexico as killers and rapists, conceding some of them might be good people, he doesn't know.

Then he says the Hispanics love him. Last week, at a rally, he congratulated "my African American," pointing to a man in the audience.

I picture him, his arm clutched close around "my African American's" neck, telling his smirking cronies, "Isn't he the greatest?" Then giving his African American a playful slap on the cheek.

Last week, Trump said the judge in a class-action suit against his Trump University is biased against him because the judge is Mexican (then "of Mexican heritage" when Trump repeatedly was told the judge is American, born in Indiana), and Trump wants to build that wall.

Next he said any Muslim judge would be biased against him, presumably because Trump blustered infamously about vowing to keep Muslims out of the country.

By extension, anyone Trump has denounced would be ineligible to preside in any lawsuit against him — and serve in any position in Trump's government? — because he would automatically be unfair to Trump, the xenophobe.

I guess that's going to make it easy for him to run the country.

Don't let Trump run the country.

If you can stomach the TV news lately, you get the nightly dollop of smiling Trump spokespeople spinning his spew into golden denial, of playing "I know you are, but what am I?" for the cable news circuit.

Trump is the bully who grabs your wrist, slaps your face with your own hand, and says, "Why you hitting yourself?! Quit hitting yourself! What's the matter with you?!"

He lies then denies it, even when shown the evidence.

Trump is a racist panderer, telling anyone what he wants to hear. He told California farmers last week there is no drought.

I get it. Government doesn't work. Federal government overreaches, the economy slogs along, too many people don't have good jobs, while politicians and banks run the country in spite of us. Society's a mess, problems abound.

I get that we're desperate for a solution.

Donald Trump, the divider, is not it. He is a new, bigger problem. His mission has been to lie openly and abashedly, to make you afraid and make you hate, to make himself king.

The solution is harder than that, and won't be found with this election alone. It will be found in the hard work of us taking responsibility for our role as citizens.

I get that Hillary Clinton is establishment, is Bill Clinton reincarnate, in too deep perhaps, bringing to the candidacy all the baggage of the Clinton presidency. I'm not sure I get all the vitriol against her; I think someone traveling a similar long road in government service accrues battle scars, makes colossal mistakes, gets off track from the ideal, if any ideal existed.

I think the hate for Clinton is more perception than proof, much of it manufactured and allowed to tendril like kudzu over everything, in the same way that unalloyed and instantaneous hatred for President Obama was made to fester.

But Hillary Clinton does not corral Americans with labels, and encourage others to denounce them.

Nor does Bernie Sanders, who if anything hates only what Trump represents, the privileged class who dance through loopholes like lariats at a Wild West show, and tell everyone else to make do with what little they don't own.
Opponents stuck "socialist" on Sanders like a "kick me!" sign from the start, and his ideas for free education seem wonderfully unworkable. But here's the thing: He's promoting ideas for America, one America, not for some of America.

Now I see Republican leaders one by one endorse Trump as their party's candidate, saying he says some things they can get behind, that this odd, angry, bamboozling bluster is just the Candidate Trump, to get votes, and the President Trump will be different. Which is the rationalization of the temporarily insane.

To support Trump, be you Republican official or average voter, is to support his racist, abusive rants, is to support putting whole peoples in a lower class with impunity.

No amount of lipstick can pretty this pig. No argument will explain away your support for this guy.

Don't let Trump be president. These are united states.