Monday, March 20, 2017

Living and Dying by Symbols

Picture in your mind the American Flag, a latin cross, Hitler, the Statue of Liberty, single moms in Detroit, the US Constitution, Robert Mapplethorpe and Big Bird. What do these disparate objects and people have in common? They're all powerful symbols whose images have been evoked by one or both sides in the debate over the current administration. As a picture is worth at least a thousand words, symbols affect us in visceral, and simplistic ways that reams of text never could. A picture of Donald Trump sporting a Hitler mustache is far more immediate than a thoughtful treatise on how the acts and methods of his administration, bring to mind the political situation in Germany in the 1930s.

Conjuring up an image with words is just as effective. Responding to the logic of cutting all funds to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the president's budget director Mick Mulvaney created some memorable imagery with this:
Can we really continue to ask a coal miner in West Virginia or a single mom in Detroit to pay for these programs?
Pundits were quick to respond with vivid images of their own as this headline from the Washington Post attests:

Trump’s budget director understands that the poor prefer jet fighters to Big Bird

Both sides use symbolism to suit their own purposes, Think of Gold Star family Khzir and Ghazala Khan addressing the Democratic National Convention last August, standing in front of the official US Army portrait of their son Hunayun, who was killed in the line of duty in Iraq while protecting the lives of those in his charge. The Khans symbolized not only the diversity of the US, but especially the sacrifice of many of the immigrant groups disparaged by Donald Trump and his supporters.

For his part, Trump, in his many decades in the public eye did not project an image of patriotism and certainly never implied he believed in anything, other than himself. Yet during the last presidential campaign, he wrapped himself in the American flag so often you'd have thought he was auditioning for the lead role in Yankee Doodle Dandy. And it's likely that, with the possible exception of only his most steadfast supporters, most Americans saw right through the ruse of his "finding religion" during the campaign. The joke was that for his inauguration, Trump would use two bibles, one that belonged to Abraham Lincoln, and the other, the Trump family bible, still in its original shrinkwrap. 

Perhaps the most successful symbol that Trump used to his advantage in his ascendancy to the presidency, was himself, who in the role as the "brilliant dealmaker-businessman", removed from the stagnation and corruption of politics as usual in Washington, was in a better position than anyone else to "fix" all the problems we face as a nation. Like his new found Christianity, rumors of his business acumen were greatly exaggerated. Yet tens of millions of Americans bought into that ruse, being more impressed by his ostentatious display of wealth and his name plastered on buildings all over the world, than his numerous bankruptcies, the lawsuits brought against him for fraud and other less than noble acts, and legions of former business partners and contractors once under his employ, who were stiffed by him. As the writer Fran Leibowitz quipped last fall: "Trump is a poor person's idea of a rich person."

In his new budget released last week, Trump and his staff have created a new and powerful symbol that may very well lead to their undoing, at least in the minds of a great many of his supporters. In his budget, Trump either eviscerated or flat out executed many governmental organizations that are close to the hearts of his opposition. Those organizations are responsible for funding many worthwhile, some (including me) would say essential activities such as the arts, the humanities, public broadcasting, scientific research, the list goes on and on. Also on the chopping block is the EPA which is responsible for making sure our water is safe to drink and our air is safe to breathe. In fact everything in this president's budget is being cut with the exception of the military, and funds to maintain the president and first lady's elaborate lifestyle. Even the State Department is facing drastic cuts, this administration's unequivocal announcement to the world that diplomacy in the Trump presidency is taking a back seat to saber rattling.

But no, none of these cuts I suspect will move any Trump supporters away from him. Nor will his well established relationship with Russia, his aversion to telling the truth to the American people, his insatiable appetite for making unfounded accusations against Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, his utter contempt of the rule of law regarding his presidency, or his failed immigration bans. Heck even his repeal/replacement of Obamacare probably won't be felt by the majority of his supporters (who most likely will be the Americans hardest hit by their idol's new health plan), until after Trump is gone from office.

No, the symbolic monster that Trump's administration has unwittingly created is in the words of the web site Market Watch:
the elimination of the $3 billion Community Development Block Grant, which helps fund programs including Meals on Wheels, which deliver food (and human interaction) to elderly, disabled and poor recipients.
You could hear the collective groan all over the country: "He's cutting Meals on Wheels? Are you f-ing kidding me???"

It's important to point out here that Meals on Wheels and other essential services to our less fortunate fellow citizens, won't be wiped out altogether by these budget cuts. In explaining the cuts, the administration is claiming that they're going after...
...wasteful programs, duplicative programs, programs that simply don’t work, and a lot of those are in HUD,
Again in the words of words of Mulvaney in classic bureaucratese:
We’ve spent a lot of money on Housing and Urban Development over the last decades without a lot to show for it.
Now there may conceivably be some sense to this action; that people served by these programs may in fact be better served by a less top-down approach, but Mulvaney didn't make any case for that. Remember the power of symbolism, we're talking about taking away money spent to help poor, elderly people. Meanwhile the president and his wife continue to live their lavish lifestyle at the taxpayer's expense. We may be comparing apples to oranges here, but given the contrast between the Trumps and the vast majority of Americans, Mulvaney's words that there wasn't a lot to show for Meals on Wheels, other than providing meals and companionship for poor elderly people, may go down in history as one of the most clueless, arrogant, and insensitive remarks coming from a public figure since Marie Antoinette allegedly (but not likely) uttered the words: "let them eat cake."

Donald Trump has been riding a tremendous wave of good luck insofar as his ascendency to the presidency. In his campaign, every miscue, every idiotic comment, every unflattering revelation about his past, things that would or should have doomed any other candidacy, seemed only to embolden him, to make him stronger. Since he's been president, far bigger issues have come up and he so far has weathered the storm. But at this moment, exactly two months into his presidency, he has a lower approval rate than any president at this point in his administration.

His good luck can't go on forever. If the big stuff can't bring him down, perhaps it will be small acts of human kindness and generosity that he seems oblivious to that will. He and his supporters may relish the role of the defiant leader who goes to extraordinary lengths, bucking the establishment, political correctness, and even common sense, in order to fulfill his campaign promises to his supporters to make the country great again.

But hardly anyone will tolerate a piddly-shit miser denying our most vulnerable citizens food and companionship.

He may liken himself to Andrew Jackson, but symbolically he's looking more and more like Old Man Potter.

And nobody likes him.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

It may be legal, but is it right?

Our laws are not created equally. Some laws on the books are deeply rooted in our moral and ethical principles. Others exist for the protection of the public, while others still, exist for merely practical purposes. Some laws embody all three principals while others, only one or two.

Sometimes, one of those principles, contradicts another. This past February 19th, we marked the 75th anniversary of the signing of Executive Order 9066, where two months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt gave the Secretary of War, the authority to establish...
...military areas in such places and of such extent as he or the appropriate Military Commander may determine, from which any or all persons may be excluded, and with respect to which, the right of any person to enter, remain in, or leave shall be subject to whatever restrictions the Secretary of War or the appropriate Military Commander may impose in his discretion.
The result of this order was the rounding up, forced relocation, and incarceration of tens of thousands of Americans, the majority of them US citizens, who traced their ancestry to the nations who were at war with US the time, namely, Germany, Italy, and Japan. While many German and Italian Americans were rounded up and incarcerated for the duration of the war, the vast majority of Americans who were affected by this order, were of Japanese ancestry.

Despite the fact that there was little or no question of their loyalty to the United States, for the stated purpose of national security, the entire west coast was declared off limits to Japanese Americans, which happened to be where most of them lived at the time. Persons with as little as 1/16th Japanese ancestry were rounded up, had their property confiscated, and were forced to move to inland government relocation (concentration) camps located in remote portions of Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado Utah, Arizona,  and Arkansas. There, roughly 110,000 Americans of Japanese descent would remain under lock and key until Roosevelt suspended his executive order late in 1944.

Japanese American Grocery, Oakland, California, 1942.
Photograph by Dorothea Lange.
That same year, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Executive Order 9066. In their ruling in the case known as Korematsu v. United States, the Court declared that as we were at war at the time, the president, whose power being conferred by Congress, indeed had the authority to "demand that all citizens of Japanese ancestry be segregated from the West Coast temporarily." As it was not integral to the specific case presented, the court punted on the issue of the legality of the incarceration of 100,000 plus Japanese Americans without due process, on top of their relocation.

The internment of Japanese Americans during World War II is truly a dark moment in US civil rights history. That fact was acknowledged years later as subsequent presidents rescinded the order (Gerald Ford), created committees to investigate the matter (Jimmy Carter), signed a piece of legislation, known as the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 which authorized reparations payments to surviving internees, (Ronald Reagan), and actually presented payments and a formal apology (George H.W. Bush) to the survivors.

The shameful treatment of Americans of Japanese heritage, while it may at the time have been viewed as a necessary evil for the security of the homeland for two and one half years, turned out to have been a failure on all counts. From a practical and strategic standpoint, the displacement and imprisonment of over one hundred thousand people took up a massive amount of resources that could have been effectively used in the war effort. There is little or no evidence that Japanese Americans were any less patriotic than any of their fellow countrymen, or posed any threat to national security, which made the action utterly pointless.

Of course, both those arguments pail in comparison to the collapse of American moral and ethical principles that resulted in the imprisonment of Japanese Americans during World War II.

I bring this up not to imply that the current administration's dealings with immigrants compares in its magnitude of transgressions to this tragic moment in American history, but only to illustrate that the laws our government makes, do not always reflect our moral values.

With that in mind, I question why opponents to the current president's first and second travel bans are arguing against them strictly on legal grounds. I understand that the fate of act two of his travel ban is ultimately in the hands of the courts, who themselves can only rule based upon the constitution and legal precedent. From my very limited understanding of the law, the president can legally impose restrictions upon certain groups of people for a limited period of time. In regards to the ban, Donald Trump did himself no favors during the campaign when he proposed a ban on Muslims entering the United States which in itself, is patently illegal. Those words have worked against him as his proposed ban of travelers from originally seven, now six predominantly Muslim nations, inevitably comes down the question of whether the ban is in fact a ban on people of a particular religious creed. The president insists the ban is not a religious ban, but he is constantly betrayed by his own words from the recent past.o's

I have no idea how the courts will rule on the new "and improved" ban, they could very well allow it on legal grounds, as would be their prerogative should they find no constitutional reason to rule against it.

But there are much deeper questions involved than legal ones. As I see it, there are no moral imperatives for immigration laws, they exist solely for practical reasons and to a lesser extent, public safely. Therefore the implementation and enforcement of such laws should be based upon honestly questioning their efficacy in achieving the goals set for them, a serious assessment regarding their costs vs. benefits, and most importantly, a heartfelt consideration of the moral implications of the actions. No law should be enforced simply for its own sake, and no action should be taken, just because it can be.

So to answer the issues I just presented one by one, no, I don't believe the travel ban currently on the books will make us safer. I firmly believe it will almost certainly alienate an ever growing number of the world's Muslims whose assistance we need to help us in the efforts to defeat groups like ISIS and al Qaeda, and who. regardless of statements to the contrary, will see the motivation of the order of the president to be a ban on Muslims. I can't imagine a greater recruitment tool for terrorist groups than Donald Trump. Singlehandedly he is doing all their hard work for them.

Secondly, I see the extremely broad scope of this ban to be the equivalent of performing an appendectomy with a chain saw. True, you may remove the offending organ, but you will also do tremendous damage to the rest of the body. Affected by this ban will be countless individuals who perform vital services to this country, such as doctors who serve in rural areas where native born MDs refuse to serve, as well as teachers, researchers, scientists and other essential professionals, not to mention tourists from all nations who are realizing that the United States is not the welcoming place it once was, and have already altered their travel plans.

Most important of all is the moral issue of refusing entry of refugees who are only hoping for a chance to live their lives in peace. These people have already gone through a rigorous vetting process in order to enter this country. I have no problem if the vetting process needs to be a little more rigorous as long as we can protect the safety of these people. But we do not want to repeat another shameful episode from World War II, the refusal of Jewish refugees from Germany who were ultimately sent back home to their deaths in the concentration camps of the Third Reich.

As I mentioned in my last post, the administrations before this one were very conscious and pro-active regarding the varied issues regarding immigration. While unfortunate and even tragic occurrences have taken place in this country at the hands of people not from this country, with the exception of the events of September 11, 2001, none of them come close to what could be considered a national emergency, or a crisis that requires a drastic response. Despite what the president wants us to believe, home grown terrorism, criminal behavior, and general hooliganism are more prevalent issues today in the United States than "bad hombres" coming from abroad.

If we have learned anything from the 9/11 terrorists, it is that people intent on doing harm to the Unites States of America are smart, and very resourceful. Strongly motivated and resourceful adversaries will not be stopped by closing our borders to immigrants, they always will find ways to get in. To stop them we need help from our allies, especially those in the Muslim world who themselves are the greatest victims of the Islamic terrorists. The current president's decrees are nothing more than misguided attempts at a show of strength, directed at his base as proof that he is fulfilling campaign promises. Trump's saber rattling antics will do nothing to make us safer. On the contrary, the ill will generated from them will only intensify anti-American sentiments around the world and will serve as a launching pad for the recruitment efforts of terrorist groups.

Military leaders have made this perfectly clear but our president, who during the campaign, claimed "he knew more about stopping ISIS than the generals", apparently is not listening.  Teddy Roosevelt famously used the phrase "speak softly and carry a big stick", to describe his philosophy of foreign policy. It would appear that Donald Trump's philosophy is this: Bloviate as loud as possible and carry a limp biscuit. He is like a chess player who thinks you win the game by knocking over all the pieces.

I strongly believe that this president's draconian efforts to curtail illegal immigration, deport undocumented residents of long standing, prohibit travel into this country for people from specific countries, and severely limit the inflow of refugees from war torn nations, will do nothing to protect the safety of Americans. Rather, they are counterproductive, and have the very real potential of causing grave damage to this country. I believe that the costs, both in currency and far more important, in human lives, health, prosperity, not to mention our moral credibility, far outweigh the miniscule benefits.

His efforts may in the end may be ruled legal, but no way in hell are they right. 

Immigration Man

The core argument over immigration goes something like this:
Statement: This is a nation of immigrants. Remember, all of us, either we, or our ancestors, came from someplace else. 
Response: We're not against immigrants, as long as they are here legally.
In theory, that response makes perfect sense; this is a country of ample, but limited resources. Simply put, we do not have enough resources to accommodate everyone who wants to immigrate to the United States. Therefore, government makes laws regulating the number of people we allow into this country every year. And if we make those laws, it is incumbent upon us to enforce them, After all, it makes no sense to force people to jump through hoops and other obstacles to get into this country legally, while looking the other way for those who don't.

Unfortunately like most issues, reality is different from theory. The reality is that there are an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States at the moment. Approximately two thirds of them have been living here for ten years or longer. As a simply practical matter, the amount of effort and resources it would take to deport all those people would be staggering. Even more daunting is the ethical issue. Most of these people work, pay taxes, and contribute in other important ways to the communities in which they live. Many of them have children who were born in this country making them US citizens. Mass deportations of established residents would mean uprooting and separating many of these families, causing them and their communities tremendous hardship.

Ah you say but those people willingly came here knowing the risks of not playing by the rules; their suffering is not the fault of the US government, but their own. While there is some truth to this, the reality is that the US government has in fact rightly or wrongly looked the other way when illegal immigrants have proven beneficial to American industry and the economy. If you're all gung-ho about stricter immigration control, ask yourself this question: how would you feel about paying ten dollars for a head of lettuce, or for that matter, a similar exponential price increase for any product manufactured in the United States.

In other words, it's a complicated issue.

We wouldn't be talking about this at all, were it not for the current president who has put immigration at the top of his agenda. Last week he gave a speech to the American people before a joint session of Congress. As part of his "dog and pony show",  de rigueur for such proceedings, he dragged out no less than three relatives of people who were killed by illegal immigrants. What could be a better symbol of the "American carnage" he described at his inauguration, than law-breaking foreigners invading this country and killing our sons, daughters, wives and husbands? It's a tailor made issue for an ambitious politician, eliciting support by inciting fear and anger amongst would be constituents by creating an enemy that, even better, doesn't vote.

Not to diminish the pain and suffering of the victims' relatives, but again, the reality of the situation does not live up to the president's hyperbole. Statistics show time and again that immigrants, legal and otherwise, are less likely to commit crimes than people born in the United States. Which only makes sense when you think about it, most people move to this country in order to better their lives. Most of them truly want to be here, therefore are less likely to jeopardize their status, or blow their cover, by getting into trouble.

That is not to say that of those 11 million undocumented people, there aren't exceptions. As supporters of the current president love to point out for reasons only they understand. under the Obama administration, more people were deported from this country than under any previous administration. Most of those were apprehended either in close proximity to the US/Mexico border as they attempted to cross, or were convicted of crimes. In fact right now, there is a negative flow of immigrants between Mexico and the United States, as more Mexicans are returning home than entering the US. It might seem reasonable looking at those statistics to believe that the US government has indeed taken the problems of illegal immigration seriously all along, and that as far as stemming the tide of alien criminals coming into the country taking away opportunities from home-grown criminals, its efforts are working.

Yet in his infinite wisdom, our current president is not convinced, or at least wants the American people to not be convinced. In the words of one of his executive orders, many immigrants continue to "present a significant threat to national security and public safety”.

Therefore according to him. we still need to build a great wall (paid for by Mexico), intensify the rounding up and deportation of undocumented residents, impose a draconian travel ban on people from specific countries, and perhaps most cruel of all, severely limit into this country, the number of refugees fleeing countries where their lives are in jeopardy.

Now you may be reading this and thinking: "man this guy is completely out of touch. He has no idea what it's like to lose someone to a person who shouldn't be in this country." Well actually I do. Two years ago, my wife's cousin, the father of two boys, exactly the same ages as my children, was killed in a head on collision. The driver of the other car was drunk. He was pulled over by a state police officer for driving the wrong way on an interstate highway. He took off as the trooper approached his vehicle. When he hit my wife's cousin's car, he was reportedly traveling in excess of 100 miles per hour. My wife's cousin was killed instantly and his wife was critically injured. Thankfully she survived, leaving her alone to care for her two fatherless children. 

Over and over again I've thought if only this undocumented, criminal jackass had been deported before he had the opportunity to commit homicide, a tragedy would have been averted and my wife's cousin would be alive today.

I'm guessing that had the authorities known what this guy was about to do, action could have, or at least should have been taken. Unfortunately, crystal balls are not very effective, and the drunk, homicidal driver, who may or may not have committed any other crimes in his life, slipped through the cracks. Three of his victims, the young widowed mother and my kids' cousins, could themselves have been guests of the president in the House of Representatives last week. The man who killed her husband and their father is a poster child for the anti-illegal-immigrant hysteria that has taken over this country.

Yes it's true, illegal aliens have killed American citizens. It's also true that other illegal aliens have done some pretty wonderful things during their stay in this country, no doubt they've even saved some lives. Had the good people been deported, who knows what would have been the outcome for the recipients of their good deeds. That's human beings for you, for every large group of them, you can be sure to find a few bad apples along with a few exceptionable ones, and a whole bunch of them who just like of the rest of us, are trying to get by, minding their own business.

One thing is certain, undocumented residents who have performed acts of charity, kindness, or heroism, will never be invited into the chambers of the House of Representatives during a presidential speech, at least not under this president's watch.

To be continued here.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Photographs of the Month

Skylight, Art Institute of Chicago, February 1

Oak Street Beach, February 4

Wabash Avenue Skyline, February 6

North Dearborn Street, February 15

The Art Institute of Chicago, February 17

Cleaners, Granville Avenue, February 17

Devon Avenue, February 17

North LaSalle Street, February 18

South Loop, February 19

Alley, South Loop, February 19

Board of Trade, AT&T Buildings, February 19

Mural, South Wabash Avenue, February 19

Wabash Avenue, February 19

Belmont Avenue CTA Red Line Station, February 22

CTA Howard Street Station, February 23

Fullerton Avenue Storefront, February 26

Washington Street, February 26
Today is the eight anniversary of this blog. Fittingly, my first post was a photograph taken of one of my favorite spots in Chicago, Wolf Point.

It was a spot I used to bring my son when he was a child and in love with trains. There, tracks from two major commuter railroad lines and a CTA elevated line traversed the spot at the fork of the river where the city's first development occurred.

Most of those tracks are covered up now, no doubt a great relief to the residents of the new apartment buildings that have one of the best views of Chicago. But for me and perhaps my 16 year old son, something very special is gone for good. Such is the life of a big city.

594 posts later, and one more series of photographs of Chicago. Who knows what will have changed eight years from now. Hopefully your loyal blogger will still be around this space and you and I can find out together.

Thanks to all my readers, loyal and otherwise, for your generous support and comments.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

And now, for something completely different...

Looking back on my posts over the last several months, I seem to have fallen into a rut. When I began this blog nearly eight years ago, I intended it to focus, as the banner at the top of the page says, on "The Urban Experience, Chicago and Beyond". 

But now I can't seem to write anything that is not about Donald Trump. Well he is the President of the United States of course and presidents set policy that concerns cities so... And yes this particular city does have a building that proudly displays the president's name so...

OK not convincing at all, the truth is, I've been obsessed in the recent months and this obsession has gotten the better of me. Way back at the end of December I even made a New Years resolution to write less about Trump. If you look at the blog archive on the right of all the posts I've written so far this year, you can see how well I'm doing at keeping that resolution.

So today I'm giving you the first post of the year NOT about Donald Trump, even though his name has been mentioned several times already in this post. 

Instead dear readers, I give you a pause that refreshes, it's about someone who is infinitely, indelibly, and indubitably more related to Chicago than the POTUS.

It's a picture of Al Capone fishing in his jammies:

Now don't we all feel better?

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Keep your friends close and...

Al Pacino as the mobster Michael Corleone
There's a famous line from the movie The Godfather Part II where Michael Corleone (as played by Al Pacino), gives this bit of sage advice to an associate:
Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.
That's good advice even if our adversaries aren't really enemies, or at least shouldn't be. Simply put, there is no better way to gain a foothold on an adversarial relationship than to be able to get inside the head of the other side, if just to see what's cooking in there.

That said, I'm befuddled why so many Americans are loathe to indulge themselves in the spoken and written words of people with whom they disagree. That goes for people on both sides of the political spectrum, folks who avoid the words of the other side like the plague, as if they somehow might become contaminated by ideas they find objectionable.

For a good part of my adult life I refused to commit myself to an ideology or political party. I prided myself on being a contrarian, the fly in the ointment so to speak, who liked to put the validity of all opinions to the test, most of all those ideas with whom I agreed. In that vein I took pains to be fluent in the language of every side of an argument, in order to make what I considered to be an educated opinion, based upon experience, facts and reason, rather than emotion.

That all began to change after Barack Obama was elected president, and Republicans tripped over each other in order to be the first to declare their opposition to the new administration and anything it supported. Gone were the days of bipartisan compromise; in our government, obstruction was the new law of the land. The joke was that had Obama publicly come out in favor of air, Republicans all over this great land of ours would have held their breath. The GOP it seemed to me, would stop at nothing to get their way not even asphyxiation. In the process, this country became divided to an extent we haven't seen since the tumultuous days of the 1960s.

You might think, having read this far, that I'm about to advocate that the solution to bridge our enormous differences is to immerse ourselves in the words of the other side in order to better understand them. "Just listen to them..." one might say, "...and you'll get where they're coming from." While it may be true that listening might make you better understand the place where the other side is coming from, more than likely these days, if you have a bone to pick with the current administration, or several bones as I do, you're not going to like that place.

Try as I might to grab hold of something, anything, to latch onto, to provide me even a sliver of sympathy for the views of the supporters of this administration, so far, I've haven't been able to come up with a single rational argument to counter the opinions of those people who oppose the current president.

Unfortunately, my contrarian days are over as far as politics is concerned, at least for the time being. I find that to be very disturbing.

So how did we get to this place?

Well as Marshall McLuhan famously said: "The medium is the message."

Many of us see the beginning of the current administration as the dawn of the era of fake news and alternative facts, (among other things). But this stuff isn't new. In addition to being one of the greatest films ever made, Citizen Kane gives an account of the history of American journalism, at least the last 130 years of it. In the 1890s, a young, brash, and fabulously wealthy Charles Foster Kane (Orson Welles), looking for something to do with his life, decides that "it would be fun to run a newspaper." He settles on the stodgy, old, (and failing) New York Inquirer. The ancient editor of the paper (Erskine Sanford) is aghast when he welcomes young Mr. Kane and his associates, Messers Leland and Bernstein (Joseph Cotten and Everett Sloane) into the offices of the paper. He literally huffs and puffs when Kane announces that business as usual, that is to say, delivering the news as merely giving testimony to a string of facts, would be a thing of the past. In other words, if the facts weren't interesting or entertaining enough to print, find some new facts that were, even if you had to make them up.

In the following, one of the most remarkable scenes from the most remarkable of films, a montage of muckraking Inquirer headlines read by the primary target of those headlines, none other than Kane's former guardian and chief nemesis, Walter Parks Thatcher (George Coulouris), concludes with a meeting between Thatcher and his surrogate son...

Kane's egalitarian words near the end of that scene inspire applause when the film is shown in public, especially among young, idealistic viewers. Sincere as he may have been when he said them, those words, as Kane's life is revealed through the course of the film, prove to be empty. This scene brilliantly portrays the birth of a demagogue. In 2016, life did not quite imitate art, but came pretty close, as Kane's attempt at a brilliant political career came to a screeching halt after his indiscretions were revealed to the public. In another brilliant (and prophetic) scene, as it becomes clear that Kane will lose the election for governor of New York, in the print room of Kane's newspaper, Mr. Bernstein has a painful decision to make:

Well into the era of electronic broadcasting, newspapers remained the primary source of news for most Americans. Radio, which became popular in the 1920s and a household fixture in the'30s, added two new dimensions to news, intimacy and immediacy. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the first American president to exploit the new medium's potential to communicate directly with the American people. He did so in a series of thirty radio addresses where he promoted his agenda as well as provided the country a sense of assurance during very troubling times. Despite having been delivered from the Diplomatic Reception Room in the White House, these informal speeches (by their day's standards) were dubbed "fireside chats". Interestingly enough, those chats were conceived in part as a means for the president to speak directly to the American people, thereby making an end run around the newspapers who were at the time controlled by his opponents, mostly Republicans.

Radio played a major role during World War II. King George VI of Great Britain delivered the most important speech of his life, live to his people and to the world. That speech was broadcast over the radio on September 3, 1939, two days after Germany invaded Poland. In the speech, the king announced  his country's declaration of war against the Third Reich, marking the beginning of the biggest conflagration in human history.

On December 7, 1941, about an hour after the first Zero fighter plane entered American air space, and still in the middle of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Americans first learned of the attack via radio bulletins that interrupted their regularly scheduled Sunday afternoon programming.
The voices of legendary war correspondents Winston Burdett, Charles Collingwood, Eric Sevareid and most famously, Edward R. Murrow, came into American homes every night, and defined the art of broadcast journalism.

Despite all that, in its golden age, radio remained predominantly a medium devoted to entertainment, even during the darkest days of World War II when not a single family wasn't directly touched by the war. Listening to programs from that era today, no matter how frivolous they may have been, it's very easy to see how essential that function was.

While some historians mark the beginning of radio as the end of the golden age of the newspaper, print journalism, especially major papers such as the New York Times and Washington Post, continued to be the news of record throughout the war, as they remain to this day, despite the objections of the current president.

Radio could have gone away altogether with the advent of television, but it didn't. As TV took over the role as the primary medium of home entertainment in the fifties and sixties, radio reinvented itself. In those days, devalued radio meant it was relatively cheap to buy airtime, even your own station. This meant a proliferation of radio stations catering to the fringes of society, as the much more exclusive television networks, went after the general public.

Starting in the sixties, TV and to a lesser extent radio, started to become the go-to sources for folks who wanted their news quick and easy, while newspapers around the country, began to disappear. At that time, the format of network TV became set in stone, with news broadcasts presented in the early and late evening and entertainment programing sandwiched in between. It remains that way today. Radio in the meantime with much less at stake, became more free-form, and programmers could experiment with different formats and approaches to broadcasting. Stations devoted themselves to niches such as all news, talk, or music programming. Those categories were then divided up into sub-categories appealing to an ever more select group of listeners set apart by age, ethnicity, religion, musical tastes, personal interests, and eventually, political ideology.  

Concurrent with the changes in print and electronic media, society was changing, as the generation who was born after World War II came of age. Without the experience of the unifying, tragic experiences of the Depression and World War II, the Baby Boomers were born into a much more complicated world where good guys and bad guys were not so easily defined. The major news events of their formative years, namely, the McCarthy Era, the struggle for Civil Rights, Vietnam, and Watergate, tore the nation apart rather than unified it. The result if I may be so bold as to say this is that the unifying trait of this generation, my generation, is cynicism.

Simply put, the creed of the cynic is this: "nothing is sacred". The problem with that is there is a deep down longing in human nature; we need to believe in something. That in a nutshell, is why we have religion. Without anything to believe in, a person is a shell, left adrift in the world. For people who are completely devoid of all hope or faith, things usually don't work out very well. On the other hand, if religion isn't your bag, you might turn to another cause, perhaps justice, freedom, patriotism, nature, or simply loving your neighbor. Perhaps you believe strongly in the rights of the oppressed, of women, of minorities, of the unborn, of animals, of whatever. Some people choose less than admirable things to believe in, No need to enumerate them, I'll leave those things to your imagination. Many of our generation want to have it both ways, we want to believe that nothing is sacred, but still desperately want to hold on to something in which to believe. So we pick a cause or two close to our hearts, then determine that nothing (else) is sacred.

The message is also the medium. We, the Baby Boomers, and our successors who have inherited most of our cynical traits, the Gen X'ers, became the most sought after demographic groups for advertisers who paid the bills of the broadcasters during the last forty or so years of the twentieth century. Consequently "the media" have bent over backwards to accommodate us, explaining why cynicism has been such a powerful force driving much of the creative world since the mid-sixties. A British comedy troupe set the bar high for its no-holds-barred brand of comedy which first appeared on these shores in the seventies in the form of their TV show, Monty Python's Flying Circus. For the Pythons, literally nothing was sacred and they pushed the boundaries of decorum and good taste with every endeavor. Their schtick became the defining symbol of detached hipness, which would be embraced by almost an entire generation.

Nothing is sacred became a genre of its own on the radio with the advent in the mid-seventies of talk radio, and perhaps its most enduring invention, the "shock jock". These radio personalities who say or do outrageous things to get attention, made it their mission to defy "political correctness", long before that term was coined, even though at the outset, their schtick was not intended to be overtly political.

Today, the broadcast media have been augmented by a vast array of information conduits made possible by the digital age. It is now possible for anyone, no matter how obscure their interest, ideology, or fetish, to find a website, cable channel, podcast or blog to cater to his or her needs. Unlike the days of old, most people don't receive their news from the same source as we did, back in the day. If you happen to be a news junkie, you have a tremendous number of sources, all coming from a slightly different direction from which to choose. The competition for subscribers, as it was back in Charles Foster Kane's time is fierce. Unlike that time however, today we have agencies that do nothing but check facts, so an honest to goodness news agency with any claims of credibility, has to be accountable for getting its facts right.

News sources today not only have competition from each other, but also from entertainment venues that have pretentions of being something beyond merely entertainment. A good many Americans claim, even boast, that these venues are their main source of news.

One could say that the Pythons and the shock jocks serve as the paradigms for two vastly divergent entertainment outlets that provide information about the world to two equally divergent ideological groups.

Like the Pythons, with their snarky humor, their sense of cool, smart, detachment, and their obsession with the absurd, comedians such as Bill Maher, Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert turned their late night comedy shows into conduits for news that have been eaten up for years, mostly by college educated white folks on the moderate left.

On the other end of the spectrum, ultra-right commentators like Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage and Mark Levin owe their very existence to the shock jocks of the seventies and the eighties.

These non-traditional outlets of news have resulted in the broadcasting of information that no longer concerns itself with presenting facts or heaven forbid, a meaningful exchange of ideas, but rather, opinions, often in a non stop profusion of righteous, invective filled diatribes, intended to enforce ideas already held by the faithful, often at the expense of the non-believers.

There is little or no accountability as far as accuracy is concerned because these public figures can legitimately claim they are in the entertainment business, not the news business. The only accountability these programs have is to their sponsors whose only interest is ratings. Success along those lines means spoon feeding their consumers exactly what they want to hear. Neither Maher, Stewart or Colbert, Limbaugh, Savage or Levin, expect listeners who don't agree with them to tune in to their programs. If they do happen to tune in, its only gravy for their ratings.

The most common thread between these two groups of broadcasters is their cynicism, obviously pointed in different directions. To the TV comics, traditional American values like patriotism, capitalism, law and order, the second amendment, and Christianity, (with the exception of Colbert), are fair game, while civil rights, women's rights, immigrants' rights and reproductive rights, are sacred cows. For the radio guys, it's exactly the opposite. To the right wingers, words like "liberal" and "progressive", are spoken with the same disdain as words they might use to describe the experience of crawling out of a dumpster filled with putrid, maggot infested meat. But they save their most bitter vitriol for the concept of political correctness. Just as their ancestors the shock jocks, existed to tumble the walls of decency and decorum, the commentators of the ultra right take special joy in belittling the sensibilities of people who value the idea that all people deserve to be treated equally, with dignity and respect, the very things which are in fact the core values of so called political correctness. Then, when they are criticized for their offensive speech, they cry foul that their first amendment rights are  being violated.

Since my current political leanings are closer to those of the TV guys, I never watch them as, if I need to reinforce my opinions, I turn to more reliable sources. Therefore any opinion I have of the late night TV comics is quite useless. But for a sense of perspective, I do listen to the right wing radio guys when I get the chance, that is, until my head starts to ache from banging it against the wall.

The truth is, if you want to keep Donald Trump supporters close to you, in a Michael Corleone kind of way, you need to listen to folks like Rush Limbaugh and his ilk. There you'll find the germ of every excuse, every conspiracy theory, every unfounded charge against his opponents, every red herring, that comes out of the mouths of every Trump supporter, at least those who have stuck by their man after one dismal month in office.

If you wonder for example, where they get the idea that it's ok that Russia hacked into our presidential election, Rush Limbaugh will tell you (erroneously) that all governments including our own, hack into foreign elections. He'll then tell you that "the lying left wing media" will lead you to believe, (no they won't), that the Russians' mischief actually affected the votes in the election enabling Trump to win. If you wonder why Trump supporters have no problem when the president calls the free press, "the enemy of the people", Mark Levin will go into a diatribe about how the New York Times is indeed an evil enemy because 75 years ago, the newspaper rarely mentioned the treatment of Jews during World War II, and when it did, the news was relegated to the back pages. If you question why people think the judiciary who ruled on Trump's travel ban is corrupt, the radio guys will tell you these are the same courts that time and again violate both the spirit and the letter of the constitution and the fundamental rights of all Americans by making rulings enforcing even the slightest form of gun control. And I'll give you three guesses where Trump supporters get the idea that Hillary Clinton is behind the protests against the administration and that George Soros is paying all the demonstrators.

I wrote this post about Limbaugh a few years ago. Back then he was irked because Pope Francis spoke some cautionary words about "unfettered capitalism". Rush excoriated the Pope without realizing, (or more likely, bothering to mention), that the pontiff's two predecessors, whom Limbaugh couldn't praise highly enough, both expressed during their pontificates, the same sentiments as Francis. This is Limbaugh's modus operandi, there is always a modicum of truth in what he says, so you can never accuse him of delivering "fake news", yet he leaves out relevant details that spell out the truth of the story. He's like an add for a movie that prints a quote from a review that says: "this is not a very good movie" but leaves out the word "not".

If you listen to Limbaugh and his proteges, it doesn't take much time to realize they are filled with hot air and their words have little substance. Unlike the left leaning TV comics, the radio guys seldom give voice to the opposition and when they do, they make sure to save the last word for themselves.

What makes them so very effective, is the way they brilliantly take advantage of the medium of radio, especially its immediacy and intimacy, just as FDR did for the first time over 80 years ago. In what other medium could they come into the homes of tens of millions of Americans, and relentlessly bloviate their spite filled rhetoric non-stop for three hours at a pop? If they don't induce a headache for listeners as they do for me, all their huffing and puffing, their ranting and raving, their temper tantrums and moral indignation are in fact, quite compelling. Studies show that when people hear the same thing over and over and over again, pretty soon they will begin to believe it. Being subjected to these guys for any length of time might even cause their listeners to develop a case of Stockholm syndrome, the condition where hostages begin to identify with their captors and their causes, simply out of self-preservation.

I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that Limbaugh and his ilk are largely responsible for the election of Donald Trump in 2016. These guys are extremely popular in the places where the president did well, and if his success can be attributed to the anger his voters feel about their lives, Rush and his minions did a wonderful job of throwing gasoline on their fire.

And they continue to do so. No matter how bad things will get with this administration, every time it lies, ignores the rule of law, incites our allies, or unnecessarily provokes our adversaries, no matter how close it gets to becoming a bona fide tyranny, you can rest assured that its most powerful mouthpiece, the right wing radio dudes, will bloviate on, throwing more and more gasoline onto the fire of discontent among their listeners, convincing them that those of us who support our country, its institutions, and the values it stands for, but don't support this president, are the real enemy.

If there is any silver lining to all this, we can be assured that Rush's listeners won't heed Michael Corleone's advice to keep their enemies close, because Rush won't let them.

I dare say that those of us on the other side, can't afford that luxury.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Coming together, one piece at a time...

This past Tuesday, a feel good moment for opponents of the Trump administration began on the floor of the US Senate when Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren started to read this letter. The letter was written in 1986 by Coretta Scott King, to the Senate Judiciary Committee, as it was debating the appointment of one Jefferson Beauregard Sessions to the position of Federal Court Judge. The letter expressed Mrs. King's deep reservations about his appointment, siting Mr. Sessions' use of "the awesome powers of his office in a shabby attempt to intimidate and frighten elderly black voters."

Coretta Scott King (Getty Images)
Mrs. King was referring to investigations, brought on by Sessions in his role as U.S. Attorney for the State of Alabama in 1984, that focused on allegations of voting fraud in that state. Mrs. King wrote:
The investigations into the voting process were conducted only in the Black Belt counties where blacks had finally achieved political power in the local government. Whites had been using the absentee process to their advantage for years, without incident. Then, when Blacks; realizing its strength, began to use it with success, criminal investigations were begun.  
Mrs. King went on to allege that under Sessions' direction, elderly black voters were harassed into testifying before a grand jury, then forced to make grueling 180 mile journeys to Birmingham, when much shorter trips to Selma could have been easily arranged. Many of those voters, according to Mrs. King, announced they were never going to vote again. She also noted that Sessions targeted in his investigation, members of the American civil rights movement, who were active in the sixties with her husband Martin.

Coretta Scott King equated Sessions' actions with the disenfranchisement of African American citizens, in violation of the Voting Rights Act, passed in 1965.

She concludes her letter this way:
I do not believe Jefferson Sessions possesses the requisite judgement, competence, and sensitivity to the rights guaranteed by the federal civil rights laws to qualify for appointment to the federal district court. Based on his record, I believe his confirmation would have a devastating effect on not only the judicial system in Alabama, but also on the progress we have made everywhere toward fulfilling my husband's dream that he envisioned over twenty years ago. I therefore urge the Senate Judiciary Committee to deny his confirmation.
It turned out that Mrs. King's letter was never entered into evidence, or for that matter, the public record, by the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Senator Strom Thurmond. Despite that, other testimony against Sessions convinced the committee to deny President Reagan's nomination of Sessions to the post, in a bi-partisan vote of 10-8.

Fast forward thirty one years and Senator Jeff Sessions once again found himself before a senate committee, appointed by another president to another high government position, that of Attorney General. It was during the debate before the Senate vote to confirm his nomination, where Senator Warren attempted to read Mrs. King's letter.

During her reading of the letter, Senator Warren was interrupted by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who invoked an obscure senate rule against "impugning the motives and conduct of a peer." Not surprisingly, the senate, completely along party lines,  voted to shut Senator Warren down. Undeterred, she took her message to the public where she read the letter in its entirety on MSNBC and elsewhere. Mrs. King's letter which before this week had never seen the light of day, has taken on a life of its own as it has been published widely since the senate kerfuffle.

McConnell, as the Republican who led the charge of congressional obstructionism the moment Barack Obama took office eight years ago, only furthered his reputation as the most despicable, laughably hypocritical politician on Capitol Hill (despite some very strong competition), among nearly all Americans to the left of a little right of center. This was Mitch McConnell's explanation for his actions on the senate floor the other day:
She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted. 
In uttering those condescending, authoritarian, patriarchal words, Mitch McConnell unwittingly created a rallying cry for anti-administration Americans, especially those who are female members of the species. If as many people suspect, Warren throws her hat into the ring for the 2020 presidential election, you can expect the words, "nevertheless she persisted" to be the theme of her campaign.

Despite the delicious euphoria that resulted from all that, not to mention the serious misgivings many people have about Jeff Sessions regarding his record on civil rights, he was approved almost entirely along party lines, to become our next Attorney General.

I bring that up not to bemoan yet another member of the president's cabinet with questionable credentials; Sessions is more than likely one of the most qualified of all of Donald Trump's appointments (which is not saying very much), but to speak of the tremendous symbolism in this country, of taking away someone's right to speak.

That is not to say Mitch McConnell violated Elizabeth Warren's first amendment rights of freedom of speech. The senate has its rules, however arcane, and McConnell was within his rights to call Ms. Warren on violating them. Yet no matter how much within his rights he was, there is at least to the American psyche, something so deeply sinister in silencing a person, that any effort to do so, as McConnell proved (although he may not realize it), is usually self-defeating. Had he given Warren the ten minutes or so it would have taken to read Coretta Scott King's letter, the whole issue would have blown over, after all, Sessions' approval by the Senate was already in the bag.

As it worked out, Warren, the wronged party, at least in the eyes of those who support her, now has the ammunition, not to mention the slogan, to move up the food chain and become a bona fide leader in the Democratic Party, as well as a legitimate contender for her party's candidate in the next presidential election. In trying to silence her, McConnell turned Warren's inside voice, into a roar.

Those of us opposed to the current administration should learn a great lesson from this. There was another episode last week, that on the surface was another feel good moment for the opposition. However unlike the Warren/ McConnell flap which in the long run will certainly be scored as a victory for Warren and the opposition, last week's event in every way possible, was a resounding defeat.

Catherine Rampell of the Washington Post describes Milo Yiannopoulos as a "Breitbart writer and sleazy professional troll, (who) has built a career out of stoking Pavlovian outrage and censorship attempts from the left in order to build his audience on the right." Yiannopoulos is a rising star in the alt-right whose name pops up everywhere on social media via provocative memes, YouTube videos and his Twitter account.

Yiannopoulos has been banned from Twitter, but like everything else on the Internet, his tweets will live on into perpetuity. In enforcing the ban, the company emphasized their policy of "prohibiting participating in, or inciting targeted abuse of individuals." Yiannopoulos targeted many individuals in his tweets but the straw that broke the camel's back, was most likely his tweet war with actress and SNL cast member, Leslie Jones, which included images likening the African American celebrity to a gorilla.

Yiannopoulos and his supporters cried foul, claiming the company was violating his free speech. In a statement published in Breitbart, the alt-right website for whom Yiannopoulos works as their tech editor, he wrote this, using tag words and phrases (which I took the liberty to emphasize) which come up again and again, ad nauseam in the writings of the alt-right:
With the cowardly suspension of my account, Twitter has confirmed itself as a safe space for Muslim terrorists and Black Lives Matter extremists, but a no-go zone for conservatives.
Twitter is holding me responsible for the actions of fans and trolls using the special pretzel logic of the left. Where are the Twitter police when Justin Bieber’s fans cut themselves on his behalf?
Like all acts of the totalitarian regressive left, this will blow up in their faces, netting me more adoring fans. We’re winning the culture war, and Twitter just shot themselves in the foot.
This is the end for Twitter. Anyone who cares about free speech has been sent a clear message: you’re not welcome on Twitter.”
The incident helped put Yiannopoulos on the map, he is now one of the leading darlings of the ultra conservative right with more "adoring fans" than ever. He was wrong about one thing. Far from being the end of Twitter, that social media outlet now serves as the public voice of the President of the United States.

Last week, Yiannopoulos was scheduled to speak at the University of California, Berkeley campus. You can look at the troll of the ultra right, Yiannopoulos' decision to speak at the historic bastion of left wing radicalism in two ways. Either you can give him the benefit of the doubt and believe he sincerely wished to open up a meaningful dialogue with people who have quite different opinions from him or... you can believe he only wanted to start trouble in order to get attention.

Given his history, it's kind of a no brainer.

If you don't know the story by now, you can probably guess what happened. Yiannopoulos drew a huge crowd to his appearance, some supporters, lots of protesters. About 150 masked men and women, about one tenth of the total number of demonstrators who were there, broke down police barricades, smashed windows, tossed Molotov cocktails, and threw firecrackers at police. All in all the rioters caused about $100,000 damage to property. Conferring with the police, the university, out of concern for public safety, called off Yiannopoulos' appearance. 

Despite the fact that the University of California, Berkeley approved of the talk, regardless of the threats of protest and violence they received, in the blink of an eye, Yiannopoulos and many of his supporters claimed the university denied him his freedom of speech. The following day the president in his favorite means of communication, tweeted:
If U.C. Berkeley does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view - NO FEDERAL FUNDS?
Many opponents of the administration, especially those on the left, while not defending the violence, still felt a sense of vindication that Yiannopoulos and his provocative message bordering on "hate speech" were silenced.

That only played into the hands of the ultra right, who used the incident to claim that those on the left, normally the first responders when a breech of the first amendment takes place, really only care about the freedom of speech for those opinions in which they agree.

Like much of what comes out the mouths of this group, that is a blatant lie. They fail to mention that one of their favorite targets, the ACLU, has countless times defended the freedom of speech of people holding a vast array of political ideologies, from Yiannopoulos' right to call Leslie Jones a gorilla, to the right of Nazis to march in the heavily Jewish village of Skokie, Illinois.

Of course people have short memories, and folks anywhere to the left of Attila the Hun had to scramble to spin the story to deny that anyone's rights were violated.

The incident turned out to be a win win for Yiannopoulos, Breitbart, and the president, and a defeat for everyone else, especially for reason and truth.

In the February 6th issue of Atlantic Monthy, David Frum wrote an article called How to Beat Trump: What Effective Protest Could look Like. Frum, a conservative writer who once wrote speeches for President George W. Bush, is steadfastly against Donald Trump, not so much for ideological reasons, but because he feels (as do I), that the current president is setting a dangerous precedent as he has little or no concern in upholding the United States Constitution.

Speaking about the deficiencies of the tactics of the left as far as protests go, Frum writes that...
...left-liberal demonstrations are exercises in catharsis, the release of emotions. Their operating principle is self-expression, not persuasion.
The problem with the left, Frum suggests, is their micro management of issues close to their heart, rather than a view of the big picture, preventing a general consensus that would lead to a unified front capable of drawing enough voters to win back the presidency. In a radio interview I heard with Frum last night, he said that so divided are liberals in this country amongst themselves, their protesters are "not preaching to the choir, they're preaching to the mezzo sopranos."

There is no better example than the election last November where thousands of steadfast supporters of Bernie Sanders, refused to vote for Hillary Clinton against Donald Trump. Either they reasoned that as the recipient of tremendous support from the Wall Street establishment, Clinton was no better than Trump, or they felt anger toward her because they erroneously believed she stole the election from their man, or they bought into all the Republican jargon that suggested she was a criminal who was just a little less truthful than Pinocchio, or all of the above. I don't have the numbers to back this up but I truly believe that had most of the Sanders supporters who either sat out the election or voted for a third party candidate, actually voted for Clinton, Donald Trump might not be sitting in the White House today.

Many Democrats blame Clinton for not being a strong enough candidate to beat Trump. Perhaps that's true. But the choices in this election could not have been more clear, and it is my sincere belief that everyone in America who could have, but didn't vote for Hillary Clinton last November, deserves to have Donald Trump as their president.

Of course that's all water under the bridge and hopefully we learned our lesson. In picking a president on election day, we have a choice between two credible candidates who are ready made, right off the rack. We can't tailor them to suit our individual needs like we can a computer system or a new car.

Actually, voting for a president is a lot like buying a used car,. We get to pick between two cars sitting on a lot, a blue Ford Fiesta and a gray Chevy Cruze. Sometimes both are in running order and frankly it's a tossup between the two. Sometimes one is a tad beat up yet perfectly drivable while the other looks shiny and new, but is a lemon. You really want that snazzy custom silver Corvette convertible but it's way out of your price range and besides, it was sold an hour ago. In short, the 'vette, just like the perfect candidate, wherever she or he may be, is not an option.

Now that the election is over, those of us who steadfastly believe that Donald Trump has no business being President of the United States, have a serious decision to make. He's the president, pure and simple, we as a people do not have the power to impeach him or kick him out of office, that's the job of Congress, if they so choose. The only legitimate way to change the government is to make our voices heard to our elected officials, and ultimately, through elections, the next one being in November, 2018.

It's unlikely that the president and his cabal of advisors are going to listen and take heart. They have made it abundantly clear that anyone who is not on their side, is their enemy, and dissent, only strengthens them. Besides, there are term limits and the president already is showing frustration with leading the country which he is quickly learning is not at all like running his own company. Who knows how long he is going to put up with it.

Unfortunately we can't count on an imminent impeachment or the president taking his toys and going home.

But the members of Congress are in it for the long haul and those of them up for re-election in two years will soon have to answer to their constituents. It's up to those of us who are dissatisfied with the current administration, to make our voices heard to those senators and congressmen, that we will not allow the laws and values that this country has held dear for over two hundred years, held hostage by an administration who has in three short weeks shown time and again that they have no regard for such things.

As I have said over and over, this is not a struggle between left and right. An administration who openly communicates their actions with the public through the use of "alternative facts", i.e.: lies, a president who has openly derided judges who rule against him in points of law he has no knowledge of, and who has expressed his belief in the use of torture to achieve his goals, clearly is not an administration who plans to rule with liberty, truth, justice and decency in mind.

And so it's in our hands. We need to come together as a people who cherish liberty, truth, justice and decency. If that means setting aside our differences, then so be it.

If we truly value freedom of speech, we must make every effort to allow all views to be freely expressed, even if those views disgust or horrify us. The truly horrible views will damn themselves, while denying the right to express them only gives them credibility by giving their speakers the moral high ground as victims who are denied their rights.

If we value the truth, then we must be steadfast in speaking the truth, and not broadcasting news that is not verifiable or outright wrong. We can't condemn the other side for broadcasting "fake news" if we do the same.

And if we truly care about decency, we must learn to treat those who disagree with us, not as they might treat us, but as we would want to be treated. We cannot discount the millions of Americans who voted for Trump who feel their lives are somehow compromised. As we do not like sanctimonious people preaching to us about what is moral and what is not, we should not be that way either.

Many leaders of the Republican Party today and the current administration, knowing their base is rapidly diminishing, have shown time and again, they will do anything in order to win. If we stoop to their depths, we are no better than they are. The only way decency can win in the end is to unite Americans of good will, both on the left and the right, to fight for American values as we have understood them for over two hundred years.

I truly believe there are more Americans of good will than not. I believe that most Americans are not racists, but people who care about their families, their communities, and their country, in that order, just as we do. We need to convince them that we're on the same side. Like them, we understand that we can't just invite terrorists or other criminals into our country to do their will. By the same token, we cannot completely close our doors to people from other countries who simply wish to make a better life for themselves and their families, just as this country DID NOT close its doors for our ancestors. We believe that all Americans should have the opportunity to jobs, health care and safe communities, but we also must point out that times are changing, that the ship of high paying, unskilled jobs sailed away a long time ago, and that the real key to success today, is education.  And we believe that no force in the world is stronger than America when its people come together and work for the common good, not when they sit back and let demagogues take over and decide what is best for us.

Our job in the opposition is to make our case before all Americans of good will, showing them that we are not all that different than they are, showing them that we love our families, communities and country, just as they do.

Even more important, we need to learn the same about them.