Friday, April 30, 2021

Baseball, Is That You Again?

Two old codgers and a baseball bat

For the first time since I started publishing this blog 12 years ago, Baseball Opening Day came and went without so much as a wink or a nod. 

I wouldn't say that my passion for the game I love has dried up, hardly. It's just that A. Bartlett Giamatti's description of it as a game "designed to break your heart" has become all too real, especially for my son.

The funny thing is that unlike most of the kids he played baseball with over the years of Little League, Travel Ball, and High School Baseball, my son, in college now, is still directly involved with the game.

That's a little bit of a mixed blessing because while he'll always be able to say he was on a college baseball team, he may not get a chance to play. 

But he's still at it and for that I can't admire him more. I would have given up years ago. So this is dedicated to him and to all the kids out there, young and old, still living the dream. 

Oh by the way, who are the "two codgers" pictured above, still living the dream in what appears to be them long past their prime? Well if there were a Mount Rushmore of baseball players, these two would have been finalists on just about anybody's list, Ty Cobb, on the left and Honus Wagner on the right, both members of the "original class" of  Baseball Hall of Fame inductees. In the voting, Ty Cobb came in first of all players nominated and Wagner came in second, tied with Babe Ruth.

Here's a photo of the two in their playing days when they faced each other (for I believe the only time) in the 1909 World Series. The two most dominant players of their era, Cobb played for the American League Detroit Tigers and Wagner for the National League Pirates.

In case you're interested in a World Series that took place 102 years ago, and for God's sake why wouldn't you be(?), the Pirates won the 1909 championship four games to three. 

That's the beauty of baseball, it's a game that lives equally in the present, in the future, and in the past. 

Play ball!


Thursday, April 29, 2021

Knowing Less and Less as I Grow Older

When I was 14, my daughter's current age, I knew everything there was to know about the world. Everything made sense, the good guys were always good, the bad guys always bad, and there was no messing with Mister In-Between. Most important, new ideas were always preferable to the way things had been done for basically ever. Why couldn't my parents understand that?

My father, God rest his soul, always took the bait and we'd end up in screaming matches so intense that it occurred to me one day that if there had been a gun in our house, one of us (not sure which one) would have used it.

Perhaps what all these years of life on this planet have taught me, is never  argue with people who have all the answers.

So unlike my father, I don't.

Yea me.

As I get older, I have more and more questions, and fewer if any answers, at least ones with any credibility. Surely for example I thought, several years ago after one of the most  the most heart breaking events of the century after 9/11, people would finally come to their senses and realize that the lives of first and second graders are vastly more important than the right to own semi-automatic rifles capable of killing people as quickly as it takes for the shooter to pull the trigger. 

What do I know? Today, nearly nine years after the Sandy Hook massacre, guns are easier than ever to procure in this country and there is a serious movement underway to push through the courts, new laws to make it even easier to carry a weapon of mass destruction out in public in the United States. Given the makeup of the current Supreme Court, these laws are likely to stick. 

Same thing a few weeks ago during the trial of Derick Chauvin, who in his role as a Minneapolis police officer, murdered George Floyd. The backlash from Chauvin's kneeling on the neck of an unarmed man and taking his life was so profound, surely I thought, police all over the country would have thought twice before using deadly force.

Once again, I was wrong, just moments before the guilty verdict was read in a court in downtown Minneapolis, there was another police shooting, this time in Columbus, Ohio. And in the weeks prior to that reading and in the subsequent week, there have been several others, two notable ones here in Chicago, one involving a 13 year old child. Their names were Anthony Alvarez and Adam Toledo

In all these well publicized incidents, the officer was white and the decedent was a person of color. As everyone knows, black people and other people of color, die in numbers proportionately greater than their population at the hands of the police.

That is a fact. 

It's also a fact that while not quite in numbers rersenting their population, white people also get killed by the police. In 2020, 457 white people (44% of all deaths at the hands of the police) were killed by the police in the US. 

By comparison, 241 black people (23% of all deaths at the hands of the police) were killed by the police last year as were 169 people (16% of all deaths at the hands of the police) of Hispanic origin. 

As roughly 12 percent of the US population is black, the death rate for black people at the hands of the police is nearly double that of the population of black people in this country.  Given that, it's not an unreasonable conclusion that there is a racial bias in this country when it comes to police violence against the general public, although as these numbers might suggest, not quite as much as we are led to believe. 

After all, today in virtually all the reporting surrounding police killing of civilians, the victims are people of color, and the police doing the killing are nearly all white. But as you can see from the numbers above, white people also get killed by the police, yet we almost never hear about it.

That is also a fact.

Another sobering statistic is this. In 2019 (the last year data was available for this statistic), 53 percent of all murder victims in this country were black, a number way out of proportion to the black population of the US.

And there are other statistics involving black folks in the US that are way out of proportion to their population, things like levels of poverty, education, and children raised in single, or no parent homes.

So what are we to make of these numbers? Well I guess that all depends upon how much you know about the world and especially which side of the fence you're sitting on. To the know-it-alls on the right side of the fence, one answer might be a lack of initiation on the part of black people. To those on the left, a one word answer will do, racism.   

But to those of us with less confidence in our knowledge of everything under the sun, there are no easy answers. True, the numbers are telling but in the immortal words of Benjamin Disraeli:

There are three kinds of lies, lies, damned lies, and statistics.

As we just saw, people can use the same set of data to tell a vastly different story. That's just the nature of things I guess. 

There are factors that run much deeper than numbers, sometimes you just gotta feel them in your heart. Take so called "white privilege." Like many, I cringe at the term as I feel it has become overused to the point where it has lost much of its meaning. It is now little more than a "talking point" for folks on the left. 

After all I too, a white guy, have had several encounters with the police in my life, none of them pleasant, including once being subjected to a humiliating body search in full view of the public. 

But here's the thing, yes, in every one of these encounters I complied with what the police asked of me, because I knew the police have the power to make one's life miserable. In other words I deeply wanted to avoid unpleasant things that might befall me such as getting thrown into  jail. On the other hand, never for one second did the notion that I might lose my life cross my mind.   

There in a nutshell is the critical difference between a typical white person's experience with the police, and that of a person of color. 

Call it what  you will, but as white parents, my wife and I have never felt it necessary to have "the talk" with our two children, explaining to them in great detail what to do when (not if) they have an encounter with a police officer, not so they won't get thrown in jail, but so the won't get killed. 

While every day I worry about our kids, including their personal safely living in a neighborhood where it's not all that unusual to hear gunshots, one thing I don't worry about is them being killed by a police officer. 

Sadly that's a luxury no black parent in America enjoys. 

Because of our personal experience, we white folks assume that if people of any color simply comply with what the police ask of us, there would be no trouble. But simply complying with what the police ask of us doesn't always work, especially if you're a person of color.  If you don't believe me, when you get to the afterlife, just ask Philando Castile

This is not to say the police are never justified in using deadly force. Sadly, sometimes it is necessary in order to protect innocent lives, and their own. This is why it is essential to not lump every act of police violence against civilians together. 

In the case of the above mentioned police shooting in Columbus, the victim was wielding a knife against another person when the officer shot her. I don't know the exact details, at this moment I don't think anybody does, but given that information, no one can deny there is a world of difference between the tragedy in Columbus and the one that took place in Minneapolis last Memorial Day.

The actions of Derick Chauvin that day against George Floyd were reprehensible, of that there is no question. There is no credible police officer in this country who can  reasonably defend Chauvin's strangle hold of a man who had already been subdued. 

Nor could any reasonable person defend the actions of Jason Van Dyke, the former Chicago cop who in 2014 emptied his weapon into Laquan McDonald, a young man who was carrying a knife, but at the time of his death, shown by video to not have posed an immediate threat to anyone. 

Both Van Dyke and Chauvin were rightfully convicted of murder.

But not all cases of police violence are open and shut like these, at least not for someone like me who doesn't have all the answers.

To me the question isn't always good cop vs. bad cop, but what is and what is not acceptable procedure. Take for example the tragedy of Daunte Wright who was killed by an officer this past April 11, about 10 miles from where the trial of Dereck Chauvin was taking place. Mr. Wright was shot by the officer who had apparently mistaken her gun for a taser. Of course the whole world asked the question: "how could anybody make such a mistake?" In all honesty I think I could have. But to me the more pertinent question is this: was it really necessary in that situation for the officer to fire a weapon in the first place? 

Again, more questions than answers but a far as policing goes in my opinion, much of the problem lies with the training of police officers in this country and the policies regarding their use of lethal force. 

And of course the eternal question of what is the proper role of police in our society.

To my simplistic thinking at least, unless lives are threatened, there is no reason why a traffic stop, even one where there is an arrest warrant pending, should end up deadly. 

Let alone an encounter with a unarmed man suspected of passing a counterfeit double sawbuck. 

And please, please, don't even get me started with Breonna Taylor.

But what do I know. 

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Indelible Symbols

Last night I had a dream about all people, George Wallace. Don't know where that one came from, I can't remember the last time I thought about the former segregationist governor of Alabama, it may have been 2013 when I wrote this piece commemorating the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy's assassination.

In my dream I was interviewing Wallace late in his life, where he renounced, as he did in real life, his racist/segregationist ways. The only detail I remember of the dream was looking into his eyes and being convinced he was sincere.

Hey what can I say, it was a dream.

In case you're too young to remember, Wallace was a major player on the American political scene from the early sixties and extending well into the eighties. He ran unsuccessfully for president four times and in 1968 became the last third party candidate to date to receive electoral votes from a state. He actually won five states, all of them in the south. It's difficult to say what if any impact he had on the outcome of that election as he more than likely siphoned both Democratic votes (Wallace was a Democrat) from Hubert H. Humphrey, and conservative votes from Richard M. Nixon who won the presidency in one of the closest elections in US history.

The 1972 election almost cost Wallace his life after an assassination attempt while campaigning for his party's nomination in Maryland.

Confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life, Wallace managed to run for president again in the Democratic primary of 1976, and continued to serve as Governor of Alabama, a post he held until 1987.

But much of that is forgotten. George Wallace will go down in history as the man who as governor, stood in the doorway of the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, in an attempt to prevent black students from entering, and thereby integrating the school. It took the efforts of President Kennedy and the National Guard to force Wallace to comply. Wallace is also infamous for his most well known quote delivered at his first inauguration in 1963:
In the name of the greatest people that have ever trod this earth, I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.
Two years later, it was Wallace who ordered the brutal attack on civil rights marchers as they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, during the planned march from Selma to the state capital Montgomery.

Times changed radically after the turbulent sixties and it was a kinder, gentler, but still thoroughly conservative Wallace who managed to hold on to power all those years. By the end of his life he had all but completely distanced himself from his past.

Wallace attended a commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the Selma violence forever known as Bloody Sunday. He was too old and sick to speak at the event but delivered a plea for reconciliation via an assistant to those gathered. In the speech through his aide, Wallace said: 
My friends, I have been watching your progress this week as you retrace your footsteps of 30 years ago and cannot help but reflect on those days that remain so vivid in my memory. Those were different days and we all in our own ways were different people. We have learned hard and important lessons in the 30 years that have passed between us since the days surrounding your first walk along Highway 80...

Those days were filled with passionate convictions and a magnified sense of purpose that imposed a feeling on us all that events of the day were bigger than any one individual...

Much has transpired since those days. A great deal has been lost and a great deal has been gained, and here we are. My message to you today is, 'Welcome to Montgomery.'

May your message be heard. May your lessons never be forgotten. May our history be always remembered.

Whether his change of heart was genuine or out of political expedience, no living person will ever know, Wallace took that knowledge to his grave in 1998. Considering late in his life what his legacy would be, (in a very different era than the one in which he started his career), perhaps Wallace did not want to be seen as having forever been on the wrong side of history. Or perhaps his "finding Christ" later in life helped show him the error of his ways, we'll never know. 

What is true is the image of Governor Wallace standing in the university doorway in Tuscaloosa in 1963, has proven to be perhaps the most indelible image of American racism. 

That is until last week. 

It didn't take a political genius to figure out a path to victory for the Democratic candidate in the 2020 presidential election. To prove that point, I spelled it out in this post from February of last year. I may not have gotten the candidate right but I sure nailed the strategy. That strategy was simply to appeal to black voters in swing states such as Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Ohio, states that all went Republican in 2016 but all by relatively small, easy to overcome margins. 

In this past election, all but Ohio went for the Democrats thanks to a huge turnout of black voters. What I didn't take into account was Georgia. There, the significant African American vote of Fulton County put the Democrats over the top. Not only that but in January, the Peachtree State flipped their two senate seats from Republican to Democrat, again a result of overwhelming turnout from the Atlanta area. 

Licking their wounds, Republicans hoping for better luck come the 2022 elections in the great state of Georgia, rather than logically asking how they could better appeal to this considerable constituency of theirs, decided it would be more prudent to change the election rules so as to prevent as many of the people who voted against them, from voting in the future. 

If the lion's share of those people happened to be black, well politics is politics. 

Of course in 2021 they couldn't come out and openly admit to intentionally disenfranchising black voters, so they came up with an old standby.

Voter fraud as an excuse for losing an election has been around forever.

Here's an example of a movie made in 1941 (Citizen Kane) describing an event that took place perhaps thirty years earlier.

But without a thread of evidence of voter fraud turning Georgia from red to blue, the Republicans of Georgia who still have a stranglehold over state politics, had to come up with something. How, they reasoned, could there have been such a dramatic shift between the elections of 2016 and 2020 had there not been fraud at the polls? 

Well I have a theory. It could be that the Democrats did a good job convincing black people to come out and vote in 2020. More likely however all the credit goes to Donald Trump who in his four years as president, worked tirelessly to piss off black people. It's not all that hard to figure out a swing of a little over 100,000 votes in a state with 7.6 million registered voters, and a candidate despised by so many of them. 

After losing the 2020 election, rather than campaigning in earnest for the two Republican senators, the exPOTUS just kept harping on his blatant lie that since he lost the state, the Georgia elections had to be rigged, casting doubt among his supporters on the state's ability to hold a fair election.  Turns out enough Georgia Trumplicans were so dismayed by their state's election system, they stayed at home during the runoff election, causing their party to lose both seats and with them, control of the Senate in the January runoffs. 

Well played indeed. 

Again rather than using the sensible approach, convincing their constituents that Georgia's elections were indeed fair and above board, the state's Republican legislature wrote up eighty some different bills, each one aimed at "reforming" their election system to "restore the faith" of, well lets just say some of the voters. 

Needless to say, every one of these bills in one way or other, was designed to make it harder to vote, especially for black people. 

Many of the new restrictions had to do with mail-in and absentee voting, something black people are more likely to take advantage of than white people. 

Others restricted the hours polls were open making it harder for people paid by the hour to vote. 

New voter ID requirements were put in place, which also disproportionately effect people of color. 

One bill that passed banned the use of two busses that were put into service as polling stations to help with overflow crowds on election day. Why? Well the two busses were put into service in Atlanta so your guess is as good as mine. 

In the guise of appearing that the Republicans were willing to compromise, not all eighty of their bills made it into law, they were "willing" to let a few of the more outrageous ones go by the wayside.

But a bill that did make it into law, one that has been making reasonable people's hair stand on end, is a new restriction that prevents anyone within 150 feet of a polling place other than a poll worker, from distributing water to people standing in line waiting to vote. Failure to comply with this new regulation  could result in a misdemeanor conviction and a one year jail sentence.

Now for someone like me who's from say, anywhere but Georgia, this might not seem like such a big deal because save for the last Illinois Primary election which took place during the height of the pandemic, I've never had to wait in line for more than a half hour to vote. But for whatever reason, in Georgia the voting process is notoriously slow, and standing in line for several hours to vote, especially in black precincts, is the rule, not the exception. On top of that, Georgia can still be pretty hot come election time in November, not to mention spring when the primaries occur. 

Defending this new law, state Republicans say it is in keeping with other restrictions used all over the country, preventing campaign workers from soliciting votes by offering voters within a certain distance from the polling place, "gifts" that could be construed as buying their votes. The only difference here is that water and food have been explicitly counted among these potential "gifts" that are strictly forbidden to be distributed to the voters. They say not to worry, the poll workers are there to help distribute the water. However there is nothing written into the new law that requires poll workers to distribute water to thirsty voters. 

Again, common sense would dictate that Georgia election officials would do is everything in their power to make the voting process more efficient to avoid the long lines where people require refreshment in the first place. No one should have to tolerate waiting in line for hours to vote. But given the history of the way elections have been run in Georgia over the past oh hundred plus years or so, that's apparently not what they want for whatever reason, you may draw your own conclusion.

Don't get me wrong, I don't expect people to be physically harmed by this, one way or other, folks who need hydration will get it, at least I would hope so. This is just another of a long line of indignities and injustices that people of color in this country have been subjected to over the centuries. 

But the truth is, no matter the logic of the new law nor how you spin it, bad as preventing people from voting or from attending college, the symbolism of making a law against giving another person a drink of water is a new low. It runs counter to what every decent person is taught from day one. It is a violation not only of scripture which most Republicans these days claim to be so vitally important to them, but to the very act of being human.

For all of the bullshit new regulations packed into this unnecessary law designed to disenfranchise people and nothing else, this particular feature will stand out, inspire rage and resistance, and above all and be remembered for a very long time. 

As such, the symbol of Georgia Republicans and their new law is the political equivalent of the symbol of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin with his knee on the neck of George Floyd.  

There will be consequences of course. George Wallace's blocking  the way of integration at the Uniiversity of Alabama, forced a reluctant Kennedy administration to rethink the issue of civil rights, putting it on the front burner of national issues. Backlash from Wallace, and others' blatantly racist actions paved the way for the two major civl rights bills promoted by JFK's successor Lyndon Johnson, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. And the backlash from Alabama State police attacking peaceful demonstrators in Selma in 1965, helped pave the way for a reluctant country and dare I say, even George Wallace himself to rethink the issue of civil rights.

Governor Wallace can now rest in peace knowing that his face is no longer the indelible symbol of racism and inhumanity in this country. 

Here is his heir apparent, the current Georgia governor Brian Kemp, who signed bill SB202 the so called "Election Integrity Act of 2021" into law behind locked doors last Thursday.

Brian Kemp, the new poster child for American racism.

Who knows how Kemp will feel in a few years when the terrible symbol of racism he helped create will have backfired and he will be universally viewed with scorn and derision the world over, including in the South.

How will it feel for him to have been on the wrong side of history and how will he explain himself in order to correct his own legacy?

Pathetic isn't it how some people refuse to learn from history. 

Friday, March 26, 2021

But What About MY Rights???

It's official, I am now a Facebook jailbird.  

I'm not quite sure if that's something to be ashamed of, or a badge of honor. The truth is, if I ran the social media giant, I probably would have banned myself years ago for all the obnoxious, expletive-laden posts and responses to posts that are a sad part of my legacy. The arguments with former friends and family members that led to the disintegration of relationships and the ultimate social media shame, de-friendship, all centering around the administration of the exPOTUS, should have been my undoing.  

They weren't.

So what did I do to land myself in Facebook jail? Well in the words of the company, I violated their community standards, twice. Vague indeed but I can tell you exactly what I did: 

I knowingly disseminated false information about an election, and I threatened to kill someone. 

Wow that's terrible you say but in my defense, had my Facebook judges and jurors been sentient human beings rather than an algorithm, I'm convinced I'd at the most been given probation rather than a jail sentence, if any sanctions at all. 

The problem is that while computer programs are very good at tracking down what their creators deem to be objectionable content such as spreading false information or threats of violence, they are terrible at determining intent, taking into account things like context or even worse, sarcasm and irony. 

Giving them the benefit of the doubt, the latter two are sometimes even difficult for intelligent human beings to discern as well. 

I'll never forget the time when during my days as an art courier, I was accompanying a major (and rather large) painting from an exhibition in Spain, back to its home in Chicago on a cargo flight. Having experienced cargo flights first hand, I can say there is no better way to travel, you have a front row seat up in the cockpit and normally (although not on this particular flight) a comfy bunk to sleep in when you get tired of hanging out with the pilots. Despite all that, this trip was arduous, Madrid to Montreal to Mexico City and finally to Chicago, 24 hours in total. 

I did manage to develop a good rapport with the crew, always a good idea, especially one pilot who seemed to appreciate, and even share my peculiar sense of humor. So I felt comfortable joking with him, suggesting rather than flying all the way to Mexico then back to Chicago, that I just parachute with the painting out of the plane when we flew past Chicago. Suddenly the pilot's demeanor changed, and in a completely serious, non-ironic tone he said to me: "no, that would be impossible." 

It's even more difficult to weed out irony when you are not face-to-face with someone. A number of times I've made snarky, sarcastic, conspiracy theory laden social media comments so outrageous they would shock a dyed-in-the-wool, dues paying Q-Anon member. Still I've been called on them by bona-fide human beings who didn't get the joke. One woman suggested I was either kidding or a complete idiot. After assuring her that both assumptions were correct, I promised to be more careful in the future because after Kellyanne Conway's infamous comment about "alternative facts", officially marking the death of irony, every comment from that point on, no matter how outrageous, had to be taken at face value.

Anyway here's my story:

Shortly before the last election, a friend who by and large shares my political opinions, posted on Facebook an article about Democrats being more likely to have voted early, while most Republicans were likely to vote on the day of the election.  I casually responded something to the effect of "well let's hope for the best and be sure to remind all our Republican friends to get out and vote on November 4th. The official day of the election of course was November 3rd. 

That was Facebook strike one.

Strike two which landed me in FB jail, took place yesterday when I threatened to kill someone. Despite the sound of it, strike two was much more innocent than strike one. On a Facebook site devoted to the school in which she taught for decades and ended up as principal, someone remembered my Mom's birthday, to which several dozen folks responded with well wishes. One of them, a fellow I don't personally know asked: "how old is she?" Now like many of her generation, my mother is extremely protective of her age. So I replied: "I could tell you but then I'd have to (blank) you." Not wanting to end up in Blogger jail as well I'm omitting the offending word. Then to soften the blow I added: "That is if my mother doesn't (blank) me first."

You probably can guess the missing word because, well because I already mentioned it above but also because that statement is an extremely popular tongue-in-cheek expression, commonly used in both British and American English. No one with half an operating brain and/or at least a beginner's level of the English language would interpret that as a serious threat. 

So there you have it. My FB account was suspended for 24 hours. When I return as I most certainly will, if I screw up again, it would be strike three, and I may be banned from the platform. 

Unthinkable? Ridiculous? Absurd? 

Perhaps, but in all honesty I don't have a problem with it. 

You see, I've never been under the misconception that Facebook is anything other than a huge company whose primary goal is to make a huge profit. As far as these things go, it provides a service, and in return it is compensated, just like GM, Target, or the Ma and Pa corner grocery store, if such a thing still exists. 

As for the service it provides, I find that Facebook continues to perform well the purpose for which is was created, namely keeping people in touch with one another. In that sense I'm able keep up with folks whom I might not otherwise be in touch with were it not for the platform. I can share my friends' joy in their accomplishments and milestones, as well as sorrow for their disappointment and loss. I can share ideas with folks far and wide (sometimes to a fault as mentioned above) as well as shoot the breeze at a moment's notice on whatever topic I please, and almost always be guaranteed a response, something I can't always count on at home. 

Facebook has provided me a wonderful opportunity, via a group dedicated to folks learning Spanish, to communicate in that language with fellow learners all over the world. 

I've modestly promoted my own photography on the platform and also on occasion use Facebook to draw people to this site.

But like everything, there is a price to pay.   

If the phrase-culling algorithm that busted me sounds a little big brothery to you, it's nothing compared to the ones they use to extract money out of our pockets. Everyone who's ever so much as browsed at a product in an online store has noticed that all of a sudden, ads appear for that product and others like it everywhere you go online. This is true for every "free" online platform from Duolingo to Facebook. We've come to expect this and invasive as it might be, directed advertising such as this can even be helpful to the consumer. 

But I had an experience this past weekend that went well beyond that. My wife, who has no Facebook account of her own, purchased a bed frame online. Faster than you can say Mark Zuckerberg, my Facebook feed was flooded with ads for you guessed it, beds.

That to me was a little creepy, but not surprising.   

Beyond that, for me Facebook can be, if I'm not careful, an addictive, time sucking, black hole.  Need I say more?

But it gets much worse. 

I'm sure you know the story. Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms came under serious scrutiny four years ago after the last presidential election for their failure to monitor and remove posts that promoted false or misleading information, much of it directed at the Democratic candidate for president at the time, Hillary Clinton. It is widely suspected that many of the offending posts originated in Russia, AND that the dissemination of false information may have in fact swung the outcome of that election. 

If that weren't enough, people with bad intentions have used social media sites to coordinate violent acts, from flash mobs of bored teenagers looking to start trouble in our cities, to adult thugs, following the marching orders of an exPOTUS, to stage an insurrection in our nation's capital. 

Needless to say the general public got fed up and demanded that social media platforms start controlling the content on their sites. 

It took some kicking and screaming on their part, but the internet giants started taking action. 

Of course Facebook can't possibly have human beings monitoring every single post, let alone the additional comments on them from the roughly 2.8 billion, (yes billion with a B) members of the platform. 

Nor can they rely solely upon complaints from users on the activities of others, as that review process would certainly take too long to prevent an actual crime from occurring. 

That's where the algorithms, imperfect as they are, come in.

For my part, I was given the option to appeal their algorithm's judgement of my comments, or suck it up and accept the consequences. I chose the latter because I didn't want to waste my time trying to defend myself to them. However I would probably appeal a harsher ban, should that ever come to pass. And I am pretty confident I would win, not because of common sense on their part, but because of the bottom line. 

One of the funniest things I've ever seen in my life was FB founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg trying to explain Facebook's business model before befuddled legislators during Congressional hearings investigating the company's use and possible exploitation of users' personal information. One of the senators who appeared to have just awakened from a 100 year nap asked how it is possible for the company to make a profit without charging its customers for the use of their service. Zuckerberg looked at the senator much like that pilot looked at me when I asked if I could jump out of his airplane at 35,000 feet. "Um Senator..." he said, "we run ads."

The only difference between today's social media giants and broadcast TV and radio before it, is the targeted advertising I mentioned above, made possible by the internet and the algorithms that control it, has made Facebook and other social media platforms exponentially more valuable to advertisers and consequently, exponentially more profitable, and exponentially more powerful.  

So I'm not too worried that I'll get the heave-ho from Zuckerberg and Co. as I don't think they're intent on bending over backwards to lose my business, (I do buy stuff after all), or make an example out of little ol' me.   

But shouldn't I be appalled that by censoring me, Facebook is depriving me of my right to speech?

In a word, no. 

The writers of the Bill of Rights are very clear on this:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The very first words state that "Congress shall make no law..."

In other words, the government can't deprive a person his or her liberty on account of what she or he says. Implicitly this right does not extend to private entities' restriction of speech.

In still other words, Facebook jail is not real jail. 

Because of the guarantee of freedom of the press mentioned in the First Amendment of our constitution, Facebook and other private entities from Breitbart to the New York Times have the right to set standards for what they publish as well as the right to deny publishing what they feel violates those standards. In fact, a good argument can be made that it would be a violation of THEIR First Amendment rights to be forced to publish everything their subscribers happen to come up with. They as publishers have the right to print, or not print, what they please. Along with that right of course, is that they have the responsibility of owning up to their decisions. 

But can't an argument be made that social media platforms are our modern day equivalent of soap boxes on the public square? How else are people today going to express their right to speak?

I honestly think this is a valid argument in ethical, if not legal terms. 

On the other hand as we all know, not all speech is protected, even by the First Amendment. 

Speech that poses a direct threat to public safety (such as the proverbial falsely yelling fire in a crowded theater), is not protected. Nor is speech that directly conflicts with other people's rights such as libel, slander, child pornography, or "fighting words" (words intended to incite hatred of violence). 

I believe that just as the Second Amendment addresses (or in some opinions doesn't address) the individual's right to bear arms, common sense has to come into play. Responsibility goes hand in hand with rights, and no right is absolute. Just as there is a world of difference between a pistol and an assault weapon, the same is true of a constructive argument and the willful intent to mislead, or a legitimate threat of violence, precisely the two things I was accused of.

So what ARE my rights as a Facebook member?

That's pretty easy, I'm free to use the platform to my heart's content, so long as I follow their rules.

Consequently, with two strikes against me, and a weakness for the high fastball so to speak, my days on the platform may be numbered. 

Well that's a pretty defeatist attitude isn't it?

Not really. Like everything, one's relationship with a business, any business, is symbiotic, that is to say, at least one party benefits from that relationship. If everything works as it should, both parties mutually benefit. However should that relationship become one way, (parasitic as the biologists call it), the party getting the short end of the bargain has every right to pull the plug. If Facebook feels my presence there is truly toxic, believe me, they'll pull the plug in a heartbeat. 

But at least as it stands now, they need me, they need you (if you're a member), and they need the rest of their 2.8 billion subscribers, as much as we need them. There is at least some power in knowing that we can pull the plug on them as well.

In the meantime I'm happy they're doing something to control the outrageous and harmful actions of some of their subscribers. Crude as they are. their means to reasonably promote meaningful dialogue while at the same time strongly discourage or if it comes to it, ban actions that trample on others' rights may be may be effective, or they may be just a band-aid, but the fact that they're at least doing something makes my brief time in Facebook jail worth it.

Not to mention it gives me the credibility to face all the delusional, racist, conspiracy theory, nut job whiners out there, bent on destroying our democracy who are complaining about having their First Amendment rights violated by being censored by Facebook by simply telling them this: 

No they're not. 

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Ketchup on a Hot Dog?

There are two types of people in this world as they say. 

The first group consists of people who believe that food is for enjoying, and regardless of what ingredients are thrown together to make a dish, if they like it, they go for it. The second group would no matter how much they are tempted, never, and I mean NEVER, put ketchup on a hot dog. 

If you're from Chicago as I am, you know what I mean. But really if you are part of any culture that takes its food seriously, you no doubt have one or perhaps a thousand similar rules about what goes with what, and more appropriately, what does not. I'm not talking here about restrictions based upon religious dietary laws. There's a deeply spiritual reason why religious Jewish people won't serve beef along with dairy products, why you won't find pork served in a devout Islamic family's home, or meat at all on Fridays during Lent on the table of a practicing Roman Catholic family. 

However there are no spiritual reasons I know of that makes a former colleague of mine from Belgium react with abject horror and disgust, (something we, her coworkers exploited at will), at the mere mention of combining chocolate and peanut butter. Or my Central European father's strongly negative reaction when I dared add a little allspice to his beloved Weiner Schnitzel. And I dare you to go to a restaurant in Italy, order a plate of fish, then ask the cameriere to put grated cheese on top of it, something they do with practically everything else they serve. Regardless of whether or not you're thrown out the door at the suggestion, I guarantee you will never again ask for cheese on fish in Italy, or perhaps anywhere, ever again.

OK while there are probably no spiritual reasons for these purely gastronomic rules, they are no less profound. Food next to language, perhaps even more so, is the most basic foundation of any culture, for reasons that probably don't need explaining. 

But in case you don't get it, perhaps this novelty song from 1961 will help: 

Just as we call our native language our "mother tongue", there's nothing quite like the food your mother, father, or if you're lucky enough to be Italian, your nonna used to make.

Which explains why so many of us are so protective of the recipes handed down from generations in our families. I can't tell you all the times I've asked folks to recommend a good restaurant that served the food of their culture only to be told there are none, at least any that compare to the food they had at home. 

Many of us don't share the experience of coming from a strong food culture. Like virtually everyone of her ethnicity and generation in the States, my mom all but rejected the cuisine of her Irish/American background, for good reason, in favor of a variety of recipes she found in magazines and old standbys like The Joy of Cooking. The only exception to that rule was the annual St. Patrick's Day corned beef and cabbage, which she still makes. 
My Czech father on the other hand, along with my German born surrogate grandfather, introduced me to the cuisine of Central Europe. Mostly we ate this type of food at restaurants but I must say my father made a pretty mean roast duck for the two of us as my mother couldn't stand it. 

Consequently Central European food, its taste, its smell, and the ambience of the restaurants that served it, hard to find these days stateside, takes me back to my childhood. For me it is the true definition of comfort food, a term I find overused and abused these days, as it is mostly used to describe anything that tastes good.  

As food can be so evocative of a time and place, many years after the schnitzel episode, I can truly understand why my dad reacted so unhappily to the unexpected flavor in his favorite dish. It would be like getting together with a beloved old friend who after many years of not seeing you. turned out to only be interested in selling you his time share in Florida.

This subject of food taboos caught my attention about a year ago while studying Spanish, reading about a TV cooking program that caused quite a ruckus in Spain. On that show, the famous TV chef Jamie Oliver made a paella into which he added chorizo. To the uninitiated, adding Spanish sausage to a Spanish dish, wouldn't seem like a big deal. The truth is that many Spaniards actually DO put chorizo in their paella.  

However we're talking about the national dish of Spain and I'm sure it already rubbed at least a few Spaniards the wrong way that it was being prepared (the wrong way) by a cheeky Englishman. To them it was tantamount to Jamie Oliver coming to their country and changing the words to their national anthem.  

On the other hand paella, which most people assume features seafood, originated in Valencia, where the primary protein was (and still is) rabbit meat. In fact, once upon a time you could put anything you had lying around into your paella, as it was originally a peasant dish created for its flexibility. 

Regardless, rather than the meat you put on top of it, as anyone who has ever prepared it knows, the heart and soul of paella is the pan it is cooked in (originally and sometimes today still, over an open fire), introduced by the Romans, and most important of all the rice, introduced to the Iberian peninsula by the Arabs who also introduced paella's dominant flavor, saffron. 

The point is that there is no such thing as a pure recipe, the food we eat, much like the languages we speak, are mixtures of elements that come from many different sources. 

Take pizza, perhaps the most popular food on the planet at the moment. Practically every region you go in the world has its own method of preparing pizza, and more than likely its inhabitants claim theirs is the best, while all others are merely second rate if that. But unless you live in Naples where the dish as we know it more than likely originated, you have absolutely no bragging rights to pizza.

Pizza has a longer and more complicated history than paella, starting with flatbreads which go back at least to ancient Greece. The second most important ingredient without which it would hardly be pizza, (although some would beg to differ) is the tomato, which was first cultivated by Native Americas.   

There is no question that the Neopolitans took these diverse ingredients and made them their own. So I wouldn't have a problem with someone from Naples coming to Chicago, sampling a Chicago style deep dish pizza (invented in 1943), and saying our (like it or not) famous local dish is not pizza. But I would have a problem with someone from say New York, whose own pizza is hardly more recognizable to a Neopolitan, saying the same thing. 

Here is a hilarious video of an Italian YouTube chef and his take on another famous British TV cook, Gordon Ramsay, and his attempts to make the classic Roman dish, Spaghetti Carbonara, 

To be fair to Chef Vincenzo, he can dish it out but he can also take it. On his channel there is another video where he asks a chef from Bologna to critique his Bolognese sauce. That chef leaves no stone unturned in throwing poor Vincenzo's ragù under the bus.

Talk about a strong food culture. 

So do you have to be a nonna from Bologna, or at least a native of that city, to be able to cook an authentic Ragù alla Bolognese? 

I don't know. My godmother who is of Polish dissent, and is also an accomplished pianist, claims you have to be Polish in order to play Chopin properly. You may disagree but for my money the best interpreter of the composer was Artur Rubenstein, born and bred in Łódź.

Like music, food has a heart and soul that reflects the culture from which it comes. In order for those of us who are not part of that culture to properly interpret something, whether it be a piece of music or a recipe, we have to at the very least, understand and above all respect its culture. 

That's not to say we can't be inventive nor change things around at will, we just have to understand that by doing so, we're creating something new and different, certainly not a bad thing, but not the original. After all, you wouldn't throw a couple bars of an atonal Schoenberg piece into a Chopin nocturne and still call it Chopin. Or would you? 

That said, I don't know if the pressing issue of whether you can call something paella if it has chorizo in it will ever be resolved. I guess the bottom line is you can if you're from Spain and you can't if like me, you're not. 

I'm perfectly OK with that. 

But right now at this writing, as my own Ragù alla Bolognese is simmering away in the pot, I'm in a quandary over whether or not to add nutmeg which is something I've come to expect in the sauce, but not in the recipe I'm using from the master of Bologna. 

Oh wait a minute, the great Marcella Hazan has nutmeg in her recipe so I'm good to go, gotta run.

Ciao a tutti! 

Monday, February 22, 2021

A Silver Lining?

January 6, 2021, the day our government was attacked by American citizens bent on overturning a free and fair presidential election, will be a date that will forever live in infamy. Likewise for many, February 13, 2021, the day when the leader of that violent attack on the United States was acquitted by the U.S. Senate, will also be a day of infamy. But it won't be for me. I'll explain why shortly.  

I haven't hidden my disdain for the past president (from hereon referred to as exPOTUS) for the past five years. As a result, some would suggest that I fall prey to a certain "derangement syndrome" that prevents me from thinking objectively about him.

Perhaps that's true to a point.  

But let me assure you in no uncertain terms that if a president whom I admired, in order to remain in power, worked diligently to undermine our election system, then as a last act of desperation after exhausting every legal means of overturning the will of the people, willfully encouraged a mob to march on the Capitol Building to "Fight like hell" in order to prevent Congress from certifying that election, I would demand his banishment as well, at the very least.

It's not only so called sufferers of the syndrome who feel this way. From many sources I've read on both the left and the right, had the senators been able to vote in a secret ballot last Saturday, and not been held accountable, the result would have been much different and the exPOTUS would have been easily convicted. 

As it was, seven brave Republican senators broke ranks with their party in favor of their consciences, and voted to convict. That turns out to have been the most bi-partisan vote to convict an impeached president in history. OK we've only had four such votes and two involved the same president. Quite a legacy I'd say.

It would have taken ten more Republican senators to convict. It was not for lack of trying from the team of representatives handling the prosecution who have been universally lauded for the manner in which they presented their case. And it certainly was not the brilliance of exPOTUS's legal team who were castigated from all corners, including their client's, for their stumbling ineptitude. In their defense, theirs' was the more difficult job, they had the impossible task of having to defend the indefensible. 

I have no doubt that barely a handful of opinions were swayed by the arguments of either side. Let's face it, it didn't matter, the outcome was a foregone conclusion. I could have represented the exPOTUS, gotten up before the senators and said only four words, "he's guilty as hell", and I still would have gotten him an acquittal. 

It's taken for granted that the senators who voted against their conscience to acquit the exPOTUS, did so out of fear. Mostly it was fear of falling out of favor with their constituents, to whom they are answerable. The biggest fear of any incumbent politician is the threat of a serious challenge from members of their own party in a primary election. Supporters of the ex-president made it abundantly clear to their elected officials that they would not forget a vote against their man with the ridiculous hair and long red tie.

One could easily chalk up their reticence to doing the right thing to political cowardice, which it certainly was. 

But after the events of January 6th, we can add a much more serious threat to those elected officials, real violence against themselves and their families. The politician by far the most devoted of all to the exPOTUS these past four long years, the former vice president, was the main target of the mob who stormed the Capitol that fateful day. They chanted "Hang Mike Pence" and if anybody didn't get that message, even brought a makeshift gallows to the scene of the crime. What was Pence's offense? He was simply doing his job as proscribed by the constitution.  

The most damaging evidence against the exPOTUS came last Saturday when it was revealed that the leader of the House Republicans,  Kevin McCarthy, had a phone conversation with the then president about two hours into the attack on the Capitol. McCarthy desperately tried to convince the so called "commander-in-chief" that the situation was desperate and he needed to send in the National Guard immediately. The exPOTUS refused, telling McCarthy "Obviously they (the mob) are more concerned about the election (which they erroneously believed to have been stolen from exPOTUS) than you are." McCarthy told the president in that conversation that the vice president and other members of Congress were held up in the recesses of the building for their own safety, hiding from the rioters. A timeline of events showed that after the phone call, knowing Pence was in danger, the exPOTUS tweeted yet another disparaging remark about his vice president, no doubt in an attempt to further enrage the mob who was already looking to hang him. 

Nevertheless, as damning as this revelation was, 43 Republican senators were unmoved, at least as far as their votes were concerned, and after a brief debate on the issue and closing arguments from both sides, they voted to acquit.   

Following the lead of Mitch McConnell, the former Senate Majority Leader, their excuse was their opinion, rejected by a preponderance of constitutional scholars, that the Senate cannot convict a president who is no longer in office. 

Shortly after the vote to acquit was taken, McConnell delivered a scathing attack on the exPOTUS, but washing his hands, Pontius Pilate style, of being responsible for conviction, by noting the technicality.

It should be noted that it was McConnell himself who delayed the Senate trial on the articles of impeachment until after the swearing in of President Biden. That's kind of like a parent intentionally throwing a plate of cookies on the floor then telling the kids they can't eat the cookies because they've been on the floor.

Could it be that there was a method to this obvious cowardice and hypocrisy? Is it possible that McConnell's actions, like those of that metaphorical parent, were actually intended for the good of his party and dare I say, perhaps even the country? 

It's not a secret that McConnel has always despised the exPOTUS. I truly believe that McConnell knew the Republican Party was selling its soul to the devil when it went full tilt behind him. But there was little he could do, the exPOTUS democratically won the nomination of the party in 2016 despite the opposition of several high ranking Republicans running against him.  

The exPOTUS's 2016 victory in the general election was an unexpected yet unconventional gift to McConnell. He used that gift by making the proverbial lemonade out of the orange tinged lemon handed to him, by skillfully using exPOTUS to move forward and accomplish a staggering array of agendas near and dear to the hearts of right wing Republicans.  

The price to pay was that the president was a loose canon who cared more about himself and his own power than he did about the party. Never was that more obvious than after his defeat in the 2020 election, when his endless propagation of his made up claims of voter fraud dissuaded some Republican voters in Georgia from voting in two Senate runoff elections. It turns out those two seats which were won by the Democratic candidates both by a razor's edge, turned control of the Senate over to the Democrats, costing McConnell his coveted job as Majority Leader.  

The truth is that no one in Washington wants to see the exPOTUS gone more than Mitch McConnell. So why not vote to convict and be done with him for good?

Beyond the obvious fear of exPOTUS's very loyal base, McConell knows like anyone with half a brain, that a conviction by the Senate and banishment from further political office, would have made a martyr of the exPOTUS. His followers already believe he is a hero of biblical proportion and see themselves as the victims of a vast conspiracy to disenfranchise them. I have no doubt that for these people, conviction would have been tantamount to a crucifixion, and with famous one in the Bible in mind, they would be awaiting, and in some cases fighting violently for another resurrection. 

Even without the resurrection of exPOTUS, there are plenty of people as bad or worse willing to step into his shoes, two of his children immediately come to mind. With or without the exPOTUS being able to run for office again, the "movement" he described as he boarded Air Force One for the last time during his ignominious departure from Washington, would have been strengthened precipitously had he been convicted by the Senate. 

But without the solidified support behind the "movement" that a conviction would have made certain, the Republican Party today is fractured. The exPOTUS is now a toxic figure even among Republicans, many of whom like Mitch McConnell surely must hold him personally responsible not only for the violent attack on our country, but also for the staggering Republican defeat of 2020, losing not only the presidency but Congress. 

Most of the Democrats in Congress, at least those with their heads screwed on tight, all along knew the risks of impeaching the exPOTUS, twice. Both times his dangerous, disgraceful and illegal actions forced their hand and there was little they could do, lest they be viewed as themselves being accomplices to his crimes. Their fears were realized after his first impeachment one year ago which only strengthened his popular support. In that case it's plausible that his dealings with the president of Ukraine, unsavory as they were, to some minds fell within the scope actions that typically take place behind the closed doors of the White House.  

Not so with the insurrection where the whole world literally was watching. It shocked supporters of the exPOTUS as much as everyone else. You had to know they were appalled when as the event was taking place, they blamed the attack on left wing groups such as ANTIFA and Black Lives Matter. As soon as it became painfully obvious that that accusation was nonsense, they scrambled to muddy the waters in one attempt or other to make light of the event and clear exPOTUS of wrongdoing. 

However the prosecution's case at the impeachment trial was airtight. The only way anyone could not see that the exPOTUS was the architect behind the events of January 6, is if they were not paying attention. Several Republican senators did just that as they were observed doing everything at the trial they could except giving the presentation of the prosecution their undivided attention.

Despicable as all that is, here's the thing, not being banished from politics as would have been just, means that if and when he ever decides to run for public office, those horrific videos of a mob killing and maiming police officers and desecrating one of our nation's most sacred symbols will surface. As will his words to that mob telling them to go to the Capitol to "fight like hell", and no doubt the testimony of members of the mob who will claim  they were sent there by the president. 

Whenever the exPOTUS or a member of his family attempts to run for public office in the future, be it for president or dog catcher, their family name will be forever linked to that terrible act.

After all is said and done after the second impeachment of the exPOTUS, I truly believe everything worked out for the best. The Democrats did a marvelous job of presenting their case, and the names of a few individuals, namely representatives  Jamie Raskin, Joe Neguse and especially Stacey Plasket have come to the forefront and will certainly be heard from in the future. 

By distancing himself from the fracas, President Biden has wisely shown from the outset that unlike his predecessor, he has no interest in going after his political rivals, but rather is intent on doing the job he was elected to do, namely addressing the great challenges this nation faces. 

And the Democrats who prosecuted the case who could have called witnesses and delayed the process, wisely chose to let it stand rather than test the patience of the American public. They made their point and while it might have been a defeat for them in the court of the Senate, it was a victory in the court of public opinion. They made it crystal clear that it's time to move on and put the past four years behind us. 

Of course the Republicans are another story. They could after licking their wounds, try to rebuild by learning a lesson from history, both ancient and yesterday's, that populist demagogues with fascist tendencies tend to destroy a political party.

Or they could look at the the past four years as a great accomplishment which would have certainly continued under the command of a populist demagogue with fascist tendencies who also happened to be slightly competent. 

After my brilliant statements of five years ago that the man who would become exPOTUS didn't stand a chance of being nominated, let alone becoming president, I've given up trying to predict the future in American politics.

I'm just praying with all my heart and soul that it is the former of those two options.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

1000 Words

As I write  this, literally in the final minutes of the Trump Administration,  the President and the Vice President Elect have just walked up the 34 steps of the East  Entrance of the Capitol Building. That image is striking for many many reasons, not the least of which is that just two weeks ago, people bent on destroying our government, walked up those very steps on their way to desecrate the nation's most salient symbol of our democracy. 

Until Ronald Reagan, presidents since Andrew Jackson took their inaugural oath on a platform constructed upon those stairs. The bodies of Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, Rosa Parks, and several other notable Americans were carried down those stairs after lying in state, or repose, in the Capitol Rotunda. And until recently, the general public could walk up those stairs and freely enter "The People's House." 

We're about to witness the indelible image of a tradition that goes back to the inauguration of John Adams in 1797, that is to say, the peaceful transition of power in the United States. Despite the attempts by the soon-to-be-former president to put an end to that sacred tradition, (he of course failed miserably), the tradition continues.  

In about an hour we will see indelible the image of the first woman to be sworn into the Executive Office.

Images matter. 

This struck me the other day as following tradition, I made a Facebook link to one of my many posts about Martin Luther King on the day we celebrate his birthday.

This year I chose to post the piece I wrote about attending the celebration marking the fiftieth anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

The poignance of that moment hit me hard the other day just as it did back then, as on that day, August 28, 2013, the first black president of the United States delivered a speech on the exact spot where fifty years prior to the day, hour and minute, Martin Luther King delivered his "I Have a Dream" Speech. 

The public gathered for that anniversary celebration could be counted in the tens rather than the hundreds of thousands who attended the original event. But neither that, nor the rain, nor the mud, kept any of us from taking in the magnificent significance of that moment together, simply as unified Americans. 

But what really struck me the other day were the photographs from that wonderful event, the diversity of which truly represents the face of America. 

At least it was the image of America during the administration of Barack Obama, and to be fair, his immediate predecessors. 

If you haven't already, check out the post to look at those photographs

Now imagine, as I have neither the will nor the stomach to publish them, the images that represent Donald Trump's America. 

Imagine the image of throngs of people at Trump rallies chanting "Build That Wall" or "Lock Her Up."

Imagine the image of hundreds of "very fine people", the tiki torch carrying white supremacists chanting Nazi slogans and carrying KKK banners in the city of Thomas Jefferson, Charlottesville, VA. 

Imagine the image of Americans taking their cue from the president by violently reacting to people suggesting they wear masks in order to help keep others safe. 

Now imagine the images of the insurrectionist/traitors inspired by the soon to be former president who in his last brazen act, egged them on them to "fight like hell" at the Capitol to overthrow the results of a free election, where they broke its windows to get in, defecated upon its floors, attacked its police officers killing one of them, and threatened the lives of the members of Congress and even the Vice President himself. 

Those are the indelible images of Donald Trump's America.

Now as a photographer, while I understand that a picture can be worth a thousand words, photographs can also be misleading, not necessarily for what they show, but for what they don't show. It should be pointed out that not all Trump supporters are represented by those images. But the fact remains that they supported a man who made all this possible. 

At this very moment, in thirty minutes, Donald Trump will no longer be president. If I can say anything good about his presidency, it is that it exposed a cancer in our society. None of us want to be told by a doctor that we have cancer, but that knowledge helps us address the problem and God willing, eradicate it. 

Today is a good day, let us take it all in.

But tomorrow we need to get back to work, because we have a lot of it ahead of us.