The Best Cure for the Numbing Effect of the News: Taking Informed, Compassionate Action

After two years of T, it’s so easy to give up and feel numb. How often can you feel outraged or frightened before you want to distance or distract yourself or take a holiday from the news for a day or a decade? The fight-flight response also includes the possibility of a freeze response. One response to a threat is to freeze.

 

Just in the last week or so, we have seen new evidence from indictments of Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort (by the Mueller investigation and the Southern District of New York) of T working with a foreign government in order to attack our own self-government and election system. Take that in: we have seen more conclusive evidence this week that the president of the U. S. has been working with a foreign power hostile to democracy in order to destroy our government. Wow. We can never normalize that.

 

We have seen evidence of T using his office to gain millions of dollars. We have seen his fellow Republicans commit election fraud and, in two states, Wisconsin and Michigan, work to nullify the midterm elections, and undermine the voice of we the people.

 

Many of us could go on and on about how this administration has become a direct threat not only to our liberty but our survival. Even this administration’s own report has shown the seriousness of climate change and the threat it poses to all of humanity.

 

T’s solution to global warming is to hide the evidence. Like with the fraudulent tax cut for the middle class, the actual tax cut to the rich, and the resulting increase in the debt, he tries to arrange it so the real pain won’t be experienced until after he is out of office. Let us hope and work for getting him out of office soon.

 

Some people respond to the horror of T’s corruption and distortion of the truth by saying (mirroring T himself) there is no truth, or all politicians are corrupt. All politicians in this country do need money to run and keep themselves in political office. Yes, they probably take money from people many of us distrust. But equating that with putting one’s own personal business and profit over that of the nation’s, shaping foreign policy in order to gain financial reward, or acting as the agent of a foreign government in order to hide one’s own misdeeds ⎼ that is a very different species of corruption.

 

It seems very likely that T ‘s financial dealings with the Saudis shaped his response to the killing of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi. And his attempt to build a Trump Tower in Russia, financed by a sanctioned Russian bank, put him in a compromised position that the Russians would later exploit to force him to call for the removal of sanctions against Russia (and motivate Russians to interfere in the 2016 election to put T in office).

 

And it’s clear that creating this numbness is part of T’s strategy. So many facts have been revealed this week that two years ago would have led to outrage and angry phone calls to Congress, yet I noticed I haven’t called a single Senator of any party to complain or urge action on an issue in at least four days. If we’re numb, if we’re on perpetual holiday, we won’t, we can’t, act. Likewise, if everything is simply an opinion, or if everyone is equally corrupt, then there is no way to know how to act or who to support.

 

But hoping he will be out of office soon is not enough. Even voting is not enough. Despite how tiresome it might be, we can not stop calling Congress. Even if we think members of Congress won’t listen, we need to speak. We need to protest even if we think it won’t lead to immediate change.

 

We need to build community and help others in whatever ways we can because it is the right thing to do. And we need to take appropriate political action even if we believe (or other people tell us) it won’t do any good, or won’t lead to the results we want. Because we can be wrong (about this and most anything). Taking action always does something, for us. And when combined with the actions of others it can work surprising results.

 

We research, consider and act on what we think is right not because we think we must get exactly what we want, but because we don’t ever want to give up on being just and compassionate people. We don’t ever want to give up on making a more just and compassionate world possible.

You Can’t Concede Democracy To A Would-Be Dictator

After the midterms, a majority of Americans breathed a collective sigh of relief. Now that Democrats have won control of one branch of Congress, they will be better able to act to hold the President and this GOP administration accountable for their actions.

 

But if you listen to some news commentators, the biggest challenge facing Democrats is to avoid the temptation to go after T or try to impeach him. A Monmouth University poll reportedly found that only 36% of Americans thought T should be impeached. Instead, these pundits argue, Dems should try to pass health care legislation, rebuild infrastructure, establish a higher minimum wage and control gun violence. These are all worthy pursuits. But it’s not enough.

 

Focusing on health care instead of impeachment helped most of the Dems win in the midterm elections last week.  And the party itself is unsure just how progressive they are or can afford to be. I get that. But to ignore T’s assaults on the rule of law, on our rights, voting systems, environment, on our ears and hearts, would be suicidal, not only to the lives of many people but to any remaining semblance of democracy.

 

And many Americans know this. We feel fear and anxiety almost every day about what T is doing. We care about our humanity. And, I hope, most won’t let T have his way.

 

The Monmouth University poll also found 52% of the public think keeping T in check should be the major priority for the new Congress. Even a majority of Republicans (54%) join 92% of Democrats in saying that keeping Trump in check should be at least a minor priority.

 

According to a Pew Research Poll, about 60% of voters in the 2018 election said T motivated them to vote: 38% were motivated by an opposition to T, 26% supported him. And 7.1% more people (about 4 million) voted for Democrats for the House in the midterms than voted for Republicans.

 

Many of us recognize that T is selling out our nation to a group of super-rich individuals, maybe selling us out to demagogues and oppressors like Putin. Many of us know that he is using his office to directly enrich himself and violating the emoluments clause. His tax legislation funds the rich and robs from the rest of us.

 

If Democrats, for example, do not fight the appointment of Matt Whitaker as Attorney General, T might be protected from being held accountable for his actions. We could see an increase in unlawful behavior, rights violations, even religious persecution initiated by the GOP. For example, in his 2014 Senate bid, Whitaker said he would not support “secular judges” and any judge should “have a biblical view of justice.” Non-Christians, particularly atheists, Jewish and Muslim people are, according to Whitaker, unfit for such a position.

 

Former lawyer to the President, Don McGahn interviewed Whitaker to join T’s legal team as his “attack dog” against Robert Mueller. Whitaker has openly spoken out against the investigation, and the very idea that he could even appear as a neutral and qualified attorney general, or as anything other than T’s protector is absurd. He also claimed states should have the right to nullify federal laws.

 

How can we get legitimate health care legislation with a GOP controlled Senate and with T as President? Remember it was the GOP who, according to Mitch McConnell Paul Ryan, called for Congress to go after Medicare, Medicaid, (Social Security) and the Affordable Care Act’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions. It was the GOP who last year proposed health care legislation that would make big cuts to Medicaid and undermine health care for millions.

 

How do we get gun control when the GOP is controlled by the NRA?

 

T warned Democrats “investigate me, and I’ll investigate you.” Mitch McConnell warned Democrats not to “harass the President.” It is not harassment if legislators speak the truth or act in accord with their sworn oath to defend the constitution. I think the news analysts who caution Democrats not to spend much time investigating and prosecuting T are serving the interests of the GOP, not the majority of the American people.

 

Democrats can and should propose legislation that actually serves the interests of the great majority of Americans. This includes resurrecting voting rights and protections, eliminating gerrymandering, and even more comprehensive health care legislation that would protect Americans and lower health costs. (The list could go on and on.)

 

They can keep in mind the great diversity of citizens in this nation. A Democracy only exists if people listen to and are willing to work with others and even compromise. Too much is at stake for Democrats to fight amongst themselves or vie for who is the most progressive, for example, or most independent. They have to remember it was the GOP who turned ‘compromise’ into a dirty word.

 

However, without using their new House majority to protect Mueller and carry out their own investigation into exactly how much T (and other GOP) aided Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, or how deeply he is beholden to Putin, financially or otherwise—without prosecuting him for interfering in the Mueller investigation and a myriad of other crimes, the Democrats could concede democracy to a would-be dictator. Many Democrats have said they are ready for this challenge of fighting T. For the well-being of our nation and world, I hope they are right. And I hope we are ready to work with them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Finding The Courage to Look At Yourself, You Discover the Courage to Defend the World

Right now, take a moment to simply breathe in, and then out.  Listen to your own body and what is happening inside by resting your awareness wherever it is called.  Maybe you’ll feel a bar of tension in your jaw or mouth or shoulders. Maybe you’ll feel an expansion in your belly as you breathe in, or a relaxation, letting go as you breathe out. Simply feel it.

 

If a thought or judgment arises, if you think, “I shouldn’t have thought that” or “why can’t I concentrate better,” just notice whatever occurs as you breathe in. And as you breathe out, return your attention to your awareness of feeling. Instead of letting your awareness be captured by self-judgments, simply observe, learn, and be kind to yourself. In this way, mind and body become one. You live in your own body and mind. Your sense of time slows to the pace of your attention.

 

The more you maintain focus on whatever arises, the more you feel a timeless awareness.

 

Slowing time is a beautiful remedy for stress and anxiety, and for the emotional harm this GOP administration is trying to impose on us all. Most, if not all of us, know what happens inside ourselves when we see his face or hear his voice—attacking Democrats as the enemy, attacking those seeking asylum at our borders as invaders or criminals, attacking reporters who question him as  “the enemy of the people,” attacking even his own cabinet.

 

When hate hits our bodies, we react. We tense. We don’t want to hear it—or most of us don’t.  How we respond depends a great deal on our past, on how we think about our own strength, or what theories or stories we tell ourselves about how the world works. These stories determine whether we respond by closing our ears, shield ourselves with hate, or whether we oppose it.

 

His attacks are meant to spread fear. We often think of fear as warning us to flee. But as we flee and hide, fear can increase. We stop acknowledging what we feel, stop being aware of what is happening inside. And thus we give him this power over us. We feel powerless. We allow him to turn off our interoception or inner knowing. This allows the inner tension to escalate.

 

Or we feel anger. But how do we direct and interpret that anger? Anger is an emotion of awakening. It awakens our sense of threat or danger and can prepare us to act. But if we don’t have clarity of mind and feeling to direct it, anger becomes self-destructive. We can feel angry that we’re angry. Or when we feel anger in response to fear, we treat it like a savior, a weapon of safety, and we can’t stop wielding it. We become our anger. We lose control. We lose ourselves.

 

When we look directly at our own anger, when we feel what it does inside us, we might notice the pain it causes. And behind that pain is an enormous realm, of caring about what happens to others, our world, and ourselves. When we perceive what is behind our anger, it yields to clarity. We focus on a larger reality.

 

We need to honor and respect our own inner world, feel what we feel and hear what we say. This way we let go of things more easily and live more fully. There is no inner warfare, no constant rumination, and no unnecessary conflict with others. We can think with every part of ourselves without fear and so we feel free to allow every part of others to be acknowledged.

 

Almost every act of this American political administration tries to teach the opposite. It tries to create in all of us a sense of inner chaos, disharmony, war, so we will war against whomever or wherever they direct us. They try to dehumanize us so we will do the same to others.

 

So by listening to and caring better for ourselves, we resist this administration. By honoring our humanity, we realize and cherish the humanity of others. We see ourselves with clarity and thus see the world with more clarity. Then we can act politically and socially with determination, kindness, and insight. Then we preserve our freedom.

 

When we have the courage to look directly at ourselves, we find the courage to act with clarity to defend our world.

 

 

Here is an exercise (based on a Buddhist compassion practice) to help you find both calm and understanding when you need it, or when the mindfulness practice above is not enough:

 

Close your eyes and take a calm and deep breath in, then a slow, long breath out. Simply sit, quietly. With your next breath, imagine feeling care, love, a parental sort of love, toward a young pet, or a young person. Just allow the image of a young animal or person to come to your mind, or the words care, love, child. Where in yourself do you feel this care or love? What does love feel like?

 

Then imagine a friend. Imagine this person, too, feels a similar feeling.

 

Then imagine someone you don’t know, someone you saw on the street, or in a store. Or imagine someone you disagree with. Imagine she or he feeling love, care, just like you do. They are different from you in so many ways, yet they, too, share this capacity with you. They, too, can love.

 

This is a simple thing. Yet it is so often lost. Sit for another moment, and find the feeling of love inside yourself. Find the recognition that those around you—no matter how different in some ways, they, too, want to find and feel this love. They share this with you.

 

*This post was syndicated by The Good Men Project.

 

Democracy, In Some Ways, Is Like A Love Relationship

There was a time just a few years ago when people in the US felt the world was relatively set and would continue largely as it was. People found meaning in their careers, not through political action. It was easy to be complacent. If you had a home, enough to eat, owned a TV and watched it,  and were absorbed by social and other digital media, it was easy to think any apparent crisis was just that—apparent, not real, more like a commercial interrupting the important stuff.

 

I read an article yesterday in the Intelligencer by Rachel Bashien, Zak Cheney-Rice, Amelia Schonbek and Emma Whitford entitled: “12 Young People on Why They Probably Won’t Vote.” These young people were clearly responding not only to the reality developing when they were growing up but to the election of T. “2016 was such a disillusioning experience.” They were disheartened by the election results. They saw their ideals shot down. And now many of them have trouble motivating themselves to take action. Only an inspirational leader could motivate them to act, but the Democrats are just not inspirational.

 

Other sources say our young adults are more likely to vote then in previous years. According to MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle and Ali Velshi, an NBC News poll of GenForward Millenials found that 31% are planning to vote, 26% probably will vote. That doesn’t sound very good, but it’s up from 19% in 2014.

 

Let’s examine the implications of the way of thinking spelled out in the article. They, we, didn’t get what we wanted, so why act now? We failed once; why try again? It would be better, more fun, to go back to TV, entertainment, and to social media and forget about the world outside our imagination.

 

This way of thinking robs us of power. It places the responsibility for what happens inside us on something or someone external to us. I wrote a blog just a month ago about how people in a love relationship can attribute their own feelings of love to the loved one, and thus make themselves feel powerless. Or they think, when they feel anger, the person they are angry at will suffer from their anger. They therefore let their belief blind them to the reality of how they suffer from their own anger.

 

Likewise, instead of learning how to participate more effectively in politics, we let ourselves feel powerless about effectively influencing the political reality. We mistakenly think we need someone else to inspire us, and that we ourselves are not strong enough to do so. …

 

So, on Tuesday, let us vote. Let us vote not just to win (and we must do everything we can that is humane and effective so we do win), but also to learn how to be even more humane and effective next time.

 

**To read the entire post, please go to The Good Men Project.

 

Ending The Politics of Hate Begins With Us, In The Voting Booth

I woke up early this morning thanks to a nightmare. I, as an adult, was back in my childhood home looking through the front window. Several white men with stern faces and a business-like or zombie-like manner were nailing boards over the windows from the outside. They were nailing in my wife and me. I yelled to my wife that we had to get out—and then awoke.

Afterwards, I lay in bed with the image pressing down on me. In my mind I took the dream further, imagining us grabbing our phones and money, chasing our cats out an upper story window as we followed them out and ran. I imagined the attackers might be planning more than just locking us inside.

Back in the late 1970s I wrote a play that was produced locally. It was indirectly about the JFK assassination, or more accurately, about a woman, Wilma Tice, who was called by the Warren Commission to give testimony related to the assassination. After Wilma heard the President had been shot and was being taken to Parkland Hospital, in Dallas, she drove to the hospital. It was only 15 minutes from her home. When she was there, she saw Jack Ruby walking next to the stretcher that was carrying JFK’s body after it was wheeled inside the hospital.

The Warren Commission inquiry was established about a week after the assassination, on November 29th, 1963. She later wrote to them about what she had seen. But after receiving a letter from the Commission telling her where and when she would give her testimony, she received threatening phone calls and faced tremendous opposition. It was never made clear how anyone learned she was going to testify.

The night before she was supposed to appear before the Commission, she was home alone; her husband worked nights. She woke up to find herself “barricaded” in the house; her windows and doors blockaded shut. She couldn’t get out until her husband came home and broke her out.

When she arrived for the interview, instead of supporting or compelling her testimony, they told her that, if she feared for her life, maybe she should not testify.

The whole image of people locked into a structure by others who hated or wanted to silence them reverberates through history. Consider what happened to Jewish people locked in Synagogues or African-Americans locked in churches that were burned.

When I hear about T’s actions and statements, I feel they themselves are a form of terrorism….

**This blog was submitted before Saturday’s horrible act of terrorism in a Pittsburgh synagogue. This act is truly upsetting and we must meet it with thoughts of compassion for the people hurt and killed, their families, the whole congregation, the police and other first responders.

 

To read the whole post, go to The Good Men Project.

 

 

T Is A Hurricane Of Historic Proportions

I have many calm moments, when I meditate, exercise, walk in the woods, talk with friends or simply breathe. Beautiful moments. And then—I turn on the radio or my phone and who knows what insanity might ensue.

Like everyone I know, since the Kavanaugh hearings and his appointment to the Supreme Court, and almost two years of the T administration, I have become overly sensitive to bad news.

It’s just eight days since I heard the news about Hurricane Michael smashing into the Florida panhandle with winds of up to 155 miles an hour (on Wednesday, October 10). The hurricane is now recognized as the strongest to strike the coast in 100 years. And it grew so quickly, from a category 2 on that Sunday, to almost a category 5 on Wednesday. It grew so quickly probably due to waters overheated by global warming, the same global warming the GOP deny despite the overwhelming scientific evidence.

Nature itself seems to be yelling at us to wake up to what we humans are doing to our world. The day after the hurricane, a neighbor called to tell me of two sightings of Fishers, a carnivorous mammal related to weasels. They have only recently returned to this area (along with other recent and not-so-welcome additions, like coyotes, coy-wolves, and ticks) and kill squirrels and other small animals, including porcupine and hare, occasionally wild turkey, bobcat, and even house cats. They are excellent climbers and can be vicious. I immediately went to the front door of my house to call in my cats.

This administration puts us all on a continual threat alert and I think this is exactly what they want. People continually stressed are not as likely to think clearly or feel powerful or vote. According to Tali Sharot in the book The Influential Mind: What the Brain Reveals About Our Power to Change Others, fear is most effective in influencing the behavior of others under two conditions—when what they are trying to do is cause inaction and the person they’re trying to influence is already anxious.

 The last two weeks and the hearings and discussion on Judge Kavanaugh were especially bad. They were a continual assault, a political hurricane of historic proportions threatening not only women but all of us who are not misogynists, not white nationalists or sycophantic supporters of the President, or who are not in favor of considering corporate rights or the rights of the wealthy as more important than any other rights.

These GOP attacked anyone who called for a real investigation into Kavanaugh’s past and were especially vicious in their attacks on any of the women who came forward. In fact, T even mocked Dr. Ford.  He called for holding those who made “false” claims against Kavanaugh liable. What about false claims by, or in support of, Kavanaugh? Would Kavanaugh or any his supporters who lied or rushed to hide the truth be held accountable?

Many wondered: was the GOP rush to judgment due to fears about what will happen in the November election? Or was something else involved?

The Supreme Court is going to hear a case called Gamble v US. It involves a felon arrested for possession of a firearm. It could, however, have grave implications if T is ever impeached, indicted, or tries to use his power to pardon anyone from his administration or campaign who have been prosecuted for crimes or called to testify to the Mueller investigation….  

 

To read the whole piece, please click on the link to the Good Men Project.

 

 

 

 

T Is A Hurricane of Historic Proportions

I have many calm moments, when I meditate, exercise, walk in the woods, talk with friends or simply breathe. Beautiful moments. And then—I turn on the radio or my phone and who knows what insanity might ensue.

 

I just heard the latest news about Hurricane Michael, which struck the Florida panhandle with winds of up to 155 miles an hour. It is now called the strongest hurricane to ever strike the coast. It grew so quickly, from a category 2 on Sunday to almost a category 5 today, probably due to waters overheated by global warming, the same global warming the GOP deny despite the overwhelming scientific evidence against their position.

 

Yesterday, a neighbor called to tell me of two sightings of Fishers, a carnivorous mammal related to weasels. They have only recently returned to this area and have been known to kill squirrels and other small animals, including porcupine and hare, occasionally wild turkey, bobcat, and even house cats (although rarely). They are excellent climbers and can be vicious. I immediately went to the front door of my house to call in my cats. After the Kavanaugh abomination and almost two years of T, I am, like everyone I know, a bit sensitive to bad news.

 

This administration puts us all on a continual threat alert and I think this is exactly what they want. People continually stressed are not as likely to think clearly or feel powerful.

 

The last two weeks and the hearings and discussion on Judge Kavanaugh were especially bad. They were a continual assault, a political hurricane of historic proportions threatening not only women but all of us who are not misogynists, not white nationalists or sycophantic supporters of the President, or who are not in favor of considering corporate rights or the rights of the wealthy as more important than any other rights.

 

These GOP attacked anyone who called for a real investigation into Kavanaugh’s past and were particularly vicious in their attacks on any of the women who came forward. In fact, T even mocked Dr. Ford.  He called for holding those who made “false” claims against Kavanaugh liable. What about false claims by, or in support of, Kavanaugh? Would Kavanaugh or any his supporters who lied or rushed to hide the truth be held accountable?

 

Many wondered: was the GOP rush to judgment due to fears about what will happen in the November election? Or was something else involved?

 

The Supreme Court is going to hear a case called the Gamble v US. It involves a felon arrested for possession of a firearm. It could, however, have grave implications if T is ever impeached, indicted, or tries to use his power to pardon anyone from his administration or campaign who have been prosecuted for crimes or called to testify to the Mueller investigation.

 

The Gamble case involves the question of whether “double jeopardy” is limited by “dual sovereignty.” In other words, whether a state can separately prosecute anyone after they were tried by the Federal government.

 

Right now, T can pardon people for Federal crimes, but anyone so pardoned can still be prosecuted in state courts. T wants to destroy this possibility. And Kavanaugh could help make that a reality. He might be the deciding vote in expanding T’s and the GOP’s power, so they can’t be held accountable for crimes they commit or their assaults on the rest of us.

 

While hurricane Michael was striking Florida, hurricane T was in Erie, Pennsylvania at a fundraiser and then a rally, yelling “lock her up” and such. Even a threat to the lives and property of millions of citizens did not stop him from focusing on himself and trying to rake in money.  He needs to be stopped.

 

And let me repeat what many have been advocating: each of us needs to vote, make calls, volunteer as an election official, write postcards to get out the vote—to do whatever we can to energize ourselves and throw T and his supporters out of office.

 

**Thank you to Jill Swenson and other friends who first posted on FB about Gamble v US.

Does The Core of the GOP Care At All About Democracy?

I can’t remember a time or an election that has more meaning than this upcoming one. Last week, the faux hearings on Judge Kavanaugh made this abundantly clear. We will be voting soon not only to elect representatives to Congress but to save and hopefully expand democracy. We will be voting to save our rights and the very idea that the government should serve the people of the nation, not just the rich and the politicians.

 

We will be voting to save our planet, the future of our children and our sense of ourselves as caring beings. Everyone who cares about these issues must vote.

 

This is not hyperbole. We not only have a president and an administration that uses lying and distorting the truth as daily policy, but a president who attacks the free press constantly, calling it “the enemy of the people,” calls reporters who oppose him “disgusting,” and those who believe in the freedom of the press as “foolish people.” We have all seen and heard this repeatedly.

 

We have heard T attack the institutions that keep us safe, try to undermine votingcivil and legal rights, act for his own corrupt interest and not the nation’s, and even collude with the dictator of a foreign and hostile government to undermine our voting system.

 

Kevin Baker, in a recent article in the New Republic, describes what almost everyone who pays attention has observed: our politics has become open warfare, with the aim being not to serve the people but to make sure the other party never again comes to power. It is not to foster democracy and serve the people but to seize power and keep it, by any means.

 

The Senate hearings last week clearly showed there was no intent to get at the truth of what happened to Dr. Ford or to examine Kavanaugh’s qualifications for the Supreme Court. There was only the fight for power. How can you call something a hearing when the conclusion is decided in advance—when Mitch McConnell announces in advance that no matter what happens they will plow on through to pick Kavanaugh? There was no intention to provide a humane response to a brave woman clearly describing an awful attack on her.**

 

But what many of us forget, many of us who wonder how anyone could support T, is that a good portion of his supporters do not think living in a democracy is important to them. It is not only the President who does not care about democracy, free speech or a free press.

 

Pew Research Poll in March showed that only 49% of Republicans thought a free press, with the ability to criticize the government, was important for a democracy. 76% of Democrats said it was important.

 

A recent poll from the Economist/YouGov showed something similar. It asked Americans if they would support “permitting the courts to shut down news media outlets for publishing or broadcasting stories that are biased or inaccurate.” Americans in general were roughly divided, 28% in favor, 29% against. When looked at through the lens of political affiliation, 45% of Republicans were in favor of the idea. About twice as many Democrats and Independents opposed the idea.

 

The T administration has even removed language about freedom of the press from its guidebook for U. S. attorneys.

 

Now, I have to admit that I think a “news media” organization should seek as much of the truth as possible, without political or other bias. But how will something like bias be determined or who will do it, especially with an open internet? How will a diversity of viewpoints be protected as we protect the nation from “fake news”? Is the only way to accomplish this through better education in critical thinking, compassion, and agency?

 

And when we combine these poll results with T’s attacks on anyone who does not support him, and the sycophantic support he gets in public from almost every GOP politician, we reveal an enormous problem.

 

Almost two years ago, just before T was sworn in, Diane Rehms had a show on the question: Is Liberal Democracy now a stable form of government? What movements in Europe and the US are primary threats to democracy? It was possibly her last show on NPR. The speakers on the show (Moises Naim, Alina Polyakova, and Yascha Mounk) discussed how many Americans have begun to take democracy for granted. Would they say this today?

 

Yascha Mounk said that, when asked how important it is to live in a democracy, more than two thirds of Americans born in the 1930s said it was of top importance. They rated it number ten on a one-to-ten scale. Fewer than one third of millennials in the US today thought (in 2016) it was important to live in a democracy.

 

Mounk and the other speakers speculated that many millennials do not understand what most alternatives to democracy might be like— what it would be like to live under a dictatorship or an oligarchy, for example, where the “people,” or the majority of citizens of a nation have no institutionalized source of power. They do not grasp that a dictatorship or any form of one-man or one group rule means the loss of many rights and freedoms. They never fought or lived under a Fascist government, for example. In fact, there are a few GOP candidates running for office in this country now who espouse Fascist policies.

 

Although a Pew Research Center Poll shows millenials to be the most liberal generation in the U. S., in many respects, there is some disturbing evidence against that interpretation. According to Jean Twenge, a Professor of Psychology and author, nearly two fifths of Millenials (born 1980-’94) and iGen (1995-2012) voted not just for a GOP candidate but one “affiliated with a white nationalism many thought had died out long before iGen was born.”

 

Many do not understand that democracy in a large, diverse nation, means compromise, and are focused only on the negative side of democracy—how much effort it takes, or how frustrating it could be. They do not understand that once the institutions of a democracy are undermined (as is happening today, under T), it is extremely difficult to build them back.

 

Democracy only works if a great majority of citizens take an active part in politics and their communities. We are learning, now, how much we need to research and think about the issues, imagine and value diverse viewpoints, consider the well-being of others as part of our own well-being, and act and speak up to hold our political representatives accountable.

 

And we must vote. We must vote to preserve the possibility that we will have a meaningful voice in the future. On November 6th, all 435 seats in the House of Representatives and 35 in the Senate will be contested. We must encourage every one we know to vote. We must think about it as a national imperative, if necessary even take the day off to do it. We can not afford to be complacent, like many were only two years ago. There is little or nothing that is more important right now than voting for those who will oppose the present administration and strengthen democracy. This is a grand opportunity to act. be strong, to stand up. We can do this. This is not hyperbole.

 

**Senator Flake called for a pause in the rush to vote, in order to allow for a limited FBI investigation of Kavanaugh—for one week. One week! Will this be just a ploy to allow those in the GOP with a disturbed conscience an excuse to vote for a candidate they know to be unfit? Or will it lead to an end to or even an easing of the now bitter war for power? If the latter is true, then the inspiration provided by one woman’s bravery might help save US democracy.

 

***This post was syndicated by The Good Men Project.

 

 

 

 

 

Who Leaked What and Why?

I find it funny when I hear people ask why Russia would want to interfere in our elections. Isn’t it obvious? It is not just to put Trumpf in power so he could honor an agreement with Putin to remove the sanctions the US placed on them. It is to crash our whole political system. To isolate us from other nations and undermine our power and what’s left of democracy. This is not the old cold war revivified. It is a new species of conflict. It’s not a battle so much of armies but of information, of insight versus self-deceit, or agency versus pacifity.

 

Right now, our government is broken. And what happened this past week has just highlighted the whole situation.

 

The New York Times article, about Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein speaking with members of the FBI and others about the possibility of wearing a hidden microphone to record the President, exemplifies what has happened to our government and news media. The information was leaked to the Times by unnamed sources. How do we hear that news?

 

The differences in coverage (of the NYT’s coverage) of this story are striking. When I first heard the story on CNN and other media, what was emphasized in the story, in my opinion, was that Rosenstein spoke to others about secretly recording the president. I thought their coverage (hopefully unintentionally) fed the Trump narrative of a there being conspiracy against him.

 

The Washington Post and David Corn of MSNBC and the Huffington Post discussed the news differently. They cited several sources, people who were actually in the room when Rosenstein’s comment was made, who said the comment was sarcastic. It was not something Rosenstein really intended to do (or ever did). People are allowed to talk with others about what action is appropriate. These sources go on to stress the whole context in which the comment was made—which was after Comey was fired. Their focus was on the chaos in the White House and people in government trying to figure out what to do about it. I focused in the article on what Rosenstein’s state of mind was working for the DOJ in this time.

 

According to the article in the NYT, Rosenstein said “The New York Times’s story is inaccurate and factually incorrect. …I will not further comment on a story based on anonymous sources who are obviously biased against the department and are advancing their own personal agenda.”

 

So, who leaked this information? And what was the purpose of the leak? Right wing media in general immediately called for the firing of Rosenstein (although even Fox News soon had some doubts about the facts of what Rosenstein did and if Trumpf should fire him).

 

The NYT which has, of late, been so crucial in the fight to hold Trumpf accountable, to reveal his lies and the dangers he represents, may have now given him and his allies the excuse they dreamed of (or conspired to achieve?) to fire Rosenstein, appoint a lackey to oversee or end the Mueller Investigation, and try to destroy what’s left of our democracy. It certainly has distracted many people from the revelations about Cohen and Manafort and the threat they present to Trumpf.

 

It almost distracted us, or maybe for a few minutes, from the GOP misogynistic response to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and the threat Judge Kavanaugh and the GOP agenda poses to our nation. Almost. The opposition to Judge Kavanaugh and the revelations of GOP perfidy continues to grow.

 

The two main parties of our government are almost at arms with each other. Will Russia be the ultimate winner of the battle? Or will this newest conflict lead to the impeachment of the President for obstruction of justice, collusion, etc., etc.? I hope we all vote in November, as well as do all we can until then to fight for the resurrection of our rights and the protections that government should afford us instead of take from us. We can’t afford to lose.

 

**I called the NYT comment line and shared some of what I wrote above. Maybe you could call and do the same? (844-698-6397) In the past 2 years, The NYT has been crucial in terms of holding Trumpf accountable and limiting his attempts to undermine democracy. The article on the comments by Rosenstein does the opposite. It provides Trumpf with the excuse to fire Rosenstein and further undermine the rule of law in this country. Any possible good served by the value of the information, if accurate, was undermined by the possible consequences. I hope you can publish an article, by Thursday, that reveals something that will stay T’s hand—or maybe how you were duped. And how Rosenstein should not resign.

Stories From the Borderline of Hate and Suspicion

In the locker room of the gym yesterday, three men changing their clothes near to me were talking about incidents of road rage and random anger they had witnessed. They were upset about how the mood on the street had changed since the last election. I could easily relate to the discussion and was relieved they seemed to be on “my side” of the political divide. But the remarkable thing was that on previous days I had felt suspicious of two of the three men. They had looked angry to me, aggressive, not on my side at all. Taking sides means sides to stay away from.

 

When politics gets as divisive as it is now, it reaches into almost every aspect of our lives. It’s not just online and newspapers, television and radio. It is on the street, in the gym, work, and travel. We don’t know from what side of the borderline of hate and division the driver of the car next to us might be or the person on the check out line behind us—or the policeman standing at the street corner. Hate and suspicion are contagious. This is one reason the level of anxiety and depression amongst college and k-12 students is at all-time highs.

 

And this is obviously not the first time the U. S. has been so divided. Think of the Civil War, the revolution, the suffrage, civil rights, and anti-war movements, etc. I grew up in the 1950s and 60s. Back then I was under the illusion I could discern sides by looking at the length of hair, the clothing, the age, and facial expression. All such illusions are shattered now, although sloganed t-shirts and confederate or Nazis flags speak all too clearly.

 

In December 1970, after vacationing in Berkeley, California, I had to return home to New York City. I didn’t have much money so I arranged for a drive-away car. It was easy to get such cars back then. In exchange for driving someone’s vehicle to their home for them, I could receive free transportation.  An Englishman I had met in a theatre workshop, who I will call Adam, was going to share the ride with me.

 

Adam had met a woman, Nancy, and she wanted to go east with us. That was fine with me. What wasn’t fine was that Adam had developed a drug dependency. He had been on speed and other drugs for weeks. I told him we could only travel together if he stopped using. No drugs were allowed in the car.  He agreed.

 

We left a few days after our talk. I started the driving. It was winter and a storm was forecast for that night so we had to get across the Rockies before the snows began. We drove south towards LA before turning east….

 

To read the whole story/personal essay, go to Heart and Humanity magazine, which published this piece.