When was America great?


President Trump constantly tells us he is “making America great again.”  It’s was  a rallying cry in the campaign and continues during his presidency.  When does he think America was great?  I didn’t think I ever heard.  I knew it wasn’t during the Clinton or Obama years.  His criticism of Bush and Reagan policies seemed to eliminate those years.  Hopefully not Nixon.  Certainly not the Kennedy years or 60s and 70s. So I googled it.  The only reference I found was a New York Times interview from March, 2016.  In the NYT article, Trump explained  America was great at the turn of the century with military and industrial expansion and in the 1940s and 1950s.  Given our 250 year history, it seems according Trump, we weren’t great very much.

I had guessed the 40s and 50s.  But why?  I immediately thought of ” The Greatest Generation” by Tom Brokaw.   My parents were part of it.  They grew up in the 1930s depression.  They sacrificed and triumphed during the 1940s war years. During WWII, there were clear cut bad guys — real bad.  We with our allies were the good guys.  We would defeat the Italians, the Germans and the Japanese.  It was a good war. America was great.


In the 1950s, the greatest generation married and raised families.  Interstate highways were built; steel plants expanded; Levitt and others constructed thousands of suburban houses.  Cars rolled out of Detroit; TVs and new electric appliances flooded the market.  Wages rose; the economy was good.  In his best seller, Brokow records the good lives of the greatest generation.


It’s understandable why Trump would look nostaligacally at the 40s and 50s.  But was everything great?  During  the war, African Americans were segregated in the military.  At home conditions were unacceptable.  Civil rights for Blacks simmered as a major issue (and continues today, decades later).   After the war, women were sent back to the kitchen.  Most gays remained in the closet.  Communities worried about juvenile delinquency.  More electrical production and cars produced more pollution.  The turmoil of the 1960s didn’t just happen, it was fermenting in the 40s and 50s (and before).  There were problems during the period of Trump’s “America was great.”


And of course in the 50s, there was the Cold War.  The United States was up against the godless Soviet Union and China. Were we always great?  In addition to interstate highways, cars and consumer goods, the federal government spent, and spent more, on nuclear weapons, ICBMs, bombers, submarines.  And then there was the Berlin Wall, Korean War and the beginnings of Vietnam.  Greatness, good times are not perfect.


The 1940s and 1950s as a time when America was great struck me when I recently re-read Bob Greene’s “Once Upon a Town.”  Its the amazing story of North Platte, Nebraska’s canteen during WWII.  Residents came together and fed the soldiers passing through on troop trains.  During the war years the community serviced 25 or 30 trains a day.  They fed millions.  Why? It was the right thing to do. Greene interviews people in the town and servicemen who passed through.  He writes about small town America, Main streets, mom and pop stores, traditional values.

Another Greene “when America was great” book is titled “Duty: a father, his son and the man who won the war.”  Greene’s father was a WWII veteran.  Bob only learned to understand his father and the war generation after his father died. His dad admired Paul Tibbits, the pilot who dropped the bomb on Hiroshima?  How could he drop the bomb and kill all those people Bob thought, until he met Tibbits after his father’s death.  Bob, who was critical of America, Vietnam, his father’s generation, learned to appreciate the “greatness” of Tibbits and his father.  Bob saw greatness in America.

I can agree with Trump there was a great America in the 40s and 50s.  But there were also problems and issues that weren’t all great.  Similarly in the 1960s there was greatness as Americans struggled to provide rights for all Americans.  There was greatness in our attempts to alleviate, reduce, poverty in America.  There was greatness in the 1970s when we began to liberate women from male domination. There was greatness in our growing awareness of environmental problems and possible solutions.  There greatness in our attempt at nuclear reduction and the end of the Cold War.   Of course there were issues and events in the 60s and 70s that weren’t great. And many of those problems continue today.


My point.  Trump’s slogan that he will “make America great again” annoys me.  It recalls a golden age which never existed.  History and greatness is not black and white. There is a mix, greatness and failure.  On another level many do not see Trump’s actions as President as great.  His rolling back on environmental regulations may be good (maybe not in the long run) for business but not for environmental quality.  His attitude toward immigration isn’t very great.  His health care reforms haven’t been proven great.  His administration’s attacks on civil rights and those in poverty isn’t great.  His criticism and attacks on the courts, Congress, FBI, and Justice Department are not great.  His support for women is far from great.  It’s probably too early to totally judge his foreign policy.

In short Trump sold a dream — America was once great and he will restore that greatness. A percentage of the population believed him.  It sounded good.  Some still believe.   Others believe that he’s mining the past for beliefs and policies that are a return to many things that have not been great.  Although some like what he’s doing, I think it’s far from a majority and I don’t recall any “greatness.”  I don’t think I’m alone in that assessment.

Instead of invoking a nostalgia for a great perfect past that never existed,  we need to articulate and demand things that will build on what is great about America.  More on that later.





All the President’s Men


Last night I decided to rewatch Alan Pukula’s  “All the President’s Men.”  In case your too young or forgetful to remember, it was based on the book of the same name by. Washington Post junior  reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward.  They broke the Watergate story by following it from the June 17, 1972 break in at the Democratic National Headquarters to the White House, which lead to many resignations, convictions of the President Nixon’s men and the eventual resignation of Nixon two years later on August 9, 1974.  The film was made in 1976.

Watergate not only brought down Nixon but it probably changed the way we looked at the presidency and government in general.  The story seems quite relevant today in light of the Russian Probe into meddling in the 2016 election and the possible collusion and possible obstruction by candidate, now President Trump.  There are certainly differences but many parallels.  Republican Presidents, dirty tricks in elections, special prosecutors, administration denials of involvement, the President’s repeated claim of innocence.

It was fascinating to watch Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) and Woodward (Robert Redford) track down leads that led them closer and closer to the White House.  And they had to convince the Post publisher Ben Bradley (Jason Robards) that they had confirmed, reliable sources for their stories.  That’s the same Washington Post that today President Trump includes in his list of “fake” media outlets.  The green reporters also had a secret informant, “Deep Throat,” although reluctant to give new information, he was usually willing to confirm that they were on solid ground.  In 2005, Deep Throat was identified as a former FBI agent, Mark Felt.  This is the same FBI that President Trump has criticized for being soft on Hillary Clinton, unfair to him, and most recently spending to much time on the Russian probe instead of stopping school shootings.

The movie only shows the early part of the unfolding scandal.  The main Congressional investigation and exposure of the administration’s involvement in many illegal activities is summarized to a series of newspaper headlines tapped out on a typewriter (manual no less).  What followed in 1973 was a Senate Committee hearings that were televised, a special counsel, Archibald Cox, appointed to the Committee by the new Attorney General, Eliot Richardson.  Nixon’s first Attorney General who resigned to become chairman of the Committee to Reelect the President would be convicted to conspiracy, obstruction of justice and perjury.  The second Richard Kleindienst was fired due to his friendship with close Nixon aides Haldernam and Ehrlichman who also resigned, were indicted, convicted and served prison time.

In 1973-74  we lived in New Hope with John and Barbara Paglione.  I clearly remember coming home from work and we all of gathered around the TV watching the Senate Hearings chaired by Senator Sam Ervin of North Carolina.  By the way, the  Congress had a Democratic majority.  There was a constant parade of names. Along with Mitchell, Halderman, Erlichman, we heard Dean, Colson, Hunt, McCord, Liddy, Butterfield, Magruder,   in all 40 government officials were indicted; thirty some were convicted.  The Vice President, Spirio Agnew resigned after facing charges of conspiracy, bibrery and fraud, unconnected with the Watergate Scandal.

Two phrases became cliche during the investigation, “follow the money,” and “what did the President know, and when?”  Final answers finally came when it was discovered that conversations in the Oval Office were tape recorded.  When special counsel Archibald Cox asked for the tapes, Nixon refused and fired Cox.  Attorney General Richardson and others resigned.  The event became known as the Saturday Night Massacre.  You may have hear the phrase used recently when Trump has considered firing special prosecutor, Robert Mueller.  I’ve wondered is Trump familiar with Watergate?  It sometimes seems he’s making the same mistakes as Nixon.

Nixon finally agreed to transcribe transcripts, but it was eventually discovered that 18 1/2 minutes were missing.  Under impeachment pressure, in August 1974, Nixon resigned.  Nixon’s and the presidents men’s downfall may have come more from “cover ups” and “lies” than the actual actions, as illegal as they may have been. As we watch the current Russian probe, it seems many of the actors have not learned this historic lesson.

Today there are three investigations, House, Senate and Special Counsel.  The House and Senate are controlled by Republicans (unlike the 1970s) who are not eager to go after the President.  Mueller’s Special Council probe has issued indictments (against Trump aides and Russians) and accepted several guilty pleas but none have directly implicated the President in collusion with the Russians or obstruction of justice.  Trump claims that’s a vindication; more likely just not a closed case.  What’s hard to believe is how firmly Trump ignores the obvious, confirmed by his intelligence agencies,  Russian meddled.  For many Democrats, liberals this just points to his guilt; his supporters claim it’s the Democrats, Clinton and Obama are always responsible.

The 1970s culture is different from today’s.  Typewriters, telephones (land lines, we call them), newspapers and cigarettes have been replaced by computers, social media, cell phones, cable TV and no smoking signs.  Although news sources have always had a partisan bent, today for instance  CNN and FOX portray two different worlds. The President and his followers adore the latter and claim the former is all “fake.”  Liberals dispel FOX as fantasy propaganda.  What does a person believe?

I won’t speculate about what the current investigation will discover.  I don’t think it’s  over as some have suggested.  I think more heads will fall.  Collusion?  Cover up?  I don’t know.  I do hope President Trump will admit Russian involvement in the election and try to do something to protect the next election.  It’s fascinating that it seems Russia’s  purpose is to sow discord; to question democratic institutions, and then to support Trump.

I read that Redford has made a film, “All the President’s Men revisited.”  Will try to watch it tonight.  Stay tuned.







I started this long holiday weekend with several medical issues.  On Friday I had a heart catherization due to a poor stress test following my reports of  minor chest contractions.  The test showed that two of my bypasses had collapsed.  Fortunately the most important third looked great,  pumping blood.  Meds can be taken to control the contractions (angina, not a heart attack).  Good to know.  In addition my abscess-fistula was swollen, sore, with increased discharges. Maybe due to the fact that my colonostomy wasn’t producing anything.  (I have a reluctance writing about this but for any of my friends getting older, medical information is important.)

I started Saturday and finished Sunday in my recliner chair.  Reading, napping, surfing the Internet, e-mail, Facebook, a bit of TV.  The news always seems to intrude. It use the words “news” cautiously.  Trump news; White House news.  The most prominate being the President’s attacks on the media.  The infamous Scarborough-Brzezinski tweets; the CNN attacks, icluding the juvenile wrestling with the CNN icon.  But then there is the WH commissions request for voting information (states are refusing);  jibberish about infinity and space (look at Buzz Aldrin’s face); Republican defense of their health care bill; Trump’s tweet to repeal today and replace tomorrow (contradicting previous statements), the President’s upcoming meeting with Putin (he will wing it); turmoil in the WH; Tillersen can’t get his staff appointments.  .  . It doesn’t stop.

And the President hours of watching cable news. Welcome to Wonderland.


I went to find a fresh book to read from a shelf in my bedroom and was drawn to Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking Glass.”    I began the trip down the rabbit hole and a day later through the looking glass.  I couldn’t help asking: were there similarities between Carrol’s  Wonderland and the White House?  I don’t mean there are direct parallels in story, plot or characters.  But when the Red Queen shouts “Off with their heads.”  You decide.


There is no logic in Wonderland; nonsense reigns.  I’ll share some quotes; you can decide if it relate to Trump, the White House and our current political discourse.

“Always  speak the truth, think before you speak, and write if down afterwards.”

“I don’t think . . .” said Alice.  “Then you shouldn’t talk,” said the Hatter.”

Can you imagine Trump tweeting:

“Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”  We are going to do great impossible things.

Trump likes us to focus on himself.

“Who in the world am I?  Ah, that’s the great puzzle.”

And does this sound a bit like administration spokesperson?

“Contraiwise,’ continued Tweedledee, ‘If it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn’t, it ain’t.  That’s logic.”

“We’re all mad here.”

Mad Hatter: “Have I gone mad?”  Alice: “I’m afraid so. But I’ll tell you a secret.  All the best people are.”


Womderland is an alternate world.  Different from the real word.  Words take on different meanings.  There are alternative truths.

“When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean — nothing more or less.”

Alice: How Long is forever?”  White Rabbit: ” Sometimes, just one second.”

“Never imagine yourself not to be otherwise than what it might appear to others that what you were or might have been was not otherwise than what you had been would have appeared to them to be otherwise.”


And then we have the Cheshire Cat, always grinning:

“I’m not strange, wierd, off, nor crazy, my reality is just different from yours.”


There was a lot more in Wonderland that reminded me of the White House.  A good reread.             “Off with their heads.”




History and Trump


I recently finished reading E.H. Gombrich’s best selling “A Little History of the World.”  Gombrich is primarily known for his history of art, his world history is aimed at young kids.   Much of it is familiar from high school and college history classes.  At the same time, there are events, wars, and personalities that I don’t remember.  But it’s  good friendly, easy read overview of world history.

As I read, I frequently wondered how history will evaluate the American Trump administration.   Will Trump be viewed as a “champion” of the middle working class?  A President who “Made American Great Again.”  Or will he be viewed as a sick, self-serving President who appointed a cabinet and advisors that twisted government, no matter how it effected the average American?


Will Trump be applauded for limiting government, slashing budgets for departments like the Environment Protection Agency and Department of Education; eliminating regulations that protect clean water,  shifting public education funds to private schools?  Will  Trump be seen as a force that cut unnecessary government regulation and spending?

Or will Trump will be held accountable for dismantling many important and or compassionate government programs. Will history record that many of Trump’s cabinet appointments were chosen to dismantle the agency or Department they would lead?   As the federal military budget increased, did Trump cut funding for the Arts, Public Broadcasting, and as many as 19 other social programs, even Meals on Wheels — a few million to help volunteers deliver meals to poor seniors.

Did Trump build a wall on the Mexican border that provided increased immigrant security?  How will history view cutting the Coast Guard or putting a surcharge on flood insurance to help fund the Mexican wall  — or was it paid for by Mexicans as Trump consistently promised.  Or was the wall never build because it wasn’t necessary or cost effective — just a crazy campaign promise?

Will Trump be seen as a hero challenging federal courts that stopped his immigration bans and funding cuts to sanctuary cities?  Or will the courts be seen as stopping Trumps extreme, unconstitutional executive orders?

Will Trump and the Republicans in Congress come up with an alternative to the Affordable Care Act that doesn’t strip millions of the poor from coverage and provide rebates for the wealthy?  Or will the repeal and replace “Obamacare” rhetoric ultimately be seen as political absurdity?


Did the Russians interfere in the 2016 election– supporting Trump?   Did President Obama “wire tap” Trump Towers as twittered by President Trump?  Or has the liberal media made this up?  Will history see Trump as a hero or a crazy scroundel? Did the Russian question end the Trump administration or did the issue turn into a historical footnote?

Did Trump protect us from a crazy North Korea armed with neclear weapons; or did a crazy Trump lead the country into an unnecessary, possible nuclear war?

Did Trump reform and make the tax code better or did he provide major tax cuts for millionaires and corporations; cutting many of the tax deductions that benefited the middle class?  Did the national debt shrink or balloon to unprecedented numbers?

Did Trump make America Great or did he and his family use government to advance and advertise Trump interests, making Trump great?    Why did he refuse to share his tax returns?

Will Trump be seen as a leader that united  the Republican Party, the country or will he be seen as a destructive force that destroyed the Republican Party and exasperated divisions in the country?

Will  Trump be known for telling it like it is, telling the truth? Or will he b remembered as the most consistently lying President in history?


Today we approach the 100 day mark of the Trump Presidency.  How has he done?  What has Trump accomplished?  He got an appointment to Supreme Court by having Congress change the rules — no filibusters on Supreme Court appointments.  He’s changed some labor and environmental regulations, by executive orders.  He’s made strong foreign policy announcements and a few actions in the Middle East and Korean peninsula. Otherwise he has a string of failures. Not much of all he promised in the first 100 days has happened.  He claims 28 bills signed; nothing major in any of them.

How will Trump’s 100 days be viewed by historians?  How will his administration be viewed historically?

Will Trump and his administration be seen as “Making America Great Again.”  Or will it be seen as a lying, tweeting, alternative truth, cabal of phonies?





Fact or Fiction



I think it was in the mid 1980s, I went to my first Internet workshop.  I remember the presenter explaining how he would find information on the Internet, “Maybe we’re looking for a chart of the solar system.”  He typed “solar system” into a primitive search engine.   “Look,” he exclaimed, “thousands of hits.”  But he never opened one.  I quickly realized he might have opened dozens before he found a chart of the solar system.  I thought, get an atlas in the library, in minutes I can hand you a chart.  Of course, search engines have improved drastically and to some degree his promise has been fulfilled.  But it wasn’t then.

In back of me there was a group of twenty-something female teachers.  I could hear their excitement about e-mail.  One exploded, “It’s amazing, you can contact and communicate with …. (fill in celebrity of your choice)…  on line.”  Her friend jumped in, ” I heard somebody might pretend to be  … oh, Madonna . .. and you won’t know it’s not Madonna.”  Her friend’s response, “It really doesn’t matter if it’s not Madonna, it’s fun.”  My head  swung 180 degrees.  Talking to a Madonna impersonator is as much fun as talking to Madonna.  And of course, we don’t know which is which. Fact or fiction — it doesn’t matter.


I thought of this incident in the past few months as we’ve begun to hear about the amount of fake news on Facebook and other Internet social mediums.  We are up to our necks in fake news from foreign countries, ideological organizations and individuals. Why is it accepted as fact; what does or matter?  It’s fun.

From the New York Times:

“Not coincidentally, it was also the year of “fake news,” in which pure fiction masquerading as truth (like posts that claimed Hillary Clinton used a body double and that Pope Francis had endorsed Donald Trump) may have spread wide enough to influence the outcome of the election. Some were certainly deliberate lies spread by right-wing Clinton opponents and all-out profiteers, many in countries outside the United States (and possibly even the Russian government).” We are still waiting to see how much the Russians were involved in the election.


And now we have a President who doesn’t believe truth and reality are very important.  He claimed repeatedly that Obama wasn’t born in America — then he denies the statement.  Or he claims that he really won the popular vote since millions of illegals voted for Clinton. His electoral college win was a historic landslide.   President Obama wire tapped Trump Towers during the election.  The list goes on and on.   No support or justification for any of the claims.  Believe Trump. Listen to his speech to Congress, “believe Trump.”  Forget that it’s a Presidential twitter vent, an outright fiction.   The mainstream (read, liberal, lying) media report Trumps lack of  facts but of course his supporters don’t believe the mainstream or don’t listen to it.  Trump trumps.

I read commentaries that chastise and exhort.  We need to teach students critical thinking.  We need to teach students to distinguish between real news and fake news.  We need to teach students to critically evaluate information on the Internet.  I want to say I agree but I also thought I was doing that for the past 40 years. How many of my former students are sucked in by the conspiracy theories, fake news, and Presidential lies.


In the 1970s, I taught students about Marshall McLuhan’s concept that the “the medium is the message.” I wonder what McLuhan would think of social media like Facebook?  Is it hot or cold?  Individual or tribal?  What would he say about the President’s use of twitter?

There is no question that President Trump has exaggerated, spread false information and lied.  Constantly; consistently.  It is surreal.  How can we have media commentators, journalists, and politicians discuss his tweets, comments, and  statements as if it was real and truthful.  No surprise that George Orwell’s book, “1984” is a best seller on Amazon.


We can be Democrat or Republican.  We can be conservative or liberal.  We can and should debate public policies.  But we cannot have a chief executive, President, that has no grip on reality.  Trump probably believes his exaggerations and lies.  We can’t.  Alternative facts are not facts.

Resistance must continue, it must grow.  Republicans must recognize that Trump is a danger to the country.  Fact or fiction?  — it matters.



Inauguration and beyond


Eight years ago, Dan Ryan and I drove to D.C. for the first inauguration of Barack Obama.  Not since John Kennedy’s election, when I was a high school student, was I as excited about a Presidential election.  Finally, I felt a President who will contribute to the progressive, yes liberal, democracy I’ve always believed in.  Issues of equality, social justice, economic fairness, and environmental concern would take center stage.

We left Yardley early.  Traffic was heavy but moving and we arrived at my cousin Ellen’s about 9 o’clock.  We drove to the mall, mingling and talking to people from all over the country.  There was a sense of unity and common spirit.  With some luck we got a table at the famous Ebbit’s Grill, blocks from the White House.  Dan’s daughter met us. She was twittering.  I had no idea what it was but signed up for an account later that day.  Now we have a President whose major form of communication is Twitter.

We spent all afternoon on the mall.  That night we met friends for dinner in DuPont Circle. We were unable to prepurchase Metro tickets, so the morning of the Inauguration, we decided to try driving as close as we could.  We slid through Georgetown and ended up parking two blocks in front of street closures near the White House.  I think in the area that say violent protests in 2017. At about 8 o clock we joined crowds flowing onto the Mall.  Ellen and I lost Dan within minutes and settled in near a large screen TV, somewhere behind the Washington monument.  Cell phones didn’t work.  But a wind of hope and change was in the breeze.

With 1.8 million fellow citizens we watched and listened as Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th and first African American President in U.S. history.  We were proud and excited.  We loved the spirit, music, pageantry and speeches.  That evening, Dan and I went to a party in Georgetown, heading back to Bucks County the next day.

Obama faced tremendous economic and foreign policy challenges.  Unfortunately his Republican opponents did everything possible to block his agenda.  And to their credit, they organized and took control of both the House and Senate.  I believe the rancor of some opposition was due to racism, “a Black family in the White House?”   He was labeled a socialist, a Muslim, a traitor, not even born an American citizen — lies that took on a life.  The last promoted by Trump who now denies it.  Despite this he was re-elected to a second term.  The overall economy improved and we withdrew troops from war zones.  A health care bill attempted to provide insurance for all.  Gay marriage was legalized.  But the successful Obama agenda was limited, the Republican party of “no” did not allow for any form of bipartisan compromise.

In the end I think Obama attempted to be too accommodating; the Democratic Party too smug in their Presidential victories.  Was it his personality and style or what he felt was needed?  Meanwhile the Republicans moved further to the right and further outside the mainstream.  From Palin to the stage (was it 18) of Republican candidates in 2016 and then the  selection and eventual election of Donald Trump as the 45th President.

Several years ago I chided Republican friends that the Republican  party was being destroyed.  I didn’t like Reagan or father and son Bush; we had strong policy differences.  Admittedly I didn’t think young Bush was very bright.  But they were normal, should I say mainstream — as dirty a label today as “liberal” has been for many, for decades.  During the campaign I’d accepted that about 35% of the electorate would support Trump.  But like many I didn’t see the other disaffected 15% that eventually  voted for him.  Forget that probably less than half of eligible voters actually vote and that Clinton won the popular vote by about 3 million.  Trump had the electoral college and the Presidency.  Not the landslide he claimed but a win.

Beginning about 10 a.m., last Friday, January 20, Diane and I left the TV on playing inaugural coverage.  We faded in and out.  My emotions were flat.  Not amazement; not anger; not resignation; not acceptance.  I thought the Obamas were gracious and maybe too accommodating. But maybe that’s real class.  I found Trump’s speech unfriendly and confrontational to those that didn’t support him.

In fact a majority of Americans do not support Trump’s Presidency.  His current approval rating (I don’t put tremendous faith in these polls) is 40%.  But whatever the polls, it’s clear that he has a limited mandate.  It seems that more people turned out for the Women’s March on Saturday than turned out for the Inauguration.  Of course in Trump’s world that’s not possible and so we heard his Press Secretery, Sean Spicer attack the media, dismiss photographic evidence and claim “lies” about attendance as truth.  Advisor Kellyanne Conway label his remarks as “alternative facts.”  Trump tweets about it and goes after the media while meeting with members of the CIA.  Yes, were in for a rough road.

I never followed much about cabinet appointments.  I remember talk of Kennedy’s Wiz Kids and then James Watts, Reagan’s Secretery of the Interior who wanted to sell off federal lands, open them up to logging and oil.  He increased membership and contributions to  environmental organizations.  But I have been following (too much really) Trump’s cabinet appointments and his policy tweets and rants.  Almost every appointment sounds like a disaster.  I am far from alone in my analysis.  Sadly many of his most loyal supporters don’t read or listen to mainstream media.  Or if they do; it’s not believed.

There was so much disinformation, exaggeration, fake news and lies during the campaign and it continues.  Were the Russians involved?   Conventional thinking says, yes.  Of course Trump says no.  And this is one of the most scary things about the Trump phenomena.  He lies and lies and is believed by far too many.  It’s surreal and Orwellian. And it’s not going to stop.

I was stunned by the number of crazy conspiracy theories posted on Facebook, defended and repeated, during the campaign.  It’s made me much more careful about what I accept as true.  The disinformation and false news goes in both conservative and liberal directions.  I’ve always said we don’t ever have 100% truth; always some room for doubt.  But we want to in the ball park.  I’m sure there’s  a batting average analogy.

I’m strongly liberal but conservative policy positions don’t frighten me.  You can be for or against affirmative action, free trade agreements, coal plants, or charter schools.  Debate and frequently compromise are important components of the American system.  Many of my most memorable and enjoyable political discussions were with emerging conservative students at Holy Ghost Prep.

There are however core American values of equality, fairness, and social justice that should transcend political ideology and party.  Racism, sexism, and other forms of prejudice and discrimination are not acceptable and must be resisted.  Trump has been guilty in crossing this line many times.  A percentage of his supporters (certainly not all) regularly cross that line.  You either believe that or you don’t.  I’m not going to change any minds here.

I don’t need to give Trump a chance.  He ran his campaign, told us who he was, courted his constituency.  He’s 70, not going to change.  In fact he believes he has a winning formula.  I can only hope it’s short term.

What do I (we) do now?  I’ve spent several days thinking about it and surprise, don’t have any catchy answers.  I want to encourage thoughtful activism.  I want to actively resist any attacks on core American beliefs.  I want to participate in policy debate and respect those whose opinion may differ from my own.  I want encourage involvement by the young and disenfranchised. I want to let my elected representatives know where I stand.  I want to do what I can to blunt the influence of fake news, conspiracy theories,  and lies that has contaminated our political discourse.

I guess I want to be a responsible American citizen.







Merry, Happy — Peace to All


I don’t understand when people get so annoyed when someone says “Happy Holiday”   or any other December greeting except, “Merry Christmas?”  Why the concern?  No one is stopping you from saying “Merry Christmas,”   “Happy Hannaku,”  “Haberi Gani” or “Happy Holidays — it’s your choice.

There are people who don’t believe in celebrating the birth of or divinity of Jesus.  And they may not want to celebrate the Christian extravaganza of American consumerism. They may celebrate a different holiday or none.  About 17% of Americans are non-Christian; about 25% of Christians are married to non believers or members of other religious groups.  Imagine kids being brought up by a Jewish and a Christian parent. This year Hannauka and Christmas fall at the same time.  Do we mandate a greeting for them.  Or do we allow them (and their parents) to decide if and when to give what holiday greeting to whom?

Of course Donald Trump had his say on the controversy: “But Christmas came early this year. President-elect Donald Trump made his position clear in June, and many times since: “Boy, do I mean it—we’re going to be saying ‘Merry Christmas,’ ” he told a group of evangelical leaders in New York. (He made a similar promise last year, when he also suggested boycotting Starbucks after the coffee chain abandoned its traditional holiday cup design.)”  Andrew McGill, The Atlantic.

We can probably give a lot of thanks for the “Christmas Greeting Wars” to Bill O’Rielly and Fox News.  Bill was raised a Catholic in the days when the Church was “the one true church.”  Only Catholics (not Christians, mind you) could go to heaven.  Maybe I exaggerate (there were exceptions) but from my perspective as an Catholic elementary school student in the 1950s, this was gospel — and frightening.  Guess I, like Bill, was lucky to be born in the “one true church.”  So Bill champions the right of people to say, “Merry Christmas.”  Thanks but, the first amendment guarantees me that right and guarantees the right of my neighbor (or myself) to say “Happy Holidays.”  No thanks, Bill.

And then this year we are fed a story that a Lancaster, PA school canceled a performance of Christmas Carol because parents complained about Tiny Tim’s “God Bless.”

“But last week a local TV station ran a story suggesting that the play had been canceled because of two parents’ objections to the famous Tiny Tim line, “God bless us, everyone.” The piece reported that Centerville Elementary School officials said the complaint did cause them to give the play a second thought. Fox News and Breitbart picked up on it and ran with it, after which the school received more than 200 calls and emails.”  Colby Itkowitz, Washington Post.  Uh, do we thank the God patrol, Fox News and Breitbart.  I don’t think so.

” In a letter sent to parents on Dec. 15, and a subsequent question and answer posted on the school’s website, the school principal categorically denied that the play was canceled this year because of any parents’ complaints, but rather that school officials had determined that preparing for the play would take up too much academic time.  “One rumor we’ve been addressing is that one or two families influenced this decision,” wrote Tom Kramer, Centerville Elementary School principal. “That’s just not true. The instructional time issue was our primary concern.” In the FAQ the school posted, Kramer said there was no religious complaint made about the play.”  Colby Itkowitz, Washington Post.

The story  gets more complex.  A Jewish family may have been blamed for the cancellation.  Children threatened.  They felt it best to get out of town for the holidays.  “Merry Christmas” from our friends at Fox News and Breitbart.  The  best news is fake news.

Mr. Trump, Fox News, Bill O’Rielly,  Breitbart, and all those that feel there is a war on Christmas.  Relax, take a deep breath, the economy is healthy, sales are good, particularly on the Internet.  God is in his place.  And it’s suppose to be sunny, a beautiful day to be with family, attend a religious service if it’s your belief, take a walk, enjoy a traditional meal, and you can wish people Merry Christmas, Happy Hannauka, Haberi Gani, (Swahili for Kwanza Greeting), or  Happy Holidays.  I’ve always said whatever I feel appropriate and will continue to do so – “Peace to everyone this holiday season.”