The Greatest Generation

 

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“The Greatest Generation” was a tribute to the generation was born in the depression and came of age during World War II.  It was written by Tom Brokaw and published in 2001. Earlier this week I began to read “The Greatest Generation Speaks: letters and reflections.”   In it Brokaw shares responses and letters from veterans and their families to his best selling   book.

I chose it from the short pile of books I’m ready to read or re-read.  I chose it to escape the feeling of miasma I have following the recent election. Weeks before the election I wrote a blog, “Trump:  I’m Tired.” And I’ve written about the seesaw feeling of wanting to never hear Trump’s name again and recognizing that in just a week he’s making appointments that could drastically, dangerously change the United States. I cannot close my eyes.

The Greatest Generation is my parents Generation.  Their story is probably pretty typical.  This Veteran’s Day I re-posted an article about my father who served in the Navy during WWII.  Yesterday in the mail, I received several documents about his service from the Department of Veterans Affairs and a notice that have forwarded my request to another agency, National Personnel Records.   The papers, “Notice to Separation from U.S. Naval Service” confirmed his service at Newport and the Great Lakes, on the U.S.S. Nelson and the U.S.S. Rapidan.  Enjoyed reading that he listed watch making as his preference for training and job.

These small windows into Fathers life are so important now.  He is gone and the record of his service is incomplete.  It’s only recently I realized how little he said about his years in the military.  That was not unusual among servicemen.  Most, like Vincent Profy, were humble, quiet about their sacrifice and courage.  Maybe they repeated a few favorite stories but not too much.  Brokaw’s book actually awakened memories for many.  How different today when we “shout out” our accomplishments or concerns on Facebook and Twitter.

Another lesson we can learn from the Greatest Generation is unity.  After Pearl Harbor, most Americans were united in a determination to defeat Nazi Germany.  There was a draft but thousands enlisted to protect American values — acceptance, freedom, democratic rule.  You can add to the list.  The unity extended to the men in the foxhole,  cramped in a submarine or flying over enemy territory. At home, young girls and recently married helped keep the home fires burning.  Sounds corny, but it’s true.  They worked in factories, raised kids,   established canteens for those in uniform.  They were brothers and sisters for the duration.  In contrast, our rhetoric today about coming together sounds hallow.

Maybe this was when “America was Great.” I’ve been searching for that period — turn of the nineteenth century, 1840s Oregon Trail, see previous blogs.    But there were some cracks in the WWII years.   African Americans faced discrimination in the military as well as at home.  Women were sometimes viewed as just”pin ups.”  Japanese Americans were herded into concentration camps at the same time second generation  Italian immigrants invaded the homeland.  Gays were in the closet and couldn’t openly serve in the military.  When it’s said “Make America Great Again.”  Is this what is meant?

I totally enjoyed escaping into the world of “The Greatest Generation Speaks.”  Like religion, it was a haven, security, warm, cozy, things were simpler then.  But it’s history; we can’t go back.  Can we learn something.

I totally respect and appreciate the humility, hard work ethic, loyalty, patriotism, and family values that characterized the greatest generation, including my Father and Mother.  I accept that their attitudes toward diversity and openness were sometimes less than they instilled in me.  Father had Black friends but held subtle racial stereotypes.  I fondly remember a day in center city Philadelphia when he realized we were part of  a gay parade, he literally turned and ran away.  Interesting, Mother despite or because of her devout Catholicism was a more open.

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Reading, hearing, thinking about the stories of my parent’s generation,  friends and neighbors, is both inspiring and questioning.  Sixty million people were killed in WW II.  Four hundred thousand were Americans.  Why?  Easy answer.  Hitler.   A leader who divided people and scapegoated —  the Jews, gypsies, homosexuals and . . .  . are responsible for your troubles.  A nationalist who proclaimed you are superior to others.  A demagogue  who institutionalize bigotry and racism.

If you are a 60s liberal like me and want to understand the Greatest Generation better, read ” Duty: a father, his son, and the man who won the war.”  Bob Greene never fully understood his father.  After his death he met Paul Tibbits, the pilot of the Enola Gay, who dropped the bomb on Hiroshima.  How could his father admire Tibbits who killed some many people with such a horrible weapon.  Greene meets and talks with Tibbits many times and slowly comes to understand his father, Tibbits and the Greatest Generation.  It’s quite a story, I remember after reading it, immediately passed it on the my father.  Maybe no gereration holds the keys to the kingdom.

I don’t think we are Nazi Germany.  At the same time I can’t smile and promote “return to normal.”  The Greatest Generation, my parents,  raised me to think, proudly,  for myself.  Whether they intended to or not, they taught me to defend American values, including diversity, immigration, religious freedom (all religions), women’s rights — we are brothers and sisters united.  Black and white, male and female, Muslim, Jewish and Christian, gay and straight.

I honestly believe in the end, my parents, the Greatest Generation,  would have supported that unity.  It’s what they taught me.

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It’s a small country after all

img_2116Last night I described in a blog how I was on a seesaw (see Seasaw).  This morning the unthinkable happened, I turned to my right and on the seesaw next to me was President-elect, Donald Trump.  Up and down he went, at times he seemed to balance right in the middle.  I couldn,t tell if he was happy.

Down he went, appointing RNC chair, Reince Priebus as his Chief of Staff.  This guy has strong establishment credentials.  What will supporters think.  Wasn’t the election anout”draining the swamp.”  They need to understand, we may need to pull bodies out of the swamp and put them in the administration if we want to get anything  done.

The seasaw swings up, appointing Steve Brannon, Breitbart News executive, who worked so hard on the campaign,  as policy advisor.   Won’t this please supporters (some anyway), Bannon and Breitbart are known as the voice of the alt-right, advocates of white supremacy. I mean the KKK enforced me and are mounting a big recruiting drive.

Then there is Paul Ryan, House leadership, wasn’t he deep in the swamp.  Trump tries a balancing act — hovering between up and down.  Do we pull him out of the swamp and give him a voice in the administration, it’s a tough call. Maybe we get in the swamp.   Ryan is talking about cuts to social security and Medicare.  He has firmly supported the appeal of Obamacare.  What do my supporters want?  What do I want?  What’s best for me in other words.

The seesaw swings down.  After talking to President Obama Trump realizes that there are provisions of the law that should not be repealed.  Maybe instead of repeal, it should be amended.  We should keep the clause that pre-existing conditions cannot disqualify and another that allows young adults to stay on their parent’s policy.  Will insurance companies pay for these provisions?  If not how do we pay for them?

Trump swings up but again tries to hover in the middle.  A lot was said about immigration in the campaign.  Supporters really expect results.  But deporting 11 million, that’s a tall order, maybe we can deport just the criminals, should be 2 or 3 million (the real number doesn’t matter as much as we say deport, deport the alien, Mexican rapists and drug dealers, Muslin terrorists, deport).  And we got to keep them out.  A wall is really expensive and would it work, Mexico certainly won’t pay for it.  Maybe Congress will approve a fence, in a few places anyway.  And what do we do with all those Muslims — those here, those who want to come here.  Can we deport them if they are a threat; can we ban them from entering the country.  Somehow we’d need to finesse the Constitution.

The seasaw swings up. Trump gets to appoint at least one Supreme Court justice.  Any liberal interpretation will disappear.  The Constitution is conservative and only political conservatives know what it means.  Only they understand the founding fathers (even though they were eighteenth century elitist).  The new Supreme Court will repeal Roe v. Wade.  That should make the troops happy.  What if over 65% of women support abortion, they still voted for me when the liberal press tried to paint me out as a sex deviant, grabbing, you know,  assulting — 42 % still voted for me. And what really counts 52% of white women voted for me.  But this does get complicated.

Down we go. Trump claims that gay marriage is the bag.  The Supreme Court has spoken.  But what to do about Mike Pence.  The administration needs him.  He might play a big role in policy.  But we don’t need headlines like the Huffington Post’s  recent “The Mike Pence (Donald Trump) Assult on LGBTQ Equality is Already Underway.”  I said, The Supreme Court has spoken, tough if it was a liberal court.  We can’t just change everything, can we.

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The seasaw swings back to the middle.  Thousands are protesting the great Trump victory.  So what if a majority didn’t elect me.  Trump won; the electoral college has (hopefully will) spoken.  The young Clinton (and probably Sanders) sore losers are taking to the streets.  They call it free speech; I call it anarchy.  We need to support strong police departments.  We need law and order.  Some of my critics say there is an increase of hate crimes, particularly in colleges, high schools and elementary schools.  It’s reported usually by the liberal press and organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center that students have painted  swastika’s on bathroom walls, told classmates they should be deported, told Muslim women to remove their hijabs, reminded African-Americans about lunching that happened historically if Niggers didn’t keep there place.  They try to say I’m responsible.  I say, “Now this is free speech.”  I’m not condoning violence or destruction of property, to that, I say, “Stop it.”  You remember when Nancy Reagan said, “Just say no”  and ended drug addiction.  Trump people aren’t haters; they love America and want to make it great again.

Trump remains swaying, balancing in the middle.  What does the new administration do about Education (Doctor Ben will know), Free Trade and NATO (I bet Mike Pence can figure that out, with a little help from his friends).  Climate change (we need a Secretary of the Interior who supports both burning coal and digging for more oil).  Burn, baby, burn, maybe Sarah has some ideas.  And jobs, how do I create jobs.  The Congress probably won’t fund a massive public works project. Maybe Christi can help, I read something about his involvement with bridges.  Experience can help if your not as smart as me.

Trump continues to balance.  Can I force people to buy American made goods even if they cost twice as much. But that’s no good,  the Trump brand of clothes isn’t made in the US.  And did you hear Macy’s refuses to sell the Presidents brand of clothing.  Could that be considered treason?   But wait, I wander, must stay focused.  Jobs, jobs, jobs, no regulations, no regulations, no regulations, lock her up, lock her up.  I need to get people chanting again, that will make America great.  And I’ll call Giuliani about the lock her up thing.

After about an hour of going up and down, balancing in the middle, Trump turns to me.  “You know, Profy, (yes, I know who you are), this isn’t easy.  Do my supporters think I can just deliver on those campaign promises.  Don’t they know politics in America is compromise.  At least it was until recent Republican practice.  Do they want me it ignore the majority of eligible voters who didn’t support me.  Is about 35% of eligible voters really a strong mandate.  Now that I’m elected I’ve got to think what’s best for me.  To paraphrase someone, “What’s good for Trump is good for the country.”  But I’m not selfish, I don’t need a tax break since I never pay federal taxes, but some of my friends might like a break.    “Maybe  this isn’t so hard, Profy, all I need to do is help the 1% that control this country.”  My supporters will follow like sheep.  Or will they?  Stay tuned.

 

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Seesaw

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Since Tuesday I’ve been  on a seesaw.  A pendulum swinging back and forth.  I am down and don’t want the hear or read another thing about Donald Trump. I don’t care why he was elected.   I don’t care who he will appoint to the cabinet.  I don’t care if he doesn’t like eating in tents or living in the White House.  I want him to become “the name that cannot be said.”

But then I swing up.  I have a responsibility to try to understand why so many Americans are angry and feel left out.  I must support organizations that resist the dismantling of decades of social progress — if it happens.  I must fight the hatred that’s bubbling up in schools and on the street.  Elementary kids gloating over a classmate who will be sent back to Mexico.  Attacks on African American and Muslin women. Trump protesters who are destroying property.  I cannot close my eyes.

I swing down again.  What can I believe?  The mainstream media has been indicted.  Facebook and the Internet are filled with totally biased unreliable trash.  Grab a social media microphone and tell the world.  Truth doesn’t matter.  Should I resign from the Internet and FB, turn off the nightly news and ignore the morning paper?

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I swing upward.  I can’t drop out.  Trump could be a serious threat to much of what I believe.  Environmental regulations,  civil rights, educational policy, social safety nets.  I need to contribute, to join, to help organize, to resist.

Then maybe Trump 3 will emerge. Trump 1:  Clinton supporters, the mainstream media, his own rhetoric created a monster — all the negatives apply.   Trump 2: His supporters created the savior of the average American.  Trump 3 may be the deal making pragmatist.  Shouldn’t really repeal Obamacare, there are good provisions we need to save.  A wall between the US and Mexico, well maybe we need some additional border patrols and fencing.  Can’t deport all of those illegals, just some.  Will he tone down, make friends, and survive?  I doubt it based on past performance.  But what do I know.

The seesaw gets faster and faster as each day passes.  Maybe I’ll fall off, hit my head, and sleep for four years.  I bet I have a copy of Rip VanWinkle to read tonight.

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The Day After

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November 9, 2016 might be a day always remembered like September 11, 2001 or November 22, 1963. The day is already remembered as “Kristallacht” or “Night of the Broken Glass” when the Nazi began their campaign against the Jews that lead to the Holocaust.

In 2016, it’s the day after the controversial election of Donald Trump as President of the United States.  Despite lack of support from many mainstream Republicans, outrageous comments and revelations, negative media coverage, Trump rallied his supporters in a populist uprising against the establishment.  He rallied rural Americans.  Forgotten Americans.  White Americans. High School graduate Americans.  Male Americans.  And unfortunately, Bigoted Americans, White Supremists, and sexists.  They rallied against elites, government, the establishment.

Many thought a win by Trump was impossible.  But the voice of the majority has spoken.  I suspect they have been heard.  Republicans now control all three branches of government.  Where will we go?  The worse case scenario would be mini Kristallachts — attacks on those that are perceived as different, through intimidation or laws. The best is probably a toned down Trump seeking advice and help in unifying the country.  In  between these extremes, we might see the erosion of many liberal policies that have been in place for years, decades.  How will women, Blacks, Latinos, Muslims, Homosexuals fare in a Trump America?

I was not totally surprised by the election outcome.  I wanted to close my eyes to the possibility but I knew it could happen.  I had given Trump 30-35 % committed core  supporters (not all but a percentage of them probably deserve Clinton’s “deplorable” label).  It became pretty clear there was another dissatisfied  group (some just anti-Clinton) who would vote Trump. Maybe, if it was 15%, he could win the election.  And it happened.

I wake up reflecting.  I spoke out strongly against Trump.  And still believe he will be bad for the country.  Maybe I should say my country.  Obviously many feel he will be good for their country.  Part of my current  reflection is the composition and beliefs of these different countries.  And how to bring them together.

I guess I am part of the establishment, the elite.  Although I sympathize and want to help those struggling, I live the “good life.”  My retirement so far (except for medical issues) has been pretty nice.  We vacation in nice places, eat in the best restaurants, go to whatever theatre or entertainment we wish.  We have good health care and don’t worry a lot about the cost of something we want.  We’re not really rich but part of an upper middle class percentage.  Lower-upper?

Today I wonder, how did Diane and I get here.  First  we had good families. We went to college.  We worked.  Both teachers.  Not the highest paid occupation.  And I even worked in private schools that paid less.  We didn’t inherit a lot.  We saved and tried not to waste.  So now we are part of the “elite?”  I don’t fully understand.

Although Ive been registered both Republican and Democratic, my politics have always supported what are labeled liberal policies.  I’ve never identified with national Republicans, big business or jingoistic American ethnocentrism.  I’ve believed American diversity was a strength, tried to overcome my male chauvinism, and supported the equality of all people.  That pretty consistently led me to Democratic candidates, particularly nationally.

Now we have a populist movement of average people.  Unfortunately up to now it seems like a movement of predominately average white people.  I might be part of an elite but I’m  in a party with a lot of average, nonwhite people.  What’s going on here?  I recall in 1966-67 when I was attending Boston College.  I spent much of my Sophomore year involved in the anti-war movement.  I was active in SDS.  We decided students had to reach out to the the working class.  They were being hurt by the war.  They not us (college students) were dying in Vietnam.  We tried to organize and recruit in poor and working class Boston neighborhoods.  Blacks and Irish.  It didn’t work.  For them, we were part of a deferred “elite.”  They continued to fight and died in Vietnam for another 8  years.  Tragic.

For me the current election frenzy leaves me a bit emotionally exhausted.  I will spend today, tomorrow and the coming days reflecting.  Can we forge new political alliances?  I’m pretty sure I won’t be satisfied in a Trump America.  But this may be a turning point.  A dialogue must begin.

Time to reflect today, listen to the rain, contact some close friends, watch the birds and the stock market.   Bake some bread and pumpkin pie.  Finish reading my book on the Oregon Trail — the story of some pioneers that made America great (unfortunately they slaughtered Native Americans and bison in the process).  But I  must think positive.  Today is just the first day after.

Is it time to circle the wagons?  Together?

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Hail to the chief.

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Tomorrow it’s time to vote.  It’s been a bizarre, even frightening campaign for the next President.  The outcome is a toss up; the consequences possibly nasty.  I’m 69 years old.  There have been twelve Presidents in my lifetime.

I’m a Harry Truman baby.  He became President when Franklin D. Roosevelt died in his unprecendented fourth term.  In 1948 Truman, a Democrat, from Independence, MO ran against Thomas Dewey from NY.  I don’t need to emphasize that I don’t recall anything firsthand about the campaign or Truman.  History  books document other names I recognize, Storm Thurmond (Southern Conservative), Henry Wallace (Progressive) and Norman Thomas (Socialist) — they all ran as Third party candidates.  So did Edward Teichert (Socialist Labor) but I never heard of him.

As a student of media and photography. I have seen many times the Chicago Tribune  newspaper headline declaring Dewey the winner.  Harry held a copy high.

“The paper relied on its veteran Washington correspondent and political analyst Arthur Sears Henning, who had predicted the winner in four out of five presidential contests in the past 20 years. Conventional wisdom, supported by polls, was almost unanimous that a Dewey presidency was “inevitable”, and that the New York governor would win the election handily. The first (one-star) edition of the Tribune therefore went to press with the banner headline “DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN”.”

I also remember from history books, Truman’s desk sign, “The Buck Stops Here.”  Honest, small town kind of guy.  Most importantly I’ve thought about and taught lessons related to Truman’s decision to drop the atom bomb on Japan.  I’m not sure I or the history books have a definitive ruling on whether he made the right decision.

In 1952 Dwight D. Eisenhower was elected President,  Richard Nixon was his Vice President.  I was five years old.  Ike was a war hero who accepted the Republican offer.  His Democratic opponent was Adlai Stevenson.  Stevenson was known (maybe some puff) as a liberal and intellectual.  When we toured the Eisenhower farm in Gettysburg a few years ago, we learned that Ike read western novels and ate TV dinners on a small porch.  I seem to remember as a kid (he served two terms), thinking of Eisenhower as a grandfather-President.

It was during these years that Andy, one of my best friend’s father took us to John Birch Society and other right wing meetings.  Dr. Vince Romano was textbook.  A successful, small town, Catholic doctor, father of maybe a dozen kids.  Conservative to the core, obsessed with Communism, probably abortions and homosexuals (although both topics would have been taboo).  But I really appreciate how Dr. Romano exposed me to hard work (rebuilding the stone wall on their Riverfront home), political issues and bird banding — monthly trips to a banding station in Washington Crossing State Park.  Ironically in 1964, my first year in college, I was a member of Young Americans for Freedom (YAF), a Romano legacy, and Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), a Boston opportunity.  I do wish I had some of the pulp novels published and circulated by the far right at that time — great drama — and then the classic “None Dare Call it Treason.”

The election that stoked my political consciousness was 1960.  John Fitzgerald Kennedy (Massachuttes Democrat) ran against Richard Nixon (California Republican).     Kennedy was Catholic; I went to a Catholic elementary school.  Guess who I supported?  Andy Romano and I made several trips to a Kennedy field office on Otter Street (collecting buttons and other campaign material).  I still have some of those buttons.

On October 16,  1960 Andy and I rode our bikes up Radcliffe Street, through Tullytown to the Levittown Shopping Center.  We waited and waited.  Finally the motorcade arrived.  Kennedy spoke:

“I come here today as the standard bearer for the Democratic Party in this most important election. Actually, there have been many significant elections in the history of this country, and it is my hope that as a result of this campaign, as a result of our efforts, that the people of this country, all of them, Republicans and Democrats, will come as a result of our effort of the last few months to some definite conclusions about what our country must do. I believe if this election is to serve a national purpose, the best purpose it can serve is to inform our people, not of all the things that are good about our country, because we know there are many things that are good about our country but the things that we must do if we are going to maintain our country’s freedom.”

The text of the speech is interesting to read today, the Cold War,  education, social programs.  He concluded:

“I come here today, on a cold and windy Sunday, and ask your help in this campaign. I ask you to join us, to give us your hand, your voice, your support, join us in moving our country forward, join us in trying to do for this country what needs to be done if it is going to maintain its position in the world, if it is going to move ahead. Join us in moving America again. Thank you.”   Sound familiar.

I’ll admit.  I’m a Kennedy Democrat (most of the time).  JFK’s “ask not what your country can do for you,” images of  sailing on  Cape Cod, John and Caroline in the White House, yes, for me and I believe many of  my generation, this was Camelot.  And then the unthinkable.  Dallas.  Assassination.  November 22, 1963.

The Kennedy memory and legacy is complex.  Bay of Pigs, increase presence in Vietnam Nam, foot dragging on Civil Rights,  Cuban missile crisis. Later we learn obout personal issues.  Diane and I would graduate and join the Peace Corps.

I was in the HGP parking lot on a Friday, November 22, 1963.    We were organizing for a dance.  “We interrupt this program,for a tragic news bulletin.  The President has been shot. I repeat President Kennedy . . .”  We were brought to the HGP chapel and the reality of what had happened began to sink in. Then there was the shooting of Oswald on national TV and the photograph of Johnson with Jackie  Kennedy being sworn in on Air Force One.  Mother and Father drove to DC with friends and joined the long line paying their respects to the President and his family in the Capital rotunda.  With my sisters, I was glued to the TV all night looking for our parents.

Lyndon B. Johnson.  A sad presidency.  A Southerner, Texan, skilled Congressman, in the shadows of Harvard educated, Mass, Kennedys.  Johnson fought for Civil Rights but was strangled by the Vietnam War.  In 1964, he  runs for a full term.  His running mate is Hubert Humphrey, a Minnesota liberal. Republicans, led by the Conservative wing, anoint Barry Goldwater from Arizona.  I’ll admit I was intrigued by Goldwater.  I read “Conscience of a Conservative.”  Individualism and freedom from government intervention struck a chord, but I was wary of the extreme anti-communism.  The John Birch Society, Young American for Freedom rhetoric that I’d learned about thanks to Doc Romano had turned me off.  If I could have voted,  it would have been Johnson.

However by 1965, Johnson was the enemy.  His Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, came to Boston College to speak.  There were lines of protesters and another line of BC “jocks” screaming “get off our campus.”  I stood with a small group of Freshman. This was our campus.  We wipped out our student IDs and joined the protesters.  BC security didn’t care, we were swept off campus with the protesters.  Off campus we got together and established contacts with Harvard and Boston University chapters of SDS.

Back on the BC campus we helped establish an SDS chapter.  Despite my political naiveté, I was elected secretary of the chapter.  One reason was that a small group of juniors and seniors, political science majors, had already had scuffles with the school administration and wanted a low profile.   I believe that they were  the organizers of the food riot that forced a change in food service and showed us that collective action could achieve results.  Power to the people!!

In retrospect, I feel sorry for Lyndon Johnson.  But maybe I should reserve judgement until I read his multi-volume biography written by Robert Caro.  The war dragged on, more and more politicians began to join the anti-war movement. More Democrats turned anti-war and anti-Johnson.  Lyndon eventually decided not to run for a second term.

1968,  enter center stage, Gene McCarthy, an anti-war candidate.  Clean up for Gene was the cry (it meant cut your hair, shave, and change clothes).  I recall going to a rally in Madison Square Garden.  But McCarthy was too much for most older Democrats.  Robert Kennedy entered the race but was assissinated.   The party  went with the more traditional liberal team of Hubert Humphrey and Edmund Muskie.  Republicans reached back and found Richard Nixon with running mate Spiro Agnew from Maryland.  Footnote: George Wallace (Southern racist) and Curtis LeMay ran on the American Independent ticket.  Agree was off the wall, would fit in with today’s fringe Republicans.

Disappointed at my choices, my first Presidential vote, I voted for Humphrey.  American politics is compromise.

In 1972, the war raged on.  Nixon and Agnew carried the Republican banner again. Amazingly Democrats went with anti-war candidate George McGovern from South Dakota.   I didn’t get real involved but  enthusiastically voted for McGovern.   Nixon won. The war ended in 1974. Finally.

And then came the Watergate scandal.  During the early 1970s Diane and I  lived in New Hope with John and Barbara Paglione.  Everyday, in the afternoon, we watched the TV Watergate hearings. “Did the President know?”  Nixon knew enough and didn’t run again.  Gerald Ford became President.

In 1976 Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale, Democrats,  defeat Gerald Ford and Bob Dole.  I don’t remember any interest or participation in the election. Carter seemed a nice guy but didn’t inspire me

1980, Carter and Mondale were looking for a second term.  Along comes the ex-actor, Californian Governor, Republican Ronald Reagan and his running mate George H. Bush from Texan.  Reagan had tremendous appeal to what was called Middle America. I was appalled at his conservative, self-righteous paternalism.  I was at a party in Bristol and my brother-in-law was singing the Reagan song.  I decided to register Republican to vote for the more moderate John Anderson in the Republican primary.

Reagan and Bush won in 1980 and again in 1984. Democrats Walter Mondale and Geraldine Ferraro did little for me.  It was great seeing a woman on a national ticket but I was interested in more aggressively liberal candidates.  But the country has shifted to the right.  Conservatives were in.

In 1988 Reagan was followed by George H. W. Bush and a weak VP, Dan Quayle.  The Democrats ran Michael Dukakis (Mass) and Lloyd Bentsen.  Ron Paul emerged as a Libertarian candidate. The Republicans prevailed again.  Bush had a refinement that seemed to represent another era, my father’s candidate.  He got us in and quickly out of the Gulf War.  Democrats it seemed we’re having a difficult time finding charismatic leadership.  Other than voting, I was not involved in National elections.

Strangely, ironically, Diane would say sadly, after registering Republican to vote against Reagan, I was approached by Yardley Borough Republicans to run for Borough Council.  At the time I was active organizing a Bucks County chapter of the Sierra Club.  Club officials told me we need Republican environmentalists.  Go for it, they advised. I met Susan Taylor, another Republican council candidate.  She was a fiscal conservative with none of the social conservative beliefs that were dominating  the party.  We got along well.  I decided to run.  We won.  Two terms. We forged a strong local Republican Party.

By the 1990s, Susan and I were finished serving on borough council.  I wanted to stay involved locally.  So I became a Republican committeeman with some input on who ran for council and other county offices.  I was always proud that my partner, committee woman, Sharon Lantzy, and I  were the only Bucks County committee people that did not vote to endorse Rick Santorum in his Senate run.

In 1989, I took a sabbatical from Holy Ghost Prep to work on my dissertation. The topic was educational policy making in Pennsylvania. I spent much of a year in Harrisburg. I was living State politics. When a new State house district was formed in Bucks County, I decided to run. There were at least four candidates.  I was doing ok with committee people, my cousin, Tom, Republican County Treasurer, even said I sounded like a Republican.  But the County chairman, Harry Fawkes, wouldn’t support me.  I was a teacher, he said and supported Dave Stiles, a Lower Makefield businessman.  Later I would joke that Harry probably made a good choice.  Although there was talk of an open primary, I dropped out to finish my dissertation.

George H.W. Bush was marked to be a one term President.  His challenger was Bill Clinton, Governor of Arkansas (running mate, Al Gore, Tennessee).  Ross Perot led an interesting third party bid.  1992 marked the return of a Democratic President.  Although I was happy, Clinton was from my generation, he moved much too far to the center for my politics.  In 1996, he held off Bob Dole and Jack Kemp.  Clinton’s style, working with Republicans dis lead to Welfare reform, an improved economy, no wars.

In the mid 1990s, I switched my registration to Democratic.  Harry Fawkes, Bucks County chairmen,  wasn’t listening to my recommendations for council but was supporting a true blue Yardley Republican faction.

In 2000, Clinton passed the baton to Al Gore.  I liked Gore and his VP, Joe Lieberman but I had no history of contributing or becoming involved in a national election.  As a teacher, however, I had been helping to run mock elections, invited local politicians to speak at school and took kids to DC and local rallies.  I remember seeing Clinton in Bristol one year.  Gingrich in DC.

The 2000 election was close.  There were disputes about voting in Florida.  Eventually the Supreme Court weighed in and George W. Bush with running mate Dick Chaney were declared the victors.  Republicans were back in the White House.  I was disgusted.  Much of my adult life was Republican candidates I would not support and Democrats that were uninspiring.

Bush and Cheney won a second term, defeating John Kerry (Mass) and John Edwards (NC).  Democrats seemed to constantly return to Massachuttes looking for that Kennedy replacement.  For years we vacationed in Nantucket.  Saw the Clintons there one summer and thought I was going to meet Kerry.  His wife, Theresa Heinz, had a house in town.  But I began to see her car on a dirt road with access to Nantucket sound, across the street from our rental. There were major renovations happening.  Was this going to be the summer White House?  Kerry lost the election.  Theresa Heinz responded to a letter I wrote saying a staff person was using her car.  No summer White House.  Didn’t meet Kerry.

In 2008 I got excited about a Presidential election.  Barack Obama, a Senator from Illinois, an African-American,  was the Democratic candidate.  I liked his running mate, Joe Biden, from Delaware.  Republicans chose war hero, John McCain.  He didn’t seem like a bad guy until he chose Sarah Palin from Alaska as his VP.  For me Palin marked the beginning of the take over of the Republican Party by crazies — right wing idealologues, 21st century no-nothings, anti-establishment conspiracy theorists.  I predicted then with some R friends,  the end of the Republican Party.  It could happen.

I wanted to get involved with the Obama election. I donated money several times, walked door to door in Yardley-Makefield, went to a rally at Temple and agitated among friends.  Obama seemed to represent hope and change.  He spoke as a strong liberal, not radical, but progressive.  When he won, I went to the inauguration with Dan Ryan.  Now to see some change in Washington.

Unfortunately, Republicans blocked Obama time and time again.  There wasn’t any bi-partisan cooperation, no compromise.  An important part of our democracy.  At times Obama’s liberalism receded as he attempted to court Republican support.  I don’t think there is any question that some of the antagonism was pure racism.  A black guy in the White House.  His birth as an American, his religion, and loyalty to the country were all challenged.  I became annoyed but didn’t blame him.  Republicans had become fully obstructionist.

In 2012 Obama and Biden faced Mitt Romney (Mass) and Paul Ryan (Wis).  Romney seemed to represent the end of old guard Republicans.  A businessman out of touch with much of the country.  Ryan was his nod to the conservative base.  A surprise to many, Obama won a second term. The Senate and House controlled by Republicans. Again I tried to be involved.

Republicans continued to resist anything Obama suggested.  Strongest was their opposition to tha Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, which addressed the millions of Americans without health insurance. The law has problems but it wasn’t a government take over of health care.  It was an attempt to help people get insurance, not be punished by a pre-existing condition, ideally contain costs.  Like any major piece of social legislation, there is need for changes.  But instead of  working for change or compromise, Republicans tried again and again to repeal.  A waste of time and energy.  Many issues followed this pattern, even the appointment of a Supreme Court Justice.

And now — tomorrow — November 8, 2016.  We will hopefully end what may be the sickest Presidential campaign in US history.  And there have been some pretty down and dirty campaigns.

Hillary Clinton, former First Lady, NY Senator, Secretary of State in the Obama administration was awarded the Democratic spot.  She faced a strong challenge by a real liberal-socialist, Bernie Sanders, a Vermont Senator.  As strong as he was, I thought it was always doubtful the country would support someone as far left as Sanders. Although I voted for him, I was not active in his campaign and a bit annoyed at myself that I wasn’t.   And I don’t blame my year in surgery.

Hillary Clinton carries a lot of unfortunate baggage.  For some, just as Obama is Black; Clinton is a woman.  Doesn’t belong in the White House.  As I previously mentioned I never liked the Clintons a lot.  As critics say, too tied to big business, rationalists, pragmatists.  Bill can be charming; Hillary is loyal.  But I understand some distrust.  That is not to say I accept or understand the paranoia.  The number of conspiracy theories, exaggerations, mountains out of molehills her critics  have built are amazing.  Yes she is part of the establishment but not a criminal, murderer, witch or devil.  Little has been said of her VP, Tim Kaine from Virginia.

After what has to be the craziest collection of primary candidates in history, the Republicans emerged with business tycoon, Donald Trump as the front runner.  Wow.  In the beginning there were 17 candidates.  A few were mainstream, Jeb Bush, John Kasich.  Marco Rubio and Chris Christie “seemed” normal.  Cruz, the ultimate conservative ideologue.  But then Walker, Perry, Paul, Fiorina, Huckabee, Santorum, and Dr. Carson.  Give me a break.  These are not Presidents.

But the party picked the most unlikely President, Donald Trump.  There has been some much written about him, I’ve read so many articles, reviewed the list of outrageous comments and crazy, unproductive policies.  I thought about 35% of the country would get behind Trump.  And I still believe-hope that’s about it for his core supporters, the believers.  There is another percentage, however, dissatisfied with Washington, distrustful of the establishment, of Clinton.  We will soon know the size of this group.

For months I’ve expressed my disgust with Trump in conversations, Facebook posts, several rants, and a blog post.  The purpose was primarily carthetic.  It made me feel better — primal scream kind of thing.  I’ve also tried to encourage voting.  I think I understand why the KKK, white supremacists, racists, sexists, conspiracy theorists, anti-Muslin, xenophobic, anti-semetics support Trump.  I’ve tried to understand why some normal, regular working people do.

I am not at all pleased with this election.  And I do believe it could get worse.  Whoever wins tomorrow, it’s time to find a better path.  I’d like a more wholesome debate and personally a more committed  involvement.  We can’t repeat 2016.  Your thoughts.

 
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Trump: I’m tired.

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For some reason I broke down today.  I’ve had enough of Trump.  I’ve read too many articles about his history of lying, bankruptcies, poor business decisions, marriages, arrogance. And then his candidate pronouncements — building a wall between the US and Mexico; barring Muslin immigration; snide, ridiculous, or discriminatory comments against women, people of the Middle East, the handicapped, minorities;  suggestions that gun lovers may take on (out) Clinton.  No, I’m tired of it.  So I vented on Facebook.

I wrote several posts:

Number 1:   I was cleaning up back magazines after being away for several weeks and ran into the July 18, Time. 240 Reasons to Celebrate America (oh, this is liberal media). According to D. Trump, America is falling apart. Responsibility falls to that Black President, who wasn’t born in the United States, and you know who, Hillary Clinton.

I realize there is poverty, out of work people, terrorism, just as there is racism, anti feminism, homophobia. But these are all  constants. Unfortunately not something new.

Is America falling apart from your experience? I was in a restaurant (a bit upscale) in Wellfleet on Cape Cod last week. The tables were filled with loud, laughing families and couples enjoying lobster and other local seafood. I engaged the head waitress, “Are these people part of the failing, falling apart America?” She smiled, “I don’t think so.” I suspect some were Republicans and restaurants on Route 6 were filled (waiting in line) with many more middle class families.

I ask those decent, normal Trump supporters. Consider, is the country falling apart as Trump suggests? Is your life worse than it was 8 years ago. I know your stock portfolio must be better, if that’s important.  If life is worse, please tell me how? Tell me how President Obama is responsible? I don’t need vague political rhetoric. Be specific and relate it to Obama policy.

If you can’t do that, consider your support for Trump. And get a copy of Time, “240 reasons to Celebrate America.” America is  not a bad place to live. Never though I’d be waving the flag like this but with Trump it’s necessary.

Number 2:   Trump supporters! Are there any positive articles about Trump? I know you probably think the mainstream/liberal media is out to destroy him. But so many articles about his history as well as behavior and comments during this campaign paint a portrait of someone who should never be President. Republicans who can afford any potential political fallout have refused to support or have spoken out against him. This isn’t typical.

I’m not crazy about Clinton but Trump is a crazy choice for President. The country is no worse than it was before Obama’s election — it’s probably better but at least no worse.

I think, too many decent people have been sucked into the Trump vortex. Stop, listen to what’s being written and said about Donald Trump. It’s not your regular and unfortunate and partisan low blows, hype, and political nonsense.  Consider, and I hope embrace. Donald Trump is an unacceptable candidate. I don’t expect those that really like his racist and sexist comments, absurd policy pronouncements, arrogant, self centered behavior will recant.

But I know there are decent people currently in his camp than can and should reconsider.  Donald Trump is an unacceptable candidate for President of the United States.

Number 3:  Who is defending Trump? Am I missing something? I have a limited number of friends on FB. But many have association with HGP and not so long ago association with HGP ran about 90% Republican. In my last years teaching there the tide shifted a bit, my classes were maybe 60% Republican. Some of my best political discussions were with HGP young Conservative Republicans in the Library (I was the Librarian). Where are you guys? Can you explain Trump? Can you support him? Vote for him? Please tell me why!

I expected Trump would have a strong 30% base of loyal supporters.  From my liberal perspective, these were the crazies that believed in  his sell.  What bothers me is the additional percentage of good, decent people sucked into the Trump vortex  who have bought the sell — neighbors, relatives, friends.  Most disturbing is not hearing-reading why?  I want good people to explain Trump and his policies.  Help if you can.

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State of the Nation

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Many years ago, teaching an economics class at Holy Ghost Prep, I asked the class what percentage of families made $100,000?  Answers varied from 3 to 30 %.  quite a few hit the correct answer — 10%.  Then a hand went up and a student commented, “Most of the families I know make at least $100,000.”  I commented that most of the kids in the room and most of their neighbors probably fell into the 10%.  “Where are the other 90%,” the student questioned.  “Where I repeated?”

That afternoon I was driving to teach a class at LaSalle University.  I stopped at Broad and Olney.  People rushed on the streets, some moving to catch a subway, waiting for a bus; others hung on the corner.  “There’s the other 90%, I thought.”t

Last night we were having dinner at the Wicked Oyster in Wellfleet, Cape Cod.  The room was filled, tables were lively, most people were probably on vacation, summer house or weekly rental.  The hostess, an older woman, was passing our table, our eyes met.  “Excuse me,” I said, “I was thinking, how many of these people believe Trump’s analysis that the country is falling apart.”  She smiled, “Not many,” she responded.

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Trump’s dire message is suppose to appeal to white, particularly, non college educated males.  His support among women and minorities is less.  He is supported by Republicans more than Democrats; although a recent poll shows a post convention jump in support from Independents.  Keeping in mind a book we used at Holy Ghost Prep, “How to Lie with Statistics,” here are a few rough stats.

About 60% of the population is non-Hispanic white.  About 50% are women.  About 60%  of the population is non college educated.  Imagine for a moment that all non-Hispanic whites were non college educated.  30% of them would be white males, Trump’s prime supporters.  Months ago I responded to someone on Facebook, that I suspected only 30-40% of could be stupid enough (sorry, but I do think his supporters are if not stupid, very gullible, that’s a better word, a more accurate word) to support Trump. Can there really be more than 30-40% Trump supporters?

We know a percentage of non college educated are non white.  A fair number are probably Democratic.  I’m not sure about voting rates among groups.  Are college educated more Democratic (they did support Obama more) ?  Who votes more college educated or non college?  And I haven’t even considered age, religion or geographic location.  I am sure there are lots of articles, polls and research that attempt to answer these questions. And I’m sure as in all good social science research, you can find conflicting analysis.  So . . .

What issues make Trump supporters, supporters?  Immigration, well illegal immigration, how many people think about it?  How many are effected?  How many really care?  There are about 11 million (some children), under 4%,  of illegal immigrants in the US.  Most in California, Texas, New York, New Jersey  and Illinois. It would seem that people in these states would be more likely to be interested and/or effected by the issue.  Living in small town Pennsylvania, I’d have to go out of my way to feel effected (unless I listen to certain politicians or media).  Are the six illegal immigrant states Red or Blue (I’ll let you check).  I think my realization is,  I suspect that, the concerns of most of those nationally come not from personal experience or something that personally effects their  lives but from political rhetoric, media reporting and crusaders.

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I think the rhetoric, reporting, and crusading may be responsible for other hot button issues — gay marriage, violence, international fears, 2nd amendment rights.  It’s not that I’m against political discourse, media reporting or crusading.  In fact all are important to learning and democracy.  But I worry about the ability of citizens to make sense of the deluge of data, information, propaganda, and talk that is available.  How much is quality; how much is trash?  Can we tell the difference?

I think much of current commentary (like the nightly news) deals with the negative, the bizarre.  Today’s yellow journalism.  Controversy for the sake of controversy.  Feed fears.    Trump exploits these tendencies. According to his message (dare we call it a vision) we are being destroyed by foreign terrorists, Mexican aliens, Muslims, and  corrupt politicians.  The far right Christians add deviant behavior and non Christian religion.  The country is in ruin.  Unfortunately it may be easier to accept (and parrot) the negative.  Fear what is not just like us.  Racism and prejudice are acceptable.  Diversity is dangerous; conformity is comforting. The enemy is them.

I need to think about this more. But I don’t think (I hope) most of those in the Wicked Oyster last night, most people on Cape Cod, most of my neighbors in Yardley, most Pennsylvanians, and most citizens of the United States  believe based on prsonal experience and common sense analysis that the country (the world) isn’t coming to an end.  There are problems a plenty that we need to improve, correct as much as possible. But daily life, living needs to be good and affirming. For now I’m going to enjoy the sun, sand, oysters, and fellow wo-man.  Maybe more on this later.

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