Saying #MeToo isn’t enough. Women have to stop excusing men, too.

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Excerpt from my OpEd in today’s Washington Post.  Click here for the article.

Here in rural Kentucky, six months after the election, I sat next to a 30-something woman at a party. A grade-school teacher. She did not like Hillary Clinton and voted, she said, for Trump. Turns out she was on a third date, and she and her new beau had not yet gotten around to politics.

He was as stunned as I was. And when he and I both took our hard stance, when it started to feel like we were ganging up, I began to feel sorry for her — she was, more than anything, uninformed, it seemed — and I decided to leave them to their now-ruined date. Astoundingly, she had not only not heard of the “Access Hollywood” tape, she had no interest in hearing about it. The election was over.

I wish I could say I found this woman’s lack of information shocking. But the truth is, beyond the confines of coastal news and entertainment, much of white, churchgoing middle America accepts both Trump’s “locker room talk” excuse and his wife’s lackadaisical “boys will be boys” defense. Many of the women I meet here — of all ages — do not follow national news, much less national politics. They also tend to follow their pastors’, or their husbands’, talking points: Clinton can’t be trusted, she thinks she’s a man, she should look at her own husband and her own marriage.  I suspect they looked at their own marriages and families, as well. Was Trump any different in his rhetoric from their own husbands, their brothers, their fathers?  Their pastors? What can you do? Men have needs.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/posteverything/wp/2017/10/18/saying-me-too-isnt-enough-women-have-to-stop-excusing-men-too/?utm_term=.0e804cfa844e

 

 

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The ready amplifiers of rage

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Within hours of the worst shooting in modern American history came the usual talk of Second Amendment rights, men and their guns, and the collectability of assault rifles.

While gun enthusiasts defended their right to buy and collect, a report on the history of assault rifles called the guns used in mass killings “ready amplifiers of rage.”

What kind of man gets enthusiastic about a ready amplifier of rage? Do Americans have a gun problem or a manhood problem, or both?

The Village people sing a catchy tune about what it means to be a man. “Every man ought to be a macho, macho man, to live a life of freedom, machos make a stand. Have your own lifestyles and ideals, possess the strength of confidence, that’s the skill. You can best believe that he’s a macho man.”

The song came to mind with the recent run-off election for Judge Roy Moore down in Alabama. Noted conspiracy theorist, birther, Bible-quoter, gun rights advocate, and militantly anti-gay, Judge Moore celebrated his big win by strolling onto the stage dressed in a black leather vest and Stetson, carrying a handgun. Dressed like one of the Village People.

Manhood as showmanship.

Manhood is on daily display in America, as the president himself needs constant reminders that he’s “the man.” During a briefing in Puerto Rico, he went around the table (as he once did in an on-camera cabinet meeting) asking everyone to give a fawning litany about what a great job he’s doing, what a capable man he is.

The gun lobby exploits weak, insecure men like the president with their simple formula for manhood:

  1. Mass shooting occurs.
  2. Gun lobby’s paid-for Congressmen make their paid-for statements, “It’s not the time to talk about gun control. The liberals want to take away your guns.”
  3. Men run out and stockpile more guns.

Gun industry expert, Brian Sullivan, reports that ten years ago we had about three million AR-15-style assault rifles out there. Now there are an estimated eight to nine million.

Sullivan says, “The majority of the gun industry is controlled by a private equity firm called Cerberus, by a guy named Steven Feinberg who is very secretive, but he has basically bought all of the companies, Bushmaster, Remington, etc. … he is a reclusive guy, apparently doesn’t even use email, is a multi-billionaire…. The AR-15 has so many potential accessories it’s called ‘a Barbie doll for men.’”

Mass murder and manhood, it turns out, is worth billions.

This same week in October 2015, my dad and I had the following text message exchange about gun control:

Dad: The liberals want to take my guns.

Me: I don’t know a single liberal who wants to take guns away from responsible gun owners. Some of my liberal friends even own guns.

Dad: Who commits 90 percent of crimes? Not your average citizen, so why are we the target for new laws?

Me: Average citizens are not targets. The guy who drives to another state to buy 80 guns and then sells them on the street is the target. The guy who beat up his wife and she won’t/can’t press charges, he’s the target. None of the proposals for gun control target law abiding citizens. You could still buy a gun and so could I.

Dad: I did, and I may get more.

My dad is in his 70s, retired, on a fixed income, living in a small Missouri town with virtually no crime. He can’t remember the last time he shot a gun. But he hears the fear-mongering calls of Rush Limbaugh and FOX news and the NRA and men like Judge Roy Moore, and they tell him he’s got to man up. So he buys more guns.

A white man with a gun massacred little children in their Sandy Hook classrooms, and Judge Roy Moore blamed it on “forgetting the law of God.” A white man with a gun murdered Americans in a Colorado movie theatre. A white man with a gun shot a group of black churchgoers, one at a time, during Bible study. A white man with a cache of weapons fired hundreds of rounds from the 32nd floor into a crowd of 22,000.

See a pattern?

Meanwhile, we are asked to spend billions on a border wall for our “security.” We are lectured by the president, Congress, and right wing media to fear radical Muslims and black men and immigrants. Yet we never call white men who terrorize, terrorists.

Such are the rules we obey here in our sweet land of liberty. Rules that keep getting us killed.

The Vegas shooter stockpiled 33 guns in one year. He carried ten bags of guns into a hotel for a three-day stay, and no one noticed. “Gun stocks rose Monday following the deadliest mass shooting in American history.”

We have a gun problem. We have a manhood problem. We defend enthusiasts who stockpile ready amplifiers of rage. We are the United States of America.

Trump confuses nationalism with patriotism, brings out the worst in us

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In September 2006, in a tiny tavern off Route 61, some old friends and I claimed a dozen seats around a bar shaped like a baseball diamond and ordered rounds. Come midnight, Laura and I were the only ones left.

“Let’s finish this one and cab it home,” Laura said, but then a soft light rose over the bar (was it closing time?) and the place went noticeably quieter. The bartender, guitar in hand, pulled up a stool across the bar from Laura and me and adjusted a microphone.

Figuring we were in for a treat, we stayed put.

“He calls it The Watermelon Song,” said the drunk guy three stools down, raising his beer in mock salute. “Bartender’s good, writes his own stuff.”

Next thing the crowd is chanting, “Watermelon! Watermelon! Watermelon!” and the bartender/singer has started up, “There’s … a … n***er in the watermelon patch …” The whole place erupted, singing right along.

We could not make out every word, but there was something about how you can always find the n***ers in the watermelon patch, and if you’re good enough with a shotgun it’s just like target practice, and then there was something about New Orleans and how those n***ers down there better think twice before coming up here to our town, looking for refuge, then boom!, back to the refrain.

It was one year after Hurricane Katrina. Laura and I sat there, stunned.

A decade later, the existence of The Watermelon Song is a lot less stunning.

At a campaign rally in Alabama, President Donald J. Trump is playing his greatest hits to rabid cheers. He locks-in on a new target: professional, black athletes taking a knee during the national anthem in protest of police shootings of black men, in protest of racial injustice.

“Wouldn’t you love to see,” the president crows to his mostly-white crowd, “one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son-of-a-bitch off the field right now! Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!’ ”

Professional men, reduced to sons-of-bitches. I am reminded of Clint Smith’s poem, “Ode to the Only Black Kid in the Class.”

If you’re successful
it is because of affirmative action.
If you fail it is because
you were destined to.
You are invisible until
they turn on the Friday
night lights. Here you are —
star before they render
you asteroid. Before they
watch you turn to dust.

Like the songwriting bartender in that tiny tavern off Route 61, our nationalist president knows his audience. He turns everything, even their sports stars, their heroes, to dust. And yet, they cheer.

The president does this, mistakenly, under the guise of patriotism. He does not understand, nor do his crowds, that patriotism and nationalism are diametrically opposed concepts.

As Timothy Snyder writes in his book, On Tyranny, a “nationalist encourages us to be our worst, and then tells us we are the best … endlessly brooding on power, victory, defeat, revenge.”

At an invitation-only speech at Georgetown Law School, Attorney General Jeff Sessions carried the president’s message forward, suggesting NFL players come up with more palatable means to bring attention to their issues of racial injustice than “denigrating the symbols of our nation.”

We kneel in prayer; we kneel when making the sign of the cross; we kneel in reverence. What is more palatable, more peaceful, than a man on bended knee?

Days later, the president refuses to let it go, tweeting, “The booing at the NFL football game [Monday] night, when the entire Dallas team dropped to its knees, was loudest I have ever heard. Great anger.”

What kind of president encourages great anger?

As if in lockstep, Paul Smith, a volunteer fire chief in Pennsylvania, posted on Facebook that Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, “just added himself to the list of no-good n*ggers” for choosing to remain off the field during Sunday’s national anthem.” And he refused to apologize.

Our nationalist president encourages us to be our deplorable worst. “America has a racial demagogue as president,” writes conservative Michael Gerson. “We play hail to this chief. We stand when he enters the room. We continue to honor an office he so often dishonors.”

Turns out Hillary Clinton was right. There is a basket of deplorables.

Deplorables use the n-word without shame. Deplorables march with torches and chant, “Jews will not replace us.” Deplorables scream “Lock her up!” and taunt reporters who have been penned like animals. Deplorables excoriate black men who take a knee to exercise their First Amendment Rights. Deplorables roundly boo war hero and former POW John McCain.

Deplorables are proud to know all the words to The Watermelon Song. And they have a president. His name is Donald J. Trump.

The Un-American

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Come 3:44 a.m. Sunday, after a full 48 hours on the attack, the president refused to let it go.

“If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our Flag & Country, you will see change take place fast. Fire or suspend!” he tweeted.

From his golf club in Bedminster, NJ —his 64th day at a golf course in 8 months in office — as our fighter jets scrambled along the edge of the DMZ, the president threw one of his characteristic Twitter-tantrums, going after black athletes in the NFL, an NBA superstar, Sen. John McCain, and North Korea’s leader.

So much for Chief of Staff John Kelly’s efforts to ratchet down the rhetoric and bring order.

Saturday morning, one of the NBA’s brightest stars woke to an unprovoked attack from his president. “Going to the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team. Stephen Curry is hesitating, therefore invitation is withdrawn!”

The president then echoed his fiery speech in Alabama the night before. “If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL,or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect…….our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem. If not, YOU’RE FIRED. Find something else to do!”

I have news for the president. Quietly choosing to pass on a visit to the White House is not un-American. Silently taking a knee during our National Anthem, a First Amendment right, is not disrespectful to our country or the American flag.

What is un-American and disrespectful?

1. Dodging the draft.

2. Watching white supremacists march with torches in American streets while insisting some of them are “very nice people.”

3. Brandishing any flag that stood in opposition of our stars and stripes, and lost.

3. Denigrating Sen. John McCain, lifelong public servant and former prisoner-of-war, simply because he disagrees with a proposed healthcare bill.

4. Knowingly propagating a lie (for 7 years) that our first black president was not an American.

5. Asserting that law-abiding, black athletes should be thankful for “the privilege of making millions of dollars.” The privilege? Did these Americans not work tirelessly all their lives to earn those dollars?

Most troubling and, frankly, terrifying, President Trump seems immune to the sage advice of his own intelligence experts and senior military advisers.

As reported on Sep. 22 in The Los Angeles Times, “Trump’s top aides, including national security advisor H.R. McMaster, had argued for months against making the attacks on North Korea’s leader personal, warning it could backfire. But Trump, who relishes belittling his rivals and enemies with crude nicknames, felt compelled to make a dramatic splash in the global forum.”

Evan Osnos, senior foreign policy analyst at The New Yorker, recently highlighted a horrifying statistic. President Trump and Kim Jung Un, both of whom are spoiling for a fight, have only 7 years of experience between them.

From a posh golf club in Bedminster, NJ, at 3:44 a.m., a 71 year-old political novice tweets ill-advised threats at a dangerous regime and law-abiding Americans.

Maybe the president is the one who needs to take a knee.

The Fire and Jemele Hill

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My childhood friend tells a story. Her dad was having coffee with his buddies, down at the diner in south side, when one of them glanced out the smudged plate glass and yelled, “Get a fire extinguisher! Hey Donny, your truck’s on fire.”

Sure enough, small flames curled across the truck’s back window, the window draped with Donny’s now-burning Confederate Flag.

A cook ran out with an extinguisher to douse the flames and, while the flag was a total loss, lucky for Donny not much harm was done to his truck. But he was hoppin’ mad. Some n****r did this, he kept yelling, and he was gonna call the police, by God, and file a report!

Until, as my friend tells it, already laughing, the police car rolled up and two black cops got out. “Dad’s buddies gave him guff about that one for years,” she says.

How many of us have heard stories like this? The my-dad/uncle/grandpa-is-just-a-sweet-old-bumbling-southerner stories that everybody laughs at and nobody calls out, because hey, old Donny’s set in his ways. But of course he’s no racist.

The president has his ways, too, and nobody wants to call him out, even as he doubles-down with his stance on racism in this country, and Charlottesville.

On a Sep. 15 trip to Florida, where he was to spend the day meeting with victims of Hurricane Irma and surveying the mass devastation, the president went back to talking about Charlottesville, where a woman was killed by a white supremacist.

“If you look at what’s going on there,” the president said, “you know, you have some pretty bad dudes on the other side also. Now because of what’s happened since then, with Antifa, you look at really what’s happened since Charlottesville — a lot of people are saying — in fact, a lot of people have actually written, ‘Gee, Trump might have a point.”

The president does not only have a problem with calling out hate groups, he has a problem admitting that he was wrong about Charlottesville, and so he continues, a good month later, to scramble in justifying his original position.

A position that is, unarguably, wrong.

Meanwhile, back at the White House, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders called for the firing of ESPN’s Jemele Hill, a black sports anchor who posted on her personal Twitter account, “Donald Trump is a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself w/ other white supremacists.”

Ms. Hill was publicly shamed and reprimanded by ESPN. She was forced to issue an apology. But that was not, it seems, enough for the White House, with the president tweeting, “ESPN is paying a really big price for its politics (and bad programming). People are dumping it in RECORD numbers. Apologize for untruth!

And from behind her podium with the presidential seal, Ms. Sanders piled on—“That’s one of the more outrageous comments that anyone could make, and certainly something that I think is a fireable offense.”—calling for the firing of Ms. Hill, a private citizen.

As misfortune would have it, another prominent woman also made headlines within hours of Ms. Hill for calling out the president. In her answer to a question about white supremacists in Charlottesville, blonde, ivory-skinned, beauty contestant Miss Texas said without pause, “I think that the white supremacist issue was very obvious, that it was a terrorist attack and I think that President Donald Trump should have made a statement earlier, addressing the fact and in making sure all Americans feel safe in this country. That is the number one issue right now.”

The audience cheered Miss Texas. You go girl! One headline read, “Miss Texas blasts Donald Trump, wins fans everywhere.”

Funny. Unlike with Ms. Hill, no one called for the firing of Miss Texas. No one requested an apology. Not even the president’s press secretary, or the president himself.

We can go along, like we do, pretending the president is just a sweet old 71 year-old, set in his ways. We can fly our Confederate Flags and pretend they are about “southern pride” and not about intimidation and supremacy, about showing who owns this country, who gets fired, and who does not.

Or we can start calling it like we see it.

Ms. Hill, like all Americans, has the First Amendment right to speak her mind, to call out the president when he continues to insist there are “pretty bad dudes” on both sides.

And maybe, like that offensive flag flying in the back window of Donny’s truck, it’s time we stop waiting for the fire by laughing it off.

Shine on, Trump voters, shine on

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Rest easy, Trump voters. Eight months into the Trump presidency, everything is fine. Your longterm future shines bright.

Democrats remain in post-election disarray, concocting meaningless slogans like “A Better Deal,” gloating over a three-month deal with the president, and bickering amongst themselves while Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton take their book tours on the road.

This should be good news for Republicans, but they have little to cheer about. Party leaders McConnell and Ryan have been rendered impotent by their own president, and the far-right Freedom Caucus continues to muck up the gears as moderates like Pennsylvania’s Charlie Dent throw up their frustrated hands and retire from service.

Breitbart’s Steve Bannon, the president’s primary advisor both during and after the campaign, said his goal was to “deconstruct the administrative state.”

Was that just a fancy way of saying “destroy our democracy?”

I mean, who cares if Russia interfered in our election, am I right? Trump won and then went about dismantling the cyber security agency that might investigate such a thing and keep it from happening again.

Russia Russia Russia. We are so very bored, bored senseless it turns out, with all things Russia.

But everything is fine.

The president’s 30-something daughter and her husband have offices in the West Wing. Born into blistering wealth and with zero experience at governing, they serve as senior advisors to the president. We are so lucky. I know I sleep better at night knowing that, if the red phone rings at three a.m., Ivanka and Jared are right there handy.

Nazis and white supremacists march down our streets carrying torches and Confederate flags, chanting, “Jews will not replace us.” But they are well-dressed Nazis, bless their hearts, in pressed khakis and white polos. Good people, the president says, on all sides.

There’s the travel ban, the Muslim ban, the transgender-in-the-military ban, and the ban on Dreamers because all men, it seems, are no longer created equal, no matter that pesky opening line in the Declaration of Independence.

We love a ban, so long as you don’t ban the thing we love most in the whole wide world: GUNS.

Everything is fine, just fine.

Politicians with no science background have been nominated and/or put in charge of agencies like the Department of Energy, which houses our nuclear program, and NASA, which makes perfect sense because who in their right mind would put scientists in charge science?

The head of the Environmental Protection Agency has eliminated almost 2,000 web pages of public information on subjects like (that hoax known as) climate change and stopped collecting data on oil and gas emissions. I’m sure companies like Exxon Mobile will choose, out of the goodness of their hearts, our health over profits when they get the chance.

And let’s not forget the pardon of Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Arizona, a man who described his jail as a concentration camp, where he refused to look into hundreds of sex-crime cases of underage girls, where a woman was forced to give birth in handcuffs, and where prisoners often died in heat that could reach 130 degrees.

Sheriff Joe, friend of the president and fellow birther, the law-and-order man convicted by the courts of defying … wait for it … the law.

Mexico ain’t payin’ for The Wall and Crooked Hillary won’t ever be locked up, but boy howdy isn’t the president doing a bang-up job of making America great again?

In the upcoming October issue of The Atlantic, David Frum writes, “The thing I got most wrong is that I did not anticipate the sheer chaos and dysfunction and slovenliness of the Trump operation.”

The thing I got most wrong? How ineffective our Congressional checks and balances would be, how gullible Trump voters would remain, and how quickly everyday Americans would throw up their hands.

Trump 2020 is alive and well, and already winning.

Broken American Home

 

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Jim Morin – The Miami Herald

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One night in late-summer, long after we’d finished supper on our screened porch with my visiting dad and stepmother, I heard Dad say with blunt force, “Want to know why your mom and I got divorced?”

I was 31. They’d been divorced 23 years. “No, actually, I don’t,” I said. Crickets sawed their songs like a chorus in the near woods as I stacked our dirty plates and checked a swelling urge to tell him that I knew, of course I knew, had always known, about her and about him.

Newsflash: the kids always know.

On my darkened porch, Dad took an extra-long drag off his Marlboro, and the familiar glow of ashes lit his frustrated face. “On that note,” I said, pushing back my patio chair, “I’m going to bed. Sleep well. See y’all in the morning.”

If you grew up in a broken home, you likely recognize this scene and others like it. Our American family feels broken in much the same way, punctuated with exclamation points in the president’s Twitter feed as he says, Let me tell you my side of the story! while dismantling our lives.

Brick by brick, President Trump is trying to tear down what Mr. Obama built. The trade deal? Canceled. The climate pact? Forget it. Cuba? Partially reversed. Health care? Unresolved, but to be repealed if he can navigate congressional crosscurrents…. Mr. Trump has made clear that if it has Mr. Obama’s name on it, he would just as soon erase it from the national hard drive.”

Obama leaving the presidency to Trump feels like mom left, Dad got the house, and we are all helplessly stuck there with him and his jealous rage, watching as he tears down everything she ever built. Just to spite her.

On his Labor Day weekend trip to the hurricane-ravaged south, the president started off praising relief efforts but, as usual, devolved into a chance to mock the media. “I hear the Coast Guard saved 11,000 people, almost 11,000 people, by going into winds that the media would not go into.”

The media, who went into the winds and reported from helicopters and rescue boats. The media, who stood for days in e-coli-infested waters to bear witness to the suffering and devastation. Local media, who left their families and drowning homes and waded through miles of flooding to do their jobs.

All as their president mocked them.

He can’t seem to help himself. Vengeance overwhelms. It’s like he’s screaming, “Want to know why your mom and I got divorced?!” on a never-ending loop as we push back our patio chairs, exhausted by the president’s constant need to lay blame everywhere but at his own feet.

In Hurricane Harvey’s aftermath, as flood waters refuse to abate, toxins poison the water, and communities struggle to put themselves back together, the president is doubling-down on disaster, announcing his intent to shut down DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), an Obama program to protect immigrant children.

His inexplicably cruel and untimely announcement comes as the body of 31 year-old Alonso Guillen, a DACA recipient, washes ashore, four days after he drowned while volunteering to rescue fellow, stranded Americans.

By all accounts, DACA is a success. The average recipient came to this country at age six, none have criminal records, 91% are employed, and they pay $500 to renew their status every two years, amounting to $800M in revenue.

DACA’s downfall rests on a singular fact: it was Obama’s idea and, therefore, must be decimated.

DACA children, much like the children in a broken home, are left to watch in fear, powerless, as one vengeful parent uses them to teach the other a lesson.

On a late-summer day, the president, anxious to get out his side of the story, tweeted, “After reading the false reporting and even ferocious anger in some dying magazines, it makes me wonder, WHY? All I want to do is #MAGA!”

Newsflash, Mr. President. We know the story. We are living it.

The question is, do you know the damage your constant, divisive rhetoric inflicts upon our broken American family? And more importantly, do you have the capacity to care?