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Teri's Public Library

We were warned, and now we will all pay

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Painting by Hossein Khosrojerdi

In the weeks before the election, a number of traditionally conservative newspapers insisted Donald Trump was not only unqualified for office, but a danger to the republic.

We were warned.

The Arizona Republic said he was not a conservative and not qualified.

The Cincinnati Enquirer wrote, ”Trump is a clear and present danger to our country.”

The Houston Chronicle stated that “his erratic temperament, his dodgy business practices, his racism, his Putin-like strongman inclinations and faux-populist demagoguery, his contempt for the rule of law, his ignorance,” should be disqualifying.

The Dallas Morning News wrote, “Trump’s values are hostile to conservatism. He plays on fear — exploiting base instincts of xenophobia, racism and misogyny — to bring out the worst in all of us, rather than the best. His serial shifts on fundamental issues reveal an astounding absence of preparedness. And his improvisational insults and midnight tweets exhibit a dangerous lack of judgment and impulse control.”

Less than one month in, all of the above has proven true.

Despite his complaints during the campaign about Hillary Clinton’s connections to Wall Street and the wealthy, Mr. Trump’s cabinet appointees read like a who’s-who  of millionaires and billionaires with ties to big banks, like Goldman Sachs.

His first counterterrorism raid went, by most accounts, terribly wrong. Yemeni locals were tipped off to the secret mission by louder-than-normal drone surveillance, a member of Seal Team 6 was killed along with many civilians, including women and children ages 3-13, and the raid ended with the destruction of a $75 million aircraft.

In his first phone call with Vladimir Putin, Mr. Trump informed the Russian president that the 2010 nuclear treaty (known as New START) was a bad deal negotiated by the Obama administration while, according to White House sources, having to place Mr. Putin on-hold to ask his advisors what was in the treaty.

His poorly executed travel ban on refugees from Muslim-majority nations fermented fear and chaos around the world, despite the fact that no refugee has committed an act of terror in this country for decades. And when the courts brought a stop to his executive order, he tweeted his contempt for the rule of law at the “so-called” judge.

First Lady Melania Trump has chosen to remain at their home in New York, costing taxpayers an estimated one million dollars a day.

He calls Mar a Lago “The Winter White House.” Mar a Lago is not his, not his house, not private, not secure. Mar a Lago is an exclusive Florida country club where the wealthy pay for access to our president.

Mr. Trump constantly derided President Obama for playing golf, but Mr. Trump has already spent 3 of his first 4 weekends as president, staying and golfing at his Florida country club.

He doesn’t care for the White House. Too isolated. The towels on Air Force One not soft enough.

With the sudden resignation of National Security Advisor Michael Flynn (after only 23 days on the job), our military commanders are rightly alarmed. General Tony Thomas, the head of Special Ops, told The New York Times, “Our government continues to be in unbelievable turmoil. I hope they sort it out soon because we’re a nation at war. As a commander, I’m concerned our government be as stable as possible.”

Our government is unstable because Mr. Trump is, as we were warned so often before the election, unqualified for the job. A danger to the republic.

Being president of the United States is serious business. It cannot be reduced to impulsive tweets. Sadly, Mr. Trump did not want to be president. He simply wanted to be a bigger star. The biggest star. He wanted to headline stadiums filled with fans, dominate the daily news, increase the value of his brand, pummel the media, and destroy his opponents.

He wanted to win at all costs. And win he did.

Mr. Trump has an insatiable, gluttonous need for stardom. There will be a steep price. And we will all pay.

Valuing the sanctity of life means openness to refugees

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Tangled Figures, a preparatory drawing for Pablo Picasso’s Guernica

Everyday, I pass by a small community church with its automated sign close to the road. The sign reads, in bright red letters and all caps: ALL LIVES ARE SACRED!

The church is about halfway to town, and it’s got a safe, easy spot to slow down and pull over, so this is where I stop if I need to send a text or finish a phone call before I hit one of those dead, cell service spots. This week, with the Muslim travel ban,* I’ve been thinking a lot about the words “all lives” on the church’s sign.

It is hard to get into the United States. Our president talks a lot about extreme vetting, yet he has never defined what, exactly, he means. The fact is our vetting is already extreme. Refugees fleeing war and persecution in their home countries face a rigorous and exhaustive screening process, a process that can take from 18-24 months.

Imagine you are desperately trying to save your family—your newborn, your teenagers, your elderly parents—from certain death and having to wait a year and a half or two to clear all of the investigations and paperwork. But you are willing because your lives depend on it. You do everything that is asked of you. You wait. You hope. You sell everything. You pray. And though you pass every test you’ve been given, the U.S. suddenly invokes an inexplicable, emergency ban telling you that your family are unwanted, unwelcome, and feared.

How devastating to learn that, while church signs in America scream “All lives are sacred!” in big red letters, they are not talking about your life.

The president remains emphatic this new ban is meant to keep us safe. America first! Yet virtually all of our recent attacks have come from homegrown American terrorists.

The Orlando shooter was born in New York. Dylan Roof was a white supremacist born in South Carolina. The Aurora, Colorado theatre shooter was born in San Diego. Even the Boston marathon bombers were from Chechnya (not on the travel ban list).

According to the Cato Institute, in the last 37 years no refugee, Syrian or otherwise, has committed a major terror attack in the United States.

So just how does the president’s ban make us safer?

Last weekend, the president’s poorly implemented ban wreaked havoc around this country and the world. Thousands of lives were affected, sending internationally traveling families into panic, uncertainly, and confusion. Two stories specifically have stuck with me.

One young man waited all day at the Los Angeles airport for the release of his 80 year old Iranian grandmother. She’d already traveled 20 hours, and was then locked in a small room with other detainees for nine hours. She does not speak English. She had no idea what was happening. She was, rightly, terrified. When she was finally released, the young man found out she’d had no food and had been provided only eight ounces of water.

Despite completing all of the required paperwork, an Iranian couple with a four month-old baby scheduled for heart surgery was denied entry into the U.S. The family was already in transit with their sick child, and found out during their layover in Dubai that they were no longer welcome in the United States. They had no choice but to return to Iran.

We often hear Americans make simplistic statements about foreigners, particularly about Middle Easterners. “They hate us for our freedom,” they say. Based on stories like the ones above, I’d argue we don’t give ourselves enough credit. How would you feel if your 80 year-old grandmother were treated this way? Imagine your very sick four month-old baby being denied, completely without reason, the medical care you’ve been promised?

This morning I drove to town, and though I did not need to make a call or send a text, I pulled into the safe spot by the church, stared at the big red letters, and said a prayer.

Because for all our big, blustering talk about our Christian values and “love thy neighbor” and “do unto others” and signs blaring, “All lives are sacred!” we can be excruciatingly cruel. We are failing, as the president would say, bigly.

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* No matter what you choose to call the ban, it’s a Muslim ban. I mean, you can call a goat anything you want, but it’s still a goat.

When women marched, Trump looked small

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While a friend waited with his family in the airport security line, a woman tapped his daughter’s shoulder. “You are just adorable,” she said, “so small and cute.”

The girl grinned, swayed shyly, but her father bristled. “Can you guess her age?” he asked, and when the woman said eleven or twelve, he said, “She’s 23, about to graduate college. She weighs 80 pounds, and we are, this minute, taking her to treatment. Again. Because being small is literally killing her.”

We feel for everyone in this scene—the well-meaning woman, a sick girl, her terrified father at his breaking point—but a cruel truth remains: we reward girls for being small.

In America, size matters. We love our big stadiums, big yards, big screen TVs, and big trucks. Monster Trucks. So it should come as no surprise that our new president is as obsessed with size as we are.

During the campaign he looked down on Little Marco, promised us a big, beautiful wall, pointed to his big brain, and made daily references to the size of his rallies.

And who can forget his still cringe-worthy defense about the size of his … hands.

Now that he’s been sworn in, it’s the size of the crowds. His, and everyone else’s.

In the hours that millions of women and concerned citizens marched in 50 cities and 70 countries—half a million in the streets outside the White House—our President was fuming over media reports about size. The size of his inaugural crowds. They were bigger than Reagan’s! And surely bigger than Obama’s, right? Right?!

He sent his press secretary to the briefing room to lie to reporters that, without question, his crowds were the biggest crowds in inauguration history. Period.

He went to the CIA and stood before the Memorial Wall decorated with the stars of agents who died in service, and railed about his “war with the media.” About their reports on the size of his crowds.

All the while, women and their supporters marched in record numbers, right outside the president’s front door. And he ignored them completely.

I was out of town, so on Saturday I joined up with a group on the streets of San Jose, while a neighbor back home in Kentucky flew to Washington D.C. for the big march. Many Kentucky friends gathered in the streets of Lexington and Louisville with their families. And with my own daughter marching in Chicago, I thought about my friend and his daughter, and about what size means.

Even a simple saying like, “you’re a big boy” conjures power, strength and fortitude. While “you’re a big girl” is more an indictment, a cruel proclamation that you are not only unsightly and unpleasing, but taking up more than your allotted space.

Why did I march? To show girls it is not their job to be pleasing. Or small.

To encourage girls to go big.

On Sunday, our size-obsessed president tweeted before dawn. “Wow, television ratings just out: 31 million people watched the Inauguration, 11 million more than the very good ratings from 4 years ago!”

Seriously, where is his head? Not on jobs or healthcare or our troops. Not on the CIA officers to who died in service, their stars on the wall right behind him. Not on the history-making Women’s March right outside his front door.

Not on we, the people.

On the plane back home to Kentucky, I scrolled through messages and social media and news and marveled at the scenes. Dozens of photos of peaceful, happy crowds. Pink hats and homemade signs for miles.

From San Jose to Chicago to Washington D.C. to Lexington and Louisville, we came out in force. Not to compete with the president’s crowds—who would even think of that?—but to gather. To support our fellow citizens. To protest peacefully. To celebrate women and girls.

Imagine if our new President and First Lady had not only acknowledged the march, but crashed it, grabbed a microphone and said, “We don’t agree with you, but we hear you!”

Imagine the shocked crowd.

Imagine the good will.

Imagine the size, Dear Lord, of the glowing, wall-to-wall press coverage.

In America, size matters. And everything about the Women’s March felt big.

Kentucky’s War on Women

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Here in Kentucky we hear a lot about the war on coal. But this Saturday, during a rare, emergency session that cost tax payers $70,000, I had a front row seat at our State Capitol for our other war. The war on women.

The Senate passed House Bill 2, requiring an invasive, humiliating, intra-vaginal ultrasound for any girl or woman seeking an abortion.

In the House, Senate Bill 5 passed with a vote of 79-15, banning abortion after 20 weeks, in clear violation of the U.S. constitution. While there is a provision to account for the mother’s health and fetal viability, the penalties are set so steep as to intimidate both women and their doctors. Two physicians (unrelated in practice) must sign off, and any mistake in paperwork or procedure runs the risk of felony conviction, loss of license, and potential civil lawsuits and damages.

I had no intention of spending eight hours at the House of Representatives, until I saw this stupefying statement by Senate President Robert Stivers: “One had a choice early on to make a decision to conceive or not. Once conception starts, another life is involved, and the legislature has the ability to determine how that life proceeds.”

Translated:  At conception, even in cases of rape or incest, a woman’s body becomes the property of the Commonwealth.

Women do not cavalierly choose to abort past 20 weeks unless there is something terribly wrong, and 99% of abortions occur well before the 20th week. So why the rush to pass such restrictive legislation on women?

From my seat at the center of the House gallery, I remained silent. In the previous session on worker’s rights, I’d witnessed a coal miner’s daughter hauled out by police for saying, “The GOP hates labor!” so I sat quietly and listened to every argument of the Representatives on the floor. Mostly men. Mostly elderly men sharing long, meandering, personal stories—not stories of their own bodies, of course, but of their wives and mothers—reminding us over and over that “life is a precious gift,” and quoting both related, and often glaringly unrelated, biblical passages.

One Representative, who could possibly use an anatomy lesson, went on at length about the time “Mary carried Jesus in her stomach.”

And yet with all of the talk on the House floor about the sanctity of life and the joy every child brings into this world, there remains this sad reality: all pregnancies are not wanted.

There are currently more than 400,000 children in foster care in the U.S, and Kentucky has more than 7,000 children in foster care.

Thirty states, and D.C., do a better job of placing foster children with families than we do here in Kentucky.

I once tutored a bright, loving foster boy until he turned 18 and aged out of the system. Depressed and alone, with no family and nowhere to go, this boy rose one morning before dawn and threw himself in front of an oncoming train. I promise you there is nothing more lacking in sanctity and joy, no church as empty, as the funeral of a child no one loved, or claimed, or wanted.

There was much talk on the House floor about feeling pain. To our lawmakers in Frankfort, I ask: what is your emergency plan for the 7,000 displaced and unwanted children who are already here, in pain, and suffering?

An intra-vaginal ultrasound is not medically necessary.

A 20-week abortion ban—with no exception for rape or incest, where the father (uncle? brother? cousin?) is afforded the majority of rights, and which offers absolutely no economic, medical, or mental health assistance—is simply a prison sentence for girls and women, parading as healthcare.

Considering the GOP philosophy of less government, less restriction, and less intrusion in our lives, this Saturday’s emergency legislative session to take away women’s rights is both terrifying and insidiously suspect.

This weekend, I had a front row seat for the war. I fear, we should all fear, what comes next.

 

The first mile is the hardest

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January 1st. 37 degrees.

At dawn, I pulled on my husband’s long johns, leashed-up my dog, and drove the 10 miles to the trailhead where I half-walked, half-jogged two loops. Each loop is 1.1 miles.

I always tell myself I’ll just do one loop, one mile, that I’ll see how it goes from there. After the first loop today, I stopped at the car and thought about going home, but instead I got rid of my jacket and gloves, and kept going.

I’m trying something new this year. Setting goals. I don’t mean New Year’s resolutions that I can dread and feel bad about and forget by the end of January. I mean goals. Simple, concrete things I want to have done by the time 2017 comes to a close.

This year, I want to finish writing my book. And I want to run a half-marathon.

I need the goals. I need a written plan. And I need to make some serious changes.

I’m following the lead of the #AmWriting podcast, setting goals I can control, putting them on paper, mapping out the steps I need to take, establishing office hours, and creating deadlines—yes, deadlines—for getting from here to there.

The writers at #AmWriting have a worksheet to help you get started. I was skeptical—I’m always skeptical, but hey, where’s that gotten me?—so I printed out the worksheet and spent about 90 minutes sitting alone in a quiet corner, getting real with myself. I set my goals, but I also had to make some hard admissions.

Sure, I take my dog to the trail almost every morning, but I mostly walk. It’s always too hot or too cold or I’m tired or my hip hurts or blah blah blah. Plus it’s hard to jog, or to even think about jogging, when you’re texting friends and deleting your kind-of-embarrassing Facebook post from last night and scrolling your Twitter feed for the latest breaking, because it’s always breaking anymore, news. You know what I mean.

I write. I write a lot, actually. I even write a political OpEd twice a month for the local paper. But while I take my writing seriously, I don’t take my writing time seriously. I don’t treat writing like a job. I don’t set aside hours. I write when I feel like it. When the mood strikes or when my hair’s on fire. And this election season my hair’s never not been on fire, so writing the OpEd has gotten easy … as long as I don’t read the comments ;).

The hard truth is: you don’t need to disappear into your office to write, to pick up where you left off when you’re not writing anything challenging enough or long enough, like a BOOK, to leave off.

Which brings me to the ridiculously huge distraction of social media.

Only in the morning over coffee? Never right before bed? Turn off notifications during work hours, or altogether? Read but don’t engage? I don’t have a plan yet for how to manage this differently, but I’m working on it.

And last, also from the #AmWriting podcast plan, my word of the year: INWARD.

I’m a natural extrovert, so.

Inward: interior, innermost, private, hidden, veiled, concealed, unexpressed.

In: inside, within, internal, third eye.

Ward: to take care of (myself), protege, charge.

Inwardly: deep down, in one’s own heart of hearts.

It’s time to stop looking for so much outside approval, acceptance, engagement. To spend more time with friends, but a LOT less with acquaintances and social media. To go inward and take the time to dig down for what I really think, before jumping in. To take things in without the need to respond or react or add my two cents.

To leave my phone in the car when I walk (jog! run!) on the trail.

Today at dawn, I pulled on my husband’s long johns.

I wore my husband’s long johns because there are still swimsuits and tank tops and sleeveless dresses hanging on my side of the closet and I have no idea where my long johns, or even my long running pants, are.

The first mile is the hardest. And I have a long way to go. But I am going.

Why we can’t be apathetic about this election

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In June 2009, I spent a week at the U.S. Army War College in Pennsylvania, embedded with 19 colonels from all branches of our military, including one special forces officer who was about to deploy for the seventh time. I’d been invited, along with eight other civilians, for an open exchange of views and ideas, and true to their word there was no such thing as an off-limits topic.

We intensely debated the current wars, all religions, torture, Guantanamo Bay, terrorism domestic and foreign, the First and Second Amendments, the staggering responsibilities of the office of the president, and the state of talk news—specifically FOX and MSNBC and radio blusterers like Rush and Imus—as useless info-tainment.

To that point, our first day opened with then-new President Obama speaking live, from Egypt. When his speech ended and the talking heads appeared, the TV went dark. Someone printed out hard copies of the speech, and the colonels around the table pored over every word from their Commander-in-Chief, parsing, circling, underlining, and check-marking. And for the next hours we weighed and debated every possible interpretation and repercussion.

Because words matter. Particularly every word of the President of the United States.

In the weeks since Donald Trump won the White House, many friends who do not obsess over politics have shared some iteration of this with me: “Why are people so wound up? It doesn’t even matter who wins. It would be the same if Hillary had won. Who cares?”

The first time someone asked this, it was like I’d been hit with a stun gun. How can you not care?!

But as we barrel toward Mr. Trump’s January 20 inauguration, I understand the apathy.

I fiercely disagree, but I understand. After a two-year election cycle, and with the president-elect’s constant gaffes and conflicts of interest and attack-first tendencies, and now the camera trained 24/7 on the lobby of Trump Tower and the gold-gilded door of Mar a Lago, reducing our democracy to a reality TV show, our next president and all that comes with him are, frankly, exhausting.

And it turns out, for all those screaming Never Hillary! and Never Trump!, there also exists a very real, not-so-small, third contingent:  Who cares.

Who cares if it’s him or her, liberal or conservative, experienced or not, hawk or dove, because Washington D.C. is so incredibly broken, nothing gets done that effects my real, everyday life.

I thought immediately of the 19 colonels I’d met eight years ago at the War College, about how generous and thoughtful they were, about the special forces officer deploying for his seventh tour. And not caring felt like a colossal, disrespecting slap. At them. At their families. At what it means fundamentally to be American.

I dug up my notes from June 2009, and there it was. Day one. President Obama’s Egypt speech. Of the dozens of details the colonels extrapolated, one simple, seemingly throw-away observation stood out: “Words matter. The world is listening. He pronounced all the words properly, and that’s huge.”

Which is why we should care. Words are exactly where our president-elect falls dangerously short. It’s like he doesn’t realize his words, every single one of them, matter.

For instance, he spent the last two weeks taking a victory lap, whipping up his crowd of worshippers. “You people were vicious, violent, screaming!” For what purpose? And he has yet to reach out to the millions of Americans who did not vote for him.

He has not, and may never, hold a press conference.

He has time to complain about a comedy show, but he’s not once expressed concern, nor even mentioned, the women and children being massacred in Aleppo.

He tells us, tells the world, he has no patience for intelligence briefings, no time for information gathered by the men and women who risk their lives—THEIR LIVES— to obtain it.

He carelessly tweets insults and barbs at a Union Leader in Indiana, Vanity Fair, past opponents, China.

He carelessly tweets.

At China.

As those dedicated patriots at the War College noted, “Words matter. The world is listening,” and our president-elect’s words–tweets and all–matter.

His words are taken literally and seriously. As they should be. His words can send our children, and our grandchildren, to their deaths in war.

We owe it to each other to remain informed, to use our voices, to protest.

To care.

It was a gold year

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In 2016, there was a gold man who lived in a gold house, and he would Make America Great Again! A man who said, “the beauty of me is that I’m very rich.” A man who vowed to build a wall and make Mexico pay for it. A man who mocked a handicapped man for the cameras and spun-up his crowds with screams to “Lock her up!”

A man who refused to release his tax returns while saying not paying taxes “makes me smart.” A man who insists he’s never read a book and doesn’t need intelligence briefings because he has “a very good brain.”

A man who crowed, “How stupid are the people of Iowa?!” in Iowa.

In 2016, there was a gold man who lived in a gold house, and he would Make America Great Again! A man who owned a university until court records revealed a “fraudulent scheme, and that it preyed upon the elderly and uneducated to separate them from their money.” A man who said he could command his TV show, his companies, and the country at the same time and not waste his weekends in the Oval Office.

A man who compared the sacrifices of running his gold-plated business to those of a Gold Star family whose son got blown to pieces being a hero in Iraq. A man who said, “I know more about ISIS than the generals do,” and “our military is a disaster.”

A man who spent seven long years goading our first black President to show his birth certificate, demanding his papers like he was a runaway slave.*

In 2016, there was a gold man who lived in a gold house, and he would Make America Great Again! A man who did not understand the First Amendment and said about the free press, “With me, they’re not protected, because I’m not like other people” and threatened to sue if they wrote unflattering stories about him.

A man who wrapped himself in the glory of the Second Amendment, suggesting his opponent might get shot, “If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is. I don’t know.”

A man who wanted to do away with the Fourth Amendment, tweeting “stop-and-frisk works!”

A man who scoffed at the Eighth Amendment, “Look, I think we have to change our law on the waterboarding thing.”

A man who mocked our Fourteenth Amendment, guaranteeing citizenship for those born here, “Mexico and almost every other country anywhere in the world doesn’t have that. We’re the only ones dumb enough, stupid enough to have it.”

In 2016, there was a gold man who lived in a gold house, and he would Make America Great Again! A man who bragged about grabbing women’s pussies, because “when you’re a star you can do anything.” A man who threatened to sue and ruin any woman who dared accuse him of assault. A man who snickered, ”I moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn’t get there, and she was married. Then all of a sudden I see her, she’s now got the big phony tits and everything.”

And there was a Hollywood TV host who lost his job for this “locker room talk” while the gold man who did most of the talking got the biggest job in the land.

In 2016, there was a gold man who lived in a gold house, and he would Make America Great Again! A man who said in a 1991 interview, “You know, it really doesn’t matter what they write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass.” A man who said, in an interview the following year, while ogling a ten year old girl as she rode the escalator. ”I’m going to be dating her in ten years. Can you believe it?”

A man who said to a woman on his TV show, “Must be a pretty picture, you dropping to your knees.”

In 2016, there was a gold man who lived in a gold house, and he would Make America Great Again! A man who so unrelentingly heckled a young female reporter, his enraged audience turned on her and Secret Service had to escort her to her car. A man who warned an accomplished journalist, “I almost released my beautiful Twitter account against you, and I still might.”

A man who stood on stages and called his opponents Little Marco, Lyin’ Ted, Crooked Hillary, Low Energy Jeb, Crazy Bernie, Goofy Elizabeth Warren, Pocahontas. A man so thin-skinned he lashed out at those who made jokes about him on a TV show, because he’s a man who can dish it out but can’t take it.

In 2016, there was a gold man who lived in a gold house, and he would Make America Great Again!

A man who said, “Believe me,” “I have the most loyal people, where I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters, okay.”

And in that one sentence the people heard everything they wanted to hear about their God (believe!) and their guns (shoot somebody!) and prosperity (5th Avenue!) and winning (wouldn’t lose!).

And the people were loyal.

And they put the gold man in the White House.

* credit to Colson Whitehead.

Redefining truth in Trump’s America

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Pamela Kim, 2004

A few months after my son got his driver’s license, he rolled our truck down a tree bank on a remote, backroad. The truck landed softly on its hood, and he was able to crawl out the window, uninjured. “Stay put,” I said when he called. “I’ll be there as soon as I call a tow truck.”

By the time I arrived, there were two cop cars, lights flashing, and my son was giving a police report. I panicked, sure something else must have gone terribly wrong, so I pulled my son aside and asked why the police were there. “I called 911,” he said, matter-of-fact. “You always told me if I had an accident to tell the police exactly what happened, to just tell the truth.”

We’ve been told we are in post-truth America, where what we believe, where our emotional reaction, takes precedent over proof and fact. This year the Oxford Dictionary declared “post-truth” the international word of 2016, citing a 2,000% increase in use over 2015.

We try to teach our kids the value of telling the truth. In fact, we tell them they will be in more trouble for lying about something they did wrong, than for the wrong itself. We casually quote cliches like, “The truth shall set you free.” But what we say about the truth isn’t even the truth anymore.

What value, then, is truth? How do we teach our children the value of the truth in a post-truth America, where we not only lie, but we lie about lying? America, where the worst offender is the president elect and his staff.

The election is over. Mr. Trump clearly won. Yet he insists, with zero evidence, that he “won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.” And to further muddy the waters, our vice president elect, when asked if it is Mr. Trump’s right to make false statements, replies with a shrug, “Well, it’s his right to express his opinion.”

Note: in post-truth America, an opinion with zero evidence to back it up is the truth.

Over the weekend, Mr. Trump insisted the President of Taiwan—an unrecognized leader of an unrecognized country—called him simply to congratulate him on winning the presidency. And yet we’ve now learned the call was pre-arranged by Mr. Trump’s team. We’ve learned his designated chief of staff traveled to Taiwan last fall as part of a delegation. We’ve learned an agent of the Trump Organization took a September business trip to Taiwan to, reportedly, discuss a potential real estate project.

Note: in post-truth America, irrefutable facts (calendars, travel documents, phone records) are irrelevant if you double-down, if you lie about the original lie.

Mr. Trump’s national security advisor floats a conspiracy theory—a conspiracy theory being a lie—that Comet Ping Pong, a family pizza place in Washington D.C., is nothing but a front for “money laundering,” “child exploitation,” and “sex crimes with minors.” All of these charges have been debunked, and yet because of the continued allegations the owners are dealing with death threats and harassment. This weekend a gunman, acting on these lies, entered the restaurant as innocent parents dined with their innocent children.

Note: in post-truth America, the national security advisor to the president can propagate, without consequence, lies that endanger Americans.

At 8:52 this morning, the president elect tweeted, “Boeing is building a brand new 747 Air Force One for future presidents, but costs are out of control, more than $4 billion. Cancel order!”

The Boeing contract is only three weeks old, and only $165M has been paid. There is no $4 billion cost overrun, and the CEO of Boeing, who certainly had better things to do today, spent his morning getting out a statement to correct the president elect’s false claims.

Note: the president elect’s false claims, also known as lies.

But do we even care, in post-truth America? Isn’t this all just … exhausting?

At the scene of my son’s accident, after the police had gone and the tow truck disappeared down the road, I tried to explain the nuances of truth-telling to my teenaged son, that sometimes it’s not as clear as it should be.

“You don’t have to call the police for a minor, one-car accident with no injuries,” I started. “But now the police are required to file their report with the state, resulting in points on your license and an increase in our car insurance.”

My son stared out the window, silent. Maybe he was still shaken by the rollover. Or maybe he was, as we are now, wrestling with the new supposed definitions of truth. Because what is the truth, anyway, if we can’t be bothered to call out the most blatant and destructive of lies?

In the Bible, the ninth commandment clearly states, “Do not testify false witness.” But if it’s okay for the president elect and his staff, how do we explain the difference to our kids?

Post-truth is the word of 2016. And if the grownups need the Oxford Dictionary to redefine lies, and lying about lying, and what the truth means, we are nothing. We are lost.

Lost, in post-truth America.

The Bully now has a Presidential Pulpit

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Art by Max Shearburn

In the last scene I witness firsthand, my mother is leaning back in her rocker about to take a breathing treatment. Her husband stomps past me on his way through the kitchen and hurls a carton of Marlboro 100’s into my mother’s gut. Go ahead, he screams, do it. Smoke them all. You know you want to!

My mother will be dead of emphysema in four months. We know to go quiet, to let her husband rant on because, after 20 years of this, we’ve learned our lesson. After a good hour of abuse we are at the kitchen table spooning up casserole, pretending nothing happened as he tap-tap-taps my mother playfully with his elbow. Aw boober, he says, using the nickname she hates, I know you’re sorry, you can say it.

This is what it’s like to live with a bully.

Which is why this scene came to mind as I watched the President Elect’s tweet-storm unfold over Hamilton and Saturday Night Live this weekend. It was textbook. The unreasonable rant. The hyper-focus. The inability to let it go. A powerful man going off the rail over nothing and then demanding apologies from the very people he’s insulted and demeaned.

So much for feeling the weight of the oval office. So much for becoming presidential.

Instead of wasting his time tweeting and bullying theatre and TV stars, maybe the President Elect could talk to us. Remember us, the 300+ million people counting on you to be our leader?

What is your plan to bring jobs back, cut our taxes, retool healthcare? Could you grab a camera and disavow the KKK? Call for an end to the violent targeting of minorities that’s gone mainstream since your election? When might you explain how you’ll avoid ethics conflicts—like the ones you pilloried Hillary Clinton with—between your businesses and the presidency? And hey, what happened to “Build that wall!” and “Lock her up!”?

But the President Elect is so busy lashing out on Twitter, I’m starting to wonder if he’s forgotten his many promises, forgotten us. We, the people.

This weekend a friend asked why I’m so concerned, terrified, about our new President Elect. Is it his inexperience in governing, his possible incompetence?

It is not. What scares me is his dangerously thin skin. How easily distracted he becomes with a perceived personal slight. His tendency to bully from the pulpit. The way his inner circle explains him away.

He’s not really like that, they assure us. That’s not who he is. He’s a good guy, believe me.

The same assurances my mother gave. For 20 years.

There’s the saying, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them,” and yet it’s been stupefying to watch the President Elect’s surrogates, no matter how horrifying his rhetoric, rally around. They told us to ignore his mocking of a handicapped journalist. They said he didn’t mean anything in shaming a Gold Star family. They laughed about the childish name-calling of his political opponents. They brushed off his attacks on news organizations who dared report an unflattering story.

Last month, the New York Times updated their still-growing list of “The 282 people, places and things Donald Trump has insulted on Twitter,” since declaring his candidacy for president.

Let me repeat that. For president.

If you’ve lived with a bully, you see the signs right off. I recall my mother’s husband who, after church every Sunday, would take the helm of our breakfast table to rant and rage about how all politicians and niggers and spics should be lined up and shot down with machine guns; how the fancy women on TV were nothing but dressed-up whores; how those fags with AIDS got what they deserved. Put them on an island somewhere, he liked to say, and set it on fire.

Imagine what he could have done with a Twitter account.

Fox News journalist Megyn Kelly reported last week that, just prior to a debate, Mr. Trump heard she would be asking him a tough question and threatened to unleash his “beautiful Twitter account” against her. And unleash he did. For weeks. Which seemed to open a floodgate for others to do the same, and Ms. Kelly’s mailbox filled with obscenities and death threats, with Mr. Trump’s own lawyer retweeting a message saying “we can gut her.”

The bullying continued until a Fox news executive called Mr. Trump’s lawyer to explain that Megyn Kelly ending up dead would not help his client.

All because she asked him a tough question.

The world is watching. The bully has his pulpit. And like my mother’s husband what scares me most, what should scare all of us, is his dangerously thin skin.

But that’s not who he is. He’s a really good guy, believe me.

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