Wednesday, July 25, 2018

A Letter to America

I don’t understand. 

Donald Trump continues to attack our government agencies and institutions, our neighbors in Canada and Mexico, our allies in NATO and the European Union, bipartisan congressional efforts to protect the Dreamer kids born in this country, and steps to control the climate crisis—devastating storms and fires we all know are getting worst every season. He’s defended white nationalists and taken children—even babies and toddlers from their immigrant parents, families seeking asylum in the United States because their lives in their home country is at brutal risk—children removed without a plan to return them. He’s making a great effort to convince us that Russia and North Korea are now ‘competitors’ and friendly partners for world peace and the countries we’ve stood by for 70 years are now unappreciative ‘foes.’

For many Americans, about 40% to be exact, Donald Trump is rebuilding the American economy. Wages and job openings have increased. He’s insisting that companies build and operate in America and he's stood up to China about unfair trade tariffs. I can see why support for his economic approach is substantial. I can even see why his push for a conservative Supreme Court promises a return to middle America—the America of the 1950s when ‘aberrant’ norms weren’t a part of the American landscape—abortion was unacceptable, most gay, lesbian, transgender equality were closeted, welfare rolls were controllable, and let’s be honest: white people dominated in a way that left non-white people inferior and unprotected. 

Donald Trump promises a return to those times. He bashes illegal immigrants and liberal judges and the press who warns against him and he divides us into legitimate and illegitimate Americans. He offers permission to criticize and taunt people who look or believe differently, even those who dare to wear a tee shirt with the Puerto Rico flag on it, or who insist on a humane immigration that maintains the country’s safety and  border control but also recognizes the need and value of immigrants to our society.

I grew up in the Fifties. It was a time when I walked three blocks to and from school and  safely left my house each summer morning, came home for lunch, and left again until suppertime. My parents didn’t worry about my safety because there was no need. 

It was a time when churches offered sanctuaries and protections to refugee families who came to America; the State of the Union speeches and the President’s proclamations were more or less respected, and Democratic and Republican members of Congress routinely faced problems and passed bills together. 

It was a time when most of the families I knew—most white—had a mother and a father and had a chance at owning their own house. 

It was a time when manufacturing offered skilled jobs a time before the Information Age of computers and cell phones and cyber security. 

I hear a lot of reasons why he has support: Hillary was an ineffective candidate (mostly true); immigrants take American jobs and depress wages (not true), other countries take advantage of us (mostly not true). I can accept concerns along these lines; I can even understand and agree with the actual facts that contradict my own beliefs.

But folks, something’s brewing that you won’t see coming until it’s on top of you. Our democracy—the norms that follow the rule of law, the premise that America helps welcomes those in need, the belief that people are created equal— sooner or later, you’ll have to face that Donald Trump is systematically, and cleverly, trying to convince us that if we don’t circle our wagons, we’re screwed. If our Congress and ourselves allow him to govern as a one-man show, with his obvious flaws of narcissism and racism and willingness to take extreme positions, even if they hurt people, even if they include a threat to blow up the people of North Korea or denounce our legal system of amnesty—our country may survive in the long run, but it will no longer be the country you know. 

So what does that mean? Well, it means our friends in the world—Canada, France, England, Germany—are reduced to transactional competitors: friendship will not be based on shared values but on financial deals. 

It means Americans will be repudiated and disliked, to the point that international business and vacation travel will be unsafe. It means our country will benefit from selling arms to rogue and oppressive nations. It means the NRA will control the proliferation of guns and our schools, our shopping malls and movie theaters—our children—will be the targets of mass murderers. It means that slowly but surely, you will start to see people with dark skin as threats and they will no longer feel safe in our country. It means our judiciary and press and national security agencies will be questioned and criticized and you won’t know what or who to believe any longer. 

There’s more, of course. I remember when I lived in Germany, I asked the German husband of my American friend how and why his parents allowed Hitler to exterminate the Jews. “It didn’t start off that way,” he said, “And when they realized what was happening, their own lives were at risk if they dared speak up. So they didn’t, at least not publicly.”

Is this where America is headed? Possibly. Probably not, not to the extreme of Nazi Germany, but possibly. If our Congress doesn’t act, and the Democratic party doesn't offer a concrete plan for immigration and border control and job growth and international relationships, and more of our citizens don’t vote, it will be up to a man who believes that all of life and human goodness is about money and transactions and deals, a man who is poorly read, who discards history, who compliments tyrants and betrays allies, who believes in white supremacy—to build America in his image.

I know some of Donald Trump’s supporters—his ‘base,” agree with him, but I also know the vast majority of Americans do not, even those who support his Presidency know by now who he really is. 

We have to get past the vehement thinking of each other as bleeding heart liberals or  cold hearted conservatives. I don’t know exactly how we do that, but the country’s in danger. Recognizing that danger is a first and essential step. The second step is taking the time to sort the truth from the lies. That’s a stressful and depressing and time-consuming thing to have to do, but I can’t think of a more important time to care enough. Yes it hurts to be bombarded with the Trump Reality Show every day and yes it’s understandable to stop believing anything from any source. 

But the alternative is bad. Possibly, really bad. 

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Thursday Thirteen on Saturday

1. I'm in the right place this summer.

I live at the very tip of this peninsula, in Provincetown on Cape Cod, a town which is currently bustling with happy people enjoying the beaches and restaurants and plenty of outrageous  entertainment. It's a magical place to live, really--the way the light bounces off the ocean and bay, and small enough that it's not hard to understand what community means.

2. Why have I stopped drawing?!

3. This girl has a birthday this week. Imagine, I've known her from the very moment she was born. Sometimes I have to pinch myself that she's an adult, with four children of her own. super smart and creative. She can have my eyes, my time, anything she needs. xo

4. JB: you can see the kindness in her face. We've been together 33 years: up, down, around, and still standing and filled with love.

 5. Another sketch. I need to draw again.

6. And Emily V. V. Rabbit. She used to write and complain and whine on this blog frequently. She's been arrested at least twice, forcing me to post bail with no promise of staying out of more trouble.  The last I heard she was in Southern California trying to make jellybean money by selling avocados as weapons against mean people.  I hope she shows up again here. I miss her attitude.

7. I had an eight year old client who during a therapy session wanted to make a birthday card for her best friend. I didn't have the heart to point out her mistake....

8. Thanks to JB volunteering to temporarily helping the motel a block away by setting up the breakfast buffet for guests, we are graciously allowed to use the saline/fresh water pool all summer. This is a big deal! It's barely a block away, the water is refreshing, I get to exercise, and
the lounge chairs are comfy. We'll go often.

9. This weekend 3 dear friends will come to Provincetown from miles away and we will spend a
couple of days and nights chatting and eating and probably making some art. What's unique about
our friendships is that we all met right here on the blogs. Lo from California, Marianne from
the Netherlands, Mim from central Massachusetts. These are now precious permanent relationships and we'll have a blast together.

10. I'm only going to say that Donald Trump and his administration have shamed America and irreparably harmed the 3000 children they took from their parents. Horrible and wrong.

11. Our pup Mattie is a great dog. It's so great to have her in our family. JB and I love her.

12. What a summer ahead! Friends and family all the way into August. Even though I can't stand too long or walk too far, I'm excited by all of it. There's lots to do here in Ptown. It's a hopping happy place.

and finally:

13. I can't explain how I feel about life. I know I don't have regrets and I view that as a huge blessing. I know I want to be kind at every turn. I know I'm opinionated and I actually feel more comfortable about that. I know I got blessed. And I know terrible things can happen. That last part I wish I didn't know.

All in all: mine is a good life, born to be a Lucky Duck.


Tuesday, July 03, 2018


I grew up in a working class city. It seemed that one or two of my classmates were rich, but most of us were lower to middle class. Recently an old classmate posted on Facebook that we shouldn't let our disagreements about Donald Trump affect our affinity for one another. This was posted while children were being removed from their parents at the southern border, and I disagreed. The response was disheartening. Here's the reply I didn't send: 

To My High School Classmates:

If there’s one thing that’s certain, the Trump presidency quickly drew a thick line separating people who support him and others, like me, who are aghast at his policies and beliefs. 

There, that’s out of the way: I oppose everything he stands for. But I wasn’t always this adamant. Even though he easily slipped racist and violent language into his rallies, I figured he’d moderate his views, if only because Presidents make some attempt to represent more than their base supporters.

For the last two weeks, I have been falling asleep each night with escalating concern about the 2000 children who have been removed from their parents. These are kids who fled dangerous countries and trekked across Mexico to apply for family asylum at the southern border of the United States. These are not the children of gang members or rapists or criminals. I don’t know of anyone who is disputing that, not even Donald Trump.

These are also children who will be forever traumatized by this separation. The facilities where they are being held has rules against holding and comforting them, so there are infants and 2 year olds and 4 year olds and 6 year olds, who don’t speak English, who are apart from their parents, and terrified. I don’t know of any childcare worker or mental health professional or parent who is disputing that either. 

Which brings me to my high school classmates:

I left my Waltham High School graduation in 1969 and like everyone else, built my life. I went to college, started a career, got married, bought a house, had a child, made new friends. But my Waltham roots are never far away. My father was a mason and my mother worked at the Waltham Supermarket and our Catholic Church took in immigrant families from war-torn countries and welcomed and sheltered them until they got on their feet. Even as a young kid, I remember feeling proud that my church did that. 

Fifty years later, through Facebook, I’ve reconnected with many of my classmates. How fun to see our families and grandchildren and vacations and talents. I had a disagreement early on in the Trump presidency with someone I very much like about the travel ban, and that was a hard surprise for me. I learned that not everyone saw the situation as I did and I still try to understand perspectives that are different than my own.

I’ve had grave concerns about the rhetoric and attacks on immigrants and Muslims and the free press and the Judiciary and our country’s agencies and allies. I’ve been scared about our withdrawal from the Paris Agreement on climate control and other international treaties. But I don't want to be strident and I don’t mind a fair-minded disagreement about these issues. I understand that people who voted for Donald Trump had have reasons they feel strongly about, and I understand they continue to support his approach to managing the country.

But recently, to witness some of my classmates—most of us Mothers and Grandmothers—support the immediate and mass removal of children from their families—to justify arresting and detaining their parents for a misdemeanor, for attempting to apply for asylum because they fled proven violence and fear in their own countries, and then to blame these parents for having their babies taken away: that has crossed a line that breaks my heart. And honestly, I find supporting Trump’s policy about this practice nothing short of disgusting. 

These 2000 children have not been returned. There is no plan to return them. Their parents haven't been given information about where they are, when or if they can be re-united.

How is it that women with the same roots as me could justify a systematic plan to discourage and punish immigrants by taking their children away from them? We can agree and disagree about how to secure the border, about how many refugees we can allow into our country, about the role of immigration control. But removing babies and children? Indefinitely? Possibly forever? 

I am heartbroken that any of the kids I grew up with, all of us with our immigrant grandparents, would ever argue that THIS policy is right. Justifying it leaves me wondering what’s happened in the last 50 years, since our childhoods and teenage days in Waltham. Why is it that the suffering of these children can’t be first acknowledged, and then protected. Donald Trump is dead wrong on this one—this policy is inhumane. None of us should tolerate it, including the kind and smart and decent people from my own childhood. If you don’t stand up against this, what would make you say enough is enough?