A Personal Farewell to the Obamas

I’m not going to try to kid anybody, least of all myself, tonight, about 36 hours before we walk into an uncertain but certainly unsettling future as the new administration takes the wheel of our Ship of State.

I’m sadder than I expected to be, disheartened and feeling adrift in this strange new sea.

A big part of that is just watching the Obamas pack up and leave. This handsome, dignified, honorable and thoughtful family are about to be replaced by God knows what. I feel the way I remember feeling when dear friends moved across the country leaving a big hole in my family’s life. The Obamas became friends over these past eight years, people you’d want to sit down with and have a cup of coffee, or invite over for chili on a winter’s night, or ask to be godparents for your first born. They – and the Bidens – were folks, the best kind of folks, and I, like so many others, am going to miss them on a personal level.

But it’s not just that the Obamas are leaving the White House. I’m sad for another reason, too, and that reason is the feeling, made clearer every day, that there are many fewer people in Washington, DC tonight who really care about this country or, especially, about the dignity that goes with the American presidency. Far fewer people who understand that pulling our country apart could leave us with permanent injuries from which we won’t recover.

I promised myself not to watch or read too much more of the blustery antics of Donald Trump, but I got interested this week in tuning in for some of the interviews with his candidates for the cabinet. It was a mistake to do this as my heart kept sinking as I listened to some of the answers, or non-answers, when I looked at the ages and “qualifications” of many of these people for the offices they’ll hold.

My therapist told me years ago that it’s important not to confuse money with love. They’re not the same thing. It seems to me that Donald Trump has confused money with quality. And he’s drafted a cohort of those who live in the same confused state.

Look, I know I’m an idealist. I also know that the world doesn’t operate that way much of the time. But I also know quality when I see it. I had my own business for many years and had terrific mentors who had money but were also rich in quality. They made sure I understood that the best of the best always want to take the high road. That integrity matters. That the words E.M. Forster wrote in his “Three Cheers for Democracy” are true.

“I believe in aristocracy, though — if that is the right word, and if a democrat may use it. Not an aristocracy of power, based upon rank and influence, but an aristocracy of the sensitive, the considerate and the plucky. Its members are to be found in all nations and classes, and all through the ages, and there is a secret understanding between them when they meet. They represent the true human tradition, the one permanent victory of our strange race over cruelty and chaos. Thousands of them perish in obscurity, a few are great names. They are sensitive for others as well as themselves, they are considerate without being fussy, their pluck is not swankiness but power to endure, and they can take a joke.”

I’ve been listening to jazz tonight as I ponder these coming days. I agree with the fellow who said about jazz, “The music never lets you down.” And I agree with Billie Holiday, too, and hold her advice in my heart as we take these next steps: “Pray for the future, hope for the best.”

To Barack and Michelle, Sasha and Malia, Joe and Jill, I say with affection, “We love you. We’re going to miss you. And, above all, Thank you for your service.”

Richie Rich and his Sledge Hammer

I’m already tired of Donald Trump as President and he’s not even President yet. He just thinks he is, and thinks the rest of the country should think he is, too.

Trump is getting ahead of himself, and I could draw an unfortunate metaphor from that regarding other times when he might be premature, but this is a family post, so I’ll let you do the drawing.

I begin to think that the next four years will be more than a slog for those of us who can barely tolerate the mention of Trump’s name let alone the unceasing inclusion of his unpleasant face in story after story on the Internet and in the print papers that still exist.

The stories about why Donald Trump is the way he is – tweeting, whining, blasting, ignoring, bragging, threatening, insulting, grabbing, blithering, lying – say clearly that we’re stuck with an insecure combative brat. Four years is a long time for America to keep expending energy trying to change anything with this egomaniac.

Nobody with any possible power or leverage seems able – or willing – to make a dent in Trump’s cheesy gold-plated armor. I have yet to figure out why and have stopped trying. There’s more to this country than pacifying one overweight crying baby day and night. We have lives to live, work to do, music to play, art to create, stories to write, songs to sing, gardens to tend, homeless to feed, kids to hug and more.

So I say, give the jackass what he wants. Stop arguing with him. He’s going to keep throwing tantrums until he gets what he wants anyway, so why waste any more time or energy trying to avoid the foregone conclusion.

The Republicans are pretty smug these days apparently happy that they have invited Richie Rich, the Bully-in-Chief, to their party. But when they realize that Richie Rich came to that party with a sledge hammer and is using it to destroy all their toys, even Richie Rich won’t be invited back.

And since the Republicans don’t seem to care enough to stop the carnage or demonstrate any real concern for our country, they can kiss any chance to elect another president in this century goodbye.

My New Year’s Resolution: “If They Can’t Take a Joke…”

I had a small epiphany last night as I watched the happy scene in Times Square with thousands of happy people celebrating New Year’s Eve.

Many of us are worried about the new administration and the mayhem it may create in our country and our lives. My inbox has been full of messages recently from friends concerned about the future. And I’ve had my own 4:00 a.m. time checks wondering, wondering, wondering.

But last night as I watched that scene and remembered my own days in New York, I had just one thought: Donald Trump does not own New York. It belongs to all those happy celebrating people even if they came half way around the world to be there.

Donald Trump owns a lot of real estate, but it doesn’t include the whole of New York City and it doesn’t include our country either. He may act as if he owns it all, but it’s up to us to remind him, loudly and often, that he does not.

And that’s my personal New Year’s resolution: Keep reminding Donald Trump he is temporarily President of the United States, not the Emperor. And definitely not the owner.

Bullies are mean and more than a little scary. But there are a few things that unsettle bullies, especially ones with big egos and bank accounts, and those things include humor and genuine creativity and generous spirits. These will be our tools to keep Donald Trump and his mean-spirited corporate cohort in its place.

Artists, writers, musicians, dancers, actors and anyone else with a creative bone in his or her body will sing and speak and write and paint and dance and play the truth to keep our Ship of State on an even keel over the next four years.

We’ll remind Donald Trump, Inc. that this country, warts and all, is already great – not perfect, but great. We’ll do it with our generous spirits and humor. I’m serious about this, friends, and our guiding motto will come from the one and only Bette Midler:

“If they can’t take a joke, fuck ’em!”

Happy 2017…it can be better than we thought…

Standing Tall in an Open Boat

A Christmas message to Donald Trump:

I have just been reading about George Washington’s trip across the Delaware River December 25-26, 1776, a dangerous and fraught trip in the freezing December weather. Young Washington not only led the movement of a couple of thousand men, but artillery and the horses needed to pull it.

We all learned a little about George Washington in grade school and a little more as the years went by. We’ve seen the famous painting of Washington crossing the Delaware. But I thought a little reminder about the courage of our Founding President would be good on this Christmas day 240 years later when you and your billionaire friends are luxuriating in one kind of warm splendor or another while dreaming sweet dreams of “making America great again.”

Mr. Trump, you have no idea.

If you want to demonstrate your sincerity in that statement, I suggest you walk across the marble lobby and out the door of whichever gold-plated palace you’re in today, head back to New Jersey, round up 2,400 of your best friends, teams of horses, heavy artillery and get them all into small open boats to cross the Delaware River in the dead of a freezing winter night. You’ll be in the lead, of course, standing in the wind against the frigid weather and not dining on gold plates under a crystal chandelier.

We need a leader with the courage and strategic brilliance of George Washington. To see this happen would make a real statement about your commitment to making America great again.

And it would make a hell of a balls-out news story.

Merry Christmas, Mr. Trump. I look forward to seeing you in that little open boat on the frozen river. It’ll be huuuge. Stand tall and make America great again!

What the Hell. Let’s Give It a Try.

I had a little blowback from yesterday’s post in which I lamented the behavior of Donald Trump. Essentially, the blowback took me to task for an earlier post in which I had spoken ill of Hillary Clinton as well as Trump when I wrote of my distaste for both candidates and my wish that there had been a better choice in this election.

Guilty as charged – I did speak ill of Hillary. I also wrote elsewhere that I think her nomination was a tone deaf move on the part of the Democrats. Despite that, I did vote for her.

That said…I want to move on from the election and offer some words I came across this week in the book Creating a Life Worth Living,a guidebook for artists, writers and “others aspiring to a creative life.”

Re-reading this passage today, it seemed the perfect segue away from the election with a timely statement about how we can go forward now. The quote comes from playwright Romulus Linney and goes like this:

“No one religion can console this enormous country. No single philosophy convince it. No therapy relieve it of its burdens. No legal system comfort its injustice. No medicine deliver it from pain. No government give it joy. Art does all that. Claim that discipline, belong to it–you will give to the America I hope you love gifts its government cannot imagine.”

I can’t tell you when that statement was written, but it was before 1997 when the book in which I found it was published. And it was certainly before the contentious 2016 election. Still it speaks volumes about how to live in this new world.

In the end, we are all – everyone of us – creative people (artists, writers, bakers, mechanics, gardeners, parents, teachers, and more) capable of giving America “gifts its government cannot imagine.”

As physician/scientist and writer Lewis Thomas once said in a different context, “What the hell. Let’s give it a try.”

Quoting Myself to Make a Point

“Donald Trump touts himself as a successful businessman despite many lawsuits against him – one coming up next week in my own county – and bankruptcies, bad deals. He’s rich, God knows we’ve all heard often enough that he’s “really really rich.”

“But more to the point, he’s petty. And eager to be offended, jumping at the chance to set the offending party ablaze. And a liar and a punk.

“Don’t misunderstand. I didn’t just fall off the turnip truck. I know how politics works and I know we’ve had some pretty miserable politicians from time to time, even politicians who were well-regarded until other facts began to emerge.

“I also know a showboat when I see one and I know a repellent jackass when I see one of those. And there’s a difference.

“The showboat does what he does for show. The repellent jackass does what he does to hurt others.

“Do we really want a petty, repellent jackass as our President – or even a candidate?”

I wrote those words and asked that question in August 2015. Reading today’s updates on the Trump transition – his demands, his bully choices for the cabinet, his continuing refusal to act in any way presidential or like a man with concerns for country – I have my answer.

Apparently, a petty, repellent jackass is exactly what a lot of Americans wanted as our President.

The irony is that Donald Trump does not want to be President. He’s already delegating his duties to Pence, his family, his friends. He doesn’t have time for the hard work or sacrifices of governing. He’ll take credit, but not responsibility.

Donald Trump wanted the only thing he ever wants – he wanted to win. Don’t bother him with the details.

Those who gave him license to run roughshod over America are now trying to deal with their petty tyrant and scrambling to rein him in, to put the best face on this unholy disaster. Good luck with that.

The first time anyone with real authority tells this man “No,” all hell and its minions will break loose.