The Ministry of Truth

During the Nazi rise to power, an educated “Christian” nation fearfully traded freedom for economic and political security and nearly took the whole world down with it. In the aftermath, in 1949, George Orwell penned his horror novel, 1984, in which the Nazi formula has been taken to its extreme.

The “hero” of the novel, Winston Smith, works for the Ministry of Truth of Airstrip One (formerly called Great Britain), a province of the superstate Oceania. The job of the employees of the Ministry of Truth is to monitor the latest pronouncements of the government (built around the personality cult of “Big Brother”) and then to find any past evidence which contradicts the current truth. All past evidence must be destroyed, so that there is never any proof that the current version is not absolutely the truth.

In 2017, presidential spokeswoman Kellyanne Conway came up with the felicitous phrase “alternative facts” as the new Trump-speak for clearly fallacious statements, like the non-existent “Bowling Green Massacre.” Her meaning was clear. An “alternative fact” is a lie that the administration wants people to believe, and so will repeat it until it is “true.”

Yesterday President Trump spent an hour-and-a-half press conference mostly attacking the media which report anything at all negative about him, his administration, or his alternative facts. According to the AP writer, he bullied reporters, by name, and often interrupted before they could finish asking questions.

The press conference was astounding not just for the unbelievable opinions that his White House is a “finely tuned machine” and that “there has never been a presidency that has done so much in such a short period of time.” There were the usual bragging falsehoods. He referred to receiving 306 electoral votes, the largest since Ronald Reagan. When a reporter with access to instant fact-checking noted that he got 304 votes, which were fewer than Bush Senior’s , both of Bill Cinton’s, and both of Obama’s victories, Trump shut him down. The most frightening part of his open war on the free press was his suggestion that any negative coverage of his administration was “fake news.”

Let me state the obvious. Every President, and almost all politicians, lie at some point. The only politicians who don’t ever “lie” are dictators who never make a mistake, who know more than everyone else about everything, and who (like North Korean Kim Jong Un) bowl nine perfect 300 games in a row. Such people have a Ministry of Truth to wipe out any evidence that contradicts the current “truth.”

We have a president who can never admit he is wrong, even when confronted with evidence which are not alternative facts. To use men’s locker-room talk, “If you don’t have the cojones ever to admit you are wrong, you aren’t really a man.” To use political locker-room talk, “If you don’t have the cojones ever to admit you are wrong, you aren’t really a president, you are a wannabe Kim Jong Un in 1984.”

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In Praise of Trump

There has been a lot of criticism of our president in his first few days in office, so much that his polling numbers are the lowest in history for any new president. This must hurt a man who cares very much about being the best, the first, the winner. Let me set the stage and then say a word on his behalf.

On the campaign trail he said things like these:
“I know more about ISIS than the generals do.”
“I know more about the federal government than anyone.”
“I will eliminate crime.”
“I am the only one who can fix what is wrong with our country.”

He is obsessed with being the most loved man ever. When he should have been trying to mend bridges with the CIA, he bragged about having the biggest inauguration crowd ever, despite clear photographic evidence that it wasn’t even the biggest in this decade.

The saddest part of a sad campaign was the debate between Donald Trump and Marco Rubio about who had bigger “hands.” It is not unusual for immature high school or college boys to boast that “Mine is bigger than yours.” When a man who just turned 70 (welcome to the club, Donald) is still making that boast, both figuratively and literally, we can assume two things:
1. He is very insecure.
2. He has reason to be.

My friend Ron Waterman, one of the top attorneys in Montana, pointed out that President Trump has actually been the best in some categories that we should applaud. He said the Montana ACLU, the group that defends the individual rights and liberties guaranteed by the constitution to all, has experienced unprecedented growth, as has the national organization.

I did my fact checking, and found a Time Magazine article dated Nov. 14, 2016 that said right after the election, in just a few days, the donations to national ACLU increased by 7000%, as they collected “roughly 120,000 donations totaling more than $7.2 million.”

In those same few days, Planned Parenthood received 80,000 donations, many of them in the name of Vice President Mike Pence, but our president should get credit for those as well.

The Anti-Defamation League, which “fights anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry” experienced a “fifty-fold” increase in donations.

Add to this the size of The Women’s March the day after the inauguration. Was it the largest demonstration ever in DC or was that the civil rights march with Dr. Martin Luther King? No matter, if you add in all the marches around the US and 30 other countries that happened the same day, Donald Trump turned out the biggest American demonstration in history.

Let me make a bold claim for which I have no factual support except the ones previously stated (although Pat assures me that facts are no longer necessary in our country today) in praise of Donald Trump.

I believe that he will turn out to be the best fundraiser and membership recruiter in history for every group that supports and defends the victims of bigotry, misogyny, xenophobia, gay-bashing, or who oppose every attempt to increase the power of the presidency over Congress, the courts, and the law.

This is an outcome that a large majority of us in the US wholeheartedly support. Donald Trump, in some ways that make a positive difference in our country, you are indeed the best. Thank you, Mr. President.

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Signs of the Times

Pete Seeger said, “The key to the future of the world is finding the optimistic stories and letting them be known.” (NY Times article quoted in Parker Palmer’s fabulous book, Healing the Heart of Democracy)

We were part of an optimistic story on Saturday at the Helena women’s march. We joined millions of women and men in 30 countries and every capital, major city, and many smaller ones in the US.

Our 94-year-old mother insisted on being there, so we found a spot for her wheelchair behind the capitol building, and cheered as they marched by. It took 55 minutes for them stroll by, three-deep, and Pat says more than half of the estimated 10,000 people didn’t go all the way around to the back.

The signs were wonderful:
By a tiny child: “Tweet everyone with respect”
“Love Trumps Hate”
“This is What Democracy Looks Like””
“I’m With Her” (picture of statue of liberty)
From a little boy wearing a football helmet “Tough boys stop bullies”
A really large man’s sign read “This is what a sign-carrying feminist looks like”
“Didn’t we already do this in the 60s?”

Women’s rights were the focus of many signs, of course. A great many women and men wore pink pussy hats in reference to the President’s bragging about grabbing women by their private parts.
A number of women and girls had variations on “Keep your tiny hands off my rights”
Some were dressed in suffragette outfits.
“Girls just Wanna Have Fun-damental Human Rights”
“How does it feel to be rejected by this many women?”

Environmental protesters were out in force.
“This mother (the earth) is mad”
“Climate change is caused by hot air in Washington”
“Science > (is greater than) s**t you read on twitter”

Almost every other progressive cause was represented (because almost every cause is under direct attack from our Republican establishment).
“We all came from immigrants”
“LBGT people are people too”
By a little girl “I’d rather have a grizzly in my school than a gun”

Some of the signs didn’t fit any category.
An elderly woman “Agitate, agitate, agitate!”
(a reference to Game of Thrones) “Even the Lannisters pay their debts”
“Gravity is a Chinese hoax”
“We shall over-comb”
A tiny girl “I’m terrified”
“I never carried a sign before, but….”

A great many of the marchers going by the back of the Capitol shook hands or hugged our mother. One man standing behind us asked my brother Steve, “Who is that woman than everyone knows?” Steve said, “Dorothy Harper.” The man said, “Oh, I know Dorothy Harper.”

By the time the speeches started, Mom and I couldn’t get near the spot they had reserved for her because of the massive crowd, so we couldn’t hear all the motivating speakers. We felt like Steve Garnaas-Holmes’ poetic description of the crowd in Boston:

We marched.
For women, for peace and freedom and justice,
a hundred seventy five thousand strong in Boston,
joined in umbilical hope with millions more, we marched.
We marched to say we won’t look away from injustice,
to say we will not exclude or demean anyone, that justice is for all.
We marched to pledge ourselves to live gently but out loud,
to live with love and reverence, to heal and bless,
to include the outcast and lift up the downtrodden,
to speak truth, to work for justice and to be people of peace.
We marched in resolute hope, not anger.
We marched in wonder and gratitude for the power God gives us
to resist evil, to love our neighbor and heal the world.
We marched to surround ourselves with joy, beauty and hope.
It was not a protest; it was an affirmation.

Too far from the stage to see or hear, we cheered for the cheering….

The demonstrations were uplifting. Now it is time to go to work to create optimistic stories of standing up against evil and creating good. Let’s get marching.

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Trump’s Inauguration Address

I dreamed that I heard Donald Trump giving his Inauguration Address, which I woke up and wrote down.
I dreamed he said,
“Look at this crowd, not only the biggest inauguration crowd, but the biggest crowd in history. I’ll close down any liberal media outlet that says otherwise.

“Already I have accomplished more than any sitting American president, before I even officially got the job. I have stopped all American jobs from going out-of-country, caused the stock market to rise substantially, gotten Congress to agree to pass everything I allow them to vote on (which won’t be much), and turned Russia from an enemy into a friend. I have stopped global warming, which I decided was happening, and stopped all terrorist attacks. Now I’m actually President, so watch me shine.

“Here is the best inauguration speech ever, because everybody in America, make that the world, will find something they love in it. I am the only one who can do that.

“First, I will abolish racism. Some people thought I was playing up to the racists with my remarks, but I was just kidding. Just kidding! That’s what great entertainers do. There will be no more racism, and anyone who uses the word will be sent back to Africa.

“As for illegal immigration, some thought I said I would deport all Mexicans immediately, but I was just kidding. It won’t be immediately, because there are some jobs beneath the dignity of real Americans, like building a giant fence on our southern border. Even after they are done with that, not all Mexicans will be kicked out. Every Mexican woman under 35 who is a 9 or 10 will get to spend time in the White House North in New York. All the rest will be taken to the southern border and catapulted over the big fence. Just kidding! See — something here for everyone.

“Some people thought I was being demeaning to women, but I love and respect women, especially 9s and 10s. I just don’t think they should be in charge of anything and should not be allowed to speak in public. Not just kidding. Women should be obscene but not heard.

“Some have called for me to put my assets in a blind trust. Fools! You don’t become richer by missing out on insider trading possibilities. What is good for Trump industries is good for America. Eventually my cabinet will consist only of the titular heads of my various enterprises. By eventually, I mean February 15. Just kidding. I always avoid the Ides of February.

“As for the Russian threat, that is already solved by making them our friends, because President Putin respects me so much and I admire his taste. After I promised to open a Trump Towers in Moscow, he gratefully sent me a gift of some Russian maids for the White House, all 10s may I say, and he gave everyone in my family and the Secret Service brand new cell phones and computers. What a guy.

“Crime? Consider it gone. Congress? Don’t make me laugh. Actually, they do make me laugh. Drain the swamp in DC? Already underway, to make room for Trump Condos. ISIS? Already got them to lay down their arms for the promise of a spot for their leaders on The Apprentice. College tuition too high for most families? Trump Universities will spring up all over, using government grants. Big budget deficit? I will package and sell the debt like the big banks did with the mortgage stuff. Let the Chinese worry about it.

“There, I told you what I will do in broad outlines, but you can watch every morning at 3 am Trump (formerly Eastern) Time for the details. Everything will be done in my first 100 days, after which I will turn everything over to my VP, what’s-his-name, because I will have done everything that needs to be done and I’ve got another fortune to make. Now let’s get this party going. Where are those Russian maids?”

That was my dream. If this turns out to be the real thing, you’ll have to admit I know more than all the generals and federal bureaucrats about the new president.

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What Day Is It?

Pat and I are always asking “What day is it?” We don’t mean “Is it Tuesday or Wednesday?”, because we are retired so those days are meaningless to us. When you are no longer working, Monday is as good as a Friday. Maybe better.

No, we mean “What day is it?” in the sense of the truly special nature of each day, which can only be determined by reference to the holy grail of day naming, the Opportunity Bank Calendar.

For instance, today, Friday the 13th of January, is National Rubber Ducky Day. Fortunately, our little dog, Chica, has a sort-of-rubberish ducky so we can celebrate the day properly. Every day in the year has its own special official designation.

Pat’s birthday is Squirrel Appreciation Day, while our daughters’ birthdays are National Mario Day and National Cranberry Relish Day.

Some Opportunity Bank days are the same as traditional calendars. Thursday Nov. 23 is Thanksgiving Day, and Dec. 25 is Christmas, while September 19 is Talk Like a Pirate Day, and August 25 is National Kiss and Make Up Day.

Many days are devoted to animals:
Jan. 4 National Bird Day
Feb. 1 National Serpent Day
Feb. 2 Groundhog Day (When the Groundhog pops out of the hole, it is looking for serpents, not shadows.)
June 9 National Donald Duck Day
July 6 National Fried Chicken Day

Other days are clearly promotions for various products or industries, like National Pickle Day, National Eat a Hoagie Day, National Fried Clam Day, National Beer Lover’s Day, and National Fruitcake Toss Day.

A few days are more than national: World Radio Day, World UFO Day, and World Penguin Day.

I circled March 22 on our calendar: National Goof Off Day, but then realized that day would look about like any other for me.

We try to celebrate appropriately for every day if we can. For instance, on September 1, National Emma M. Nutt Day, (the first female telephone operator), we will call out for pizza. We are especially looking forward to Pretend to Be a Time Traveler Day (Dec. 8) and National Absurdity Day (Nov. 20, which is also my brother Steve’s birthday).

Some of the more skeptical among us might question who gets to name these days? For Pat’s birthday, Squirrel Appreciation Day, was that voted by some Squirrel Appreciation Society? Is there even a Peking Duck Association? Was National Blonde Brownie Day designated by hairdressers or chefs? I didn’t realize mothers had an organization to designate National Eat Your Vegetables Day.

Now that I’m looking at the calendar, there are some serious omissions. Where is the International Aardvark Lovers Day? There is no “Apologize to Your Spouse Even Though You Don’t Know Why Day.” I approve that January 20 is not Inauguration Day, but is Cheese Lovers Day. It would have been better to be National Sack Cloth and Ashes Day.

Even better, there should be several days during the year in which random individuals get to name the day rather than, for example, allowing the computer folks to grab May 25 for Geek Pride Day as they did for this year. Actually, the calendar doesn’t get printed without computers, so they probably get any day they want.

Stay tuned next year for International Do Really Good Things for Rusty Harper Day on May 17, 2018. I’m putting in my bid early.

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Getting Philosophical

In past societies, the elderly were revered as wise. Now as an aged English major/theology minor person with a Master of Divinity degree, I am just a nuisance to the young, so the best I can hope for is to get philosophical to help pass the days.

Philosophy has mostly been dominated by very smart people who think they have figured out what life is all about, and who put that wisdom into words which only a few other very smart people can understand (but with which they disagree because they have their own philosophy).

I used to love diving into the depths of philosophy and theology, but now all those ideas are way over my head and out of my league, as we say in the mixed-metaphor division.

For most of us, all the philosophy we can take is about one sentence worth. For example, “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” I think that was Epicurus. Or maybe Plato. Possibly Thomas Aquinas.

Philosophies often come in contrasting pairs. An opposing philosophical school is that of Jean Paul Sartre, who said something like “Tomorrow we die. Maybe today.” That may not be an exact quote, but it gets the gist of it.

What we need now is a philosophy that will help us survive the present crisis in our nation when we will soon transition from the first black American President to the first American President who doesn’t want intelligence briefings, the first who admits that he reads very little, and the first who claims to know more than all the generals, federal employees, and intelligence agencies combined. And those traits aren’t nearly the most frightening aspects of his presidency.

As I see it, there are two contrasting all-American philosophies that hold promise for our present situation.

The first is from lawyer-turned-philosopher, Steven Pastis, who expounds on his philosophy through his comic strip, Pearls Before Swine, in which animals talk to each other.

As best I remember, in one strip we saw the cynic, Rat, writing this:
“How to Appreciate Everything Around You” by Rat.
“Lower Your Standards Immensely!”
Rat then says to Goat, “I just solved life.”

Admit it, that is a viable and Trump-worthy way to get through the next four years.

A contrasting philosophical school was articulated by Martin Luther King, Jr. A friend, and one of the nation’s great preachers, Dee Eisenhower of the Eagle Harbor Congregational Church on Bainbridge Island, Washington, brought this to my attention in a recent sermon. She summarizes this way:

“Our little church book group is reading one of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s last books, Where Do We Go from Here? Chaos or Community? King writes about the days after the Voting Rights bill was signed with grand words about a triumph of freedom, a striking away of the ‘last major shackle of fierce and ancient bonds.’ A year later, the white backlash resulted in, among other things, elections in several southern states of ‘men long regarded as political clowns [who] had become governors…their magic achieved with a witches’ brew of bigotry, prejudice, half-truths and whole lies.’

“A somewhat depressed King talks about how the majority of white Americans consider themselves committed to justice, to a middle-class utopia embodying racial harmony. But, he says, ‘this is a fantasy of self-deception and comfortable vanity…America has been sincere and even ardent in welcoming some change. But too quickly apathy and disinterest rise to the surface when the next logical steps are to be taken.’ …..
The great majority of Americans are, he judged, ‘uneasy with injustice but unwilling to pay a significant price to eradicate it.’ [Ouch.]

“Even in the midst of this ruthless analysis, King did not express hopelessness. He recalls that the line of progress is never straight. ‘For a period a movement may follow a straight line and then it encounters obstacles and the line bends. It is like curving around a mountain when you are approaching a city. Often it feels as though you are moving backward, and you lose sight of your goal; but in fact you are moving ahead, and soon you will see the city again, closer by…The inevitable counterrevolution that succeeds every period of progress is taking place.’

Well, you can see that even Dee’s summary of King is far too long to hold our attention, but it is the opposite of Rat. The problem is not that we don’t understand King. It is that when we understand him, we are called to action. For us old people who used to take action on behalf of the good, and are now both retired and tired, that’s tough.

So my philosophical choices are reduced to two: Rat or King. Hmm. This will be hard.

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Why do we need Rhetorical Questions?

Rhetorical question: “A question you ask without expecting an answer.”

How can you get off a nonstop flight?
What do you call a bedroom with no bed in it?
What are imitation rhinestones?
How can you tell when it is time to tune your bagpipes?

Just because you don’t expect an answer, that doesn’t mean some fool won’t give one anyway. For instance, I intend to answer why we need rhetorical questions. We need them to remind us that we don’t have to have all the answers. Why do they call them apartments when they are all stuck together? If love is blind, why is lingerie so popular? When things are out of whack, how do we get them back in whack?

We need rhetorical questions when we feel “gut-shot,” as we say in Montana. How can we be so stupid? Are we really this misogynist and racist? We need them when we are wondering what to do next. Is it time to get back to work? Even if we are retired? Have we done our quota of whining before we start doing good again? Isn’t it time we start working together?

We need them when we start counting our blessings at Thanksgiving and realize how much we enjoy our grandchildren and virtual grandchildren (aren’t they the best in the world?) and watching sports with my brothers and close friends (is this fun or what?) and singing with family and friends in our church choir (doesn’t music make you feel deep-down good?)

Kent Millard, a United Methodist pastor in Indianapolis once said, “Gratefulness leads to great fullness.” Giving thanks to God is a way to feel great and to lead a great and grateful life. You don’t believe in any concept of “God?” Then give thanks to the universe, the wonder, the mystery around and in us all. There is something beyond us that brings out the best in us.

My list starts with Pat and family (children, grandchildren, mother, siblings and the outlaws, nieces and nephews, close friends who are part of the family). Is anything better than extended family—especially the ones you choose?

I am thankful for a country where the presidential loser (well, the one who got the most votes by far, but not in the right places) calls on us all to give the president-elect a chance, because that is what we do in a democracy. As a friend from New York, Mark Hampton, wrote:

She knew that smart Bill was a schlock
And that Donald might run out the clock
But when it struck one
And her prospects were done
She just stood ten feet tall – like a rock

Mark added, “Our turn. No more crying. Get back to work.” He could have asked, “Isn’t it time to stop crying and get back to work?” Rhetorical questions can make statements that require action, not answers.

I am grateful we live in a country that can make what I perceive to be serious mistakes and still survive and grope toward doing right again. Maybe “grope” isn’t the right verb, but you know what I’m saying, don’t you? (Another rhetorical question.)

I am thankful for the Rocky Mountains and mountain chickadee babies in our bird house in the spring, and friends everywhere and still being able to help make a difference by doing what we can. I’m just getting started on the list. I bet Pat and I can come up with 100 things that bless our lives as we are driving down to Colorado for Thanksgiving with kids and grandkids. What could be better?

Your turn. It’s time to make your list, give thanks, count your blessings. And then, when you are so happy you can’t stand it, ask, in your most rhetorical voice, “What could be better?” That’s a rhetorical question. What? You can think of lots of good answers to that question? Then why do we need rhetorical questions?

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What Now?

We cried on election night. We weren’t the only ones. If you didn’t, don’t waste your time on this rant.

Donald Trump is the most explicitly racist candidate since Alabama Gov. George Wallace (a Democrat) in the 1960s and 70s, but of course Wallace did not become president. Worse yet, Trump wasn’t elected in spite of the racism, but because of it. He gave white people permission to blame the people of color for everything wrong with America. Make America great again by putting them in their place or sending them back to where they came from.

Many presidents have had one or more extra-marital affairs, Bill Clinton being the latest example. Before Trump, has any previous president ever been as publicly abusive of multiple women with words and (according to him) sexual assault? A president should at least have the decency to pretend to be decent in public. Worse yet, he wasn’t elected in spite of being misogynist, but because of it. It gives men permission to blame women for everything wrong with America. Make America great again by putting them back in their place in the bedroom and the kitchens.

I can’t even think about the fear Muslim Americans are feeling, or the danger of nuclear war from an unstable leader, or dangerous regression on climate change, or the crisis of having the most powerful man in the world be someone who doesn’t read and has a short attention span.

Trump’s margin of victory came from overwhelming support by older white men of limited education. I suppose, as an older white male, if it weren’t for my B.A. and M.Div., I might have been a Trump supporter?

So where’s the good news in a potential disaster for the nation and the world? Here’s the best I can do with little sleep this week:

1. In the 1980s, when Reagan won in landslides and began tearing the fabric of the safely net for the poor and elderly and workers and rolling back environmental gains, I was told by Phil Tawney, a legendary Montana environmental leader, that such elections are like forest fires. No matter how hard we try to prevent them, they come in cycles. The destruction and loss of plant and animal life and even human life is overwhelming. The land suffers for a time, but it comes back eventually. The ecology of the forest actually depends on fire to allow new and different growth over time.

Devastating political elections lead to a different kind of destruction, he opined, which can be just as deadly, but in a democracy, the human environment recovers. It may be different. In some ways, the destruction allows for something new to develop which might, in the long run, be even better for the world, but it takes time. Our job during the fire is to hunker down, keep doing the good we can, and, like prairie grasses after a prairie fire, keep the life in the roots, ready to grow back when the time is right.

2. Watch Hillary’s complete concession speech. It will make you hopeful for our democracy (and maybe cry again for what a wise president she would have been.) She said give the elected president a chance—that’s what we do in a democracy — but never stop fighting for the good.

3. He lied about so many things. Maybe he lied about some of the terrible things he would do! I’m serious. We can hope for this?

4. As Archbishop Tutu said to us during his Montana visit, long before the evil of apartheid fell in South Africa, “I don’t know what the future holds, but I know who holds the future. God does not call me to save my country. God calls me to do what I can.”

So friends, do good. This is the best way to fight against the racism, misogyny, and xenophobia that is rampant in America. Do good where you can, how you can, when you can. Hug each other. Don’t be bashful about standing up for true values of equality, justice, and peace for our community and our planet. Keep the roots alive.

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How can we be so Stupid?

How did we get to the place where we Americans are within shouting distance of electing a man to be President of the US who appears to be mentally unstable—unable to control the terrible things that come out of his mouth? With a nod to our Republican friends, we know you are appalled at this possibility as well.

Imagine if Hillary (or candidates McCain or Romney in recent campaigns) had said even one of the following statements:
“I don’t have time to read.”
“I might pull us out of NATO if they don’t start paying their share.”
“Why do we build nuclear weapons if we aren’t going to use them?”
“I know more than all the generals about ISIS.”
“I will get Mexico to pay for a huge wall.”
“I know more about the federal government than anyone.”
“I will end all crime.”
“I am the only one who can solve our nation’s problems.”
“I will put my opponent in jail.”
“I could shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.”
“When you are a star, you can grab a woman by the p***y.”
“I will only accept the result of voting if I win.”
If Hillary or any candidate had said any one of those statements, she would rightly be derided as mentally unstable, a bully, or someone who sounds more like a would-be dictator… certainly not a presidential contender.

How did we get to this place? Here is our best guess: Donald Trump is succeeding because of fear. This is a scary, rapidly changing world, and we are unhappy with how our leaders and our Congress are failing to protect us. If anything is perfectly clear, it’s that American democracy is hard… not for the faint of heart. We do know, however, that when we act out of fear, we almost always make poor decisions.

Critics have underestimated Trump’s “traction,” certain that his following would evaporate because of his overt racism, misogyny, lack of relevant experience or constant lies. But he is popular because of those traits, because they address deep fears among some of us.

America’s collective agonies through our multiple movements for civil and human rights for all persons sent the America of the 1950’s disappearing into the sunset. Racism, misogyny, trans -gender phobias, and playing fast and loose with ‘facts” still challenge us as we try, fail or succeed, in nurturing a kinder, more inclusive, more peaceful America.

Trump and his advisers are not the first people seeking to use these fears as tickets to power. It should not surprise us that the KKK is using Trump’s “bullying” language and behavior as successful recruiting tools for their membership.

Now we have a candidate who glibly fabricates “truths” all the time, and will even lie when caught in a lie by claiming he never said that. He appears to be incapable of admitting he is wrong, even when shown video tapes of what he has said. A person who cannot admit they are ever wrong is a dangerous human being you would not want as a neighbor, much less as a man with access to a nuclear arsenal.

However, we will put up with lies because of our fears. We fear for our jobs and our families and how everything keeps changing. Many want to go back to the idealized past when nothing changed, when there was no fear about women taking power and jobs from men, or people of color not knowing their place, or darker-skinned foreigners with strange religions threatening our children, or gay and lesbian people threatening our marriages. Telling lies has become an acceptable practice when they reinforce an ancient worldview that still holds power. If you tell the lies enough, they become true, and we want to believe that some super powerful leader will save us from all that is fearful and all that changes.

Unfortunately, reality always wins in the end, and (this is the sad part) we voters get what we deserve. Here’s hoping we deserve the first woman president who may be the best qualified to be President of anyone in the US (only 28 years after Muslim-majority Pakistan elected a female Prime Minister.) Here’s hoping we don’t deserve the bully with no personal boundaries, no personal investment in the difference between democracy and demagoguery, and little acquaintance with the real world.

P.S. (from Pat): I suspect I am not alone in having trouble sleeping since the campaign began. As an educator and advocate for children and youth for decades, I worry about the impact of Trump’s bragging about sexual assault and his threatening physical behavior on those of us who have experienced serious traumas in our lives. The CDC has the stats… one of five adult women in the US will be assaulted in her lifetime, and one of twelve children, boys and girls, will experience assault or abuse before age 18. There are thousands, even millions of youth and adults in our country who suffer from severe traumas. Recent brain research reveals that the impact of unbearable experiences is stored in the physical memory of our bodies’ tissues which can recall the trauma as if it were happening right now. Trump’s behavior and language must be triggering the recall of horrible events in thousands of lives. I cannot sleep with the thought of the children in our nation whose personal “hells” return after listening to an evening newscast or a presidential debate. I can hardly abide it, but I have most certainly voted the way I did because of it.

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The Opposite of Trump

The good news today is about a funeral that was a celebration of a great life, well-lived.  This weekend my friend Bob FitzGerald and I drove to Billings for the memorial for Jessica Stickney. She was a friend and mentor for us. If not for her and her husband Ed, there would have been no Montana Logging and Ballet Company.

At the funeral, Margie McDonald, who achieved national fame for the “Not in Our Town” campaign against the Ku Klux Klan in Billings, Montana, spoke about how Jessica was a leader against the racist, anti-Semitic, and homophobic campaign of the KKK in the early 1990s. Jessica helped get all the different denominations in the Montana Association of Churches on behalf of the followers of Jesus to take an active stand to confront the hate and bigotry. Contrast that with Trump, whose blatant bigotry (such as trumpeting the birther lie about President Obama) has led the KKK to use him in their recruiting drives that have swollen their membership in the last year.

Jess Stickney was the opposite of Donald Trump, and not just because she was a woman and a Democrat who served two terms in the Montana House. She was kind and loving. She never called attention to or bragged about herself. She fought for human rights and civil rights and the rights of gay and lesbian people. She was loving but courageous in standing up to the bigots and hate-mongers. She was an example of what a person of faith ought to be. That is as opposite of Trump as there is.

In honor of Jessica Stickney, and in sadness for her not getting to vote for the first female president of the US, I provide this link to the best political speech I have ever heard or read. It is by Michelle Obama. Jess would have LOVED it. (Even the right wing Glenn Beck called it the most effective political speech since Ronald Reagan.)

Jessica would have shown it to all her friends, as you should. She would have said this is not an election to “sit out.” Our children’s and grandchildren’s safety, both female and male, is at stake. Voting is a profound way to celebrate the lives of outstanding leaders like Jessica Stickney and others whom you know well who stand up to bigots, misogynists, and bullies.

Copy and paste that in your browser, or just go to YouTube and search for Michelle Obama New Hampshire. Hey, I’m old and technically-challenged. Deal with it.





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