Let Me Tell You About Kenny White

Last night I went to see Kenny White perform in Manhasset. It’s the third or fourth time I’ve seen him. He is one of my favorite musical performers, and in my opinion one of the best singer-songwriters alive. And you haven’t heard of him (unless you’d seen my previous blog), right? I wish I could explain why. He’s very well respected in musical circles. He’s produced Peter Wolfe’s albums, has worked with David Crosby and has toured around the world. His albums have received spectacular reviews, as they should. So why is he still playing small venues and has he struggled so much for air play?

I think the only explanation is that his music isn’t commercial, which is ironic since he began his career writing musical commercials. Not only doesn’t he write and perform the kind of standard ditties that have two, maybe three verses with repetitive choruses, he actually wrote a song, “Gotta Sing High,” which parodies such a non-artistic approach. His songs are stories, laden with poetry, humor, emotion, politics, romanticism, vulnerability and genius, touching inner truths. Amidst the drek of much of today’s music scene, how about a lyric like, “Even shards of glass can pass for diamonds in the sun?” On top of it, he’s a brilliant musician, especially keyboardist, his melodies spanning from folk to jazz.

I’ve emailed and spoken with him a number of times. He’s also one of the nicest, humblest people I’ve met. And maybe that, mixed with his penchant for generosity and charitable performance, and what I have come to assume are some experiences with insecurity and pain, could be involved, too. (Our pains do seed our artistry after all). I say “assume” because, while I don’t really know him or his non-musical story, it seems like I, along probably with many others, can know and relate to him on many levels through his music. But who wants to say something so cliched and creepy-sounding to a celeb?

My history with Kenny White is another story, or should I say several. The first time I was introduced to him by way of his performance was on a pseudo-date. I had met this woman on a dating site and we had gone out once, but it was not a match, made in Heaven or “Cyberspace” (one of the best songs on his new album incidentally). For some reason, months later she contacted me and told me she had bought two tickets to an expensive benefit for the Japanese Tsunami victims, and asked if I’d like to accompany her. I could hardly turn that down, right? But I would have to buy her dinner, right? We were to meet by Penn Station, and I figured a local Chinese restaurant would be fine, but she really wanted to go to a favorite of hers across the street. I checked it out before she arrived. It was in a hotel, and when one walked in one confronted a bar teeming with loud businessmen coming off work. Pink neon lit my way to the back, where there was an ultra-pretentious little restaurant whose menu was so overpriced that I met my companion at the door and tried to block entry, ready to offer other suggestions. But she slid through, and proceeded to order the most expensive thing on the menu, filet mignon. I was going to ask if they had melba toast and water, but I figured, why deprive myself just because I couldn’t afford this? So I went for something I had seen on Gordon Ramsey and had enjoyed once before, Chilean Sea Bass. Mmmm…. Only this one wasn’t nearly as good as the much cheaper one I had eaten before, and it was accompanied by some tasteless asparagus and a little pancake of unknown composition. And then, after plunking down about a hundred bucks, we were off to the show.

As we were walking we passed an Applebee’s, and I commented that I remembered it, that I had taken my son there. She scoffed and replied with something like she wouldn’t be caught dead in such a place. When we turned the corner and headed up Eighth Avenue, we passed a row of parking lots, inviting desperate cars to rest awhile for about $70 a second. I was beginning to realize why I could never move back to New York and why I had never anticipated reuniting with this woman. We came to a side street, and then to a basement door painted black. When we entered, I was thrust into a Woody Allen movie. The night-crawling New York nouveau riche were out in force, basking in yet more neon and pretentiousness. There were to be some musical acts and an auction, so we took our seats. The first act was promising. It was someone who had crafted and played his own African-style instrument, but he only did one number. Following him were two forgettable acts, except for their awfulness, who were allowed two and three respectively. And then someone appeared at the piano, and within minutes I was writing down his name: “Kenny White.”

Following his three song performance was the auction. Two women took the stage and unintentionally brought back memories of an old Saturday Night Live skit involving two shills on the Home Shopping Network who were clueless about their lack of humor. They were auctioning off autographed guitars, one signed by Eric Clapton, one by Will Lee, the head man of the “Faux Four,” a Beatles knock-off band who were the headline act and the reason for my companion wanting to come, and the rest by cousins-in-law of other celebrities. Sitting two rows in front of us was someone who was obviously in the Russian Mafia, who had brought his arm candy, for whom he would bid on everything. But he had competition, a woman sitting on the other side who had apparently decided that her precious little daughter deserved not one, but two ultra expensive autographed guitars. I continued to squirm in my seat. When that was over, out came the Fab Faux, or whatever they were called then. And they were terrible. By the third song I was ready to leave, and asked my “date” if she wanted me to walk her to the train. She decided to stay, and I left, with distasteful memories, but for that slip of paper with the name “Kenny White.”

The next time I saw Kenny White, intentionally, was in a library auditorium in Westchester. This library ran Wednesday afternoon events for the seniors, so I was there, at what I seem to remember was also a benefit for something, seated in the front row and surrounded by people who had no idea whom they were about to listen to. There were two highlights of that day for me, which would be one more than on the previous occasion. First, I had the opportunity to make a request, “Out of My Element,” which he accommodated, even switching from guitar to piano for me. The other was when I gave him the “White Diamonds: The Greatest Hits of Kenny White” CD, which I had compiled and burned, for him to autograph. He didn’t even know he had a greatest hits album, as he commented.

I could swear I saw him another time between then and last night, but what I do remember were two near misses. The first was when he finally returned again to his home town, where he was playing in this fancy joint that he had told me he felt as out of place in as I expected to be. At the time I was pseudo-dating someone, formerly a supervisor and flaming hot redhead from a quarter century in the past, whose birthday was the same day. I had arranged for a ringside table and orchids to be delivered… but I got sick. So did the relationship. (God, I hope these women aren’t reading this. Nah, no one does.)

The other time was January of this year. Kenny was playing in Massachusetts, and I got tickets and a HomeAway rental to surprise my now girlfriend, not even telling her where we were headed or why. When we left, the weather report called for a dusting to three inches of snow. When we reached the ferry it was three to six inches. As we drove through Connecticut to Massachusetts it became six to nine, and by the time we were watching the TV in the bar-restaurant I had unfortunately picked out for brunch it was “run for your lives.”  I have to add that while she ordered sensibly, I never miss an opportunity to try something new, so I partook in their “Dad’s Favorite,” which turned out to be a greasy burger patty with a hunk of canned chow mein buried in crispy noodles. Mmmm….

Hoping for a miracle, we returned to our rental, a beautiful little house which was recessed a mile in from the road. The concert was scheduled for the next day, and we were starting to wonder if, a., we would die in the snowstorm, as no one would be able to reach us through a foot and a half of snow along a narrow mile-long path in the woods, b., we would die trying to make it to the concert, or, c., worst of all, the concert would be cancelled. I won’t bore you with the details of the dinner fiasco (you can read about that in a previous blog), but when we returned in the evening I finally checked my not very smart phone for any email updates. Going backwards chronologically, I ran my eyes over one from Kenny White, which started, “hope the postponement wasn’t too big a drag for you….” Then I ominously went further back and came upon one that had been sent at the precise moment that we had first set foot in the house, informing us that the show had been cancelled. If I had only checked, or if my damned phone had notified me, we could have turned around and driven back in the light of day, while the snow hadn’t accumulated much. As it was, we decided to wake up really, really early (and no, that wasn’t noon, as “really, really early” means to me now) and catch the first ferry back, blowing the vacation stay and losing another opportunity to see him perform, which we finally made up for last night.

Anyway, my reason for writing this is obvious. If you insist on not buying my books (ahem), at least buy his CD’s. I promise you that you won’t be sorry, unless, of course, you don’t have a particular fondness for music, poetry, humor, pathos, politics or love. I’d put up a portion of one of his songs, but I don’t think that’s up to me to do. So here’s a link: kennywhite.net. And no, I don’t get a commission.

Heal Persona

This will likely be the strangest blog I’ve written to date, so strange that I’m not sure even I believe the words I’m typing. My acupuncturist earlier today said about this that I shouldn’t try to rationalize it, I should just be it, or something like that. So I’m immediately ignoring his advice by writing this piece. I mean, It’s what I do, I write. The question is, is there something else that I do? So here goes….

A number of years ago, a colleague of mine with whom I’d had somewhat of a friendship suffered a massive heart attack. In fact, he died seven times on the operating table. When I found out, I felt that I had to do something. Knowing that he was the Coordinator of Multicultural Affairs at the College and very interested in the cultural roots of himself and others, I found, called and made an appointment with a small store in Manhattan specializing in African and Indian artifacts. After much exploration, I settled on and bought a small Ethiopian medicine bag. The next day, I took a trip to the Bronx, to see my mother and then have her drive me to the hospital in which he was struggling to survive, and, with my son, sneak up to his room and leave the charm. He has largely recovered and is back to work. At first he was confused because he had once bought himself one identical to it.

I had a student who was nodding off and falling behind. When I talked to her I found out why. She was on pain killers because of the cancer that ravaged much of her young body and the treatments she was undergoing. She fell into my arms sobbing. When she told me that she was a Buddhist, I knew what I had to do. Since I had begun seasonal pilgrimages to my home away from home, Woodstock, anyway, I quickly planned one, with a certain peaceful Buddhist store I had previously visited in mind. I bought her a healing Buddha, and, to her great surprise, gave it to her after class at our next meeting. She came up just short of completing the semester, but I gave her a B+, as I remember, one of only two times I have ever given a student a projected rather than realized grade. The other one had been posthumous, and it seemed that this student’s fate would soon be the same. She wrote me a beautiful letter, which I still have, and then disappeared, and since I found myself unable to contact her for years thereafter I assumed the worst. Recently I made brief contact, long enough to find out that she is alive and healthy and happy, and still has the Buddha.

I also had a colleague, a friend whom I became very fond of, and who (spoiler alert) will probably be reading this. She was diagnosed with M.S., and after struggling for a few semesters with her memory and balance, this wonderful teacher had to reconcile herself to the fact that she could no longer teach. She would be moving to the West Coast to be near her sister, and a going away party was arranged in her honor. I knew she had a fascination with things Medieval, so I found a small Celtic statuette which I presented to her in private. I think she may have misunderstood the intention, as I discovered that she was using it to protect her garden rather than, as was my purpose, herself. Nonetheless, although I haven’t asked her about her health, she is, now many years later, most often the first one responding or reposting when it comes to my many political diatribes on Facebook, and appears to still have that sense of humor and force of spirit that endeared her to so many colleagues and students here.

And then there is Anthony Colletti, Sr., the late Anthony Colletti, Sr., my would-be father-in-law, who died this past week. Tony lived his life in pain, but the previous time he was in the hospital he was going downhill. After a little research, I decided on an Italian horn pendant, and got one for him. His daughter, my girlfriend, who is much more open to spiritual possibilities than I have been, swears that he began to recover soon after putting it on. Unfortunately, or at least that’s how I feel, he wasn’t wearing it this time. It seems to be hiding somewhere, and I hope we can find it so I can give it to his son, who is, to be blunt, slowly killing himself, while there is still time at least for his rescue.

As many of you know, my son was diagnosed as a toddler with Classic Autism. I did my best to give him supports, advocacy, dedication, fumbles in the dark and love. Since the whole matter of Autism is still so misunderstood, it is impossible to say that he is mostly “cured,” but he is both the most social and the most brilliant person I know, with limitless potential for unimaginable success. And, along the way, I’ve picked up some “wounded birds” whom I’ve tried to heal, most notably one who, a decade and a half ago, staggered into, of any place she could have chosen, my office, asking me to help her not commit suicide. She credits me with saving her life three times over the years, and even though, when her self-destructiveness turned from suicide threats to cutting to anorexia, there was nothing left in my arsenal anymore but to distance myself so as to not be an enabler, she is still alive and, inexplicably, relatively healthy.

So what does this all mean? It’s probably all coincidence, right? Why do I have this urgent call to some mysterious action when someone is sick? And where did these ideas about what to get come from? Is it merely the kind of “magical thinking” I teach about in child psychology, while never considering the possibility that such thinking might not be the undeveloped, unreal state of cognition that Piaget claimed it to be, that maybe magic in some form and universe actually exists? And Physicists and Buddhists agree, at least to my limited knowledge of both, that reality is only a matter of perspective anyway, don’t they? I try to apply my middling knowledge of psychology to “fix” people, with or without their consent, isn’t that what my son says? When ego or lust or pettiness didn’t get in the way, didn’t I, more often than not, leave the someone with whom I had a relationship better than before we met, or would I just like to think so? I could be working on my latest novel, but instead find myself morosely addicted to political Facebook exchanges because I have to do something to miraculously heal the world of its bigotry, injustice and war, don’t I? Is all of this wishful thinking inwardly or outwardly directed? Is it all delusion and self-aggrandizement, or is something more afoot? “They” say that we have a purpose in life. I’ve always thought we should find purpose, but never quite believed “them” that we are given it, so is the ability to heal others inherent in all people, or in none, or is it a special gift? And if it is a gift, why did it take until I am so old to unwrap it, and what would I do with it now?

Perhaps my acupuncturist is right, and since he’s been waiting patiently for the latest blog, that’s the least I can concede. Maybe expressing all this changes or even disempowers it. Maybe parallel realities are supposed to stay that way. You see, I’m slowly catching on. It’s clear I don’t know what to think, and maybe that’s the clarity. Or is this, instead, all a bunch of wannabe Jew-Bu bullshit and I’m just trying to find a different way of rationalizing irrationality. So let’s drop this for now, and we’ll see what happens next time. I already suspect whom the next trinket will be for, but won’t give any thought to what it will be until called upon, whether it be by practicality or destiny. After all, purpose or not, gift or not, reality or not, if one could, who wouldn’t want to be a healer?

What I Didn’t Do On My Winter Vacation

Last summer I discovered a website called “Home Away,” on which are listed rental homes throughout the country and world that are often not priced greatly more than a hotel room. What a nice way to spend a vacation, I thought, in a peaceful place with amenities, perhaps like a hot tub or Florida room or fireplace, with woods in the back and lots of wood in the interior, a place in which we could cook, explore and de-stress. So, for my latest pilgrimage to Woodstock, I secured such a place for us, and off we went. An hour out of Woodstock, the skies opened up and thundershowers obscured the road. We checked the weather forecast, which told me: thunderstorms today, thunderstorms tomorrow, thunderstorms until you leave, you idiot! That sort of put a damper (no pun intended) on the outdoor hot tub and barbecue. So we had to call and cancel, sacrificing a fairly large deposit, decided to drive into Woodstock anyway, to introduce my hippie retreat to Marianne, get something to eat at Joshua’s, and meet briefly with my friend Nathan, whom we were supposed to hang out with the next day but was busy on this day conducting a tour of his Woodstock museum. And then we began the long journey home. We checked the traffic report, which, of course, told me that the Thruway was blocked solid until the next exit, and the one after that, and all the way down to close to where you would be exiting, you idiot! So we took the winding southwesterly, southeasterly, southwesterly, easterly, spiraling, non-progressing turnpikes, through  floods and virtual invisibility, for hours upon gruesome hours. And that was our first vacation.

Try again, why don’t we, I thought. So I arranged for a surprise mini-vacation up to Massachusetts, again using “Home Away” for our stopping point. But the real reason for the trip was that a brilliant singer-songwriter, Kenny White, whom I’ve gotten to know a bit, was finally touring in the area. So we got in the car, with Marianne having no idea of our destination, and drove to the ferry, and, once across to Connecticut, up to Swansea, Massachusetts. “A dusting of snow, maybe one to three inches” was the forecast for the next day, the day of the concert, but that we could brave… um, except that one to three soon became three to five, or possibly more, but it was still within reason, right? The weather on this day was cold but beautiful, so maybe we’d get lucky this time. (And maybe Donald Trump will turn out to be a fine President.)

We finally found the narrow back road that led to our “home away,” an endearing chalet, beautifully decorated, filled with labeled instructions, shelved with a wide diversity of books, and stocked with foodstuffs from a world of cuisines. It was owned by a wonderful man, Gary White (no relation), who was generous and accommodating almost to a fault, even offering to jeep us to the concert should the snow become too intimidating for my old car. Anyway, I didn’t feel like cooking, and had prepared a list of local restaurants, the brunch one being what turned out to be a pub called “Simply Simons.” Now Marianne chooses carefully, way too carefully. I, on the other hand, go for the gastronomic gusto, so how could I resist the “Dad’s Favorite?” (That should have been a rhetorical question, but, unfortunately, it was not.) So I chowed down on a greasy burger patty with a hunk of canned chow mein buried in crispy noodles, while we watched the doomsday weather predictions on the bar TV. By now, various websites were anticipating anything from six to nine inches up to twelve to fifteen, or possibly more. Well, what was there to do but return to the house, obsess about tomorrow, and make sure that at least we wouldn’t die, cut off from civilization by an unplowed, mile long path in some old woods that would have been fun to explore in the damned summer, even in the rain.

Now had my smart phone not been so stupid, it would have informed me, at, ironically, the precise time of our arrival, of an email sent by the venue informing me that the performance had already been cancelled. We then would have followed our ritual, and returned home on the same “vacation” day as we had left. Instead, that evening we got to hunt good old Swansea for a dinner restaurant. Marianne is allergic to seafood. Massachusetts is swimming in seafood. So I had my handy list, but even the one restaurant that served other things and didn’t appear to be a risk for cross-contamination didn’t seem particularly appealing. So we resorted (again, no pun intended) to the internet, and found a little Chinese place that seemed fine and welcomingly inexpensive. It had dumplings AND shumai, and the neon sign outside advertised sushi rolls. So I was set. Unfortunately, the menu inside bore no mention of shumai and the universally Caucasian staff at the counter knew nothing about any sushi rolls. So out we went, ultimately resigned, after much over-consideration, to go to that place on the top of my list after all. But then, on the way, we saw another Chinese place, one that actually looked like a quaint little restaurant, and u-turned to give it a try. As we opened the door, the Asian appearance on the outside gave way to the reality of a bar and pool hall with some booths and, yes, another all Caucasian staff. (I must have missed the century old sign, “No Chinese allowed” at the entrance to Swansea.) Oh, what the hell, we figured, let’s just eat here. That was until we saw the menu, which included the likes of eight dollar dumplings, something I had never seen in fancy, make that real, Chinese restaurants even in New York City. So out we went again, off to the restaurant I had intended from the beginning. It was kind of all right, and we took left-overs back (which might have been part of the reason I got so sick upon our return).

When we arrived “home away,” I finally checked my emails. And soon I came upon one from Kenny White, reading, “hope the postponement isn’t too big a drag for you.” (I had told him we were coming up. Marianne, on the other hand, still didn’t know what the hell we were doing there.) Uh oh, I thought. I quickly scanned down the email list in reverse chronology, and there was the announcement from the early afternoon. Was it better that they had cancelled than that I lose my advance payment in snowbound regret or my life trying to make it there… yeah, probably. Anyway, now seemed just the perfect time to make my own announcement, letting Marianne know why we had been up there. It was nine thirty, too late to catch a ferry back. So we decided to get up really early (you should know that these days, in retirement, “really early” generally means about noon to me, but here we were talking about rooster time) and hightail it back to Long Island before the storm hit. The flakes starting falling just as we reached my condo. And that was our second “vacation.” I’m pretty sure the Gods of Weather, working through this taunting website, are having a good laugh, literally at our expense.

I have been apprised of another, similar site that the young folk use called “AirBnB,” and I’ve perused it. But I’ll be damned if I let “Home Away” beat me. Someday we’re going to have a vacation that lasts at least twenty four hours! Meanwhile, my son is away on yet another ten day cruise, since my ex found herself a rich boyfriend. It hurts me that I can’t do more for him, but a combination of health and money issues make it very challenging. Maybe someday for that, too. Meanwhile, Spring Break is practically around the corner. And what kind of impending disaster could be left to mess with us? Oh, wait, I forgot, by then Trump will be President. Hey, staying in bed hiding under the covers is a pretty good way of getting away, too.

P.S. This was the very night of the postponed performance. Kenny White promised he’d do “Cyberspace” for me, and that he’d let me know when he’ll be back home performing in New York. I highly recommend his new album, “Long List of Priors.” With Leonard Cohen gone, we need to hold onto and support all the genius songwriters we have left.

Jews and Muslims and Blacks, Oh My

 

Okay, so now we find ourselves all essentially in the same boat, and “the ship be sinking.” The question is whether we will continue to struggle with each other until we drown or struggle together against “Trumpism.”

I have basically had to take a break from Facebook because of all of the anti-Jewish attacks and myths perpetrated by not just the right but by disturbed corners of the left as well, not just by those whom I have argued against but by those whom I’ve argued for when it comes to attacks and myths propagated against them. I am not religious, but I have come to be proud of my Jewish cultural heritage, the tradition of helping, of questioning and debating, of the valuing of facts and knowledge, of social conscience born of history and guilt, and, most of all, of siding with the “underdog.” Yes, I’ve seen in my lifetime too many Jews diverge from the direction their moral compass was pointing, out of both the typical paranoia suffered by most oppressed groups and their attempts to assimilate into White culture. But what still distinguished them… us… was that there was usually a wall that kept our missteps from reaching the depths to which members of most other White ethnic groups could sink, and that there were still many of us, disproportionately more in fact, that could never abandon our progressive roots. Where once we were the staunchest allies of African Americans in their struggles for civil rights, we allowed, and were substantially responsible for, a bitter schism to develop. And though we shared so much kinship and pain with Muslims, we are not only at odds, we are at war. And all the time, those who rule the world laugh at the success of their divide and conquer games: at the belief that it is “Zionists” and not corporatists that hold their seat of power, at the belief that it is Islam and not imperialism that is the principal and true source of terrorism, at the belief that it is the scapegoats, immigrants or Blacks or poor people or “political correctness” depending on the election season, that are the enemies of angry working people and not them, and at the belief that we, Jews and Muslims and Blacks, whatever our misunderstandings, are not natural and necessary allies in a battle for our mutual survival.

Once upon a time, Jews were not only active partners but in leadership positions in the civil rights movement. Many had commitment and courage enough to be beaten, and some, like Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman, famously, to be lynched alongside their African American brothers and sisters. For decades, surveys of different ethnicities found Jews far and away the most supportive of African American rights. But in a racist society, it’s hard, even among the well intentioned, to avoid absorbing some of its prejudice, and many Blacks felt that the Jews who were supposed to be supporting them were actually more paternalistically trying to lead a movement that should be self-determined. In addition, as the Black Power movement grew and anger against Whites started to be freed, Jews became a particular target. I think this was because of two visibility factors: that we were the last White ethnic group to escape segregation and poverty and leave the communities that Blacks were moving into, with some remaining in the capacities of landlords and shop owners, and because of the tradition of serving in the helping professions, making us the teachers and social workers that Blacks were, not always pleasantly, dealing with. Unfortunately, for some African Americans, ranging from the Nation of Islam to, at one time, Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, the anti-Semitic stereotypes cast onto Jews coming from within other White ethnic groups that were nowhere to be seen seemed too tempting not to embrace. And many Jews, who couldn’t or didn’t want to understand this dynamic that was unfolding or the role of some of their own in its percolation, reciprocally turned their own backs on their former allies, albeit still not as much as those who had never been sympathetic in the first place.

Meanwhile, we have the greater mutual hatred centered in the Middle East, between Jews and Muslims. We should see this as fratricide. Jews and Arab Muslims are bound together as Semites, “the seed of Abraham.” Both claim the bequeathing by God of the “Holy Land” to them, and not coincidentally. Now, being non-religious, I would have found it more politically practical and morally justifiable if the subdivision of Germany had been for the purpose of creating the Jewish State rather than it being a plaything for imperialists. I am not a Zionist in the sense that I am not a nationalist and have no allegiance to Israel, especially given its reactionary and oppressive policies. But unlike too many, I understand what Zionism is, and is not. Zionism is not some conspiratorial international power elite of bankers and merchants, despite the ravings of neo-Nazis and people who have chosen, intentionally or defensively, to believe them. Zionism does not control America or Britain or any country other than Israel; the tail does not wag the dog. It is hard to blame Jews fleeing pogroms and gas ovens and millennia of other inventions of extermination to want a homeland of their own, again. Some of the leaders of their movement were imperialists, sure, but most were survivors who, like Moses, were trying to lead their people toward their prophesied salvation. Some really believed that Palestine was “a land without a people for a people without a land,” and some clearly knew otherwise. It’s not very different from the “manifest destiny” that led victims of religious persecution in Europe to the alleged “New World.” The moral questions arise once each group arrived and (pardon the expression) “discovered” that there indeed was a people already settled there and for a long time (for those who believed that time is relevant to their “eternal God”). What followed were displacements and massacres. In Palestine, Jewish terrorists (yes, we can use that term, too), the Irgun and the Stern Gang, were ruthless in the colonization, and the rest of the immigrants either tacitly approved or looked away. The intention, even after the partition imposed by the Western powers that saw the remaining Arabs getting the least desirable and cultivable of what had been their homeland (since, like the Native Americans, they didn’t know what to do with the land anyway), was clearly to take over all of “Eretz Israel,” which has become reality with the support of those Western powers. And why did they provide that support, and those arms and vetoes? Not because “Zionists” control anything, but because having a “friendly ally” in an area where their control was shaky at best was and is good politics and business, hence the propping up of other “friendly” regimes, from that of the Shah of Iran to the current government of Iraq. Even Westerners ranging from neo-Cons to neo-Nazis who otherwise hate Jews as much as, if not more than Muslims support Israel, for reasons political, economic and/or religious.

Anyway, the “anti-Zionist” sentiment of Palestinians, fellow Muslims, and their supporters, who in America, again and ironically, happen to be disproportionately Jewish, is more than understandable. But sadly, beginning with the collaboration between the Nazis and some Arab leaders, and continuing as too many Palestinians, from their vantage point, started seeing Israel and Zionism as a multi-tentacled giant that embodied and confirmed the historic stereotypes of Jews rather than just one of hundreds of governments that oppress their minorities, “Zionists” became a code word. This further provoked the paranoia and tightened the blinders, very typical of “post-oppressive syndrome,” of many Jews internationally, who already believed themselves “chosen” and carried their own horrible myths and stereotypes about Islam. And now we live in a world of lies and self-fulfilling prophesies, and we Americans are facing a regime made up of racists and of anti-Semites in the fullest sense of the term. Trump supporters are celebrating a victory for White Christian America, with, by now since the election, over a thousand cases of harassment and assault against Jews and Muslims, African Americans and Latinos, and the spray-painting of swastikas and “KKK” next to “Trump” in schoolyards and dorms and on people’s cars and homes. White supremacists have been fueled and emboldened, and a White nationalist/anti-Semite has been appointed the chief Presidential advisor by a President-elect who used neo-Nazi sources of “information” for his campaign, picked someone who was too racist for a Republican Congress to approve for a federal judgeship to be our Attorney General, and still talks about a registry for Muslims. So I am reaching out to my Muslim and Black brothers and sisters. Can we afford to be divided anymore? Does it even matter “who started it” when the specter of someone else “finishing it” hangs over our collective heads? In the face of “divide and conquer” we have to unite, and finally understand now that it is undeniably clear that an attack on any of us is an attack on all of us and requires that we stand and fight back together, as we should have all along.

Passing Regrets

I’m scared to death of death. Is one supposed to learn to come to grips with it as one ages, or is life a constant attempt to distract oneself from the inevitable? I guess I’ve been lucky in that I haven’t had to stare death in the face, personally or vicariously, as often as many people my age, as often as many people of much younger age in fact. But I think back on people with whom I shared many days of my life and then one day were gone, and I recognize that it’s time to devote a blog to them.

Alfred Siegel was, I think it’s fair to say, the leader of our little band of neighborhood ballplayers, sometimes assertively, more often benevolently, most often just assumedly. I wish I could say “friends,” but I really didn’t understand the concept then. There were four of us who spent most days of a decade together, myself, Alfred, Ricky, all of us living in the same Bronx building, and Craig, who was in the next. There were a number of others who were part of the clique for significant periods. David, who moved in across the street, spent many years as second or third in the athletic and influential hierarchy, as well as serving as the group comedian. His sarcastic wit, which I unfortunately was all too often a target of, was to earn him two distinctions: becoming a successful comedy writer in Hollywood, most notably, and fittingly, for “Married With Children,” and being the only person I have ever actually hit (deservedly and clumsily), which he found especially funny. Jeff lived on the next block, and he was part of the gang for a substantial time, during which he developed a crush on Ricky’s sister, which ended up getting him slapped. (Those were the only incidents of violence in our story.) I was lucky enough to reconnect with Jeff, who might have been the closest thing I had to an actual friend and who thinks I exaggerate some of my ineptness and other perspectives, and we are at least periodically in touch (though not often enough, so I’m going to be calling him after I finish this). Joey, who had started our relationship by bullying me (in a mild, Bronx Jewish sort of way), suddenly turned around and not only befriended me for a time, but was the one who hooked me up with the little posse. He was a part of it until he discovered girls, whom he found much more appealing than sports, and with whom he turned out to be considerably more successful. There were others, from the neighborhood and outliers, one of them being Stephen Adumkin. Stephen, who lived on Jeff’s block, was born with only one arm, yet by the time we met him he was almost the athlete that Alf was. Through a little browsing, I discovered that he had gone on to be named “the best New York City handicapped athlete in his age group,” became an accomplished card player, and died of a heart attack in 1990 at the age of 40.

This hadn’t been my first internet search. In addition to finding Jeff, I also traced Craig, who became a car dealer in Connecticut and Massachusetts, “Richard,” a technology CEO in New York, and Alfred, an extremely successful attorney, also in New York. The old neighborhood wasn’t the last place I had run into Alfred. As a result of all those days playing ball, I had become a pretty good softball pitcher in one of the fairly prestigious Central Park softball leagues, and, to my surprise, Alfred was a manager in the same league. We faced each other a few times, and my recollection is that I more often got the best of him. One of my greatest memories is the 2-0 shutout I pitched against the league’s best pitcher, “Slim,” and the league’s defending champions, The Kings, thanks to a great throw to the plate by our rightfielder and Daily News sports columnist, Wayne Coffey. Shutouts are virtually unheard of in modified fast pitch softball, and the signed game ball I left with became one of my most prized possessions… until it was destroyed when my house was burned down years later. But I still keep the simulated replica I made, that’s how important it was to me. And it was more important because Alf was sitting in the stands watching, and hopefully impressed. He had pretty much taught me to play sports. I have another memory, of an informal football game among the four of us, me and Alf against Craig and Ricky, and he called the unimaginable play: me going out for a long pass. Overweight and awkward as I was, I was so slow that it would be sunset by the time I got open. Nevertheless, he threw a pass that must have gone three times as high as it did far to compensate, and I somehow snatched it off my shoe tops while reaching back, followed by Craig yelling in amused amazement, “He caught it!” Obviously I still remember that moment. Alfred not only kind of coached me, he kind of accepted me. That is to say, he saved me. Without those social and athletic experiences, I was on a path to become that guy that Woody Allen described in “Annie Hall,” with the galoshes and shopping bag, drooling on a bench in Central Park instead of playing on a ballfield. I never expressed my appreciation, and I guess none was to be expected. But Alfred died, too, I was to find out, in 2014, also of a heart attack, a much admired crusader for justice in the legal profession, a much praised father, and an unsuspecting rescuer.

Mary Martinez was the secretary/bookkeeper at the Coney Island day care center where I was the Director. I inherited a staff of mostly underqualified and too complacent long-serving locals. Combined with the restricted budget that City child care programs operate with, the place was unfit for children. Over a few years I tried to improve the facilities, the teaching and the staffing. I wish I could say that I performed miracles, I wish I could say that I at the time had the experience and confidence to fully overcome entrenched interests, but, for what it’s worth, it did become the best day care center in the area while I was there. I showed caring, I connected with parents, I used a slush fund, I suffered a mugging, I made some decent hiring decisions (Stephon Marbury owes me big time for being sure to give his mother a permanent job before I left), and I did have the support of the Executive Director (whom I would end up dating twenty five years later, but that’s clearly another story). I certainly faced some skepticism, but not from Mary, who recognized and appreciated the attempts at change. Mary was devoted to the center and it’s kids… and to me. Or should I say, I think she was in love with me. She was a wonderful woman, married to an abusive man, and too humble and religious to do anything about it. She was a friend, and I relied on her.

Once I took her to lunch, and the staff, presumably aware of her feelings and/or her deprivation, suggested that the restaurant should have been a prelude to my apartment. I was hardly above sleeping with a married woman at the time (or twenty five years later), but this clearly wouldn’t have been right for her, despite how torn it was obvious that she was. When I came to resign, she expressed everything I had meant to the program and the children, but, as was her way, I guess her destiny, held back regarding herself. I should have stayed in touch with her. I think it would have made her very happy when, after bouncing around other, less successful administrative positions, I found my footing, and some success, as a college professor. I don’t think she was to ever be very happy. In researching the staff in another exercise in nostalgia, I found a page of a 2011 local newspaper. It contained a very brief tribute to the late Mary Martinez, to her last days a devoted bookkeeper at Roberta Bright Day Care Center and member of the Coney Island church and community, beloved by many, as she should have been, although perhaps not, were he still alive, by her husband. My good-bye to her, and my expressions of appreciation, and of other feelings I might have harbored, will forever remain distant and inadequate. But she remains one of the very best women, in so many ways, that I’ve ever known.

David Klein was a long-time, albeit intermittent friend. I met Dave, well, I met “Bear,” at my first try-out for a softball team in Central Park. Bear was a hulking, amiable, kind of goofy teammate. We started hanging out and getting high (sure, I did that then), going to movies, playing cards and expanding our circle when his childhood friend, Zack, who remains another too intermittent friend and football betting adversary of mine, returned. There was so much that was charming about Dave. And then there were things that were so annoying, things I understand better now. Dave had a troubled youth. Although I usually enjoyed his company (especially on those days when we would get stoned, play in the playground, pick up some chocolate cannolis and Chinese dumplings, and sit in the first row of the Kips Bay theater watching some stupid when unintoxicated comedy and pigging out), I didn’t like the way he, as I perceived it, tended to use people. I don’t think he ever quite understood that that’s what he was doing. After a few years, I began to grow resentful, and after he just took it too far with his relatively new wife, I, like she, ended up divorcing him. I’m not sure I myself was in any position for such moral outrage, but we parted company and I know that hurt him, as he continued to see me as a close friend.

I found out through our mutual friend that he had moved upstate with the rather young woman he had left his wife for, a relationship which I had apparently misjudged and didn’t turn out to be as unreasonable as I had imagined, and that after it ended he had met another very nice woman whom he was living with. I was told he had changed, and I hesitantly began to see that in the nature of the relationships he was attracting, in his very warm, intimate and positive Facebook postings, and in a couple of too brief attempts at recommunication. I was also told that he was in seriously ill health, first, that he had had a heart attack, and, second, that diabetes had led to the amputation of his legs. This last woman apparently was a saint, because even after their romance ended she stayed to care for him. But he was now isolated and lonely, with a small circle of acquaintances up there that he couldn’t even get out to see and who apparently didn’t go out of their way to see him. He really wanted the company of his old friends, and our mutual friend especially wanted to visit him, and asked if I would drive since he didn’t. By this time, we were talking a little more regularly, out of friendship as well as pity, but long drives did then, and continue to, unnerve me, and at the time even the prospect of a long trip didn’t play well with the stress and depression I was undergoing, so I had to say no to the visit. I probably didn’t care enough yet. I know that Zack deeply regrets having not seen Dave before he died, in 2012, also of a heart attack. So do I now, for all three of us. He had endured and overcome a lot, and rather than regressing or turning inward, the gentle, sensitive, fun and people loving soul that he really always had been is what will always best define his memory.

Matt Zavitkovsky became a friend in college. Well, actually, from what I understand, he, along with our to be mutual friend Joe, was commissioned to reach out to and recruit this novice to radical politics into the Maoist faction of SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) to which he at the time belonged. I did hover there for a while, but we did in fact become good friends. Despite being a little younger, he was like the older brother I never had, in a way taking over for Alf as a more direct mentor. He taught me to dance, to smoke pot, to be a little more social and a little less anxious, and to develop a more precise, or distorted, depending on perception, understanding of socialism. Almost exactly a year later, we discovered that we were second cousins. From then on, and especially after we graduated and pursued different things, there were times when we were closer and periods when we were barely in touch, but our friendship spanned two full decades. It also continued in its original character, with him as the mentor and big brother, even when I no longer needed, or wanted, such a dynamic. Matt had to be right, even more than I did, and there was one time when I consciously held my ground through one of our debates. The nature of relationships, any kind of relationship, is hard to change, and I think that was the final straw, amidst other annoyances, some deserved, for him. He was to be co-best man, along with Joe, at my wedding, and I was to find out that he had planned to fulfill his obligation as if nothing was wrong and then never speak to me again, continuing a well established tradition in our family. And in fact we never spoke again. I did keep tabs on him through our friend, though, and it was all sad.

Matt had been a prodigy in so many ways. When I first met him, he was smart, sociable, handsome and multi-talented, playing several instruments in a band. He could have been an exceptional musician. When the computer revolution first began (after the revolution we had been planning for never did), he taught himself to become a skilled programmer, and what a career he could have had in the new technology. He attended nursing school and became a registered nurse, authored a few pieces for medical periodicals, and assisted a very prominent scientist, Lynn Margulis (Carl Sagan’s wife) in writing a textbook. He could have made it big in the medical or medical journalism fields. He attended Harvard Law School, and dropped out in the last semester, partly because of a bout with shingles, and partly because it appears that he could never see anything through, including what seemed, on the outside anyway, a really good relationship. He was a bit of a faddist, immersing himself in something (whether, literally, it was computers or cream cheese, music or mayonnaise, medicine or vanilla yogurt, the law or goldfish crackers), and then, just as quickly and thoroughly, abandoning it. The young man with the unlimited potential took a “safe” civil service job, with the good looks shaved his enviable curly hair (again partly due to the shingles) and grew obese, with the energetic sociability became a virtual recluse, and with the wealth of interests and talents evolved into a tight-walleted scavenger and hoarder. I got a call from Joe in 2005 telling me that he had died alone, also from a heart attack, and it took several days for his body to have been discovered. So many broken hearts, figuratively and literally…. But it needs to be noted that while he was here, Matt accomplished much, touched many people and served as a model both of all of the characteristics of greatness and of mistakes and demons to be avoided in its pursuit. He certainly changed my life, overwhelmingly for the better.

I couldn’t complete this piece without commemorating two other, extremely important people to me, my grandfather and my father. As with all of the above, but, of course, even more deeply, I wish I had told them some of what I am telling you now.

Samuel Kravitt, better known to me as “Kapu,” was my maternal grandfather, and my male role model. In a Jewish family with no masculine right of passage other than going through the Bar Mitzvah motions (which I believe included the kosher chicken dance along with the hora), here was someone who had buddies and had played ball (first base without a glove no less), and smoked and drank and gambled. In reality he didn’t drink or gamble to any excess, and the womanizing that I had also believed to be part of this oh so naughtily goyishe persona was purely due to my mother’s tendency toward gross miscommunication. Regardless, I idolized him. But, really, not for any of that. I adored him because he adored me. I was the only grandchild, and he doted on me. He took me on mail trolley rides in the Post Office he worked in. He bought me rock candy. He was the aggressive card player that I modeled myself after when our family played Bridge. He was my favorite family member, and, unfortunately, I made no secret of it. But once I was mad at him for something, and my mother told me about how he had walked a long distance rather than ride the bus so he could save the nickel to buy me a comic book. Obviously, I’ve never forgotten the guilt. When I was seventeen and in the process of radicalization, he and I would have hurtful arguments over his old world racism and my new world lengthening hair. Given that and my age, I don’t remember us ever being as close again. Just a couple of years later, in 1970, I was alone in the house when the phone rang. It was our family doctor, telling us he had died, of a heart attack. He had been in ill health for some time, which is what my mother had been trying to communicate when she set loose my imagination by vaguely referring to the “trouble” my grandmother had with him that I “don’t want to know.” I had to tell my mother. And mourning him was difficult for me, despite the fact that I don’t seem to feel things as deeply as some, except anxiety, and things on television, although I respond as if I do. But there was the guilt, over our last years and my misunderstanding, to help it stew.

As is too common the case, I started to appreciate him more after he was gone and as the years passed. He worked two jobs, supporting my grandmother and mother, and was as generous and devoted and funny and kind as a friend, husband, father or grandfather can be. He would have come around on racism, as my mother and father and grandmother, sequentially, did when I announced I would be marrying a Black woman. He loved too much not to. Once I went to a psychic and asked if he could conjure up his spirit. Allegedly possessing it, he smiled and gave me a playful “zetz” on the chin. I pretty much dismissed it, until I recently read about this psychic, his life and the attestations to his legitimacy. Now I don’t know. Despite the rationalism that usually trumps my curiosities toward spiritualism, I have felt, since my twenties, that some thing/one was watching over me. I was told by this same psychic that it was a woman relative. My girlfriend talks about angels. I am about to speak with Arvel Bird about my animal spirit guides. My acupuncturist believes in them, too. Yet I don’t think I’ll ever be convinced that, if there is someone or something, it could be anyone or anything but my grandfather. It’s what he would do if he could.

Joseph Weber was my father. This will be the hardest one. There was so much I didn’t understand. If anything, my father, a gentle man, was even more self-sacrificing than my grandfather, in fact, too self-sacrificing. His wife and his child were his world. He dropped out of college to also work in the post office, which he came to hate. I don’t think he had much of a sense of self. He was funny, mechanically talented, and smarter than he ever realized; my cousin wasn’t the only one with unfulfilled potential. My mother was the “strong” one in our family. Her need was to have people dependent on her, as my father was, as my grandmother was after her husband died, and as I had to break away from. I blamed her for that, I blamed him for his weakness. He was anxious, like guess who, and self-doubting, like guess who, and wasn’t the male role model my young self was looking for, never mind that after all of my libertine overcompensations I ultimately turned out so much like him in such significant, probably mostly good ways. I think that my son can thank him for my becoming as devoted a father as I believe I have been, and my students for the ethic and sacrifice, and anxiety and guilt, I have put into my teaching. I judged him immaturely. I didn’t appreciate that two people could be happy in their marriage and with each other, or good parents if they didn’t fit some traditional stereotype that was convenient for their son, or that he could be a “real man” by fulfilling his responsibilities to family and being a humble person of honesty, decency and generosity.

Yes, they were both limited in their own ways in their abilities to understand and help their boy child socio-emotionally, as that was their weakness as well, but they gave everything they could and more, and how many of us can write about having had two parents who were good people, utterly committed and gently supportive, and in undying love? Sometimes my personal frustrations and projected blame hurt him, but he took it. He also took great pride in me. He only spanked me twice, both times because I had been disrespectful to my mother, reaching for the masculine identity of her (albeit unnecessary) “protector.” During the later years of his life, after a breakdown, his retirement from his job, and the loss of another piece of his identity, that of fatherhood, with the moving out and rebellion from his son, he then found himself, instead of enjoying his “golden years,” being dragged around with my mother to respond to every needy whim of his mother-in-law. When I called, he would quickly recite some pleasantries, then pass the phone to my mother. We hardly talked. We never exchanged “I love you’s.” I started to appreciate him more and reached out meagerly, but we were too distanced. He died, of a heart attack, unexpectedly in the middle of the night in 1999. I went in to teach the next day. I miss him now, even just hearing his voice during those phone calls, and wish I had understood, and… well, you know… said so many things I never thought or got to say. I don’t see or talk to my ninety year old mother often enough, and we don’t know how to exchange “I love you’s” either. But I do tell my son.

So what is this blog all about? It’s probably about that bunch of cliches about being grateful for the presence of people in your life while you have them, and telling them how you feel, and trying to understand and appreciate and forgive them, and realizing how precious and vulnerable life is, and how nostalgic yet unforgiving memories can be. And it’s, of course, about my psychology, and maybe in some ways yours, too. Well, at least you’ve met these people now. The need to write this came to me while I lay in bed trying to fall asleep. Now I have. I wonder if sleep will come easier tonight.

Without Reservation

I attended the annual Shinnecock Pow Wow twice this Labor Day weekend. I look forward to this special event throughout the year, sometimes finding myself counting the months until it would arrive. I can’t fully explain why it affects me the way it does, but my intention here is to try.

I started to develop some kind of affinity for or connection with Native cultures in my early twenties, as I continued the process of re-education from the stereotypes and lies I had learned in school. But as sympathetic, hopefully empathetic, as I may have felt with African Americans or the Vietnamese, this was somehow different, different from that and different, I think, from the romanticized fantasies that were not uncommon among hippies of my time. Spirituality has always had difficulty breaking through my “rationality.” But I did, if somewhat skeptically, take a past life regression workshop back then, convinced that if I saw anything it would be the life of a Native American. I’m too over-controlled to be very susceptible to hypnosis, but when I blurred my eyes sufficiently while looking in the mirror, I thought that just maybe I may have envisioned a grizzled fur trapper, someone who would at least have had dealings with Native Americans, the next best thing, or wishful thinking. I started wearing Native jewelry, but was at least smart and aware enough to dismiss a prevailing idea that through dress one could “become an Indian.”

When I started teaching young children, I became particularly sensitive to the Fall period from Columbus Day to Thanksgiving. I resisted the stereotypical crafts and books, instead finding Nathaniel Benchley’s “Small Wolf,” an imperfect but better alternative to the books being used by other teachers, and creating some activities that were intended to remove the inappropriate and dehumanizing elements so commonly relied on. According to what research I have done, there still is really no book for young children that counters the misrepresentations rampant in the Eurocentric library of “holiday books.” Developing one has been one of the writing projects in the back of my mind for some time, especially after publishing “Not for Hurting,” my children’s book on the other poorly represented subject, war. After this weekend, I am now fired up to find a way to approach it, and have already played with a few ideas. I am still hoping to undertake this with a Native American collaborator, for obvious reasons.

As an early childhood teacher educator, I came in with some “agendas,” albeit none that were not in the true spirit of the field. I wanted my suburban, somewhat less than heterogeneous students to be sensitized to realities they may have been sheltered from. So I launched an annual toy drive for homeless children, and I introduced into the curriculum books by Jonathan Kozol, a fighter for educational equality whose eightieth birthday just happens to be today. I also, as well as trying to generally align the course to affirm equality and diversity, integrated a lecture I had been giving as an educational consultant on the hidden messages of holidays, among other subtle symbols of prejudice and discrimination lurking within the calendar, classroom and curriculum. Each semester I take my students on a journey from Columbus Day to Thanksgiving to Christmas to President’s Day. I don’t tell them what to believe, I share alternative perspectives and resources and tell them to seek truth on their own, because to be a teacher one needs to know before one can teach. I also don’t tell them what to do, I share with them what I did and suggest that they follow their own senses of integrity and creativity.

When my son was born, it became more personal, not that it necessarily needed to be. Whatever may or may not be within my spirit or have been in a previous incarnation, he is unspeculatively part Cherokee. When he was in Kindergarten, I and the other parents waiting to pick up their children watched from the vestibule as one class after another paraded down the hall wearing the same inaccurate, stereotypical and cheapening paper headdresses (“Indian hats”) that I had made when I was in nursery school. On a positive note, one of the teachers happened to have been a former student of mine and her children had not been subjected to this ignorant project. We were handed a flyer which announced that in recognition of the time of year, a “Pow Wow” would subsequently be held in the gym for the children and their families. I wrote a letter to the Principal, essentially communicating the following. Imagine, I suggested, that the upcoming holiday was not a day boycotted by many Native Americans, as Thanksgiving is, but, say, a holiday boycotted by Jews. What better way to handle that than to have a mock religious ceremony, trivialized in a school gymnasium, replete with paper yarmulkes whose authentic appearance teachers didn’t even bother to research, decorated by some sacred religious symbols done as a careless craft project, and punctuated by some music which “sounded Jewish”… all to celebrate a holiday that the Jewish community wanted no part of? To her credit, she did circulate at least part of the letter to her staff. On a less positive note, the tradition is still going on sixteen years later.

So, back to the present. Something came over me this weekend, as evidenced by this blog. For whatever reason, I always find myself more at peace and more at home when I come to the reservation than I do anywhere else, with the exception of Woodstock, which I can at least visit whenever I like and can afford. At least in part, the part I can “know,” it’s the smell of the white sage, the beat of the drums, the valuing of the children, and, mostly, the welcomingness, diversity and “ways” of the people. I was smudged for the first time, and felt something instantaneously, a sense of calm and connectedness which usually escapes me. Was it all in my mind, I don’t know, what’s “real” anyway? I (pardon the expression) “discovered” Arvel Bird, whose musicianship, storytelling, messages and being touched me powerfully. I saw children running free and dancing with respect, an abundance of artwork and craftwork, jewelry and clothing, blankets and oils that I wanted to take with me, and a red sunset. I did buy a magnificent carved and beaded cane for a mutual friend, Kokopelli earrings for my girlfriend, a “Cherokee Prayer” plaque for my son, and a couple of Arvel Bird CD’s, one for myself and one for my acupuncturist, who had just given me as a gift an elegant black and white Native print.

But I didn’t want to leave. Part of me was asking, “Why go home when you’re already there?” As I said, I am quite well aware that no matter what I wear (and I have two beautiful pieces of Native jewelry, a ring and a watchband, that my girlfriend bought me and I wear every day, along with the perfect denim jacket adorned with delicately stitched important Native symbols, and moccasins that I put on just for this occasion), or what I might ever feel or believe, I am not, nor shall I ever be, Indian. I envy my son for his triraciality, at least until we ever become post-racial, which will not be in my lifetime. But, while trying not to romanticize the realities as those hippies of yesteryear once did, I might be dissuaded from my fairly long-standing dream of moving to Woodstock were I able to spend my days in this environment and with these people, maybe working with them in some capacity if not being welcomed to live with them as an outsider. I certainly don’t want to minimize poverty, but I also can’t ignore my poverty of the spirit. My first book was about going through the chapters of finding one’s true and whole self, and where and with whom one belongs. This should be one of the chapters. It’s too late, though, at least for the book.

For My Palestinian Student, Teacher and Friend

(I posted this on the Facebook page of a friend who happens to be a devout Palestinian Muslim. Its intention is that our friendship serve as an example to others of her friends and mine of possibilities that exist in this growingly divided, hateful, chaotic and violent world, even at its epicenter. I have changed her name to “Mudarris,” which means “teacher” in Arabic.)

I’ve been wanting to write this for a while now, but decided to wait until the right time. My understanding is that Mudarris will be leaving to go back to Jordan at the end of the month, so I think this is that time. I hope, Mudarris, that you find it appropriate, otherwise you can delete it.

Mudarris was my Education student in three classes, and one of my best. In addition to her intelligence and decency, she always seemed to take to and agree with my philosophy of teaching and I always admired the things she wrote and said. But I’m not writing this to commend Mudarris, as remarkable as she is; that I can and will do privately. I have something more to say.

Mudarris and I have become friends, and in addition to substantial agreements on an approach to teaching, I think we have substantial agreements on an approach to living. I am Jewish… and an atheist. To me those things are irrelevant to the values one exhibits in one’s dealings with people and issues. Maybe I should tell you a little about myself before I continue.

I wasn’t raised with either a sense of religion or of nationalism (of any kind). In the 1960’s I was dramatically changed as a person. I became an activist against war and for civil rights and social justice. It became important to me to surround myself with a diversity that had been missing, and to be consistent, without blinders, regarding my principles. As such, I began to learn about the plight of the Palestinian people and came to support their struggle for justice.

It was common practice during those times for radical political organizations to set up tables of literature for passing students. Learning in college was not about what happened in the classroom then, it was about finding our place in and our potential impact on the world. As I remember it, a new manifesto or constitution had just been published by the PLO, and I wanted a copy for our table, to show students, who were disproportionately white and quite possibly Jewish at the time (until we closed down the campus to force open admissions), that they would not find the words “drive the Jews into the sea” as any kind of current and official position. So I went down to the PLO headquarters near Grand Central Station and introduced myself and my mission to the representative. Given that they had just been printed, he had only one copy. And he gave it to me (this was before affordable copy machines) on my promise to return it, having just met me and knowing I was Jewish, but apparently appreciative of my purpose.

I have never forgotten that gesture. I have, ever since, debated and written about “the Palestinian question,” fought against anti-Islamic prejudice and discrimination, and dreamed of and worked (albeit in small ways) for a world in which we, the “seed of Abraham,” the Semites, would rediscover our common roots and bonds, histories of oppression and aspirations for our children. I once organized a luncheon for the victims of a hate crime right around the corner from our College after 9/11, and demonstrated at the site of the mosque that was proposed near Ground Zero that met with so much ignorant opposition. It is painful for me, as a Jew, to hear the stereotypes and lies that have followed my people for millenia being perpetuated because the government and too many people of the Jewish state have acted so inhumanely and uncharacteristically based on the tenets that we are supposed to believe in. It is equally painful for me, as a human being, to hear the stereotypes and lies that have been cast at Muslims, also for centuries but of course especially now because of those who have acted so inhumanely and uncharacteristically based on the tenets that they are supposed to believe in.

From the time that my ancestors were driven from their homeland, not for the first time, by the Romans, we have suffered characterizations ranging from “Christ killers” to “money grubbers” to a secret conspiracy of evil that rules the world. These myths of bigotry, like all myths of bigotry against any persecuted peoples, were used to justify atrocities, including the exile, the Spanish Inquisition, the pogroms and ultimately The Holocaust. Muslims, based on other myths of bigotry, suffered the Crusades, their own pogroms, exiles and attacks, and ultimately the likes of “Shock and Awe” throughout the Middle East and roundups and persecutions in America. We should understand one another. In fact, we should be united.

I understand that there is a fine line between “terrorists” and freedom fighters, as there was in Ireland, and, for that matter, America when it fought the British. I also understand the reality and legitimacy of feelings of rage, desperation, powerlessness and limited options, and that bombs and drones, kill lists and black sites are terrorism, too, in fact the most egregious. Nonetheless, there is a line, there has to be.

This is my perspective. My ancestors wanted a country of their own. They felt that it was God-given, that it had been taken from them, and that it was the only way they could defend themselves against eternal persecution. I would have preferred had the Allied powers carved up Germany and made half of it a Jewish state instead of a military outpost for the West. But I am not religious. There were those, Zionists in its original meaning, who believed that their Bible decreed that the Jewish state be in Palestine. I do believe that while some among the Zionist movement were imperialists, many were following an honest religious belief. They were told by their leaders that Palestine was “a land without a people for a people without a land.” It’s not very different from the European settlers who came to the New World having been told that it was largely unpopulated except by “savages” who didn’t know how to use the land anyway, and that it was their “Manifest Destiny” as ordained by God, to have America for their own.

Once they got to Palestine, they had to realize that they had been lied to. Some, like those in the Irgun and Stern Gang, became terrorists, and committed massacres and forced exiles. Some, like in the Haganah, while being the more moderate, certainly gave tacit permission for and willful ignorance of what was happening. Many of the Jewish immigrants were scared, exhausted, even barely surviving their tortures. Was it hypocrisy to allow to be done to the Palestinian people what had just been done to them, of course. Some used religious justification for retaking the land, and what happens when two peoples both believe that God is on their side and has bestowed to them the same land? Would it be moral to send many if not most of the immigrants back to Germany, Russia, etc. and return it to the Palestinians? One could make that argument, just as one could make the argument that Europeans should be returned to Europe and America returned to the Native Americans. But time, for better or worse, always obscures morality with practicality. How far back do we honor claims? So what’s the solution from my perspective?

To me, the practical solution is easy. at least easy to conceptualize, albeit not accomplish. Israel has to pull back all of the settlements to at least the 1967 boundaries, cease all acts of martial law in exchange for a permanent, mutual cease fire, supervised if necessary, and recognize a Palestinian state in the otherwise occupied territories of sufficient size and cultivatability to allow a Palestinian economy to flourish. With temporary neutral international monitoring that seems very doable. I would also make Jerusalem an international city. Again, I’m not religious, so that’s easy for me to say. People who believe that God granted them the city would undoubtedly not be so easily convinced, and I don’t have a good answer for that. Look, I’m not an historian, nor a geographer, I’m just someone who wants people to stop killing and dying, misunderstanding and hating each other, and have our children taught to and be able to live in peace. I would love to be further educated, because I am the first one to admit to my relative ignorance of other perspectives. I just want each reader to believe that everything I have expressed is heart felt and free of any agendas other than one simple one, love.

And back to Mudarris, I want to again express my respect and admiration, not only for what she has accomplished here, but for her courage and self-sacrifice in her desire to bring her gifts and what she has learned back to the needy children of Jordan and hopefully, one day soon, Palestine. First and foremost, I wish her safety and peace. However, I recognize that America isn’t the safest and most pleasant place for Muslims these days or for the foreseeable future, and I promise that I will continue to speak out, to those who support Trump and those who support Netanyahu, to Americans in general and particularly Jewish people because that is my special responsibility, against words and acts of hate or ignorance. The world would be so much better if people took responsibility within their own “families,” if Whites took the lead in educating other Whites about the stereotypes and history of prejudice that affect Blacks, so Blacks wouldn’t have to, if Anglos took the lead in educating other Anglos about the stereotypes and history of prejudice that affect Latinos, so Latinos wouldn’t have to, if Straights took the lead in educating other Straights about the stereotypes and history of prejudice that affect Gays, so Gays wouldn’t have to, if Jews took the lead in educating other Jews about the stereotypes and history of prejudice that affect Muslims, so Muslims wouldn’t have to, and if Muslims took the lead in educating other Muslims about the stereotypes and history of prejudice that have affected Jews, so that Jews wouldn’t have to. And please be aware that there are many, an increasing number of Jews, inside and outside of Israel, who do condemn its policies. It is in the tradition of the Jewish people, with this one glaring exception, to side with the oppressed, and I am proud of our tradition of commitment to education, free thinking, progressive politics and compassion (and guilt). It is my job to teach them to remove their blinders and, despite defensiveness and bias, remember that.

To Mudarris, I hope we remain friends and keep in touch across the waters. I am eager to find out about your accomplishments, which I know will be outstanding. And I hope you are happy with what I have written here, as I would like to think that our friendship provides just a little example of hope that we can all begin to see our differences as opportunities for learning and enrichment in the context of our common humanity, rather than divisions that scare and silence us, although ultimately we are just two people who had the good fortune to meet. Best wishes to you and your family on a safe trip and fulfilling futures.

 

Baseball and Boycotts: Suffolk County Community College Earns an “F” on LGBT Rights

I have been a faculty member of Suffolk Community College for more than a quarter century. I have served on their Faculty Senate, their Academic Standards Committee, their Student Liaison Committee, their Curriculum Committee, their Diversity Committee and their Academic Integrity Committee. In addition to having taught seven different courses in and helping to redesign their Early Childhood Education Program, I have been Co-Coordinator of the Academic Advisement and Mentoring Center, I have taught in their College Success Program, I have participated in workshops on multiculturalism and the first year student experience, and I have designed a game for the College website which serves as an interactive “map” for students of the College’s components, functions, requirements and supports. I have been loyal, but I have rarely hesitated to speak out when College policies and decisions have run counter to their stated mission, as they frequently have. And now I find myself ashamed of the institution to which I have devoted more than half of my adult life.

Last week, the Board of Trustees, essentially an unreachable group of appointees, voted that the College baseball team be “allowed” to travel to North Carolina, in the face of the nationwide boycott against its new discriminatory laws against the LGBT community, because, since the team is partially paid for by student fees, it is “not covered” under the New York State ban on interstate commerce with North Carolina in support of LGBT rights. In other words, since students are paying to collude with discrimination rather than solely the taxpayers, that’s somehow okay. Their unanimous vote clearly misses the point, and undoubtedly deliberately so. The issue is not whether they “could” go, it was whether they should. They could have ruled that the College stands in opposition to discrimination and, therefore, the Board directs its components to abide by the sanctions against North Carolina. Or, in recognition of the fact that the College is supposed to be an institution of learning, it could have drafted an advisory statement on discrimination, including specifics about the new law and an historical perspective on previous boycotts, including those in the world of sports. It chose to do neither. And one has to wonder just how committed they are to supporting the rights of all people when it was just a year ago when they voted to ignore another boycott in support of the LGBT community, and contracted with Chick-Fil-A, whose profits derived from those student fees are donated to anti-LGBT groups and causes.

Whether one calls their statement a cop-out or a sell-out, they violated their own mission statement, which reads, “Suffolk County Community College promotes intellectual discovery, physical development, social and ethical awareness, and economic opportunities for all through an education that transforms lives, builds communities, and improves society.” One can see phrases like “ethical awareness,” “build(ing) communities” and “improv(ing) society,” all of which the decision made a mockery of, but where do we find anything about, say, “ignoring the plights of others in the privileged pursuit of the personal fruits of competition?” Allegedly the buck was passed to the ballplayers themselves, and if there had been a responsible, facilitated dialogue about the matter, that could have made for an empowering teachable moment. But as far as I am aware, no such dialogue ever took place, even after I reached out via email to the College President, the Assistant Dean of Student Affairs, the Director of Athletics, the Coach of the baseball team, the Faculty Advisors of the LGBTQ student club, the Coordinator of Multicultural Affairs, Faculty Governance and its Chair, and the Faculty Advisor of Student Governance. What resulted was the typical silence that has too often been Suffolk’s history.

I recognize that these kids would have been put into a position to sacrifice something that at the moment was big to them. But don’t we teach that sacrifice can be noble? Don’t we want them to see that there are things that are bigger than themselves? Should we turn away so they can have their moment in the sun while others are reaching out from a storm? Do we buy into the national model of having the athletic tail wagging the academic dog and making ethical exemptions for athletes, who bring money and “prestige,” or do we continue the values that these kids once were taught in little leagues and junior soccer, that what’s most important is “how you play the game?” Which course would have been more likely to have had the greater impact on the adult citizens they become, and don’t we have more than enough self-centeredness, obliviousness, privilege, mispriorities and division in our society without making decisions which do nothing but contribute to their continuation? And which would be better advertising for the College’s recruitment and reputation, that we won yet another sports award, or that when push came to shove we stood on principle? I am disappointed in the ballplayers that played in my name, but I am more disappointed for them. A perfect opportunity for substantive learning. about tough decision making, about values, about one’s place in the world, was blown. And that’s a tragedy for an institution of “higher” learning.

The Case Against Clinton: Why Hillary Is an Unacceptable Alternative

With the rigged nomination process reaching its inevitable conclusion, we are once again being manipulated with the fear tactics that make us postpone our principles for another four years and resign ourselves to “the lesser of two evils.”  Yes, minor differences can make major differences in the lives of vulnerable people, say with Supreme Court nominations.  But many of us have been waiting for forty five years for another progressive and idealistic youth movement to emerge, and we cannot tell them to settle and wait.  Now that they have looked behind the curtain, we cannot provide cover for the power brokers anymore.  Now that they have turned around and beheld the light, we cannot divert them back to the shadows cast on the cave wall by the puppet masters.  We have to have long term vision, and to achieve it, to realize solutions that will finally end the cycles of fear and powerlessness and pain, we have to stop believing what the corporate media, CNN (the Clinton News Network), the sell-outs at MSNBC and the unabashed liars at Fox News, tells us.  Donald Trump is scary, no question.  But the deeper one looks at what they can actually get done, and what they would want to get done, the more one begins to acknowledge that Hillary Clinton is in fact not “the lesser of two evils” at all, and that the Democratic Party, by nature of the plutocracy, will always be part of the problem rather than the solution.  And here is why.

  1. Hillary Clinton is a war hawk. She supported the invasion of Iraq, and without even reading the intelligence because she wanted to appear “tough” in foreign policy to advance her own political ambitions, which is the only thing she has ever cared about. She counseled Obama to widen the war in Afghanistan, to force regime change in Libya and to be more militaristic in dealing with Iran, all allegedly against Biden’s advice, and as a result ISIS has grown and been armed, and weapons have been collaboratively smuggled from Libya to Turkey. Now she wants a no-fly zone in Syria and to be more aggressive in the Ukraine, not to mention against the Palestinians, putting us into direct conflict with Russia. Her Foundation has raked in millions of dollars from Saudi Arabia, China and other “bad actors,” including anonymous ones lying in the shadows of international geopolitics. We don’t really know all of the covert alliances and abominations that go on in the world, but we can “safely” assume that she is somewhere in the middle of them. Accordingly, her tenure as Secretary of State was praised by Henry Kissinger and Dick Cheney, while being criticized by Jimmy Carter for a complete absence of initiatives for peace.
  1. She has gotten millions of dollars herself from Wall Street and the banking, insurance, pharmaceutical, fossil fuel and educational profiteering lobbies. She claims they haven’t influenced her, but Elizabeth Warren tells us that in the nineties she had warned the then First Lady about a pending bankruptcy bill that would have been a windfall for credit card companies and a disaster for consumers. As a result, she convinced her husband to veto the bill, but then she became Senator and the money from the lobbyists started pouring in, and magically she flip-flopped, like she has on every single issue, and voted for the bill. She claims that all of the money from the fossil fuel industry has come from “the workers,” but as Secretary of State she tried to force fracking around the world, and still supports fracking, which poisons the drinking water as much as in Flint. She also refused to take a position on the Pipeline until it was politically untenable to support it. In the nineties she aided in the push to deregulation, helping her masters further, and also helping to cause the economic collapse after the Clintons left office, and then blamed it on those taking out mortgages, not the banks. She supported the dismantling of Glass-Steagall, and refuses to release the transcripts from the closed door Wall Street speeches she was paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for, even though no one remaining in the race has made any such speeches to release with her. And she supported every trade deal written by multinational corporations for their own profit and to the detriment of American workers.  Previously, she had sat on the Board of Walmart and did nothing about the slave wages and lack of benefits of their workers, and was an attorney for Monsanto and defended their toxic agricultural and environmental practices.
  1. She claims to be a champion of the LGBT community, but was against same-sex marriage until the polls swung in favor. She claims to be a champion of women, but as an attorney she got the rapist of a twelve year old girl off with a slap on the wrist by putting the young girl’s sexual fantasies on trial, and then laughing about it in a subsequent interview. She savaged the courageous women who stood up to her husband’s predatory behavior. And she has always, and continues to this day, to pay women working for her less than men, and treats them like crap. She claims to be a champion of the African American community, but didn’t hesitate to play the race card not once but four times against Obama during the contentious South Carolina primary eight years ago. She built her career working for a segregationist, and praised the career of Senator Robert Byrd, much of which was spent as a Grand Dragon of the KKK. The criminal justice “reforms” she helped her husband draft have had a devastating effect on inner city minority youth, whom she once referred to as “superpredators,” and, as a footnote, she still supports capital punishment, which almost the entire civilized world has come to reject, along with private prisons and, of course, the Patriot Act. She actually traveled with her husband to witness the execution of a mentally challenged man whom he refused to pardon so that they could look “tough” on crime, again solely for the sake of personal ambition. She claims to be a champion of gun victims, but do you remember when Obama nicknamed her “Annie Oakley” for her defense of guns and coziness with the NRA? And she claims to be a champion of children, but that didn’t stop her from saying that poor children fleeing war, oppression and poverty in their native Latin American countries, largely due to American foreign policy, should be sent back to their deaths “to send a message.” She also supports the destruction of the public school system through privatization, having received lots of money from the charter school billionaires. And she helped her husband draft a welfare “reform” bill outlined by the Republicans which killed “Aid to Dependent Children” and has created abject shadow poverty, primarily for children. People support her because of her “experience.” But as Senator from New York, she authored not one piece of legislation. She doesn’t like her handiwork noticed, or her positions pinned to her.
  1. She is a pathological liar. Remember when she claimed she ducked sniper fire in Bosnia, claims which she embellished more and more in every speech, even when video surfaced showing her strolling the tarmac in the unbulleted sunshine greeting children? How about when she claimed at the most recent debate that she always supported the $15 minimum wage when all one had to do was replay the past debates to hear her say the opposite? How about when she claimed that Chelsea was jogging around the World Trade Center on 9/11, or when she claimed that all of her grandparents were immigrants, or when she claimed that much of what was on her email server was correspondence with her husband when he has made it clear that he never uses email, or when she claimed to have been a civil rights worker, or when she claimed that she was named after Sir Edmund Hillary? How about when she was caught in her claim that Bernie Sanders’ Vermont was the chief supplier of guns used in crimes in New York? How about her flip-flops on everything from the environment to criminal justice, war to trade, guns to gay rights, deregulation to desegregation? Not a single genuine word comes out of her mouth, it’s all completely calculated and self-interested.
  1. She, her machine and the DNC have conspired to fix this nomination. There is documentation across the country of voter suppression, of covert disenfranchisements and party re-affiliations, of electoral fraud and illegal electioneering, of hidden ballots and deceitful robocalls, of closed polls and rigged machines, and of monetary and informational collusion between the DNC and the Clinton campaign, all to Clinton’s benefit. And then there are the superdelegates, many of whom are lobbyists for the banks, the fossil fuel industry, etc. Just read about the controversies in Nevada, Iowa and New York, among other states. And the oligarchy is taking good care of her, from the SuperPacs, including not only those that previously supported the Clinton cousins, the Bushes, and Marco Rubio, but the infamous Koch Brothers, to George Clooney’s $350,000 a plate dinner and the $100,000 a head benefit by the heir to the Rothschild fortune.

I hope you will join me in going Green and voting for Dr. Jill Stein for President.  We have to build a progressive, independent and uncorrupt force to serve as an alternative to the two-party duopoly.  There is no more time and there really is no other legitimate choice.

Time to Go Green: An Endorsement of Dr. Jill Stein for President

Time to Go Green

An Endorsement of Dr. Jill Stein for President

So it’s all over. Bernie Sanders’ campaign was sabotaged into hopelessness, and all indications now are that he will be a “good Democrat,” stop the anti-oligarchist attacks on Hillary, and “do everything he can” to make sure a Republican isn’t elected. Yes, I supported him. Hell, I voted for Obama the first go-round, too. Since the sixties, when I was a young radical, I have known that the two-party duopoly serves the same interests, and more often than not, over the years, I went third party instead of falling for the “lesser of two evils” fear tactic. But I was always a little torn. After all, even small differences can have a large impact on the lives of vulnerable people. Take the Supreme Court, the example most conflicted progressives cite to justify the postponement of their ideals for one more election.

In 2000, I voted for Nader. Then the Bush Coup became apparent, we had “Shock and Awe” in Iraq, Al Gore subsequently moved to the left (not the first Democratic candidate to seemingly snap out of a political coma once the election was over and lost), and I questioned my decision. When Obama ran, I wanted to believe. I mean, electing the first African American President surely would at least send a symbolic message, and here was someone who had not only been a community organizer, but had worked with Bill Ayers, for God sake. So I suspended my belief that any viable candidate who claimed to want to qualitatively change the system would either be a wolf in sheep’s clothing or a dead duck. And, like ol’ Bill Clinton before him, a once idealistic young man showed that, somewhere along the way, he had sold out. We have had the most secretive Administration in history, the most deportations, drones, military expansion, secret wars and black sites, trade deals, renewal of the Patriot Act, little but lip service for the poor, minorities or the environment, and a sell-out to the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries after a closed door meeting no sooner than he had moved his furniture in.

And that should have done it. It should have confirmed everything I kind of knew that I really knew. But then Bernie Sanders comes along. He’s a socialist. His record seems reasonably clean, although not unblemished by what could have been some bad but honest decisions. And that long-awaited third wave of a student movement, the descendants of the children of the sixties, and, to a lesser extent, the eighties, starts to emerge from the disconnect and apathy. So once again, let’s play ball on the home field of the plutocracy. As of this writing, I don’t know, and we may never know, whether Bernie was the real deal or a smokescreen. Regardless, now his campaign is on life support, yet his young followers want to keep “Bernie or Bust” alive, confusing a cult of personality with a movement of principle. Some will write him in, ignoring the fact that some states don’t allow the practice, and the reality that if so many votes for a candidate actually on the ballot can be taken away one can only imagine how many write-in votes would merely be discarded. Some want him to run as an independent, which he won’t do, but even if he did, perhaps in the event that the Republicans split, too, what would we be left with after his inevitable loss?

Some will succumb to the fear, yet again, and fall in line with the Democratic National Committee. But how can a former Sanders supporter vote for someone: who is for the death penalty, traveled with her husband to watch the execution of a severely mentally disabled man, and helped architect a criminal justice reform initiative that has devastated inner city, minority communities; who supported the war in Iraq, was instrumental in the expansion in Afghanistan and regime change in Libya, and now wants a no-fly zone in Syria, setting up a confrontation with Russia; who has raked in millions from Wall Street and other national and international financial powers, has refused to release the transcripts of her closed door speeches for which she was paid hundreds of thousands, and despite her claims to the contrary, was clearly influenced by these donations, whether it be the flip-flop on the bankruptcy bill for credit card companies that Elizabeth Warren exposed or her aggressive promotion of fracking here and around the world; who built her career working for a segregationist, was not above playing the race card not once but four times during the contentious South Carolina primary against Obama, and referred to inner city youth as “superpredators” then and engages in raised-voice confrontations with instead of listening to African American activists today; who pretends to be a champion of LGBT rights yet opposed same-sex marriage until polls moved in their favor, pretends to be a champion of women but who got a slap on the wrist for the rapist of a twelve year old girl by lying that she had made false accusations before and putting the girl’s sexual fantasies on trial (and then laughing about it in a later interview), and pretends to be a champion of children but argued that Latin American children who successfully escaped their dangerous and impoverished countries (thanks in large part to American intervention) should be sent back to “send a message”; who has flip-flopped on every single issue, from the environment to criminal justice to foreign policy to trade to deregulation to guns, etc.; who is a pathological liar, who claimed to have ducked sniper fire in Bosnia until (and even after) footage showed her strolling down the tarmac in the bright sunshine greeting children, who claimed to have always supported the $15 minimum wage even though in previous debate she quite specifically argued against it, and who claimed that most of those emails still hanging over her head, and ours, were communication with her husband even though it’s well known that he doesn’t use email; and who has, in conspiracy with the DNC and her own massive machine, stolen this primary through voter suppression and mysterious party reaffiliations, hidden ballots and illegal campaigning, and SuperPacs and superdelegates.

Some will even vote for Trump, for various reasons whose logic I am still working on, but, nonetheless, a calculation I believe to be morally repugnant, given his history of racism, misogyny, xenophobia, ruthless and failed business practices, ignorance, incitement of violence, statements in support of torture and the killing of family members of suspected terrorists, and positions that would shred the Constitution and lay the groundwork for fascism. So that leaves us with one constructive option: voting for Dr. Jill Stein and building the Green Party as an alternative to the two-party trap, one that already has a framework and ballot access, a progressive platform stronger and more consistent than Bernie’s, and no baggage requiring future ethical dilemmas. No, she won’t win, but it’s about long-term building so that we might have what other, more democratic nations have, a real choice of parties and positions. If we keep voting for “the lesser of the two evils,” then we shouldn’t be surprised that we continue to end up with evil. If we keep giving into short-term fear, then we have no long-term hope. We survived “The Reagan Revolution.” We survived “The Bush Coup.” I suspect we would even survive “The Trump Reality Show.” We would fight back against it, but, as compelling as the argument that little differences matter may be, there is the counter-argument that it’s only when we stop masking the system that it is exposed for what it really is.

So the hell with the DNC, Hillary Clinton and “politics as usual.” I hereby renounce my enrollment in the Democratic Party, I have ordered my Jill Stein button, I have just discovered a Green Party chapter in Suffolk County, and you will be reading all about the campaign here and around social media.