Tuesday, July 21, 2015

10 Good Reasons Donald Trump Needs to Bow Out

One day after Donald Trump made his disparaging comments about John McCain and veterans who were captured in the line of duty, his poll numbers skyrocketed. Go figure. Within 24 hours, Trump was showing a double digit lead over opponents whose profile had been significantly higher than his just weeks before. We are fully 16 months out from the election, so I don’t put a lot of weight on those numbers. Does anybody remember in 2012 when Rick Santorum sailed to the top of the heap? And we all know how long that lasted. So I say, don’t get too excited about the numbers. Still, it compels me to offer my top 10 reasons American needs Donald Trump to go away:

1. Insulting the entire Mexican population was perhaps the worst way to kick off a presidential campaign ever. It shows that he believes in exclusivity, and that he does not value any of the decent human beings trying to forge a new life for themselves in America. He needs to read an American history book.

 2. Trump is degrading the electoral process. Dignity still counts in the process. While it is true the last several elections cycles have been anything but dignified, Trump has taken the process to a new low. His public comments and his demeanor have been more than just undignified and certainly not worthy of a potential leader of the free world.

 3. He plays to the crowd, rather than truly expressing his positions. Right now, we know he has very negative feelings toward our immigration policies and procedures. We know very little else about his positions on key economic, social and foreign relations issues.
Playing to the crowd in Arizona

 4. Trump routinely conducts himself in an undiplomatic fashion. It may work in the New York real estate development world, but it will not work at a negotiating table with foreign leaders. He will not be able to dismiss an Angela Merkel or Vladimir Putin or Xi Jinping. Their power, and the power of other world leaders have measurably increased over time, and without diplomacy, Trump will further dilute the world standing of the U.S.

 5. All of Trump’s rhetoric and each of his speeches play to one segment of the American population. What about the rest of the people? What about minorities, women, veterans, Democrats, the traditional Republican base, the poor, the mentally ill, the unemployed, and many other population segments? If he were to be president, he would have to be the leader of all of America. He has shown no inclination to acknowledge key population groups.

Trump polled stronger after his remarks about McCain
 6. Speaking of veterans, after his debacle with John McCain, Trump was very vocal about his disdain for the Veterans Administration. He has, however, offered no suggestions on how he would make improvements. In fact, that is often Trump’s approach: He criticizes, but does not offer solutions.

7. Trump has indicated he will spend whatever it takes to win. Do we really want an American citizen to purchase the presidency with his wealth? By some estimates, the final cost of becoming President of the United States can easily approach a billion dollars. Trump has that much and more. The electoral playing field suddenly becomes more uneven than ever.

 8. Regardless of how you feel about the American mass media, at some point, every President needs them. It might be to spread the word about proposed legislation or trade deals he or she feels is critical to the economy or national security. It might be about promoting a person he or she wants to appoint as Supreme Court Justice. There is any number of reasons a President can use media to his or her advantage – or disadvantage. Think Richard Nixon. Trump continues to alienate high profile media professionals, one by one. Consider this exchange with NBC’s Matt Lauer:

Media Backlash has been swift and unforgiving. The Des Moines Register, the largest newspaper in Iowa, published an editorial suggesting Trump drop out of the race now. "If Trump, our would-be commander in chief, doesn't like POWs, how does he feel about men and women killed in action?" the Register queried.  Ouch.  Meanwhile, The Huffington Post announced that all Trump-related content is now relegated to its entertainment page, calling his campaign a "side show."

9. Neither major political party is taking Trump seriously, with Republicans so far being much more vocal in their opposition. Democrats see him as a distraction from the race, while Republicans see him as an embarrassment. If Trump were to be elected President, he would have little or no support from the legislative branch of government, which means nothing much could get accomplished. Haven’t we really had enough of nothing much getting accomplished?

10. Americans almost never elect an extremist to the Presidency. They routinely fall by the wayside. Think Rick Santorum. Trump is free to spend a billion dollars of his own money, but he is not electable.

I could go on about Trump's life of privilege that has kept him out of touch with every day Americans; or his multiple and questionable draft deferments that allowed him to avoid the Vietnam war; or his multiple declarations of business bankruptcy over the years. But when all is said and done, Americans are smart. Trump is nothing more than an opening act for the real race to the White House.

Thursday, July 16, 2015


 You may have noticed the headlines lately all have one thing in common – people keeping secrets. Consider Dennis Hastert, once the third most powerful man in America, now accused of molesting teen boys when he was a high school wrestling coach. And then there is Rachel Dolezal, the white woman who was so convincing in her masquerade to be black, that she ultimately rose to the position of state leader of the Washington NAACP. And then there is Minneapolis Archbishop John Nienstedt, who recently resigned after it was revealed he failed to protect children from a pedophile priest by never revealing that priest’s wrongdoing. Secrets. So many secrets, some understandable, and others inexplicably vile.
And then: The secret of all secrets: Caitlyn Jenner.

Unless you have felt unduly forced to keep a secret about your very personhood, it may be that you cannot understand some of these recent revelations. While some of it baffles me, unfortunately I do understand the feeling of being forced to keep a personal secret.  I do not understand the Charleston shooter, for example, and I suppose no one ever will. But I do understand Caitlyn Jenner, and in some twisted fashion I understand Denny Hastert, although I certainly do not condone his alleged behavior. You see, I grew up in the middle of middle America, in the middle of the 20th century. At that time, the 1950s were really still alive and well, and the themes were conformity and sameness.  I think of the 1950s as I do of the color beige – uninspired, unenlightened, and safe – very safe. The country had only recently experienced World War II, the “Big One,” as it came to be called. People needed order and shelter – not just physical shelter, but emotional and cultural shelter. Everything had been too uncertain, unpredictable and frightening for too long.  What America did not need during my formative years was anyone to rock the boat.
The American Dream - 1950s style

I guess I kept my secret because I knew not to rock anything in landlocked, repressed St. Louis, MO. My secret would be no big deal in today’s America, but back then, one was simply not allowed to be gay. People like me were still considered mentally disordered and certainly abnormal. So I kept my secret for 37 years. That’s a long time. When you consider the life expectancy of an American male back in the 1960s was less than 70, one could fairly state that I kept my secret for more than half of my anticipated life.

Caitlyn Jenner, on the other hand, kept her secret for 65 years. Sixty-five years. If you are 65 or older, you know what a long, long road it was to get there. If you are under 65, many of you still view 65 as “old.” Imagine keeping a secret about your very being until you are “old.” Some will say Jenner lived a lie for his entire life. Others will say Jenner lived a “double life.” And still others will question how he could be so deceitful to marry three unknowing women and father six children and four step-children. How could he? How dare he!

I don’t know Caitlyn Jenner, but I do not hesitate in answering that question. Bruce Jenner did what was expected of him. He never really felt he had a choice. Neither did I. Like Jenner, I grew up and got married. Believe it or not, a trans sexual like Jenner is fully capable of falling in love with a woman. And a gay man is equally prone to falling in love – with a woman. It’s complicated.  Bruce did, and I did. But anyone with such secrets will tell you: Life catches up to you and eventually, authenticity trumps conformity. Sooner or later, one must be who one is, and respect oneself for being so. I believe that happened to Caitlyn Jenner, and I know unequivocally it happened to me. What people like us are most grateful for in life is the privilege of truth. There is no bitterness about having felt forced to live less than authentically for so many decades. There is only clarity and determination about living the legitimate life of today.

I would venture to say most trans sexual human beings are not living in their truth because they feel the world around them will not allow it. And I am more than sad to say that many, many gay men and women, even in the 21st century, still feel too fearful to live their God-given true lives. And I would go even further to say there are a number of other secrets that we humans feel unduly compelled to keep in our pockets – poverty, insecurity, shyness, illiteracy, dyslexia, disease, failure, mental illness, depression, domestic violence, weakness – I could go on, and so could you, if you are harboring your own covert self, deep inside. Each time we deny others their birthright to be exactly who they were born to be, we fail in our humanity. Each time any one of those people goes deeper and deeper into himself or herself due to our judgmental intolerance, we shame ourselves, not them. 

On July 15, 2015, Caitlyn Jenner took to the stage at the annual ESPY awards and spoke her truth. Her speech was less about herself than it was about the thousands of human beings who are still somehow unable to speak theirs.  Watch:
Caitlyn Jenner’s provocative pose on the cover of Vanity Fair was not a publicity stunt and it was not a “fuck you” to the whole world. It was not frivolous, narcissistic or impulsive. It was a statement of authenticity. Whether you praise or condemn Jenner’s methods of debuting herself, just know that the thousands of photos you have seen of Bruce Jenner over the past four decades were, each and every one, a lie. The only true image of Jenner was the one the people are so polarized by – Caitlyn Jenner, 65, on the cover of Vanity Fair.

I am not here to defend Jenner.  I am here only to inform those who may still have Jenner and the thousands of others like her, locked into a compartment labeled “abnormal.” My aim is simply to ask people to think bigger. That family member that you have shunned or at least felt ashamed of? Are you sure you’ve thought it through? Your son or daughter whose humanity is not what you might have hoped for? Can you overcome your own socialization or dogmatism or likely unfounded bias to consider his or her real self? Everybody wins when the failed patterns of exclusion and discrimination are struck down.

Thursday, July 9, 2015


Scary, powerful, intimidating, threatening, aggressive….these are some of the words used in recent days to describe Bill Cosby. Prior to the recent and increasingly pervasive accusations of rape, Cosby would likely have been described as “America’s Dad,” intelligent, funny, influential and beloved. But now that his accusers number in the dozens, and now that their stories are strikingly similar, Cosby has become persona non-grata in entertainment circles and certainly an international disappointment. Could this be the same man who once charmed us with kids and pudding, who elevated sitcoms and made room for black families, who broke barrier after barrier simply with humor and pathos? Indeed it is. But he is also the same man who once said, “Civilization had too many rules for me, so I did my best to rewrite them."

Although we can’t know how valid the many rape claims are, the sheer number of women who have come forward bolsters the credibility of each. This week the claimants' credibility took a significant leap when court documents from a 2005 case were unsealed by a judge. In those documents, Cosby admits procuring drugs for the purpose of having sex with women. While most of Cosby's accusers do not seek money, they do seek an apology and accountability from Cosby. So far they have received neither. In fact, when an AP reporter interviewed Cosby a while back about another topic, and then segued into questions about his accusers, Cosby cut him off with an air of superiority.  Watch:

Cosby’s non-communication about his accusers follows an NPRinterview just a day earlier in which he would not speak at all when asked about the accusations. His attorney issued the requisite denial and refusal to acknowledge the alleged victims.

Here I feel compelled to point out that some of Cosby’s fellow national celebrities were readily sent to prison for sexual assault: Mike Tyson, 2Pac and Darren Sharper, to name a few. Others, like Ceelo Green, R. Kelly and Ben Roethlisberger were strongly suspected and accused of sexual assault but to date have not served any jail time. It’s almost cliché now to say that some men in positions of power tend to use it for sexual gratification. We could say it speaks to the multi-layered psyche of a male animal. And we could say an otherwise good person may have a dark side. Or we could more accurately say, rape is rape.

The repetitive story that emerges from Cosby’s alleged victims is that he preyed on young women in or around the entertainment industry, that he routinely used Quaaludes to render them helpless, and that the victims woke up not quite sure of why they were unclothed, but sure they had been sexually assaulted. Here are a few thing we can be sure of: 1) Cosby admitted in the recently released documents that he had seven prescriptions for Quaaludes. That would indicate he was "doctor shopping," or seeing multiple physicians for multiple prescriptions, without informing each doctor that he already had such prescriptions from the others. This is illegal in every state.
2) Where there is smoke, there is fire; not every one of these women can be lying about every single accusation. For many of them it is humiliating and demeaning to have to describe what happened to them; 3) Ultimately Cosby will indeed have to respond to the accusations. That’s how things work in contemporary society. The story will continue to grow via social and other media until Cosby either admits what he did, or completely discredits all of the women who have come forward. That would be quite a feat; and 4), Cosby’s career is not likely to rebound. NBC, Netflix and TVLand have already 86’d him from the airwaves. CAA, the talent represenative company, has dropped him. After this week's revelations, Bounce TV, an Atlanta-based digital broadcasting company whose target audience in black viewers, dropped the Cosby Show reruns from its lineup. Disney even removed a statue of Cosby from its theme park. Cosby is no longer powerful enough to overcome such giant corporate entities.

While it is true that none of us were there to witness any of Cosby’s alleged crimes, we can draw some conclusive questions that need to be addressed.  As mentioned above, where did he get the Quaaludes and why was he always in possession of them when these “opportunities” presented themselves? Who is and/or was complicit in keeping Cosby’s veil of secrecy about these alleged sexual acts? It is not conceivable that no one in Cosby’s inner circle knew what he was doing.

When one has enjoyed as much success and as many accolades as Cosby, 78, one might tend to have an inflated view of himself. But the fact is that Cosby is from another era, when sometimes men could indeed get by with this type of thing. Before the Internet, before social media, before widespread obsession with pop culture and celebrities, and before his alleged victims came forward with these tales, Cosby might have pulled it off.  After all, most of these alleged incidents happened decades ago, and only now when privacy is almost a distant memory and male dominance is not what it was back then, Cosby is  the deer in the proverbial headlights.

Because of a little something we have in America called the “statute of limitations,” Cosby has not been charged with a crime.  Prison is not a likely outcome here. But when one has had the intense and long-lasting fame that he has enjoyed, perhaps the loss of public respect and the loss of career is far worse than incarceration. In fact, perhaps it is an incarceration of sorts. Since there does not seem to be any type of judicial justice forthcoming,
Cosby’s losses at such an advanced age may be considered a type of justice. Certainly, for those women who may have been harmed by Cosby, it is not the type of justice they desire. The bigger picture for our society, however, is that the statute of limitations should be revisited. Why is it that one American can commit a crime against another American, and because a certain period of time has passed, the victim cannot seek justice?

The takeaway from this story is this: We have somehow elevated certain human beings to untouchable status. We, all of us, have enabled entertainers and star athletes to bring forth their worst selves, at our own expense.  Had O.J. Simpson been O.J. Jones, do we not believe he would have been found guilty of his wife’s murder? Had Bill Cosby been a tire salesman at Sears, would he have been able to overpower and use women as he did?
In addition to revisiting the concept of the statute of limitations, perhaps we should revisit our own ongoing obsession with celebrities. Fame does not and should not equal exemption from prosecution for crimes for which the rest of us must be accountable. Money and power should not serve as manipulators of the American justice system. And Cosby? Well, people come in layers, as they say, and as the layers of Cosby’s character area peeled away, our disappointment in him is really of our own making. He was just a man, like any other, and just as easily swayed by his own ego.  Surely he knows that now.