The election of Our National Embarrassment (ONE) is no reason to slack in any way our efforts to preserve and grow the American ideal of inalienable human rights.  While he has not yet taken office, he has struck his first blow at those rights.  Recently ONE announced that anyone who burns an American flag in protest should have his or her citizenship taken away and/or put in jail for a year.  In doing so, he made clear that he was either ignorant of or inimical to those rights that define the American ideal.

ONE’s rant is, first and on the most obvious level, directly contrary to the law of the United States as explicitly interpreted by the Supreme Court in Texas v. Johnson.  In that case, Justice Brennan, joined by such conservative stalwarts as Justice Scalia, held that burning the flag in protest was an instance of free speech and was therefore not to be restricted in any way.  ONE is most likely ignorant of that decision.  It would be far more ominous if he were aware of it and therefore meant to attempt to have it thrown out and with it the fundamental rights of all citizens.  Such conduct has been the opening gambit of totalitarians around the world.  If we do not condemn such a despicable attitude now, we may have to rid ourselves of it in far more difficult ways in the future.

There is, however, a far deeper critique to be made here.  ONE’s malevolent comment is based on a mental failing toward which lesser lights like ONE tend.  It is basically the tendency to replace reality with some image or symbol of that reality.  For instance, we believe in God, and to foster that belief, we create a church.  Then, by and by, we place our faith in the church rather than God, to such an extent that, in the name of God, we war against people of other churches.  Just so, we commit ourselves to the ideal of equal birth and inalienable rights and we call it America.  To represent that ideal, we create a flag.  In the exercise of one of those inalienable rights, someone burns that flag in protest.  People like ONE object to that burning, and, when it is pointed out that burning the flag is an expression of free speech, one of the most important of our inalienable rights, ONE responds that we need to curb or surrender the ideal in order to preserve the symbol.

I have called that mental failing eidetic displacement.  It is the flaw that is at the heart of most political perversions.  By adopting this perversion before he has ever taken office, ONE has demonstrated that he is, at best, ignorant and, at worst, a pretender to tyranny.  All of us — Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Green, whatever — if we are to preserve this country and its ideals, need to condemn such attempts every time they occur.  Judging by the fact that ONE has started it before he even takes office, we will be working overtime on this critical task.



The rise of Fidel Castro, when I was a teenager, came as something of a surprise to me.  And that was the first inkling that I had that the American government wasn’t the high-minded organization of my history books.

In these most perilous political times, it is of critical importance to know whether the America we have is the one we want and, most of all, whether the America we have is the one fundamentally oriented to human rights as it was designed by our founding fathers.

Fidel Castro happened because of a disastrous and disgusting policy of the American government.  The Cuba of the time was being run by a ruthless and thoroughly corrupt dictator, Fulgencia Batista.  He suspended the previously democratic government.  He tortured and murdered thousands of Cuban citizens.  He created a playground for wealthy tourists, offering them rampant prostitution and every other conceivable illicit pleasure money could buy.  He provided a working base for the Mafia, who used it to promote their illegal activities, including the delivery of an endless stream of drugs to the United States.  He presided over the almost total destruction of the Cuban middle class, driving all but the very wealthy of the island into poverty.  In short, he was the very worst of history’s short list of dirty, rotten bastards.

What is for me the very saddest part of the story is that, throughout his despicable tyranny, he was supported by both American industry and the government of the United States.  Our government provided Batista with the weapons with which he slaughtered all who opposed him.  It also ignored his collusion with the Mafia, tacitly protecting the Mafia’s injection of drugs into the arms of people throughout the country.  It was , all in all, a despicable program of conduct, and America should be just as ashamed of its conduct during this time as it should be of its oppression of African Americans, its attempted and sometimes successful genocide of native Americans and its centuries-long refusal of equal rights for women.

Fidel Castro, whatever else he may have done, ended all of that.  He drove Batista out of Cuba to Portugal and ultimately Spain, where he lived off the billions he had stolen from the Cuban people until his death.  He shut down a prostitution industry that had condemned thousands of Cuban women to the degradation of that trade.  He chased the corporate con men out of the country, destroying their program of impoverishing and degrading the Cuban people.

He also turned gradually to the support of the Soviet Union.  Gradually, I say, because he first offered the United States the opportunity to help him restore prosperity to the people of the island.  The United States not so politely declined, and the Soviet Union jumped at the opportunity.  Castro took the offer, and Cuba gradually suffered more and more of that that glum, oppressive and now failed system of governing.

He probably did many of the things for which those who fled Cuba condemned him.  He probably did restrict citizens’ access to information.  He probably did imprison, and even torture and kill, those who opposed him.  He certainly imposed an economic policy that resulted in little growth and many shortages.  Given the economic blockade imposed by the U.S. during his reign, the lack of goods and financial opportunity is not a great surprise.

Castro’s failures, however, were not the reason why the United States opposed him, tried to invade his country and tried, over and over, to murder him.  It did all that at the request of those very corporations and gangsters who had effectively enslaved all but the wealthiest of the Cuban people.  His real failure was to find a way to provide his people real freedom and real economic opportunity, all while refusing to allow the creeps and criminals who had once ruled his country back into power.  It was a tough assignment, made all the tougher by the enmity of his neighbor, but it was, nevertheless, a failure.  He avoided the worst of the Soviet suppressions, but his rule did reflect that old criticism that socialism eliminated the gap between the rich and the poor by making everybody poor.

In the end, I give him my vote as a liberator.  He opposed, and defeated, all those elements of American society that I despise — the financial vultures and the criminal vultures.  We are about to be subjected to a government in the hands of one of those vultures,  a government that is already advocating restrictions on the press and policies that will increase even more the gap between rich and poor.  The ugly forces of greed and corruption made Castro the only logical choice for the Cuban people.  Let us hope we Americans are not forced to make such a choice.



In the mishmash that are my memories of Thanksgivings of the past, the flavor of turkey dressing keeps coming through. There are people creeping around in there too. A very old, bald grandfather who would come over by bus and sit in my mother’s favorite chair with a drink and a cigar and tell us stories about his days as a baseball player. An uncle who would take us across the street to a park to play football. A priest or two (Jesuits all) who would tell jokes and ask us things about school. And Mom and Dad, of course. Mom would get up at some ungodly hour and, in the style of the day, give the turkey a second death in the oven . Dad would putter around in the kitchen and shout out questions about how our football team was doing. Gravy, dressing, mashed potatoes. Mounds of food, and far more time at the table than was our custom. And the famous family dessert, cranberry pudding with a buttery sauce that my younger brother would later quietly invade in the refrigerator and drink all by itself.

We had all of that in an atmosphere of the world always improving. It was a naïve thought, I suppose, but that was what was happening in our family. Dad’s law practice was always getting better, and we children were all growing and learning and heading for higher callings, for teaching and preaching and various professional lives.

In the real world, on the streets on which we live and work and walk our dogs, not much has changed. True, the political world in America is in chaos, and there seems, in the tone of the news, an unwanted mixture of fear and division. Still, we go to work and walk our dogs, and the things that do concern us — the economy and the environment and such — do not much change our Thanksgiving days. Aunt Emma will still bring her fancy vegetable dish that everyone will gush over, and Granddad will insist that this year his team is definitely going to win the football game, and brother Terry’s oldest child will spill cranberry juice all over the tablecloth.

It is all of that for which I am thankful. I am thankful that, on this day, a good friend will be in his third week of alcohol rehabilitation. I am thankful that another good friend will spend the day recovering from the chemotherapy treatments that look likely to keep him with us. I am thankful that my daughters have beautiful warm homes and are trying their very best to make their world a better place. I am thankful that my wife and I have a quiet and comfortable and friendly place to live.

I am thankful for far too many things to list here, but they are all the little things that make up my life, things that far too often I just take for granted. The chaos of our political world, and the sufferings of those far-too-many people who are the victims of hunger and poverty and war draw in stark contrast how much I have been given. There are so many such things, I have been given so much, that, as I sit here this morning, I am ashamed that I spend so much time wanting more. Thanks giving cannot be real unless it is accompanied by a profound awareness that this abundance we have needs to be shared.

I have often observed that, if anyone suffers prejudice, then we all do. No one is free unless we all are. That is the real American ideal. Just so, if there are others, and there most certainly are, who suffer from poverty and hunger and war and disease, then we all do. What I am really thankful for, then, is that I live among people who, deep in their hearts, want a whole world without that awful deprivation and suffering. There is our hope, and I am deeply thankful for all those people.

So, over all, I am thankful for you. And the dressing of course.


There must not be, cannot be, two Americas.  The discourse in the recent election dragged all of us into the mud, so much so that discourse itself, in the proper sense of sharing and honoring honest opinion, disappeared in a swamp of accusations and innuendo by both sides.  If we are to come together out of that swamp, we need first and foremost to understand each other.  So for me, a liberal, it means trying to understand why sixty million or so of my fellow Americans voted for Donald Trump.

I think the most important point is to understand that they did not vote for Trump.  Judging by the polls, we are talking about a group of people who are hard-working, family-oriented and religiously devoted.  (I am excluding from my considerations that small group of Trump voters who are pathological bigots or narcissists.  If there is to be unity and understanding among all Americans, it must go without saying that these perverts do not compose in any way a significant segment of those who voted for Trump.)

This group, I say, did not vote for Trump.  Their vote was primarily a vote of dissent.  Their vote was an objection, a revolt, in a sense, against a world that seemed to reject, even insult, their very way of life.  By and large, they want the same things that the Clinton followers want.  They are just as committed to the equality and fundamental rights of all humans.  They want a clean environment every bit as much as the Clintonites.  They want basic health for all, equality of opportunity for all, affordable education for all — all as much as those who voted otherwise than they.

What, then, were they voting against?  Well, pretty much everything.  They voted against the legislature’s eight-year-long policy of do-nothing obstructionism against President Obama.  In that regard, their vote said, “Okay, if you won’t cooperate with your opposition, then you run it, and let’s see how you do.”  They voted against the bumbling that they perceive as characterizing healthcare and environmental and immigration policies.  Most of all, they voted against what they perceived as the chaos brought to American shores by our financial, political and military involvement in other countries.  They saw trade agreements, starting with NAFTA, as putting them in second place.  They saw our military expenditures in the Middle East   as an unjustifiable and unproductive drain on the economy.  They saw our political commitments to other countries as only of advantage to others and of little or none to us.  So they voted, like the British, to withdraw.  They chose Amerexit.

It is, of course, all so much more complicated than that, but these good people hit on a solid kernel of truth.  We have been generous to a fault.  We have raised the global minimum wage.  We have provided benefits and opportunities to people around the world.  We have carried the burden of defense for any number of countries.  At the same time, we have created for ourselves an unimaginable debt.  We have lost the optimism of giving our children a better world than we inherited.  Most of all, we have given ourselves over to squabbling about everything except what matters to them most, a peaceful world that honors and promotes the basic dream of productive and honorable lives.

There is a lesson here for politicians of all stripes.  Every woman and man in public service must be driven by the same ideal, the ideal that defines all Americans. The only valid disputes are about the best means to work toward that ideal.  No matter what means are chosen, we need first to serve the modest desires of those good people who form the backbone of this nation.  They have announced, in the millions, that they have been ignored, and we ignore them at our great peril.


About the election.

I am embarrassed and ashamed that we have elected, as the President of the United States, Our National Embarrassment (ONE).  I am embarrassed because, for the next four years, ONE will be the face of our beloved United States to the rest of the world.  This great country will be represented by an ignorant, incompetent, narrow-minded, self-absorbed bigot.  And the whole world will know him for exactly that.

More importantly, I am ashamed because we elected him.  Yes, we.  You and I.  I am an American.  I live in a representative democracy.  When we hold an election, we all live with the results.  Those who strove to resist and obstruct the presidency of Barack Obama from its beginning were guilty of an attack on America itself.  If I am an American, I must accept the will of the people announced in an election.

My shame lies in the fact that I did not do enough to defeat ONE.  I understand that Hillary Clinton was deeply flawed, but we only had two choices, and, for all her faults, Clinton was vastly more qualified and infinitely more experienced than ONE.  If I loved my country, and I certainly do, I should have spent every available minute working to communicate that fact to my fellow Americans.  I failed to do that, and for that I am deeply ashamed.

That said, I have only one task:  get over it.  Think about it.  We elected ONE.  ONE is our president.  Regardless of the fact that the majority of people voted for Clinton, millions of our fellow Americans voted for ONE, and they are our fellow Americans, our brothers and sisters.  If we refuse to accept their will, if we insist on rejecting the results of the election, we will allow the United States to become two armed camps, and if we do that, we are threatening the very essence of what it is to be an American.

And just what is it to be an American?  Legally, of course, it is to be recognized by the government as a citizen, to be recorded in some fashion as holding that status.  Far more importantly, however, to be an American is to adhere to the American ideal upon which this country was formed, the ideal that has, for this country’s entire existence, drawn the admiration and respect of people around the world.  To be an American is to hold without question that all human beings are created equal, and that all human beings are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, rights such as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

We have not always lived up to those ideals.  At the moment we first stated them, we were engaged in such violations of those ideals as slavery and genocide and the denial of rights to women.  But they are our ideals.  We outlawed slavery and ended our genocidal policies and worked to recognize the rights of women.  To this day we violate those ideals.  Slavery of various kinds is still with us, and bigotry against native Americans and other minorities is still common, and we have yet to recognize the full equality of women.

Nevertheless, equality and human rights are our ideals, and we are Americans, in the deepest sense of that word, if and only if we are dedicated to the pursuit of those ideals.  If we allow America to continue as two armed camps, if we insist on excluding those millions of people who elected ONE from our definition of America, then we are throwing away the very notion of what it is to be an American.

If, on the other hand, we continue to accept that ideal, then our duty is clear.  The absolutely first thing is to reach out to those who voted for ONE and try to understand why.  I have friends, good and dear friends, who voted for ONE, and not one of them is a bigot or a narcissist.  These people sent a message the only way they could, and if you wish America to continue to aspire to its ideal, you need to strive to understand that message.

Second, and equally important, you really need to get off the sideline.  And that is a promise I make to you.  I have for far too long sat and listened only to those who agree with me.  I have far too long declined to actively campaign for needed changes in law and policy.  I need, we need, to be involved.  We need, first, to listen to those with opposing views, understand them, take from them what is good and point out that which is not.  Second, we need to identify and clearly define those policies that we feel are most likely to promote the American ideal, and we need to actively promote those policies.  I have previously stated the policies I feel are most critical:  income equality, universal health care, restoration and protection of the environment, immigration reform.  That may not be your list, but you need to make one, and you need to make sure that it consists solely of those items that promote the American ideal.

Ours is a government of laws, not of personalities.  It is, however, deeper than that.  It is a government formed on an ideal, and all its actions — the positions it states, the policies it implements, the laws it passes — are to be judged on whether they promote the equality and fundamental rights of all human beings.  And it is our government.  It will work only if we work it.

Group hug.  Get ‘er done.
















Election day has arrived, and I have not the slightest notion who will win what.  I just want to give all of us a group hug.  We desperately need it.

Mom told us that if we play in the mud we’re going to get dirty.  Well, we did, and we are.  But today really, really needs to be bath day.  All the folks who argued at each other, and screamed and shouted at each other, and even sometimes punched and pushed at each other — all those folks are our brothers and sisters.  We get to be Americans because we subscribe to the American ideal — that all human beings are born equal, and that every human being is endowed by his or her Creator with certain inalienable rights.  That, putting everything else aside, is what makes an American.  Not a party or a policy or a person.  We are Americans because we espouse this ideal.

We have not reached that ideal, but after all, that is what an ideal is, something to which we aspire, something that is our lifelong task.  We have not, as a nation, recognized the rights of every human being.  We have suffered the slavery of Africans, the genocide of native Americans, the bigotry against Jews and minorities of various stripes.  We have allowed fundamental inequality to exist.  We have oppressed the rights of private citizens out of ignorance or selfishness.


But here is the thing:  we are all, in the end, in our hearts, striving for that ideal.  We renounced slavery.  We ended the genocide.  We have fought against oppression by others.  We have corrected unfairness that has grown up within us from time to time.  And, at base, we — all of us, Democrat and Republican, left and right, rich and poor, all of us — we, in our hearts, really and sincerely care about the problems from which we all suffer.


It got a little nasty there for a while, and we talked about hating and we threw insults.  Now it’s done.  We’re going to the voting booth today, and tomorrow we will have picked some new leaders.  They will not all be the people we wanted, but they will be our leaders.  And that will leave us with one more huge job.  We need to take that bath.  We need to lean across the divide we created, and take the hand of our fellow American and say, “Okay.  Sorry about the ‘stupid’ thing.  We, you and I, we have some problems, and we need to fix them.  Our leaders will give us a direction.  We may not like the direction, but we need to work together to get where we all know we need to go.  Let’s go do this thing together.”


Group hug.  Let’s get ‘er done.



This has no doubt been one of the most painful presidential campaigns in America’s history, and it has certainly splintered the people of this country in a way this country has not seen since the Civil War.  When, however, the smoke — or more likely the dirt — clears, we will still be the people we are, with the national, state and local problems we have been suffering from.  We will all be burdened, over-burdened, with the availability and cost of health care.  We will all be in need of improving our children’s education.  We will all be faced with the creeping disaster of global warming.  We will all be in need of a path to more and better jobs.  We will all be faced with a gruesome national debt, a stubborn trade imbalance.  And at the heart of all of this, we are all feeling the pain of an almost completely useless Congress and a totally dysfunctional political conversation.


We desperately need to get out of the mud of this election season, a mudpile that we have actually been in for a while now.  The Trump and Clinton show was just the culmination of a years-long commitment to the strategy of personal attack.  This campaign took crudeness to a non-sustainable level.  The moment that the size of one’s genitals became an issue in the campaign, we had reached a point where we needed, not just to moderate, but to reject entirely the political atmosphere that brought us there.  I cannot take the visceral hatred this grimy atmosphere has generated and encouraged into my relations with fellow Americans with opinions differing from mine.  Liberals genuinely need conservatives with whom to arrive at a rational compromise on solutions to our mutual, critical problems.  We are a nation founded on a rejection of the principle of self-interest.  We hold, beyond any doubt whatsoever, that every human being is owed fundamental rights and that we are unavoidably and inescapably committed to honoring those rights.  That is what it means to be an American, and we are all — Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, Greens, and yes, even Ku Klux Klanners — Americans.


So what matters to me now, and what matters to us all, is not what dirt has been thrown on one candidate or the other, but what policies are likely to arise from one candidate or the other.  So here is what I want.  I want the government to do what it can to help us retard or reverse the damage we are doing to the environment.  I want the government to implement a program of universal care that will reduce the amount this country has to pay for health care and will extend that care to all Americans.  I want the government to do what it can to improve education and make it available to everyone at a cost everyone can afford.  I want the government to do what it can to encourage the creation of good and valuable jobs and make the balance of trade among nations a fair one for the American people.  I want the government to do what it can to give all who have been able to live in this country for years without legal status a chance to keep the lives they have established here.


To see that my list of wishes get advanced, I support increasing taxes on businesses and on the wealthier and eliminating the loopholes that allow the wealthy to avoid those taxes.  I support the regulation of emissions from cars and trucks and factories and power plants, and the installation of programs that encourage the development of non-polluting power.  I support the extension of the Affordable Care Act to a program that covers all Americans and allows us to collectively bargain with the medical industry to rein in and ultimately reverse the spiraling cost of care.  I support the negotiation of trade agreements that help Americans produce and sell goods and services on level ground with other nations.  I support the installation of a program that provides a way for people who live in America without legal status to gain that status without seriously disrupting their lives.


This reduces the election to one simple question:  who is more likely, as president, to pursue the policies I support?  I don’t care if it is a man or a woman.  I don’t care whether that person lied about his or her taxes or his or her income.  I don’t care about his or her religion or family status or even his or her past indiscretions.  I don’t even care which of the candidates initiated or accelerated this hideous campaign of mudslinging.  I only care about these issues.


And, on these issues, my choice is clear and simple.  Hillary Clinton will not, even if she serves for a full eight years, install a full program of universal health care.  She will not accomplish  the needed tax levels on corporations and the wealthy.  She will not eliminate the country’s abuse of the environment or achieve a completely fair balance of trade.  She will not preside over a fair program of legal status for the country’s undocumented.  But she will have tried, and because she will have tried she will have made some progress in all these areas.  So, plain and simple, she is my choice.


There are other areas, no doubt.  She is likely to install judges and justices more in line with my juridical views.  She is likely to appoint heads of departments — attorney general and secretary of state and secretary of defense etc. — that will more likely work toward policies with which I agree.  Those things are important, but it is the major problems that face this country that concern me and concern us all.  It is very hard to concentrate on those problems and tune out the noise of personal attacks and the ugliness of mudslinging.  If I had to blame one or the other for that ugliness, I would likely blame them both.  They have both made my job harder, but it is still my job, as a citizen, to look past the rhetoric and the attacks and the just plain dirt and to choose what I think will be better for all Americans.  Hillary Clinton is clearly that choice.  Others have other views, and I respect their right to have them.  I only hope that, in the end, we all see through the mud.